In the same way that slavery was a moral challenge for the 19th c. & totalitarianism was a challenge for the 20th c., the challenge that women & girls face around the world is the moral challenge of our time.

~ Sheryl WuDunn & Nicholas Kristof

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Co-Conspiritors by Tom Yaccino

Dee and Tom Yaccino are co-connectors and founders of Del Camino Connection, an organization passionate about serving and supporting church based networks in Latin America that live out the call to be agents of change and reconcilers for Christ and the Kingdom of God here on earth. DCC offers consulting and coaching services to churches that are passionate about partnering with the Global Church. They help churches and organizations leverage their shared spiritual, human, and financial resources in response to Jesus’ mission to make all things new. Together, Tom and Dee work to facilitate global connections among churches to embody Christ's dream that we be One, as we participate in revealing the love and Justice of God in our communities.

My name is Tom Yaccino.  I am Dee Yaccino’s husband, friend, partner in ministry and parenthood, and co conspirator with her in God’s amazing and beautiful Kingdom project here on earth.  It is remarkable that the way I just introduced myself, as her husband, might seem odd to others, especially among many with whom I share a common faith and mission in Jesus Christ.  I say odd because for many, her role should be recognized as secondary or complimentary to mine such that I am seen as “above” her.

I must confess that, more often than not, I too easily fall into the cultural and religious framework, which places more importance and attention on the male in that partnership than the woman.  I confess that when Dee feels that sense of being invisible or a mere appendage to me in conversations or gatherings – even those of the Kingdom sort – and when she makes her uncomfortable feelings known to me, I have been known to question her feelings: “Really?  I don’t think they mean that!”  “Huh?!?  I didn’t catch that vibe at all in their interaction with us…”

I confess that I am a product of the cultural, socioeconomic, religious constructs that represent the patriarchal system that dominates our world and particular faith context in the west.  And I confess that it is incredibly easy for me to remain blind to how that system diminishes, controls and determines the role and responsibilities of women – of Dee, my covenant partner in life.

But as followers of Jesus, we have been redeemed by His blood and restored supernaturally to our true identities as icons of the Lord.  We are privileged participants in the amazing, grace-infused, holy community that God intended for humankind and all of creation.  In this light, my complicity with the dominant system is shaken to the foundations.  The Holy Spirit is breaking down the hard casing that the world has built up around my heart and mind which casts parts in this play with pre-determined roles for men and women. The Spirit is exposing me to the Way, the truth and the life that announces another Way – Way that was made possible and promotes community and connectedness without domination, or positional power.   

Dee and I lived for 25 years in Latin America, a strange and wonderful place where machismo (male domination) and marianismo (reverence for feminine virtue, purity and moral strength, as made in the image of Mary) co-exist, but where men definitely dominate the scene.  As a God-gifted leader in ministry, this was a challenging sea for Dee to navigate.  Not only did she survive, but she was able to influence leaders and communities, loving them into new understandings of Jesus and His Kingdom; not without pain and struggle, but with a lot of grace and perseverance.  Dee became a deep friend and partner in ministry with my own Dominican best friend, who when we first met, was prejudiced against “gringos” and women!  She served the bride of Christ as a teaching pastor, elder, counselor and dear friend.  In the ministry God has called us to, she is the mind and heart behind all of our awareness-raising, educational, paradigm-shifting materials and workshops. She is an anthropologist, a pastor & teacher, a researcher and now is currently a PhD fellow where she is being celebrated as a woman in a male-dominated academic institution.  She is being valued and invited to teach because of her capabilities and unique contribution. 

On the enneagram Dee is an “8”; I am a “4.”  We are both influencers and leaders but of a very different stripe.  Being a female “8” in a male-dominated world permeated with “type A” power-centered leadership models is no easy thing.  But Dee has stayed true to herself and has spoken up even in the face of the pain and rejection that often results.  She flows into who God has created her to be – despite the “man” made barriers, some that I admittedly have built – and she leads.

She is an incredible mom, who hasn’t stopped being a mom in our home, while she ministers and serves and leads ministry outside of the home.  I thank God for her example as she lives in the tension with grace and flows into her identity as a woman, created in the image and likeness of God, the creator and sustainer of life.  She leads, cares for, and parents with me our 4 wonderful children which include 3 amazingly talented girls (19, 17 and 13) who are like their mother (& father) gifted with leadership, as well as one amazing little boy (6).  They all see how God’s designs for life and wholeness are working out in males and females. I shudder to think that my girls will be limited in their full and free expression of who they were created to be by God, especially among well-intentioned fellow believers.  May they follow in their mother’s footsteps as women and grow into their full identity and design as God has intended for them be that leaders, artists, influencers, servants, etc., without being controlled, limited or “allowed”  by others.  

I am so thankful for Dee.  I am so impacted by her life.  As a man, who is recognized as a leader among my peers, I not only acknowledge that her support and encouragement have helped shape me into the servant leader that I hopefully am, but I acknowledge that her leadership is one that I am privileged to be able to follow."

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