The Gift of Presence
For nearly two weeks, those of us in the Saint Paul Area Synod have been blessed by the presence of ou[...]
Our Miracle Education Center Steering Committee met recently to establish the next steps for the training center for young women which will be located in Guatemala City. Our discussion focused on the importance of expanding the pilot program from three women to ten. During that meeting we were communicating with Pastor Karen Castillo, assessing the position of the Pastoral Team on various points. We were all in consensus that the purchase of land for a large center was premature, but an expanded pilot program, on the grounds of the Lutheran Center, will provide invaluable knowledge about how to administer a larger program in the future.
We are excited that a start date of February 2017 has been established for this expanded pilot program. The ten women will be chosen by the ILAG from within its seventeen rural and urban churches. Currently, many of these young women are faced with only one option: to marry a man and raise a family. While we recognize that a love-filled marriage and the blessing of children is a wonderful thing, the reality is that often these marriages are not loving and result in domestic abuse. Sometimes families can no longer afford to feed their teenagers and so they arrange a marriage at age 13 or 14 with a much older man. Sometimes there are so few options for teens that these young women are enticed into sexual relationships as their only option as they grow up.
Some of these women have a basic education, having attended a limited primary school, while others have finished junior high school. Some have a basic knowledge of anatomy and the challenges of giving birth at a young age, but many do not. Some have learned skills such as weaving, food preparation, or raising chickens. However, most do not have a sense of how to do simple accounting, in the event that they might want to start a home business. The ILAG would like to offer a two-year residential program for young women to teach skills which will provide options. Some academic education will be offered, in an effort to enhance the lives of these women and their future children. Skills such as gardening, food preparation and preservation, nutrition, child-rearing, soap-making, weaving, sewing, raising chickens and pigs, and bookkeeping will be taught. Religious education will serve as the core to all other education.
The intent is that the young women will attend classes for two years and will be required to return to their home villages. There they will also be required to share information with other young women through classes and activities.
As mentioned, a pilot program has begun with three young women who are living at the Lutheran Center in Guatemala City. Their experience will help all of us understand what is necessary to expand the pilot program to ten participants in 2017.
This is our dream, a dream that will changes lives and provide women with options. A dream that will allow for miracles to take place.
Janet Metcalfe, Chair
Companion Synod Task Force
Saint Paul Area Synod, ELCA