Teusaquillo Mennonite Church-Peter Stucky

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Peter Stucky July 24, 2015 Mennonite World Conference, Harrisburg, PA Interview by Elizabeth Miller

E: Today is July 24, 2015 and we are at Mennonite World Conference Assembly in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. And could you please begin with your name and where you are from?

P: My name is Peter Stucky. I'm pastor of the Teusaquillo Mennonite Church in Bogotá, Colombia.

E: And Peter, you said you have some stories to share today about facing opposition or suffering or sacrifice in the way of Christ.

P: Well, we have many stories and it's a little hard to classify to them all. But I'll let you classify them, whether they're useful for this project or not.

The first one I'd like to tell is about a woman from our church and her name is Gloria Lizcano. And she, she was a very humble woman, but a very pleasant woman. She always had a smile. Her particular characteristic was service. She was always serving. Uh, in fact her job at the Mencoldes office, the Mennonite Colombian Foundation for Development office, was serving coffee and serving tea. So as soon as she--she was also an usher at our church, so she was always asking people, bringing, bringing herb tea or coffee. And on, she lived near our house in Bogotá. And you had to cross an avenue. So on Saturday nights she would go over to our house and pick up the bulletins. And then she'd take them home and she would fold them and then take them to church the next morning. [00:02:21.05]

Well, one Saturday night. This was probably about five years ago now. Maybe more, maybe six years ago. She went to her house and she was taking the bulletins. And the president's, the president of Colombia, his motorcade was going by on that avenue. And it went by, but she didn't notice that speeding behind it was the, was one of the escorts on a motorcycle. They have powerful motorcycles. So and they block the traffic and they speed and catch up. Well he came speeding along and hit her and sent her flying. She was pretty much instantly dead. She left two children. They were, well they were more or less grown. [00:03:32.00]

And so that was a big blow to the church and to all her, she made many friends. And so anyway we had the funeral at our church. And the president and his wife wanted to come to the funeral, which was obviously a nice gesture. And so the church was full. And but before the service, of course, the security people come and check out the building and make sure there are no bombs and stuff. Well, Leticia my wife was there ahead of time. And I was at home. And the colonel came and he was going to come in with their arms and stuff, so Leticia told him, "You can't come in with arms here." And so that took him aback a little. And made a phone call and he said, "Ok." [00:04:54.11]

And so at the funeral when we were getting started and the president and his wife came. They very quietly sat up in the front row through the whole service. They, they saw the appreciation of the people for Gloria. As I recall when he came in, nobody clapped or anything, but when Gloria's coffin came in, then people did clap. And so he sat respectfully through the whole service. I asked him if he wanted to say anything and he did not. But I think it was a very powerful witness to this, to the role of this servant of God, who in her own quiet way, in a way preached more gospel to us and to the president and his wife than maybe many words, you know. [00:06:03.27]

So Gloria Lizcano was remembered by her congregation.

Another story I want to tell is about a man by the name of Guiovanni Balbosa and his family. We receive many refugees in our church over the years. And they typically would come to our church very frightened and very disoriented. And they felt very good about finding both a place where they could share--we had a Justice and Peace Committee, we still do--that would listen to them and that would try and find solutions for people and try to comfort them and pray with them and cry with them. Many of them, it was sort of the first place they could share where they felt safe to do it. [00:07:17.22]

Well Guiovanni came from a town not far from Bogotá and he was fleeing from the paramilitary groups. And so he came to the church and began learning about the gospel. And there was a woman there whose name slips me right now. And she took an interest in him. And on Saturday--we have prayer and fasting Saturday mornings--so on Saturday he was there. And before he left, she prayed for him. And Guiovanni went to his sister's house to pick up a suitcase. And when he got there, there was a taxi out in front with three or four men. And they tried to kidnap him, they tried to force him into the taxi. Well Guiovanni resisted being shoved into this taxi and they took out a knife and they stabbed him in his backpack that he had on his back. But inside his backpack was a Bible--Dios Habla Hoy Bible which is sort of the popular version--and they stabbed the Bible from back to front. And the knife went through to the gospel of Luke, but it didn't hurt Guiovanni. And so about that time then, police patrol came by and the men fled. [00:09:18.28]

