This past year a deep crisis arose in the Petén Q’eqchi’ Presbytery (PQP) that involved dysfunctional leadership practices as well as several intense pastoral conflicts. There were questions about whether the presbytery would be able to recover. The PQP is comprised of 7 small, rural congregations. The average educational level of the pastors is 3rd grade, and most of them support themselves and their families by working in the fields.
During this crisis, the PQP’s international partner, the Presbytery of Middle Tennessee (PMT), assured them that they’d stick with them for better or worse. The PMT kept their partners in prayer. They sponsored three visits by IENPG officials and me to help PQP leaders diagnose the presbytery’s challenges and find ways to overcome them. Out of these meetings emerged a vision statement for the PQP and a strategic plan.
This past week a 7-member PMT delegation, led by Elder Barb Hall, came to Guatemala to offer support more personally and directly to the PQP. They invited PQP pastors and their spouses to join with them in the mountainous city of Cobán for a 2-day retreat featuring fellowship, a service project, and in-depth look at how the PMT might support the PQP’s strategic plan. Each morning we came together to address issues such as improving decision-making and financial discipline, resolving conflicts between pastors and elders, legalizing church properties, reviving the presbytery’s women’s organization, and reinforcing Presbyterian doctrine, liturgy and government. In the evening, 2 PMT pastors—Teddy Chiquimia and Mary Louise McCullough—offered training on leadership skills. In the afternoons, while the men worked together on building a pavilion at Cobán’s new Presbyterian complex (see photo), the women gathered to share experiences and to discuss their critical role in the PQP’s future. Juggling three languages, they developed project plans, which were later endorsed enthusiastically by the PQP’s executive committee.
The next step by the PMT delegation was the sponsorship of a presbytery-wide event in the town of Sayaxche to rally around the PQP’s strategic plan. Leaders from all 7 PQP congregations were invited to gather at Sayaxche’s Presbyterian Church for a morning of training on the themes of stewardship and mission. (See photo) After lunch, a celebration was held that included Holy Communion. During the worship, PQP pastors that recently graduated with diplomas in theological education were recognized. A 12-year-old boy, Jaime Chun, with cerebral palsy was thrilled to receive a wheelchair that a PMT team member, Kathy Corlew, had brought for him from Tennessee. (See photo) The day ended with singing of “We are One in Christ Jesus,” and with shouts of “Viva the Presbytery Q’eqchi’ Peten!”, “Viva the Presbytery of Middle Tennessee!” and “Viva Cristo!”
Thank God for bodies of faith like the Presbytery of Middle Tennessee and the Peten Q’eqchi’ Presbytery that are channels of God’s grace to each other, especially during moments when the easiest thing would be to give up.