“I came out of the darkness and into the light.” These were the words proclaimed by a woman at the Iglecia Evangelica Luterano Boliviano (IELB) National Women’s Leadership Conference at the Jessica Crist Retreat Center in August 2015. With passionate testimony, she revealed the joy and peace she received when she accepted Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior. The movement of the Holy Spirit through the room was almost palpable, as she shared her life-changing story of coming to faith.
Hers is not a unique story. Many of the women that we met shared similar experiences. Their lives are not easy. They have many responsibilities and few of the conveniences that we in the U.S. have. The social structure does not place women on equal footing with men. The IELB and their Pastor Presidente Emilio are trying to change that. That was a primary reason for the MT Synod WELCA accompaniment trip to Bolivia.
We had the privilege of not only meeting, but communing with many women in Bolivia. We had heart-felt discussions, we ate together, prayed together, painted fabric, laughed and even danced together. We weren’t merely tourists. The Bolivian women have many of the same challenges that we have in the U.S., but they haven’t received the support of society like we have. One woman in Santa Cruz was trying to learn a native language so that she could teach in the school. She found it difficult to work and go to school while taking care of her family. A woman in Cochabamba opened up about her alcoholic husband, and another told of how her husband had quit drinking and her life was better. Some of the issues discussed were much lighter – like which songs were appropriate for worship services – the old standbys, or is it alright to sing popular songs? Sounds familiar! How about dancing? If the Spirit moves you, can you dance during worship? We thought that was just fine, and we learned a dance together. At least, we tried!
Women around the world seem to have similar interests and challenges. Some have more support and many more opportunities than others. I’m thankful that I was born in the U.S., as our society values and supports women more than many cultures. Let us all pray that the lives of women in other parts of the world will continue to improve.
Let us remember that Aymara woman’s passionate story of coming out of the darkness and into the Light. When we find ourselves in a place of darkness, let us not forget that there is Light. We are not alone. In a world of darkness, it is difficult to see beauty. It is difficult to feel peace. It is a heavy, dark place. When the Aymara woman heard the story of Jesus and felt his presence, her life changed. She came out of that dark place. She saw the light and felt the love that Christ brings. She now shares her story, to help others feel the love, peace, and joy that a life in Christ brings. She is an example to us all.