Women started arriving at 8:30 a.m. Some had traveled up to seven hours by bus along the winding roads of Guatemala’s western highlands just to be there. Undaunted, and wearing radiant smiles and beautiful traditional clothes — long skirts and colorful, embroidered blouses — they took their places in the Adventist auditorium in Quetzaltenango.
For the first time since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, more 1,500 Chapín¹ women gathered to enjoy the annual Women’s Ministry Congress.
The whole-day event, which took place on June 25, was organized by Sara de Calderon, Women’s Ministries director for the West Guatemala Conference (WGC) of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
“The greatest capital at the WGC is human,” Calderon said. “We have many humble and hard-working women who are fully committed to serving God. They inspire us to organize events like this.” The theme for the congress, “Rescatadas y Sin Cadenas” (“Rescued and Unchained”) was chosen to “provide women with emotional tools to connect with God and each other in a deeper and more meaningful way,” she added, and to help them “find freedom from fears and regrets.”
Calderon and her team planned the event months in advance, considering every detail, from the welcome bags filled with goodies to the inspirational music and the butterfly-themed décor (which included a box of live butterflies). The result was a moving, tender celebration of faith, freedom, and sisterhood in Christ.
The guest speaker was Vanesa Pizzuto, associate communication director for the Trans-European Division (TED) of the Adventist Church, based in St. Albans, England. As the author of the 2022 women’s devotional book, No Fears, No Chains, Pizzuto was no stranger to the women attending the congress. But the connection grew stronger when she greeted the women in Quiché and Mam, two of the Mayan languages of Guatemala.
“Saqarik achalal!” (“Good morning. sisters!”) Pizzuto said before diving into an honest and vulnerable conversation on overcoming perfectionism and learning to tune it to the voice of God.
“Sometimes we speak to ourselves in ways we would never speak to a friend, and we expect God to bully us in a similar way,” Pizzuto told the attendees. “But I suspect God is a Guatemalan, because He is too kind to do that.”2 In her presentations Pizzuto inspired attendees to find freedom from the inner critic through the grace and kindness of God and to embrace their identity as cherished daughters.
Butterflies were the symbol of the congress because, Calderon said, “they represent our life with Christ, and the freedom and transformation we can find in Him.” To further illustrate the point, Coty de Calderon released a dozen butterflies at the end of the program. As the butterflies flew away or posed on some of the women, “they showed us that this is not permanent. This struggle, this trial will not last forever. Transformation and freedom are coming,” Coty de Calderon said.
“My heart is bursting at the seams from all the love I received in Guatemala, and my bags from all the presents,” Pizzuto said, reflecting on the event. “I am taking back far more than I have given. I am very grateful to Sara and Pastor Irving Calderon for organizing the congress, and to every woman who attended. I cannot wait to come back to Guatemala!”
“We were inspired by the enthusiasm and faith of these courageous women,” Sara de Calderon commented. “WGC is a multicultural conference in the heart of the Mayan world. Women came to the congress from Huehuetenango, San Marcos, and Quetzaltenango. It is inspiring to see that in the heart of the Maya/Quiché culture, women are also preparing to meet the Lord.”
1. People from Guatemala often call themselves Chapínes rather than Guatemalans.
2. Guatemalans are known for their kindness and generosity.