Later we walked to a different neighborhood to be hosted for lunch by Jesus Vargas who is a ruling elder at Manantial de Vida Church (the other IPC church in town), the current moderator of the Urabá Presbytery and the principal of a school with over 2000 students. We talked about the Presbytery projects including reporting violence and injustice to local, regional and international authorities (including reports on the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship website), investing in growing lumber to pay for pastors' retirement, and developing community water filtration systems in towns where the government would not go.
I asked why he has put so much time and energy into the church: When an armed group forced his family to flee their home in Nuevo Oriente (where he had also been an eldor), he joined the church in Chigorodó which was itself in need of dedicated leadership in a time of struggle. He had also been a school principal in Nuevo Oriento, so he was able to lead a new school here. He explained that when you work on things you care about, there are many people who come to support you and encourage you. If his community would not have pushed him to take on this leadership role, he never would have done it.
Community is so important here in the life of the church. Living in community is a foundational part of my life as well. Unfortunately, one effect of globalization here is individualization. Vargas sees this in his school as students are now competing to be the best and most desirable for employers and teachers instead of learning how to collaborate with others. A lesson for both of our countries is, how do you promote a strong community and effective democratic government if citizens only know how to provide for themselves? Individualism is very disempowering for our global community. I have hope in the church community here that stands up for the oppressed, not for individual gain but for the good of all.