“A Wide Door for Effective Work Has Opened to Me”
That’s a phrase Paul used in I Cor. 16:9 that we often use in our prayers. Yet again, we find God doing more than we could imagine or ask for. The pandemic may have closed some doors, but Zoom, prayer, and the Holy Spirit open others.
SEVEN NEW COUNTRIES TO START GIRLS’ CLUBS, PLUS TEXAS!
For the past four months we have been in conversations with partners throughout Latin America exploring the possibility of launching a pilot program in each country. To date, mission partners in
• Costa Rica
• El Salvador
• Nicaragua (World Vision)
• The Dominican Republic
• Mexico, and
• The Texas-Mexico border region (these with Cooperative Baptist Fellowship/Fellowship Southwest churches)
will sponsor pilot Talita Cumi Girl’s Club programs in churches and communities. With these clubs we will have approximately 500 girls participating in Talita Cumi Girls’ Clubs beginning the third week of January.
The Girls’ Clubs materials now consist of a full two years of curriculum. For the book we used photos of girls around the world from International Ministries’ archives, acknowledging with gratitude that we come from a long tradition of a missiology that supports work in human development and in empowering women.
Writing the lessons and the guides for mentors has been a team effort, with colleague contributors Adalia Gutierrez, Melissa Gutierrez, Sarah Nash Matos, Sharon Buttry, and Ruth Mooney. Sarah Matos has been indispensable in the editing and contextualizing process of the final version of the materials. She is now in Bolivia, preparing to launch the project.
We will begin in January because of another important aspect of the Talita Cumi project. Training local leaders to implement the program is fundamental to everything we are doing. During the month of December, Barbara will be training one program coordinator in each country who will in turn train and support the mentors throughout the pilot project.
Barbara is thrilled that many colleagues and friends in the countries mentioned above have come alongside of her to support this project. Without their support and tireless efforts, this project would be impossible.
A special thanks goes to our Area Director, Adalia Gutierrez, who has cultivated these partnerships for the project. Special mention goes to our dear friends and colleagues, Ruth Mooney, and Sue Hegarty, who are heading our efforts in Costa Rica, to Ketly Pierre, who is coordinating our efforts in the Dominican Republic, to Patricia Cofre, in Ecuador, and to Sarah Matos, in Bolivia.
As these Girls’ Clubs meet over the next two years, we will be performing an official outcome evaluation of the ways Talita Cumi is impacting the lives of the girls who are participating, as part of my graduate research at Texas A&M University.
With this information we will be able to identify best practices that we can share with practitioners developing other programs reaching under-served pre-adolescent girls, and we will be able to apply to funding sources for financial support that will allow for the sustainable expansion of the program within each country.
A GLIMPSE AT TALITA CUMI IN PRACTICE
The mission of International Ministries is “to work cross-culturally to invite people into the discipleship of Christ and to proclaim in word and action the kingdom of God and His righteousness, peace, and abundant life for all creation.”
Talita Cumi follows this mission by extending to the most vulnerable girls a vision for the future that will help them navigate everyday challenges and become agents of change in society. The Clubs are small “laboratories of life” where each girl gains skills that she will carry with her into adulthood.
Churches gain a tool for ministry to their communities, calling and equipping women into effective service.
Talita Cumi Girls’ Clubs teach the virtues of faith, hope, love, courage, moderation, justice, and wisdom. The program combines mentoring relationships, learning activities, and service opportunities.
A Safe Place: Healthy Relationships
A Talita Cumi Girls’ Club is a safe place to be a friend and make friends. Most of our participants spend a lot of time alone at home, perhaps with siblings or vicarious family. While they may not participate in activities that promote social competence, many have access to social networks that give them the illusion of genuine relationships but, in effect, only isolate them.
In response, the Girls’ Club provides them with a relationship with mentors in their community who are Christian women trained in the project. They help the girls build healthy relationships. This close relationship, combined with a supportive social environment, combats one of the main sources of their vulnerability: social isolation.
An Open Door: Service
Research indicates that the most effective teen-pregnancy prevention strategies are service initiatives. The Girls’ Club opens a door for girls into a world that needs them, a world that waits for them to choose to play a role and develop into thriving, contributing persons.
Each club will choose a social service project to work on throughout the year. Through this initiative, the girls discover that they are not alone and learn that when they help others, their own burdens become lighter.
A Countercultural Vision: Spiritual Formation
A Talita Cumi Girls’ Club gives the girls a countercultural image of who they are and how to value themselves. Girls form their self-image through a combination of narrative activities and the study and practice of Christian virtues: love, faith, hope, courage, prudence, temperance, and justice.
It aims to help young girls tell their story through the redemptive light of the gospel and develop those strengths of heart that will enable them to overcome the challenges they face daily.
An Opportunity to Start the Future Today: Habits
Life is made up of everyday habits, and habits are formed through action. Each module focuses on creating in the girls a different habit related to the featured virtue. As habits are actualized through the practice of the seven virtues, each module adds a daily practice of the seven virtues.
THE WATER FOR ALL PROJECT AND THE WORLD MISSION OFFERING
The following video highlights the impact of the World Mission Offering this year. It features the creative and important service of our colleague Ricardo Mayol. The Water for All Project is one part of a larger work in Latin America, equipping a remarkable corps of ecumenical partners to address environmental and justice issues and present alternatives.
My contribution is in training and equipping people to set up model rainwater harvesting systems in communities where water sources are damaged.
This video also gives you a glimpse of one Rainwater Harvesting project in Guatemala.
In Their Own Words – Why Rainwater Harvesting Is Valuable
A longer seven-minute video showing the design of the rainwater harvesting project for a school in Guatemala is found below.
If it’s too long, you can use the Fast Forward feature!
Dwight trained local leaders and helped them learn how to design this system via Zoom, e-mailed documents, and prayer!
This group of servant leaders in this community took the design principles and added their own ingenuity to create this solution to a longstanding water shortage.
Here is Johnny, in his own words, expressing how valuable this system is to the community:
“So, what is the water going to be used for here in the school? As we mentioned before, it will be used in the bathrooms. It is also going to be used in the kitchen and for cleaning the entire school.”
“We don’t have potable water here in this community. People here, for the most part, have to carry water from far away to their houses, to their homes now that we are entering the summer season. So, keeping the school supplied with water is difficult, and it’s something very necessary for the service of the school. Through this project we feel happy.”
“We’re content because we’re going to have water.”
“I’d also like to say that our community has been quite abandoned by the government authorities because we don’t have drinking water, we don’t have drainage. Practically the only thing we have in this community is the school, and it was in very bad condition.”
“I also want to express my gratitude once again because this project is a great blessing, a project that we in this community regard as a miracle of God, and we continue to pray to Him for you as well.”
“May God continue to bless each one of us, and may He also continue to bless the hard work you are doing in the ecumenical council. May God give you wisdom, may He give you the strength, the fortitude, the energy you need to continue working for the needs of the communities, for the defense of the territory. I also want to tell you that we are carrying on in the struggle here, defending our natural resources, and we continue to insist, saying “No!” to mining.” “
(An edited transcript of portions of the video)
Two more Rainwater Harvesting projects are underway in a neighboring community, and in a village in Chiapas, Mexico.