Latest News from Chajul

Our family traveled with a small delegation from Central Presbyterian Church to Chajul, Quiché over the weekend. The drive from Cobán to Chajul is long and windy—14 hours and about 250 speed bumps each way. It was worthwhile in every way, if only to get fresh glimpses of Christ’s mission in this wonderful place. We couldn’t wait to see the façade of the new temple (see photo). There are still finishing touches DSC02003to do here and there, such as interior painting and a wall along the front ramp. As for the church’s ministry, all signs look positive. Sunday worship attendance has risen to 300. Also, a congregation from a nearby Ixil village called Juil became Presbyterian on Saturday. With 160 adults and children, they’d previously belonged to the Full Gospel Church of God, but found the Presbyterian connection to be more appealing. Pastor Jenner Miranda and Elder Moisés López from Central Pres led a dialogue on transitioning to Presbyterianism. I taught about Presbyterian government. Then the Juil men and women raised their right hands to take formal membership vows (see photo).DSC01989-1

As usual with such visits, we were caught up in a flurry of activities. We met with the Chajul session to discuss the status of construction projects, leadership training, the formation of a vocational cooperative, expansion of educational programs, and the possibility of building a school. On Sunday morning, I gathered together Chajul students and parents to discuss post-primary educational project that are under development in partnership with the Williamsburg Presbyterian Church. Seventeen students have requested scholarships for the basic (7th-9th grades) and career (10th-12th grades). Hopefully there will be much more to report about this in months ahead. (See photo of four teenagers hoping to study on the career level at La Patria Norte in Cobán.) DSC02027During worship, Jenner preached and I presided at Holy Communion. At the end of the service, the congregation presented me with a crimson, embroidered jacket that’s traditionally worn by Ixil elders (see photo). DSC02019Through the weekend, Bacilia enjoyed learning more about traditional Ixil cooking and weaving, and Matthew, Manny and Stefi played with new friends. We’re all so thankful for opportunities like this to witness God’s grace in action.

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Pig Project for Petén Women

Yesterday we had an all-day training and planning workshop in Sayaxché for a pig project that womenDSC01970 from seven churches of the Petén Q’eqchi’ Presbytery are launching with help from Presbyterian women of Middle Tennessee. The workshop included many tips about buying and caring for pigs, and selling them in the marketplace. Bety Cifuentes, a leader with the IENPG Synod women’s organization, came from Quetzaltenango to lead the training. (See photos)

After lunch we developed an agreement about the objectives, participants, resources from the U.S. and the Petén, the carry-out of the project, and the use of profits. After lengthy discussion in Spanish and Q’eqchi’ , the Petén women praised God for His grace and mercy, and voiced gratitude for the generosity of sisters and brothers of Middle Tennessee. They committed to providing the spaces and labor for the project, to utilize funds carefully, to prepare regular reports and participate in ongoing training. They also agreed that, once pigs are sold, the proceeds will first be used to replace the initial investment—Q 1,500 per society provided by Presbyterian women in Middle DSC01976Tennessee. Profits then will be divided equally between the women’s organizations of their presbytery and local churches, as well as their presbytery and churches general budgets. Each woman came and sealed the agreement with a fingerprint.

I led a devotional on John 10 about Jesus being the door to the sheepfold. There are right doors and wrong doors. Jesus opens doors for us that lead to safety and rest, as well as doors out that lead to sustenance and growth. He differs from wolves and hired-hands because he comes in a spirit of love to give, not take from, the sheep.

With help from Middle Tennessee Presbyterians, God has opened a door for the women of the Petén for building up their ministries and fellowship. By working together in the right ways and in the right spirit, they’ll find growing abundance in their lives and new ways to glorify God.


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Inland Northwest & Polochíc: Partners and Neighbors

When a 5-member team from the Inland Northwest (INW) Presbytery travelled to see their partners in the Polochíc Presbytery, a top goal was to enter into the world of the Q’eqchi. Also joining us were PC(USA) mission co-workers, Richard and Debbie Welch. The journey included things like getting haircuts in Senahú, sleeping a night at the Presbyterian manse in Telemán, visiting the sick and elderly at their homes in Panzós, and hiking to share with congregations in several mountain communities. (See photo of kids skillfully playing the marimba during worship) DSC01907Other activities included exciting conversations with leaders of the Polochíc women, meeting with the Executive Committee, and a trilingual cornerstone ceremony for new Presbytery offices in La Tinta. (See photo)DSC01924

Half way through the group’s trip, Pastor Julian Icó reported that heavy rains had caused flooding and landslides in communities around his hometown of Monte Blanco, destroying over 45 homes, damaging at least 350 others, forcing them to seek refuge at the local school. The access road crumbled, and half of their corn, cardamom and coffee crops were wiped out. The INW team answered by altering their itinerary and devoting a day to gathering supplies with their Guatemalan partners for 175 sacks of food staples. (See photo) DSC01927Each sack was labeled “Help from the Presbyterian Church.” Supporters back in Washington State pledged several thousand dollars, and a convoy of four 4-wheel-drive trucks became the first (and only so far) outside support to reach the devastated area. In the meantime, Polochíc Presbyterians started their own relief drive. Plans are underway to raise more funds are already being raised for roofing, seeds and other materials so that the people can get back on their feet.

