Our Final Newsletter from Guatemala–July 2020

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!

Nuevos Miembros 1

New Members at Antioch Church, July 2020

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!

Family 2020

Preparing to leave for Guatemala, 2010

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!

Three Children July 2020

Matthew, Stefi & Manny, July 2020

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.

Philip, Bacilia, Matthew, Manuel & Estefana Beisswenger

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Our March 2020 Newsletter

Greetings from Cobán in the name of the Lord who frees us from our fears & afflictions!

God’s people have endured diaspora—“scattering”—throughout history. The Jewish diaspora traces back to periods of exile from the Promised Land. Since then hope continues that one day they’ll be reunified. The original Antioch church was formed by the diaspora of Christians fleeing persecution. Acts 11:21 tells us, “The hand of the Lord was with them.” In their displacement, they emerged stronger than ever, even becoming the mother church of mission in the Mediterranean region.

Today, the coronavirus has caused another kind of diaspora, removing us from our familiar worship practices & gathering routines. The hand of the Lord is with us too, assuring that in time we’ll return to full community & that, meanwhile, God will work through us in unimagined ways.CELPNO Becados 2020

   Guatemala before the pandemic. In Oct., 42 theology students graduated in Cobán. In Dec., Bacilia led a medical brigade from Cobán to her home village in Honduras. In Jan., a Presbyterian middle school was dedicated in Chajul, Quiché in partnership with Williamsburg PC. Also in Jan., enrollment grew at La Patria Norte school to 370 students, an 86% increase from 2 years ago. U.S. Presbyterian sponsors provided scholarships for 118 kids (see photo) & 3 needed classrooms were built with help from Westminster PC of Charleston, SC. In Feb., 2 elders & 2 deacons were ordained & installed at Cobán’s Antioch Presbyterian Church. In early Mar., a Middle TN medical team treated 355 patients in the Petén Presbytery. Thanks to God for these advances & to our partners that have supported them so generously.

   Guatemala during the pandemic. Life here, as elsewhere, has been disrupted. As I write, we’re under a nationwide curfew. Gatherings are prohibited, including church services. Schools & most businesses are closed. Theology classes in Cobán are called off. Regular air service is grounded, bus travel has ceased, & tourists no longer can enter. Many Americans are leaving the country. A new hospital has been built for quarantining & treatment of Covid-19 victims. So far, 20 cases have been confirmed, all in Guatemala City.Food distribution

Two Mar. mission teams had to cancel. For now, we’re taking a “wait and see” attitude about June & July teams. We understand if some teams decide they need to change plans. Like other church’s, Antioch PC is trying to adapt. We’ve opened a Facebook page & WhatsApp groups to help keep people connected. Bacilia’s sewn over 50 protective facemasks for nurses at the hospital (see photo), while Philip organizes food staple deliveries to vulnerable families in the community. (See photo)Bacilia sewing facemasks

   Return to the U.S. After 10 years in Guatemala, our family believes the time has come for us to relocate to the U.S. Our departure is planned for late July. As Philip searches for his next pastoral call, arrangements are underway to ensure that church & partnership work here continues smoothly. Please keep these transitions in your prayers. We still need & appreciate your ongoing support. May God’s hand stay with us all. As we strive to limit the spread of the coronavirus, may the grace of Christ Jesus spread faster & further than ever through people of faith wherever we are.

Philip, Bacilia, Matthew, Manuel & Estefana Beisswenger

E-mail: pbpres@bellsouth.net   Support: http://www.theantiochpartners.org

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Our September 2019 Newsletter

Our Newsletter, September 2019

Greetings in Christ from Cobán!

The English term “partner” comes from the Latin partitio, which means sharing property, a business relationship. In Spanish, “partner” is compañero, using the Latin words for “with” & “bread.” Compañeros break bread together, a personal relationship. Long-term, mission partners embrace both the business & personal angles. On one side is strategizing, decision-making, & accountability. On the other, there’s laughter, hugs, & prayer. I’m glad God calls us to be partners & that by God’s grace we can partner in the fullest sense of the word.

