I ran into an old friend recently who told me he has enjoyed following the Se Luz updates over the years. He, in fact, said, “I used to get your newsletters, but haven’t seen anything in a while.” You might be thinking the same thing.
The truth is, my old friend is still on the Se Luz mailing list, and so are you, most likely. And it’s also true that he and you haven’t heard from me for a while. That’s not because there are not great things happening in Guatemala with our Se Luz youth. That’s not because there isn’t news to share. What’s going on is that I’ve lost my voice.
DISCLAIMER: As I unpack what I mean by ‘lost my voice’, I’m going to get personal–and for me that inherently means political. I understand and celebrate that not everyone shares my political ideologies. Persuading you to come over to ‘my side’ is not my aim, but rather to shed some light on the radio silence you’ve been hearing from me for the past year. I understand the risk in talking politics from the platform of this blog, and as the face of Se Luz. These are my personal experiences and views, and should not be projected onto Se Luz. But these experiences have had an impact on Se Luz, which is why I’ve chosen to share it here, with you. I am trusting you to suspend judgment with some of the things I share, and hoping that I can count on your empathy. It is this trust and hope that I hold in my heart which empowers me to tell you my story today–and to take the first step towards reclaiming my voice.
November 9, 2016. I woke up to the news that the United States of America had elected President Donald J. Trump. The night before, Election Night, my husband texted me from bed saying, “It’s over. He won. Come to bed.” Experiencing full on shock and denial, I could not look away from the television, let alone sleep. I was on maternity leave anyway, I told myself, I would stay up late to watch the West Coast results come in that will inevitably turn this thing around. My dear husband eventually convinced me that it was time to give in and go to bed. Suddenly his consistent chorus from the previous year and a half pulsed through my mind, tormenting me on repeat, “President Trump. El Presidente Trump-etas. El ganara, veras. He is going to win, you’ll see.”
Felix, like a prophet, knew that Trump would win the presidency long before he won the Republican primary. He knew it the day Trump announced his candidacy with that unforgettably traumatizing (for us) speech calling Mexican immigrants rapists and murderers. Throughout the campaign, Felix said over and over that Trump was going to win the election. I dismissed that thought at every turn. I understood that lots of Democrats didn’t like the idea of voting for Hillary Clinton (myself included, although I did cast a sacrificially strategic vote for her; my views better align with the Green Party) but told myself, surely everyone can see that Donald Trump is a fraud and will not be elected! I had convinced myself that Trump’s entire campaign was a hoax and he was just looking for attention, but would never actually win.
Shock. Denial. Anger. Bargaining. Depression. Testing. Acceptance. These are the 7 stages of grief. I confess I had a few fits of anger on Facebook in the aftermath of the election. I lashed out at Trump voters, blaming them for my pain. To anyone who I offended during those dark days, I offer a sincere apology. I’d add regret in those stages somewhere. Part of my processing this experience was dealing with the heavy cloud of regret for not listening to my husband’s insistence that Trump would win. He was telling me something, based on his experience and perspective, that I refused to hear. There was an opportunity to grow in relationship with Felix that I completely dismissed, making me no better than those who’d consistently dismissed him and thus formed his opinion that Trump not only could, but would be elected. It’s difficult to come to terms with the idea that I contributed to my husband’s pain. In a word, I have regret.
Now seems an appropriate time to fill in some significant context to this story. I imagine you wondering why I would be grieving an election result. Maybe you’re thinking that using words like trauma and grief is an extreme reaction to something that’s pretty inconsequential.
My reality is that the health of our government, who is in charge of it, and the rhetoric coming from it all have a direct impact on my daily life. My husband, an immigrant from Mexico, and I deal with significant problems in navigating the legal immigration system. While we desire allyship in the US government as we face these challenges, it’s actually very difficult to find anyone in the current government who is willing to expend political capital on helping us. Our situation would have improved with hypothetical President Clinton. Alas, with actual President Trump, the threat of the US government initiating action to break up my family is very real, and a daily concern. For me, the term trauma is an apt descriptor of my experience since the 2016 election.
I used to be somewhat self-actualized. I have found that in a healthy mental and emotional state is where my creativity thrives. Since Trump was elected, I have become hyper focused and anxious about keeping my family safe and in tact. I have been obsessed with following the news–where are the ICE raids happening, what new policies are coming from Washington DC, who is Trump putting in charge of CBP, DHS, ICE and USCIS, what is the actual likelihood of impeachment or some similar end to this nightmare… Not only has my creativity suffered in this state of being, my voice has been choked out. It only took me 850 words to get here, but now you know why I’ve been silent.
Se Luz, as an organization stateside, has suffered because of this. My leadership has waned, as my ability to ‘be present’ with the organization is basically non-existent. I haven’t been actively fundraising. I haven’t been communicating. Ultimately, because of what I laid out above, but also for other factors, I made the heartbreaking decision to retire from leadership of Se Luz. It pains me to step away from my official role with this organization that I founded and have championed for the last 11 years, but I’ve become convinced that this decision was a necessary step in order to usher in a new phase of growth for Se Luz’ ministry in Guatemala. I have loved serving this ministry, and look forward to continuing to support it in its next phase. Today, I invite you to join me in lending support, which will be significant in helping guarantee a smooth transition in the new year to Se Luz’ new infrastructure (news on this will be forthcoming).
Here’s a link to make a Give to the Max donation, for which we have a $3000 matching grant (that means all donations are doubled up to $3000! ~Your $25 gift becomes $50 with matching dollars~): https://givemn.org/organization/Se-Luz
I’ll leave you with a list of dreams I’ve had for Se Luz that I am leaving on the table. I invite you to pray for these ideas, but more importantly for Romeo Sactic in Guatemala and all Se Luz youth–past, present, and future.
Se Luz Apprenticeship Program–Establish partnerships with trade schools near Santiago (Antigua, Guatemala City, Chimaltenango) that will award credits to students for participating in Se Luz service projects. Our projects teach youth skills in masonry first and foremost, but also in welding, carpentry, and some mechanics.
Se Luz Widows’ Cooperative–In recent years, our projects have become heavily focused on serving individual families, almost always consisting of a widowed matriarch and several children. I envision a community made up of these families and others; a cooperative of resource sharing (child care), community garden (for consumption and revenue creation), school help for kids, and social support through positive inter-generational relationships.
Se Luz Business spin offs–Not a creative name, but having a vision to create small businesses that would be owned by Se Luz or Se Luz youth. Example Se Luz Painters–They would contract with local businesses or churches to paint exterior/interior, either being gifted or having the use of Se Luz tools/supplies/materials to start, but becoming independent as it becomes more established.
Thank you for your grace in allowing me to share from the heart today. It is not an easy thing to do (for both of us, maybe). Please know that, regardless of politics, I love you. I am grateful for you and the role you’ve played in my life and the life of Se Luz. Peace.