Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Universal Mother > Family Update

Sunday January 25th

Today I listened to a persecuted woman, mother to mother. Idia, the wife of disappeared pastor William Reyes, held Amara on her lap as I fed my 10-month-old (!) a late lunch.

“…Since the disappearance (of my husband William) I´ve held firm in my commitment to our ministry. Even though the mission told me to, I haven’t wanted to leave…”

Amara discovers she likes the cream of carrot soup that I prepared for her, and stops twisting around to pull at Idia´s long, tight ringlets.

“…Maybe our town isn’t even on the map, but our people are wonderful... I was unwavering in my determination to stay, but this changes everything. They tried to take my daughter!”

Amara looks up at the sound of Idia´s gasp. She watches as Idia´s face contorts and tears escape her. I gesture to take Amara, but Idia holds her tight. “No, please…keep feeding her.” We resume.

“…The same man who showed up at the church and demanded that the church secretary tell him our home address tried to kidnap my daughter…´“Is that a picture of your family? You´ll come with me, and I´ll show you your father…´ She escaped.”

Idia shudders and comes up for air. She pauses. Smiling widely at Amara she shares, “Children are my weakness. I used to provide childcare because I love them so. My son was fair like Amara when he was young.” The cloud passes over her face again.

“I want to leave. They can torment me, but I can´t bear the harassment of my children. If something… I want to leave.”

After the meeting and before going into the street I took special care to wrap Amara snuggly to me in the carrier, but it wasn’t until I was putting her to sleep for the night that Idia’s fear and perilous circumstances took hold of my heart’s imagination. What must it be like for the birth giver to feel the life issued forth torn from her care? I held my beautiful little girl as she nursed peacefully, her body fully relaxed on mine—trust, her small hand on my breast—sustenance.

In Colombia, as in other places with life-adverse conditions, giving birth is an act of optimism and faith. I’m told that it wasn’t until recently that Colombia ’s purveyors of violence intentionally involved children in their deeds. Now it is clearly a cruel, calculated strategy of manipulation and trauma induction. The images of dead and maimed children in Gaza play before my eyes. The beauty and power of motherhood ravaged, taunted. Women through history who experience the violent loss of their children must know a profound kinship.

Tonight I began doing my job as a universal mother.



* * * * *

Life is more balanced, but there’s not time for personal writing the way I once did. Now I update my facebook status instead of blogging! But here´s a short family update.


Jess is a wonderful father. It’s a gift for me to learn to know him in this capacity. He continues to enjoy his work with Witness for Peace, but the recession has hit the organization hard and there are difficult decisions to make on the horizon. He travels more this year; he returns from Venezuela tomorrow. The WfP committee tasked with dealing with the financial crisis will meet in DC the weekend of February 7th, the weekend we are scheduled to move into a larger apartment (with hot water!) a few blocks from where we are currently. The timing isn’t ideal on that front, but it will allow him to visit his Dad who slipped on ice and was badly injured, and we have a caring, generous community that will help with the move.

As for me (Janna), the classes I’ve taken so far have affirmed my decision to return to school, specifically seminary at this point. I take one distance course from a US Mennonite seminary and one from the Colombian Mennonite seminary each semester. Limiting time as coordinator of our human rights and peace monitoring program is an ongoing challenge; the original idea of half-time is an impossibility. The challenges are many, not the least of which is the snowball effect of the documentation program: the more people learn of the possibility to speak their truth, the more limited our ability to respond to victims´ universe of needs in proportion to the stories recorded and the desperate needs shared. Tensions easily develop in this environment.

Trite but true, it’s hard for us to believe how quickly Amara is growing up; we’ll celebrate her first year on March 11. She provides endless entertainment and great joy. She “dances” in time to music (her Colombian identity staking its claim). She quickly scoots out of site, only to peak out and wait for the “peak-a-boo!,” and gives very wet kisses. She delights in industriously throwing soil from the houseplants. Her first words appear to be, “hi daddy!” She squeals with glee and looks at those gathered around the table as we hold hands before dinner.

Here's wishing you could all join us around the table to be buoyed by Amara’s exuberance, to pray healing for the many broken hard spots, and to give thanks for all that is right.

Peace and hope,
Janna