Celebration, Gratitude and Hope

By Nora O. Lozano

Para leer en español haga clic aquí.

It is a new year, and there is much to celebrate, be thankful for, and hope for.

To start, I want to celebrate the CLLI blog’s first anniversary. Thanks to the good work of all the monthly writers, the editorial committee, the translators, as well as our blog coordinator and publisher, Anyra Cano, we are completing one year of publications. We are also very grateful for you, our faithful readers. Thank you for reading the blog every month. I hope that during this past year your life as a Christian leader was enriched by each one of the published pieces.

As we start our second year of publication, the blog will deal with different topics that are pertinent to the life of the Christian woman leader. We invite you to continue reading the blog every month. We trust that you will be blessed, encouraged, and challenged as you continue your journey as a leader.

In addition to the blog’s anniversary, we are thankful for many other things. The CLLI trainings continue with great success, helping to develop many Christian women leaders here in United States and in Mexico. The CLLI donors and friends continue giving generously to help us achieve our goal of transforming women’s lives in the name of Christ. The CLLI faculty, coordinators, and staff continue working diligently to serve all of our students in the different sites, while the Board continues to oversee and guide the CLLI ministry. I am so thankful for all these people who play a vital role in the life of the Institute. They are indeed a gift from God!

Furthermore, we are looking at the future with much hope. This is the year that the CLLI Board will be charting, together with the staff, the new strategic plan that will guide the CLLI course over the next five years. We are excited about this process, and we cherish your prayers as we discern God’s will and plans for the CLLI.   

I hope that you have welcomed also the New Year with much celebration, gratitude, and hope.

I invite you to celebrate and be thankful for the small and big things in your life. Take a moment to remember the things that we often take for granted, such as health, shelter, work, clean water, food, clothes, family, and the presence of God in our lives.

By the time this blog is published, it will be almost the end of January. Perhaps at this point in the year, many of us are facing broken New Year resolutions, and are frustrated with our lack of commitment. 

Regardless of your situation, I want to invite you to continue to look at the New Year with a sense of hope. While our yearly resolutions may be broken, I encourage you to make new plans— perhaps monthly or weekly resolutions— that may be more easily achievable and will keep you motivated. If we set a weekly goal, and we break it, very soon it will be Monday again, and we will have a new chance to start again.

Since our lives are very diverse, I am assuming that our goals for 2020 most likely are also very different. However, I am reminded of John Maxwell’s affirmation that a good leader must first learn to lead herself or himself. 

As you learn to lead, ask yourself what areas of your life you need to change? What do you need to improve in order to “be a truly effective leader, the kind people want to follow” (John Maxwell, The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader, p. ix)?

While this personal work is important, I want to invite you also to keep working on the most important foundation of your life: your relationship with God.

Psalm one offers good advice to establish a solid foundation for life. In verses 1-3, the Psalmist invites us to delight and meditate constantly in God’s Word, and to stay away from bad companions and evil doers. These actions will lead us to be blessed persons, indeed. The Bible compares this blessed person to a strong tree that is planted by steams of water, yielding fruit in its season, and without losing any leaves. This kind of person is prosperous in everything that she or he does. 

Regardless if you are facing any particular challenges right now, any good leader always has room for growth and development. May this Psalm inspire you in the New Year to anchor your life in God’s word and in the good actions that will come from this relationship. May it inspire you to become the leader that God wants you to be, and that people would want to follow.

And as you grow and develop this year, please remember that the CLLI is here to help you in your development as a leader. So let’s pray for each other as we continue with our leadership journeys, and let’s support each other as we pursue God’s plan for our lives.  

The year 2020 is still young, and thus a blank slate. Under God’s blessings, let’s make it a prosperous and blessed one! May it be so!

Dr. Nora O. Lozano is Executive Director of the Christian Latina Leadership Institute, and Professor of Theological Studies at Baptist University of the Américas in San Antonio, TX.

SISTERHOOD AND TEARS

By Adalia Gutiérrez Lee

Para leer en Español haga clic aquí.

I never thought that at my age it would be so difficult to talk about my sisters; not because I don’t have something to say, but because I have too many things that I could tell you. I had two sisters and both of them died; one as a baby and one at a very young age. After having lost relatives so close to me, I was able to understand the verse “for love is strong as death” (Song of Songs 8: 6, NRSV); and after my experience I even dare to say that love is stronger thandeath. Although my sisters or our loved ones may have passed away, the love and close relationships that link us to them still persist. I do not pretend to be morbid talking about death or sad things, but I also do not want to ignore that love: “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love never ends.” (1 Cor 13: 7-8 NRSV)

If we are afraid of suffering, it will be difficult to love. Even when I remember the many times I have cried for the people I love, or the many times I have cried over the loss of a loved one, I also realize that this is nothing when compared to the times that I know Jesus, and all the people who love me have cried with me! 

I remember that there was a time in which I experienced a “streak” of losses of people very close to me in a way that made me feel “contagious”. I didn’t want people to get close to me for fear of passing my “bad luck”, or having to try to find an explanation to so much suffering. I do notconsider myself a superstitious or pessimistic person, but I was having a hard time processing my loss and grief. However, I also remember how much love I experienced at those moments from the great family of God as they embraced me and cried with me! I would not have been able to move on after such losses, if God had not manifested Godself in my life through the solidarity, prayers, hugs,and tears of all my sisters and brothers who loved me.

Now that I am at another stage of my life, I do keep expressing my love through tears. Yet, I no longer try to find an explanation to suffering; I only know that when we love, we also suffer.  My life has been marked by tears of love although these tears have not only been of sadness, but tears of joy for having talked and shared precious times with my mother, sisters, sisters-in-law, cousins, daughters, nieces, and friends.

Latin American culture is well known for cultivating close relationships with the extended family; my family was no exception. I remember when my sister thanked me for living near her when she was sick as she told me: “Your presence has made such a big difference as from heaven to earth! Our daughters are not living together as cousins but as sisters, as you and I used to live and to share together.”  After she died, I have tried to continue that unity between them. There is a unique and special bond and value in friendship and love between sisters. How many times we have laughed, or cried, or even thought of the same things when we are with our sisters! How many times we have fought with them and then repented because it is not worth it for anger to prevail in our relationships!

This time of advent in our Christian calendar is also a time of waiting. A time filled with hope, peace, joy and love. We need to confess our love and to live it first as families, and also as the family of God. Particularly this year, as many countrieshave been suffering calamities, strikes, injustices, poverty, hopelessness, war,and death. Our call as a family of faith is to wait with hope, peace, joy and love.  If we are to suffer for loving, we also need to remember that these tears of love are the ones that will remind us of the love and solidarity that Jesus has for us, for them, and for our people always!

Adalia Gutiérrez Lee serves at the International Ministries as the Area Director for Iberoamerica and the Caribbean and is a part of the CLLI Board.

SISTERHOOD: THE WOMEN GOD SENDS

By Nora Silva

Para leer en Español haga clic aqui

I have always considered myself a girl’s girl. That’s because I value the women in my life and have recognized how deeply I was, and continue to be, influenced by women.  I think about many of the women who have helped exemplified that influence for me over my lifetime. I first think of my mom and her sisters and even her sisters-in-law. My aunts were and still are women I look up to. Each of them contributed to unique experiences in my upbringing. What I saw amongst them was a connectedness that was based on something that I now recognize as deep trust and real love. While I may not have understood it all then, what I observed was the encouragement through the difficult times, the celebrated accomplishments, the laughter, lots of laughter, and the consistency of it all.

 I am blessed to have four sisters. My three older sisters encouraged me and often set the stage for me to succeed and provide for me in ways that my parents at times, could not provide. My sister Cissy sent money, after she moved away and made sure I had new clothes for school. My sister Lettie set the great example of pursuing higher education and had me stay with her in the summers, giving me inspiration to do the same. My sister Doris, at seventeen, worked at a local fast food restaurant and used her hard earned money to enroll me in gymnastics because she knew I loved the sport and my parents would not be able to pay for it. She also made sure I was in church on Sundays with her.  All of them provided opportunities and options in my life. They worked hard to extend the boundaries of my experiences so I could go beyond where they had gone. My youngest sister Anna did not have this role in my life early on. I adored her as a baby but she became a nuisance to me, the little sister I had to take with me everywhere I went. As adults though, she has become one of my best friends.

Each of my sisters had, and continues to have, a unique impact in my life. Cissy with her sweetness and patience evokes peace in me. Lettie brings out the fighter in me. Doris demonstrated obedience to God and brought out the surrender in me. My youngest sister Anna, taught me that while I looked up to some women, there were others looking up to me. These experiences contributed to who I am as a person and who I am as sister in the greater picture of life. Because of geographic distance, I don’t get to see my sisters often enough but similar to what I saw with my aunts and my mom, the trust and the love is deep, real and constant.

Fortunately for me, sisterhood does not end with my biological sisters. One of the strongest characteristics of the women I call sisters, is the willingness to stand alongside me in the fight. I have been blessed with women who after disagreeing with any one of my decisions and consequences that resulted, have said, “How can I help, you are not alone.”  I have been blessed with women who after hearing my struggles say, “Head up, God’s got you”. I have been blessed with women who may not be saying anything at all but pray for me and with me. This is sisterhood. To come alongside other women and lift them up, hold them up and walk with them especially when they are struggling to keep their balance under the weight of this thing called life. 

My experience with CLLI has been this type of journey. I have met some amazing women who have done just what I described. They have stood alongside me, encouraged me and prayed for me. It is in this circle that God’s calling for me began to be highlighted. I joined CLLI as a faculty member and then board member. Like many of us, I felt unqualified to be serving in this capacity, not because I didn’t have the skills to teach my subject matter, that was the easy part. Rather I felt unqualified before God. I thought somehow it was a mistake that I was part of the amazing work God was doing through CLLI. It was here though, where women who I admired and looked up to, showed me that God was calling me to something special. More importantly is through this sisterhood experience that I was reminded that on my own, I am not qualified but with God, I have all I need to step in God’s purpose for me. 

