During the month of September exists the international day of peace–September 21st. In Colombia, the Mennonite church is very active on this day, celebrating the day of Pan y Paz–Bread and Peace. At a local church here in Armenia, Colombia church members gathered to make signs displaying thoughts on peace, to bake bread to serve to people outside of the church, and to learn more about the peace process in Colombia and pray for peace in the world.
PICTURED BELOW IS A PHOTO OF WALL ART TAKEN INSIDE IGLESIA MENONITA EN ARMENIA
As I reflect upon the last month, I feel as if the phrase Bread and Peace/ Pan y Paz rings true to the experiences we’ve had.
When I think of bread I think of community– how Jesus broke bread and shared food and story with those around him, both stranger and friend, and in doing so formed community. Just like food, community is something that we need.
Here are a few ways in which we’ve experienced community over the last month.
In the last few weeks we have been staying with Gamaliel and Amanda Falla, fellow Mennonite Mission Network workers, in their house in the Quindio department/state of Colombia. Amanda has been in the USA for some appointments, so we’ve spent a lot of time with Gamaliel playing dominos, touring this beautiful area, and participating in church events. We have been speaking only Spanish with Gamaliel in order to immerse ourselves in the language.
For three weeks we took an intensive Spanish course to polish and improve our Spanish speaking abilities and feel really good about how much we’ve improved. Communication is an extremely important component of community, obviously. We are trying to and succeeding in communicating with our friends and strangers here and it is truly a blessing.
We have chosen to come to this region for an extended period of time because it is far from Bogotá and there are three mennonite church communities that we hadn’t been able to engage with yet. So, on our weekends we have been going to visit the local churches, meet their youth, and share a bit of what our work is with the congregation.
SHARING TOGETHER AT GAMALIEL & AMANDA’S HOUSE WITH YOUTH FROM ARMENIA
We witnessed community in a beautiful service at Iglesia Menonita en Pereira, Colombia one Sunday morning. We were invited to come and participate in the blessing of a girl who was celebrating her 13th birthday and wanted to commit herself to the church and to a life of following Jesus. We were touched by watching the community surround her, offer her words of blessing, prayers, and memories: this truly is community!
We have been overwhelmed with hospitality from the churches and can see their love for their young people. We also have a great love for the youth of the Colombian Mennonite Church. After church in Iglesia Menonita de Armenia, we were taken on a tour of the area to a place called Buena Vista (with good reason as Buena Vista means Good View–one of the most beautiful views I’ve ever seen). They also took us to a pueblo called Barcelona and a farm house where we played pin-pon al mosquito (this is basically Amish ping pong for those of you who are familiar).
LEFT: GROUP FROM ARMENIA WHO TOOK US OUT FOR COFFEE IN BUENA VISTA AFTER CHURCH!
RIGHT: GAMALIEL(WITH ERIC & KELLY) TOOK US HORSEBACK RIDING THROUGH THE MOUNTAINS!
We are eating FRESH here. Tons of fresh banana and plátano in all sorts of forms. We’ve had over-ripe plátano (sweet, like dessert and called plátano maduro), unripened plátano (usually fried and flattened and called patacón), the short bananas, the regular bananas…they put plátanos in their beans and in their soups! Eric got to help Gamaliel take down a bunch of bananas from one of his banana trees to eat and give to neighbors.
Last, but certainly not least: coffee. We are in the eje cafetero–the coffee center of Colombia. We have learned the process of coffee production in several locations (from picking the red fruits to drinking from the cup). It is very common to order a coffee and have the barista explain the coffee making process–even make it at your table for you to see! People drink coffee all throughout the day–even right before bed (Colombian coffee has three times less caffeine than most coffee)! And, strangest of all–they give it to their children! They are accustomed to drinking coffee from a very young age so it doesn’t affect their sleep as much as it does us 🙂
Coffee has been a tool for me in forming community in the past–going to The Brew (the local coffee shop in Goshen) with family, friends from high-school, college, and with Eric, talking over a cup of coffee at church on a Sunday morning, having a cup of coffee with my grandma on her front porch. The best part of having coffee with those people in those places is always the conversation. Here, in the coffee region of Colombia it is evident how coffee is used to engage in relationship. Our Spanish teacher from this area explained how it is very common to have a cup of coffee with someone, have a conversation with them–and then decide to have another cup and continue conversing about other things!
When I think of peace, I think of spending time in God’s creation. There is so much beauty here in the creation and nature. From the 40 species of birds in Gamaliel’s small farm alone, to the mountains of the cordillera central that surround us, to colorful flowers and spiders, and the endangered wax palms we are surrounded by beauty and peace. I am disrupted in my peace when I think of all the tremendous damage that nature has brought over the last month. In the last month our world has experienced 3 major hurricanes and 3 earthquakes along with continued racial injustice and violence. We pray for peace, comfort, shelter and alimentation for those suffering as a result of these storms and continued violence. May all of us continue to experience the peace of God around us, but may all of us also continue to be disturbed by the injustice and violence that impacts all of God’s creation.
May this reflection on bread and peace remind us all to be more conscious of our efforts in community, in loving each other and God’s good earth, and sharing our stories over food and drink together.
Kelly and Eric
PS: You can click on the pictures to see them larger and to see their captions if they have them.