Earlier this month, a group of men and women from two churches in Oaxaca celebrated the completion of a 12 week course called Project Change on how to prevent violence in our families and society as well as how to offer help to victims of abuse. We held a closing ceremony at Amparo y Fortaleza Covenant church where we invited a local psychologist from the DIF (a government agency that provides services to women and children) to share on the topic of domestic violence and bullying. Nine people participated in the ceremony through testimonies and a drama that shows how the church can hurt or help victims of abuse. Here is a picture of the group with their certificates of participation.
Pastor Julio shared in his testimony…
“There were times in the course when I felt relieved when we discussed certain topics because it reinforced my way of thinking, but in other discussions I felt confronted, either because I recognized that I had exercised a certain type of violence against another, or I had seen others being abused and had done nothing, or I myself had suffered violence. I trust God that discussing these topics will help us to improve and begin a process of healing in our lives and our churches, because we have been abusing others and we have been hurt by others as well.”
Some of the brothers and sisters from different Covenant churches who attended the ceremony shared afterwards how this was the first time they had heard this topic addressed in church and how it helped them see the need for the church to be trained in better understanding the diverse and complex dynamics around abuse.
This course is part of a new ministry in the Covenant Church of Mexico called MAEM, Ministering to the Abused and Exploited in Mexico. Covenant missionary Janice Kelly and a group of Covenanters in Mexico City have been praying for God’s guidance in how to begin this ministry, and God is answering their prayers, as he is bringing together people throughout Mexico to prayerfully consider how to address issues around violence within our churches.
Today is Valentine’s Day, and I like the invitation that Jim Wallis of Sojourner’s makes of us:
V-Day: Speak Out on Violence Against
Women — from the Pulpit
Read the article here:
Domestic violence doesn’t just happen in Mexico, or among the poor; this happens to women (and men) from all economic, social, racial, ethnic, and religious groups. I encourage you to read the article to gain some ideas of how you can begin to address this topic within your churches, if you aren’t doing so yet. The Evangelical Covenant Church has made this issue a priority and seeks to train and inform local churches through the ministry of AVA (Advocacy for Victims of Abuse). See this link for more information.
I also invite you to pray for us as we begin this new ministry in Mexico. As Paul says,
“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12).
We desperately need your prayers as we begin to address an ugly sin that is both inside the church and considered normal in a macho society. I just read a statistic that saddened me a great deal: “33% of Oaxacan young people believe that men are unfaithful by nature.”
May the Lord have mercy on us all, as we begin to address these stereotypes and lies that continue to keep people living in oppressive, violent relationships. Specifically I invite you to pray for Patty Restrepo, Mary Cervantes and me as we lead a workshop next Saturday with the pastors and leaders of Oaxaca on topics related to violence, such as: domestic and teen dating violence, child abuse, human trafficking, bullying and pornography. Please pray also for those who will be attending the workshop – that their hearts may be opened to how the Spirit may be leading them to address these issues in their own lives, families and churches.