Like the women who were the first to see the empty tomb, I am surrounded by women who are caring, committed, loyal, faithful, and over all go-getters. I can imagine the sadness and loss they were experiencing but working through that together to do what was needed. I am sure they encouraged each other through the waves of grief they must have felt. In their commitment, to God and each other, they got to experience the amazing truth of Jesus’ resurrection together (Luke 24:1-12; Matthew 28:1-10; John 20:11-18). How amazing when God allows us to experience sisterhood in such a way that our lives are forever changed and the stories we share will tell of God’s love through the women God sent 

Nora Silva is the Executive Pastor of Mosaic Church of San Antonio and a faculty member for Christian Latina Leadership Institute. She also serves as the Chair for the Hispanic Women’s Network of Texas.

The Therapeutic Bond of Sisterhood

By Zoricelis Davila

Para leer en Español haga clic aqui

Recently I read a post on social media that said, “talking to your best friend is sometimes all the therapy you need.” I have to admit that as a therapist I know the therapeutic value of going to counseling to address issues that can only be managed with a professional. Nonetheless, in leadership and at CLLI we have experienced a therapeutic bond of a beautiful sisterhood. As Christian Latina leaders, sometimes we face many challenges such as discrimination, cultural expectations, stereotypes, and many others. These challenges present themselves with potential discouragement to continue in leadership or pressure to conform to cultural and societal norms. In times like these, we turn to our sisterhood for support, prayer, encouragement, and guidance. Those wonderful, godly, extraordinary friends and colleagues in ministry who have walked this journey before us, and/or with us.

This sisterhood is more than just a group of friends in leadership together; it is a group of godly, passionate, tenacious, compassionate and hardworking women doing ministry together. We have become more than just colleagues in ministry, we have become sisters in leadership. In psychology and counseling, there is a term called familismo referring to a cultural value that emphasizes close, warm, caring, loving, supportive family relationships.[i] The term also prioritizes family over self and it has been associated with contributing to psychological and emotional health. When we face challenges in ministry we take a hold of this value of familismo to stand firm together to support each other in the work of the Lord. 

Being in leadership together means that we are always finding new ways to help other women in ministry. We plan conferences, retreats, seminars, and many other avenues to empower other Christian women leaders, Latinas and Latinas-at-heart. We share common struggles, give each other ideas, support each other during our challenges and encourage each other to achieve our highest potentials. We are all different, but we all share the same Christian values.

We have been there for each other during the loss of loved ones, academic journeys, weddings, anniversaries, births, new jobs, change of jobs, retirements, and many more life-events–all while doing ministry and being leaders in our respective areas. We have cried together, laughed together and admonished each other in love when it was necessary. In doing so we have become more effective leaders. Leadership cannot be done alone, it is a community effort. There is no way that we could have achieved all we have in this ministry had it not been for The Lord and the bond of this sisterhood called CLLI. We are more than a sisterhood, it’s a partnership, a support system, mentorship network, and a seed-bed of leaders, scholars, ministers, and collaborators in the work of the Lord.

In an era where women in leadership have been questioned or criticized, we have a sisterhood of Christian women leaders, Latinas and Latinas-at-heart, who are bonded together for the sake of Christ to make his name known. Our vision is Empowered women in leadership impacting the world from a Christian perspective. Together, we motivate each other to continue our journeys as leaders, working in our respective congregations supporting the ministry of the church to accomplish the Great Commission.

In the bible, we see a beautiful bond of sisterhood in Elizabeth and Mary, the mother of Jesus (Luke 1:39-45). Both were given the beautiful ministry of being mothers to Jesus, our Savior, and John the Baptist, the forerunner of Jesus. At the moment that Mary was given the news of her new role, she visited her cousin Elizabeth who was six months pregnant with John. I believe that Mary needed the support of Elizabeth in a time where she must have been overwhelmed with the task at hand amid the cultural expectations. Their encounter was an affirmation from God for both that they needed to support each other in their respective ministries of motherhood.

Personally, God brought CLLI to my life in a time when I was entering a new area of leadership as a professional counselor. CLLI was my “Elizabeth.” Although I have always been a leader in my church, this time God was calling me into a broader ministry beyond the walls of my church. God used CLLI to open doors to publish books for our Latino community to bring healing to families. God also used this ministry to develop my leadership skills as a board member, faculty, and mentor. Then God called me to achieve a doctorate and continue to empower other leaders through the counseling ministry. I could not have accomplished any of this had it not been for the therapeutic bond of the sisterhood of CLLI in my life. These ladies have all been “Elizabeth” to me.

