“My approach to most challenges is to look them hard in the teeth, essentially asking, “Is that all you’ve got?” …” – Lila Quezada, awardee for the Honorable Lifetime Achievement Award that will be presented by the Brilliant Minded Women Organization at their 2022 annual gala on November 12th.
Lila and Ellie Quezada and their eight children have served faithfully in ministry for over 25 years. Presently, they reside in British Columbia and are ImpactHope’s western representatives, promoting the projects and opportunities that exist with ImpactHope.
A Desire to Serve
Born in Maple Ridge, British Columbia, Lila lived in thirty-three different places before marriage, including Malaysia, Guatemala, Colombia, and Ecuador. This early cross-cultural exposure instilled within her the desire to learn from and serve people in marginalized communities.
She married Eleazar, her Mexican American husband, in 1983. They headed to Guatemala in 1986 for a two-year stint in a remote village. In 1988, the family moved to Parkdale, Oregon, where Eleazar was a pastor at a Hispanic church, a volunteer fireman, and a part-time schoolteacher. Lila ran a clothing bank, taught classes to migrant women and children, advocated for victims of domestic violence, taught bilingual prenatal classes, and sought housing solutions for homeless families. Both she and Eleazar were constantly called upon to assist their migrant friends’ efforts to achieve documentation in the USA. During this time, Lila joyfully homeschooled their growing brood of kids.
Eleven years later, Eleazar and Lila headed to Oaxaca, Mexico, where they lived for eighteen years. Lila continued homeschooling while their kids learned Spanish and thrived. She taught classes at the women’s prison, organized events to serve her community, wrote a book, and opened the only bookstore in their town at the time. In 2009, Lila began serving as a volunteer doula at a government hospital. She witnessed shockingly poor medical practices, inadequate facilities, neglect, and even abuse of pregnant mothers. Many women giving birth in the hospital were subjected to ‘obstetrical violence,’ leading to harmful interventions and unnecessary C-sections. But it was often the monolingual indigenous women who suffered the most as victims of racism. They couldn’t advocate for themselves within the Mexican healthcare system dominated by higher-socioeconomic-status Latinos. What Oaxaca needed was a safe, natural, and compassionate birthing alternative! Catalyzed to action, Lila set up a non-profit, fundraised the initial $25,000, enlisted the help of a like-minded doctor, hired an administrator, and invited seven women to begin a doula-training program.
The Birth of Compassion House
In January 2011, Casa Compasiva Birth Center opened its doors and began providing faith-based prenatal care and childbirth education (almost unheard of in Oaxaca!).
Through Casa Compasiva, vulnerable pregnant women and their families receive education about safe birth practices and are empowered to advocate for their rights within the healthcare system. Mothers give birth at Casa lovingly supported by midwives and doctors using evidence-based midwifery practices.
Local Oaxacan women are offered the opportunity to train as Casa Compasiva doulas, midwives, and clinic staff. These efforts effectively address the abuse and racism within the Mexican maternal health system.
Lila served as general director of Casa Compasiva for nine years. Diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in 2014, she and her family moved back to Canada/USA at the end of 2018. Under new leadership, Casa Compasiva continues to fulfill Lila’s vision of ministering God’s love through excellent maternal care.
Since 2014, the Brilliant Minded Women Organization has been recognizing and acknowledging women of substance to inspire generations to come. As a charitable extension, the Brilliant Minded Women Foundation was created in 2016 to advanced post-secondary education by providing scholarships and bursaries to female students throughout Canada. The Brilliant Minded Women Organization intends to celebrate outstanding Women who have made significant contributions to society at their 7th Annual Awards Gala, a prestigious event scheduled for the 12th of November, 2022.
Interview: One-on-One with Lila
ImpactHope’s Director of Development, Hannah Campbell, was privileged to chat with Lila and learn more about this exceptional woman receiving the award! Lila serves as inspiration to all who meet her and ImpactHope is honoured to have her as part of the family.
1. What has been one of your proudest or happiest personal accomplishments and why?
Raising eight children to adulthood and seeing them all take their places as strong, confident, and kind contributors to society makes me very thankful. Children are a blessing, and each of our kids has blessed us, taught us, and stretched us in ways that nothing else could have done. Many times, while in the child-rearing trenches, I felt utterly exhausted, overwhelmed and almost in despair. But as I cried out to God for wisdom and strength, He was always faithful to answer. Our kids are now all world-changers: teachers, pastors, caregivers, analysts, international workers, and students scattered around the world. They are my magnum opus.
