Monthly Archives: September 2012

Potpourri of Stuff about Our Mission Work

Here’s an assortment of news from Guatemala:

  • Yesterday the IENPG’s PRESGOV and International Relations Committees came to our house in Guatemala City for a day-retreat to discuss their shared vision and mission. Most of them travelled considerable distance to attend, some leaving their homes at 3:00 AM. They adopted this vision statement: “To be an organized team to fulfill the vision and mission of the IENPG, the PC(USA), and other communities of faith that share our beliefs, as a witness to our unity in Jesus Christ.” Then they came up with this mission statement: “To support and develop holistic partnerships, both nationally and internationally, giving emphasis to the areas of evangelism, education, poverty, natural disasters, and reconciliation, for the enlargement of God’s kingdom.” Bacilia and her niece Jesy prepared a Garifuna-style meal for everyone, and we celebrated several birthdays as well. See the photo of the two committees which unfortunately makes them appear very grim, which they certainly aren’t. They’re really a fun-loving bunch, so you can blame the photographer (me).
  • On Sunday, just as the 11:00 AM service was to get underway, a long, loud Catholic procession paraded in front of the Central Presbyterian Church. It lasted about ½ hour, and must have included at least a dozen marching bands from different schools. The worship leaders waited patiently for it to be over.  Since the church is downtown near the central square, this isn’t unusual. See the photo of several cute majorettes from the procession. During the service, Manuel and Matthew served as junior deacons, so here’s a picture of them too.
  • Our family’s in the process of moving to a new house in Guatemala City. Our new location is in the city’s Zone 15. The big advantage is we’ll be within walking distance of our children’s school, which means they won’t need to ride the bus anymore. The drawback will be not having the inspiring view of volcanoes anymore. For old times’ sake, I share a photo of a sunset over Volcán de Agua taken from our upstairs window.
  • PC(USA) World Mission and the IENPG have agreed to a one-year extension of our assignment in Guatemala, till the summer of 2014. During this extra year our position will be evaluated in light of changes in World Mission’s priorities. We’re so thankful for the opportunity to serve longer, and pray that God will help us to make the most of it to build healthy partnerships and connections of every kind.
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Joining Forces—Living Waters for the World and the IENPG

Several leaders from Living Waters for the World (LWW) traveled to Guatemala this week to discuss the formation of a mission covenant with the Presbyterian Church of Guatemala (IENPG). The team included Rev. Wil Howie, founder and executive director of LWW, Rev. Todd Jenkins, moderator of the LWW Guatemala network, and Claudia Caballeros, LWW’s In-Country Coordinator. They came to explore how LWW might work more closely with the churches of IENPG in meeting needs for clean water across the country. I played the role of facilitator and translator.

LWW is a mission of the Synod of Living Waters of the PC(USA), whose purpose is to provide clean water in communities that need it, and to build relationships with partners in those communities. Started in 1993, 475 water purification systems have been set up in 14 countries through LWW. In Guatemala, where 100 systems have been installed, LWW has worked with a wide range of churches and local organizations. Because of its Presbyterian connections, LWW is striving to strengthen its relationship with the IENPG.

A lengthy discussion took place at the IENPG offices in Guatemala City, with Miguel Ortega and Rev. Isaias Garcia, IENPG moderator and permanent secretary respectively, the three LWW representatives, and me. It became clear to all of us that the two entities share much common ground—a Protestant faith, Reformed roots, the historic relationship between the PC(USA) and the IENPG, the desire to strengthen ties between the two denominations , a concern for the poor and the marginalized, the concept of holistic partnership, and a commitment to supporting sustainable mission projects. We agreed that so much common ground offers a solid foundation for serving together as partners.

In a meeting with the IENPG Executive Committee at the Monte Sion camp in Amatitlán, the LWW representatives gave a presentation to the IENPG Executive Committee. They were received warmly, and the idea of developing a formal covenant was approved with much enthusiasm. Working together makes so much sense, since the IENPG has churches in many communities that need better access to drinking water, and LWW has dedicated supporters with the means to help address this need. A commission was established to work with LWW in drafting a covenant. Subsequently, the outlines of a proposal took shape which will be presented to the governing bodies of both the LWW and the IENPG for their approval.

At one of our meetings, Todd Jenkins read Psalm 133, which begins, “How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity!” Verse 3 then says that this unity is “like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion.” Just like the falling dew that brought unity to the separate, distant mountains of Hermon and Zion, the living water of Christ continues to unite God’s people from separate, distant lands. How very good and pleasant this is!

(Photo: Mamerto Aguilar, IENPG Treasurer; Rev. Isaias Garcia; Philip Beisswenger; Todd Jenkins; Wil Howie; Miguel Ortega; Claudia Caballeros)

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New Training Program for Q’eqchi’ Pastors

A two-day “summit” took place in the city of Cobán this past week to address the scarcity of theological education opportunities for the Q’eqchi’ presbyteries of the Guatemalan Presbyterian Church (IENPG).

Most Q’eqchi’ pastors are farmers that receive very little, if any, salary from their churches. Yet, Q’eqchi’ presbyteries are a fast-growing part of the IENPG, spreading in rural villages where the idea of elder authority resonates with their culture. This growth is happening despite the lack of adequate pastoral training.

The Q’eqchi’, like other indigenous groups in Guatemala, have historically been marginalized by language, culture and politics. For years civil war displaced and terrorized them. Today they’re afflicted by drug traffickers, and foreign agribusiness and mining companies exploit their land. Seventy-five percent of the indigenous live in poverty. Less than 10% have access to adequate health care. Half of adults are illiterate and don’t speak Spanish, and a fourth of indigenous children aren’t in school. On average, indigenous workers receive half the wages of non-indigenous Ladinos for the same work.

The theological education summit included 26 representatives from the IENPG, the Presbyterian Seminary, the La Patria Norte school, and the Q’eqchi’ presbyteries. I attended as a PC(USA) mission co-worker. (See photo of summit participants.)

Here are examples of comments that the Q’eqchi’ pastors made:

“We have no money for bus fares and other expenses, and some of us struggle to read and write.”

“If classes are all in Spanish, some of our pastors won’t understand and they won’t come.”

“For us, travel for training means less time in our fields to tend crops so we can feed our families.”

“We need a better sense of our Presbyterian roots, our identity as a Protestant church.”

“Our young people are getting ahead with degrees of every sort. As pastors, we should be leaders in education, but we’re stuck behind.”

Participants at the summit agreed to a degree program in the Q’eqchi’ language, tailored to needs of pastors with limited formal education, in synch with the Reformed tradition and coordinated by the seminary. It’s slated to begin in January 2013 on the campus of La Patria Norte in Cobán. The IENPG, the seminary and La Patria Norte will provide teachers, materials, room and board. Q’eqchi’ presbyteries will raise funds for transportation costs. Students will be expected to fulfill course requirements and, in turn, provide training for other pastors in their home presbyteries.

During the summit, we also visited five acres of land that have recently been purchased in Cobán for a new La Patria Norte campus, training center, and the city’s first Presbyterian congregation. Cobán is the commercial and cultural hub of the central highlands, with a mixture of Ladino and Q’eqchi’ inhabitants.  At the five acre site, prayers of dedication were offered in Q’eqchi’, Spanish and English. (See photo of land.)

Thank you for your prayers and support for this kind of advance in God’s mission, and thanks to God for the partnership opportunities that it opens up for us.

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