Leadership can be difficult at times, but it can also bring much joy. God can take you to arenas never explored before and God could be calling you right now into an area of leadership in ministry that may seem overwhelming. Please know, God never intends for us to go through life or ministry alone. God surrounds us with a sisterhood that can empower us, support us, bring healing and refreshment to encourage us in our journey. At CLLI we have a special bond that has carried us in moments of trials, suffering, challenges, joy, and many accomplishments. We would have never been able to do it by ourselves. Come join us and be a part of this wonderful bond of sisterhood in leadership. There is no other group that I would rather do ministry with than my sisters at CLLI, being together is therapeutic. “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing” (1 Thessalonians 5:11).


[i]Campos, B., Ullman, J. B., Aguilera, A., & Dunkel Schetter, C. (2014). Familism and psychological health: the intervening role of closeness and social support. Cultural Diversity & Ethnic Minority Psychology. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0034094


Dr. Zoricelis Dávila, Ph.D., LPC-S,  is a Licensed Profesional Counselor Supervisor with 17 years of experience.  She has a private practice in Fort Worth, TX serving the Latino community.  Dr. Davila serves on the board of CLLI and as faculty member. She is also an International speaker, author, and a Professor of Counseling.

Adopted

By Jana Atkinson

Para leer la version en español, haga clic aquí.

I was raised as the middle child in a big group of daughters. Needless to say, sisterhood is one of the very first thingsthat I ever understood, and something I have always loved. Due to differing circumstances, a few of my sisters are adopted. My parents, out of abundant love, adjusted their lives and made sacrifices in order to address the needs of others. Although my sisters and I do not all have the same DNA, our shared experiences and conditions have forged a bond that is really important to me, and I believe has the potential to make an impact in the world. Our sisterhood is the first place in which I saw the Lord’s hands at work in my life. I have always held a very deep admiration for adoption. The adoption of my sisters is by far the most meaningful moments of my life. To me these amazing moments serve as the greatest examples of the gospel. 

As awesome as our sisterhood may be, we have not always been a picture-perfect group of siblings. The good Lord has indeed made the Atkinson sisters to be individuals who are all completely different. The differences found between the members of our group have brought forward many misunderstandings and arguments. At times, barriers have been present causing painful distance in our relationships. However, the goodness of our loving God has always overshadowed the hard times we face. I will never forget the most awe-inspiring time that the Lord’s faithfulness proved true. The Holy Spirit carried us through the toughest situation we have ever faced. 

There was at time we found ourselves in a place where one of my sisters, due to unfortunate circumstances, was not speaking to any of us. During this time, something happened to her which changed her life forever. Without hesitation or any second thoughts within one day all six of us were together picking up the pieces and embracing one another with unconditional love. It was during this season of my life that I was in the process of fully surrendering my life to the Lord. Seeing God’s faithfulness in this unbelievable situation, brought me to my knees in full surrender. This is where I began to live every day of my life living completely submitted to Him, and it was also when I fully acknowledged my calling to ministry.

 I must admit the Lord has created quite an interesting group between us. The bond my sisters and I have reminds me of a biblical truth. The dynamic of our sisterhood is an example of how God loves our differences equally.   The love that God  has for each of us is personal and incredibly beautiful. The diversity among my sisters and I compels me to praise the Lord because of the beauty of it all. While we are not the picture-perfect group of siblings, I can say we are a great representation of the body of Christ. 

We have very different gifts and roles, yet we still have one goal in mind, and that is to be the representatives of the Atkinson name and the very parents who raised all of us. It is in the same way that the different members of the body of Christ have different roles and gifts and all work to glorify the name of Jesus and represent the very God who brought us redemption (I Corinthians 12).  This is a beautiful biblical truth: no matter the circumstances surrounding our lives, because of Jesus’ sacrificial, unconditional, and undeserved love, we are all, without any doubt, members of the family of God.  It was this very unexplainable love that drew the God of the universe to come and pay the heaviest of prices so that we may be redeemed and adopted into God’s  family.

It would have been easy for my parents to offer their prayers,  provide money, or help make arrangements to improve the lives of my sisters. Instead, my mother and father chose to take on the heaviest of burdens and raise my sisters as their children. No matter the circumstances surrounding our lives, because of sacrificial and unconditional love, we have all been adopted into the family of God. So, it is my prayer for all of us to take this truth and share it with the world through the lives we live and the love we share.

During my first semester at Baptist University of the Americas, my favorite professor, Dr. Nora Lozano, invited me to be a part of the Christian Latina Leadership Institute. I have to admit that this surprised me, because I am not a Latina. However, out of deep respect for Dr. Lozano, I attended the CLLI training  and took the course the following semester. I was adopted into the CLLI family with great love and support as a Latina at heart. I have grown immensely being a part of this amazing Christ-centered community. It is with confidence that I can say, that the women who have taken me in will encourage me and push me to wholeheartedly chase after the Lord and his calling in my life. I am proud to represent my sweet savior Jesus as a Latina at heart.

