CCS student Meghan Witzel recently accompanied eleven youth from Waterloo Presbytery as a leader/chaplain on the “Two Countries One World” trip to Colombia. Meghan shares some of her reflections:…
I have always believed in relational ministry. I think when we connect with people, whether on faith-based mutual ground or not, we discover the Holy in each other.
“In true relationships, the only point is to be together. Once there is another point, the relationship withers under the heat of expectations and obligations.” – theologian Andrew Root.
I’ll never forget the first evening in Brisas Del Mar, Colombia. It was like an awkward school dance. Our youth were huddled together sitting in a row on the ledge in the main hut area. The children and youth of Brisas were doing the same thing, but perpendicular to them.
I said to our youth, “You guys can interact with them you know. Play hand clapping games and stuff”
They said, “Well there’s kind of a language barrier”.
I thought to myself: “Oh ya. They’re new at this. They don’t know yet”.
While the first 24 hours consisted of our youth feeling frustrated that they didn’t learn more Spanish before the trip, that frustration quickly melted away. You see, the language of love is universal. Energy doesn’t lie and smiles speak to each other. Card tricks, music, dancing, hand clapping games; they all broke down those initially frustrating language barriers, and VERY quickly.
By Circle time before bed with our youth on our second day in Brisas, “language barrier” wasn’t mentioned even once.
As the week progressed the relationships formed into friendships. And, by the time we left we were family. Their community became our community and we will never be the same.
I and one of our youth experienced the emotional and spiritual intimacy of a restorative justice circle, and reconciliation happened so quickly and organically. I will hold onto that holy moment for the rest of my life.
We learned how to move our hips and dance it out. And we definitely taught some “white people dancing”. We learned how to braid hair better, that passing the peace is much better with warm bear hugs instead of cold handshakes, and that spending more time hanging in the shade on beach day would have been a better life-choice.
My guitar was happily passed around and spent more time outside of its case than in. We laughed, we cried, we hugged, and we sojourned together.
For the first couple of days our scheduled “youth programming time” was a game and follow up discussion lead by our incredible host, Juan. By the third day, the youth time wasn’t programmed. It didn’t need to be.
If you were a stranger walking into that space you would have thought everyone grew up together. The interactions and laughter were beautiful. I smiled as I remembered that only days ago there was a “language barrier”. Now, no one spoke either language any better. But it didn’t matter. It was no longer a wall that separated us.
Love does that, you know. It’s powerful enough to tear down even the biggest and scariest walls.
Part of why we came to Brisas was to help build a church and assist with construction. On one of our last days I began looking around at the transformation and transfiguration among us all. And I smiled and said to myself “It was never about building a church”.
I believe in moments. Moments that move us, shake us and take our breath away. Moments that challenge and change us, teach us to believe in magic and shape our very existence. Moments of impact.
In Brisas, the moments were endless.
And grace happened.