Roots in the Ruins: A Shalom Center program in Chile

Roots in the Ruins: A Shalom Center program in Chile

The following is a letter from Elena Huegel, Global Ministries missionary to Chile.

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ:

As we say in the Pentecostal Church of Chile when we greet each other: ¡Qué Dios les bendiga! (May the Lord bless you!)  Advent is here and Christmas is around the corner.  Soon we will be in the midst of the rush of summer camps and activities at the Shalom Center, but I wanted to take a moment today to write to all of you and thank you for the many ways in which you have supported my ministry this year. 

This has been a year of challenges, blessings and changes.  I continue my work as chaplain at the Shalom Center while traveling to several other countries to co-facilitate the trauma healing, resilience development and conflict transformation courses under the Roots in the Ruins: Hope in Trauma program.  Last July, the Rev. Beverly Prestwood-Taylor, a UCC minister and director of the Brookfield Institute in Massachusetts, and I led the level 1 introductory course to trauma healing at the Jack Norment Camp of the Christian Church, Disciples of Christ in Paraguay, with participants from Paraguay, Argentina, Chile and Mexico.  In August, we taught two of the level 2 courses in this program, Healing for Individuals and Healing for Communities, in Chile. In September, one of the Shalom Center facilitators, Marta Espinoza, and I taught another level 2 course, Conflict Transformation, also in Chile.  Besides facilitating these courses, I also had the responsibility of putting together the training manuals: writing, translating, designing and producing. 

I am currently engrossed in two writing projects.  One is the manual for facilitator training in the Roots in the Ruins program which we hope to teach here in Chile in August of next year.  Once this course has been taught and a core group of facilitators has been trained, the Roots in the Ruins program will be ready to continue forward under the national leadership of the staff at the Shalom Center.  The other writing project is a new Sunday School curriculum which is being developed by a group of volunteers representing churches from Argentina, Paraguay, Chile, Mexico and Nicaragua.  This material will include one year of lessons for pre-school and elementary school age children, teens and adults.  The purpose of this new material is to nourish hope and healing in the whole congregation through Bible study and the principles of experiencial education and resilience development.  I hope to have the rough drafts of both of these projects finished before the summer camps start at the beginning of the year.

Important changes at the Shalom Center this year include the nearly complete turn-over of the Board.  The new President of the board is Juan Carlos Oñate who accepted this challenge with five years of experience on the volunteer staff as a motivator and facilitator.  His insightful leadership and commitment to building God`s kingdom of Shalom has given the Shalom Center new direction and energy.  In October, Pastora Viviana Muñoz, who had been the director of the Shalom Center for three years, resigned and a new director, Patricia Gómez, was hired.  I first began to work with Patricia when she was 17 or 18 years old.  As a teenage member of the Curicó Church,  she joined the Hechos Theater team which I created when I first arrived in Chile.  I was also involved in her training as a Sunday School teacher and as the first adult leader of Creacción, the environmental education club and program for elementary school age children.  She has been a motivator and facilitator on the volunteer staff of the Shalom Center for about 6 years.  It has been great to team up with her during the past month, and I will be mentoring her in her new role during the coming year.

Among the blessings I have experienced is one that makes my heart swell with pride and joy every time I think of it.  Over the years, I have helped different young women in the process of obtaining their college degrees.  Most of the time, this help has taken the form of encouragement, listening, and believing in their capacities.  Sometimes, it has meant helping to write research papers, translating necessary information found only in English, correcting final thesis projects, or helping to prepare for final exams.  So far, I have had the privilege of accompanying young women who have obtained their degrees in social work, agricultural engineering, nursing, and teaching.  For nine years, I have laughed, cried, struggled, and almost given up alongside Carolina Ramos, but two weeks ago, I accompanied her to defend her final thesis project, a common requirement for an undergraduate degree in Chile. Carolina did an excellent job in the written work, the presentation and the question and answer session receiving the highest possible grades in these examinations.  Carolina has finally received her degree in family counseling!  I am thrilled that the Lord has given me the opportunity to be a part in helping these young women, in three cases the first in their families to graduate from college, to become professionals with a whole world of possibilities opening up before them.

In January of 2015, I will be celebrating 19 amazing and wonderful years of ministry in Chile.   I thank each of you for your prayers, words of encouragement, and generous offerings that have made it possible for me to continue to be a part of God`s work of shalom kingdom building in this country.  I pray that each of you, wherever you live and work, might discover the signs of God´s kingdom of shalom in the hope, restoration and healing nourished by your compassion and commitment. 

“I pray that the Lord Jesus Christ will bless you and be kind to you! May God bless you with his love, and may the Holy Spirit join all your hearts together.”  2 Corinthians 13:13 (Contemporary English Version)
Elena Huegel
Global Ministries
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
United Church of Christ
No one wants to hear that suffering makes you strong
That pain is a pathway to the power to overcome
No one wants to hurt without reason
Or fall victim to senseless wrongs
We leave children but two gifts
To face the trails of life
One is roots deep and firm.
The other is wings to fly.
Elena Huegel


Elena Huegel

United Church of Christ Missionary working with the Pentecostal Church of Chile.

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