Before departing the valley, a team member, John McCallum, led us in a devotional about the parable of the Good Samaritan. Together we reflected on how the Samaritan no doubt encountered many needs during his journeys, but felt led to aid that particular fellow-traveler. After bandaging the victim and carrying him to an inn, the Samaritan could have easily felt that he’d done enough. However, he felt led to ensure that the healing process reached its conclusion, promising to pay the innkeeper any additional costs.

In similar fashion, the Holy Spirit led the INW team to respond to the plight of the needy in Monte Blanco, not only by providing immediate relief but by also committing to longer-term recovery. By not turning away, they offered a witness of good partnership and good neighbor-ship.



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Yoked in Mission, Spiritually Revived

Northminster Presbyterian Church, in Cincinnati, Ohio, sent a team to Cobán during the last part of July. The team’s five members began their visit with a covenant signing ceremony at the Synod headquarters in Guatemala CDSC01896-1ity, formalizing the yoking process that has taken two years. Representatives of the national church and Cobán’s new church development (NCD) commission were on hand for this milestone. In the covenant, Northminster and the NCD commission commit to partner in establishing a Presbyterian church that will faithful to God’s mission, organizationally sustainable, and inclusive of Cobán’s diverse population. More signatures were added in Coban and by presbytery officers in Chisec. (See photo)

The team had an early setback when a health problem required one of them to return to Cincinnati accompanied by the pastor, Jeff Hosmer. The remaining three carried on, praying for the departed team members while proceeding with their project, the 1st phase of building a new manse. After a groundbreaking ceremony, work began. Ten youth from the Chiséc Presbytery joined them for four days, laying a concrete foundation and clearing rock from the surrounding lot. (See photo) DSC01906The manse is part of Cobán’s Presbyterian Complex which will include facilities for a church, school, theological center, and guest house.

On the first work day, a neighbor became perturbed about Chiséc youth wandering onto his property. He shouted at them and fired his pistol into the air a number of times. Subsequent efforts to dialogue with him were successful, and he even invited some of us to visit his home.

Bacilia and I enjoyed hosting the team for evening meals and reflections. During the week they visited a nearby waterfall park and checked-out the folklore dances at an annual festival. (See photo) DSC01904They also toured the local public school in the poor La Libertad community, where the complex is located, raising their awareness of educational needs and partnership opportunities there. (See photo)

I was invited to preach at the farewell service, at a Presbyterian Church in Chiséc. The message was on Matthew 11:28-29: “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Yokes don’t relieve us from work. On the contrary, yokes are designed specifically for moving heavy loads. They connect oxen to each other, forming them into teams that share the load and motivate one another. Yokes also link the reigns to the driver who directs the team.DSC01894

As Christ’s servants, our souls find their rest by participating in his mission. Christ’s yoke is a tool for mission. It keeps us on the right path, and it unites us to one another. Yoked together, we can best fulfill our calling, and our souls are revived in the process. The experiences of the group from Northminster Presbyterian Church, yoked to the Presbyterian mission in Cobán, offer a great case in point.

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Update on Changes in Our Assignment

Greetings in Christ from Guatemala!

I send this letter to update you about our work here. As most of you know, Bacilia and I end our assignment with Presbyterian World Mission of the PC(USA) at the end of July. We are grateful to PWM for opening this door four years ago and for all of their support.

The Presbyterian Church of Guatemala (IENPG) has invited us to continue serving with them, and we have agreed to do so. As Partnership Coordinator for PRESGOV, much of my work will remain the same. Additionally, I will direct the emerging Presbyterian Complex in Cobán, and will work with the Presbyterian Seminary to coordinate the indigenous theological training program there. Our family already has moved to Cobán to be closer to this work.

I continue as a PC(USA) teaching elder, and my position with the IENPG has been validated by my home presbytery, the Presbytery of Middle Tennessee.

The focus of Bacilia’s mission service will be our family, help in hosting groups, and assisting with the new Presbyterian Church that is under development in Cobán.

The IENPG has offered to provide a salary that is in keeping with that of other IENPG pastors. We are so thankful for this! However, this will not cover all necessities, such as insurance, pension, education, social security, travel to the U.S., etc.

Some people expressed their interest, or the interest of their churches, in supporting our ongoing work with prayers and support in meeting uncovered expenses. The Outreach Foundation, a highly-respected Presbyterian mission organization with partners around the world, will administer support for our work in Guatemala. Any gifts should be designated “Beisswenger,” and sent to 381 Riverside Drive, Suite 110, Franklin, TN 37064.

Please contact me with any questions you might have about these developments.

For regular news about our mission assignment, subscribe to our blog:

This is an exciting time for Christ’s mission in Guatemala. We solicit your prayers that all things work together for good according to God’s call, and look forward to more opportunities to serve in partnership with you in the future.


