In rural Guatemala, it is not unusual for parents to send boys to school and keep their girls at home. It is also not unusual for girls to be married off between ages 12-15 so the family will have one less mouth to feed. And the cycle continues…the young women will often have ten children of their own, only to educate their sons and marry their daughters off at a young age.
How women perceive themselves is important in matters of leadership, employment, and personal relationships, among many other matters. In my recent travels and conversations with women leaders in the church, it has become apparent to me how greatly cultures and traditions influence women’s personal development and self-image. This influences family structure, systems and daily life for Guatemalans.
When I participated in a weekend retreat for young women who came into Guatemala City for the conference, it was striking to me how shy and reserved they appeared. Pastor Karen told me that even making eye contact with others is difficult for them. Many Guatemalan women will not speak when a man is present – that is why it is so important for women to have the opportunity to come together to build relationships with one another.
Pastor Karen Castillo is influencing women of all ages within the Lutheran church of Guatemala. Through her regular visits of the rural congregations she is supporting their local leaders and strengthening women by sharing the good news of Jesus Christ with them. She reminds them that God has created them uniquely with gifts to share, gifts beyond being a wife and mother.
The ILAG has done great work in Guatemala, in partnership with the St. Paul Area Synod. For example, ILAG has provided water tanks at the homes of the entire 300-family community of Maya Itza. Families now have water at home and do not have to carry water on a daily basis. Another project is underway to provide “clean” cooking systems for the homes to reduce the amount of smoke indoors that results from cooking over a fire. This type of support benefits every person’s health and wellness.
Thanks be to God for Pastor Karen’s vision, energy, and love for the people of Guatemala! Please pray for God’s hand to bless these beautiful people.