The Synod of Alberta and the Territories continues to maintain a long-standing partnership with the Lutheran Church in Colombia, Iglesia Evangélica Luterana de Colombia (IELCO). But like many things during the COVID pandemic, many personal relationships between Canada and Colombia could not be kept up on a face-to-face basis.
Rev. Barbara Groote and Cathy Kochendorfer were in Colombia from Aug. 10–17 to see the latest work being done and to attend a three-day women’s retreat.
“The retreat was wonderful,” declared Groote. “There were many highlights, but the first was for both of us to reconnect with the people we met on our last trip in 2019. And then we got to meet a lot of new women, as well, which helped to broaden and deepen our connection to this country and its people.”
“The theme of the weekend was Allied in Redemption, a re-examination of the book of Ruth,” Groote explained. The keynote speaker, Dr. Mercedes L. García Bachman, was particularly adept at encouraging a rethinking Ruth. “We were challenged to rethink Ruth, not to read it in a literal way, but to look at it in the context of what was going on in and around the story it tells.”
Kochendorfer notes that her highlight of the week was seeing the energy of the women at the conference, and their joy at being together. Although the retreat wasn’t expensive, it was out of reach for many who might want to attend. But they still managed to get as many people to the event as possible, despite financial constraints.
“That ability to just ‘get things done’ is so typical of how IELCO operates in general,” Kochendorfer explains. “They see a need, and they work to meet it. They don’t ask how it’s going to happen or who will pay for it. Somehow, it all just comes together and they succeed.”
This kind of success is apparent in the three missions Groote and Kochendorfer visited, including the Good Shepherd senior care centre. The seniors’ centre offers activities, a safe place and community. Our synod is now the sole financial supporter of this important community support.
The centre has room for about 40 people to attend its daytime programs, aimed at people who have some disability and lack familial supports. It is a vital part of the impoverished town of Soacha, adjacent to Bogotá.
And then, there is the importance of physical movement. “Those seniors can dance!” laughed Kochendorfer. “I was exhausted, but they just kept moving, right until they called out that it was lunch time.”
The seniors are provided with one meal each day, which some eat at the centre with their adopted family, and others take their meal home to share with housemates. The well-being of the participants is very important to staff at the centre, who regularly check physical, emotional and mental health.
Kochendorfer first met Tanya, a nurse at the centre, in 2009 through a delegation journey to Colombia from Ascension, Edmonton. At that time Tanya was a youth participant. And so life comes full circle, with those who once received support now being the ones providing it.