Milestone Reached

Today, June 24, we reached the milestone of 3,000 views to the Custer Lutheran Fellowship weblog since we began in February.  Thank you to everyone has visited.

We found that the weblog was especially helpful to keep us connected in real time to our family and friends who traveled to Columbia several weeks ago.  Thank you to our bloggers and videographers who brought San Paubo Lutheran and Bogota  into our homes and offices.

If you have any positive feedback for the blog speak let me know.  If you have any complaints, talk to Pastor Kent 🙂

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Festival of “One-time Community”

The sun rose early and will set late on this summer solstice day.  It’s the longest day of the year for us who find ourselves in Northern climates.  For some reason the Christian church doesn’t have a big festival attached the longest day of the year.  We have Christmas connected to the winter solstice to tell the story of Jesus coming to bring light to our darkness.  We celebrate Easter in connection to the Spring equinox with it’s connotations of planting and growth.  In the Fall we generally speak of stewardship and harvest in connection with the autumnal equinox.

Why not a summer festival?  Maybe the early church fathers who designed such things decided to go camping or take the boat to the lake instead.  Or perhaps they were so busy in the fields tending the crops that they figured people couldn’t take the time off to enoy a big religious break anyway.

One of the things I have enjoyed about Custer Lutheran Fellowship is that we really do have an informal summer solstice festival.   I call it the festival of “One-time Community.”  We celebrate this festival each Sunday during the tourist season as people from across the country and world gather to worship together in our sanctuary by the state park.  For one hour each week a group of people who will never be in the same room again gather to hear the mystery of the Word made flesh, sing a few songs, shake hands, and experience the presence of God together.  We are strangers brought together in Christian community, a one-time, hour long gift.

In a time when a person can easily tweet, facebook, blog, or text with people thousands of miles away while not knowing the name of the person who lives next door, face-to-face community becomes invaluable.

So let’s celebrate the festival of “One-time Community.”  Even if you’ve never met the person sitting across the aisle from you, know that you share a deep connection, a shared friend named Jesus – the host of the party.  Welcome to summer as we value and celebrate the gift of each other.

Colombia, With Love – One Final Post

We had a wonderful gathering at Custer Lutheran Fellowship with food and a program on Sunday, June 13 after worship to share stories, pictures, videos and food from the group that went to Colombia.  We were especially pleased to have two Colombians in our midst – Wilfredo Saenz Cordoba and Aydee Plazas Riano who are both serving as staff with Lutheran Outdoors this summer.  Well over 50 people were well fed and hopefully inspired by the work that is being done in Colombia in Christ’s name.

Here’s one final video (about 7 1/2 minutes) that shows the wide variety of missions and activities that the CLF group experience in Colombia.

From Colombia, With Love – Home at Last

The group from Custer Lutheran Fellowship has returned home!  Other than Kaona and Chuck who are driving back from Minneapolis today (please pray for safe travels!), the rest of the group has made it back to Custer.

Thank you for your thoughts, prayers, interest and support of the group.  We ask for your continued prayers for our partners in ministry at IELCO (Evangelical Lutheran Church in Colombia), San Pablo Lutheran Church in Bogota (our sibling congregation) and LIZWAN/Emmaus Road Foundation (which provides scholarships for children to attend school in Colombia).  We also asked for your patience and prayers as our group re-adjusts to “life at home” with changed hearts and minds.

Those of you who live in the Custer area – we invite you to join us for a program and meal at Custer Lutheran Fellowship this Sunday (June 13, 2010) after the second service (we’ll start at about 11 A.M.).  We will do our best to share our experience in pictures, videos, stories and food.  The 3 youth who were on the trip and Pastor Kent will also provide the message/sermon at the 8:30 A.M. service this Sunday.

This will be the last “From Colombia, With Love” post, but please check the blog often to find out other exciting events and thoughtful wisdom from the pastors at Custer Lutheran Fellowship!

From Colombia, With Love – San Pablo & Farewell

There is always a beginning and an end to everything. For us, the last day of our mission trip to Bogota started with a Sunday morning church service and ended with a fiesta. This morning, we raced to San Pablo via Luis (second picture) for the last time and sang two songs in front of the congregation (Down By The River To Pray and Somos Unos). We also presented Pastor Jairo and the church with the signed banner of our congregation,  Kaona’s homemade banner (first picture) and financial support. Hannah, Sam, and Christine also gave a short children’s lesson telling the children that although we are different, we are all one in Christ. After the service, we had a delicious lunch and conversed with the families of San Pablo. Afterwards, we headed back to Olga’s penthouse and had a relaxing afternoon of sleeping and packing. A few of us were able to do both and fit in a walk with Stella as well. When we got back to the house, it was time for the fiesta! Our clan, plus Pastor Jairo, Stella and her brother, Sonja and Sarah, plus many, many, many more piled into the apartment for laughs, dancing, delicious food (made by Olga and Sonja of course), and some crying as well. After the dinner was over, we presented gifts and financial support to the people who guided us during our trip (Pastor Jairo, Luis, Stella, Sonja/Olga) and groups (such as IELCO and Emmaus Road/LIZWAN.) Then came the cake, then the dancing, then the goodbyes and then finally the leaving.

The delicious “Welcome to Colombia” cake we ate on the last day we were in Colombia.

 

We apologize for the sudden cut in the video. Kent ran out of space on his camera.

Our time in Colombia has been unbelievable and beyond our expectations. We’ve met people that we will never forget, and we’ve seen things we will always remember. Like Stella told us, “Colombia will change you for the better.” And maybe, just maybe, we will have to come back just for the food. We hate to leave, but all good things must come to an end and it is time to return back to Los Estados Unidos. Goodbye, Adios, Chao. We’ll miss ya Colombia.

