Nathan Toews kneels in a small group holding a tablet.
Martha Garcia

Nathan Toews works with participants, including Claudia Carvajal (front right) and Calixta Palacios, during a workshop in Soacha, Colombia.

Name: Nathan Toews

Hometown: North Newton, Kan. (Bethel College Mennonite Church)

Assignment: With MCC partner Coordinación Eclesial para la Acción Psicosocial or Church Coordination for Psychosocial Action, I research trauma healing in the Mennonite church in Colombia and design and facilitate workshops on topics like trauma awareness and active listening skills to help church communities care for those affected by violence or the armed conflict. Through Teusaquillo Mennonite Church in Bogotá, I meet with displaced families and facilitate a weekly gathering that brings people together to reflect on peace, the Bible and the armed conflict.

“The church communities I work in have shown me what it means to be authentic and true about one´s faith.”

– Nathan Toews

Typical day: In workshops for church communities, I listen and work with participants as they engage each other and share personal stories. I also meet with families who live in continued danger. Some have been threatened and must decide whether to move within the city, leave it or even leave the country. Families are in tough situations that require both recognizing the emotional heaviness and thinking clearly about the best course of action. Another part of my work involves planning with church leaders, which is an opportunity to share ideas and think creatively.

Joys: Seeing participants in workshops begin to trust these spaces and open up. In a context of economic hardship, violence and a general lack of community solidarity, church communities provide spaces of fellowship and worship that encourage personal faith journeys as well as making God manifest in relationships and in acts of love.

Challenge: To always listen to a community, think critically about my role and not to mistake my answers for the right answers.