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A letter from Sandi Thompson-Royer serving in Guatemala

Sandi’s surprise birthday, Carmelina, Sandi & Brian

Sandi’s surprise birthday, Carmelina, Sandi & Brian

November 1, 2016

In December our son Noah was visiting for Christmas. He and Brian held a belated surprise birthday party for me. Over 25 people gathered in our home. Half were our Presbyterian sisters and brothers and half were new friends from our Xela community. I was overwhelmed with the love they shared with me. This is what happens when one chooses to walk with people and take the time to listen to their stories.

I held the mirror up so she could get a close look at her beautiful face. As she focused on her image, I said, “You are a daughter of God. You are beautiful in God’s eyes. Always.” I repeated this exercise with each of the 40 Maya Quiche women in the room. Soon the others chimed in so that the woman looking in the mirror could hear this ringing affirmation loud and clear. Loving ourselves is an important part of being good leaders. This is not always easy for us women and especially Guatemalan women who are victims of violence, must obey their husbands, bear the load of much responsibility in the home, and even hear from their church that they are less than the men.

I have learned in my work that when women have low self-esteem, they tend to be more negative not only about themselves but about the world around them. We ALL have gifts and talents that need to be used and lifted up to make this world a better place for all. The theme of this workshop was “Loving Ourselves as God Loves Us.” This workshop was supported through a partnership with Albany Presbytery. Rev. Bonnie Orth and Rev. Kate Kotfila from Albany Presbytery helped lead this workshop.

Women Seminary students with scholarships

Women Seminary students with scholarships

Juana, leader in the Mam Presbyterial, sees the importance of encouraging her sisters to speak out against sexual violence in the church and the community. Juana is courageous, strong, and beautiful. She is an obrera (church worker) for Mam Presbyterial assigned to the women’s organization and the youth ministry. She is a fierce presence and I’ve seen her impact on those she accompanies. Sometimes her presence is simply to hold a sister’s hand who nervously seeks to speak her mind After learning more about sexual violence in a workshop in October, sponsored by Presbyterian World Mission, CEDEPCA and the Sinódica (Presbyterian Women), Juana went back home and shared s similar workshop with her sisters at their yearly convention in December. With confidence she shared what she had learned and, not wavering from the truth, challenged her sisters to lift up their voices on this issue in their churches. Domestic and sexual violence is a global issue and if we are to remain silent it will continue.

Carolina, a Guatemalan woman living in Washington State, was one of the participants in the delegation that participated in the October workshop. As I helped plan this delegation, I knew Carolina’s participation would be important. In Olympia, Washington, she works with immigrants, providing advocacy and support to those who have experienced sexual violence. Many of the women she serves are from the Mam-speaking region in Guatemala. She was anxious to learn more about their lies and how better to serve them.

Drinking freshly roasted El Tata coffee

Drinking freshly roasted El Tata coffee

Carolina and Juana immediately made a connection, and these creative women arranged for Juana to visit Carolina in Olympia in February. During that visit Juana provided a “cultural competency” workshop for other advocates in Washington so they could learn about the lives of the Mam women in Guatemala. Carolina was able to give Juana an opportunity to learn more about supporting women experiencing violence. They will stay connected, exchanging ideas on how to support Mam women who have migrated to Washington State! These two women understand how much we need each other and the importance of sharing leadership. Together they support the global movement to end violence against women.

Sandi Thompson-Royer, PC (USA) Mission Co-worker, Guatemala

Today’s Focus: Guatemala

Let us join in prayer for:

Albany Presbytery

Rev. Bonnie Orth, Pastor at Mayfield Central Presbyterian Church
Rev. Kate Kotfila, Pastor, Cambridge United Presbyterian Church

PC (USA) Mission Coworkers

Sandi Thompson-Royer, Guatemala
Brian Thompson-Royer, Guatemala

PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff

Cathy Holland, PMA
Carl Horton, PMA

Let us pray

Dear Lord who offers peace to those who come from afar, may the church hear your voice calling us to build community among all people, so that in Jesus Christ we are no longer strangers but members of the household of God. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Daily Lectionary

Morning Psalms 42; 146
First Reading Zephaniah 1:14-18
Second Reading Revelation 14:14-15:8
Gospel Reading Luke 13:1-9
Evening Psalms 102; 133

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