Partner Visits. It’s been a year of grace upon grace! In March, a team from Middle TN held health clinics in Petén, & another from Toronto, Canada came to Cobán & Chajul. Then, in June & July, we received another 6 teams, from Williamsburg, VA; Greenville, SC; Charleston, SC; Fairhope, AL; Dothan, AL; & Cincinnati, OH. Among the projects they finished were a playground at La Patria Norte, a retaining wall at the Presbyterian Complex, a ramp at the theological center, & a children’s fair at Antioch Church.     

Antioch Presbyterian Church: Antioch prepared for its 5th anniversary with a vigil & fast, & then celebrated on Sept. 1 with a bonfire, concert, thanksgiving service, cook-out, soccer game, & the launching of a weekly kid’s ministry called ICTHUS. (See photo of our family at anniversary) The covenant with Cincinnati’s Northminster Presbyterian Church was renewed in July for another 3 years, praise God! Family at 5th Anniversary Antioch

John Knox Theological Center. Classes continue for 43 students from across the region.  An example is 22-year-old Mariano Lainez, who’s on track to earn a bachillerato—a secondary-level theology degree. Barely 2 ½ years ago, he became a Presbyterian in the Maya Ixil village of Chichel. Soon after he enrolled in Cobán’s training program. “I thank God for the opportunity to study, and I want to make the most of it,” he says. “All I learn here, I teach back home.” Currently Mariano is praise leader & clerk at his church, & preaches at week-night services. (See photo)Mariano Lainez

Van. In June, the Presbyterian Church of Guatemala (IENPG) bought a new 15-passenger van to help with teams, church events, & family. (See photo) What a godsend! Special thanks to Cincinnati’s Sycamore PC for generous gifts for the down payment.Camioneta 2

La Patria Norte Protestant School. Many of the 80 scholarship recipients were thrilled to meet their church sponsors during summer team visits. We pray that sponsorships continue for years to come, making possible quality education to Guatemalan families in need.

Family: We’re glad Matthew’s with us again, after studying 10th grade in Bentonville, AR. Philip got to watch him compete in the state championship track meet in April. Over the summer, Matthew worked at a greenhouse in PA & now he’s back at La Patria Norte. Many thanks to his host families & all who kept him in prayer.

Manny & Stefi stay on the go with school & extracurricular activities. This year Stefi is a teacher in the Sunday school. Bacilia coordinates meals at the Presbyterian Complex & goes with health brigades to remote villages. Along with his pastoral duties & other tasks, Philip fills spare moments with writing projects & reading.

Amidst our foibles & limitations, we hear the same reassuring voice as the Apostle Paul: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9) Our whole family is humbled that God finds ways to use us as a means of grace in Guatemala, & we’re so grateful for the ways God uses you as a means of grace to us. God’s grace be with you today & always!

Philip, Bacilia, Matthew, Manuel & Estefana Beisswenger

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Our March 2019 Newsletter

Dear Guatemala Mission Partners:

The parable about the good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) gives an excellent depiction of mission partnership. The Samaritan, moved by the plight of an assault victim along the road, ignores social barriers & renders first aid. Then, instead of resuming his trek to Jericho, he carries his fellow traveler to a shelter where his wounds can heal. Next, he even provides resources for his new friend’s care. Incredibly, the Samaritan even promises to return to check on him & make sure the recovery is complete.

The good Samaritan’s spirit is so evident in you, our mission partners. Moved by the dire conditions in Guatemala, your response hasn’t been minimal or fleeting. Instead, you’ve overcome barriers to be able to walk alongside people who find themselves in a ditch along life’s pathway. You’ve offered friendship & financial gifts. Incredibly, you keep coming back, over & over, as witnesses to the unwavering grace of God. Thank you for your goodness & for the faithful ways that you accompany God’s people as they seek the abundant life.

Here’s some news about how mission partnerships are making a difference in Guatemala:

   La Patria Norte Protestant School: The 2019 academic year began in Jan. with a 35% increase in enrollment. Due to generous sponsorships from many of you, 80 full scholarships were awarded to needy, worthy students. Final plans are underway for the new campus. Hopefully, work will start by this summer.Inauguracion Centro Teologico 2019 2

   Theological education: In Feb., Guatemala’s Presbyterian Seminary began its 8th year of classes for Mayan church leaders from across the region. A dream was fulfilled on Feb. 26 with the dedication of the John Knox Theological Center, a facility with classrooms & sleeping quarters for up to 50 students. (See photo) During the ceremony, deep appreciation was voiced for the many Presbyterians from the U.S. & Canada that provided generously provided construction funding and volunteers.

