The Colombia Accompaniment Program began in 2004 as a collaborative partnership among Presbyterian Peace Fellowship, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) World Mission, and the Presbyterian Church of Colombia or Iglesia Presbiteriana de Colombia (IPC).
Bill and Liz Branch served nearly two months as volunteer accompaniers in Barranquilla and Urabá in 2010, one month in Barranquilla in 2013, and will serve again in summer 2015.
“In 2010 we encountered a congregation in Urabá creatively building their sanctuary one brick at a time. Although the congregation had few financial resources, the women made and sold empanadas. When they accumulated enough funds, they bought another brick,” Liz Branch says. When they returned to Colombia in 2013, the couple found women in Barranquilla sewing and selling sheets, pillowcases, comforters, handbags, and throw pillows to help support their church.
“Colombian Presbyterians praise God with gusto,” Bill Branch says. “Congregations have reminded us over and over again, in song and in words, about ‘Justicia’ (Justice) and ‘Paz’ (Peace).” The IPC says it seeks justice and peace for all God’s people, but especially for the poor and vulnerable. Volunteers in the Colombia Accompaniment Program work with church partners to proclaim the peace of Christ in a country and world where too often people resort to violence to solve problems.
More than 150 accompaniers have been trained thus far, with two trainings held each year. The accompaniers’ mission is short, usually one month. Accompaniers work in pairs in solidarity with the Presbyterian Church in Colombia to provide a ministry of presence and advocacy for Colombians who are trying to rebuild their lives after being displaced by five decades of civil war.
Accompaniers say they are changing the face of mission and helping Colombians see they are not alone.
For more information and eligibility requirements, visit Colombia Accompaniment Program. The next volunteer accompanier training event is May 21 to 25, 2015, at Stony Point Center in Stony Point, New York.