Jana Atkinson is a third year CLLI student, and a senior at Baptist University of the Américas, majoring in Biblical and Theological studies. Upon graduation, she will pursue a Masters of Divinity at Logsdon Seminary. 

THE TABLE WHERE THERE ARE ALWASY PEOPLE EATING…

By Roz García

Para leer la version en español, haga clic aquí.

“I know where you live! At the house where there are always people eating at the table!”

They were my first outings as an adolescent, I was about 12 years old. I was excited to hear that the boy I flirted with knew where I lived! But I never imagined hearing him say: “At the house where there are always people eating at the table!”  I wanted to die of embarrassment!

Yes, this was our reputation in the neighborhood. 

At my parent’s house, there is a round brown table with 6 beige chairs in the kitchen. Above is a ceiling fan with a yellow bulb that cools the air on summer days and shines at night. It is located in front of a window that overlooks the garage of the house. It seems like a shop window, and at any time you can see someone sitting there reading, eating, talking, laughing. That is, and has always been, our place of reunion. I miss that table. 

I have so many memories of experiences at that table. It is a welcoming place for anybody, where they would be treated as my “sisters and brothers.” I learned to share this sense of “companionship” with anyone in my life who sits at my table. 

At our table there will be provision for my brother and sister

At this table there has never been a lack of food. My mom is a very good cook. I have never managed to cook like her, but what I did learn very well from her was to never doubt God’s provision. There would always be enough to share even if I thought there was insufficient food. Just as Jesus distributed food while he loved (and there remained plenty of leftovers in the baskets) I too can evidence his miraculous provision daily.

But Jesus said, “You feed them.” “But we have only five loaves of bread and two fish,” they answered. “Or are you expecting us to go and buy enough food for this whole crowd?” Luke 9:13 NLT

At our table there will be teaching moments for my brothers and sisters…

When I was a student and I returned from school, my sister and I would sit down to eat at that table while my mother asked about our day. It was a time to chat and complete our homework. The hours passed and we were still studying …

Today we continue to learn at the table while we savor our coffee, diverse conversation, and the Word of God. We are free to read, meditate, inquire about, and debate the Bible in order to learn from it on a more personal level. 

Fear of the Lord is the foundation of wisdom. Knowledge of the Holy One results in good judgment. Proverbs 9:10 NLT

At our table there will always be communion without discrimination for my sister and brother …

My memories of family gatherings as a child, include bickering over a seat at the “adult” table. Everyone wanted to sit there and it was funny to see additional chairs squeezed in or two people sitting on the same bench so they could be present. It was a time where all people were equal, there was no discrimination there, young, old, women or men. We were simply a “tribe”.

Today I can continue having communion at our table with all those people who want to be a part of our “tribe”, one that respects and values each person, with the understanding that diversity is God’s creation. 

There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:28 NLT

At our table we will be servants of my sisters and brothers …

Another memory I have, is seeing my mother making, organizing, and arranging placemats, napkins, glasses, spoons, and everything that might be needed when sitting at the table. Seeing the table all beautiful was like an invitation to sit and enjoy. She continually asked if we needed anything, if we wanted a tortilla, soup, or another taco. I felt important when Mom tended to my needs. Now when visitors come to my house, my goal is to make all those who arrive feel special. To be kind and make them comfortable. Jesus served, and he is my example. What a great blessing it is to be able to serve.

But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, Matthew 20:26 NLT   

At our table there will be inclusion for those brothers and sisters who feel lonely and need to be heard… 

At that table I shared situations that bothered me or hurt me. I heard my friends talk about their life situations, I was present when they needed to be heard… 

They knew they would be heard there, without any judgement. Sometimes I only listened to silence, and other times tothe voice of my father and mother when they disagreed with something, or to the voice of my sister giving me advice. I learned that my voice, and the voice of other people, were important. It was a table that would be inclusive of “my brother or sister” who arrive tired, weary or rejected by their family or community. This was a table that bore my yearning – a desire to help people see the hope we have in knowing Jesus. This was the table where we were able to share what God teaches us about love, life, and our values…

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28 NLT

At our table there will be love and mercy for my sister and brother…

Love requires decision. In days of pain and hurt we find it hard to love … But at our table we decided to love.

Keep on loving each other as brothers and sisters. Hebrews 13: 1 NLT

How I miss that table! But today I have a table where I can go. Our CLLI table where we gather. A table where we live out sisterhood; and where we find love and mercy among us. It’s an inclusive table where our voice is heard loudly; a service table where we use our gifts. It’s a communion table without discrimination where we learn from one another. And above all it’s a table of bountiful provision,where we can experience what God has been doing in each one of us.

I am proud to sit at our table … It’s a table where there are always people eating . . . . eating the Word of God!

Roz Garcia, is the Coordinator of CLLI Metepec, Mexico and a 2018 graduate of Monterrey Mex.

Sisterhood is not born, it is created

By Monica Salinas

Para leer la version en español, haga clic aquí.

Can you imagine eleven girls between the ages of five and seventeen eating together at a round table? Anyone would think that it is a children’s birthday party, but no, that was the daily dynamic at the Salinas home.

