In the face of the pandemic’s challenges, “we can sit around waiting, full of fear in the face of the reality we are surrounded by, or we can take advantage of the flexible time and use it as an opening to be creative and productive,” says Mary Cano, general coordinator of MTAL (Honduras).
MTAL, Movement of Anabaptist Women Doing Theology from Latin America (Movimiento de Mujeres Anabautistas Haciendo Teología desde América Latina) decided on the latter. Through an MTAL WhatsApp group chat, the women could find no evidence of a devotional book in Spanish for women by women. Isabel Salamone (Argentina), Karen Flores (Honduras), Llansee Dueñas (Honduras) and Ruhama Pedroza (México) said yes to create a proposal for a devotional book with biblical reflection for each day of the year, paying attention to themes from the Christian calendar and international observance days.
They presented it to MTAL leadership who asked the Education and Materials Commission, coordinated by Olga Piedrasanta, to carry out the plan.
Theology in diversity
Two hundred and thirty-two Anabaptist women from 21 Latin American countries, plus a few contributors from the U.S., answered the call for writers that went out through MTAL’s WhatsApp group.
“Our sisters represent a diversity of gifts and abilities, theological training and ministerial experiences in their churches and professional lives,” says Ángela Opimi, general coordinator of MTAL (Bolivia). “They came together in spite of their different national and cultural identities… to write from their lived experience and walk with Christ in order to motivate and encourage other women and men in their faith journey.”
These women’s theological work is based in daily life.
“We do theology whenever and wherever we are, even while chopping tomatoes in the kitchen,” says Olga Piedrasanta, education and materials coordinator for MTAL.
The Spanish-language devotional demonstrates the diversity within Latin America. It includes contributions written in Kekchi, an indigenous language in Guatemala, and Portuguese, from Brazilian contributors, with translation into Spanish.
Contributors come from a variety of national churches. For example, members from all three Colombia MWC member churches—Mennonite, Mennonite Brethren and Brethren in Christ—contributed a devotional.
One of the goals of this book by women for women is that it “guides the analysis and provides biblical reflection from a Christian and Anabaptist/Mennonite perspective by broaching themes that relate to the daily lives of women in their families and communities,” says Marisol Arriaga, representative for MTAL (Mexico).
United in difficult times
“Women need to stand united in difficult times so that we can support one another as we seek God’s help to look after our families and congregations,” says Yeranis Valdez, a writer from Peru. “The book is aimed at all the women in our churches, irrespective of the neighborhoods where they live, the projects and arenas that they are involved in.”
Lenny Chavez, a writer from Bolivia, says, “The need to hold onto the Lord and support one another daily is great!”
Amid the difficulties of the pandemic, Modesta Pereira, a writer from Paraguay, says the devotional helps us to “feel part of something larger in spite of the distance that separates us.”
Ten women formed an editorial team and with support from the education and materials commission representing the regions (Mexico, Central-America-Caribbean, Andean, Southern Cone). They set up deadlines, solicited writers, reviewed submissions and edited copy. Contributors range from young church members to long-standing leaders in MTAL.
“Everyone wrote voluntarily and enthusiastically because they viewed it as a service,” says Esther Bornes, Regional Coordinator for MTAL in the Southern Cone.
Dulce Gutiérrez, Rut Bergen and Yessenia Quintana (Mexico) provided layout and design.
The devotional book is available free as a PDF and audio version. It can be found in Biblioteca Anabautista. However, many women receive it through formal and informal networks by email or WhatsApp or as daily posts on social media. In certain locations, the devotional was printed and distributed for a small price to cover costs.
“We are very grateful to God for pushing us to take on this daring initiative,” says Mary Cano. “We are pleased that this material has been adopted so enthusiastically.”
“As the Word of God says, there is a time for everything. The lockdown induced by COVID-19 gave us the time to make this dream a reality,” says Olga Piedrasanta.
But it’s more than a pandemic dream: the women are enthusiastic to repeat the project for 2022 with a hope to translate into English as well.
Mennonite World Conference is a communion of Anabaptist-related churches linked to one another in a worldwide community of faith for fellowship, worship, service, and witness. USMB is a member conference of this global ministry.