From Bogotá to Medellín and from Medellín to Mampuján is an experience that perhaps no other SEEDer has had: having the program’s two years split into two different places.
When I lived in Bogotá, I was used to certain privileges and had access to many benefits, like “MY” unlimited internet, “MY” television, “MY” potable water, “MY” stable electricity, and I lived in a relatively calm context where my biggest worry was that I would have my cell phone stolen or would arrive late to class because of the poor transportation system in Bogotá. And I had a church that cared about the emotional, spiritual, and economic stability of its members, as well as an interest in evangelizing and doing community work. Since there is not a problem that directly affects the church, the work is not heavily emphasized, but the desire is there.
When I applied to the SEED program, I was sent to Medellín. I started to miss “MY” unlimited internet, “MY” television, and the other privileges that started to disappear from my life because I didn’t have direct access to them in “MY” new house. Also, the context was very different even though it was still a city. Having to live in the midst of the smell of different drugs and see that it was normal for the police and people of the neighborhood, was something that impacted me. The dangers and fears of the people went further than losing a cell phone or poor transportation; one can see that there is more persecution, threats, problems and fights, and other systems of oppression like extortion, vacunas (payments to armed groups for protection), etc. And in the midst of this reality, there was a church that was also worried about the stability of its members in all aspects, and since the church was affected directly by the context, its work in the community was very intentional and very strong.
Then I changed locations to Mampuján (a community that was affected by the armed conflict and was displaced. Now it is located four miles from where it was before, near Maria la Baja, Bolivar), a place that is completely different from the other two, where now I don’t have “MY” internet, nor “MY” television, but rather everything I have is not mine, but something that someone else has lent me and the goal is to use these things to serve the community. I am no longer in the city, but in a small town, in a context that is also affected by drug addiction and delinquency, but to a lesser degree than in the city. The fears of the people here are going to their town Old Mampujan and spending the night there as that is where the bitter memory of the displacement resides; the problem of the inconsistency of the water which sometimes isn’t available for long periods of time and is also contaminated, harming those who drink it; there is a health center but it is of low quality and the next nearest one is about two hours away by bus; the community processes are not centered around a problem in the context, but rather on the following through of the promises made by the Colombian government. The church is centered on ecclesial processes and even though the majority of the leaders work hard and are active in the community processes, the church itself does not participate in them.
Each place, context, and problem is different, and the church responds to them according to their history, their theology, their way of seeing God, and their roots. One must value what each community is doing and how each church is acting. The challenge is in understanding how these dynamics work and how one can become a part of them in order to contribute.
Translated by Lani Pickard