We always welcome the opportunity to travel, to learn from others and share our experiences and learning. This month I, Julio, had the privilege of begin invited to spend a week in Chile to get to know the Covenant Churches in this country and be the guest speaker at their annual retreat for pastors and leaders. This trip was made possible by the “Leadership Abroad Cross-Pollination” project in Latin America that is being made possible by Serve Globally. While at the retreat I led three workshops on the following themes, as requested by the national leader: Theological basis for peace and reconciliation, Social conflicts in Latin America, and the Local church building peace. I was able to share about the experience we have had in Colombia, particularly working with youth and young adults in the area of peace and reconciliation.
Before going to Chile, I had some preconceived ideas about the country and what it was like. I have read that Chile has one of the best economies in South America and that it is a relatively peaceful country, though in the recent past the country experienced conflict. Being in Chile for a week helped to give me a more comprehensive Christian perspective as I interacted with people from the churches. People were so gracious to invite me into their homes and spend time talking. One of the things that really impressed me was that while there are only 5 Covenant churches in the country, they all came together with over 100 participants in the weekend retreat.
Also, I was very encouraged to see that at this retreat there were over 20 people from Haiti, who felt accepted, welcomed, and were active participants in the event. This is due to the positive relationship that has been built between the Haitian community and a Covenant Church in Rancagua, Chile. I enjoyed the time getting to know people during our meal times and as they shared during the workshops.
I also learned that there are still conflicts that affect the Chilean society and the church. As I spent time with my brothers and sisters in Chile, listening to their stories, I learned that people who are a part of the church have different perspectives about the past and that can affect their interpersonal relationships. As the church and followers of Christ, we are called to model reconciliation. The themes of peace and reconciliation are at the core of the gospel and my prayer is that the church in Chile will continue to proclaim and live this out. I am so grateful for the opportunity I had in Chile and feel that it was an experience of mutual learning. I pray that God will use my contribution to encourage people to be peacemakers.