In January, the Presbyterian Church of Colombia (Iglesia Presbiteriana de Colombia, or IPC in its Spanish initials) hosted a delegation from the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Tom Trinidad, vice moderator of the PC(USA); Maria Arroyo, World Mission’s area coordinator for Latin America and the Caribbean; and Carl Horton, director of the Peacemaking Program, visited the IPC for six days.
They were greeted in Bogotá by IPC executive secretary Diego Higuita and PCUSA mission co-worker Sarah Henken, who accompanied them throughout the six-day visit.
In the IPC’s Central Presbytery, the delegation visited Bethany Presbyterian Church in an impoverished sector of Bogotá. Current participants and recent graduates of the church’s New Life enrichment center for youth shared their experiences, including one young woman who is now studying social work at Colombia’s prestigious Universidad Nacional. After hearing from several of the students about their enjoyment of tae kwon do classes, Trinidad shared that he is a black belt in the discipline and encouraged them to stick with it.
The second stop was Urabá, the most rural of the IPC’s three presbyteries. About 80 percent of the presbytery’s church members are internally displaced persons, victims of Colombia’s armed conflict. The delegation was able to meet, pray and sing with members in four local congregations. The church is a special source of joy and solace for these Christians who have received so much violence and evil in life and yet respond with love.
The final leg of the journey took the delegation to Barranquilla, home of the North Coast Presbytery and the IPC’s Universidad Reformada. Rector Milciades Púa and professor César Carhuachín, a PC(USA) mission co-worker, were among those who shared the work and vision of the university, which strives to offer quality higher education grounded in the Reformed tradition for the full development of ethical and responsible citizens who will contribute to strengthening a just and free society.
The visit from the PC(USA) to the IPC was edifying and energizing for all involved. “Your coming reaffirms our faith,” said Bernardino López, moderator of the Presbytery of Urabá. “We learn we are not, in fact, a small church. We’re a very large church because of our ties to the church around the world.”
Sarah Henken is a mission co-worker in Colombia and regional liaison for the Andean region of South America (Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela).