Anna Vogt is the MCC LACA advocacy and policy analyst.
Every December I take my Nativity set out of its box and arrange the figures. Every piece is familiar. The set would not be complete with Mary in the place of honour, a baby in her arms, Joseph at her side, shepherds and wise men gathering round, a few farm animals and perhaps an angel hovering nearby. After over two thousand years of Nativity sets and Christmas story retelling, the grouping of figures seems as normal as our own family photos. Without each piece, it wouldn’t quite be Christmas.
Are there, however, still elements within the familiar story with the power to surprise and speak to us today? When I try to take myself back in time, I wonder about the grouping. While a Nativity scene without a shepherd doesn’t really make sense today, in reality, this is a group of unlikely strangers, brought together by a tiny baby.
What would this look like today? Mary and Joseph, forced migrants on a journey. Shepherds, maybe a group of landless campesinxs. The Magi, perhaps a group of wealthy elite academics. The setting, a motel on the outskirts of some urban centre. The angel, an unexpected text message of great joy. We could even add an MCCer standing on the outskirst, trying to understand the local language and make sense of whatever miracle, however ordinary, seems to be taking place in the most unlikely of spaces.
In October, a group of MCC leadership, families, and I sat under the blazing El Alto sun in the Bolivian highlands. One by one, gathered family members and neighbours shared about a new joy in their lives: eating vegetables from their tiny backyard greenhouses. Many of the families had migrated to the urban El Alto from other parts of the Alitplano. They tell us that when they enter their greenhouses, they find not only fresh food, but also encounter a space of calm and tranquility in the midst of the busy city. Yet as they talk, the conversation moves away from their personal feelings to their desires for neighbours. There are so many people who could also use fresh food in the community, Olga Choque Vilca tells us. “We share what we can, but everyone in our neighbourhood could use a greenhouse.”
Oscar Rea Campos, the director of MCC partner Comunidad y Axion, tells us that bringing people together, in this case to plant and to share food, is the beginning of transformation. As we heard in our meeting in El Alto, as families from different parts of the country come together to talk about soil, they leave committed to the betterment of their neighbour and their city.
“Faith and love unite us in transformation.” Oscar says. In a world facing news of climate change, violence, and increasing inequality, “These transformed families are small rain drops of hope.”
Throughout LACA, we are invited to accompany these moments. We believe that the hope for change lies in supporting local communities, organizations and churches. When unlikely people connect around a common cause, miracles happen, just like in Bethlehem all those years ago.
Here are some of our small drops of hope this year:
- Partners coming together to learn from each other about the realities of climate change in the region.
- New opportunities for advocacy around migration with the United Nations Global Compact
- Churches as spaces of hospitality and welcome in Colombia
- The chance to change viewpoints about each other through visiting Bolivian Mennonite Colonies
- Young people in Honduras learn from each other about advocacy as people of faith
- Jorge Montes’ conditional release from prison.
- A continued history of receiving migrants with commpassion.
- Peacemaking through connecting people around the region
- Faith in the face of climate change in Cuba after Hurricane Irma
- Earthquakes, migration and new birth in Southern Mexico
- Bolivians take to the street to address sexualized violence
- A letter from communities in the bordos of San Pedro Sula
- In Haiti, partners come together to supply local food to new educational projects
This year, we invite you to look at your Nativity set with new eyes. What miracles are possible when we come together with hope, faith and love to participate in transformation?