• Abeja

Let's talk a bit about what life looks like for the majority of people in Guatemala, and how there is a dire need for safe, dignified employment where one can earn a fare wage.

Due to corruption and lack of stability that exists within the country, unemployment is at an all-time high, with people desperate for work, and without opportunities to care for their families. Feeling as though there is no solution locally, many are leaving the country in order to find employment, and a safer environment for their families, with more hope for a future.

Al Jazeera News stated that “Guatemala is also now the top country of origin of migrants and asylum seekers detained at the US southern border. Most Guatemalan migrants and asylum seekers are from predominantly indigenous highlands areas, and many are families with children” (US Agents' Deployment to Stem Guatemalan Migration Raises Alarm, Cuffe, 2019, para. 3).

There is a level of desperation and hopelessness that exists throughout all of the country that many say is even worse than during the war (which ended in 1996). To make things even harder, the overall unemployment rates are even more dire for women. A 2018 UN Human Rights Committee Report Examining the efforts of Guatemala to promote and protect civil and political rights found that: “In the labour market, the inclusion of women was very low even if women represented 51 percent of the country’s population. Only four out of ten women worked and in addition suffered a considerable wage gap of 14.3 percent” (2018, para 19).

Unemployment is the overarching theme to almost all of the conversations that occur here on a daily basis. It is the ever-present complaint when you ask people how they are, especially women; they just need work, and it is nowhere to be found. I have held focus groups with women, and the takeaway from every meeting is that people just need work; safe, dignified work.

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  • Abeja

We hear frequent mention of 'calling' in many Christian circles. But what does that mean? Many times it relates to our gifts or abilities; things that make us unique, and ways we can use those giftings for life and good.

I want to talk a bit about calling; specifically, how we have all been called to be co-creators with God. That means in very real terms, God has given each one of us the ability to be gifted creators, entrepreneurs, and to create wealth, physically and environmentally. We not only have the capacity but the mandate to create and be fruitful. We are part and reflection of God’s image, and “Part of God’s image is that he is a very generous God.” Also, the reality is that each person has “dignity and capacity within them because we are created in the image of God”.

That being said, God created each and every person with the dignity and creative capacity to create, develop, and thrive. This reality excites and energizes me when I look around at the incredible wealth of humanity I am surrounded by in Guatemala. Os Guiness (2018) also reaffirms the theological belief that we are all called to be entrepreneurs, he says “calling is not just be who you are, it is also become what you can become” (2:30). Each person has been called and designed with capacities to create because we are made in God’s image. He makes the bold statement “if we follow the calling that He has for us, we will go high and far”.

Analyzing these theological beliefs leaves me feeling both excited and confused at the same time. When looking around at the current reality of the world, there seems to be such a disconnect between what humans were created for, and how we are actually functioning. God created us in His image; to flourish, create, and expand. Poverty overrides so many of us, however, both in physical circumstances and in spirit and mindset.

One of the main examples of seeing flourishing even amidst the struggle and brokenness of this world is Joseph. I love his story, and it is such an encouragement to me. Joseph lived through so many soul-crushing difficulties, but wherever he found himself placed, he flourished and was given authority over households and businesses, and ran them with success. He solved problems and helped those around him to prosper. So even in the brokenness of this world, we can still grab hold of our calling and walk out what we have been called to by God, which is creating, expanding, and entrepreneurship.

This challenges me to not think under a paternalistic mindset, and instead see the dignity and creative capacity in each individual. What actually works is “allowing human beings to create value and prosperity for themselves”. This challenges me in only the best ways for my life here in Guatemala. We have been called not only to accept our own calling for entrepreneurship but to see those around us as co-creators and entrepreneurs and call that out in those we are surrounded by.

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  • Abeja

It's time to meet some of the special ladies that are a part of Abeja. Meet Lesbia! She brings so much heart and positive energy to each beautiful bouquet she makes. From singing to the flowers as they grow in our garden, to taking care and delight in every detail of putting together a bouquet she pours out love. When Lesbia is around, there is a whole lot of purpose in each bouquet, from planting the seed all the way to delivery!

The more we get to know one another and work together, the more I am inspired by Lesbia's strength and resilience. I first met Lesbia over two years ago, she was in a support group that I was running in town. Our meetings were a time to enjoy space with other women and work on creative crafts and activities together as we talked about both simple and important life matters.

Lesbia is a woman who holds herself with dignity; even in the middle of difficulty she had a steadiness about her, knowing deeply who she is. In those first days of knowing Lesbia, she cried almost every time we met. Her personal situation at home was extremely dark and she felt trapped inside an abusive relationship with the father of her children. The situation of abuse was nothing new for her, and had been going on for years: verbally, emotionally and physically. She was at her breaking point for years, knowing things would not get better unless she forced her husband to leave. She was in the extremely rare and fortunate position of living in her family home, so her husband had no legal ownership over the house, and she had the right to force him to leave. This is one of the leading factors, along with not being able to support their families alone, that keeps women suffering in abusive situations in Guatemala.

Despite the fact that she had legal rights to force him out, Lesbia did not have the support of her direct family. Her mother and father lived with her, and were intimately aware of the abuses which were occurring, yet they were unwilling to help for fear of what the neighbors or community would think, publicly exposing unrest within the home. Even with her parents seeing the mistreatment first-hand, to them, the better option was to accept the abuse, instead of shaming the family by exposing the truth. This is a very common cultural behavior in Guatemala, and fear of what people may think very often keeps things in the dark.

Lesbia began at working Abeja, assisting with weddings and large events, slowly learning about flower arranging, color combinations, and texture. When she first began, she was unwilling to attempt to make a bouquet, saying she felt more comfortable cleaning and prepping the flowers, but she would not be able to make a bouquet. Our times working together were filled with tears, as Lesbia mourned her mistreatment, the death of her relationship, and processed through the deep hurt she was experiencing.

Ultimately, Lesbia could not take the abuse anymore, so she took a strong stand and kicked her husband out on her birthday. She went against her family, knowing what was best for her children and her moving forward, for peace and wholeness. She was courageous, speaking truth and exposing the dark reality that was occurring, in order to walk out into liberty and freedom, knowing God was holding her hand the entire time.

Those first weeks after she left were dark and full of conflict. When her husband left, he took their bed with him out of spite, so Lesbia was left sleeping on the dirt floor. One day as we were working, she told me of her current sleeping situation, and she said she did not care. She had more peace and was happier sleeping in the dirt than having the fear and shame of an abusive partner lurking in her home. Even in her newfound freedom, she still was having to deal with the difficulties of the breakup due to many cultural factors. She still did not have the support of her own father, who was ashamed for his daughter to no longer be married. Even to this day, living in the same home, her father will not acknowledge or speak to her.

Despite the unfair cultural biases and judgment she is experiencing for leaving her husband, Lesbia is currently flourishing; living out healing, peace, and restoration, even though she does not have the support of her father. She is becoming brand new with her work, and there is a joy and brightness that did not exist months ago. She is experiencing God's restoration and peace as we work and pray among together. She is coming alive as she works with flowers, now confidently putting together bouquets and arrangements. She has an eagerness and excitement to learn and work, digging to prepare garden beds, talking about how beautiful the new varieties will be once planted. I have seen her met with the loving hand of the Father, gently restoring her belief in her own value and strength. She is an example to me of strength and solid hope. I am better through knowing her and working with her, and I am thrilled to see how God will continue to weave healing and liberty to others through the strength of her story.

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