2. What advice have you received that has been especially valuable?
When I became the director of Casa Compasiva, I knew very little about leadership. A natural peace-maker, I always wanted to lead by consensus, ensuring every staff member was happy with every decision. In staff meetings, I would ask everyone for their ideas and input, and then we would go around and around trying to reconcile opposing viewpoints on how things should be done. It was exhausting and frustrating for the whole team. Finally, one day, one of the Casa midwives (who had started with us as a doula when she was only eighteen) told me, “Lila, just make a decision! It doesn’t matter if it turns out to be a bad decision or not… you just have to make a decision! If it turns out that you made a mistake, we can correct things later, if necessary.” She was right, of course. Leaders have to lead…and not everybody will always be happy with every single decision that they make. But the buck has to stop somewhere, and endless attempts at achieving consensus do not get the job done. That was good advice that helped me to become more assertive and confident in my decision-making. 🙂
3. What was one of the most significant challenges you faced, and how did you overcome it?
At fifty-three, my dreams were shattered with a diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease. I had hoped to ‘finish strong’ with our three school-aged children still at home, and then in our golden years, my husband and I would happily babysit throngs of future grandchildren. But memories of my ten-year-old self helping my Nana to the toilet in the advanced stages of her own battle with Parkinson’s threatened my dreams. My approach to most challenges is to look them hard in the teeth, essentially asking, “Is that all you’ve got?” In other words, if the very worst happens in any given situation, will Jesus still be faithful? The answer is “Yes!” So while I prayed fervently for healing and investigated various alternative therapies, I also looked Parkinson’s in the teeth. Emotionally I went through all the stages of grief while spiritually processing the question of suffering in a fallen world. And I realized that as God’s children, we are ALWAYS being led in ‘triumphal procession in Christ Jesus’—even when our hearts are broken, or there is no physical healing or our dreams for this world lay in the dust. Because no matter what, Jesus will still be faithful!
4. What are your core values, and how do they shape your choices?
My core values of God, family, and community—in that order—impacted my long-cherished dream of becoming a midwife. After my sixth child was born, I wanted to apprentice with my accomplished midwives. But God had called my husband and me to start a Hispanic church and homeschool our kids. I simply didn’t have the time to be an apprentice midwife. Fast-forward twelve years: my eighth child turned five, and I finally had some ‘discretionary’ time of my own, so I enrolled in a midwifery training program. As I studied, I felt God’s leading to open a birth center in Oaxaca. And so we did. But after a year of directing the center, keeping up with my midwifery studies, and running a busy household with five kids still at home, I was exhausted. I knew God had called me to start Casa Compasiva, and I had done so out of obedience to Him. But He also expected me to take good care of my family. While prioritizing God and family, I could become a midwife or facilitate the preparation of doulas and midwives at Casa, but I couldn’t do both. With no regrets, I chose Casa. 🙂
5. Tell us a story of God’s faithfulness. Can you remember a specific time the Lord has provided for you and your ministry?
In 2009 we prayerfully chose January 17, 2011, as our target opening date for the “Casa Compasiva” birth center. I told God (repeatedly) that I needed $25,000 by January 1st, 2011, to make His project happen. We spent the summer of 2010 attempting to fundraise in the Pacific Northwest but returned to Oaxaca empty-handed. Undaunted, I fully expected thousands of dollars to roll in at any minute! Instead, no matter how much we prayed and “cast vision,” still no funds materialized. In fact, from September till late December, only $100 trickled in. Nevertheless, I hired an administrator (promising to pay her someday) and rented a big house (rent not due until January 1st)…and still, no money arrived. My administrator had a long shopping list of supplies and equipment but no money to buy anything. We kept praying. Finally, on December 24th, a church in Seattle called, saying they were sending $15,000. And on December 25th, some Canadians emailed saying they were sending $10,000. God came through! The money arrived on time to buy supplies, paint the house, train the freshly recruited doulas-to-be, and have the ribbon-cutting ceremony and grand opening of Casa Compasiva on January 17, 2011!
Lila thanks you for your support! Get a glimpse into Lila’s journey with Casa Compasiva through this video.
To know more about Casa Compasiva, watch the video above!
Eleazar and Lila’s eight wonderful children serve as teachers, pastors, caregivers, and analysts worldwide. Lila continues to serve her family and community as her strength permits.