“Transformed” was the theme for a delegation of energetic students from Sycamore Presbyterian Church, Cincinnati, Ohio, who arrived on July 8, eager to serve with the Q’anjob’al Presbytery, high up in the Cuchumatan Mountains. Most of the 19 team members had never been to Guatemala before. After overnighting in Huehuetenango, we stopped at the Mayan ruins of Zaculeu, which go back about 1,700 years, to gain some historical perspective. Upon entering Q’anjob’al territory, we wound our way to San Juan Ixcoy, where a packed Presbyterian Church extended a warm welcome (see photo of team singing). The presbytery leadership greeted us and provided a delicious supper. The next day, at an indoor soccer court in San Juan Ixcoy, the team joined with young people from across the presbytery for a day-long youth gathering. The event was filled with worship, group games, exchanging testimonies, and a friendly soccer match.
Most of the 9-day trip was in the town of Santa Eulalia, where the Sycamore youth joined with local youth to paint the Presbyterian sanctuary and classrooms, and help build an addition to the building. The paint project included a scenic backdrop behind the pulpit (see photo), and scripture verses on classroom walls. As every labored together, we could that the building was being transformed.
In the afternoons, the youth led a children’s Bible school, with a drama about the gospel, songs, games, crafts and, of course, snacks. Also, each afternoon a different, small group reached out to the community, visiting homes to pray with the sick and elderly. The Santa Eulalia youth were amazingly friendly and incredibly hospitable, working alongside the Sycamore team every day, preparing traditional snacks for us, and organizing kids for Bible school. A proposal to play soccer turned into a youth night, with a soccer match (complete with ref), song interchange, and hamburgers and French fries sponsored by Sycamore. As people of different cultures and languages bonded, transformation was happening.
The mission trip also provided an opportunity to further explore formalizing a partnership with the Q’anjob’al Presbytery. Sycamore representatives took part in a presbytery-wide meeting to discuss the draft of a covenant. There’s considerable hope that the relationship will continue in the long-term, but no final decisions have been made yet.
The last day the Santa Eulalia congregation held a touching farewell gathering, featuring a sermon by team leader Meredith Reuscher. After the service, on a lark, the team climbed about tuc-tucs (three-wheel motor-taxis) for a spin through the streets of Santa Eulalia (see photo).
However, the trip wasn’t over yet. Before returning to Cincinnati, the team dropped by Antigua to see colonial ruins, historic churches, and to hunt for souvenirs. The final morning, we all worshiped at Guatemala City’s Central Presbyterian Church, Guatemala’s oldest Protestant church, giving more historical perspective to their visit.
“Transformed” means to undergo a dramatic change in form or character. When Christians like those at Sycamore and the Q’anjob’al Presbytery overcome barriers to serve and worship God together, they’re refusing, in effect, to be conformed to the selfish, shallow ways of the world. They’re choosing, instead, for God’s transforming power to work in them and through them in deep and lasting ways. Amen to that!