I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. (Philippians 1:3-5)
As our departure from Guatemala draws near, feelings are mixed—excitement, regret, anxiety. Mostly, we feel gratitude, to God & all who’ve partnered with us these 10 years. From the 1st day, we’ve been supported with countless prayers, gestures of kindness, & financial backing thru PC(USA) World Mission, Outreach Foundation & Antioch Partners. Friendships grew as we hosted, with local Guatemalans, 100 mission teams! Each team brought a richness of giving & receiving, sweat, laughter & prayer. Many times, we also enjoyed hospitality in your homes & churches.
It’s amazing what God did—a new school, seminary, multi-purpose building, 4 churches, 3 manses, water systems, playgrounds, a ball court. Plus, 100’s of scholarships helped the La Patria Norte School nearly double its enrollment! Over the past decade, your churches contributed over $900,000 towards mission projects like these. Already this year you’ve sent $51,000 to provide almost 5,000 food relief packages to families impacted by the pandemic. What’s more, your use of PRESGOV made possible the purchase of 2 new buses & a van for Guatemalan church work. Yes, God is good!
Projects, of course, only tell part of the story. 7 new partnerships were formed with Presbyterians here. Cobán’s theological studies program, launched in 2013, has produced 315 graduates. Since 2014, when the Walton endowment funds were reclaimed, $387,000 has helped expand theological studies in 15 Mayan presbyteries. Meanwhile, Cobán’s 1st Presbyterian congregation, launched in 2014, has gained over 100 active members. Yesterday, Antioch Church welcomed 11 more, including 5 youth baptized. God, again, is good!
Our family has been greatly blessed thru these years. God provided a solid, bilingual education for our 3 children. Matthew & Manny honed their musical talents, Stefi found her gift for teaching, & all 3 gained a love for track. By God’s grace, they’ve each professed Jesus Christ as Savior. God guided Bacilia in coordinating 1,000’s of meals while leading women’s & educational programs. She was ordained as a deaconess & earned her nursing degree. Along with Philip’s partnership work, he got to pastor the new church, teach seminary courses on hermeneutics & New Testament, & even write a book (not yet published). Our family got to enjoy beautiful Guatemala & even venture to such far-flung places as Honduras, Mexico, Belize, Canada, Hungary, Israel, Thailand & China. God is awesome!
As for future work in Guatemala, a Presbyterian couple with Antioch Partners, Keith Vandergrift & Lana Bell, will be in Cobán to support ongoing partnerships & projects. Keep them in pray, as well as mission co-workers Richard & Debbie Welch, waiting in the U.S. until borders reopen. Misael Alonzo, a Guatemalan pastor, has accepted the call to Antioch Church. Praise the Lord for sending these laborers into the harvest!
Our final stretch in Guatemala hasn’t gone quite as expected. Coronavirus forced summer teams to cancel. Most activities at La Patria Norte & Antioch Church are now online. The theological program never got started. While farewells are tougher under these conditions, we can’t complain. God has been very good to us! After flying to Nashville on July 21, we’ll make our way to the small town of Audubon, Iowa. Philip will pastor 2 churches there—one Presbyterian, the other Lutheran. Not far from Philip’s birthplace, Audubon has a fine school & is barely an hour from Omaha where Daniel’s stationed with his wife & their 2 young daughters.
God’s Word assures us, “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6) In other words, God isn’t done with any of us. We trust God will find ways to continue to bless the ties of partnership that have bound us until now.