Well he continued living in Bogotá. And he was working at a big marketplace carrying things and helping to earn his living. And so another time he was chased there and he was shot at. And he was hit in the leg. And so this woman from the church and her husband gave him a place to stay with his family there on the third floor of their house. And one day he called up, he called up. Cause he was trying to get a visa, he was trying to be accepted into the Canadian refugee program. And he called to one of the, the person that was sort of coordinating our Justice and Peace Committee. But that telephone, when it was over on the National Church side, apparently was intervened, because--and he said he was going to be there at 4:00, he wanted to come talk about that and he was getting a little impatient. And so, so he said he'd be there at four. But he never got there. [00:10:52.13]

And later on that evening, the woman where he was lodging said, "Well, I'm worried about Guiovanni. Did he ever get to the interview at 4:00?" I said, "No." "Well, he hasn't come back yet." That was maybe about 8:00 at night. "So I'm worried about him. Where is he?" I said, "I don't know." Well, she asked for prayer and I'm sure she was praying. What had happened was that he came approaching our church building and about a few feet away, a few meters a little bit across the street, there was a car waiting for him. And there were again three or four men. And they started wrestling him into the car. Well...And they, because what he had done was a day or two before he had placed a police complaint and they had the police complaint there all ready. And so they were going to kidnap him. And they said, "We would have gone and gotten you out of that building before then. But there are always so many men in front of it." And he just, he was so surprised and he laughed because he knew the only man there in front was a little crippled man that sort of took care of the cars. But there were no men there. But all of them had seen these men there and that's why they could not approach.[00:13:06.20]

So he realized that was God's protection of the building. And that filled him with happiness and he laughed. So they kicked him in the face and his teeth. And they pushed him in the car and laid him on the floor. So they were going to take him to Villavicencio, to the plains several hours away to see the boss. And to see what the boss wanted to do with him. And so they took him to a house and were holding him till nightfall. And then to leave the city. Well when nightfall came, when it got about dusk, you know, then they tried to push him into the trunk of the car. And since he resisted (cell phone)......So when they were going to push him into the car, into the trunk, he resisted so they stabbed him in the leg. And then they pushed him into the trunk. And they started going in the car. And in the trunk he was praying, "Oh Lord, now what? Get me out of this trunk, please." And so as they were leaving the city, what should happen but they had a flat tire. So that meant stopping the car and opening the trunk. [00:15:17.13]

And they took Guiovanni out, because of course that's where the spare tire is. They took Guiovanni out and so he thought, "Well, what should I do? Now's my chance." And so he asked for permission to go to the side of the road to pee. And they gave him permission to do that. So he went to the side of the road. And they were seeing what they could do about the tire. And he jumped off the side of the road and into the darkness. Well it was a cliff and when he jumped down the cliff, he got stabbed with a stick in his side. But they couldn't see him. But they fired some shots, but they didn't hit him. So he started running down through these woods, through the underbrush. So they lost him. [00:16:26.11]

And he walked for about an hour and then finally ended up at another road. And there was somebody that came out on a bus and they took him to a police checkpoint. And the police took him to a health center. So sometime in the wee hours in the morning--I think it was about 3:00 in the morning--we got this call, and they were from a different part of Bogotá, way far away. And saying Guiovanni was in the health center and he was with the police, and could we come by for him, which we did. And so we went. And so they attended him and they took him back to the house with he was saying. So that's how God got Guiovanni out of that mess. So we were very happy for that. [00:17:41.17]

