Life has resumed here as normal. I returned from Guatemala a week ago, and have now recovered from sore throat and cough that had bothered me since returning.
One of my recent occupations has been finalizing a calendar for the ProPaz program. It includes six all-day Saturday workshops and five college-level courses. At this point they are planned in Quito. We have a workshop beginning Saturday and a course this next week. I have a visit pending at the church in Riobamba in order to see if any courses can be done down there. We have a number of people teaching/leading workshops including myself. I am slated for the college-level course “Biblical and theological bases for non-violence” which will being the beginning of May. It is about time for me to start gathering resources together.
From February 7 through the 16th
I was in Central America. The purpose of the trip was to attend an Anabaptist conference in Guatemala. Since Guatemala is within reach by bus from Honduras, I traveled a few days early to San Pedro Sula, where I had previously lived, to visit the family I lived with and any other friends I could manage to see. The event in Guatemala City was hosted by the Semilla Anabaptist seminary and held at a retreat center at the edge of the city. It included input from a variety of speakers on topics of how to generate hope in ministry in Latin America. Pastors and theologians, women and men were among participants, and almost all the Latin American countries were represented. The event was oriented more toward ministry on the ground than academics, but many people responded with specifically Anabaptist perspectives (peace, interpretation in community) that often are lost at the congregational level in Latin American countries. At the tail end I witnessed the establishment of RELEA (Latin American Network for Anabaptist Studies) that hopes to have events and put together an academic journal.
My work with the church in Calderon continues pretty normally other than my absence in Central America. With the Sundays I was gone and this Sunday’s service in Quito with the new pastor Luis preaching, I have had another major break from sermon prep. Luis’s wife Jennifer is a psychologist and they both will make a great addition to the church. Life is stressful for those who are refugees, but I sensed less stress among the families this last week. Some folks have been finding temporary work, and one young man began cutting hair after the project helped him get a clippers (I went with him to find the clippers). He also cut my hair (shorter than it has ever been before).
It is sometimes difficult to know how to accompany those who are refugees when I can’t directly relate to their experiences. I know some of the stories in more detail than others of how the families found their lives threatened. All face the pain of not know when, if ever, they will be able to return to their native land and see family and friends. Ecuador feels like a temporary space before eventually being granted refuge in a third country. With the lack of steady employment and experiences of discrimination, it is difficult for families to “settle in” here or in any way embrace this place as a second home. It can also be hard for Ecuadorians to hear the negative perception that Colombians have of their country. My hope is that the refugees I relate to find contentedness in their present, even while waiting for a better future.