ANABAPTIST WOMEN THEOLOGIANS MOVEMENT OF LATIN AMERICA (MTAL)
Andean Region (Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela)
GATHERING TOGETHER AND TRAINING: “Caring for ourselves and each other among women: Preparing for a ministry of compassion”
Cachipay, Colombia, August 7 -10, 2013
“As you move toward being a healing presence, there’s only one place to begin—with yourself.” — James E. Miller and Susan C. Cutshall
With this thought as a preamble, we started our time together focusing on “Caring for ourselves and each other among women: Preparing for a ministry of compassion” August 7 – 10, 2013, at the Center for Retreats and Gatherings CREER in Cachipay, a town two hours from Bogotá, Colombia, with a total of 49 women (pastors and leaders) from various Anabaptist conferences of the Andean countries: Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela, and also from Argentina and the U.S.
This time together had three purposes: meet together as women theologians of the Andean region, celebrate the 10-year anniversary of the movement, and receive training on the theme, “Caring for ourselves and each other among women.” This training included the very good facilitation of our sisters Carolyn Holderread Heggen and Elizabeth Soto.
The training sessions began with an analysis of the Colombian context and its implications for the Andean region, noting how women are the most affected in this whole violent process that has prevailed in the country. The devotionals and daily themes took each woman into a time of profound internal work, which allowed for healing, liberation and resurrection. Women had the opportunity to reflect on their own life stories and how they are intertwined with those of biblical women, and also to share with each other their sorrows and joys, support, friendship, sisterhood and loving care of all.
The celebration of the 10-year anniversary of the movement was carried out at a special dinner during which the story was shared of the birth of the movement in 2003 in the context of Mennonite World Conference in Zimbabwe, Africa. Cultural expressions, savory food and artisan work from the different regions and countries made the celebration enjoyable and festive.
A time of orientation about self-care by a sister who is a physiotherapist helped to ease tensions in our bodies and facilitate the relaxation of our souls and relationships with each other, discovering ourselves as people who also have the possibility of laughter, joy and hugs as a way to heal ourselves.
There was also an opportunity to spend some time listening to women share about their processes of biblical and theological training, dream together about training opportunities in the region and suggest topics that could form part of their own curriculum, according to the needs expressed by the women. Follow-up will be given by the facilitation team of the Andean region, moderated by Patricia Urueña, educational consultant for the movement, and Zarai Gonzalía, Executive Administrator of the Colombia Mennonite Biblical Seminary.
The final day included time for projections and commitments to multiply in the different countries and regions what had been learned. Also the new facilitation team for the Andean Zone was elected, with the model of shared coordination by two women, Martha Lucía Gómez, pastor; and Zaraí Gonzalía,
executive administrator of the Mennonite seminary, who will be accompanied for one more year by the current coordinator, Alix Lozano, to implement this new model. These two women have been participating and have been formed within the Movement, which ensures continuity in the processes. Also generational change is necessary for a movement to breathe new oxygen.
Another important decision is that the women agreed to a fee for membership or participation in the movement, and to encourage the conferences to also contribute to the movement, since this has no ongoing financial support. A seed offering was also initiated which will start a fund to serve in the future to sustain or support women’s productive projects.
The training time included a day open to the public with the theme “Pastoral needs: active listening as a tool for healing,” attended by 43 people including both men and women (leaders, pastors, pastoral coordinators, students from the Mennonite seminary and Catholics).
The women were very grateful for this space and time, where once again they recognized the presence of the God of Life, of Mercy and Compassion. The facilitation of our sisters Carolyn and Elizabeth was instrumental in achieving the goals because of their openness to others, wisdom in dealing with issues that are sometimes flashpoints in our churches, sensitivity, and above all their connection with other women in a gathering of sisterhood.
There is deep gratitude to the people and organizations that supported this time of gathering, celebration and training: Mennonite Women USA, Latin America Committee of the Council of International Anabaptist Ministries (CIMLAC), Anabaptist Women Theologians Movement of Latin America (MTAL), Mennonite Central Committee, Mennonite Mission Network, Justapaz and the Colombia Mennonite Seminary. We also thank the Anabaptist churches of the Andean region that supported with their prayers, and encouraged and supported the women participants in different ways.
Special thanks go to the facilitation team of women from the Colombian Anabaptist churches who organized the gathering, and of course to the Compassionate and Loving God who was, and is in the processes of liberating and encouraging women to continue because “a long road remains.”
With profound gratitude to each and every one of whom had something to do with the realization of this dream and desire, and have begun the process of healing themselves … in order to help heal others, a sisterly hug.