A letter from Sandi Thompson-Royer serving in Guatemala
Congregations: Give to D507581 for Sandi and Brian Thompson-Royer’s sending and support
Churches are asked to send donations through your congregation’s normal receiving site (this is usually your presbytery).
The women in Guatemala remind me of Mary. Mary said “yes” to God. She said yes to the possibilities of transformation and change, knowing there could also be pain and darkness. The women of Guatemala know about waiting for transformation and change. As Brian and I end our third year serving as mission co-workers in Guatemala with the women of the Sinodica (Presbyterian Women) of the Presbyterian Church of Guatemala, we reflect on how we’ve grown closer to the people by listening to their stories. And we long for more peace, equality, and justice in this corner of our world.
Maria is 18 years old and feels like her life is already set out for her. Her little girl dreams of wanting to continue her education with the possibility of being a teacher are crushed. She came to me asking if I could help her get to the U.S. Despite her dreams, Maria finished 6th grade and then had to go to work. Six days a week she cooks, cleans, and helps care for a family’s children, bringing home about $25.00 each week. She should be making about $10/day according to the minimum wage law in Guatemala, but there is no enforcement of that law. This is a common story for girls in Guatemala, especially indigenous girls like Maria. Where is the justice in Maria’s situation? When I heard Maria’s story I couldn’t help but wonder when justice will come. I listened to Maria and told her I was sad that she felt that her dreams were lost. I hope that the work of the Sinodica helps change Maria’s story. What can each of us do to change Maria’s story?
I met Maria at a weekend workshop to educate girls and young women about sexual abuse prevention. The Protestant Center for Pastoral Studies in Central America (CEDEPCA), one of Presbyterian World Mission’s church partners in Guatemala, received a grant from Presbyterian Women in the U.S. to provide several workshops in 2016, and I was invited to help with the leadership. From my experience, helping women organize around violence prevention and supporting their decisions on how to engage their communities is a positive way to begin the transformation process. Maria and the other young women looked forward to sharing new resources available to them with their sisters in their churches and communities.
In September, along with a visiting delegation from Baltimore, Md., we visited the Presbyterian Women in the Mam community to learn about their sewing project for girls who don’t have an opportunity for continuing education in a traditional school. With hard work, commitment to their vision, and the support of their partners in Albany Presbytery in N.Y., Presbyterian Women in the Mam community have been teaching girls a trade for several years that will help them get jobs and possibly start small businesses. With treadle sewing machines they make curtains, aprons, and some of the most beautiful embroidery work I’ve ever seen! Their products and skills are marketable, and I am working with them to see if I can help facilitate new opportunities.
Another ministry the Sinodica sponsored this year was the facilitation of two microloan workshops. In August the Maya Quiche’ presbyterial was a site for one of the workshops. Three presbyterials were invited and over 25 women traveled long distances to participate. Microloan groups have demonstrated success in Guatemala. The Presbyterian Women of Western North Carolina have been supporting three microloan groups with over 60 women participating. Women learn how to save money and receive small loans and education to start a business or to bolster an existing business, such as inventory for their shops, supplying gas for cooking to homes and restaurants, and raising chickens and pigs.
Many of you have visited us this year and met some of the women with whom we work. You’ve heard their hopes and dreams. Please continue to pray as the Sinodica plans ministries for this next year. There will be five domestic violence workshops, ending with a three-day leadership training so that the leaders can continue the work in their own communities.
This year we have witnessed two new babies in our midst. As their mommas wrap them tightly into handwoven cloths and carry them securely on their backs, I know that they look into those innocent eyes and hope their children will grow up to a world of more opportunities. Francesca and Rutil have husbands who will walk in partnership with them caring for these precious children. That is good news and evidence of change in a country where machismo is high and the respect of women is low.
Please pray for the ongoing Men in the Mirror program through which men are learning to be better participants in their families. And continue prayers for the microloan project as well. The Sinodica sees all of these ministries as a comprehensive way to create healthier families and communities.
We couldn’t be here without your financial support and your prayers, and we are so very grateful. Your support helps us to walk alongside the Sinodica and help to facilitate the reality of these efforts. How will you respond to these stories?
- E200334 – Facilitators for Women’s Leadership Development in Guatemala (our sending and support)
- E051618 – General Work with the Women of Guatemala (IF you would like to devote support for a microloan program, please note this on your donation)
- E051830 – Theological Scholarship Aid for Guatemalan Women
As we wait for Christ’s birth and hear Mary and Joseph’s immigration story of bringing their new child into the world with hope of change and justice, may we each experience a new birth, opening ourselves up to transformation and change.
Feliz Navidad de Guatemala! Merry Christmas from Guatemala!
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