Yumbo, Cali, y Valle de Cauca: el comienzo
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Juan Sebastian Pacheco Lozano
The town of Yumbo is found in Valle de Cauca, a department in the Southwest region of Colombia. Yumbo is characterized for its industrial excellence, and therefore its nickname is “the industrial capital of Colombia”. This is due to the large number of businesses and industries (approximately 2,000) that support the economy of the town and country, such as Cementos Argos, Bavária, Ecopetrol, Postobón, among others, which are part of a large bouquet of businesses in the zone. The region is an important economic and strategic corridor for the country, being located close to an important port, Buenaventura, and the International Airport Alfonso Bonilla Aragón, located only 15 minutes away, among other vitally important places that help the region function.
Yumbo is located to the North of Cali, which is the capital of the department, about 25 minutes in bus from the city. Many people who live in this town work in Cali or in the businesses that border the city, even though job opportunities (such as commerce and service jobs) have grown in town. The people of Valle de Cauca, in general, are hard-working, kind and open people, which has made my process of adaptation to living in a new place easier. They have received me well – I’ve had many good experiences and have built good relationships both in terms of work and friendship.
The Prince of Peace church, in Yumbo, a church of the Mennonite Brethren, is the church I regularly attend, and to which part of my work with Seed corresponds. This church has a bit more than 60 years of history. Just after the church was started, it created its own school to offer education for church members and citizens of Yumbo. The school has been closed for a good while now, although there are still some relics of those times left in the building that still stands. Recently, church numbers have grown a lot due to the work of the pastors who have been in leadership in the past years.
The pastors are a couple, Alfredo and Soraya, who took on the challenge to continue the work in Prince of Peace church. They are a young couple with one daughter, Mariana, of two years, and are interested in strengthening the Anabaptist/Mennonite theological bases in the community. They are also working at encouraging members to be more active within the church so as to respond to a social context that can at times be very complicated. Along with the pastoral team, there are other leaders who work in different ministries of the church, those being: social ministry, worship team, teaching, communion, couples, pastors, and finances, among others, which helps the church be organized and able to do work in the community and society.
Returning to Cali is the other part of my work. Edupaz, the peace and conflict resolution office of the Mennonite Brethren in the region, is located in Cali. Edupaz works from a base of following Jesus in doing capacity building for individuals in schools, communities, and/or churches through practical, hands-on workshops focused on themes of conflict transformation, nonviolence, pacifist lifestyle, and conflict mediation.
At the moment Edupaz has two main programs, which are school mediation and FICP (strengthening peace-builder churches). The school mediation project has worked with two schools in Cali this year, particularly in the district of Aguablanca, working at creating a culture of peace and alternatives to solve and mediate conflicts. This project hopes to form children and youth to be mediators who help solve problems in their schools.
The second element of work Edupaz has been doing this year is with FICP, which looks to create and give tools to church members in two main components. The first is a relational component, which hopes to improve the process of living together within the church and its environment, as well as encourage members to become protagonists in the processes of their own church. The other component is an organizational component, in which tools are given and they are taught to do strategic planning.
These two elements are developed through a series of workshops that are done with a group of leaders from different ministries of the church, along with the pastors, in a series of practical and theoretic exercises that help strengthen relationships and organization within the church. These tools allow the church to be more prepared when confronted with situations both inside and outside the church, besides also helping define roles for different leaders, members, and for the pastors. For example, these tools help give order to finances or structure the objectives, goals, and activities of each ministry. Each tool is evaluated at specific times with a system of monthly check-ups.
This is a very broad picture of the work I am doing, with whom I am doing it, and the context in which we are working both in Cali with Edupaz and in Yumbo with the MB Prince of Peace church. I am just beginning but there are already many things to do as well as many plans for next year. I hope everything turns out well, and hope to be able to contribute to Edupaz, Prince of Peace church, and all those around me.