by Myrna Wells-Ulland
Jesus says in Luke 14:35b, “Let anyone with ears to hear listen!”
Let me share what happened when we [Women of the ELCA Grand Canyon Synod] heard and acted on an idea from our Latina sisters and Women of the ELCA.
Retired ELCA pastor and former Grand Canyon Synod board member Maria Valenzuela had prodded our board to make a stronger connection with our Latina sisters.
Then last spring, women from San Juan Bautista in Tucson, Ariz., the oldest Spanish speaking congregation in our Grand Canyon Synod, approached our synodical women’s leaders at the conference spring gathering. They said they had dreamed of an event designed for Latina women that would be presented in Spanish.
And when we learned from Jen DeLeon, Women of the ELCA’s director for justice, that she conducts Latina Leaders’ Retreats for the organization, our idea took shape.
Rossy Guzman, a Grand Canyon board member from La Sagrada Familia, a new ELCA Latino congregation in Phoenix, helped with planning. We identified perceived obstacles for those wanting to attend the event. Those included childcare, affordability, and housing. We prayed for the Holy Spirit’s presence in planning and conducting the event.
A successful event
And now the first leadership event for Latina women in our Grand Canyon Synod is history. We hoped for 25 women to attend the September event. But we got 38 from five congregations in the Phoenix/Tucson area. That’s thanks in part to Diana Miranda, of San Juan Bautista, who designed the event flyer and registration form in Spanish.
Jen and Pastor Maria led the event, held at Faith Lutheran Church in Phoenix. From the Latino culture, they explored leadership characteristics with a biblical perspective. Jen encouraged every attendee to identify their individual spiritual gifts. She said she wanted them to see themselves as the leaders they already are. Jen also talked about how all women are connected through Women of the ELCA.
To get more women in the area to attend, we arranged hotel accommodations for those attending from Tucson. We also offered on-site and in-home childcare. The youngest of our attendees were in high school. Faith Lutheran provided the meeting space, childcare, its Latino choir, communion [thanks to Pastor Lara Forbes and Pastor Maria], and extraordinary hospitality.
When can we do this again?
Women sang, ate, laughed, and shared. Most who attended committed to building relationships in their community. They left the event empowered and inspired, asking, “When can we do this again?”
The event was financially supported by a gift from our Grand Canyon Synod’s Latino ministry fund, grants from the West Valley Lutheran Thrift Store and Thrivent Action Team, funding from our Grand Canyon Synod Women and the InFaith Community Foundation.
We’re grateful for the generosity of so many, allowing an opportunity for our Latina sisters to experience being women of the church, together.
Myrna Wells-Ulland is president of the Grand Canyon Synod Women. Photos from the Grand Canyon Synod Women. Feature photo of the group who attended the event.
If you’re interested in learning how to organize a Latina Leaders’ Retreat, contact Jen DeLeon at 773.380.2455, [email protected].