By Phyllis Groff
Women from seven Central American countries gathered in Guatemala City for the Sister Care Seminar February 2013 led by Rhoda Keener and Carolyn Heggen. There was laughter, sharing, time for silent reflection, and time to talk. Sister Care is a ministry of Mennonite Women USA.
The themes were simple and profound, touching an emotional chord, and uniting the women from different countries. Maria Chub and Eva Luvia Cuc, two K’ekchi’ women, attended the Sister Care study. It felt a bit intimidating to be the only ones who wore traditional indigenous clothing, and who spoke Spanish as a second language. Although some of the cultural cues of what is polite and how to interact felt a little awkward, love and acceptance was evident. Women felt safe to share experiences that they had never told anyone else. Healing came through laughter and tears as they shared.
Inspired by the retreat’s impact and the commission to reach out to others with the teaching received, Eastern Mennonite Missions’ worker Phyllis Groff translated the Sister Care material into the K’ekchi’ language working closely with two K’ekchi’ women. Eva Luvia Cuc, who had attended the workshop, helped grabble with the terms and “roughed out” a translation. Then Carmela Caal proofread the translation for detail and grammar. Fran Eachus, a Wycliffe translator who spent her life work on the K’ekchi’ Bible translation, assisted in correcting the final draft.
Along with the Spanish version Phyllis requested a copy in English, to make it easier to translate the Sister Care booklet into K’ekchi’. As they worked together, Phyllis and Luvia both deepened their understanding of the material, “Aha! That’s what they meant! Now I see what they were getting at!” The translation process deepened their friendship.
Finally, at the K’ekchi’ General Church Assembly in January 2014, Phyllis distributed the 300 printed K’ekchi’ Sister Care booklets to pastors and district women’s leaders encouraging them to read the book and share what they learned with other women. Franklin Conference Mennonite Women funded the printing of the manuals.
One pastor, Sebastian Ical, came to Phyllis requesting more copies as he has a large congregation with many women leaders. Because the women leaders are mostly illiterate Sebastian personally planned to teach the study first. He called Phyllis by phone later to ask if a woman from a different church in their community would be able to receive the book and study. “Yes!” Phyllis felt excited that the interest in learning was spreading.
When Phyllis attended a district women’s meeting, women came to chat with her. “The other week when you gave us the Sister Care book, you told us that we must first be healed ourselves before we can help others heal. I was afraid as I held many hidden hurts in my life. I felt sad for my past. I prayed and asked God to remove those painful memories. I felt healed as God lifted me up from my fallen knees in a dream.”
She continued, “I’m concerned about a broken relationship with a relative who attends my church. She refuses to talk with me. I want to be reconciled but don’t know how as she doesn’t want me to visit her. I know this is wrong. What can I do?” she asked.” Phyllis talked about the importance of prayer and asking God for someone who would meet with her for prayer and later visit this relative.
This story touched Phyllis deeply and she wondered how many more women were being impacted by the written study distributed to leaders of the 140 K’ekchi’ congregations.