I am number ten of eleven sisters. Growing up surrounded by them, each unique and different, was a blessing. Although I must confess that things were not always well between us, and sometimes I did not appreciate the gift that God had given me. As in all families, due to various factors or circumstances, tensions sometimes occurred between us.

In my case, I had difficulty relating to one of my older sisters. The differences in age and painful circumstances were factors that caused these difficulties. Additionally, my sister was not a believer, therefore our values ​​and way of thinking were very different. As a result, our relationship was very distant for years. I kept myself distant from her because of resentment for things in the past. Although I was not the only one with whom my sister had difficulties, I was the one who remained the most distant.

Many times, the Holy Spirit called me to seek reconciliation with my sister. And although I knew I should do it, I did not have the courage, or I did not know how to do it. Maybe you can relate to me.

As I began to pray for her, I realized that there was also much pain in her heart and that my sister and I needed each other. Little by little, God taught me how to love my sister just as she was. It wasn’t until that moment that I could leave the past behind. I gained the courage to seek her out and ask her for forgiveness. We forgave each other and since then (although we continue to have differences) we have cultivated a relationship of sisters. Now I can tell her and show her that I love her, and that I care.

I do not share this story to call attention to myself as the “perfect sister”. Instead, I intend to emphasize the fact that even though one can have biological sisters, it does not guarantee that we will interact with each other as true sisters. It takes love, humility, intentionality, and courage to get close to those who hurt us in the past, even when they are part of our own family. 

Sisterhood requires intentionality. In my country there is this saying, “leaders are not born, they are made.” I think that is also true for friendships that become sisterhoods. The bonds of love, affection, and commitment must be formed in order to unite. A sisterhood is created when we decide to be the kind of person that loves and gives. The one that chooses to remain when everyone else has left, and the one that extends her hand even when she has nothing more to give but a hand.  

That is the kind of sisterhood we find in the bible between Ruth and Naomi. Contrary to all prognosis, the relationship between daughter-in-law and mother-in-law became such that, even when there were no legal ties to unite them any longer, Ruth decided to relinquish her opportunity to return to her immediate family, and remained with Naomi. She decided to face the same fate as her mother-in-law in a strange country, although that meant that her chances of remarrying and raising a family would be reduced.

Apparently, the ties that bound Ruth and Naomi were now stronger than their initial relationship of kinship. Perhaps the difficult circumstances of life had united them more. Upon arriving in Judah, Ruth worked hard to bring her mother-in-law food to eat. Later, they made a plan so that Ruth could marry Boaz; and the story ends with her giving birth of to a son, Obed.

Although not all sisterhood stories conclude with a happy ending like this one, it is important to highlight the love and commitment that Ruth and Naomi shared. They sought the goodness in each other. Moreover, the cost Ruth was willing to pay to continue the relationship with her mother-in-law was remarkable. None of this happened by chance or because of their formal legal relationship, but because Ruth sought to become a daughter to Naomi.

Throughout our lives, God gives us the opportunity to meet people who become as close or more so than our own family members. Sometimes they come into our lives as a comfort in times of pain or need. Other times, it is up to us to show our friendship and be that “friend who is closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24).

Ever since I got married, I have lived far from my family. As a pastor’s wife I have also experienced loneliness in ministry. I particularly remember in 2012, being away from my country of origin and not understanding the language very well. I was going through a difficult time. Feeling very lonely, I attended my first CLLI training and there I found what I needed. In addition to receiving a great amount of affirmation from God and understanding of my call, God gave me three beautiful friends who were like sisters in times of need. My life after that experience was never the same. It was as if God had prepared a beautiful surprise that would fill my heart with hope, renew my strength, and give me clarity to understand the purpose for which God brought me here. I thank God for the blessing of being part of CLLI because this ministry, in addition to empowering and training Christian women, it provides them with appropriate space for fellowship.

It is clear that sisterhood is not just born but is purposefully made and built by taking the initiative to create spaces where the good of the other person is sought. It is in these intentional spaces where a friendship grows and flourishes, to become a beautiful, powerful, and blessed sisterhood.

Monica Salinas serves as the Administrative Associate of CLLI and is a graduate of our program.

THE DIFFERENT FACES OF SISTERHOOD

By Becky Klein

Para leer la version en español el clic aquí.


What is sisterhood, anyway? In my experience it has been the blessing to have one or more women who share a common bond; who share confidences without assigning judgement and without violating trust; and whom provide hope and solace when encountering times of difficulty, confusion or sadness.