Philip & Bacilia Beisswenger

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South Alabama & Chiséc Presbyteries—Kindred Spirits

Bonds keep building between the Presbytery of South Alabama and the Chiséc Q’eqchi’ Presbytery, with groups Worship Semuc Champeyrepresenting these partners converging in Cobán in recent weeks. Not only did they make amazing progress in construction at the Presbyterian Complex of the North. They drew from one another a kindred spirit of Christian love, joy and faith.

An 18-member presbytery-wide team, led by Samford Turner, visited on June 21-28. Most were “Teens for Christ”–from a two-year leadership program for Presbyterian youth. Their visit began with an adventuresome outing to the Semuc Champey National Park (See terrific photo of worship there by Judy Stout) For the rest of the week, they were joined by nine Chiséc youth leaders at the work site. After a ground-breaking ceremony for the complex’s administration building, buckets, hoes and shovels started to fly. During three days, most of the building’s concrete foundation was poured, and much of the surrounding terrain was leveled.

Next was a day-long gathering of Alabama and Guatemalan youth at the village of Limon Sur, where three Presbyterian churches thrive within a stone’s throw of each other. The day was packed with devotions and singing, soccer matches, a talent show, plenty of home-made food, and a dip at the local swimming hole. It concluded with a grand worship celebration featuring dance and musical presentations by each youth group. A pageant was held to choose Señorita Chiséc Presbytery Youth. So as to not exclude anybody, there were two señoritas—one representing the Chiséc area and the other for Alabama. (See photo of the winners—Ali Gosselin and Elvia Pop)DSC01876

The following week (June 28-July 5), a 20-member mission team from Trinity Presbyterian Church of Fairhope, Alabama kept the momentum going. Led by Stephen Davis, their motto was “Go Guatemala!” After a day-trip to the nearby Sachichaj waterfall for swimming and devotions (see photo), DSC01880they rolled up their sleeves, completing the concrete slab, assembling the building’s metal frame, and leveling dirt and rocks. Each day big crews of Chiséc volunteers came from outlying villages to work side-by-side in partnership. (See photo) DSC01881-1DSC01851Matthew, Manny and Stefi enjoyed participating as well. (See photo) A highlight was a visit to the La Patria Norte School, where students and teachers displayed their local dress and dance, along with special skits.

The Chiséc Presbytery received both Alabama teams enthusiastically, showering them with hugs, prayers, meals, gifts, and greetings to carry back home. Chiséc Presbytery Secretary Filipenses Flores provided masterful hosting coordination. For their part, the South Alabama teams showed how to combine generous hearts with willing hands. Alabamian Valerie Harden served on both teams and provided invaluable help as translator. Alfredo Cisneros, our charming bus driver, won over both teams with his road (and shoveling) skills. Like many others, I can’t wait for these partners to get together in Guatemala again.


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Becoming Cobaneros!

After four years in Guatemala City, our family has transplanted to lush, beautiful Cobán, DSC01891about a 4 ½ hour drive north through the mountains. It was a hectic, crazy move, in part because we also hosted visiting teams at the same time. Many thanks to Kingsport FPC and South Alabama teams for so graciously cutting us some extra slack!

Living In Cobán, we’re better positionedto offer direct, ongoing support to the different facets of the Presbyterian Complex—the new church development, the construction of the new campus, and the ongoing theological education program for indigenous leaders.

For the time being, we’re living in a simple 2-bedroom house right in the neighborhood near the Presbyterian Complex. (See photo) Work will begin soon on a manse on the complex property where we’ll reside long term. We’re grateful to Richard and Debbie Welch, mission co-workers in Cobán that have generously let us use a spacious shed for storing lots of furniture and boxes till the manse is ready.DSC01837

Our children are enrolling at the Colegio La Patria Norte in Cobán, a Presbyterian school that will be part of the Presbyterian Complex. This will mean some adjustments for them from the American School in Guatemala City, since instruction at La Patria Norte is only in Spanish, and it’s on the Guatemalan academic calendar—January thru October.

Some other news:

  • So long, Jesy! The final day of our move, we sadly bid farewell to Jesy Ordoñez, Bacilia’s niece who lived with us for the past three years. She came to be like a daughter to us. She’s returning to Honduras where her mother and siblings still live. Memorable moments included her baptism at Central Presbyterian Church, graduation from cosmetology school, terrific meals that she prepared so often, and her frequent help with homework. Many blessings to you in Honduras, Jesy! (See photo of good-bye hugs)
  • Visit by First PC, Kingsport, Tennessee. A team of Presbyterians from Kingsport spent a week in GuatemalaDSC01825 City with their friends at Iglesia Presbiteriana Bethel. Together they worked on remodeling Bethel’s Sunday school classrooms, and also enjoyed many fellowship activities. By common agreement, the focus of a future visit is to be a joint outreach project into the community surrounding Bethel. (See photo of work on Bethel classrooms)
  • Called Synod Meeting. The IENPG Synod met again on June 24-25 to finish leftover business from its ordinary session in May, such as setting a budget and electing officers. I couldn’t attend because of scheduling conflicts. A new IENPG moderator was chosen—Pastor Laurence Barrios. PRESGOV and the International Relations Committee—both on which I’ve served the past four years—were merged. I was elected onto the new PRESGOV committee.


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