-Translated excerpts from an interview by Linda Shelly, Mennonite Mission Network, with Colombian theology students who are current or former International Women’s Fund recipients. Portions of this interview appeared in timbrel magazine, Jan-Feb. 2008.
These scholarship recipients responded to Linda Shelly’s questions at this meeting in Bogota. Pictured left to right: Viviana Machuca , Alix Lozano , Zaraí Gonzalia, Patricia Rosero, Yesenia Avila, Lucila Díaz
Why are relationships with other women important, especially with women who serve as spiritual models or mentors?
Who have been these women for you?
How have your studies in the seminary supported by these scholarships helped you to become this kind of model or mentor for others?
Patricia Rosero: It seems to me that it is very important to strengthen our relationships with other women. This helps to nourish our humanity in that in the midst of our challenges these relationships strengthen our hope in daily living….Women of my community inspire me, young women as well as elderly women….I see in them the face of God’s spirit.
Viviana Machuca: When I find myself with other women it is like finding other areas of myself in other people. Sometimes my culture, my level of confidence, or my roles in the church have resulted in other feminine aspects of who I am seeming less important. When I see another woman and enter into relationship with her, this results in finding the riches that I also have, but have allowed to be diminished….Patricia is a woman who nourishes me and understands me. She tells me about the dynamics of her community and I tell her that it is the same in my community. We have cried together.
Zaraí: I don’t have all the answers, and sharing with other women nourishes me in seeking responses….We think something is only happening to us, but really we don’t just live these situations alone. We each pass through situations that are very similar, or even if they are different, it helps us to affirm each other. Patricia, Alix, Isdalia, Doña María, each one inspires me in different ways. Each relationship is different, but complementary…Sharing with other women is something that challenges me. It affirms more where I want to go in life, and I can also affirm other women in where they want to go. I am amazed that some women come and ask me things, as if I would have the answers. This challenges me to continue studying. When other people seek to talk to me, this affirms that I am on a good path. It encourages me to be able to inspire confidence.
Lucila: For me it has been very important to relate with other women. I have discovered in life that women relating with men is very different. In difficulties in life, I have shared with women….I believe that the distinct difference is in listening to each other and accompanying one another in many ways. I feel women are more available and willing to accompany each other in life. Men make an effort, but rarely achieve it. The ability and willingness to listen is something very important among us.
Alix Lozano: The ethic of mutual care is obvious in the world of women. It is more difficult in the world of men.
Viviana: I have seen very brilliant women who take on men’s ways of arguing, like destroying the opinion of the other person. I believe that we have found a way of dialoging that is our own as women.
Lucila: I don’t want to fail to mention the value of the few classes I have taken, and how they have helped me to see more profoundly from theology the aspects of the life of Jesús and the church that challenge of our reality in Colombia. I see the seminary’s contribution in this as valuable. As a citizen, a student, and as a woman, this has been valuable.
Patricia: To receive formation, to participate in spaces of formation that the church encourages, has helped me a lot to be able to converse with other women more tranquilly, to assume the model of Jesus….This is to assume with more tranquility the fact that as difficult as the context is, we can overcome it in Jesus. He can show himself through each one of us. I do my part. My sister does another part. The model of Jesus will be a community model. We grow in the image of Jesús. In this aspect formation has helped a lot in my life.
Zaraí: I would summarize that my studies do two things for me. One is to help me know who I am not, and another is to know who I don’t want to be….I think I always live in a very important search for who I am. It helps me to be discovering where I am heading.
Yesenia: I think my studies have helped me to discover many things that I didn’t know and to develop my identity. In the setting where I grew up women were marginalized. It seems to me that it is very interesting to see that there are many women who have found a different way of living as women. We are capable….My model, the woman who has inspired me, is Patricia. She is a woman who has shown that one’s physical state isn’t what is important. She has inspired me for many reasons. She has inspired me to get to know more of the seminary, to know more Mennonite women. The seminary has served me well. Being in the church has encouraged me to serve the community, a community that has suffered many things in life. I want to be a person who helps others to see beyond where they are. I need to prepare myself for the responsibility this implies.
Lucila: I want to send greetings to the women there who think about us, a fraternal greeting.
Zaraí: I want to send thanks for the help. It has been very valuable to be able to have other experiences. They are concerned about us. I wouldn’t have a way to pay for the experience of enrichment I have been able to have.
Patricia: The impact of this help can’t be measured. For us in Santa Marta it marks a way of life different from what women have had for many years. Each community has its own challenges. For women in the southern part of Bogota, Santa Marta, to be women who study theology is not so easily accepted. It’s an achievement in life. Here we are two women, but we are projecting to others, sharing things we are learning…Many thanks for the scholarship that I have received since 2004. Many thanks for taking into account our situation.
Note from Linda: Patricia and Yesenia are from the same church in Santa Marta, and are supported through a Sister-Link with Aberdeen, Idaho, women. Recently, Pacific Northwest Mennonite Women are beginning a Sister-Link relationship with the Colombian women students.
IWF theology students gather in Bogota in 2008 with Alix Lozano (center). Alix is Director of Mennonite Biblical Seminary in Colombia and a former recipient of IWF. Left to right: Lucila Diaz, Viviana Machuca, Alix Lozano, Zarai Gonzalia, and Patricia Rosero. Photo by Linda Shelly.