A letter from YAV Whitney Palmer in Guatemala
January 15, 2009
Email: Whitney Palmer
Dear Family and Friends,
¡Felíz Año Nuevo! ¡Felíz Navidad! I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday full of joy and health. I had a very busy holiday here, which helped with the homesickness. I wrote a blog about my Christmas and New Year's adventres. I am sorry it has been so long since my last email. Most of my days are pretty busy, and when I get Internet access, I spend most of the time checking emails and catching up with friends on Facebook. I have been trying to update my blog once or twice a month, so really that is the best way to keep up with my day to day activities.
I also realize that sometimes I do not fully explain myself perfectly in my emails, and you are left with questions and confusion. Please email me those questions so I can more clearly explain my thoughts. Often my thoughts are jumbled and confused, so if you are confused, you are justified! Also, your questions help me think about things differently, or explore something more deeply. Plus, I really like getting emails.
I have been doing a lot of reading the past few months about the distribution of resources in our world, and how we all have a responsibility and ability to help end poverty. I read two books, Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger and Unexpected News, Reading the Bible with Third World Eyes,a slightly outdated book, but one I still enjoyed reading. Both books were very challenging at times, but I do believe I have to change the way I live if I want to truly live in solidarity with the poor, in order to create a just world that is able to sustain all people. I don't think the world will ever be equal, and there will always be elements of poverty in our world. But we can eliminate extreme poverty, coming closer to the world God desires for everyone.
I decided to come to Guatemala because I read a little bit of Liberation Theology, and felt compelled by it. Liberation Theology is a commitment to the life of the marginalized and it is a commitment to ending iniquity. I want to explain to you all how I hope to change the way I live, in order to try to be committed to the things I believe in, through my thoughts and my actions. Rich Christians gave several examples for how I can make simple, but drastic changes in my life. The author pointed out, that if I was reading his book, I probably don't have to buy new clothes for at least 3 years. And he is right. So my first challenge to myself is not to feel compelled by our society to keep up with current fashions and trends. And I am not going to buy new clothes for the year of 2010, and after 2010 I will only buy articles of clothing I really need, and learn to do with less.
Another aspect of Liberation Theology is a commitment to liberation, not charity, but liberation as the gospel preached. In reality, the gospel is aimed at "nonpersons" who have been denied their dignity and rights. Unexpected News is about how people living in poverty read the Bible differently. They hear different things that I, living in luxury and affluence, have often been able to ignore. Liberation Theology is not only an intellectual approach, it is about what part I have played in the liberation of the oppressed. The root of Liberation Theology is in the practice. This is often where I have difficulty. It is easy to read about things, and accumulate more knowledge, write more papers, without changing my actions. And so, I came to Guatemala with the desire to accumulate more knowledge, but also, and perhaps more important, to learn how to change my actions, so I can really practice Liberation Theology, and live in a way that is compatible with the teachings of the Gospels, and what I believe. And that change is what is most difficult, and that change is what will create new spaces for me to grow in love and kindness.