My Pregnancy and Hope Amid Colombia's Chaos
You've heard about, or maybe experienced first hand, the change in pregnant women's thoughts. This was true for me, but I wasn't able to talk about it for months. This is my story as I moved into the stream of mothers who carry children amidst turmoil and a future of total uncertainty.
Spark of life, you entered from the undercurrent of love and longing, deeper than fear or confusion. You answered our call to the deep. Our statement of faith, you declare that death will not have the last word. You are my defiance and hope.
Days before you came to be, our community suffered an attack that chilled me to the core- the Justapaz break-in. It reflected intimate knowledge of our organizational workings. It ripped from our staff the ability to protect the subjects and collectors of stories shared in strictest confidence. It shredded our desperate desire to believe that nonpartisan truth-telling could continue unmolested, even as the world began to pay attention and ask, "What can we do?"
You first made your presence known to me during our meeting at the vice president's office. As we talked with high level government officials about the series of robberies and their response, the director of the human rights program lit a cigarette beside me. A wave of nausea engulfed me and I felt the multiple pregnancy test results to be true.
As we responded to this crisis I have clung to the marvelous mysterious knowledge of you, little life, growing inside me. In moments of weakness when dread and fear crept into the corners of my soul, you helped me chase them away and return to the steadfast hope necessary to carry on. You are my Hebrews 11:1 baby.
In a striking personality reversal, my husband Jess first wanted to share our news with family and friends. I, the extrovert and external processor, was guarded and reserved.
Nine weeks since conception, and last night I realized with a sudden and emotional crash that I've been nursing a gnawing fear that this most intimate and precious symbol of life would not survive. My hope could die and be flushed away in a torrent of blood, as so often happens in Colombia. If this little spark has been my faith that goodness cannot be extinguished by violence, how could I cope with its loss? My fear of losing our call to the deep kept me turned inward with my secret.
I've long accepted that I could be physically harmed or even lose my life in this line of service. Secure in my vocation, I don't live in fear. But this life growing inside of me is something new.
Nevertheless, my body has increasingly exhibited signs that I'm not the only one inhabiting this vessel. I've grow more familiar with the little spark as a being and not just a symbol or concept. As I've grown to care for and love this tiny baby, the fear has subsided and quietly traveled from the center of my attention.
Even still, it wasn't until I read one of the reflections from the Meditations for Expectant Mothers-a wonderfully, sometimes terribly, but always charmingly, old-fashioned book that Mom gave me-that I realized what I'd been doing.
I've considered this little baby to bear my life-yearning and faith. That's quite a burden for a bean-sized babe! "Love Casts Out Fear" is the title of the meditation. As I read it the tears began to brim in my eyes, and then I found myself sobbing. An hour after reading the meditation, I sat in the dark of night with my tears and hope. My thoughts were so simple I could hardly write them down:
Hold gently that which we love most.
Faith, hope, and love.
I cannot clench these things in my fists, as if they were personal possessions to be hoarded in secret.
I can only live in them. I can make them our home with an open door. If they are to give life and flourish, I need to share them with my community.
How many times must Colombia teach me her lessons before I learn?
Janna, what might have been the outcome if members of the Justapaz staff had turned inward or fled after the attack on our office this summer? While fearful, we responded together with an extended international network of churches and supporters.
Sharing in the hope and the vulnerability-this is the essence of being a human community living in determined faith. We hope together in our vulnerability, or our dreams will whither in a clenched fist.
Maybe it's just a change of hormones allowing this existential dilemma to find resolution. In any case, now I am ready to share our news:
Janna Hunter-Bowman works for Mennonite Central Committee in Bogotá, Colombia, as the coordinator of the Documentation and Advocacy Program for Justapaz, the peace and justice ministry of the Colombian Mennonite Church. Now at more than 5 months, Janna and Jess' baby appears to be healthy and strong.