Thursday, July 12, 2012

Women's Micro-Credit Enterprize

 On January 14, 2012, our Guatemala delegation spent the morning visiting our partner ACG - Guatemalan Cultural Action.  We travelled by pickup truck to a nearby community and had a conversation with a women's micro-credit group.  Each of us in turn introduced ourselves and each of them in turn introduced themselves and told us about their particular project, and how they were using the loaned money.  It was inspiring.  Pictured above are the women of the cooperative.

We then went back to the center and visited with the staff.  It is a difficult period for their work.  The international economic downturn has affected gifts to international NGOs also.  They are trying to determine how to continue to do quality work with diminished resources.

Critical Analysis

When the IMM delegation was in San Cristobal de Las Casas in May 2012 for the 15th Anniversary celebration of INESIN the group also made visits to other partners in town.  One of those long time partners is SiPaz.  SiPaz is an international NGO working for peace, and it was also established in the 1990s.

In the photo above Marina Pages, director of SiPaz,  presents a critical analysis of the situation in Chiapas.  Her presence at INESIN illustrates the network of groups who have slightly different missions and who at the same time work in harmony to address the needs in Chiapas.

SiPaz is a partner with IMM and INESIN, and also with Global Ministries.  While Felix Ortiz Cotto was present for the celebration at INESIN he was also able to meet with representatives of SiPaz to find ways that they could work together in the future.  The various groups together form a critical presence for positive effort.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Concejo Ecumenico Cristaino de Guatemala

Concejo Ecuménico Cristiano de Guatemala

 On January 17, 2012, a delegation of Illinois Maya Ministries members met with Vitalino Similox and Nora Colom in Guatemala City at the offices of Concejo Ecumenico Cristiano de Guatemala.  Vitalino and Nora had visited Illinois in the fall of 2011 and we had met them then.  This was a return visit to learn more about their work.  They are affiliated with Global Ministries in Indianapolis, and are developing a partnership with the Disciples of Christ Region that includes Illinois.
 The council does work coordinating a Christian witness in Guatemala.  The blue poster, above lists the member organizations.  Please note also the web address.  (You can also reach their website by clicking on the blue underlined name of the organization in the first line of this post, it is a hot link.)
We had a pleasant visit.  It was their first day back after their honeymoon - they were married earlier in January!

Our delegation was composed of Martha Pierce, Rev. Michael Swartz and Jeanne Omelia of IMM and Sydney of CRLN - the Chicago Religious Leadership Network.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Broadview Detention Center vigil

 The Illinois Conference of the United Church of Christ began its annual meeting at 7:15 am with a Prayer Vigil at the Broadview Detention Center, on Friday June 8, 2012.  Broadview Detention Center is where undocumented persons are gathered up and staged for deportation from the United States, and Friday mornings is when the busses of shackled young men leave the center for Ohare Airport.  Religious persons gather there weekly to pray and sing for those being deported and to let them know that there are some people of good will who regret their plight.
The particular reason for this gathering of United Church of Christ conference participants was not only to express solidarity with those being bussed to the airport, but also to honor the memory of Rev. Bob Sandman, a longtime member of the conference who attended these services regularly when he was alive, but who died this last year.

In the top photo Rev. Denise Griebler, a member of the conference, leads worship.  In the bottom photo worshippers wave to the departing busses.  (Some of our bi-lingual pastors were able to board the busses and pray with the deportees and offer support.)

Gloria Vicente

 Illinois Maya Ministry met today, Friday, May 18, 2012 in Warrenville, Illinois, at the home of Rev. Denise Griebler, to listen to a very pregnant Gloria Vicente share about her work in Guatemala as a missionary through Common Global Ministries.  Gloria was able to explain in depth about her experience at Guatemalan Christian Action (ACG).  She also talked a little about her plans for her future work in Guatemala.  Part of the work of IMM is to accompany our missionaries with Mayan people.  

Honoring Bishop Samuel Ruiz

There are different ways of honoring someone who has  died.  Bishop Samuel Ruiz Garcia (3 November 1924 – 24 January 2011) died a little over a year ago.  He was instrumental in building positive ecumenical relations between and among Mayans, Catholics and Protestants in the Diocese of San Cristobal de Las Casas, where he served for many years.
The top photo is of the Mayan altar that was used during the Fiesta at INESIN.   This is a Mayan way of honoring a person, as we would at a memorial service in our church.  We too use candles and flowers.  The basked and bowl are filled with earth and water, respectively.  The various colors of flowers and candles represent the cardinal directions.  This is a way that Mayan folks honor Bishop Ruiz.

The lower photo is of our group from Illinois Maya Ministries including Felix Ortiz-Cotto of Global Ministries.  We are standing on the foundation/slab/footing of a new building that is being constructed at INESIN.  This is how North American Protestants honor someone who has died who was beloved and appreciated.  IMM set a goal of a $10,000 to help build this building that will include an assembly room named for Bishop Ruiz.  And we have met our goal and sent the $10,000.  And we know that additional gifts have been sent by the Wisconsin UCC Conference, and by other donors. 

