Friday, May 24, 2013

GEMN Conference

As many you know at the beginning of May I traveled to Bogota, Colombia for the annual Global Episcopal Mission Network (GEMN) Conference.  Both Colombia and the conference were fantastic!  

My travels to Bogota began a few days before the beginning of the conference.  Nina (fellow YASCer serving in Brazil), Ryan (fellow YASCer serving in Costa Rica), and I all traveled down early to do a little sightseeing.  We had a great time; on our first day we stayed in Bogota to see the Gold Museum and then took a cable car up to Monserrate.  On Monserrate there is a church located at the top of a mountain over 10,000 feet above sea level.  The view from the top was absolutely spectacular.  

Another highlight that day was running into a man with a llama.  Seeing as llamas are my favorite animal, you can only imagine how excited I was!  Extremely grateful that I got to experience that part of South America.

On our second day, the three of us took a bus ride out of the city to the Salt Cathedral.  The cathedral is literally located in caverns.  The tour begins with the stations of the cross that eventually lead you to the main cathedral.  The cathedral was beautiful and I highly recommend visiting it if you’re ever in Colombia.  

On Saturday we relocated to the hotel where the conference was being held.  After checking into our rooms, we were able to catch up with friends we haven’t seen in awhile from the states.  Then on Sunday the conference officially began by attend a service at the Episcopal cathedral in Bogota.  I love services with so many people from around the world and it was especially fun doing one in Spanish again (last time was in the Dominican Republic back in June with my Christ Church mission team).

For the rest of the week we were in workshops and presentations with a focus on Province 9.  Highlights of the conference were a presentation given by Paulo Ueti about theology and economic sustainability and the site visits.  The first site I was able to visit was a program for women empowerment and displaced people.  The second was a church that provides housing and services to senior citizens and also an after-school program for at-risk youth.  At both sites it was inspiring to see the work that was being done within the Episcopal church for these communities.  You could really feel the presence of Christ in the work that these parishes are doing.

On our last day of the conference, we had a beautiful service presided by our very own Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori.  My favorite part of the service was the music (big surprise, I know...); the cathedral's band played and they were wonderful!  

On Friday, all of the Episcopal Latin American missionaries stayed an extra day to meet together.  I thoroughly enjoyed spending time with the other missionaries and getting to know my fellow comrades in the field.  

My trip to Colombia was amazing and I greatly thank the Episcopal church for the opportunity to participate in the conference!  I also thank my sponsors from these past few weeks Becky Stern, Anne & Bill Drury, Sharon Lower, Donna Gullstrand Davidson, Susie Carmichael, and Bill Endorf.  Come back later this week for an update on the fun that I’ve had upon returning to Haiti!   

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