Taking off our shoes

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Map of Colombia with the locations of all of the MCC Colombia Team

Map of Colombia with the locations of all of the MCC Colombia Team

The 1st of October was the beginning of a story that will be written during the next two years.  Some will say that it’s a process for 10 people, others for 12 (including the co-facilitators), but I believe that it is a journey for many people whom I don’t yet know and maybe will never actually meet.  This is because the Seeders will live and work in10 different places in the country.  Living in community with all of the special moments that are a part of sharing life together allows us to know the people who will open the doors of their communities and families to us and enjoy, cry, and walk together these next 2 years.

The orientation in Bogota was a time to get to know each other, laugh together, sing, listen to each other, hear things we liked and things we didn’t like, learn new things, things that perhaps we have known but haven’t paid much attention to.

During one week we addressed topics such as: the colonization of America and Colombian history.  We addressed important aspects such as the fact that since a little more than 500 years ago, our history has been marked by violence and the struggle for the riches of our lands.  Each of the participants shared a little of their lives, although with much reserve because we are just beginning this journey together.  At the end of this week one of the Seeders quoted a phrase that I love, “Seeders,” he said, “This week we have heard the history of Colombia, and now we will become a part of this history and it will become a part of each one of us.”

There were weeks of thinking of ourselves as church, as individuals, as citizens, and as Seeders.  In some moments, it felt like it wasn’t worth the effort to be a community, that its better to continue alone, thinking only about what will serve me as an individual, without being held back much by the others; but with the passing of time, almost silently, a team culture was formed – a community, a village, a family.  It was a time of recognizing the radical love of Jesus and understanding that to be a follower doesn’t mean just having a vertical relationship in which we think only about heaven, but rather in becoming this kingdom of heaven that is close at hand and bringing with it a radical message of love that gives hope, peace, justice and reconciliation, for ourselves and for the communities with whom we will live.

During these two months there were many words that were repeated, some so often that there were moments in which we didn’t want to hear them anymore, words such as: peace building, political advocacy, kindness, flexibility, respect, dignity, empowerment, discipleship, Anabaptism, journey, justice, reconciliation, violence, massacres, displacement, armed groups, exploitation, etc.

But among all of these phrases there was one which meant a lot to me and this was, ‘taking off your shoes’.  In Colombia we quite often use this popular phrase saying, ‘put yourselves in the shoes of another’ with the idea of understanding, feeling or experiencing the reality of the other.  In the Bible we find some parts where they make reference to taking off their shoes because they are in a holy place, perhaps also with the purpose of experiencing without obstacles the presence of God in all of God’s greatness.

Listening to the people who were sharing this, I thought about what it means to take off my shoes or put on the shoes of others…and the only thing that occurred to me was:  getting rid of my prejudices, fears, ideas about the people or the places where we would go, also unlearning, learning, being open to changes and open to dream, to feel…to feel happiness, pain, fear, anxiety, anger and an innumerable amount of things that we will experience when we relate with others.

Looking back upon these two months of orientation, I believe that we have gone through many moments of formation and also transformation.  We go now with the idea of entering the communities and learning from them, the idea of being “Peace Builders”, of being these messengers of the kingdom that has come near, of being hope, salt and light that our Colombia needs.

Irma and Antoni Sánchez shared with us a devotional that spoke about taking off our shoes, of letting go of whatever each one of us carries in order to have our hands ready and free in order to receive, to fill ourselves with new things, to grow, to learn and to find healing; they also cited an academic who on one occasion said, “the Bible was written by schizophrenics, because it is full of stories of people living in castles, angels, streets of gold, people singing and things of this nature”; to conclude they told us, “Don’t worry if at some point they call you schizophrenics for dreaming and struggling for peace.  Continue dreaming, continue imagining, working for a world with dignity, justice and peace.”

Seeing things this ways, I want to continue dreaming, to continue seeing hope in the actions of people who have left their families, friends, churches, countries.  Some have left even their languages and comforts, in order to come to Colombia and become a part of Seed III, to take the risk of being transformed by experiences, histories and people who have left footprints during these two years.

I hope that this coming year we can continue building together relationships of solidarity, trust and love that we show in our actions, more than in words.

Happy New Year!



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