Well now that the kids are finally in bed I can begin compiling my thoughts, which have been simmering for a couple of weeks now, in particular because I have begun my work in a formal manner, and as well because this past week saw the passing of “Tatik” (Father) Samuel Ruiz, former bishop for the diocese of San Cristobal de las Casas.
As an MCC worker seconded to a local peace-building organization, the passing of Tatik Samuel (as he was known locally) was occasion for all normal activities to stop, and for the pueblo (people) to convene in San Cristobal to collectively pay tribute to a man who committed his life to serving God’s kingdom and people. He spent approximately 50 years serving in the diocese of San Cristobal, focusing his ministry with Indigenous communities in the struggle to attain healthy communities and justice for all who have lived in Chiapas for centuries. For a full summary of his life and work, please see the link attached, which is his obituary via the Associated Press. Here I’d like to share some more personal notes from the 3 days we spent in commemoration of his life. Perhaps my best analytical point is that I am too new to Chiapas to really have a solid analysis of what his life and work meant to the region. But nonetheless, having attended two Mass ceremonies and a memorial service put on by a coalition of organizations (many of whom he helped to establish), I will share a few words that reflect what I absorbed…..perseverance and calm in the face of struggle……focus on the work God appoints…..the tension of bringing Christ and his message meaningfully to the Maya culture……strong political movement divorced from spiritual foundations……a surprising number of bohemian white folks carrying very expensive camera and video equipment!
At a time when Christian faith communities wereseverely divided (and militant), Samuel Ruiz was a voice for peace and and understanding, a contextual piece of the story of Chiapas, and a substantial reason for MCC’s presence in the region. While many faith-based divides and misunderstandings remain, there are communities and groups that are striving to work together to demonstrate God’s unifying power…I am fortunate that I get to work with 7 such community groups, focused on overcoming practical issues that challenge all in the community, such as food security and nutrition.
Two weeks ago I took my first trip to the “campo” or country-side – we were celebrating the 3-yr diplomas received by the the families that have been involved in the family gardening project since its inception in 2007. I could certainly go on and on about the natural beauty of the area (along Guatemala border south of Comitan) – one community is at about 4000m above sea level, and you are always either going sharply uphill or downhill – another community lies in a coffee-growing region, and several folks from the group have a nearly self-sustainable operation in terms of food, the kind you see in agro-ecology textbooks. In a couple of weeks we begin delivering technical and group-building workshops for each of the groups….this is where I get a bit nervous and hopeful that my Spanish skills are adequate. Based on my reception in the two communities I have already visited, I think I’ll be able to get away with some vocabulary and grammar flaws! Not wanting to set a negative precedent I did not bring my camera, and will only slowly begin documenting my work through photos as trust and friendship develop.
Lastly, I’d like to leave two parting photos of Ezra and Hilary, who each day are a joy to be with and show their resilience and vulnerability in uprooting and learning many new things along with their parents. By God’s grace we live and enjoy the knitted togetherness He has authored.