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Peacemaking in Cucuta, Colombia

Dear friends,

I was traveling with Juan, a rural Pentecostal pastor, on the way to an evening worship service near Cucuta, Colombia. He told me this story:

"One night the Paras (Paramilitaries) took a 23-year-old mother in our church and shot her in front of her children, because the Paras thought she had killed her Para friend. The community was afraid to go to recover the body, for fear of what the Paras might do to anyone who showed sympathy to the mother. So they called me. I went that very night and recovered the body and gave her a proper funeral in our church, as a way of saying that the church was not going to be intimated by the Paras threats. As often happens here in this war, it was soon found out that the killing was a mistake for she had had nothing to do with the killing of her Para friend. Then, led by the Spirit, the church carried the coffin to where Paras lived and buried the body there.

"This made the Paras face their awful mistake every time they passed the grave. As a result many of the Paras quit. They even had fights among themselves. And this event became the beginning of the end of the Paras control in the region. Three years ago we could not drive this road we are on tonight for fear of the Guerrillas or Paras. They are still around, but their control of the people is greatly diminished."

This time with Juan was a result of a earlier visit with his daughter Jenny, in the days waiting for my visa papers on the Venezuela border. Jenny is a peacemaker in a 1200 member Assembly of God Church. She used to be a leader in her church. She said, "I moved lots of people as a leader. People looked up to me. Then the Lord showed me how I had been abusing people with this power. This caused me to step down from leadership. To be a peacemaker I needed to stop hurting people."

She than took me to her church building to meet some of her friends who are working in peacemaking. One older woman from Austria who has been there a long time is leaving the comforts of this church here to go to work in Africa. This is against the advice of the church pastors, who said to her, "Here you have everything you need. Why do want to go to Africa, where you will lose all the security of the church here?" Jenny said, "She is like Peace Pilgrim, always satisfied with whatever is given, and a real witness to not looking for her own security in the material world. Materialism is a problem in our church here for many of us are fairly wealthy."

Change is a'comin. Alleluia!

Peace,
Jim

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