The Presbyterian church keeps broadening and deepening its outreach in the lofty municipality of Chajul, Quiché, as I saw this week with a team from Guatemala City’s Iglesia Presbiteriana Central (Central Presbyterian Church). Six from Central’s youth group conducted Bible school for 150 energetic kids, and two elders led a leadership workshop. Meanwhile, Pastor Jenner Miranda and I focused on visiting several surrounding Ixil villages where a number of isolated congregations are eager to unite with the wider connection and solid doctrines provided by Presbyterianism.
Our first stop was a congregation in Juil, a village about an hour from Chajul. They became Presbyterian last September, and subsequently were evicted from their building by the unhappy landowner. Quickly the Chajul church came to the rescue, dismantling their old facility at Pastor Miguel’s front yard and hauling the materials to Juil. We joined in a thanksgiving service for their new building, which is nicer now than before and on property they’re purchasing. (See photo)
Next we headed to the village of Visiquichum, another hour away, where a small, independent church applied to join the Presbyterian fold. We had a friendly discussion with its leadership, explaining steps in the admission process, distributing booklets about Presbyterian identity and governance, and breaking bread together. (See photo) By then it was 9:00 PM, and we still had to go to the town of Chel, another two hours distance.
Travel on Guatemala’s back roads often turns into a madcap adventure, and that’s what happened in this case. The night was cold and wet, the gravel road rutted and slippery, and our van was likely to get stuck. Given these conditions, plans changed. A 4WD pickup was sent from Chel for Jenner and me, while Central’s elders returned to Chajul in the van. After a long delay with the pickup, news reached us that halfway to Chel an overturned road grader was blocking the highway. The Visiquichum church leaders fetched two motorcycles to transport Jenner and me. We sped through the rain to the accident scene, waited while two bulldozers maneuvered the grader onto a flatbed truck, and finally found our waiting pickup. By God’s grace, we finally arrived at about 11:30 PM.
Once in Chel, we discovered not one, but two churches seeking Presbyterian affiliation. The first was a Pentecostal church called Betania. We held a late-night talk with its pastor and elders, and offered middle school scholarships to the Pastor Cipriano’s two daughters. (See photo) After midnight, Jenner and I were taken to the town’s only hotel (lamentably the kind with badly-stained walls and leaky bathroom down the hall). Neither of us were prepared with overnight bags, but we made do and were grateful for the rest. In the morning we went to the second church, called Puertas Abiertas (Open Doors). Pastor Pedro and his congregation had in mind a full day of meetings, worship and meals to celebrate becoming Presbyterian. Unfortunately, Chel’s only bus was scheduled to leave at 11:00 AM, so we only had time for the reception ceremony. Further festivities and training will have to wait till next year. (See photo of congregation)
Back in Chajul that evening, we assembled a group of excited Presbyterian students and their parents to confirm educational opportunities for them. Due to the generosity of partner Williamsburg (VA) Presbyterian Church, eight students, plus the two from Chel, were awarded middle school scholarships. As part of WPC’s commitment to education, they’re also sponsoring a learning center and after-school tutoring program at the Chajul church. Another three students will enroll at the La Patria Norte School in Cobán to pursue secondary degrees, thanks to scholarships from the school as well as WPC for covering room and board expenses for these students. (See their photo)
Throughout its history, Presbyterianism has been characterized by a passion for education and congregational development. Having witnessed this past week how God continues to use Presbyterians to make history in the Ixil indigenous area around Chajul, our mission team gives all praise and glory to God.