INESIN is able to receive and benefit from various sorts of contributions to honor one of their spiritual founders.

INESIN Anniversary Event

 It was a full day of meeting at INESIN on Saturday, May 5, 2012.  Here is Hermana Lucy sharing some memories of the beginning of the project 15 years ago.  She was one of several such speakers.
 This is one of the discussion groups talking about what we have heard.  This particular group is international partner groups.  Around the table are folks from Switzerland, South Africa, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and mainland USA.  We are Mennonite, Reformed, Catholic, Disciples of Christ and United Church of Christ.
 This is the next step.  Here is Felix Ortiz Cotto, our Executive for Latin America and the Caribbean from Common Global Ministries, reporting back to the whole assembly what we talked about in our smaller group.
 We took a bit of a break from all the talking and planted a tree to represent a commitment to the future.  The whole group did it with some ceremony, but we were so crowded together it was difficult to get a picture.  Here is Marina from SiPaz and her young son giving the new tree a little bit of water.  The tree will bear at least two kinds of fruit - it is grafted together.  An apt symbol for an organization promoting ecumenical work.
And the day concluded with Mariachi music and dancing.  This is, of course, Mexico!

Celebration Opens with Mayan Prayer Service

 After a few opening and welcoming remarks from Ernesto Martin, the three day celebration of the 15th Anniversary of INESIN began on Friday, May 4, 2012 with a Mayan Prayer time led by spiritual leaders from Huixtan, Chiapas, Mexico.  The prayers centered around an altar formed on the ground; a circle of flowers and candles, oriented on the four cardinal directions.  
Rhythmic prayer in the Tzotzil language was accompanied by stringed instrument music and maracas played by several of the congregants.
Here one of the women worship leaders moves around through the congregation with copal incense.  The copal is placed on hot charcoal in a terra cotta censor which she is able to hold in her hand by the base.  It looks like a big chalice.  She then blows on the charcoal and is able to direct puffs in incense smoke in particular directions.

After the Mayan prayer service there were the lectures about the historical context of the area, followed by a substantial lecture General Secretary of a Swiss mission sending association which has been deploying young adults at INESIN for several years.

Melel Xojobal

This morning we visited with one of our partners in San Cristobal, Melel Xojobal.  They work with indigenous children in the area, provide a nursery school, and do an outreach to children who work on the street in San Cristobal.  Here is their website and you will enjoy how colorful it is.   

This is Rebecca posing in front of part of their mural in the garden

Mujeres de Maiz

It was a busy today.  In the morning we went to a Maya medical herbal museum and learned about Mayan spirituality, use of natural plants, and agricultural plants also.  Found out that tomorrow is a big day on the Mayan calendar - the day for the blessing of the seeds and planting in this area.  The museum is called OMIECH.

In the afternoon we took a combi cab up to San Andreas Larrainzar, a community a little over an hour away to the northwest.  There we met with a women's weaving cooperative called Mujeres de Maiz (Women of the Corn) and learned something about their experience.  They showed us some of the things they have made, and we did some purchasing.  They prepared a meal for us and we ate together.  They are pretty traditional Mayan women and somewhat reluctant to be photographed.  However they consented to a picture of us in the back yard.  There is a deep ravine behind us and on the other side is the local cemetery which you can almost see in the background.

Tomorrow we visit with two partner groups - those that Illinois Maya Ministry works with on a regular basis.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Delegation Assembles

Here are all eight members of the delegation gathered for lunch at Tierra Dentro in San Cristobal de Las Casas, today, May 1.  Six of us had flown in today from Chicago and two were already here.  We are here to celebrate the 15th Anniversary of INESIN - an ecumenical and intercultural institute dedicated to peace building.

May Delegation

A delegation of Midwestern church people are off to Southern Mexico to celebrate the 15th anniversary of INESIN, an ecumenical organization whose purpose is to bring together religions and cultures, particularly Mayan people.

The delegation will take place May 1-8 and travel will be to San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico.  Participants include clergy and laity, United Church of Christ (UCC) and Disciples of Christ (DOC); Rev. Paula Bidle and her husband George Moore (UCC), Rev. David Geenen and his wife Sonya Geenen (DOC), Rev. Michelle Prentice-Leslie (UCC), Jeanne O'Melia (DOC), Rev. Michael Swartz and his daughter Rebecca Swartz (UCC).  They will be joined in Mexico by Area Executive for Latin America and the Caribbean, Rev. Felix Ortiz Cotto, of Common Global Ministries.

The main purpose of the delegation will be to joint together with INESIN - the intercultural institute in San Cristobal.  We are attending to respond to their invitation to us to join in their Fiesta.  (Here is their website, both English and Spanish:  )  We will also visit with other partner groups in the area to learn from them about their concrete experience and to accompany them in their witness.

We ask your prayers for traveling mercies and that our efforts will provide support and encouragement to all those involved.  We also ask you to keep INESIN in your prayers - that they may continue to grow and serve in this conflicted area of God's world.