Posted on March 4, 2018 | Posted by Annie Saunders
We’ve received an update from Ryana Holt, an ALC member actively working for ELCA Global Missions in Chile. On February 27th she achieved her one year anniversary in the field:
Every once in awhile I return to wondering what this is all about, this missionary thing, this church thing, this faith thing. But lately it’s mostly been about the church thing, which can be especially complicated depending on drama and politics. I suppose you could boil it down to all the humanness that goes into making community. It is both very beautiful and very broken. Looking at it from the outside one might call it crazy.
I was in a moment of this wondering when I walked out of the church I have been working in and with the last couple of months and into the retreat space pictured in above.
There is something holy about leaving the church with its pews and pulpit and finding yourself shoulder to shoulder with your community, in an improvised circle, looking at each other and at an altar with its intentional objects like various crosses, fabrics, flowers, the Bible, candles. It’s not so clean and pressed like our normal sanctuaries. Rather, it’s a little more earthy, diverse, and colorful.
Retreats have been essential in my spiritual and religious life. As I think back on past retreats, I am taken to Rainbow Trail Lutheran Camp, snuggled in by the Sangre de Cristo mountains, sipping hot chocolate out of rug mugs and tangled in guitars, stars and cool breezes. I think of one in a red barn in outside of Northfield, MN where we sat under a lofty ceiling learning about the Bible and how we are made in love, by love and for love. I think of many retreats throughout YAGM Mexico, with poems, hymns and prayers yearning for justice, where we were soul fed and healed just enough to send us back out to our communities again.
I would even assert that retreats are essential tools for communities. I found that again this January, when I was invited and attended a retreat for IELCH leaders. The retreat was at El Tabito, an IELCH owned center on the coast outside of Santiago. To say our Punta Arenas cohort was excited for some time in the sun and ocean was exemplified by the speed at which we got into our swimsuits and dove into the chilly ocean.
The retreat was a time for me to reconnect with people I had left in August and meet the communities I have yet to work with. My first boss, Izani, and her daughter Amelia, were the first of many to welcome me with big hugs. There have been many changes and hardships in the last year for the IELCH yet I felt in those days in El Tabito that healing, peace, and unity were beginning. It was refreshing.
Claudio Becker, a kind and energetic Brazilian theologian who led the workshops, expertly guided us through many topics. Some included church with a horizontal rather than vertical structure, continuous Christian education and reformation, and the church going out into community rather than waiting for the community to come to us.
We dug into parables of the lost sheep and prodigal son. We discussed Jesus. We thought about when teaching love, grace, mercy, and service how you might be able to “tell” people are learning them. We strategized about how to open these spaces to youth and the marginalized in safe and welcoming ways.
The retreat did me good. It was imperfect and left more questions than answers. But there is something about those spaces. The crosses and ofrendas in the middle. Singing side by side with mis hermanas y hermanos. Feeling the Holy Spirit move.
I am reminded how much I feel like I am where I belong, I am into something truly good. However flawed and crazy it may be.
Un abrazo grande, Ryana
Prayer requests from Ryana: for her ability to serve & accompany this community the best she can. For time to do the hard work of reflecting during lent. For those feeling alone, are sick and are in process of recovering. For us to take the steps to care for creation, to remember it provides for us all. For all those who grew and helped get the food to our tables. For our leaders’ decisions as they affect so many. For the hands who made our clothes and shoes.
To read more about Ryana’s experiences, follow her blog at https://ryanaholt.wordpress.com/
Hace un año llegué a Chile, sin conocer nadie y con muy poco conocimiento de este país y sin experiencia en enseñar inglés (por ser honesta). No ha sido un año sin obstáculos ni retos pero sin duda ha sido un año de muchas risas, aprendizaje, pan con Nescafé, miradas de “que wea me estai diciendo?”, sobremesas, más pan pero con tecito, y oportunidades de conocer muchos lugares preciosos. Pero mayormente, quedo muy agradecida por todos ustedes que ahora son parte de mi comunidad, que me han dado paciencia, cariño, y han abierto sus casas y corazones para que me sienta en casa. Gracias a ustedes, ha sido un año maravilloso. Y cabe decir gracias a las personas fuera de Chile que me quieren y apoyan. Es chistoso y bello pensar que mi trabajo es acompañar pero soy yo acompañada por tantos seres queridos.
Sí tu puedes, Ryana!