This post is one in a series of devotionals written by Lutherans in the U.S. and LWR staff around the world reflecting on their faith, which calls them to proclaim hope for those in need. Click here to check out the rest of the series.
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“But the angel of the LORD called to [Abraham] from heaven, and said, 'Abraham, Abraham!' And he said, 'Here I am.'” — Genesis 22:11 (NRSV)
Colombia continues to be the country with the world’s largest displaced population. Between 1985 and 2016, 6.8 million people were forcibly displaced, with rural families suffering the most dramatic impact. Armed rebel groups forced peasant farmers off their small plots of land, threatening to kill them if they did not leave. Entire families fled, leaving all their possessions behind.
In the 1990s, I visited northern Colombia and met with families still living in the zones of violence. I remember with profound sadness my conversations with local leaders whose lives had been threatened, and I remember hearing about those who had already been murdered by paramilitary groups. I saw with my own eyes how these humble families were living in fear and uncertainty.
In one of my visits to a farming cooperative partnered with by LWR, about 30 families were participating in an assembly. I was captivated by two children hugging their father. There was a great tenderness that I’ll never forget. After the assembly, I told my colleague that I wanted to visit that family.
Don Pablo was probably about 40 years old, and in addition to being a producer on one of the best agroecological parcels, he was a recognized and respected leader. His family included daughter Maria, 11, and son Marcos, 9. There was no mother. Something had happened, and only the three of them had managed to make it to Santander. Their excitement about their work, however, kept me from asking inopportune questions about their past. Instead, the trio told me about the foods they grew, their production methods, how they were able to feed themselves, and how they used the income from food sales to pay for school, health care and clothing. I was deeply impressed by how Maria and Marcos described their responsibilities in relationship to the needs of the other family members. And Don Pablo told me proudly that his children were very good students.
The conversation advanced naturally to talk of the future: their vision for the cooperative in 10 years, market development, and the cooperative’s infrastructure. But we also listened to Maria and Marcos talk about their future, how they wanted to support their father after finishing school. Maria, as I recall, wanted to be a doctor and her brother wanted to work in construction. The father and children all expressed their dreams with confidence and happiness.
I have to believe that when this family was uprooted and had seemingly lost everything, Don Pablo wisely helped his children understand everything in the context of faith and hope. I still give thanks to God for the opportunity and privilege of meeting Don Pablo, Maria and Marcos.
Don Pablo's faith reminded me of the conversation where Issac asks, “Where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” and Abraham replies, ‘God himself will provide…”
How might you recast your troubles and worries in the context of faith and hope?
Father, thank you for the life you give us and for the opportunities we have to give witness to our faith and hope. May Isaac’s question be a constant reminder of our need to let your wise Spirit guide us, and may Abraham’s response illustrate the confidence we need to share with others. We ask this in the name of your son, our savior. Amen.
Pedro Veliz served at LWR for more than 25 years, retiring in 2015 as Regional Representative for the Andean region.
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