Eyes that watch over us

Idaho-Colombia sister-church relationship has flourished for 20 years

Mar 4, 2019 by and

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BOISE, Idaho — Though it’s in a remote part of southern Colombia, Puerto Asis Church of God doesn’t go unnoticed.

“There are only two pairs of eyes that watch over us here in Puerto Asis: God and Hyde Park Mennonite Fellowship,” says Angel Pinto, pastor of the congregation near the border with Ecuador on the Putumayo River.

Maria holds a photo of Rick and Carole Skinner, members of Hyde Park Mennonite Fellowship, that she has carried in her Bible since 2011 as a reminder of Hyde Park’s prayers for her. She prays for the Skinners daily. — Rob Hanson

Maria holds a photo of Rick and Carole Skinner, members of Hyde Park Mennonite Fellowship, that she has carried in her Bible since 2011 as a reminder of Hyde Park’s prayers for her. She prays for the Skinners daily. — Rob Hanson

Puerto Asis and Hyde Park have been sister churches for more than 20 years.

In the 1990s, the Justapaz program of the Colombian Mennonite Church, with support from Mennonite Central Committee, identified churches working toward peace during the decades of civil war in Colombia.

Puerto Asis Church of God saw frequent violence. Many in the community lost family members to atrocities from the war and associated instability.

Ever since Hyde Park and Puerto Asis were paired up, Pinto and his wife, Jeanet, have talked on the phone almost weekly with Annette and Rob Hanson of Hyde Park to learn how to pray for each other for the next week. With WhatsApp, voices and faces added closeness.

Each Sunday morning, Puerto Asis lights a candle and says a prayer for Hyde Park, and an hour later Hyde Park does the same for them. Over the years, members of the Idaho congregation have heard the names and seen the faces in photos of many in the congregation as they pray for the Colombians’ health, their children, their ministries and for peace in Colombia.

Not a mission trip

A Hyde Park sister-church trip is not a mission trip. Hyde Park folks don’t go with any building plans, Bible school or teaching materials. They go with prayers and preparation to hang out and just be with the community.

During the most recent trip to Colombia, Isaiah Bowman, a 22-year old member of Hyde Park, expressed to the Puerto Asis church his eagerness to meet them.

“Every Sunday of my life, the one constant was a report, a candle and prayers for Puerto Asis,” he said.

The congregations felt significantly closer to each other after the advent of Facebook. The congregants in Colombia sought out Idaho folks, translated their posts, commented and wrote out prayers. Hyde Park members did the same.

The Pintos have visited the Idaho congregation three times with weeklong stays on their way to the Church of God conference in Indiana.

Because of frequent homicides, the pastor’s kidnapping and subsequent release, multiple thefts, poverty and perpetual violence, the congregation of Puerto Asis values the sister-church relationship.

“I am reminded of the story of Moses in battle, where he raises his arms and the battle is winning,” Jeanet Pinto said. “As he gets tired, he gets support to hold up his arms. The folks at HPMF are holding our arms and giving us support.”

The congregations exchange Christmas cards, bookmarks and photos. During a worship service in Puerto Asis, Maria tapped on the arm of Annette Hanson so she could show the photo she keeps in her Bible of Rick and Carole Skinner from Hyde Park. Visitors and hosts exchanged homemade banners to remind everyone of the connection.

Each contact, each visit, each shared story, strengthens the foundation of the relationship, touching hearts across the miles and growing the understanding of being family.


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