By Grace Martino
“Behold how good it was for brothers and sisters to dwell together in unity” (Psalm 133:1).
These are the words that came to mind for Rev. Dr. Coach J. Livingstone when reminiscing about the virtual Celebration of Friendship hosted a couple weeks ago by FAMILIA and the Pan-African Koinonia Network (PAK). Both FAMILIA and PAK are fairly young networks within CBF life that aim to grow, elevate and permeate Latinx and Black congregations, individuals and causes throughout the Fellowship.
For this reason, on February 11, the two networks joined forces to celebrate friendship and its meaning close to the Day of Love. For many in the United States, Valentine’s Day is a holiday to celebrate romantic relationships; but for the Latino/a community, the day celebrates much more than just significant others. Latino countries commemorate February 14th as El Día del Amor y la Amistad (The Day of Love and Friendship) which celebrates all types of love including that of friends and family members. In light of the unique significance of the holiday in the Latino/a community, FAMILIA and PAK hosted the virtual festivity in order to honor the solidarity and camaraderie between the two networks.
The event was full of games, laughter, families and Spanglish (English and Spanish), attended by almost 45 individuals from both networks. As Bethzaida Perez Villegas, a member from FAMILA shared, “I loved the event. It was refreshing and fun, and I hope it happens again”. Another FAMILIA representative, Luz Omayra Gutierrez, described the occasion as “edifying, full of love, and purposeful. These spaces break barriers and unify the Body of Christ.”
Although the gathering was virtual, like most during COVID times, it was rejuvenating for those in attendance. PAK Steering Committee member Cassandra Henderson said the following: “The collaboration was able to bridge the divides of geography, language, culture and the effects of the pandemic through fellowship and fun via Zoom. It was right on time! I needed the laughter and genuine connection. I can’t wait until the next virtual gathering and am even more excited about what’s in store for these two ministries when we’re able to come together without the limits of social distancing.”
This was not the first time FAMILIA and PAK had joined forces to form intentional relationship. In 2020, the networks embarked on a Pivot trip to Cuba in which Latinx and Black individuals were able to explore together race and faith in a different context. That fruitful experience in Cuba, demonstrated the evident need for spaces of solidarity and friendship, especially among those who have been historically marginalized and who share a common story in the Americas. Through mutual understanding, knowledge and care, a heart for intersectional justice arises. FAMILIA and PAK hope to host joint events for months and years to come, helping to continue growing the Kingdom of God through mutuality and companionship.
Grace Martino serves as the CBF Outreach and Growth Specialist and is part of the Young Baptist Ecosystem team.