Ministry/Work Team Preparation Manual

 Please request a copy to be emailed to you of this manual for distribution with your team



Table of contents

Work opportunities in Colombia

The Covenant Church in Colombia and its ministries

 Information on Colombia, its cities and its people

 Partnering with us in Colombia

  • Who we are
  • Defining who you are
  • Guidelines for partnering with ministries and projects
  • Tips for successful teams
  • Personal security guidelines
  • Mission trip participant packet – legal requirements
  • Work team budget

 Travel advice and information



Has your church ever thought about sending an intergenerational group to another country to work with children, young professionals, help with the construction of a church, work with English as a second language in evangelism? Are there college students who are serious about serving God on their spring or summer break?

Why not come to Colombia? There are lots of different opportunities for you to serve!

WHAT work ministry opportunities exist in Colombia?

  • Construction projects – in churches, social projects
  • Pastoral family dwelling construction and remodeling
  • English Intensives – Working with children and professionals in the Colombia Covenant Schools on their Conversation abilities
  • English Intensives for young professionals in their English Conversation camps, retreats, training for children’s ministry leaders, training youth leaders, youth ministry events.
  • Lead some intensive classes (Youth Leadership training, arts in worship, Bible study methods, etc) for the youth leadership program.
  • Health Brigades (eyes, dental, general checkup, community health training)
  • Sports Ministry with children and youth
  • Counseling, advocacy, lay-counseling training in domestic – marriage – life issues
  • Teaching in ministry topics, theology classes, practical pastoral experience
  • Consultation and training for Elderly care and nurture
  • Small business and micro business consultation
  • Men’s outreach initiatives or Women’s outreach

WHERE can we participate in these work ministry opportunities in Colombia?

  • Medellín and Antioquia Region
  • Bogotá and Cundinamarca Region
  • Córdoba and South Coast Region
  • Barranquilla, Cartagena and North Coast Region

WHO can participate in these work ministry opportunities?

  • A team should ideally consist of 6 – 8 people.
  • There should be at least 1 or 2 Spanish speakers in a team.
  • Who makes up the team?
    •  College students, youth groups, intergenerational teams, families, adult teams, a men’s group or a women’s group.
  • We are looking for people who have a heart for God and who want to serve his Church while experiencing a different culture.
  • We invite you to come with a servant’s heart and hope that you want to learn just as much as you want to give.

WHEN can we participate in these work ministry opportunities?

  • We are open to receive teams throughout the year, but reserve the right to make sure that it is an ideal time for both the mission staff and the local churches and ministries before agreeing to receive a team. The teams are invited to stay between one and two weeks.


The Covenant began to take its place in Colombia in 1968. Today, the FIPEC (Federation of Colombian Covenant Churches) has a membership of 35 Covenant Churches and nine churches being planted. FIPEC is divided into five regional areas: North Coast, South Coast, Cundinamarca, South Pacific and Antioquia.  The Colombian Covenant has adopted a five point strategy for ministry which includes: Planting Churches; Equipping pastors and leaders to grow in ministry; Facilitate servant leadership; Encourage self–sustaining churches; and see that the Churches and ministries are full.

The Department of World Mission of the ECC has partnered with the Colombian Covenant Church in sending missionaries who contribute in different ways to the growth and consolidation of the Colombia Covenant Church. At this time there are 3 long-term missionaries in Colombia: Gary and Mary Lou Sander and Cathy Campobello, all of whom are located in Medellín. There is also a family of 4 working in Medellín as project missionaries in church planting, outreach to young professionals, and leadership development: Julio, Katie, Samuel, and Benjamin Isaza.

Our mission is to impact the diverse cultures of Colombia by sharing the message of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ and expressing His love to those we encounter.  We envision cooperating with the Covenant of Colombia in developing appropriate work and ministry relationships in shared areas of ministry such as women, children’s and youth ministries.  We envision cooperating with the Covenant of Colombia in the formation and development of its ministers and leaders to be disciples of Jesus Christ, ministers of the Word and leaders of all age groups who minister in the Covenant, the community and the world.  We envision accompanying the Covenant Church of Colombia in planting new churches and ministries that reach all contexts of life—traditional and non traditional, urban and rural—that have a missionary vision, that are contextualized with society and culture and that are self-governing and self-sustaining.  We envision ourselves joining the Covenant of Colombia in discovering, developing, strengthening and extending ministries of abuse victim advocacy, compassion, justice and mercy.  We envision strengthening and extending the partnerships with the Covenant of Colombia, the Covenant worldwide and other Christian and non-Christian organizations in the equipping, training and promotion of mission outreach both within Colombia and beyond its borders. They are working in the areas of evangelism, holistic development, pastoral training, leadership development, and discipleship in the local Covenant Churches and its ministries.

The Norwegian Covenant Church is also present in Colombia, working in collaboration with the Colombian Covenant Church. The Norwegian missionaries work with the various local churches and social ministry projects throughout Colombia.

There are vital ministries and social projects that run alongside of the Covenant churches. Some ministries such as: CEMPEC (Center for Ministerial Studies), Women Ministries, JOPI (National Youth Organization), Scouts, Seamos Parces (sports and arts for children), Human Rights project focusing on women and children, APC (Social Ministries Association), and Covenant Kids International-Changed Lives (Children’s Education scholarship sponsorship) are national ministries and are found in each region.

Here is more information about each region, its churches and ministries.

 ANTIOQUIA: Medellín, Envigado, Itaguí, Bello, El Bagre

The Covenant work in Colombia began in Medellín in 1968. There are 15 Covenant churches in Medellín and the surrounding communities and 5 who are in the process of associating with the Covenant. There are also 4 church plants in the process.

In addition to the Covenant churches, there are various social projects that work alongside the churches:

The Covenant Holistic Education Center (CEIP) – Covenant Elementary school

Manos con Esperanza “Hands with Hope”– Women’s craft ministry

Valuable Women in the Hands of Jesus – Outreach to women in the sex industry

Grains of Life – Good Beginnings – Pre-school head start program

El Hermano Drug Rehabilitation Program

Amar Ser – Medical outreach

Peace House – Outreach and alternative housing for boys at risk

Seeds of Love and Hope– Outreach to children at risk



The work in Bogotá began in 1988. Currently there are 7 churches in Bogotá and its surrounding communities.

Here are the social projects/ministries, which run in conjunction with the Covenant churches:

Potosí Christian School

Project Esperanza – children’s drop in center

Fundación Pacto Belén – children’s drug rehab

Fundación El Pactomen and women drug and alcohol rehab


THE SOUTH COAST: Montería, San Carlos, La Ye, San Marcos

The work in the departments of Córdoba and Sucre began in 1991 in Montería. There are 8 churches and one new work in Montería, San Carlos, and the surrounding communities.

Here are the social projects/ministries, which run in conjunction with the Covenant churches:

Strong and Unified Hands Foundation – community outreach to children/families at risk

Plan for Children – Providing education and nutrition reinforcement

Cochalinas Farm – Integrated rural project

Fadescar Farm – Social and economic development foundation

THE SOUTH PACIFIC: Ipiales, Cali, Pasto

There are four churches in this region, and three church plants in progress.

THE NORTH COAST: Barranquilla, Soledad, Cartagena

The work in Barranquilla began in 1992. There are 5 churches in Barranquilla.

The work in Cartagena began in 1996. There is one church with two congregations in different neighborhoods.

Covenant Social Foundation – Operates 4 elementary schools in the Barranquilla area


Colombia lies in the northwestern corner of South America.  Its cool mountains and valleys have fertile soils and precious minerals. Vast pastures, thick forests, and tropical crops cover the hot, low plains. It is the only South American country that faces both the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean. It is bordered by Venezuela, Brazil, Ecuador, Peru and Panama. Colombia is today one of the richest, most highly developed countries of Latin America with a stable democratic government. Spanish is the official language spoken and 95% of the population is Catholic.

Bogotá is the capital of the department of Cundinamarca and is the capital of the country. It is Colombia’s principal political, economic, industrial, and cultural center. It is a city of 8 million people that spreads out on a mountain plateau. Bogotá is the third highest capital in South America after La Paz, Peru, and Quito, Ecuador. It lies between 2600-1650 m (approx 8,500 ft in elevation.) The average climate in Bogotá is 14C (63F) all year round, dropping at night to 9C (48F) and rising during the day to around 18C (65F). On sunny days the temperature can be higher.

Medellín, the capital of the department of Antioquia, is pleasantly set in the Aburrá Valley of the Colombian Cordillera at an elevation of 1490m (approx. 5,000 ft). Medellín is often called the “City of Eternal Spring” because of its mild climate throughout the year. Medellín is the second largest city in Colombia with a population over 3 million people, including the adjoining municipalities of Itagui, Envigado and Bello. It is a modern city with all the conveniences of a metropolis.

Cartagena and Barranquilla are international seaports on the Caribbean Sea located in the department of Bolivar and Atlantico. While Barranquilla is a city of much industry, Cartagena is known for its tourism. For the tourist, Cartagena provides many interesting sightseeing opportunities. The average temperature in both cities is between 27C-30C (mid 80s to low 90s). The weather is very hot and humid.

Montería is a coastal city, which lies inland about an hour’s drive from the Caribbean Sea. Its location makes it very hot and humid, with little breeze. The major businesses in Montería and the surrounding towns are animal husbandry and agriculture.

In all of the big cities in Colombia getting a good education is one of the strongest motivations in life. While a person is studying–even if it means until he/she is past 30 years old–he/she is not expected to do anything else, including helping with housework, etc. Many young people do not marry until they are finished with college and well situated in their careers. Older people often live with their children until the time they die. The extended family living together is very normal in Colombia. While the people of Bogotá are considered to keep more to themselves, the people who live on the coast are known for their hospitality and desire to share what they have with others.


Social classes are well defined in Colombia. There is a fairly large upper class which can be divided into two parts–inherited wealth and new wealth. The two groups often have nothing to do with each other. The middle class (20%) is also divided into different parts—professionals or upper-middle class, and other people with money but not considered professionals (lack of higher education). The working class includes people who work in factories or have fairly regular sources of income. Many of them are not well educated. The lower class includes street people, venders, people who move in and out of jobs and live in the slums of the city.



Our understanding as a CMC (Colombian Mission Committee) is that as a work team group, you are coming to Colombia to partner with us and with the Colombian Covenant Church and leaders in a specific ministry or project in such a way as to bring glory to God and extend the Kingdom of God in Colombia.

On the following pages, we will share the CMC’s mission statement and our core values, along with a set of guidelines for partnering with ministries and projects in Colombia.  It is our hope and belief that when we know and understand each other better, our partnership can be more healthy and positive.



“Under the authority of Scripture and through the power of the Holy Spirit, God has called us into a partnership with Him and a strong, unified Colombian Covenant Church Community.  Our united mission is to impact this diverse culture by sharing the message of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ and to express His love to those we encounter within these borders and beyond.”



To empower the different cultures of Colombia to express the love of God to the world, based on the development and strengthening of:

Appropriate organizational structures – cooperate with the Covenant of Colombia in developing appropriate work relationships in shared areas of ministry

Grassroots leadership training – the spiritual formation and equipping of God’s people for ministry and leadership

Contextualized church planting – the planting of culturally relevant churches

Holistic ministries – the development of social ministries that demonstrate the whole gospel, by seeking to address the spiritual, social, and physical needs of people

Partnerships with the Covenant world-wide in World Mission – vibrant mission partnerships with (ECC) Evangelical Covenant Churches and followers for Christ around the world


How can your team be partners with the CMC (Colombian Mission Committee) in regards to their mission statement and their basic goals?  Maybe the best way is to think about forming a mission partnership with them and to think of it like a courtship. A good test for whether you are ready to do this is: Do you know who you are?

David Mark, in his paper On Someone Else’s Terms, wrote the following to explain why it is so important to define who you are.

Lots of romantic relationships fall apart because one or the other hasn’t figured out his or her identity yet. If you have teen-aged kids or if you can remember your own adolescence, you know what I mean. Kids try on a different “look” about once a week. They idealize the person that they have “fallen in love with”. They think the other is “exactly like me”. They expect the other to “make me happy all the time”. And so on. They don’t know who they really are and they don’t have a clue about the true identity of the other. They project an idealized picture of themselves onto the other person.  The same is true about many churches and mission groups and the people they want to serve. (p. 6)

When thinking about serving in another country, the first question that must be answered, either by the mission committee or the mission team, is, “Who are we?”

  1. What are our core commitments?
  2. What are our strategic goals?
  3. What are our specific abilities, gifts and tasks?

Or, more simply put, who are you as a team and what do you have to offer the people with whom you are working with in Colombia?  

Just like courtship succeeds depending on the level of compatibility between the two, so do international partnerships. The level of your compatibility is key. For that reason it is important that you evaluate your cultural understanding, core values and language abilities in order to make the most compatible partnership. Another key question to ask is, What kind of a relationship/partnership are you looking for? 

The answer could depend on whether you are thinking about:

1.)  A short-term project that is helpful but limited and compatibility doesn’t matter very much

2.)  A long-term, multidimensional partnership where compatibility at deep levels matter a lot

3.)  Something in between 1 and 2

As you answer the questions previously mentioned, you will be helping the Colombia Mission staff to be better matchmakers, assisting you to find the right ministry partner here in Colombia.  It will not guarantee that the partnership will be perfect, but it will help reduce problems in the following areas:

  • Cultural misunderstandings
  • Communication problems (often related to language deficiencies)
  • An awkward and growing paternalistic relationship
  • Disagreements about ministry objectives and strategies (particularly about “who is in charge”)
  • Unforeseen doctrinal differences

There are two things that need to be said at this point:

  1. Not all short term partnerships should automatically lead to a long-term partnership.
  2. All serious partnerships, particularly across cultures, are very hard work.

Even if everybody does their homework and even given high levels of compatibility and mutual understanding at the outset, disagreements, misunderstandings and even conflicts are simply common to human beings. They will take a lot of time, energy and effort to be worked through. Jesus said, “Love one another as I have loved you.” He never said it would be easy.

Suggestions for reflection and discussion

    1. What are your some of your expectations for this mission trip?  List them, share them.  Are they realistic?  Do other team members share the same expectations?  How can they be shared with the people of Colombia, even before arriving?  …During your time here?  When you are home again?
    2. What are some of the expectations that the Colombians may have of your team?  How can you find out?  Are their expectations of you, as a team, realistic and positive?
    3. What can be communicated beforehand and then later when together in Colombia, so that a more successful mission encounter can be experienced by all of the people involved?
  • When we know WHO WE ARE as individuals and as a team, and when we take the necessary steps to know the people with whom we will be working, UNREALISTIC EXPECTATIONS can more easily be converted into REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS!




1.  Fosters interdependence.

2.  Protects dignity and a sense of self-worth.

3.  Provides what is lacking until it can be found locally.

4.  Encourages sustainability as much as possible.

5.  Stimulates self-initiative.

6.  Encourages searching out local resources.

7.  Responds to their felt needs.

8.  Encourages self-reliance.

9.  Appreciates the local culture.


1.  Creates dependency.

2.  Is demeaning.

3.  Provides everything needed.

4.  Is driven by donor initiative.

5.  Depends on external resources.

6.  Defines the needs.

7.  Would create jealousy among local national churches.

8.  Reduces necessary stewardship for the local national church.

9.  Puts unrealistic demands on the CMC.

10.  Makes the missionary’s task more difficult.

11.  Bypasses national leadership.

Why are the Guidelines for Partnering with Ministries and Projects in Colombia important to the missionary staff regarding “We Want to do Everything That…and Avoid Anything That…”?

David Mark, in On Someone Else’s Terms answers this question:

A vibrant mission partnership is defined as a healthy relationship between two or more autonomous parties in which each party makes significant, mutually agreed upon contributions toward the fulfillment of mutually identified goals.Such a definition implies wholesome, humble, and honest dialogue; the celebration and sharing of God’s gifts; and the advancement of God’s Kingdom through joint endeavors.  Partnerships are organic in nature as people journey through the process of fulfilling mutually identified goals. (p. 5)

He continues,

You see, most people who go on mission trips – and many who want to become career missionaries – are still thinking upside down. We imagine that we are going to places that are far less Christian than our own homeland. We imagine that we have much more to give than to receive. We imagine that we are in charge….We are going to have to think in a decentralized way about the expansion of the Kingdom of God. It will now have to mean ‘from here and there to everywhere’, rather than a single direction. We are going to have to drop our whole idea of ‘foreign mission fields’ and return to Jesus’ more accurate description when he said, ‘the field is the world’ – including our part of it. The day is gone when we can ‘parachute in’ to virgin territory, unannounced and uninvited. We will need partnerships, companionships and coalitions. Most of all, and hardest for us to accept, we will need permission. This will be tough for us. We aren’t used to submitting to anyone. (p. 5)

This highlights something that Andrew Walls, the great Scottish missiologist, has written over and over again and it is what David Mark chose for the title of his paper. “The fundamental reality of missionary experience is to live on someone else’s terms.”  (p. 13)

“The missiological principal is that, in terms of culture, you will have to learn to live and work on someone else’s terms. As you go to serve in someone else’s culture or country, you are going as servants and as guests. You are the people who need to adapt, not they. It just makes no sense for you to try to get people to do things your way. Oh, they may adopt some of your technological solutions but most of their way of being is as natural to them as breathing and they are not particularly anxious to change.  Cultural compatibility, then is achieved mainly be learning to life on somebody’s terms” (Mark, 16).

So, do you really want to know “who they are?” If so, welcome to a lifetime of learning!


Suggestions for reflection and discussion

Read Philippians 1: 1-11

1.)   As you move forward in cross-cultural or international mission what kind of relationship do you want to develop with your partners?  What will it cost you in time, energy and commitment to achieve your desired result?  What resources are present to help your relationship to grow in effectiveness, mutual understanding and integrity?

Impact of disproportional resources

As a team considers the possibility of partnering with the Evangelical Covenant Church of Colombia and desires to have a better understanding of what that partnership should look like, one of the issues that should be discussed is the impact of Disproportional resources.


Here are some thoughts from David Mark on this issue:

There are some things that Western missionaries have wrestled with for centuries.  The reality is that our impact on the lives of others is often distorted and confusing because of disproportionate wealth and power. When you think about it, lots of confusion has happened in the advance of Christianity because things are “topsy-turvy”. Jesus’ way of bringing God’s Good News was to become one of the poor. He was born in poverty and shared the marginalized existence of outsiders and outcasts. His own people, as a whole, were dominated by a conquering, imperial power. Yet, even in his own society, Jesus had no position or status. In contrast, for centuries Christianity has move forward – often awkwardly – on the coattails of imperial advance. U.S. Christians are, today, the most privileged, wealthiest and most powerful people on the planet. Why don’t we take that seriously? (p. 21, 23, 25)

Most often than not, power is associated with wealth, and the U.S. is undisputedly a wealthy nation. Therefore we have options and choices that others don’t have. And “choice is power.”

Just think about it! “All our basic needs – food, clothing and shelter – are met through choices between options, while for many in the world the only choice is about survival day to day. U.S. Christians, aware of these realities, are anxious to find ways to be generous and provide the means for independent choices for those they think of as less fortunate or blessed. In this picture, however, we may not see ourselves as others see us. We think of ourselves as good-hearted and voluntarily generous. Others may see us quite differently. We may feel quite offended if someone treats our generosity as simply a matter of our responsibility or duty. We tend to think of our generosity as a free, personal choice while many in the world consider it a systemic obligation” (Mark, 21).

What are some of the unintended consequences of our wealth and power, especially in our service to others who have less than we do? Two words: paternalism and dependency.

“Paternalism and dependency are social system ways of handling disproportional wealth and power. Social scientists substitute different words for emphasis, but they amount to roughly the same thing” (Mark, 40).

Patronage system: composed of patron and dependent subject

Dominance/Dependence system: composed of strong and weak parties

Paternalism system: composed of parent role and child role

How can we avoid falling into these types of partnerships in our service to others?

Just being aware of these issues is a great start! We have to talk about these issues and address together with the people we are partnering with. “

In conclusion David Mark writes, “Any true partnership has to include some clear understanding about the participation by both sides, including an understanding of realistic limits. Both sides need to feel that they are making a significant contribution to the shared ministry, even if the kind of contribution that each offer is different. Somewhere, World Vision wrote something like this: “No one is too poor to be unable to contribute something and no one is too rich to be unable to receive”.  I also would encourage you to establish a time-bounded relationship rather than one that is open ended. Then both parties can periodically review what has happened, agree to extend things further, agree to end them or agree to revise or change them – whatever makes the most sense” (p. 23).

Seek opportunities to talk and listen to each other in order to clarify expectations and come to a mutual understanding. “It is good to be reminded that people we consider ‘deprived’ (because they don’t have what we have) often have many more resources than we thought. We can learn about these resources if we listen carefully to their stories.” (p. 23)

Walking with the Poor is a book written by Bryant L. Myers that encourages us to be like Jesus and embrace the poor.  When one lives and works in such a way with the poor, it is called transformational development.  “The most fundamental cause of poverty is the impact of sin,” (p. 123).  It tells the poor they are God forsaken, without hope, without dignity and without a future.  This is the deepest form of poverty.  The goals of transformational development are: changed people and changed relationships.  This begins by “…helping people discover that their human dignity and identity are intrinsically related to God in Christ through His redemptive purpose in salvation history” (p. 116).  It says that they are made in God’s image and for His purpose to be in relationship with Him and to contribute by being fruitful and productive.

Suggestions for reflection and discussion (taken from On Somebody Else’s Terms)

Read:  2 Corinthians 8: 1-15

  1. Explore how a mission partnership could fall into
  • A patronage system
  • A dominance/dependence system
  • A paternalistic system
  1. How can US Christians avoid falling into the patterns listed above?
  2. Most of the world’s people lack material resources, educational benefits and power. What other kinds of resources do they have that we may overlook?
  3. How can you help poor people discover their true identity and their true vocation?

“Here’s what happens, as people get involved with God in His mission. You start out with a general desire to “seek and to save those who are lost”. You are motivated by a desire to be generous toward those with limited resources. Once on site, however, you discover a whole universe of complex realities – about which you had never dreamed, and before which you feel totally unprepared. The “easy solutions” that you had envisioned now seem woefully inadequate. You run back to Jesus, acutely aware that you hardly know what to do next. Congratulations! Now, you are on the threshold of what mission is all about. Instead of “doing good things for God”, if you are open to it, He can now do good things in and through you. After all, it is His mission, not ours” (Mark, 28).

Culture Shock

As a team, and as individual people, it is important to understand the impact that experiencing a new culture and meeting people whose lives are completely different from yours can have. Culture Shock is a common reaction to these types of cross-cultural experiences.

What is culture shock? “Culture shock is an expression used to describe a common experience that happens to people. It happens when someone finds himself or herself in an unfamiliar (foreign) physical and social environment. That environment may not involve a new language – as in an American that moves to London – but things just don’t seem to make sense to the newcomer, thus the greater the number of differences from “back home”, the greater the impact. The phrase, “a fish out of water”, comes to mind….It is not the experiences of a new situation that produce culture shock. It is our inability to make sense out of those experiences. Different cultures have entirely different ways of organizing everything that is, everything that happens and everything that people do. When we don’t understand how “they” organize things, we can be candidates for culture shock” (Mark, 30).

George Hunter III described some things about culture shock in his book, Radical Outreach. “Americans typically expect people of other lands and cultures to be “like us,” and therefore to behave “like us.” Sometimes, when they are not like us, we find their behavior interesting, even charming. Sometimes, however, when nationals greet an American differently than expected, show up late for a meeting, say yes when they mean no, run a red light, stand too close during a conversation, avoid eye contact during a conversation, withhold their opinions from the class, eat dog meat, sip curdled camel’s milk, belch after meals, or hire a less competent cousin (or innumerable other possibilities), this creates a “cultural incident”; the American experiences frustration, rage, or disorientation.

Mark continues, explaining that “when the American experiences enough of these cultural incidents (without getting in touch with his or her feelings, processing the feelings, and learning from the cultural incidents, and without discovering the different culture-based assumptions, attitudes, beliefs, and values behind the confusing behavior of the nationals), he or she either returns home early or “retreats” into the expatriate subculture, closing themselves off from the local culture.  WHY?  Because the sojourner never learns to process the cultural incidents, fails to develop an understanding of the host culture, and thus fails to learn to adapt, communicate, and relate with the nationals” (p. 30).

How can we best work through culture shock?

According to David Mark, “The long-term solution involves accepting, and, in fact, embracing multiple ways of being, thinking and doing. It’s not based on harmonizing everything. The differences are such that a great many things can’t be made to fit together. One has to learn to take each culture on its own terms and not interpret one by another. Does this deny the basic unity of all humankind? Absolutely not! Are qualities like love, justice, and mercy and hope meaningless categories? Not at all! I believe that core human realities are, indeed, universal but they are organized, expressed and lived out in very diverse ways” (p. 31).

Culture shock is probably unavoidable. But there are things we can do to prevent the culture shock from turning our mission experience into a negative experience. We have to listen and learn to our hosts, and not make hasty, prompt judgments. And most importantly, “Be careful not to fall back onto the simplistic explanations that prejudices provide when we come up against something we don’t understand in a new situation” (Mark, 31).

Suggestions for reflection and discussion

Read:  Psalm 137: 1-6

  1. Have you ever spent an extended time in another country or even moved to a very different place than where you grew up?  Do you remember how it felt and what you thought about it? If so, describe the experience and how you worked it through.

“Fail Forward” is a concept shared with the Marks from a large US Church:  “Our way of working is to fail forward.” They explained that they believed that apparent failures were essential ingredients for eventual success. What mattered was to deepen understanding of the realities of the situation by the lessons learned from what went wrong or didn’t work out as expected. Rather than despair, we should rejoice in failure and weakness because of what they can teach us about our-selves and our partners. Then we can continue to move forward – humbled, perhaps – but with a new appreciation for the real.

Henri Nouwen wrote in his book, Gracias, “Going to a different culture, in which I find myself again like a child, can become a true psychotherapeutic opportunity. Not everyone is in the position or has the support to use such an opportunity. I have seen much self-righteous, condescending, and even offensive behavior by foreigners towards the people in their host country. Remarks about the laziness, stupidity, and disorganization of Peruvians or Bolivians usually say a lot more about the one who makes such remarks than about Peruvians or Bolivians. Most of the labels by which we pigeonhole people are ways to cope with our own anxiety and insecurity. Many people who suddenly find themselves in a totally unfamiliar milieu decide quickly to label that which is strange to them instead of confronting their own fears and vulnerabilities” (p. 17).

“One of the most rewarding aspects of living in a strange land is the experience of being loved not for what we can do, but for who we are. When we become aware that our stuttering, failing, vulnerable selves are loved even when we hardly progress, we can let go of our compulsion to prove ourselves and be free to live with others in a fellowship of the weak. That is true healing” (Nouwen, 17).

“We need to be reminded that it is God’s mission, not ours or even theirs, and it does not depend on our adequacies. We can be effective partners with our hosts in another land, but we need to be junior, not senior partners. And to say that we must be flexible does not mean that we “just go with the flow”. The most helpful little book on this subject is Daniel Rickett’s, Building Strategic Relationships; A Practical Guide to partnering with Non-Western Missions, Klein Graphics Media Center for Partner’s International, 2000. It has a lot of useful tools for working through matters of mutual understanding and shared expectations as well as helpful pointers for avoiding errors and the typical pitfalls of cross-cultural exchange (Mark, 7).

Suggestions for reflection and discussion

Maybe some of the ideas presented have been new for you. What do you think of the following ideas?

  • I think we need to start by understanding and valuing what God is already doing in people’s lives and build together from there. It means beginning with not knowing, not relying on former success and not being strong.
  • The role of the outside agent (the missionary) is to facilitate his/her partner’s efforts to reach their goals. It is not the role of the outside agent to become the provider.
  • It is not the missionary’s job to build the Church. It is to accompany Jesus as he builds it.
  • We fail forward.


Written by a Third World Bishop

For those who come as missioners to Latin America

From the book, ¡Gracias!  A Latin American Journal, by Henri Nouwen, page 22

  • Help us discover our own riches; don’t judge us poor because we lack what you have.
  • Help us discover our chains; don’t judge us slaves by the type of shackles you wear.
  • Be patient with us as a people; don’t judge us backward simply because we don’t follow your stride.
  • Be patient with our pace; don’t judge us lazy simply because we can’t follow your tempo.
  • Be patient with our symbols; don’t judge us ignorant because we can’t read your signs.
  • Be with us and proclaim the richness of your life which you can share with us.
  • Be with us and be open to what we can give.
  • Be with us as a companion who walks with us – neither behind nor in front – in our search for life and ultimately for God!

Questions for personal reflection and discussion:

1.)  What is the common theme in this writing, “Walk with Us in Our Search?”

2.) Can you personally, as well as your team, be a companion that walks humbly alongside others in a new place, a new culture, a new country?  From the written article, how may you do this?