   Antioch Presbyterian Church: Lately Philip has been busy training new church leaders & forming cell groups in homes, while Bacilia coordinates the ministry with women. Last Dec. the church held a week-long Vacation Bible School, drawing 140 neighborhood kids. Each of them received a set of supplies to start the school year.

Toronto Team 2019 7   Recent Teams. We received 2 teams in March, one from Middle TN that held health clinics in villages in the Petén. The other, from Toronto, Canada worked at Cobán’s Presbyterian Complex (see photo) & visited churches in the Ixil area. Meanwhile, a full slate of groups is scheduled for June & July. We can’t wait to see you!

   Our Month in the States: In Nov., our family visited partner churches in Charleston, SC; Greenville, SC; Williamsburg, VA; Cincinnati, Kingsport & Nashville, TN; & Fairhope & Dothan, AL. At each stop we enjoyed amazing hospitality & the opportunity to share about God’s work in Guatemala. Extra bonuses for us were a harrowing drive thru “Winter Storm Avery” & Thanksgiving in Nashville with Philip’s family.Bacilia Graduation 3 2018

   Family: It was thrilling to watch Bacilia receive her nursing degree in Oct. (see photo) Matthew’s year at Bentonville HS in AR has gone well. He runs on the track team & plays drums for his youth group band. Manny & Stefi started 6th and 8th grade respectively at La Patria Norte. In April, Daniel’s scheduled to return to Omaha from his deployment in Qatar. We suffered a hard blow with the death of Philip’s Dad in late Nov. A memorial service was held in Nashville to celebrate his long life of Christian ministry, social activism & devotion to family.

Recently word got out that our assignment was facing a financial shortfall. Your responses have been most encouraging. Words can’t express our gratitude for your support as we journey together as servants of Christ.

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Our August 2018 Newsletter

Greetings Guatemala Mission Partners & Friends!

“We have come from a far country,” said the Gibeonites to the Israelites. “Now therefore, make a covenant with us.” (Joshua 9:6) Thus we note the enduring biblical interest in making international connections. The practice continues today in “far countries” like Guatemala, with covenant partners witnessing personally to one another, enabling Christ’s mission to grow deeper & wider.Centro Teo & Cancha Ago 2018

     Presbyterian Complex: Five amazing groups traveled to Cobán recently, getting involved personally in all areas of ministry.

♦ In March,13 people came from St. Giles Kingsway PC, Toronto, Canada to initiate digging for the multi-purpose ballcourt, also squeezing in a visit to Chajul.

♦ In June, 11 from John Knox PC, Greenville, SC, labored with Guatemalan partners to level & fill the ballcourt area. Then, 26 from Trinity PC, Fairhope, AL endured 5 AM start-times to pour the ballcourt’s concrete slab & erect goals on each end.Westminster Groundbreaking 2018

♦ In July, a youth team of 14 from Westminster PC, Charleston, SC, grouted & painted at the theological center, signed a covenant with the La Patria Norte Protestant School, & broke ground for a new school building. A team of 12 from Cincinnati’s Northminster PC continued the grouting & painting, helped build an outdoor kitchen area & led a children’s Bible school.

     Partnerships Elsewhere: Three more wonderful teams came recently to partner in God’s work in other parts of Guatemala.

♦ In March, 6 from Middle TN Presbytery visited the Petén in support of ongoing scholarship & animal husbandry projects, & to help with church construction in the village of San Juan Acul.Williamsburg Chajul Covenant 2018

♦ In June, 7 from Williamsburg PC traveled to Chajul & Guatemala City to renew their 3-way covenant, to meet with scholarship students & initiate development of a Presbyterian middle school.

♦ In July, 15 from Evergreen PC, Dothan, AL, helped tile the floor of a church in the Canaan community, led Bible school, & renewed the covenant between the South AL & Chiséc presbyteries.

