by Pierre Shantz
Almost eleven years after coming to Colombia, I finally visited the famous Eje Cafetero. It is a coffee region in the central range of the Andean mountains. Compared to Barrancabermeja’s 35 degree Celsius weather, the beautiful mountain breeze kept it at a perfect 20 to 25 degrees. It has beautiful green mountains dotted with its coffee plantations. The National Coffee Park shows the history of coffee and how it is grown, and a few amusement rides add to the fun. People have told me for years that I should go. In December of last year, Juvenal Pacheco, a CPT Colombia team reservist from Armenia, told me that it would be great to have a full-time member of the team talk about CPT and promote the Holy Week delegation to the four Mennonite churches of the area, Armenia, Pereira, Ibague and Girardot. Talking about CPT – that’s easy, but all I could think about was finally getting to visit the Eje Cafetero.
From the 4th to the 13th of February I toured around the beautiful mountains. I went to the National Coffee Park, saw the different lookout points along the roads and went to a few coffee shops to try the local brew. It truly was an amazing trip. What made the trip even more amazing were the people I met. During my ten day trip I spoke to three youth groups, one bible study group and shared in four Sunday services. I shared about the work of CPT and how they could be involved. I encouraged people to join the Holy Week delegation. On the Colombia team we have one delegation per year (the week before Easter) were we give priority to Colombians who want to join a CPT delegation. The response was overwhelming. Young in age and young at heart requested application forms. They also shared with me the work for justice and peace they are doing. The church in Pereira took me to a low income neighborhood where they will start workshops on peace and nonviolence with the local youth and children. One of the two churches in Ibague is in a neighborhood that was built to house people displaced by violence. In the midst of churches who preach a message: “If you join us God will bless you with money,” the Mennonite Church tries to be a different voice to people facing social and economic violence.
So after trying everything that is coffee from chocolate covered beans, arequipe (caramel), wine, cake, and cookies I was feeling a buzz. But the buzz wasn’t only from the caffeine. It was also from the feeling of meeting people who are committed to working for and sharing the gospel of peace, economic and social justice. Now the sad part is since we have a twelve person limit for the delegation we will probably have to turn a few away. Luckily there is always next year. And hey who knows, they just might need someone to go and back and share some more about CPT. By then I’ll need some more coffee too.