3.)  What area(s) is most difficult for you as you meet people from another country, another culture other than your own?  JUDGING because they are so different or poor; BEING PRIDEFUL in our own wealth, education, and our way of doing things quickly and efficiently; LACKING PATIENCE with a tempo different from your own; or HOLDING BACK in sharing who you are?


Have you felt unsettled by some of the questions and comments made in the previous pages?  What is God doing, personally and with your team, by asking you to think about, recognize, and evaluate your attitudes, prejudices and cultural thoughts concerning coming to another country, another culture?  What has caught your attention?  What needs more of your attention?  What do you agree or disagree with?  What changes may need to be made?


EXCELLENT mission teams begin preparing six months to one year before their departure. The group meets, often weekly to pray together and learn everything they can about the people and the situation they are going to serve. Read books and articles, search the Internet for information and invite experts on mission to address them about the realities they can expect to encounter.

  • The Covenant Mission Connection has available a complete and detailed manual for mission teams which can be used upon request for your time of preparation.  To receive this manual, contact Lana Heinrich at:
  • Another resource is: On Someone Else’s Terms: A U.S./Mexico Journey in Mission Partnership, written by David Mark.  David and his wife, Wendy are Covenant Missionaries and Regional Coordinators of Latin America.  For more information contact the Marks at:

FOLLOW the advice given in this manual – read it, know it and discuss it.  Be willing to ask the more difficult questions of yourself and of the team.

PRAY a lot!  Before your trip, during your trip and after your trip! Make team devotions and prayer time a priority!

EVALUATE and debrief together. Hold daily mini-evaluations or follow-up times; asking how it is going, what worked well, what could have been changed, what questions have come up, etc.

DEFINE roles. Who is the leader? How is every member of the team vital to the overall success of your time in Colombia?  What are the different roles and responsibilities?  Who is the person from your team in charge of the money management for the team? Who is the person in charge of this area in Colombia?  Do you understand your team’s general budget?

BE FLEXIBLE!  Chances are that some plans will have to be revised! Be willing to change a schedule, a teaching, etc., as the Spirit leads!

PAY ATTENTION to the security orientation session given by the missionaries and follow the advice they give.

AFTER RETURNING HOME, hold a debriefing session to “unpack” what you have learned.


We are aware of the general perception of many people regarding the security situation in Colombia.  We would like you to know the following:

The Colombia Covenant Mission does not intentionally or knowingly put ourselves, or anyone who is visiting us, unnecessarily in harm’s way or at risk.  The Colombia Covenant Mission does not knowingly allow anyone visiting us to put any missionary at risk.  That is to say, the Colombia Covenant Mission reserves the right to change or alter any schedules or plans that have been made, or agreed to, because of security issues.

The Colombia Covenant Mission assesses, on a daily, and if necessary, on an hourly basis, the security situation in the areas where we live and work and move.  The Evangelical Covenant Church demands of us, as Covenant missionaries in Colombia, to have in place and active, an evacuation plan which includes levels of security assessment, contingency plans for child kidnapping, adult kidnapping, extortion and violence.  All Covenant missionaries in Colombia have gone through a Personal Security Orientation and a Contingency Preparation Seminar which was put on by Crisis Consulting International.

Any team that is invited to come to Colombia and work with the Covenant here will also be orientated to the security situation.  We take our security seriously and we demand that those who are with us do the same.  Therefore, we expect that you will never just go off by yourself as this is not acceptable behavior.  We ask that you always make sure that the missionaries and your team leader(s) know where you are at all times.

We encourage you, who are U.S. citizens, to access the website of the U.S Embassy in Bogotá and to read the Travel Advisory, or to access the website of The U.S. State Department and to read the Travel Warning to Colombia.  These are included in the information and material that we use in our constant security assessment.

It is expected that while in Colombia, your team leader, as well as a member of the CMC, will know where you are at all times. Communication is an important part of keeping safe. Therefore, under no circumstances should you leave your group with out advising the proper people.

The Evangelical Covenant Church now requires that anyone who visits, travels with or serves with a Covenant missionary must complete the Mission Trip Participant Packet. One copy of the completed packet should be brought to Colombia and given to the host missionary and one copy should be sent, a week before departure, to:

Sarah Buki

Covenant World Mission

8303 W. Higgins Rd.

Chicago, IL 60631.

We thank you in advance for your careful attention to these details.

Mission Trip Participant Packet

Thank you for filling out this Mission Trip Participant Packet in preparation for your upcoming mission trip.

Please sign and complete all of these forms. Send one copy to:

Sarah Buki

Covenant World Mission

8303 W. Higgins Rd.

Chicago, IL 60631.

Bring one copy with you to Colombia.

Make sure to include:

  • Hold Harmless Indemnity form
  • Medical Release form
  • Emergency Contact Information
  • Proof of Medical Insurance (If your insurance will not cover you while out of the country please provide proof of travel insurance)
  • Copy of your passport

Hold Harmless and Indemnity Agreement

The Evangelical Covenant Church

I, of the city of ______________________________, state of ______________ shall be traveling with The Evangelical Covenant Church and/or Covenant Merge Ministries (hereafter the “Church”) from _______________ to ______________, 20 _________, for the purpose of ________________________________ hereafter referred to as the Activity.

I understand and agree that neither the Evangelical Covenant Church, Covenant Merge Ministries, nor its trustees, representatives, employees, and agents may be held liable in any way for an occurrence in connection with the Activity which may result in injury, harm (including death), or other damages to the person or property of the undersigned or members of our organization and guests, including minors, invited or not. Rather, I agree that our Organization alone shall be responsible for any property damage, personal injury or death that may occur during our travels.

As part of the consideration for participating in the Activity, I, __________________, release the Evangelical Covenant Church, Covenant Merge Ministries, its trustees, employees, agents, offices of and representatives from any claim for damages, injury, death, or loss of any kind, which may occur while participating in the Activity. I, __________________, further agree to save and hold harmless the Evangelical Covenant Church, Covenant Merge Ministries, its trustees, employees, agents, or representatives from any claim arising out of or participation in any form or fashion in the Activity. This agreement shall be binding on my relatives, personal representatives, heirs, beneficiaries, next of kin, or assigns and shall inure to the benefit of the Church and its successors, employees, agents, officers, and assigns.

I understand that in the event of death, it may not be possible to return the participant’s earthly remains to their home. I understand that it may be necessary to bury the participant’s body at a location outside of the USA and hereby consent to such burial.

The Evangelical Covenant Church is headquartered in the State of Illinois, and in order to provide certainty in the law to be applied to the construction of their agreement, this agreement shall begoverned, construed, and enforced in accordance with the law of the State of Illinois.

I understand the terms of this agreement are contractual and not mere recital; and that I have signed this document of my own free act and volition. I further state and acknowledge that I have fully informed myself of the content of this agreement and release by reading it before I signed it.

I have executed this Hold Harmless and Indemnity Agreement this _______ day of _____________________, 20______.






Signature: ___________________________             Witness: _________________________


for participants under 18 years old,

Parent Signature: _________________________________________

Volunteer Release Memo


TO: Persons participating with Covenant World Mission staff

FROM: Covenant office of World Mission

RE: Safety, Liability, and Insurance

If you are volunteering to serve, you should be aware of risks, be cautious and use good

safety procedures.

Some of the areas volunteers might visit may have unusually high risks of unsanitary

food or water, disease, civil disturbances or crime. There are dangers inherent in travel

and in construction projects. Be a good steward of your life and health. Find out what

the risks are and be prepared to meet them. Participants, churches and agencies should

talk directly about risks and precautions and not rely on Covenant Mission Connection

for advice.

Persons volunteering to serve in various programs are not employees or contractors.

Therefore, they are not covered by any Worker’s Compensation Insurance or accident

or group health or life insurance supplied by the church or agency they are serving. You

should obtain any insurance you need. If traveling outside your country, you should

check to make certain that you have appropriate medical insurance coverage in effect

outside your country.

Volunteer Release Form


I acknowledge that I am a volunteer and not an employee or contractor.

I have a responsibility to obtain my own insurance, if needed.

I also have a responsibility to find out about potential risks and take necessary


I release Covenant World Mission and any church that is sending or supporting me, the

church or agency I am serving, and their employees and agents, of any liability for any

injury to me in my volunteer work.



Adult signature                                                     date



Print name






Dates of Trip



Location of Trip


FOR PARENTS OR GUARDIANS: Fill out trip information above and sign below.


On behalf of my minor child, for whom I am responsible, named


_________________________, I acknowledge this release.



Adult signature                                                   date



Medical Insurance Coverage


Current Policy


Team Member


Insurance Company _____________________________________


Company Address










Phone Number


Name of Insured/Relationship to Insured _____________________________________


Policy Number_____________________________________


_____ I have checked with my insurance company and my current health insurance

does cover the trip to _________________________ for which I have been accepted.


_____ I have checked with my insurance company, and my current health insurance

does not cover the trip to _________________________ for which I have been



If your insurance does not cover your trip, you can purchase travel insurance for

coverage during the time away.


Since my current policy does not cover me out of country, I will be insured for the trip

by the following company:


Overseas Policy _____________________________________________


Insurance Company __________________________________________


Company Address ____________________________________________


Phone Number __________________________________________


Policy Number __________________________________________


Signed _______________________________








Date _________________


Emergency Contact Information

Please list 3 contacts for while you are on this trip.

Your name:  _______________________________________


Contact 1

Name: _______________________________Relationship: _________

Cell phone:  ________________________________________

Home phone:  ________________________________________

Other phone:  _________________________________________

Email:  __________________________________________

Physical address:  ______________________________________


Contact 2

Name: ______________________________Relationship: _________

Cell phone:  ________________________________________

Home phone:  ________________________________________

Other phone:  _________________________________________

Email:  __________________________________________

Physical address:  ______________________________________


Contact 3

Name: _______________________________Relationship: _________

Cell phone:  ________________________________________

Home phone:  ________________________________________

Other phone:  _________________________________________

Email:  __________________________________________

Physical address:  ______________________________________



This is a per person budget.Room and Board prices based on team being housed in private homes. If team is housed in a hotel, the price will vary.


Housing, 3 meals daily and local transportation                                                $     40.00US

Two meals out                                                                                                    $     30.00US

Airport pickup/drop off/ taxi costs (one time cost)                                              $     15.00US

Further in country Transportation costs will be defined by whether your team stays in the city where you arrive, or if you need to travel further to your destination. These costs depend upon the travel undertaken.

Each team is also asked to bring a donation of $1,500 – $3,000 to cover materials for the ministry projects they will be working with. Please contact the Colombian Covenant Mission for further details.





You must have a valid passport. US citizens can currently enter Colombia without a visa. You will enter the country as tourists. You should make a copy of your passport’s photo page and carry it separately from your passport in case you should lose your passport. It is also a good idea to memorize your passport number. You will be asked to show your passport as you enter into Colombia and pass through the immigration desk at the airport.


Check with your airline or travel agent to confirm the exact baggage allowance of size and weight. Normally you are allowed to check two pieces and one carry-on bag. Be sure to pack all valuables, documents and anything you would need for an overnight stay in your carry-on bag in case your checked luggage is delayed. Label all luggage with your name and destination address. It is wise to put your name and address inside your luggage also. Use the address below.

The best advice is travel light!!!! You’ll be glad you did. Leave room for all the items you will want to purchase and bring home. Remember you will be carrying your own luggage, another good reason to pack light!

