By Tracy Keenan, NCP Missional Presbyter
What does it mean to be a witness? It can mean simply that we have seen something. But it can also mean that we are called upon to share what we have seen as vividly as we can, to make it real to others.
This was a far different experience for me from the visit three years ago, just before Covid.
Some of it was me. Three years ago, I was still new at my job, we were in the midst of staffing changes, and I underestimated the brain fog that can slow us lowlanders in the high Guatemalan altitude. A more important part of the difference, however, was in the women we visited. Three years ago, the women had been shy and hesitant when asked to introduce themselves and talk about their new projects: seeds, stoves, water filters, a few animals, and latrines. This time, they were a much more confident, energetic group. They laughed easily, spoke up proudly, and showed us their livestock and greenhouses. Instead of serving us lunch first and then eating out of sight, they sat down with us as equals.
Another difference this time was a more intentional conversation about how many of their families and communities were impacted by American immigration laws and practices. We heard stories of why Guatemalans fled the country and tried to get to the U.S. We heard about how small, struggling villages depend on whatever wages émigrés can send back to them. At a time when dialogue in this country about immigration can get hot very quickly, I wonder if we can look at the human beings behind the statistics and advocate for sensible, sane, and humane legislation. What we do here affects real people in real places.
Everywhere we went, I asked if I could take pictures and then showed the results on my screen to the subjects for their verdict. Many of them had cell phones, and could certainly take pictures themselves, but they seemed pleased with the notion that I would be bringing their images back home to share with you. One woman made it clear with gestures that she wanted a full-length picture of herself and stood straight and strong, hands on her hips, with the satisfied smile of a woman who knows she has worth. She wanted you to know it, too.
It reminded me of the Transfiguration where the disciples saw Jesus in his full glory and true identity as the Child of God in the lineage of the prophets and reaching toward the future. Here was a woman who had a sense that she, too, is a child of God, beloved and gifted, called to live fully, to be a blessing to her community.
We are witnesses to holy transfiguration in a very local and incarnational sense. The theology of CEDEPCA and its programming teaches that women are just as precious in God’s eyes as men. CEDEPCA teaches healthy habits, risk management, and shared power. In a culture historically steeped in machismo, these tenets can be life-transfiguring.
The members of the Association of Mam Christian Women take that affirming message seriously. It affects how family members treat one another. It lends trust as the women create business strategies, set goals, and acquire skills. They see how education and shared power benefit everyone. We witness their confidence and glory, their strength and courage, and how unafraid they are of making their communities healthier and more capable.
Then we get to come home and be witnesses to you. We get to share our stories, our pictures, the inspiration, and the confidence that God is indeed at work among us all to transfigure our world.