By Alicia Zorzoli
I don’t have a sister. I have two brothers whom I love with all my heart, but I would have loved to have a sister. I would have loved someone to play and argue with, someone to share my secrets, dreams, and clothes. I would have loved someone to talk to about the boy I liked from school.
And I have realized I am not the only one who feels this way. Recently I have witnessed an amazing experience. A member of our weekly women’s Bible Study group received a very special gift last Christmas: the kit to learn about her DNA. This was very special for her as she had been adopted as a little child and, therefore, knew nothing about her biological family. The test results showed that she has a half-sister! Both of them contacted each other, and last week they finally met. It was quite a sight to see them together! They couldn’t separate themselves; my friend’s new sister shared her testimony saying that all her life she had been longing for a sister. And now God had fulfilled her dream.
In my case, at the right time both my brothers got married and gave me the best imaginable present: my sisters-in-law whom I love as true sisters. Although we live very far apart from each other, I can spend hours talking with them and we enjoy it tremendously.
These two examples can be described in just one word: sisterhood. The Webster Dictionary defines sisterhood as “the solidarity of women based on shared conditions, experiences, or concerns.” The effect of this sense of sisterhood can be seen either between just two women or among a whole group. And the impact resulting in the lives of the individuals can be tremendous, especially with us women. Be it a sisterhood related by blood or by affinity, the influence among two or many can be very powerful.
There is a foundational element in the sisterhood DNA. Be it a sisterhood of two or a group, each one maintains her own distinctive characteristics; however, there is a point of contact that brings them together. It has to be something that connects them. That could be kinship, common interests, similar likes,or vocations. In my case, the connection with my sisters-in-law was not by kinship, but through the union of two families. In the case of my friend, the point of contact was blood when both discovered that they were daughters of the same father.
I find an example of this in Luke 8:1-3. Luke portrays a group of women disciples of Jesus. They joined Jesus and the twelve apostles traveling “from one town and village to another” (v. 1), learning from the Master and serving Him “out of their own means” (v. 3). We have the names of three of these women: Mary Magdalene, Joanna and Susanna. But Luke mentions there were “many others” (v. 3). These women were very different from each other. Some had been physically healed; others were liberated from evil spirits. Some, as Joanna, belonged to a high class on the social scale; others were from the general public. Each one of them had their own particular history before encountering Jesus. But finding the Master and experiencing His powerful action on each of them was their “contact point”; it was their connection; it was what established their sisterhood. The Bible commentary, El Comentario Bíblico Mundo Hispano, expresses this bond very clearly by saying that “they had been equally pardoned.”
It is hard to imagine such a group of women walking together, covering mile after mile for days, months and even years, and not seeing them talking with each other. They probably didn’t know each other at first, but I am sure that not too much time passed before they each started to introduce themselves, asking for their names and sharing how they had come to be Jesus’ disciples. This is also part of our DNA as women! So, we can clearly see in this picture “the solidarity of women based on shared conditions, experiences, or concerns” which, according to the Dictionary, is the definition of sisterhood.
I would like to translate this New Testament sisterhood example to a present time similar situation of which I am honored to be a part. I am talking about Christian Latina Leadership Institute (CLLI). It is a three-year academic program whose main purpose is to empower Christian Latina (or Latina at heart) leaders to be agents of transformation in the micro- or macrocosms in which they find themselves. Throughout its more than 13 years of existence, CLLI has been the meeting place of Christian leaders who not only received academic instruction to be the best leaders in their field, but also received role models from instructors and fellow classmates. They also received the benefit of influence and shared experiences among themselves.
A few days ago, I met one of my former CLLI students. Her name is Ana Castellano Jiménez. She shared with me that it was CLLI who pushed her to continue her education after graduating from the university. Already married, with three children and with the difficulty that English is not her native language, she decided to strive for a master’s degree. The result? Not one but two Masters, one in Christian Ministry and the other in Christian Counseling. But Ana’s story doesn’t stop there. She is currently working towards her PhD in Education. Ana recognizes CLLI as the impulse God used for encouraging her to advance in her studies in order to be the best Christian leader in her field and make an influence that leaves a mark in many lives.
Yes, it is true that I did not have the sister I longed for when I was a child. But when I look back, I can see that God did compensate my desire by making my cup overflow with a superabundance of “sisters.” First, God gave me my sisters-in-law. Then, He gave me an army of women whom I have personally met in more than 50 countries all around the world. Their bond of friendship and affection continue making a strong impact in my life and more recently through CLLI. And this is exactly what sisterhood is all about!
Alicia Zorzoli is a Bible teacher and international lecturer, she has published numerous articles in Christian magazines and books. For more than ten years she has been a part of the CLLI faculty.