A Letter from Amanda Craft in Guatemala
Hermana Amanda Godoy de Santos has always been kind. She embodies patience, gentleness, and grace. I have enjoyed working with her through the Sinodica and through her Presbiterial of Suchitepequez. From my own observations, this seems true for other women as well. Because of her hard work and supportiveness she portrays a firmness that makes me assume her life has been relatively calm, but a long car ride proved that wrong.
Amanda grew up along the Pacific coast of Guatemala. She is the second youngest child of four children. She is the youngest girl. Her mother’s pregnancy was emotionally turbulent; she discovered that her husband had another family. Unfortunately, Amanda’s mother associated the infidelity with this daughter. In later years Amanda was often blamed as the reason her father left or looked for another woman. The relationship with her mother was never one filled with love or support but was one of struggle and rejection. Also because of the instability in her parents’ relationship, Amanda was able to finish formal study only up to the 6th grade. Her childhood was one robbed of innocence and love, and Amanda fought to find a place of comfort.
After working several odd jobs, mainly as a domestic worker in homes around her community, Amanda found a place of comfort in a local Pentecostal church. Her mother challenged her decision since the family saw no need to attend such a church, one that was only judgmental and full of laws and regulations that restricted living. She claimed Amanda only wanted to feel morally superior to the rest of the family. However, for Amanda this was a place where people cared about her and her well-being. She did not feel judged or rejected here; in fact, she felt fed by the Word she heard and the ministry of the church. This was a place where she could grow. She even found her husband there—he was the son of the pastor.
Amanda has left that congregation because she moved her family to another community closer to Guatemala City for economic reasons. In their new community Amanda found the Presbyterian Church. She quickly became involved in the life of the church and the local women’s organization. Again, she felt the love and support that she had lacked in her childhood. The presbytery women’s group also found Amanda’s gifts and skills helpful in their ministry to others in need. Out of Amanda’s own pain came her ability to know how to love unconditionally and without prejudice. She does not love because she expects something in return. She loves for the sole reason of loving. Her unique ministry within the church is about accompanying those in pain and finding a way to allow them to feel support, mercy, and love. She always asks me, “That really is God’s Good News, right?” And it is, simply. Even in the midst of daily challenges and struggles, Amanda still believes it is her calling to first care for others in need.
What still impresses me about Amanda’s story is that she could have easily turned away from God, blaming God for her unlucky circumstances. But Amanda has never once placed any blame there. The pain she felt during her childhood was caused by human shortcomings, not by an uncaring God. Now she has seen the goodness God promises and provides. Out of her own healing through the church, Amanda has found a space to work on reconciling with her mother. She has told me that she has forgiven her mother but that reconciliation takes time. “But I am hopeful that God will bring us back together, but not as mother and daughter but as sisters in Christ,” Amanda tells me. From her sharing, I do not believe Amanda is trying to recover the lost love but to find a place of mutual respect built on the foundations of Christ. This is the perfect example of the woman Amanda has become: one of faith, one of patience, one of respect, and one of love. I now understand that our journeys are not always filled with happiness and joy, but they deeply shape who we become. However, with encounters with Christ and Christ’s peace, we can be transformed from a broken people to those made whole. Amanda is one mentor who has shown me this truth.
Scripture reflection, excerpt from Luke 7:36-50:
Then turning toward the woman, he [Jesus] said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has bathed my feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. Therefore, I tell you, her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.” But those who were at the table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?” And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace” (Luke 7:44-50, NRSV).
I pray for the countless children who grow up in an environment stripped of love, joy, and support. May they know they are not forgotten. You call us to be people of comfort to these children, providing them with your love and peace, because we know you have a special calling for each of us. May we look at their brokenness and understand how we can help make them whole so that they have the opportunity to live out their own special call. And may we continue to pray from women like Amanda who decide not to live out of a place of hate but a place of love—sharing your peace, mercy, and love unconditionally. AMEN.
Blog: Walking with Guatemalan sisters of faith
The 2012 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 6