Feliz Navidad Desde Chile!
Posted on January 2, 2019 | Posted by Annie Saunders
All the way from the southern hemisphere, Ryana Holt wishes her Ascension family a warm holiday season with updates on her upcoming year in Global Missions:
I hope it has been a blessed Advent season and a joyful welcoming of Jesus’s birth. These last two months have been busy and eventful. I would love to share with you what has been going on here in Chile and in the end of my ministry in Concepción, Chile.
Christmas: After celebrating Christmas playing in two Christmas Eve services in Lutheran churches, I had a very Venezuelan Christmas with my roommates and friends. It was truly special to be in a big, loving group of others away from their homes like me. The 8 Venezuelans, 1 Russian and I celebrating in Chile. There were sacred moments of late nights and afternoons prepping hallacas for the Christmas Eve dinner (a Venezuelan tamale typical at Christmas time), complete with storytelling and good company. I learned eggnog has a sibling in Venezuela called ponche crema and that Russians typically don’t celebrate Christmas. For my part, haven been given rhubarb in a quick visit south to Punta Arenas, I offered up a rhubarb crumble as dessert which was a big success.
Christmas was a slow day with a jaunt to a nearby beach. Summertime Christmas will always be a little odd to me, but no complaints. My heart was happy.
Thanksgiving: I was planning on Thanksgiving slipping by unnoticed. All was going as planned until a Venezuelan friend I met through my roommates asked how I was celebrating and if I wanted to get connected to her other “gringo” friends who were having a Thanksgiving get together. It moved me she went out of her way to care about me and my traditions.
I shouldn’t have been too surprised. I find it is something my roommates and friends here from Venezuela do well—bring and maintain their culture and traditions though they are far from their home.
I took a note from their book and decided I would share my traditions and foods with my closest friends and makeshift family, my roomies Sonia, Alesandra and her boyfriend Aleks. I forwent the turkey for an easier option of honey glazed pork chops, with grilled mushrooms and asparagus, mashed sweet potatoes, coupled with Chilean wine, a Russian salad and pink sweaters. I’m not sure it lived up to their idea of Thanksgiving based on the TV series Friends but we had a delightful evening.
Camilo Catrillanca: Since the first attempted conquests of Mapuche land south of the Bio Bio River starting in the mid-1500s there has been conflict. Currently, the Chilean state and military have been especially violent in their tactics to repress the Mapuche people, indigenous to the area. Some reasons for this are to protect the economic interests of transnational companies ransacking the land and natural resources so sacred for the Mapuche people. The situation echoes that of so many indigenous around the world, like work I did while in YAGM in Mexico and conflicts like Standing Rock in the United States.
On November 14th , a young Mapuche leader Camilo Catrillanca, 24 years old, was driving his tractor home and assassinated by Chilean police forces with bullets entering the back of his neck. The military and government lied, attempted to destroy evidence, spread misinformation and suppressed news coverage. Protests erupted and are ongoing, largely in the Araucania region. Among buildings burned was a public elementary school of majority Mapuche students (unknown by whom). Friends, the congregation in Chiguayante and I gathered supplies, games, and materials to send so the kids could finish their school year.
This New Year we hope for, stand for, and seek justice for Camilo and all Mapuche people living in constant state violence and repression, for justice for all living in racism and state led oppression.
Women’s Retreat: In November, 48 women from 10 IELCH communities gathered for a weekend together in the coastal town of Cartagena, Chile. In the bright sun we talked about our roles in community, emotional intelligence, and conflict resolution and worshipped. It is so special to reconnect and enjoy the presence of these women, many of whom have taken me in with much love in various moments of my in global mission.
Cousins’ visit: Two of my cousins, Kelsey and Kerry, came to visit me. We took a weekend trip to Valparaíso and then spent time around Concepción, where I have been living but also where Kerry studied abroad. It was a very special visit to share this experience and place with people I love dearly and to meet Kerry’s Chilean host family, who live just down the street from me.
Year’s end and goodbyes: In January, I will be packing up and moving back to Santiago for my last 6 months. Classes have ended with celebrations of their advances in English as well as the friendships built and strengthened through them. I will dearly miss my students, my roommates, communities, and friends. What a beautiful sign it is that it was good, that God has brought me into wonderful networks of people to help me overcome challenges, enjoy the mundane and celebrate the joys. I hope this year has brought you strong relationships to accompany you as well, whether lifelong or for the moment. And may we be brave in how we live out God’s love this next year. We need it. The world needs it.
Prayer Requests from Ryana:
For immigrants far from homes, those with hard family situations and those with economic challenges during the holiday season. For indigenous communities fighting for their right to live and their right to their land. For the IELCH and the Lutheran church, that it is courageous in its love and vision. For Ryana herself as she moves back to Santiago.
If you want to hear more about Ryana’s experiences in Chile, take a look at her blog by clicking here.