SOLO POR FE & LUZ Y VIDA
Sunday morning it was back to work… or, at least it was Pr. Jairo back to work and me back to shadowing him (I've joked with him that he has a shadow even when the sun goes down). We left at about 7:30am and took a bus followed by a long walk to another of the congregations of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Colombia (IELCO). The name of the congregation is 'Solo por Fe' or "By Faith Alone" (taken from Romans 1.17 - "The one who is righteous will live by faith."
You might remember that Pr. Jairo is the pastor at 'San Pablo' not 'Solo por Fe.' However, starting last fall, IELCO began a "pulpit exchange" where once every two months pastors trade places in order to foster a sense of unity within a larger church. This provided an opportunity for me to see another of the congregations in IELCO.
Remember that the entire Evangelical Lutheran Church in Colombia is made up of 9 congregations as well as 8 missions (more about the missions later). With a total membership that isn't much more than Custer Lutheran Fellowship, IELCO is still an impressive force in Colombia and around the world. As Pr. Sigifredo (past bishop and current pastor of 'El Redentor' the largest congregation in IELCO) said when we visited at Stella's wedding with words in Spanish that even I could understand, "We are a small church, but we are very strong."
Pictured here you should see the exterior of the 'Solo por Fe' church building. I had about an hour at 'Solo por Fe' (located in southeastern Bogotá, not terribly far from 'San Pablo') before worship began which allowed me to visit with the worship band. Through a mixture of broken Spanish and some broken English (some of them had studied English a bit) I learned that the lead female vocal was married to the violin player and was the sister of the drummer. Pr. Jairo preached on the parable of the mustard seed (Mark 5.26-34) and I did my best to offer a greeting in dysfunctional Spanish at the conclusion of the service during announcements.
After worship there was a vibrant time of fellowship and coffee. I visited with two other visitors from the U.S. who were there as delegates for the upcoming Lutheran World Federation meeting. One works for ELCA World Hunger and was originally from Korea while the other works for the ELCA Mission Investment Fund and grew up in Puerto Rico. It was nice to have the chance to practice my English for a change.
From worship at 'Solo por Fe' we walked to a bus (through a crazy market of blocks and blocks of dirt-cheap clothes where I bought a Colombian soccer jersey for my son Leif for $2.75), rode the bus for about 15 minutes and then walked another distance to the home of Rosa. Rosa had Pr. Jairo and I for lunch along with her son and his girlfriend. They even let us use their beds to get a quick nap before Rosa, Pr. Jairo and I were all off to the next two hours of buses and walking in order to get to 'Luz y Vida' (located in a south-southwestern neighborhood of Bogotá called Caracolí).
Caracolí is a newer neighborhood (15-20 years old?) in the southern hills of Bogotá which means it is mostly folks who were displaced from other parts of Colombia (likely by violent means). The first settlers of Caracolí squatted on the land most likely in shacks and had to walk down the hill to get water and didn't have electricity. Water and electricity and other services including schools are now part of life in Caracolí. The location of this blog entry is set for Caracolí to give you a better idea of where it's located.
'Luz y Vida' (which means "Light and Life") is a mission of 'San Pablo' started by some of the members to minister to the people of Caracolí. Once it reaches a membership of 20 confirmed members it can become a mission of IELCO. Then when it grows to 50 confirmed members it can become an official congregation of IELCO. For now, the people (and pastor) of 'San Pablo' keep it going. There is also a women's group which meets at 'Luz y Vida' to practice sewing and there are a few computers for children to learn to use.
'Luz y Vida' also happens to be a sibling mission of Messiah Lutheran Church in Marquette, Michigan thanks in large part to Pastor Dave (who was pastor at Custer Lutheran Fellowship not too long ago). A beautiful quilt from Messiah Lutheran provides the backdrop for worship at 'Luz y Vida.'
Worship at 'Luz y Vida' began around 4:30pm and mostly came from the Lutheran hymnal (would you believe that it's red too?) and Pr. Jairo ably led all the music unaccompanied. Not only did Pr. Jairo lead music and not only did he preach and not only did he preside at communion and not only did he provide a prayer and blessing for a 25-day old baby, Pr. Jairo also gave a spontaneous catechism class at the end of worship when someone asked about what people needed to do to be 'eligible' to receive communion. I've added a video of worship at 'Luz y Vida' on youtube which you can watch by clicking here.
By the time worship (and confirmation/catechism class) was all done it was after 6pm. Rosa, Pr. Jairo and I walked back to the bus stop (about 15 minutes) and then took a 'feeder' bus (about 30 minutes) to the main bus which took us home (about one hour). When all was said and done, we had left "home" at about 7:30am and returned about twelve hours later. Needless to say, I have a great appreciation for public transport, but also for the ways that a car will save a significant amount of travel time for Pr. Jairo as he pastors all over Bogotá.