- Little sister, a few days ago I went on one of those machines that goes up to different floors.
- Oh, an elevator!
- Yes, that. I was running an errand and looking for the office and went into a little room and all of a sudden the door shut! It scared me so much that I pushed every button and when that thing started to move, I gripped the hand rails… when I got out, my legs were trembling!
Ana Luz Pérez always has an anecdote to tell, along with her contagious laughter. At the age of 66, she wears bright and playful clothing. Over the course of her life, she’s had very high and low points. She has buried two dead – her own children – killed by the violence of an armed conflict that mostly hurts the civilian population. “I became crazy for a time. My sons were killed as false positives. It was very painful,” she tells as she shows photos from the funerals of her son and daughter, who were 28 and 25 years old, respectively. Despite these events that have deeply affected her life and left her with four children and two orphaned grandchildren whom she’s adopted as her own, she demonstrates her resilience through her message of forgiveness: “I have decided to forgive those who have done me much harm, and I beg that God will change their hearts so that they don’t make other people or the community suffer.”
Ana Luz and her family arrived in Ibagué more than a year ago, fleeing the violence, displaced by threats from an armed group. Months after her arrival, after knocking on doors, asking here and there, she found the Colombian Mennonite Development Foundation – MENCOLDES – where she was provided with emergency attention and psychosocial support in her situation of displacement. Currently she is part of the project entitled “Building Hope toward the Dignification of People.” Her spontaneity and active participation always stand out in community workshops.
Presently she is an active member at the Semillas de Esperanza (Seeds of Hope) Mennonite Church of Protecho Salado, an area considered to be high risk for drug addiction and delinquency. Each Thursday at the church, around fifteen women meet to have a reflection time to talk about life and to learn how to prepare meat and dairy products provided by the SENA (Nacional Learning Service). Ana Luz is one of the first to arrive, raise her hand to participate, pray, share her faith, and tell jokes.
Every conversation with this dark-haired lady is like a box of surprises, and her resumé would not fit on a single page: farmer, midwife, health advisor, salesperson, and administrator. Last year she studied business, customer service, and basic accounting. Ana Luz (“Light”) wears her name well – she is a light to my path and to those who have suffered from an armed conflict that uproots lives. She is an advisor and entrepreneur, and when she speaks of her future plans, they don’t surprise me. Her consistency and habits remind me that life is an accumulation of experiences to be lived day by day with courage.
Translated by: Amy Eanes