Feb 8, 2017
by Rita Nohner
Our final few hours in Tierra Nueva were spent in retreat with the SP Committee with a picnic lunch prepared by the women of TNI afterward. There were lots of tears as we said goodbye and lots of promises to hold one another in our hearts and prayers.
As we prepared to leave, we gathered in the parking lot of the TNI church, loading up the van with the lunch supplies and the majority of our Guatemalan retreat participants. Miriam and Eluvia remained with us while Martin drove the others back. We were all in good spirits, even though we knew our time together was quickly coming to an end.
There were two comments made during this time that, for me, sum up the dichotomy of a Sister Parish delegation. The joy and the sorrow. The love and the fear.
At lunchtime, Eluvia had given us each the gift of Carnival Eggs – regular egg shells that had been carefully emptied of contents, leaving a hole on one end. The shells are painted festively, filled with confetti and sealed with crepe paper over the hole. Joe was holding the bag with all the eggs and Eluvia said something that made Carrie laugh out loud. She prefaced her translation with the information that in Guatemala, the word “egg” is also a slang term for men’s testicles. What Eluvia had said to Joe was “don’t break my balls!” She was laughing her big laugh and we were all howling over the joke.
After the van arrived and we got loaded, Miriam and Eluvia stood on the concrete, looking in at us and smiling. Then Miriam asked Carrie to translate for her to give us one final message. She told us, “We know you are worried about us because of the violence we live with. But don’t worry about us. We know how to struggle. We were born for this.”
The look she gave us was so gentle and maternal. So concerned about us being worried for them. Eluvia simply nodded and smiled.
And with that, I felt my heart torn in two. Those two women, Miriam and Eluvia, are the strongest, most heroic women I know. The way they get up every day, facing extreme challenges, yet ready to take on the world, is incredibly humbling to me. I don’t know where Eluvia finds her joy. Well, I do. In her faith. That’s where she and Miriam find the strength to keep pushing on when all the odds seem stacked against them.
That’s why I was there, I guess. God is giving me the opportunity, with each visit to Guatemala, to deepen my faith. To learn perseverance. To regain perspective.
Many of us here in Minnesota and throughout our country, face great challenges in the days and years ahead. The values we cherish and the Gospel we know – one of justice and mercy and love – are ours to keep or to lose. We must persevere. We must not lose hope. We will find our strength in each other and in God.
And when our energy flags and it seems like we can’t face losing one more battle, we need only turn our eyes south to Guatemala. For 500+ years the people have fought for justice. Let us learn the art of resistance from them. Let us push on in our building of the Kingdom. God is with us and has given us each other. We are yoke mates and so the burden is made light.