Ofelia García Hernandez: Leading as a compañera and a partner

David Landis

“Our theology and identity is fundamentally Anabaptist, and justice is the model of Jesus,” states Ofelia García Hernandez, moderator of the Conferencia Iglesias Evangélicas
Anabautistas Menonitas de México (CIEAMM), the Mennonite conference in the Mexico City region. She also serves as the pastor of Pueblo en Transformación, which vibrantly expresses itself as an Anabaptist agent to promote social justice in the surrounding neighborhood.

Living up to its name as a people of transformation, this church of around 60 persons on the southwest side of Mexico City has started initiatives to meet the needs of the local community. They have invested much by countering drug trafficking with youth, offering summer Bible Schools with a peace education component, and providing support programs for single women who suffer from family violence, sexual assault, and poor economic status.

Ofelia is one of three women pastors in CIEAMM. She admits that being a woman in church leadership has at times been challenging in relating to church leaders in both North American and Mexican contexts. With around 90% of the church being made up of women and children, having a woman in leadership has provided an atmosphere of hospitality and approachability within the community as they addresses women’s needs in the neighborhood.

Vicenta Camacho is currently one of the deaconesses of the church, coming to the Anabaptist faith from a Baptist background. She’s passionate about serving the needs of the community of God, something she had difficulty doing in previous church experiences as a woman. At Pueblo en Transformación, Vincenta sees her ability to use her abilities and skills as a deaconess, as an expression of the Anabaptist value of justice, promoting gender equality in leadership roles. She says, “If someone works in this church, it is because of the gifts they have.”

Since 2004, a relationship with Deep Run East Mennonite church has been budding with Pueblo en Transformación. Both groups have had opportunities to visit each other’s congregations over the past few years, supporting each other by helping with service projects, exchanging prayer lists, and providing financial resources.

With the difficulty for Mexican youth to travel together to the United States due to stringent visa policies, the partnership has been embodied through service with the
MAMA Project in Honduras, where members from both Deep Run East and Pueblo en Transformación can travel freely.

leading.jpgOfelia’s dream for the developing relationships between Deep Run East and her congregation in Mexico values everyone at the same level, utilizing gifts with mutual respect, and sharing resources. While Pueblo en Transformación may not be able to contribute material resources in the same way that is possible for Deep Run East, they are able to offer an opportunity to volunteer, serve, and learn in the Mexican context, deepening the understanding of what it means to be a global Anabaptist community.