Grand Canyon Women’s Latina Leadership Event
By Myrna Wells-Ulland, President, Grand Canyon Synod Women
Jesus says in Luke 14:35b “Listen, then, if you have ears!” Let us share what happened when an idea from our Latina sisters was heard.
Pr. Maria Valenzuela, retired from the parish and at that time a board member of our Grand Canyon Synod Women, had been steadily prodding our board to make a stronger connection with our Latina sisters. She’d already been in conversation with Jennifer DeLeon, the new Director of Justice from churchwide Women of the ELCA.
Last March, women from San Juan Bautista in Tucson, AZ, the oldest Spanish speaking congregation in our Grand Canyon Synod, approached our synod women’s leaders at the Conference Spring Gathering. They dreamed of an event designed for Latina women, presented in Spanish.
Perceived obstacles to attending were identified. Rossy Guzman, SWO board member from La Sagrada Familia, a new ELCA Latino congregation in Phoenix, joined the planning process. Diana Miranda from San Juan Bautista designed the event flyer and registration form in Spanish. And listen we did! Through it all, there were prayers for the Holy Spirit’s presence in the planning and in the event.
Now the first leadership event for Latina women in our Grand Canyon Synod is history! Hoping for 25 women to come, 38 arrived at Faith Lutheran in Phoenix from five different congregations in our Phoenix/Tucson area on September 27-28.
Jen DeLeon and Pr. Maria provided leadership and presentations in Spanish, the first language of our Latino women. Childcare was provided on site through Faith Lutheran’s Pre-School staff, and for in-home childcare. Hotel accommodations were arranged for the Tucson attendees. Faith Lutheran graciously provided meeting space, extraordinary hospitality from 14 men and women of Faith led by Gail Turner, music by Faith’s Latino choir members, and Communion served by Faith’s Pastor Lara Forbes assisted by Pr. Maria.
The Latina women explored characteristics of women leaders from their own experience and from a Biblical perspective. Jen encouraged the identification of individual gifts of each attendee. The women gained an appreciation of how we are all connected through our ELCA. Women sang, ate, laughed and shared together. The youngest attendees were high school teenagers.
The women committed to continue to build relationships and community, leaving empowered and inspired. “When can we do this again?” was heard many, many times.
The goal for the individual registration cost was something manageable, even if childcare was needed. This event’s success was financially supported by a gift from our Grand Canyon Synod’s Latino ministry fund, a grant from the West Valley Lutheran Thrift Store, funding from our Grand Canyon Synod Women, and a Thrivent Action Team grant. We’re grateful for the generosity of so many, allowing an opportunity for our Latina Mujeres to experience being church, and women of the church, together.
One of the attendees wrote this poem to summarize her experience, which is translated here into English: