Investing in Building People
I have been contemplating what to write or understanding what it is that I am feeling. And more importantly, whether or not I should share some or none of my “inner voice”, as a new sister of mine put it. Not understanding this multidimensional aspect of my emotions and feelings, I can’t seem to be able to put things into perspective or coherence. I know there are feelings that have stayed with me in these last six years of ministry….
“Why do we sometimes choose one part of ourselves over another – as if active and passive resistance, love and anger are opposites? What would the world be like today if, when given the choice posed by Pilate, ‘Which of the two do you want me to release to you?’ the people had demanded, ‘Free them both!’” Dwight Lee Wolter
I have been contemplating what to write or understanding what it is that I am feeling. And more importantly, whether or not I should share some or none of my “inner voice”, as a new sister of mine put it. Not understanding this multidimensional aspect of my emotions and feelings, I can’t seem to be able to put things into perspective or coherence. I know there are feelings that have stayed with me in these last six years of ministry. Then there are feelings that have developed during this month of March; personal feelings, ups and downs, feelings of love and anger, impotence and anguish.
In particular, I am referring to the number of leaders from community organizations, peasant and indigenous groups and union members who continue to be persecuted and oppressed in Guatemala. There are some whom I have met on different occasions and who have recently lost their lives in the hands of paid assassins.
Then there are the immediate feelings of uncertainty, anger, condemnation and injustice after experiencing a visit to the National Police Archives. Now being processed, salvaged and digitalized are a number of archives which the National Police once claimed were “nonexistent”. But my anger and condemnation is not for this alone, but for the found archives’ correlation with the more than 40,000 Guatemalans who were forcibly kidnapped and then disappeared as part of urban repression, many executed by the Guatemalan National Police, which took place during Guatemala’s forty year old civil war. Walking along, smelling and listening to the walls that enclosed the different rooms where police officials interrogated and tortured thousands of Guatemalan men, women, children, and babies. Similar atrocities took place in rural areas at the hands of the army. What type of feeling is one expected to have when you hear that even babies were tortured? And more importantly, as citizens of the United States, what kind of feelings should we have when we learn that the U.S. Government was directly involved in training the military in Guatemala?
But recently I think these feelings and emotions may have matured as I accompanied a visit from members of the Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church in Tennessee, a glowing and warm group of strong and sensible men and women. They represent the first time that a group constituted solely of African Americans, and in this particular case, the first African American church from the Disciples of Christ, to visit as a delegation to Guatemala. An immediate connection, they came full of strong energy and spirit and I was able to join the delegation and be one with all. In particular, I believe we walked together during the entire week; witnessing, breathing, smelling, feeling and touching the air, spaces and people that surrounded us.
What an opportune moment for me to walk with my brothers and sisters in Christ, both from the North of the Americas and Central part of the Americas. During the visit, as we walked together in various settings, I saw myself differently than before. Having played an important role in their visit, I was not only a Woman representing the church as a Woman Missionary of Color, but as a Mother, as a Maya, as a member of a Colonized People and an Interpreter of the language and culture. Now, as I think about the different feelings that I am trying to process myself, I see what my brothers and sisters meant when they said “you got a full load”. But more importantly is the love I received through their visit. My role in assisting church delegations is to accompany our brothers and sisters so they may open their eyes and have their hearts broken in such a way that together we may learn about the social reality of a colonized and oppressed people. And from that realization, we must also learn to ask questions, individual and as churches, about whether or not we are following Jesus’ example of love, justice and compassion with and among our brothers and sisters in Christ, abroad and at home.
In short, one lesson learned which impacted not only one particular member of the delegation, but all of us who were present, is found in the words of our Presbyterian brother and pastor Osmundo who said, “We are not investing in building churches but rather investing in building people”. What an opportune time to hear these words because they came at a “breaking point”, literally referring to a point in which our hearts needed to feel and our minds needed to hear.
In the expression of one delegation member who shared an impact experience, her face was “touched by an elderly woman in a blue dress”. While for some this may not do much in terms of an impact experience, for a people of color touching not only symbolizes closeness and warmth, sisterhood and love, but acceptance and acknowledgement as well. Towards the end, we all felt this acceptance and acknowledgment.
Despite all of my feelings and my “full load”, I know that I will overcome because it is through this love that I too received and that will enable me to continue to be resilient despite the social conflict and continuing repression in Guatemala.
“God of justice, free us from the tyranny of false choices. Grant us wisdom to integrate our thoughts, feelings and actions so that we may be integrated agents of transformation. Amen.” Dwight Lee Wolter