By Anyra Cano
Eighteen years ago, my life was in a slimy pit of mud and mire. I had experienced a season of both emotional and physical trauma. I was longing for a community to help me out of the pain I found myself in. God was good and provided me a network of people that inspired, challenged, encouraged, and prayed for me. Through each of them, God worked to restore my life. This experience has taught me the invaluable lesson of mentorship and sisterhood.
I am grateful for several wise women in my life who took the time to listen and to encourage me. Their wisdom and mentorship helped me to restore my trust in God and to discover a new path toward Him.
The sisterhood and mentorship that I found in different women remind me about the biblical story of Ruth. Naomi and Ruth, who were not related by blood, developed a strong mother-in-law/daughter-in-law bond that led both to a place of safety and security. It is a beautiful story of two women who had endured great sorrow and pain, were left vulnerable, and then together journeyed to Naomi’s home country. In that journey, Naomi becomes a mentor for Ruth, who trustingly submits to Naomi’s suggestions.
Just as Ruth found her mentor, Naomi, during a time of loss, I found my mentor while also experiencing profound sadness. Her name is Alicia Zorzoli. I call her “Hermana (sister) Alicia”, out of respect and honor. She is not my biological sister, rather my sister in Christ.
I met Hermana Alicia in El Paso, in a small Hispanic Baptist church where she was a leader. As I was about to leave for San Antonio to prepare for vocational ministry, I remember sharing with Hermana Alicia how unworthy I felt about going to college. Her powerful and compassionate response has been implanted in my heart and mind over the last 18 years: “You do not need to be ashamed, instead look at what you went through as a part of the schooling God has for you to serve in ministry. What you went through will help you minister to others in similar situations.”
After college, I lost contact with Hermana Alicia, but her wise words remained with me and continued to guide me. Her wisdom resonated so deeply in my soul that they have become the blueprint of my ministry. And eventually, Hermana Alicia’s prophecy became reality in my life, when I also became a mentor. That day I learned that God would redeem my story and transform it into one that would become a gateway for others to also experience God’s mercy and unconditional love.
About nine years ago, God brought a 16-year-old girl into my life—Itzayana. She became a member of the church where I am the youth minister. Itzayana was shy and quiet, but she loved to learn and serve. We grew a special sisterhood bond and I began to mentor her in several areas of ministry and leadership. I would recruit her to volunteer alongside me and I would take her with me to meetings or trainings in which I was participating.
In high school, Itzayana worked diligently as she desired to get scholarships for college and had made big plans to go to the university of her dreams. Unfortunately, she was not eligible for any of those scholarships. Itzayana felt completely disappointed and defeated. Many underlining issues and fears had resurfaced. I remember her many phone calls to me, her distraught voice filled with lament.
As Hermana Alicia had encouraged me, I also encouraged Itzayana. Eventually, she attended the Baptist University of the Americas (BUA) and obtained a degree in Business Leadership. She graduated in less than three years from BUA, and this coming May she will be graduating with her master’s degree in Business Administration.
Our bond of sisterhood and mentorship has allowed me to see this young lady develop into a strong leader who is respected and dearly loved by many in our community. She brings me great joy and admiration. She has become a leader in the church. Itzayana has grown so much in her ministry, that I believe she can run the church on her very own.
Hermana Alicia and I have now reconnected after 10 years. She is a member and leader of the church where I serve. In this new season of life and ministry, she continues to be a significant mentor who loves me, grows alongside with me, listens to me, shares wisdom, and cheers me on. Recently, she wrote a bible study book titled “God, This Was Not In My Plans”. In her book, she shares about the pain she endured in life, and how those moments have prepared her for what she is today.
While Naomi was enduring great grief, she was also developing and mentoring a leader in Ruth, whose offspring would one day include our Savior, Jesus Christ. Hermana Alicia, who knew about pain and sorrow, mentored me, and today I have the privilege to lead and mentor many young people, like Itzayana, to live out God’s purpose in their lives.
While mentorship and sisterhood can sometimes be born out of difficult circumstances, this journey brings wisdom, guidance, resources, joy, and hope for the future. Similar to Naomi, Ruth, Alicia, Itzayana and me, God invites us to mentor and be mentored by people of faith and wisdom who are all part of God’s redemption story.
I am grateful for my journey. Even though it has been painful, God has placed the right mentors in my life at just the right times. And since I received freely from the previous generation, I also want to give freely to the next generation.
To mentor and to be mentored are true gifts, indeed! If you want to experience this gift, please consider joining us join us at the Christian Latina Leadership Institute where you will find spiritual, academic, business, non-profit ministry, and life mentors who are willing to invest in your journey no matter where you find yourself.
Anyra Cano is the Academic Coordinator of the Christian Latina Leadership Institute, Youth Minister at Iglesia Bautista Victoria en Cristo in Fort Worth, TX and Coordinator for the Texas Baptist Women in Ministry.