No doubt the Lord was pleased by the recent development of a new Christian partnership that stretches across three languages, three cultures and two nations. A covenant was formalized last week that joined the Williamsburg (Virginia) Presbyterian Church, Guatemala City’s Central Presbyterian Church, and the Presbyterian mission in Chajul, Kiché. Several representatives of the Williamsburg church, Rev. Karen Stanley and Rich Watkins, came for the signing ceremonies in both Guatemalan sites. (See photos) Each of the three ministries has pledged to worship, pray, and work together toward strengthening and expanding the mission in Chajul, a mountainous town where Ixil farmers cultivate corn and coffee. In conjunction with the signing, meetings were held to confirm plans for pastoral training, youth service projects, the construction of a temple, and support for local indigenous craft and coffee industries.
While there, we also finalized arrangements for two bright Ixil teenagers to advance their studies with help from even more partners. One of the bright girls, Catalyn Laynez, will be studying pre-med, while the other, Kristina Pacheco, will be studying pre-law. They’ve both received full scholarships at the Presbyterian high school in Coban, where PC(USA) funds are providing their room and board. (See photo of them with grateful family members) Who else but the Holy Spirit could draw together so many enthusiastic partners with a common, long-range commitment to embrace God’s work in such meaningful, beautiful ways!
Our family’s in Tapachula, Mexico for a few days to renew our Guatemalan visas. The kids are splashing around in the hotel pool, and didn’t even notice a 5.2 tremor that shook the ground this morning. It’s been a little while since I posted an update because our computer’s been on the blink, and it’s been hard to upload photographs. Oh, well, here’s some recent news:
- We look forward to the Guatemalan Mission Network meeting on Jan. 29-Feb. 1 in Guatemala City. It’s shaping up as an impressive cross-section of U.S. and Guatemalan Presbyterians, coming to celebrate and strengthen the mission ties that stretch across our different churches, cultures and nationalities. The heart of the meeting will involve our grappling with what it means to be a “Community of Mission Practice.” We’re so fortunate that Tracey King-Ortega, PC(USA) Regional Liaison for Central America will be on hand to lead us in this process. Also, we’ll have workshops about advances in education, clean water projects, protecting the environment, and coordinating disaster relief. Even though the deadline for registration has just passed, let me know if you’d like to attend, and we’ll squeeze you in.
- This coming week representatives from Williamsburg (VA) Presbyterian Church will be in Guatemala to formalize a covenant partnership between their church and the Ixil Presbyterian congregation in Chajul, Quiché. Recent mission work there has resulted in two congregations, a “preaching point” in another village, plus efforts to incorporate two more congregations within the “Ixil Triangle.”
- The Guatemalan Presbyterian Church held an extraordinary plenary meeting on Jan. 7-9 to update its constitution for the first time in 46 years. This meeting was considered historic because of an article that approves the breaking up of the national Synod into multiple Synods in various regions that, in the future, will form a General Assembly. Each of the delegates from the presbyteries signed the official document, which now has to be approved by the Guatemalan government. The assembly also adopted a new provision for presbyteries to receive ministers of other Presbyterian bodies, like the PC(USA) as “affiliate members.” (Photo: Delegates lining up to sign new statutes)
- Recently two more PC(USA) churches have committed to supporting our mission assignment in Guatemala—First PC in Kingsport, TN and Lake Square PC in Leesburg, FL. We’re so grateful for these connections and the key role that congregations like these two fill in God’s mission.
- For our familiy, the holidays were joyful and busy with plenty of church events in several other departments (see photo of angels from children’s cantata in Guatemala City). Bacilia’s sister Maricela came from Honduras, and made batches of delicious tamales and coconut bread (see photo). I was given a leather briefcase to replace the beat-up model I’ve lugged around for decades. Bacilia received a keyboard as a present, and is now taking piano lessons. We all rejoiced when Bacilia was elected as a deacon at the Central Presbyterian Church and ordained on Jan. 6. (See photo)