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Shining God’s Light

A Letter from Chenoa Stock, serving in Peru

Winter 2021

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Dear friends,

Today, I write to you at 8,400 feet, from Cochabamba, Bolivia, my husband, José’s hometown. Like Mary and Joseph, we were called to return home to complete bureaucratic duties/responsibilities. For years, José has been in the green card application process. As with so many things, the pandemic delayed his reaching the final step of this process: “the interview.” In December, when we received an interview date from the U.S. Embassy in Bolivia, we packed our bags, put on our face shields, and traveled to Bolivia. Like Mary and Joseph, we did not know exactly where we would be resting our heads, nor how long our stay would be.

Unfortunately, the estimated time of our stay has been extended, as José’s interview was canceled in early January due to rising COVID-19 case numbers in Bolivia. What was meant to be Christmas and a few weeks of ‘Ordinary Time’ here has become a journey into Lent. Our arrival was based on hope and joy, much like Jesus’ birth for the world; and yet, as a family, as a global village, and as God’s people, we know we must sometimes walk in the darkness, waiting patiently, searching for God’s Light to reveal true Hope’s new relationship with God and those around us.

As our family’s bureaucratic visit intersects with our Lenten journey, we hold on to a deep longing and expectation for strength and change amidst so much uncertainty – for our family and the world. But, thankfully, we do not carry that heavy burden alone. We continue to accompany our Peruvian partners from Bolivia as they serve vulnerable communities currently facing a second wave of COVID-19. By government decree, certain regions of Peru returned to a limited lockdown in January, and oxygen and ICU rooms are again scarce.

But this did not deter our partners and their commitment to their mission. We recently spoke with leaders of the Joining Hands Network partner, the Center for Development of Black Peruvian Woman (CEDEMUNEP) and learned about their work during the pandemic. CEDEMUNEP was founded 23 years ago and works to address issues of systemic racism and discrimination and to advocate at the local and international level for the empowerment of women, allowing them to find their voice and strengthen their role within society. Cecilia Ramirez, the Director of CEDEMUNEP, explains that CEDEMUNEP is a “great family,” a “network of trust, support, and advocacy.”

The communities they serve would agree, as CEDEMUNEP has accompanied them throughout the pandemic by creating a COVID Committee with other institutions to facilitate outreach. They provide food baskets for vulnerable communities, as well as initiated a Biosecurity Campaign. With the support of the Peruvian Joining Hands Network, this campaign worked to offer the basic services of water and soap, as well as distribute masks, thermometers, and sanitizer. As many of these communities do not have access to the internet, smartphones, or government subsidies, they are isolated and seemingly forgotten.

Although the way is dark, CEDEMUNEP has been able to shine God’s Light and Hope in corners where many have not ventured to go. They provide Solidarity Lunches for women, both to nourish their bodies and minds, offering emotional support, in addition to meals. Cecilia stated that CEDEMUNEP’s principal mission is focused on “teaching women to fish, not to give them the fish.” But, given these times of economic, social, and political crisis in Peru, they recognized that these communities need this direct giving for their survival. But CEDEMUNEP has not only given. Through their partnership with the Peruvian Joining Hands Network and their COVID Committee, they have learned more deeply how partnerships make a greater difference.

CEDEMUNEP has worked with women to find their identities and to “re-invent” themselves. Cecilia proudly shared that, in their work, “faith is not lost.” Though many may begin without hope, they soon learn that they are loved and supported and are so much stronger than they knew. “We are a link for the women. We open a space for dialogue, but it is the women who speak. We only strengthen their gifts and abilities.”

God’s Light continues to shine, even in the shadows of an ongoing global pandemic, vaccination corruption, climate crisis, and yes, even in awaiting a green card interview. We are thankful that our arrival took place around Christmas, as it provided our family a solid and celebratory foundation for which to set up our ‘home’ here. Our Christmas lights remain hung around the front window as they bring delight to our son, Leandro, every night he turns them on. They lead to the star, hung in the center. These lights are a daily reminder for us to continue to journey through the darkness, following God’s Light towards the Star that brings us hope and new relationships with ourselves, others, and with God.

Our partners’ endless efforts to shine and be that Light is an inspiration for me. Thank you for your support of and prayers for our ministry that allow us to accompany and learn from our partners, who shine God’s Light near and far. One way to continue your support for our partners and PC (USA) World Mission is to participate in the Matching Gift Opportunity that is being offered through Easter Sunday, April 4. Your gift will be doubled and support our ministry, as well as World Mission.

You are a Light for all of us, as we know you are praying for us, sharing our stories and challenges, and shining God’s Light throughout this Lenten journey and beyond. If you would like to hear more stories or learn more about our ministry, you can sign up for my newsletters, and I am always available to share with your congregation, Bible Study groups, youth groups, etc., via pre-recorded videos or live discussions. Thank you for being our Light!

Peace,

Chenoa


Creative_Commons-BYNCNDYou may freely reuse and distribute this article in its entirety for non-commercial purposes in any medium. Please include author attribution, photography credits, and a link to the original article. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDeratives 4.0 International License.

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