Over the years, I have found sisterhood in a few select instances that were, and continue to be, extremely meaningful to me.  One of those times was when I deployed in the military to the Middle East. I was one of two women who deployed from my unit.  I arrived in a strange land knowing no one but my fellow female colleague.  Soon, we not only bonded with each other; but also, with the other few women in uniform in our Tent City.  We experienced together the realities of daily military life like adjusting to out-houses and weekly showers.  We also fretted about our children and family on the other side of the world.  We were concerned with keeping up physically with our male colleagues.  We also had shared interests in our eating habits, keeping our tents tidy; and even partook in random urges like ensuring we had pretty painted toes inside our hardened military boots.  Moreover, we had to accustom ourselves to a land that segregated women in public places, limited our activities like driving and going to the gym, and forced restrictions on what we could wear when we went off base. 

None of us knew what the next day would bring given the daily scud missile alerts and threats of a chemical or biological war. Having a group of women that experienced together these pressures and anomalies was comforting.  It gave us confidence in each other and in ourselves.  The sisterhood was a safe haven from existential and external threats. 

I also have experienced sisterhood in my office.  Over ninety-percent of the people I have employed have been women.  Not because I have pre-meditated that, but because women have shown up in my orbit that happen to be the most qualified and experienced for the jobs.  Moreover, the other companies that share space in my office suite  are run by women who have also employed mostly females. Over the course of the last twelve years, this group of professional women have come together to learn from each other professionally and personally. 

For instance, last week fifteen of us gathered in the office for lunch while listening to a female author teach us about what it means for women to become financial savvy and independent. We shared stories and questions about our relationship and philosophy about money.  This topic is often difficult to discuss with our significant others, much less with officemates.  However, as a sisterhood of professionals, we felt safe in sharing sensitive conversations and personal financial worries. We left the lunch each more enriched by learning from each other’s tribulations, and wisdoms. 

Christian Latina Leadership Institute (CLLI) provides the same kind of sisterhood experience.  However, given that the foundation of CLLI is anchored in the power, grace and wisdom of the Word of God, the CLLI sisterhood is a much deeper experience.  It’s not just about having shared geographical bonds due to external threats.  It is more than coming together due to professional commonalities and goals.  

CLLI provides a network of women who walk in the Light of the Holy Spirit and exude the love of Christ—a love that is changeless regardless of circumstances, time or distance.  The sisterhood of CLLI provides a place of learning through grace and empowerment.  The sisterhood of CLLI understands that we are each eternal and a reflection of Godself. It’s not about uniting due to life’s externalities; but rather, it’s about connecting from that spot deep within ourselves that yearns to know profoundly our Creator and to share with each other God’s His purpose for us in this dimension of life. 

I hope you have had a sisterhood experience.  But more so, my prayer is that you are called to come join the sisterhood at CLLI, and grow with us as we learn to lead in the power and grace of God. 


Sisterhood and Chiles Rellenos

By Raquel Contreras

Para leer la version en español, haga clic aquí.


As a Latina, one of the things that I enjoy the most about visiting friends or family in their homes is feeling so welcomed and free to stay over and talk for hours.  The after-dinner fellowship in our gatherings is a tradition that unites us and helps us enjoy life together and reminisce about our history.

I believe that Latinas always practice this with great grace and strength. Every time someone comes to our home, the first thing we ask is: “Can I serve you a glass of water or coffee? This sense of hospitality through food, however simple this offer may be, brings about a closeness to our relationships, and produces a strong sense of sisterhood.

In my country, Chile, we have a phrase among women, which makes a lot of sense to us: “Conversémonos un café” – “Let’s talk a coffee”. That means, let’s sit down, have a coffee and talk about life. Let’s practice friendship.

This sense of friendship (sisterhood) around the table is a very present reality in the life of Latinas. Some of us may have hard jobs that require a lot of diligence on our part.  And some of us may use our mind for mathematical calculations or to make transformative decisions for other people or for companies; Yet we relish sitting at the table with our friends and talk about the simple things of life: How do you make chiles rellenos (stuffed peppers)? Where do you buy your clothes? What did you play when you were a girl?

The dining table of a Latina is a space that we fill with our sense of sisterhood, of friendship, and a place where we learn from one another.

I love thinking that Jesus always practiced this. We see him sitting at the table with people who did not have a very good reputation and having a good time.  We see him serving breakfast for his friends after they spent a long night working.  We see him feeding more than five thousand tired people that he had invited to follow him.  We especially observe him giving special instructions to remember him every time we drink the wine and eat of the bread. How beautiful! The table and what was happening around it, was of great importance for Jesus and his friends.

Acts 2:46-47 reminds us how the early Christians lived and experienced this fully, “Every day they devoted themselves to meeting together in the temple complex, and broke bread from house to house. They ate their food with a joyful and humble attitude, praising God and having favor with all the people. And every day the Lord added to them those who were being saved.” (HCSB)

That sense of “joy and humbleness of heart” is beautiful for me, worthy of being imitated. Our sense of sisterhood must always bring joy to our lives—a joy to live that can only come from the Grace of God in us. Furthermore, the humbleness of our hearts should influence our sisterhood to be inclusive, cheerful, compassionate, and a praise to God.

