Stories of Transformation

Date posted: Tuesday 10 April 2018

Sunday morning, I saw their faces as they were waiting for worship to start. They were the six girls from the Milagro Center, a new ministry of our companion church La Iglesia Luterana Agustina de Guatemala (ILAG). The Milagro Center is a safe place for indigenous teenage girls to develop themselves to be self-sufficient women and to discover each of their unique talents.
A humble smile appeared in my face and I could not avoid thinking: "These are the stories of transformation that the Companion Synod Program of the ELCA has brought to life".  Stories of transformation like this one in Guatemala are a part of each relationship: in ELCA members, congregations, synods, and in global mission as a whole. For ILAG and the first group of indigenous girls, the Milagro center is a dream come true - one that took years to reach the milestone of dedicating the Milagro Center.
I can see in the eyes of the girls just how happy they were with the inauguration of 'their home'.  The Center is a beautiful new two-story building that accommodates up to 12 girls. Pastor Karen Castillo, president of ILAG, invited all of us to bless each corner and each room of the Center. While I was giving my blessing, I realized that there were many people's lives that had already been transformed through this center. It has been a blessing not only in the lives of girls who live there, but for all who have contributed to this center in infinite ways over the years.  
In the last few months as Manager for Relationships with ELCA Global Mission, I have experienced in very practical ways the accompaniment lens of mission within the Saint Paul Area Synod. First, you invited me to do a presentation on the lens and values of accompaniment for a workshop in February. The event was an energizing morning as I was listening to people sharing with my colleague and I stories of the long-standing commitment that they have for the global work with ILAG. For many this global work means years of dedication, commitments, trips, a profound vocation, mutual growth, and transformation. In most of our conversations, we concluded that in this journey, we are the ones whom have been transformed.
Second, there was a consultation with ELCA partners and the ILAG in Guatemala. We worked long hours each day of the consultation, talking about our work together and as equal partners, while also learning from each other. Our expectations were met and our horizons expanded. We attempted to put in practice the 5 values of accompaniment: mutuality, inclusivity, vulnerability, empowerment and sustainability. By reflecting together on these values, we strengthened relationships and culminated our time together with the inauguration of the Center.
The journey of walking side by side with our companions represents something different to each of us: our commitments can often look different, our engagement can look different, there are different people involved, and new people are welcomed. By using the lens of accompaniment as a system of interdependence and mutuality, we embrace these individual efforts.
The inauguration of the Milagro Center represents a culmination of many individual efforts from the past and present. Over the years, these efforts become the stories of transformation. We cannot predict exactly how the stories of transformation will look like in the future, but we know that they will be present in our global work as we continue this journey of mutual companionship.
Paulina Dasse
Manager for Relationships, Latin America and the Caribbean
ELCA Global Mission