     “Fire Volcano”: In June, a major volcanic eruption near Guatemala City destroyed several villages, with a death toll of 159. Cobán wasn’t directly affected. Thanks for your prayers for victims.Beisswenger Family 2018

     Family: Matthew is now in Bentonville, AR for a year, studying 10th grade & staying with Philip’s brother & his wife. Manny plays bass in the praise band & still competes in soccer locally. Stefi continues with her inline skate team & was crowned Niña La Patria Norte. Bacilia finished her nursing degree requirements & graduates in Oct. Daniel’s scheduled to deploy again in Oct. to Qatar for 6 months. Please pray for him, his wife & girls. Last May, missionary families with Antioch Partners (us included) gathered from around the globe for a partners’ retreat in Siófok, Hungary, a nice opportunity to recharge and reconnect.

Our family is deeply grateful for the covenant that we share with so many of you, & for your bonds with people like us in “far countries.” We send our blessings your way!

 

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February 2018 Newsletter

Dear Guatemala Mission Partners:

Greetings in the name of Jesus, with our deep appreciation for your commitment to God’s work with Presbyterians in Guatemala. Our family thanks you for the ways that you partner with indigenous churches, as well as your generous missionary support for our family through the Antioch Partners. Here’s some news from this corner of God’s vineyard: 

   Chajul Presbyterians: The school year got underway in January, with 28 Presbyterian scholarship recipients enrolled in middle/high school at Chajul’s Methodist school. All of Chajul Theo Students 2018them receive after-school support at the Williamsburg Enrichment Center. The Chajul church & the Central Church are striving together to organize a Presbyterian school for 2019. Meanwhile, six students, representing four Presbyterian congregations from the Chajul area, have begun theological education courses in Cobán (see photo). Excitement is growing about the June visit of their partners from Williamsburg PC.

   Petén Partnership: Excitement is building around the upcoming visit in March by a delegation of partners from Middle Tennessee Presbytery. This time the focus will be in the San Juan Acul village. 24 middle & high school students from across the Petén are receiving scholarships this year (see photo of several of them). The women’s animal husbandry projects continue, as does the growing Presbyterian church in Sayaxché. 

   La Patria Norte School: Classes started in early January with over 200 students. Two new classrooms & restrooms were dedicated. The search continues for the site for the new campus, & we hope for a final decision very soon. Twelve young people from Antioch Church are on full scholarship. Antioch meCentro Teo Feb 2018mber Candy Hoenes graduated last October as valedictorian & now’s in her 1st year of medical school. 

   Cobán’s Presbyterian Complex: The 2nd level of the Mayan Theological Center is nearing completion (see photo). Next week we begin the 7th year of theological training for students from across the region. Last October the Presbyterian Church of Guatemala (IENPG) restructured into 4 synods, with the complex serving as headquarters of new Mayan Emanuel Synod, linking 10 presbyteries. The complex has been greatly blessed by our partners in places like Fairhope, AL, Cincinnati, OH, Charleston, SC, Kingsport, TN, & Greenville, SC.

   Antioch Presbyterian Church: Started 3 ½ years ago, the church Philip pastors now has 55 active members, with an average of 75 in worship. Miglesia-antioquia-feb-2018.jpgost are ethnically Q’eqchi’ & new to the Reformed tradition. In 2017, 24 new members joined, 12 by profession of faith. The congregation continues its ministry of hospitality, receiving international groups & nearby theological students. In November 2017, the church hosted 300 Presbyterian women from across Guatemala for their annual convention.

   Our Family: Last month, Bacilia’s in her final semester of nursing school. Matthew began high school at La Patria Norte, focusing on agroforestry. He’s still the drummer for worship, & placed 3rd in hurdles in the 2017 national track meet. Manny began middle school, competes on the local soccer team & plays bass. Stefi’s in 5th grade, runs track,Family Israel 2018 roller-blades, & plays keyboard. It was an incredible joy for our family to participate in a journey thru the Holy Land this past month (see photo).

Again, we’re most grateful that you’re part of the Presbyterian mission in Guatemala. May Christ’s grace fill your cup to overflowing. We can’t wait to see many of you in upcoming months. You’re always in our prayers!

Philip, Bacilia, Matthew, Manuel & Estefana Beisswenger

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