The national office of Iglesia Evangelica Luterana de Colombia or IELCO is in Bogota.
IELCO has about 3000 members in 11 congregations which are served by 8 pastors. The congregations are active in evangelism and there are 27 mission points.
Rev Paul Johnson, ELCIC Assistant to the Bishop (2nd from left), traveled to Colombia in January of 2004 to attend IELCO's National Assembly which was held at Sasaima, about an hour's drive from Bogota.
Standing with Paul is Rev Nehemias Parada, on the left, the outgoing Bishop. Between Paul and Nehemias is Rev Sigifredo Buitrago who was elected and installed as the new IELCO Bishop during the Assembly.
Rev Jose Ariza grew up in Colombia and, after becoming a Canadian, served as an ELCIC missionary in Colombia for many years. He now resides with his wife Marjorie in St Albert, Alberta. Jose is helping to foster the companion relationship by leading groups from the ABT Synod when they visit Colombia. At the Assembly, he presided at the blessing of the new Bishop, Sigifredo Buitrago.
A rugged mountain road leads northeast from Bogota to the town of Sogamoso where one of the IELCO schools is located.
Jose Ariza's son, Cito and daughter-in-law Liza Ariza served as Volunteers in Mission and taught at Colegio CELCO in Sogamoso when they were amongst the first Volunteers in Mission more than 10 years ago.
IELCO has resubmitted their request to the VIM program and they would very much like to have another volunteer from the ELCIC teach English at this school in Sogamoso.
During the past 20 years of internal fighting due in part to the illegal drug trade in Colombia, about 3 million people have been displaced from their land and homes by guerilla groups and the paramilitary. IELCO is providing assistance to displaced people in five communities by providing schools, health care, meals, libraries, nutrition courses and funds for housing improvement and small agriculture development projects.
Mission in the World has been able to designate CLWR funds, $5,000 for each of the past three years, to support IELCO's work with displaced people. This is made possible by GHDA and the CLWR priority partnership grant program.