Deciding to Serve
Alex Maldonado-Lizardi and Xiomara Cintron-Garcia serve with Justapaz in Colombia.
…so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.
For we live by faith, not by sight.”
-2 Corinthians 5. 4, 7
After teaching Sunday school to the children in our church, Xiomara thought about, “I feel like Jonah.”
Our documents to become Global Ministries mission co-workers were not complete yet. They were laying calmly on the table in a room used for virtual classes – surrounded by textbooks, uncorrected assignments, and school materials. We were still living in our apartment in Toa Baja, Puerto Rico. For months, we talked about what it would cost for us to leave, the changes, the losses: the years as teachers, the students, our fellow teachers, our friends, our families, and their warmth.
We talked about Jonah getting up and going the other direction, running away from God. Walking down from port to port, trying to find a ship headed “… as far away from God as he could get.” (Jonah 1:3 MSG). Then we prayed about it.
To pray is to recreate our steps in life, to remember the lives we have witnessed, and our common vulnerability. “Vulnerable, la Vida verdadera…” (“Vulnerable, the true-life…”), says Ida Vitale, a Uruguayan poet. While praying, we recognized our paths (caminos). We remembered the testimony of how God was at work in us and in communion with students in campus ministry. We remembered God’s presence in the accompaniment of communities searching for hope after hurricane María in 2017, and then after the earthquake that shook our island in 2020. During those times, we would return home and share the stories, the names, the losses, the circumstances. We also shared questions about a peaceful and just life after a disaster and our responsibility and participation in it. And while our hands were emptied, our hearts were being filled. And we answered. We just couldn’t run away from this journey. The accompaniment, our being present in the life of these communities, allows us to rediscover our mutual vulnerabilities and desires to live “a living hope” (1 Peter 1:3) as we witness the paths that justice and grace would form.
Since 1990, the Christian Mennonite Association for Justice, Peace, and Non-Violent Action (Justapaz) has been the expression of the church for reconciliation in Colombia when it seemed impossible and even naïve. Justapaz’s presence in the life of churches and communities wounded by armed conflict testifies to the concrete reality of reconciliation, restoration, and healing that are so needed in societies driven by greed, competition, and a vision of conflict as a virtue. In the words of Jean-Paul Lederach, Justapaz’s efforts for justice, peace, and reconciliation seek to rehumanize what conflict dehumanizes.
With this story in our hands, God knocked on our door, reminded us of our paths together, and invited us to go. We were being enveloped up by life, by faith, by grace – not by sight. And we are thankful. Out of our obedience to and with the love of the living God, we present our hearts to be mutual witnesses with Justapaz as we share in the work of rebuilding lives of hope and peace amid conflict.
Alex Maldonado-Lizardi and Xiomara Cintron-Garcia serve with Justapaz in Colombia. Their appointments are made possible by gifts to the Disciples Mission Fund, Our Church’s Wider Mission, and your special gifts.