Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Three brave women

At this writing, Hal and I are in Lima, Peru for two weeks of intensive seminars with our PRODOLA doctoral students. As usual, the highlight for us is getting to know these men and women. In the new 2012 cohort group, we have twelve men and two women. These join seven students from previous cohorts. In the week we’ve already been together, the group has melded into a community of scholars and friends. We’ve become family.

Although in the minority, the women among us make a major contribution in both the class dynamics and in their own research projects. Let me introduce you to three of them.
 Nancy, Eva, Irma and Margarita

As a child, Margarita F. emigrated with her siblings from Mexico to Los Angeles, and she now has US citizenship. Margarita is the first Roman Catholic to become part of PRODOLA. She is strongly drawn to work toward communication and cooperation between all branches of the Christian church, and her perspective adds an important piece to the conversation.

Margarita currently holds the position of Parrish Life Director in the Sacred Heart Church of Los Angeles, basically a pastoral role. She is also active as a life skills coach and advocate for Hispanic immigrants in the greater LA area. As if that were not enough, Margarita is the mother of six. Behind her dynamic personality, as well as her obvious leadership gifts, one senses a kind, compassionate heart. Her ready smile warms and invites others to enter her world. 

Irma E. from Peru has been a missionary among the Candoshi tribal peoples of her own country. She lived among the people for 18 years, speaks their language, and offers a low-key holistic service of presence, teaching, and advocacy. She currently works in support of a Latin American organization, Red Transamazonica, that represents indigenous Amazonian peoples of nine countries. Irma has a special concern to see indigenous Christians doing theological reflection from their own cultural perspectives. Simplicity, compassion, and a great sense of humor combine to make Irma a person other people love to be around, myself included.

Several years ago Hal and I gathered around the dining room table with Eva M. and her husband, Juan.  They were wondering if they should apply to become PRODOLA students. This took place in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, where Juan and Eva serve in Paz y Esperanza, a Christian NGO that works with local churches in marginal barrios, seeking to help the church find concrete ways to minister to the many needs of people around them. Along with other groups, they are currently working with a Friends church.

Juan and Eva entered the PRODOLA program in 2010, and they are here these two weeks to work on their dissertation proposals. I have the privilege of being Eva’s research mentor, so we will be working closely together these next few years. Related to her ministry, Eva wants to do research on women in Santa Cruz who have suffered domestic violence.  She hopes to discover the images of God these woman have, as a key to understanding them more deeply and ministering to their needs.  It’s a fairly complex theme, but with Eva’s background in psychology and theology, she should make a significant contribution toward addressing a wide-spread problem throughout Latin America.

Juan and Eva are fun to be around. They have a four-year-old son, Felipe, whom they’ve left at home with Grandma these two weeks.  In the middle of the intensity of this seminar experience, they still find time to worry about Felipe, hoping he’s not missing them too much (and maybe afraid that he isn’t).

Margarita, Irma and Eva are three valiant women, and I am blessed to call them friends.

They are three of the more than 90 students working on their doctoral degrees in theology, all of them motivated by the needs of people in Latin America. We take PRODOLA’s theme seriously: “More preparation for better service.” May it be so.  What a privilege to be a small part of this movement.


  1. Dear Nancy, do you remember me? I used to be a Halterman back in the 70s in La Paz; whether you realized it or not, I have always considered you a sort of writing mentor. :) I am delighted to have discovered your blog, and I'd love to get back in touch!

  2. Yes, yes, yes, I do indeed remember you, Heidi. How wonderful to hear from you. I would love to catch up. Right now we're waiting for the taxi to take up to the airport and the next phase of our trip, this time back to Bolivia. Yes!

  3. How exciting, Nancy! What is the best way for me to give you my contact information? If you like, I can email my dad and ask him to pass it along to you. Looking forward to catching up!