A program that sends U.S. Presbyterians to Colombia to accompany people displaced by a 62-year civil war received high praise from a Colombian church leader Aug. 2.

Speaking to a World Mission workshop during the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s Big Tent event, JesúsVarga, moderator of the Presbyterian Church of Colombia, said the PC(USA)’s accompaniment program in Colombia has encouraged Colombian Presbyterians and shown the Colombian government that displaced people are not alone.

“These people have had the courage and wherewithal to come to our country and share these experiences with us,” Varga said. While there, he added, the accompaniers “build relationships of mutual trust and bear witness to the faith.”

Accompaniers, who are trained by the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship, typically spend one month in the country. The Presbyterian Peacemaking Program and Presbyterian World Mission are also involved in the program, which began in 2004.

Mission co-worker Sarah Henken, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s regional liaison for the Andean region ― which includes Colombia ― said advocacy is an important part of the accompaniment program.

Lois Wilson and Mphatso Nguluwe

Lois Wilson of Glenmont, N.Y., and Mphatso Nguluwe of Louisville, chat at the World Mission conference at Big Tent. —Danny Bolin

“They go and see and they have a story to tell” to the churches and the U.S. government when they return home, she says.

For those who can’t visit Colombia, there are opportunities to participate in spiritual accompaniment, said the Rev. Mamie Broadhurst, a former mission co-worker in Colombia. She mentioned praying, hosting Colombian guests, sharing worship services via Skype, and arranging sermon exchanges as ways to get involved.

Big Tent, Aug 1-3, is a celebration of the PC(USA)'s mission and ministry organized around the theme "Putting God's First Things First." It's composed of 10 national Presbyterian conferences, more than 160 workshops and special events to mark the 30th anniversary of the formation of the PC(USA) and the 25th anniversary of the opening of the Presbyterian Center here.