Monthly Archives: May 2013

Dispatch from the IENPG Synod Meeting

During this week (May 20-24) the IENPG (Evangelical National Presbyterian Church of Guatemala) held its annual Synod plenary at the Campamento Monte Sion along Lake Amatitlán. The meeting included worship, friendly fellowship, hearty meals, several soccer matches and, of course, plenty of sitting. Here’s my report about decisions that were made, with emphasis on news that I think will interest people in the PC(USA):DSC01186

     Delegates voted their unanimous approval for a new covenant between the IENPG and the PC(USA). In the covenant thanks is given to God for “our work together as witnesses to God’s Kingdom.” Special appreciation is expressed for “PC(USA) mission workers and their U.S. supporters that have been so instrumental in the formation of the Guatemalan church,” as well as “the Guatemalan church leaders for their vision and sacrifices that have produced so much good fruit,” and “existing partnerships that bond our denominations on the presbytery and congregational levels.” Both denominations ask God’s forgiveness for “mistaken actions and attitudes in the past that have in any way impeded our common witness and work as partners in mission,” as well as the “lack of respect for differences in theological and moral understandings that is too often evident in our relationships with one another.” There are numerous policy changes in the covenant, which was last renewed in 2004. I’ll post the entire covenant soon on this blog site, so that anyone who’s interested can look it over.

     The Synod also gave its full support to a detailed proposal regarding the future of the Walton funds for theological education (currently frozen), and also affirmed a new position for a PC(USA) mission co-worker whose focus will be the use of these funds. It is hoped that this new mission co-worker will arrive in Guatemala later this year.

Also, a covenant partnership with Living Waters for the World (LWW) was adopted. In the covenant (which still needs final approval by LWW), both partners lift up their shared “Protestant faith and reformed roots,” along with the long-standing relationship between their denominations, their concern for the poor and marginalized and their commitment to holistic partnership and sustainable mission projects. The rest of the covenant outlines the ways that they will collaborate in forming more partnerships with local Presbyterian churches to install and operate water purification systems.

Bacilia and I, as well as Amanda Craft, were invited to make presentations to the assembly about our activities as mission co-workers in Guatemala. Amanda’s assignment is with the IENPG’s women’s organization. Delegates responded enthusiastically to these presentations. Lots of time was used each day talking about advances in theological education and the desire to expand the Presbyterian church into new areas of Guatemala. As is customary at Synod meetings, the moderator realized that the clock would run out before numerous agenda items could be addressed. Therefore, it was agreed to forward all remaining items were to the Executive Committee for their action.DSC01188

A new IENPG moderator was elected, Pastor Ivan Paz. Until two years ago he was the IENPG Permanent Secretary, and now he’s pastor at the Presbyterian Church in Amatitlán. As usual, I was impressed by the ethnic diversity represented at the Synod meeting, and the positive spirit that reigned throughout the deliberations. At the same time, it’s noticeable that the indigenous delegates are much less vocal than the Ladino delegates. The shortage of women delegates continues to be a disappointment, although women were active and vocal throughout the proceedings. A newly-elected Executive Committee was installed—half pastors, half-elders—which I’m sad to have to mention is all male (see photo).

An upbeat report was given by an INEPG pastor who attended last year’s PC(USA) General Assembly as an invited “ecumenical delegate.” Pastor Miguel Estrada spoke about the warm hospitality that he enjoyed in Pittsburgh, and the opportunities that he had to participate during the sessions. He brought back greetings from the General Assembly, and a crystal communion set that was given in recognition of the IENPG’s 50th anniversary. He also brought a large manila envelope full of cards from PC(USA) delegates that promised to pray for the IENPG. In response to Pastor Estrada’s report, the Synod delegates raised their hands to pledge to keep the PC(USA) in their prayers too.

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Tapping into Christ’s Living Waters

According to a study by Guatemala’s Guild of Engineers, 80% of water sources in Guatemala are polluted with bacteria and chemicals. Although water availability is good overall, water quality is poor. The World Health Organization reports that 40% of rural Guatemalans have no running water, and 83% lack clean drinking water. In urban areas, 23% are without clean drinking water. As a consequence, intestinal illnesses are the 3rd highest cause of infant mortality.

This past week I accompanied officials of Living Waters for the World (LWW), a mission organization of the Synod of Living Waters. Rev. Wil Howie, LWW Director; Rev. Todd Jenkins, Moderator of LWW’s Guatemala Network; and Jeff Wagner, LWW Operations Director came for 4 days of meetings and visits. We discussed with leaders of the Presbyterian Church of Guatemala (IENPG) the fine-tuning of a formal covenant. Later this month, this covenant is to be proposed at the IENPG’s yearly Synod meeting for adoption. The covenant’s aim is to work more closely as partners in bringing sustainable water purification systems to more Presbyterian churches across the country.

We stayed at Guatemala’s Presbyterian Seminary near Retalhuleu, where an international LWW conference will be held in October of this year.  Plans were made with seminary efficials for this week-long conference, which will bring together 50 participants from nine countries are expected at the conference.

While there, we visited six sites where LWW systems have been installed in Guatemala’s coastal region. Two of them were especially impressive. At a fire station in Las Delicias, Colomba in the Quetzaltenango Department, 5 gallon jugs of purified water are sold to the community for 5 quetzals each, considerably less than the Q16 charged by commercial water vendors.  Free water is distributed to local schools and to families in need, while proceeds from water sales have enabled the station to pay staff and make improvements on the fire house. (See photo) DSC01164This system was sponsored by First Presbyterian Church in Tupelo, MS.

At another site, a church in Retalhuleu called El Shaddai, a purification system installed with help from Fox Valley Presbyterian Church in Geneva, Illinois, has developed an extensive water ministry that mixed entrepreneurship with social outreach, with bottled water provided to feeding centers and schools, and water is sold at a low price to the public.

Given the dire needs in Guatemala for access to clean water, the expanding ministry of Living Waters for the World is good news for many struggling communities.

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