Colombia Peace Accompaniment | John Turnbull
Presbyterian Peace Fellowship
Colombia Peace Accompaniment | John Turnbull

From July 2-30, 2018, I am scheduled, with one other Presbyterian lay person, to serve as a mission worker in the Colombia peace-accompaniment program. This peacekeeping and peace-affirming relationship between the Presbyterian Church (USA) and our sisters and brothers in Colombia was established in 2004 and continues now as a joint effort of the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship (PPF), Presbyterian Church (USA) World Mission, and La Iglesia Presbiteriana de Colombia (IPC).

Why Colombia?

This significant connection between our denomination and the IPC began nearly fifteen years ago with a September 2004 visit to Colombia by Rick Ufford-Chase, Moderator of the 216th General Assembly, and dialogues concerning the safety of clergy and other presbytery leaders working with displaced populations in northern sections of the country, along the Caribbean coast. Since that time, more than one hundred U.S.-based volunteers have served in the peace-accompaniment program, which offers nonviolent direct action in support of PC(USA) policy backing the IPC’s mission with Colombia’s internally displaced persons (IDPs). (The PPF maintains another overseas peace initiative in Israel/Palestine.) As a result of civil war – which has been ongoing at least since 1964 – and exploitation of natural resources by actors including paramilitary groups, rebel forces, and drug cartels, the number of IDPs in Colombia stands at more than six million, according to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre in Geneva, Switzerland. This is the largest population of IDPs in the world. The IPC leadership has testified on many occasions to the effectiveness of the peace partnership and its affirmation of the sister-church relationship among Presbyterian institutions worldwide.

The Colombia mission now serves two presbyteries, El Presbiterio de Urabá, located toward the border with Panama, and El Presbiterio de la Costa, based in Barranquilla.

What will I do?

My role in this mission will be to serve as a witness to and presence in support of IPC activities, to speak to and worship with IPC congregations, to file weekly accompaniment reports, and to return as a better-informed educator and advocate for peace in Colombia and Latin America.

Why me?

I served in Colombia for six months in 2011 as a teaching volunteer with La Asociación de Institutores y Trabajadores de la Educación del Cauca (ASOINCA), an activist teacher’s union in the department of Cauca, located south of Cali, en route to the border with Ecuador. I’ve also volunteered with community-centered education initiatives in Atlanta and Chicago, in both places working with Latin American migrants through La Asociación Latinoamericana of Atlanta and Universidad Popular in Chicago’s La Villita. In the winter of 2016-17, I volunteered with the Green Valley-Sahuarita Samaritans of southern Arizona and also with the Kino Border Initiative in Nogales, Sonora, México.

As a mission volunteer, I will be honored to learn more deeply about the Colombian church and its context for ministry and to represent Christ Presbyterian Church of Hanover Park, Illinois, and the broader church body in its desire to be connected with those with whom we share one faith and one baptism. The deeper significance of such service could not be better expressed than the reflection contained in a letter from Milton Mejía, former executive secretary of the IPC, to Rick Ufford-Chase late in 2005. Mejia refers to peace accompaniment in Colombia as “an experience of faith in solidarity” and as “[t]he living out of the experience of God in Jesus, who left his privileges and his comforts to be with human beings, hearing the needs, feeling the fears and participating in daily life with its sorrows and hopes. This has been lived [out] in being with and listening attentively to the people, offering a hand and a shoulder, unhurriedly, so that people feel for a moment that they are not alone.”

Along with our Colombian sisters and brothers, the call that I feel is, as Mejía writes, “no longer to be victims to the fear and trembling” generated by the powers of government and greed. I’m grateful to be connected to a local church, that is, to Christ Presbyterian, and to a wider church that regards its mission as one of standing with those who choose to live in peace rather than tolerate perpetual violence and the sacrifice of liberty and human dignity.

What do I need?

Below is a breakdown, using Presbyterian Peace Fellowship estimates, updated as of 2017, of anticipated personal expenses, including transportation, lodging, meals, and so forth, in the Caribbean coastal section of Colombia. Any funds I raise over the amount needed will support other accompaniers.



Budget category

Estimated expense

Transportation (ORD to MDE, Medellín, round trip)


Transportation (internal flights, bus, taxi)


Food, personal spending, tips, offerings


Pre-trip travel (immunizations) & international medical insurance


Miscellany (including airport exit tax)


Additional fund-raising, to support PPF program costs




ABOUT Colombia Accompaniers

Leaders in the Presbyterian Church of Colombia are taking great risks in their human rights work and their support of the communities of Colombians who have been displaced by the violence of the forty-year war in their country. They have asked us to act as international accompaniers in order to provide a measure of safety—international eyes—for their work.

The Presbyterian Peace Fellowship is working with PC(USA) World Mission and the Presbyterian Church of Colombia to train and deploy short-term mission workers to Colombia. To date (since 2004) we have trained over 150 volunteers, over 100 whom have served.

Name Date Amount Comments
Angela Schuler 06/07/2018 $25.00  
Martina Granadilla 06/05/2018 $50.00 Thinking of you and hoping to be reunited soon again. Good luck!
Christ Presbyterian Church of Hanover Park, IL 05/31/2018 $920.00  
Christ Church Peacemaking 05/20/2018 $241.20  
Anne F. Hughes 05/06/2018 $50.00 Good luck in this endeavor. It's a worthy cause. I'll be praying for you.
Jon Scher 04/24/2018 $100.00 Rojo significa avanzar!
Margaret Schuelke 04/22/2018 $50.00 Keep up the great work John.
Andrew Turnbull 04/20/2018 $75.00  
Ellen Wiviott 04/18/2018 $50.00 Best wishes on your journey
Meredith Wilson 04/17/2018 $50.00 From McKenna and her subjects :-)
Linda Smedinghoff 04/17/2018 $50.00  
Ann Thomas 04/16/2018 $50.00  
Thom Satterlee 04/10/2018 $100.00 Glad to hear you're doing this, John. You'll be "luz y sal"!
Tanya Myers 04/08/2018 $150.00 Sending with much love from the Myers/Beck family!
Adam Shafran 04/05/2018 $100.00 Wishing my good friend John Turnbull the very best!
Anonymous Friend 04/03/2018 $150.00  
Michael Messinget 04/03/2018 $100.00 Wage peace!
  Total $2,311.20  
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