I get excited to think that our sisterhood is an invitation to be part of the different circles we belong to, so that we can also have favor with all people. The final part of Acts 2 verse 47 affirms, “And every day the Lord added to them those who were being saved.” In other words, if we take care of communing with our friends and others (eating “chiles rellenos with cheese” around the table), the Lord will take care of evangelism.

What a blessing it is to be a Latina and to be able to enjoy life this way!   

Raquel Contreras is the general director of Editorial Mundo Hispano in El Paso, TX. She serves on the Board of Directors of CLLI.


The Strength of Sisterhood

By Patty Villarreal, LMSW

Para leer la version en español, haga clic aquí.

The word strength conjures up images of power and confidence. God provides people, women and men, who cross our path with strength which maximizes our God-given potential. Power and confidence give us courage to pursue an action towards our dream.

As women we sometimes tend to gravitate more towards other women, our sisters. In my case, similar to Alicia Zorzoli, who wrote last month’s blog, I did not have blood sisters. Growing up, I was envious of my female friends who had sisters. I watched those special bonds between them. They always had a companion when they went places. They shared intimate secrets and protected each other. Yes, they fought but what siblings don’t. I always wondered what it was like to have a sister.

By the grace of God, He gave me lots of “sisters” when I became a Christian. Immediately, I inherited a world of hermanas (sisters). I have the privilege of sharing special bonds with many of these “sisters”. I have hermanas who I confide in and they confide in me, who protect me and I protect them. I have hermanas who walk with me in my relationship with Christ and I walk with them to live life more abundantly. My life is blessed with my hermanas.

My dream and strong desire has always been to encourage the best in others. In my years as a leader and in my profession of social work, I come across people who aren’t aware of their gifts and talents. I encounter those who lack self-confidence, and the limited perception of themselves hinders their ability to see how valuable they are to God. 

My life mission includes “elimating barriers that hinder God-given potential in children and their families”. The Lord has allowed and guided me to do that in the lives of individuals, families, churches, and in systems. Thankfully, I didn’t do this in isolation. I am often a part of a group of colleagues, or a community who is working on ways to eliminate those barriers for families, and many times I am doing this alongside of my hermanas.

This is a blessing in itself! However, the extra blessing comes when I walk this journey with other believers. Often, it is with and through my hermanas who come from the same framework and understanding of Christ’s love for us and others. Mis hermanas bring a Christ-like perspective in the work of encouragement and elimination of barriers. Often times, it’s a learning process for women of God who are seeking God’s will together.

The Christian Latina Leadership Institute (CLLI) was birthed that way. From the desire and vision to bring out the best in others and in communities. The seed of the CLLI began in collaboration with a like-minded sister, Dr. Nora Lozano. Through the beginning of a friendship and sisterhood, two Latina leaders in the Fall of 2005 began to dream and fashion a movement to help other Latina leaders maximize their God-given potential. God used divine conversations, our networks, and encouragement of each other as Dr. Lozano and I traveled the journey together to create and develop the CLLI. 

We did not do this alone, in these last 14 years, God has led friends, advisors and faculty to work with us. 

The initial concept of CLLI has now matured into a non-profit, an executive director, and a CLLI board that now lead the organization. We not only teach Latinas but also Latinas-at-heart, from whom we also learn. They are gifted women who always bless us as we continue to fine-tune the Institute.

My friendship and sisterhood with Nora Lozano continues to grow in ways beyond our ties with the Christian Latina Leadership Institute. I came across this quote from Sabrina Newby, CEO and founder of the Coastal, Georgia Minority Chamber, which describes our relationship:

“I’m proud of her; she’s proud of me. There is no competition animosity, envy, or jealousy. We’re just secure, confident women doing our thing while supporting each other. I call that a SiSTARship and it is the essence of a Smart Woman Achieving Greatness. (SWAG).”

SiSTARship is a program which empowers women to lead. I pray that those reading this blog have a SiSTARship type of relationship with others – “confident women doing our thing while supporting each other”. 

I believe that it is almost impossible to be the best that you can be if you are not a part of a community of hermanas. This sisterhood is a divine gift from God. A sisterhood is made up of women who are connected by genetics or by their faith in Christ, who are ready and able to walk alongside you, build you up, share confidences, and protect you. 

The Bible speaks wisely about the importance of living and serving in community: “Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble.” Ecclesiastes 4:9-10  This passage goes on to say, “Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.” Ecc. 4:11-12.  The power of community is certainly important in the Bible. 

If you are blessed to have a SiSTARship community around you, give thanks to God, and keep nurturing it. If you do not have one, pray for a community of sisters.  Take initiative and start being a good sister to other women, and eventually, with God’s blessing, you will enjoy the riches of having an hermana or a community of hermanas surround you. 

At the CLLI, we strive to be this community of leaders –a SiSTARship– that encourages each other in the journey of leadership.  As we continue offering training at different sites, please consider joining us and becoming part of this community that bonds together to achieve excellence in God.

Patty Villarreal LMSW, is the Co-Founder of the Christian Latina Leadership Institute, and Adjunct professor at the Baptist University of the Américas.