During my visit, I could see why. Diaconia Chiapas was struggling with leadership and vision. They had chosen a new board of directors, as they do every few years, but some of the older men, many of whom had been with the organization for many years, were having trouble accepting that they could no longer make all the decisions themselves. They were also challenged by the new board president’s being a woman; culturally, machismo still led some board members to see women as less competent.
But since that visit, Diaconia Chiapas has overcome all these struggles and more. They have grown and flourished as they walk alongside rural communities in Mexico who are working towards holistic development. Diaconia Chiapas provides support for this goal with trainings in agriculture, health, community organization, and Christian service programs. And the new board leadership, especially the new president, has played an integral role in strengthening their work.
From here, I’ll let the staff of Diaconia Chiapas explain, in their own words, the changes they’ve seen in these communities largely thanks to the tireless work of María Méndez Montejo, the new board president:
When Diaconia began arriving in these marginalized communities to give trainings as part of their programs, we noticed that in the majority of the communities only men participated and the women would stay at home. The women seemed very shy, and their participation in any workshop was minimal. If they did attend, they would always sit separately from the men, whether it was a church event or an event in the community. Though we tried to motivate the women to participate in these activities, they seemed closed off to the idea of change.
When the board of directors of Diaconia Chiapas changed membership last year, María Méndez Montejo became the president. Sister María began by visiting each of the three communities where Diaconia Chiapas worked, encouraging the women to participate in the different activities DC would facilitate in those communities. The staff of DC are all men, and up until this point, most of the important positions on the board had been held by men as well. María looked for creative ways to encourage the women to participate, including dynamic group activities, Biblical reflections, and simply continuing to show up for these women. Because of María’s presence, we’ve seen a change in attitude among the women in these communities.
Now, women attend trainings, actively participate, and even take initiative. The women also have a desire to serve others around them, and their trust in DC as an organization has clearly increased. The women in the communities always ask that María come to the activities we host in their communities. Diaconia Chiapas is thankful to Sister María for her courage and leadership. She has been a pillar of our work for community transformation.
We at World Renew praise God for the tireless work of María, the other board members, and the staff of Diaconia Chiapas! We couldn’t have imagined a year and a half ago that a partner struggling so much would overcome all the challenges thrown at them and actually strengthen their work in the communities because of it. God’s hand has been clearly at work here, and we’re excited to see the impact that Diaconia Chiapas will continue to have in the rural communities in Mexico as they grow as an organization.
- For the leadership of our partner organizations in Guatemala and Mexico, that God would give them wisdom, strength, and joy as they support development in remote and underserved regions
- For the members of the rural communities in which we work, that they would be able to take what they're learning and apply it, and for strengthened trust between program participants, World Renew, and our partner organizations
- For our World Renew Guatemala office staff, that God would give us strength and discernment as we work in different contexts around Guatemala and Southern Mexico
- Thanks for two wonderful visits from our partnering churches in the past two months, and prayers that these churches will truly be able to be ambassadors for Guatemala and the Kingdom of God in their communities back home
World Renew Guatemala