“Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.” —John 7:38
Tuesday, February 12, was Mardi Gras in Sayaxché, Petén, and costumed kids paraded through the town. These festivities seemed tame, however, compared to the excitement on the same day at the new Presbyterian Church. Hundreds of well-wishers rode in trucks from across the Petén Q’eqchi’ Presbytery (PQP) to attend the church’s dedication that afternoon. A 13-member team from the Presbytery of Middle Tennessee (PMT) was on hand, representing the partnership that provided most of the funding for the land and construction materials. The team included members from nine different churches, and three pastors.
The event started with a symbolic ribbon cutting. Once the doors opened up, the temple filled quickly for the four-hour worship service. Each of the presbytery’s eight churches, including Sayaxché’s new congregation (see photo), came forward to contribute songs and greetings. A band from one of the churches kept the service rocking. The moderator and permanent secretary of the IENPG drove from Guatemala City to offer their greetings and support. There were other musical performances, a wedding, several more songs by the PMT team (see photo of Rev. Andy Gay, Sally Slayden-Berry, and Barb Hall), and a sermon by Rev. Warner Durnell, Executive Presbyter for the PMT. The IENPG Permanent Secretary, Pastor Isaías García, presented a certificate of appreciation to the PMT for its long-standing commitment to this partnership. After an announcement that the church was to be named “Rivers of Living Water Presbyterian Church,” the moderator, Miguel Ortega, pronounced a prayer of dedication. Following the service, a meal was served. A small steer was butchered for the occasion, and each of the churches contributed sacks of corn for tortillas.
During the week that the PMT team visited in the Petén, we met with the PQP’s executive committee to discuss the renewal of the partnership covenant. We also paid visits to every church, driving to remote villages that aren’t easy to get to, where the team was warmly welcomed and fed. Simple services were held with the local congregations, along with children’s crafts and games. Dialogues took place with pastors and church leaders to share about their church’s activities, goals and needs. (See photo of Pastor Miguel Putul and church women in the village of Zapotal II)
The image of living water is fitting for this presbytery-to-presbytery relationship. Just as Christ’s living water springs forth from a limitless source of grace in the hearts of believers, marvelous things keep flowing from this partnership of faith, offering new life to all who are part of it.