During a week of my work as a Seeder with the Chocó Mennonite Brethren Church, I took note of small actions that I observed each day that for me show how people in the church, the social ministry and the agricultural foundation work for the transformation of society.
Saturday: Istmina is one of seven churches in the regional denomination that has a children’s program supported by MCC. The program works with around 50 children in one of the marginalized neighborhoods in the city. This day they taught the kids that we should celebrate our differences and recognize that we are all created in the image of God. The children made dolls and the program offered them a snack.
Sunday: This day I attended the service at the Éfeso Church, a Mennonite Brethren church plant in Istmina. In Sunday school they’re studying how to be a healing and welcoming church with a curriculum created by CEAS (Church Coordination for Psychosocial Action). This Sunday they analyzed how to create space in the church for people to be able to express their pain. One of the women in the church had passed through something very painful this week, so all of the church listened to her and prayed for her.
Monday: Fagrotes, the Weaving Hope Agricultural Foundation, has an office in Istmina where a number of people from the church work. Their administrative work makes possible the foundation’s work to support people in the rural communities who grow rice and cacao.
Tuesday: Fagrotes also has an experimental farm in San Antonio where they grow rice and cacao, maintain a mill to process rice, and organize workshops with the farmers. This day some students from Eastern Mennonite University in the US visited the farm to get to know the foundation’s work and helped clear a field for the foundation to be able to plant more rice.
Wednesday: Beyond the social ministry and the agricultural foundation’s work, I also see the possibility for social transformation in the hospitality of the brothers and sisters in the church. This day, the pastors of the Istmina church invited some of the Seeders and students from the US to dinner at their house. Together we ate sweet corn arepas and enjoyed chatting and learning more about each person.
Thursday: Not only can there be transformation in the moments of working, but also in the moments of resting and relaxing. With some of the church members and the visiting students we went to a beautiful waterfall by the San Juan River. We enjoyed swimming below the waterfall, and we rested after a morning of working on cacao farms.
Friday: This day we visited the cacao farm of a farmer who’s had various medical problems and hasn’t been able to maintain his farm. The students were able to learn how to prune and maintain cacao trees, and these hours of working helped clear and prune a portion of the farm so more cacao can be produced.
Saturday: Some of the women from the church made arroz de maiz (corn rice), a traditional food in the region, to raise funds for a woman in the church who has many medical fees. They made about one hundred portions to sell. During the last few weeks they’ve sold other foods for the same reason.
I don’t think that each individual action has a huge impact on society, but they can have an impact on one person, and all of these actions together show me the possibility of imagining a more just and peaceful society and taking small, or sometimes large, steps to make it a reality. These spaces of recognizing pain and injustice, of supporting people in their needs, of teaching children, of enjoying the beauty of nature, show me people’s creativity in building new possibilities for their communities. In an exchange, in sharing generously with others I do believe that we can be transformed and work to also transform our communities.