Colombia Accompaniment: Practicing a Ministry Solidarity–Ben Snipes

Consider answering the Call to Accompaniment today!

This program welcomed me into a community seeking liberation, sharing healing and teaching me the ministry of presence.

On July 10th, 2013, I flew from my home in Chicago to the agricultural region of Urabá in Colombia, South America. I was drawn to Colombia by the partnership established by the Presbyterian Church of Colombia that has recently renewed its calling for accompaniment from partners in the United States. This denomination has spent decades welcoming and advocating for the most marginalized in Colombia, many of whom have been violently displaced by soldiers in civil war and soldiers working for multinational corporations.   The ministry of this small church in Colombia has made them the target of an unending stream of death threats, arson, and violence. Accompaniers provide a public witness to the injustices Colombians experience and leverage protection for threatened leaders through their presence as international observers.

Ben Snipes and other accompaniers practice a ministry of presence with marginalized communities and individuals in Colombia

I responded to the call of the Colombian church by committing to the Presbyterian Accompaniment Program as a one month volunteer.   I spent four days in training in the spring of 2013 at Stony Point Center in New York with leaders from the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship who organize accompaniers in the United States. During this training I learned about the history of Colombia, the human rights work of the Presbyterian Church of Colombia and practices used by accompaniers to thrive in Colombia and advocate in the United States.

When I stepped out of the plane in Urabá that July, I was welcomed into the close-knit communities of the church. I accompanied pastors, parents, children, farmers, students and teachers in their daily lives in Colombia, developing relationships as equals. Accompaniers travel in pairs – one Spanish speaker and one without a language requirement – to allow many people access into the program. Even without many Spanish words in my vocabulary, my presence became a ministry that I continue to learn from. Accompaniment grounds relationships in solidarity which promotes trust and equality. This program welcomed me into a community seeking liberation, sharing healing and teaching me the ministry of presence which I will continue to use as a chaplain in Chicago.

If solidarity work interests you, please contact Linda Eastwood about this opportunity. Many McCormick students have participated in this program, feel free to ask me more about my experience!

Linda Eastwood

Ben Snipes

This article originally appeared in the “Herald”, McCormick weekly newsletter.