Work with the prisons has become complicated. To make an interesting story short, what started as doing a six week training-of-trainers in alternatives to violence and related conflict transformation tools turned into a four week workshop series paused and split into a 10-week workshop series (where workshop 1 is implemented three days after the training) on concepts and practices of sanctuary peace churches (which does integrate most of previously mentioned material but with a clearer theological bend to it) with the men’s prison and a big ol’ question mark about what process will continue or not with the women’s prison. The coordinator of the programs at the womens’ prison felt that perhaps the content of the workshops was a little too humanist and not quite evangelical enough for their purposes.
I think it’s a testament to my parents and mentors/teachers that, although working on and implementing these workshops have been the highlight (and stressor, but still highlight) of my past month, my feelings after the meeting were not ones of complete failure and despair. Yes, I could have done many things better to avoid this (such as being more explicit and continues in verbalizing the deep christian/theological basing of popular education methodology ( Inestead of just being totally floored and aghast at comments like “but why are we emphasizing so strongly listening to everyone’s perspective and solution when we have the Truth??”) and insist more strongly on the initial input of the prison coordinators) and so could they (such as believing me when I said I thought it was important they build the curriculum with me before we start workshops, that I should visit the prisons first, anywho) but regardless, I understand that this starting and stopping is part of the work and process too. I was able to look at a conversation with disappointing results and genuinely think “Well, that was a good process. Let’s do this better next time.”
When I got here I wanted to jump right into leading massive actions with joint groups from churches demanding victims’ rights, denouncing illegal recruiting practices, mining practices, etc.I would still love to see that, but six months into my time in Medellin I’m getting to be more at peace with taking a few steps back and understanding that being part of a “Seed” program really does mean that we don’t get to be a sexy big green leaf. Liberation theology has a lot of baggage and history here, any kind of political resistance movement has largely been killed off, and the kind of personal transformation of soul-saving evangelism has had some miraculous results— so shifting focuses, paradigms, methodologies, etc, is just always going to be slow, relational work.
I have to say– I like big sexy green leaves. But I’m starting to relax into this being as well. (Part of me is still scared this peace is a false one, that I’m just losing passion and direction and leaning back so as to be comfortable. Surely the truth is always a complicated mix; but I don’t think that’s all there is to it.
I know how many times I’ve already quote this, but Rumi does come to mind, once again:
“Try and be a sheet of paper with nothing on it.
Be a spot of ground where nothing is growing,
where something might be planted,
a seed, possibly, from the Absolute.”