Submitted by Reverend Linda Hanson, Global Ministries missionary serving at the Theological Community of Honduras, where she is a professor.
Blanca Aida is a woman who continues to inspire me. She comes from a small village in the Department of Choluteca in the south of Honduras. Her village is on the Pacific Ocean and is a typical Honduran village with high levels of poverty, an agricultural economy, and a conservative theology.
Blanca Aida arrived at the Theological Community in January of 2007 and said that she wanted to study theology. She also said she knew that she couldn’t be a pastor. I thought it was because she was female; sexism is very prevalent in many Honduran churches, even mainline protestant ones, especially in rural areas. But, Blanca Aida told me, it wasn’t because she was a woman, but because she had a disability. Blanca Aida has a severe visual disability requiring her to hold her reading material only inches from her eyes in order to read.
Blanca Aida told me that in her church she hadn’t been allowed to lead worship, read scripture, or otherwise participate because her disability is looked upon as demonstrating a lack of faith. She had been told that if she only had more faith, she could be healed. She had been told that she must have sinned and was being punished by God. She was told that she couldn’t be a leader in the church, because she was “damaged” and “deformed;” an “incomplete person.”
Blanca Aida came to study and began to hear another message. At the end of 2007 she took a class on Theology and Pastoral Care with People with Disabilities. At the end of the class Blanca Aida was angry. In her class evaluation she wrote:
At first I was angry. I realized that I had been oppressed by the church. I had been told that I couldn’t be a leader because I was deformed, that I wasn’t good enough, that I wasn’t complete. I had been taught that I lacked faith, because I hadn’t been “cured” of my disability. The class [on theology of disabilities] helped me to accept myself the way God made me and makes me want to help others fight against injustices for people with disabilities.
Blanca Aida is now studying at an accelerated pace at the Latin American Bible University in Costa Rica, of which the Theological Community of Honduras is a branch. She is planning on writing her thesis on the church in Honduras and its response to disability. She is also the recipient of a Global Ministries scholarship specifically for students with a disability. With this scholarship she has been able to purchase a voice-activated computer with a text reader program, a tape recorder to tape lectures (since note-taking is difficult for her), a lamp and a magnifying glass. In addition, she used money from this scholarship to pay for taxis (instead of the bus) because of her increased vulnerability when traveling after class at night. She previously had been mugged a number of times because of the dangerous, impoverished neighborhood in which she lives.
Blanca Aida credits the Theological Community of Honduras with transforming her life. In the future we look for her to transform the lives of many others, particularly those living with disabilities in Honduras.
More about this project: Theological Community of Honduras