When I launched Digital Congregations earlier this summer, it was important to me to approach this new business as a ministry—as not just a service, but my service to churches and church organizations.
I decided quickly that one way I would do this is to offer my time and talents to the Seminario Intercultural Mayense (SIM) in Chiapas, Mexico. I met the team at the Seminario one year ago through my work with The Off Ramp and was so moved by what they do among the indigenous communities there. Through artistic, agricultural, spiritual, educational, health, and women's empowerment programs, they invest time and resources into these communities to avoid displacement and enable individuals and families to thrive where they are.
I reached out to Dalia (top right), the Seminario's coordinator, and asked her how I could help. I told her I could build them a website. I could set up their social pages and teach her how to use them. I could pull together a regular email campaign on their behalf. She responded: "We need money. COVID has depleted our resources. We will have no funds left at the end of the month."
I had felt God's call to help the Seminario in some capacity when I left Chiapas in 2019. This was my chance to show up! I have spent my time since that conversation working with Dalia, the Church at Ponce and Highland in Atlanta, and The Off Ramp to put together the online event and fundraiser that start on Facebook Live tomorrow.
I have designed graphics, coordinated email campaigns, recorded podcasts, filmed videos, and done a whole lot of behind-the-scenes grassroots communication. Why?
Because I believe in what Dalia and her team are doing. I believe in their mission. I believe in their call. I believe in the dignity they offer the people they serve. "SIM is setting up people and entire communities for success in the future. Success that looks and feels natural to them. Not success that forces them to go elsewhere. Not success that forces them to speak a language that isn't theirs. Not success that forces them to be something they aren't. Success that is their own."
(This is one of my quotes from the podcast we recorded. You can listen to the episode here.)
Covid has made an already complicated situation even more difficult to navigate. In Chiapas, the children of indigenous communities don't have computers. They don't have internet. Their televisions, if they have them, are old box-style sets. Because of this, they can't access the virtual-only education that the Mexican government is offering for the foreseeable future.⠀
Even in "normal" times, these children are often at a disadvantage with regard to their education because they don't speak Spanish at home. The pandemic has caused them to fall even further behind.⠀
The team at SIM is daily traveling into these mountain villages, assessing the education levels of each child, and meeting them where they are. Their goal is to keep them up to speed so that when schools reopen the students can return with confidence.
Similarly, these communities can't access or afford hospitals. They don't have the luxury of healthcare when they fall ill with the virus. SIM is bringing both modern and ancient medicine to them, teaching them how to use the natural resources available to care for themselves and each other.
"There are no more fundamental contributions to our thriving as humans than education and health." (Another podcast quote.)
The series of online events in support of SIM starts tomorrow on Facebook Live and concludes on Wednesday evening with a more intimate gathering on Zoom.
Truly, this is about more than raising funds. This is about rallying around one of our partners in ministry. It is about showing up—even virtually—in support of their work and to encourage them. It is about sharing the stories of the people in Chiapas with our congregations and beyond.
If you think your congregants might be interested in participating in these events, please feel free to share the information included in this post. If your church would like to support SIM more sustainably as a partner, reach out to me and I can facilitate that relationship. And if you are personally moved by or would like to discover more about the work the SIM team does, consider joining us tomorrow morning and/or Wednesday evening.
Finally and importantly, I ask that you pray for SIM, for Dalia, for her team, and for the people of Chiapas.