Arrival and Departure:

***When you arrive in Colombia you will get off the plane and follow the crowds to immigration. At immigration you will have to show your immigration form (which they will give you to fill out on the plane) and your passport. If they ask the purpose of your trip you reply tourism. You will need to write down the address where you will be staying in Colombia. You can use the following:

Carrera 39 #16A Sur-70, Medellín, Colombia.  Tel. # is: 313-5358.  Please double check this address and phone number with the Mission before traveling, in case of any changes.***

After immigration you will follow the crowds to the luggage area. There are carts that you can rent to transport your luggage. They cost around $1. After you get your luggage, you will have to show one of the workers your baggage claim tickets (usually the airlines put them in with your tickets). Then you will line up to go through the doors where you will hand over your customs form. They will randomly ask people to open up their luggage in order to check it. We are not allowed to greet people inside the airport, but will be waiting for you outside.

Return flights must be confirmed with your airline within 72 hours of your departure. The group leader will be responsible for confirming your flight. You must arrive at the airport at least two hours before your flight is scheduled to depart. (There might be an airport tax that must be paid when leaving the country. The airline agent should let you know).


The monetary unit in Colombia is the Peso. It fluctuates in value but is currently between 1700 to 1900 pesos to the US dollar. Your team will be in charge of handling all finances while in Colombia. We recommend that you select someone, other then the team leader, to record and handle the financial part of the trip. Before arriving in Colombia the team should make sure they have an account available which can be accessed through a debit card and deposit the team money in the states before leaving. Most cash machines in Colombia accept a Cirrus debit card. We do not recommend bringing lots of cash, nor do we recommend bringing travelers checks.

Regarding your team’s project/ministry donation, please contact the Sanders.

The amount of personal money that you spend varies with each individual and group. You will spend more if your team is planning on taking time for sight seeing, or/if you are planning on purchasing souvenirs to take home. Remember we highly recommend that you use your debit card or visa card to get cash instead of bringing large amounts of US$ with you. Most shopping malls and major restaurants accept credit cards.


It is customary to tip 8% in Colombia. In most of the established restaurants the tip is included in the bill.


You will most likely be asked for money or personal belongings at some point in your stay, usually on the street by beggars. You can feel free to say “no”. If you bring donations to be given to the Covenant please leave these with the career missionaries for distribution. Please respect this request. Many long-term problems can result by indiscriminate “gifting”, that will need to be dealt with once the work team is gone. When giving small items to children such as candy, balloons, etc. always remember this general rule: If you don’t have enough for everyone don’t give it to anyone. Please come prepared!



As in the US and Canada, the greatest danger in Colombia is in the cities and in the crowded areas. Most of the time thieves are working in a group, not alone and you will not be aware of them until it is too late. Always guard carefully anything you don’t want to lose while traveling. A general rule to follow is to leave your valuables at home. You should try to carry your cash and personal documents in a money pouch, never in a wallet in your back pocket. Do not flash around your cameras or video cameras. Try to be discreet especially in public places.

Keep a copy of your passport with you at all times while in Colombia. Also keep a photocopy in another location in case of loss or theft. You do not need to carry your passport on your person while in Colombia, but you need to carry a photo ID. If you lose your passport tell the work team coordinator immediately and report the loss to the US Embassy.


Please consult your physician before traveling regarding recommended vaccinations, etc. A tetanus booster is recommended for teams doing some type of construction work. You should bring with you a small travel first aid kit with medications such as Advil and Pepto-Bismol, Band-Aids, alcohol, etc. Bring an adequate supply of any medication which you use regularly or need a prescription for.

While in Colombia you will be drinking purified water. Bottled soft drinks are available everywhere and are safe to drink. As a general rule, never eat from a roadside stand. Restaurant food, however, is safe.

Should your best efforts fail, keep your chin up and your toilet paper handy!

In regards to medical emergencies and medical care while in Colombia we recommend that each person traveling check with their insurance carrier to verify their coverage while in Colombia.  We have access to emergency room medical care, pharmaceutical medicines, over the counter medicines and to a medical doctor in case such is needed.  Colombia has good medical care available which is very reasonably priced.


Mail is slow (approx. 2-3 weeks from the US) and sometimes inconsistent. Our mailing address is:

La Misión del Pacto Evangélico de Colombia
Apartado Aéreo 55276
Medellín, Colombia

We recommend contacting us in the following way:


Please give one of the following numbers to your church office and to family members in case of an emergency:

Gary and Mary Lou Sander: 011-57-310-845-1246

Cathy Campobello: 011-57-310-845-1290

What to bring:

Remember the key is to travel light! For your information the electric current is the same as the US and Canada (110 volts). Here is a list of some of the items that you should be sure to pack:

  • Camera
  • Bible and a notebook or journal
  • Comfortable shoes (flip flops are also recommended for use in the shower)
  • Jacket or sweatshirt for cool evenings (and cool days in Bogotá)
  • Something somewhat dressy/presentable for worship
  • Water bottle
  • Money belt
  • Personal medicine
  • Sunscreen, hat or a visor
  • Mosquito repellent
  • Handy wipes
  • Spanish/English pocket dictionary

We also want to remind you that modesty and cleanliness is highly appreciated here in Colombia. People do not commonly use shorts here, except for in the home, doing exercises or at the beach. So, please pack accordingly: jeans, pants, capris/long shorts, and skirts/dresses according to one’s taste.

Once again, thank you for your desire to serve the Colombian Covenant Church! The Covenant Mission is firm in its desire to continue to build up the church and to help the needy by providing social works and ministries. Please let us know what questions and concerns you might have.


Hunter III, George, Radical Outreach; The Recovery of Apostolic Ministry and Evangelism, Abingdon Press, 2003.

Mark, David, On Someone Else’s Terms: A U.S./Mexico Journey in Mission Partnership, 2005.

Myers,Bryant L., Walking with the Poor, Orbis Books, 1999.

Nouwen, Henri J.M., Gracias, A Latin American Journal,Harper and Row, 1983.

Corbett, Steve and Fikkert, Brian, When Helping Hurts, Moody Publishers, 2009.

Engel, James and Dyrness, William, Changing the Mind of Mission, InterVarsity Press, 2000