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My Retirement is Today

My last day with the CRCNA is May 31st, 2024. The thought of retirement is intriguing. I used to wonder how far away it was, with my plan initially set for 2028. But now, it's just around the corner, and I'm filled with anticipation and excitement. 

In March 1995, we bid farewell to our beloved Chile and embarked on a new chapter in Grand Rapids, MI. The sight of my neighbor's garage, brimming with toys, bikes, small furniture, and tools, struck me with a profound realization that a whole life was contained within those walls. It was a poignant moment, tinged with sadness for the life we had left behind—family, friends, memories, culture, and language. The question loomed: how does one rebuild all that in a new country? 

The initial months were a whirlwind of confusion, challenges, and complexity.

Two years later, I found myself being interviewed for the position of Administrative Assistant for the Hispanic Ministry at the agency formerly known as the Christian Reformed Home Missions. The day I was hired coincided with the day I received my work permit. Little did I know that this job would become the sole entity I worked with  in this new land. The initial months were a whirlwind of confusion, challenges, and complexity. There were moments when I contemplated giving up. But my sense of perseverance within me refused to be extinguished. I resolved to try harder, to push myself beyond my limits. 

I worked for about 11 years with the Hispanic Ministry. Gary Teja was my supervisor and helped me learn and understand how the CRCNA functions. I traveled with him to every place where there was a Hispanic church. I met all the pastors, leaders, and congregations. It was amazing! During this time, I also got involved in the work of Race Relations, which I found fascinating.  

This was a time of several new beginnings. I had the privilege of bringing together six leaders of Hispanic Ministry, for five years, we charted the course of what would be the Concilio Latino. What made these five years interesting, was to listen the concerns that pastors and leaders had of not being able to freely lead the Hispanic ministry, but to conform to a certain framework of action that the agency (CRHM) expected and work to address them.

Then I shifted to the Office of Race Relations (ORR), (now part of Thrive) our team collaborated with Global Learning Partners to create the workshop “Dance of Racial Reconciliation” that left a lasting impact. I actively participated in numerous conferences on systemic racism, white privilege, and internalized racism. It was during this time that I first encountered the KAIROS Blanket Exercise. Intrigued, I journeyed to Manitoba to learn and listen to Kairos and, visited the Indigenous Center in Winnipeg. Their work left me spellbound. I was convinced that the Blanket Exercise needed to be introduced in the CRC U.S. This led me to visit Indigenous communities and hear their stories firsthand. I also attended to lectures on the historical and generational trauma caused by the Indian boarding schools.

My mind raced as I imagined a group of Indigenous people dressed in beautiful regalia, singing, dancing, and drumming.

Bringing the Blanket Exercise to Synod 2016 was fascinating. The sad part was hearing and seeing the participants reaction and result after the Doctrine of Discovery report was presented. It was not what we were expecting and showed us the amount of work we still needed to do to bring healing between different people groups. 

I remember a time I was sitting on the Fine Arts balcony at Calvin University during a Synod session. My mind raced as I imagined a group of Indigenous people dressed in beautiful regalia, singing, dancing, and drumming. The work of racial justice is not easy. It is beautiful work but difficult, challenging, and sometimes even depressing—not because of the work itself, but because hearts can be hard and unwilling. 

In the opportunity to reflect on these years I work, more and more I realize that the core of the gospel is not a program or a model, and we rely so much in them. The center of the gospel is love, care, respect, and wanting the other to be better.

ORR allowed me to use gifts and abilities that were present in me but that I had not yet discovered or noticed existed. Suddenly, I found myself teaching, researching, preparing facilitators, sitting next to Indigenous elders, listening to their stories, and writing workshops. I was absorbing everything that could help me to do the work. I felt privileged by everything I did, shared, and lived. 

I never imagined that when I looked at my neighbor’s garage in front of my house in 1995, that in 29 years I would have my own garage full of teaching, emotions, and experiences. 

Then, after 23 years of my divorce, I found love with someone I met years back in my country.  My original plan of retiring in 2028 needed to change. I am eager to have enough time to enjoy my marriage, spend time with my mom, whatever she has left, and work on my long list of projects waiting for me.  I will do so in light of my learning of sharing the gospel by living out love, care and respect.

Join us in prayer for Viviana as she makes this transition.  Heavenly Father, we thank You for the 29 years of dedicated anti-racism work of Viviana. Bless her with joy and fulfillment in retirement. May her tireless efforts for equity and understanding continue to inspire others. Amen.


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