UTO at the ABCD Training in Colombia
Bienvenidos a Colombia! When I accepted the associate staff officer position for UTO, I had little idea of the grand ways in which I would be personally blessed. When asked to travel to Cali, Colombia to be part of an asset-based community development (ABCD) workshop that would be attended by most of our Province IX dioceses, I simply said “yes.”
The training, arranged by Latino/Hispanic Ministries and Global Partnerships, was a fabulous workshop designed to equip people in ministry (lay and clergy alike) with approaches for increasing their self-sufficiency, while using the God-given gifts and talents already present in their communities. It was wonderful to see the dawn of realization in their faces as the concepts became real to them, as they dreamed of different ministry approaches.
The main reasons for my attendance were to introduce myself and establish relationships, to share UTO materials (Blue Boxes, application packets, etc.), and to encourage applications for the 2019 grant cycle. In the midst of our time together, I was blessed to have one-on-one conversations with key leaders from the dioceses of Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador Central, Ecuador Litoral, and Honduras, as well as the Anglican provinces of Mexico, Brazil, and Venezuela. It was precious time!
For a bit of a reflection, ABCD workshops often include visits to local sites where this strategy is being used. For this training, our entire class traveled via bus into the Andes Mountains to visit two different indigenous community locations. We heard about wonderful examples of ministries developed around craft markets, trout farms, cheese/yogurt production, healing through the use of plants, and more. We watched children, in the clothing of their people, dance and sing. We had lovely meals and wonderful fellowship. We learned from one another.
What I haven’t mentioned is that the bus trip to the local sites took four hours on the way there, and another four hours on the way back. At least an hour in each direction was over surface I wouldn’t exactly call a “road,” as it was narrow, full of holes and bumps, winding, and pitch dark (at least on the return trip). We were hours from our last and next meals. I made friends by sharing my motion-sickness medication! In the midst of this portion of the trip, someone suddenly began singing a lovely Mexican song. Before long, most of the bus was singing along – all in Spanish. It was beautiful, peaceful, and captivating. In that moment, I was sure the Holy Spirit was there with us on the bus. I remember being reminded that our Heavenly Father loves ALL of us, unconditionally. I remember feeling my heart overflowing with joy and gratitude.
God is mighty, gentle, loving, and always surprising. I give thanks every day for this opportunity to work with the United Thank Offering. And I’m happy to report our time in Colombia was time well spent. Bienvenidos a Colombia!