Christine in Colombia – Week 2

This message comes from Christine Nervig who just completed her first year at St. Olaf College and is spending one month with our sibling congregation San Pablo Lutheran Church in Bogata, Colombia.   She has been hosted by Pastor Jairo Suarez who is the pastor at San Pablo Lutheran Church.


Since I last wrote, I have had the opportunity to see many different aspects of the church and Jairo’s work here. I went to a meeting in Caracoli at the Mission Luz y Vida, the sister congregation to Mission Lutheran Church in Michigan where Pastor Dave VanKley serves, to assign a treasurer and other board positions for the church. The mission is in a very poor neighborhood in the south of the city. Jairo says that the people there live on less than one dollar a day. Another day, I went with Jairo to “el centro” of Bogota, where many of the skyscrapers, office buildings, and high-class apartments are located. In the area there were many walking street vendors, a staple in Colombia. In this area we stopped and bought lunch – fish soup, rice and beans, meat, potato salad, plantains, and juice – for only about $2.50! It is in this area where the Justapaz (Justice of the Peace) offices are located. This is Jairo’s headquarters for his work in human rights. I have had the opportunity to accompany Jairo on many of his home visits, we have seen people who are invalid and unable to come to church, to whom Jairo brings communion, and the founder of San Pablo Lutheran, among many others. Jairo makes a rotation through all the members of the church in about 3 months. I have also been able to participate in each of the three different weekly bible study groups in the area. 

On Saturday, I accompanied Jairo to the Good Samaritan Mission in Soacha for their weekly church service. I recognized many of the elders from last year, including Concepcion and Fernando, whose homes we visited. At the service, I brought greetings from CLF and told them we have and will keep them in our prayers. In this area, we bought some rolls to have with coffee at one of the members homes, the rolls were about 5 cents a piece. At church on Sunday, I went with the children during the service and taught them the Hippo Song. It was a huge hit! And the kids that are old enough to have started studying English in the schools really liked reading the words. Juan Sebastian, the young boy that plays the electric guitar during the service, continues to play, although now he is old enough to stand with the band. 

I am having a great time getting to know the family and spending time with them. Jairo is leaving for a week-long trip to Europe tomorrow, so I’ll get to play the part of tourist next week. 

–Christine Nervig

Stewardship with a Chainsaw

One of our stewardship committees met in the woods yesterday.  It wasn’t the official stewardship committee that plans the fall campaign, but it was one of the hundreds of stewardship committees that are active at Custer Lutheran Fellowship.  Yesterday’s committee was the “Guys with chainsaws who go into the forest to cut down infected bark beetle trees so that all that the trees in the low rope course at Atlantic Mountain Bible Camp don’t die committee.”  A rather awkward name, but that’s what they did.

Here is a video of their work.  Pretty cool watching a retired logger and a retired forester  handle chainsaws like they was an extensions of their arms.

I call this a stewardship committee because their work was helping our local forest ecosystem by removing diseased trees.  They were helping the Bible camp in their ministry to youth by making sure an important part of the camping experience was maintained.  They were stewards because their abilities to handle chainsaws and pick up branches  was done in the Lord’s name.

By the way, it was one of the most enjoyable committee meetings I’ve been at.

Bodies and Food Poisoning

I recently had a bout with food poison.  If it’s alright with you, I’ll leave the details up to the imagination. The only assistance I’ll give you is to say that it was a mild case.  Then again, I’m still pretty sure a mild case of food poisoning is about as enjoyable as a stiff punch in the gut.  When I woke up the morning after, I felt like the words of Psalm 30 were not only on my heart, but also in my lips and my stomach.  “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.”

I’m not sure what to be most amazed by – the way a body can be thrown into such a mess by a single piece of shrimp, the fact that food poisoning doesn’t happen more often (can you imagine if your body refused just one bite of food out of every hundred?!) or how the body finds a way to feel better and heal itself when given the proper space and time.

Christians have often used bodies to talk about the church as a whole.  “The Body of Christ” is one of the first and oldest metaphors for thinking about how each body should relate to other bodies.  Rather than worrying only about yourselves, imagine that you are one part of a whole body.

In terms of what to eat or wear, how to spend time or money, and who you vote for and to what to pledge allegiance, Christians have long considered not just their own bodies, but the whole body of Christ.  It’s because being part of a body makes a difference.

Scientists tell us that when you look in a microscope and compare the cells from a mouse to comparable cells in an elephant there’s quite a surprise.  The cells in the larger body (like the elephant) are more efficient than the cells from the smaller body (like the mouse).  Call it synergism or call it the divine mystery of the body of Christ.  Either way being part of something larger can allow an individual to serve and make sacrifices and do things it couldn’t have done on its own.

All this comes back to bodies and food poisoning.  If you listen to some, you would think the body of Christ was dealing with a bout of food poisoning just about every day.  Depending on who you talk to, the body of Christ would be a lot better off if it would just be able to get rid of: ___________ [you fill in the blank].

It’s not a new problem and it’s not unique to Christianity.  All religious bodies struggle with a theology of food poisoning as they’re tempted to think that God wants perfect bodies and their job is to reject the shrimp or _______ [you feel in the blank].  The problem is that’s exactly what the body of Christ Jesus rejected when it walked this world.

Jesus took on all the bodies who wanted to purify the body – whether for reasons of religion or reasons of empire.  Jesus came to challenge our food poisoned theologies by giving his body as the bread of life.  Believe you me, I wish this meant that none of us would ever have to deal with food poisoning again, but I’d throw away the shrimp that’s been sitting out all night long and eat some bread for breakfast instead.

Christine in Colombia – Week One

The following is a post from Christine Nervig who just completed her first year at St. Olaf College and is currently visiting Colombia for the month of June and is staying with our sibling congregation (San Pablo Lutheran Church) in Bogota.

Hola all,

I spent the first two nights at the home of Pastors Jairo and Consuelo (both he and his wife are pastors) over the IELCO offices. Consuelo met me at the airport because Jairo’s plane was delayed in Madrid. The next day I spent the day visiting with Jairo’s family and acclimating to all the Spanish. I’m used to it now!

On Saturday, I moved to the Hende household, where I will spend the rest of my time here. The son, Javier, is 22 and very easy to understand and talk to. Nora, 18, is also very fun to spend time with. She finished her semester in university yesterday. The past few days I have participated in youth groups in the church, bible studies, and, of course, the service on Sunday. The pastor that gave the sermon at San Pablo is a Brazillian that works at the Lutheran World Relief offices here in Bogota and one of the people we met with last year. Last Sunday was “Family Day” in the church, a combination celebration of Mother’s and Father’s day.

Sunday afternoon, I went with Javier, Nora, and Julio (Stella’s brother) to the major mall we went to last year. We had ice cream at a restaurant called “Crepes & Waffles” and went to the amusement park/arcade. It was very fun.

On Monday, I went with Javier to his University and attended two of his classes. The conditions of the buildings are a little worse than in the US, but the classes seemed to be about the same. I have been having a great time, learning lots of spanish, and staying safe and extremely well fed.