From Colombia, With Love – Catedral de Sal & Paloquemauo

We have had another long day and we are all exhausted and ready to sleep.  Still we would like to share the highlights of our day…

We started the day with hot dogs for breakfast (Sam had eggs.)  Then we visited Paloquemauo, a large market full of flowers, vegetables, fruit, and meat…lots of meat.  I think we all appreciate the fact that meat in America does not resemble the animal from which it came.  Although we were disgusted by the pile of whole pigs, we loved the large variety of flowers (see the video of  flowers – not whole pigs).  We all wanted to buy some to bring home with us, but had no way to keep them. 

After the market we headed an hour out of Bogota to the town of Zipaquira (pronounced: see-pah-key-rah) where we had lunch and then visited Catedral de Sal (or the Salt Cathedral).  We genuinely expected to see a church atop a hill, but after we climbed down into a hole in the side of the mountain, we discovered that the Salt Catedral was not above ground, but 500 meters below. Carved into the rock and salt below the ground, the Cathedral is an old salt mine, no longer used for mining.  As we descended into the earth, we passed by artistic expressions of the fourteen stations of the cross – known especially to Catholics, each station represents a key moment of the crucifixion of Jesus. We were amazed by the vast chambers, ornate carvings, and very salty tasting walls. It was especially difficult to capture the beauty of the cathedral underground with no natural lighting.  After finishing underground we walked back out, got into the bus, and drove back into Bogota.  We tried to capture for you a bit of the traffic which we have come to appreciate as a way of life in Bogota (see two videos below – the first video is in the daytime on the way to the Salt Cathedral at Zipaquira and the second video is arriving back at our house at about 6:30pm).  

 

We finished up the day by having a fantastic dinner made especially by Sonja and Olga at Olga’s home.  It is hard for us to believe that we only have one more full day in Colombia.  Tomorrow we will once again join San Pablo Lutheran Church for worship.  Then they will host us for a lunch and a time of fellowship or games.  A special closing meal is planned for the evening, and then it will be time to pack!  We hope to post one more time on the blog tomorrow before our flight leaves early Monday morning.  Buenas Noches!  Good Night!

From Colombia, With Love – Soacha

Today we went to visit The Lutheran Mission in Soacha. Soacha is an area just south of Bogota, and is the home of many displaced families. We started out by going to the Lutheran mission to the elderly which is sponsored by the Good Samaritan Society.  The “Senior Center” teaches the elderly how to make crafts they can sell to make a living.  They are currently working on sewing bags that will be used for the Lutheran World Federation´s gathering this summer.   The center also provides lunches five days a week. After meeting some of the members (who dressed in their best clothes for us!), we headed out with Stella, Pastor Jairo, and Heber, the social worker from IELCO for some home visits.

Our first visit was the home of Emilia. Emilia lives with her husband and another woman (who pays rent that Emilia uses to pay for utilities) near IELCO’s mission. Emilia, who is in her mid seventies, has very bad legs and is unable to leave her home. Her husband works at a pastelarilla (bakery), but only makes two dollars a day. Thankfully, IELCO’s center brings Emilia lunch to her in her home five days a week.

The second home we visited was that of Concepción. Concepción has been living as a displaced person for six years in Bogota. She pays rent for her house, and sadly has been robbed of her possessions, although not worth much, from when she lived in the countryside before she was displaced. She used to live in a very warm climate, and because Bogota is so cold, her legs have become swollen making it difficult for her to walk.

The third, and final home we visted was the home of Fernando (seen in the earlier video), Priscilla and their two granddaughters. Fernando and Priscilla pay thirty dollars a month for rent, but Colombia’s social security system only gives them seventy-five dollars every two months. Luckily, Fernando’s alcohol addiction has been lifted and the Lutheran Church of Colombia was able to help pay for his medical needs.

Home Visits: (1) Emilia with the group surrounding, (2) Concepción in front of her home, (3) Fernando & Priscilla (and their two grandkids)

After the home visits we came back to the center for some lunch. When we were all done eating, we were able to purchase jewelry and crafts that the elders made. Then came the dancing. Unbelieveably, eight members dressed up and showed us a dance native to Bogota and proved that you don’t have to be young to have a good time. And then came the surprise. The music started, the dancers grabbed our hands, and we flew out onto the dancefloor with them. Of course, none of us knew the dance, but we had a lot of fun. Before we left we took tons and tons of photos with the senior citzens.

(1) Eve with her FBI friend and (2) the members of the IELCO mission to the elderly with our group.

After spending the morning and lunch in Soacha we traveled back into Bogota to Tejedores de Vida (meaning the weaving of life) an HIV/AIDS Foundation which has worked on projects together with IELCO. The Project provides education and work for those diagnosed with the infection and their family. AIDS is a taboo subject surrounded by stigma and discrimation, but even more so in Colombia.  So it is hard for those with the virus to receive counseling and help. Thanks to Tejedores de Vida, people and their family can receive help, medication and suport.

Martin from Tejedores de Vida holding one of the bags that will be a gift at the Lutheran World Federation´s gathering this summer.  Tejedores de Vida is making the bags and IELCO´s Mission to the Elderly in Soacha is making the logo part on the front.

We ended the day by visiting Children´s Vision International, an orphanage and school that Chucka & Kaona heard about through their daughter in Albert Lee, Minnesota. We learned about their work to help the community by providing a place for children who are either orphans or have bad living conditions at their home to live and sleep. We also saw their newly built school and their medical mission to help provide basic healthcare for the community.

We closed our day with another wonderful meal cooked by Olga – fish, an avacado salad, rice with coconut and ice cream for dessert!  We continue to be humbled by the way we are received in homes all over Bogota and we are grateful for your continued thoughts and prayers.