Mirna’s on a mission
After stepping into leadership at a young age, local partner Mirna Paulo is now a leader in a significant women’s movement
Our Lent appeal this year focused on the urgent need to encourage a new generation of leaders, particularly in the Chaco regions of Argentina and Paraguay. Thanks to your generous giving, we can support growing leaders, people like Mirna Paulo.
Mirna is a young woman from the Wichí people in northern Argentina and her grandfather was one of the earlier indigenous evangelists of the local Anglican Church. Growing up in a Christian family, Mirna learned to read in her own language by reading the hymns as the older people sang. She explains, “As I listened to the preaching and biblical teachings, I realised the greatness of God and his love for all his creation.”
Throughout her life, Mirna met people in mission connected to SAMS and CMS who supported leaders in the indigenous churches. She comments, “I always liked those teams of people who work daily to spread and defend the gospel. I never thought it was possible to be part of these organisations, though I thought of forming a team to support people who felt the call of the Lord to dedicate their lives to the gospel of Christ.”
As Mirna grew older there were challenges to navigate – family health difficulties, and an increasing awareness of disagreements in the church or people’s lives not matching their words. Yet Mirna notes, “There were also brothers who, despite everything, sought consensus and above all worshipped the Lord in their daily lives and in evangelistic ministries.”
As a result of pressure in family life, Mirna became ill herself, and was bedbound for over a year. She describes spiritual struggles, but also “in those times there was a lot of learning, my faith was strengthened in meditation and prayer. I had many visions that helped me keep my hope in God.” Eventually Mirna experienced a process of healing after reading and responding to the Bible story of Jesus healing a young girl.
After being confirmed, Mirna was part of a group brought together by a youth leader to learn about God’s teaching, to pray and to have space to share their thoughts. They also had music groups for teenagers, and young adults began to organise youth meetings and evangelistic campaigns.
At school, Mirna had classmates of European descent as well as those from indigenous groups. While there were culture clashes and misunderstandings, this gave Mirna the opportunity to encounter different cultural contexts and activities. And she sought to show God’s love to her classmates regardless of their cultural background.
Leadership and learning
Mirna stepped into leadership from a young age, helping to prepare Bible studies from the age of 12. She was elected as youth president of the local church, helped organise events and discovered a passion for supporting women and young people. She also took on greater responsibilities within her family when her mother died.
After finishing high school, Mirna got a job as an indigenous teacher in the secondary school, allowing her to contribute to the family income. Then, despite pressure to stay within the Wichí community, she travelled to share about its realities and to learn. She worked with the ministry of culture and education in the capital of the province to support teachers in areas where there are indigenous communities.
Mirna always liked to listen to the older women in her community, “I consider them experienced in the path of faith. I learned a lot listening to women sharing.” Having represented women on the pastoral commission in her area, and been involved in other diocesan groups, Mirna joined an Anglican women’s committee. This group, supported by missionaries (including CMS mission partners Catherine Le Tissier and Shelley Stokes), began to think about a new way of working among women in the diocese. The result was AMARE (Anglican Women’s Group Renewed in the Spirit), affiliated with Mothers’ Union. Mirna is now one of the leaders of AMARE in the Diocese of Northern Argentina, and is working to connect with other groups in dioceses across South America.
Building bridges for the future
As a younger leader, an important element of Mirna’s ministry is to be a bridge between young people and older members of the community. These two groups can often misunderstand each other, and have very different perspectives on a range of questions.
Mirna is also working with other CMS local partners, mission partners and Latin America regional manager Paul Tester to develop longstanding ministry with indigenous groups for new generations. This is especially urgent through a period of transition in leadership, as mission partners prepare to hand on their roles and some older leaders in the indigenous communities have died. On being part of the CMS team, Mirna comments, “They are part of my family in Christ. I have great hope that this ministry will continue to grow with the indigenous peoples for Christ.”