In 1990, a million-dollar endowment was established by Sam and Helen Walton, of Walmart fame, to advance education in Guatemala’s indigenous presbyteries. She had made a personal trip to Guatemala and was moved by the cultures and struggles of the indigenous people. Earnings from the Walton endowment helped support the training of indigenous pastors until 2006, when the funds were suspended by the Presbyterian Foundation over concerns about some of the ways that the money was handled. For the funding to be restored, a new accord has been needed between the IENPG and the PCUSA about the management of these funds.
Today an all-day meeting was held to reorganize the Bi-national Walton Funds Committee with representatives of the different indigenous presbyteries, the Presbyterian Seminary, the national church, and me as a representative of the PCUSA. Over the course of 6-hours, the group discussed a “holistic plan” with proposals for future use and administration of the funds once they’re restored. A strong, positive spirit of determination and cooperation was evident throughout the discussions.
The Bi-national Committee already has revived a scholarship program for indigenous secondary students at the La Patria school in Cobán, and has facilitated with the seminary the creation of a pastoral training extension school for eight Q’eqchi’ presbyteries. The inauguration of courses will be in Cobán next Monday, so afterwards I’ll publish “part two” of this post with news about what happened.
A new mission statement that the Bi-national Committee adopted reads: “With gratitude to God for inspiring the Walton family’s commitment to advancing the wellbeing of the Presbyterian mission in Guatemala, with emphasis on the needs of the indigenous, through the PC(USA}, we seek to utilize this resource according to the purposes defined in the original agreement, according to the PC(USA)’s rules of financial accountability of the PCUSA, to help in the development of indigenous pastors and leaders of the IENPG so that they may serve more effectively in their churches and communities and be more fully integrated into the IENPG’s mission.”
Photo of Bi-national Walton Fund Committee: Pascual Vargas of the Q’anjob’al Presbytery; Philip Beisswenger of the PC(USA); Laurence Barrios of the Maya Quiche Biblical Institute; Israel Pérez of the Mam Center; Ranferí Marcos of the IENPG Executive Committee; Saul Pérez of the Kaqchiquel Seminary; Mateo Coc Coc for the Q’eqchi’ presbyteries; and German Gomez, Secretary. (Doesn’t appear: Jenner Miranda of the Presbyterian Evangelical Seminary)