Changing Lives

A Letter from Eliane Menezes, serving in Guatemala

April 2020

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Domestic violence is still a great problem that continues to happen in our societies. There are many efforts to diminish this terrible monster that yet is shattering so many families and lives in our societies. The best way to terminate with this challenging situation is to educate progressively our communities. And why not to educate those that are the most predisposed to make this circumstance to raise? I believe that Men in the Mirror Program came to make the difference, in a manner that suggests ways to reflect about masculinity with a Christ centered view.

In Guatemala, in the same way as in other innumerable cultures, we are able to observe that the patriarchal approach is very visible and tangible. Male figures are the most predominant in power not only in the secular field but also in the religious tradition.

Taking it in consideration, Men in the Mirror Curriculum through Pastor Mateo González had the opportunity to train Chaplains of the National Civil Police of Guatemala (PNC) including volunteers (pastors) and agents in August 2019. As a Board-Certified Clinical Chaplain, I thought it would be a great learning opportunity to attend the training, so I was granted the chance to enroll in it. It was a full day training program where around 50 (fifty) chaplains participated in the training. The participants were amazingly engaged as Pastor González presented patterns of the relationship dynamics existent amongst couples, families, and in the field where they serve.

I had the opportunity to participate by interacting with the group and observing them as they were involved in the process of the presentation. While pastor González was making the exhibition, a number of participants would raise their hands and share their life experiences with the group. One of the participants verbalized “I want to change and improve the way I relate to my family.” Along with him, others also expressed their willingness to make the move and change how they have connected to their families especially to their wives.

As part of the training, the participants were divided in small groups for a group dynamic. They had to discuss in their small groups three questions. The first question was their definition of how to be a Guatemalan male. Between several answers the common was to be a machista or to be a macho man. The second question was, what are the problems caused by this definition? and the mutual response was violence. The third and last question was, what would be the possible solution for the problem? and the groups agreed the possible solution for the situation would be through education.

Unfortunately, many cultures still have the conception that strong men don’t cry including Guatemalan’s. A notable characteristic of being a macho man is the idea that a real man or a big boy doesn’t cry. With this concept in mind, one of the participants shared about his experience. As he was growing up, he said, he was not allowed to cry because he was a “big boy.” Along with this, another participator revealed that “this concept that a big boy doesn’t cry has affected negatively not only my life but also the lives of my sons” he said. He stated he used to say to his sons “why are you crying? you’re not little girls.” “Thanks to God I have done with this misconstruction”, he said. Pastor González stated “a variety of PNC agents had been raised in a machista environment, and they repeat history in their own families. Nevertheless, Men in the Mirror Curriculum helps them to reflect and to treat better their wives, daughters, and sons.”

By attending this training I can say that I was moved by a great sense of hope. Observing the participation of those present and witnessing they pouring out their frustrations with the misconception of their own culture was remarkable. This was a time for them to stretch out their willingness to reflect on Christ’s teaching in how to be a man and woman in the image of God.

Please keep all families around the world in your prayers.

I always have you all in my prayers and thoughts.

I would like to thank you for your financial faithfulness to God’s mission in Guatemala.

Blessings,

Eliane


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