05 July 2022, Quetzaltenango, Guatemala [tedNEWS]
Women started arriving at 8:30 am. Some had travelled up to seven hours by bus, through the winding roads of Guatemala’s western highlands, just to be there. Undaunted, and wearing radiant smiles and beautiful traditional clothes – long skirts and colourful, embroidered blouses- they took their place at the Adventist Auditorium in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala. For the first time since the outbreak of the Covid19 pandemic, over 1,500 Chapín¹ women gathered to enjoy the annual Women’s Ministry Congress.
The whole-day event, which took place on Saturday 25 June, was organised by Sara de Calderon, Women’s Ministry director for the West Guatemala Conference (WGC). “The greatest capital at the WGC is human. We have many humble and hard-working women who are fully committed to serving God. They inspire us to organise events like this,” said Calderon. The theme for the congress “Rescatadas y Sin Cadenas” [Rescued and Unchained] was chosen to “provide women with emotional tools to connect with God and each other in a deeper and more meaningful way” and to help them “find freedom from fears and regrets.” Calderon and her impressive team planned the event months in advance, thoughtfully and lovingly considering every detail: from the welcome bags filled with goodies, to the music and the butterfly-themed décor (which included a box of live butterflies, more on that later). The result was a moving, tender celebration of faith, freedom, and sisterhood in Christ.
The speaker was Vanesa Pizzuto, Associate Communication director for the Trans-European Division (TED). As the author of this year’s women devotional, No Fears, No Chains, she was no stranger to the women attending the congress. But the connection grew stronger when she greeted the ladies in Quiché and Mam, two of the Mayan languages of Guatemala. “Saqarik achalal” [Good morning sisters] said Pizzuto, before diving into an honest and vulnerable conversation on overcoming perfectionism and learning to tune it to the voice of God. “Sometimes we speak to ourselves in ways we would never speak to a friend, and we expect God to bully us in a similar way,” Pizzuto reflected, “but I suspect God is a Guatemalan², because He is too kind to do that.” In her presentations Pizzuto inspired the attendees to find freedom from the inner critic through the grace and kindness of God and to embrace their identity as cherished daughters.
Butterflies were the symbol of the congress because “they represent our life with Christ, and the freedom and transformation we can find in Him,” said Sara de Calderon. To further illustrate this point, Coty de Calderon released a dozen butterflies at the end of the programme. As the butterflies flew away or posed on some of the ladies, “they showed us that this is not permanent. This struggle, this trial will not last forever. Transformation and freedom are coming,” commented Coty de Calderon.
“My heart is bursting at the seams from all the love I received in Guatemala, and my bags from all the presents. I am taking back far more than I have given,” Pizzuto said reflecting on the event. “I am very grateful to Sara and pastor Irving Calderon for organising the congress, and to every woman who attended. I cannot wait to come back to Guatemala!”
“We were inspired by the enthusiasm and faith of these courageous women,” commented Sara de Calderon. “WGC is a multicultural conference in the heart of the Mayan world. Women came to the Congress from Huehuetenango, San Marcos and Quetzaltenango. It is inspiring to see that in the heart of the Maya/Quiché culture, women are also preparing to meet the Lord.”
¹People from Guatemala often call themselves “Chapínes” rather than “Guatemalans”.
² Guatemalans are known for their kindness and generosity.