And the third story I want to tell is about Isabella. Isabella was a woman who I called, in church, I called her "our Gothic woman." Because she was one of these Gothic people that, you know, black hair, long, and very sober-faced. Never smiled almost. But they had suffered so much in that family, so much from where they came from. Because in that area both the paramilitary and the guerrilla were active. And many people from her husband's family had been killed. He was just scared to death. And she just could not, I mean they were just so frightened. Again, we were trying to help them get to Canada in the refugee program. In the case of Guiovanni he was not accepted in the program. As far as I know, he's still in Colombia. I haven't seen him now for quite a number of years. But Isabella and her family, they were applying for refugee status to Canada. [00:19:21.11]

So again one day she called up, again apparently in an intervened phone, a tapped phone. And so she was about a block from the church. A car was parked there and forced her, these men forced her into the car. [00:19:59.17]

And she never got to the appointment at church. Well, of course, that raised immediate concerns with her family, with her children. And, of course, none of us knew. So these men in the car drove her, these were paramilitary also, and they drove her several hours into hot country. Bogotá is in cold country, so several hours to get--I imagine it was Magdalena Medio area, where the paramilitary groups had their, sort of their farms, their fincas where they have their private armies and where they trained and sent out orders and so forth. [00:21:02.10]

So anyway they needed to take her to see the boss, because she was being looked for. And that's of course what frightened her so much. But maybe more so because of her husband. But from that area where they came from in Santander, it was a terrible area. We had many people from that area who had gone through terrible things. And so when she, so eventually they got to this farm, but the boss wasn't there. [00:21:40.28]

So the most she could do was sit there and wait. And pray. So she prayed. And...and one day passed and two days passed. And I think it was about on the third day, and the boss hadn't come. The chief hadn't come, so...But meanwhile this, this one fellow that was part of the paramilitary group, he was, you know, like a paramilitary soldier. He had sort of taken a, a sympathy towards her. He said she reminded him of his mother. [00:22:33.03]

So about the third day, he decided he was going to help her. So he said, "I'm going to help you. So you come with me and we'll go from the farm to the main road." So he took her from the farm--I think walking--from the farm to the main road. And there she flagged down a truck or some pickup, I believe, which took her into the city of Bucaramanga. So it was quite a ways from Bogotá by that time. [00:23:11.27]

And so this paramilitary fellow helped her escape. And, and...So anyways she was in Bucaramanga, and her daughter from Bogotá went and rescued her there and brought her back to Bogotá. So that was an answer to prayer. But what happened then was that--at least she told me this--about a month later, this fellow who had helped her was executed, was killed. And I think it was for helping her. So, so, you know, well he paid the price, I guess, of helping her escape. [00:24:14.11]

But that reminds me also of another fellow--she did, she and her family, some of her family, did get to Canada eventually. But that reminds me of another fellow who was at church. He had a lot of kids, well, about five or six kids. His name was Sabaraín, and he, he was also very much persecuted and hunted for--I think he was hunted by the guerrilla. So one day he disappeared. So where was Sabaraín? Well, nobody knew where Sabaraín was. So the church prayed for him and prayed[00:25:09.08]

And I remember we were in a little retreat in Cachipay with a group of people. And we were concerned about Sabaraín. But that night--I don't remember how many days had gone by--and, and Sabaraín showed up at a police station in a town in the high plain in Bogotá, a distance from Bogotá. And so we got called up down there in Cachipay, and of course we were very happy. We thanked God. [00:26:03.07]

But what had happened was he was kidnapped too. And was tied up. Was tied up and left sort of, as I understand it, sort of out in a field. Probably some hut or something out in the field. But his captors had left and had left him tied up. So somehow in that situation, he managed to take off his, take off the ropes that were binding him. And he had marks on his arms and everything. And that's how he escaped and went to this nearby town. He also, he and his family are also in Canada now and doing well. [00:27:06.08]

E: Well, thank you Peter, very much. One question: Guiovanni's story, do you know about what year that was?

P: Um...I don't know right now, but it's probably about 2002 is my guess. And the same with Isabel. And Sabaraín a little bit later. MAybe 2005 or 2006.

E: And it's Isabela or Isabel?

P: Isabel Sanguino.

E: And Gloria's last name is with an S or a Z.

P: A "Z". Lizcano.