Monthly Archives: June 2013

Missionary Mishmash

The start of summer means lots of shifting around for our family and our mission work. Most Guatemalan schools run on a January-October academic year, but our kids attend one of a handful that follow the U.S. schedule. As a result, Matthew just finished 5th grade, Manny finished 2nd grade, and Stefi finished kindergarten. (See photos of Stefi whose choir won 1st place in inter-school competition; Manny awarded for soccer; and Matthew awarded as track and field MVP and art student of the year.) DSC01194DSC01193SAM_0894SAM_0889We’ll be staying in Guatemala throughout vacation, except for a very fast run into Mexico to renew visas. Right now Manny and Matthew are at Camp Guamiski, a summer camp for missionary children near Chimaltenango.

Philip will be accompanying numerous groups during these summer months. Already one from First Presbyterian Church in Kenosha, Wisconsin has come and gone. The next teams will be: Williamsburg Presbyterian Church, visiting Chajul, Quiche; Sycamore Presbyterian Youth from Cincinnati, visiting the Q’anjob’al Presbytery, Huehuetenango; South Jacksonville (FL) Presbyterian Church, visiting in Ocosito, Retalhuleu; the Presbytery of Inland Northwest, visiting the Polochic Presbytery; and Northminster (Cincinnati) Presbyterian Church, visiting a new church development in Coban. Please pray for these groups as they and their Guatemalan partners prepare for exciting times together.

This past week Bacilia and I travelled to Coban to visit the theological training program. This new program is going strong, with 48 indigenous pastors in attendance from nine presbyteries. On the way to Coban, we stopped at a farm outside the town of Chamelco to meet a short-term mission team from John Knox Presbyterian Church in Greenville, South Carolina. The John Knox church used to serve in the Coban area with Habitat for Humanity, and now  is partnering with Community Cloud Forest Conservation (CCFC), whose mission is to alleviate poverty and malnutrition among Q’eqchi’ people through education, food security projects, and works to protect and reforest cloud forests. CCFC is directed by Rob and Tara Cahill, who once worked with Heifer Project International. The John Knox team (see photo of Pastor Joseph Gaston and several other team members) DSC01213wanted to learn more about the multi-faceted Presbyterian church/school project in Coban, and I was more than happy to tell them about it and encourage them to include it in their church’s future mission endeavors.

The above encounter reminded me of how diverse and decentralized mission work is in our day, with churches linking up with many worthwhile organizations that strive to serve God’s people in need. This means that much of our work involves fostering connections between a wide variety of churches, agencies and individuals. Cooperation among mission organizations can be hard to achieve, and mutual respect often seems elusive. Nonetheless, God continues to work all things (and people) together for good when we’re called according to God’s purposes.

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Kenosha Church Breaks Ground in Cobán

First of all, arrival plans by a team from First Presbyterian Church in Kenosha, Wisconsin were thrown into chaos by a missed flight connection.  Then, heavy rains turned plans for an outing to some waterfalls into a two-day jungle odyssey. Nonetheless, such inconveniences didn’t discourage the nine group members. Rather, as Pastor Lance Loveall pointed out, these glitches helped them grasp that God’s plans often aren’t ours.

Once in Cobán, team spirits were boosted by a warm reception at the La Patria School. Words of welcome from faculty members were followed by a student production that included colorful indigenous dance, stirring musical performances, and a fashion show of traditional attire.  After a meal of kak-ik (spicy turkey soup), the team joined a parade through Cobán towards the place where a new Presbyterian school, church and theological training center are to be built. The La Patria marching band and color guard led the way (see photo). Coban Parade 2013At the site—a scenic grassland surrounded by wooded ridges—church officers and local dignitaries laid the first stone (actually a concrete block). The Kenosha group was repeatedly welcomed and thanked during the festivities, and credited as being the first work team to help with this major undertaking.

The team’s project was to begin work on a storage building that will safeguard materials and tools for future construction jobs.  Coban Work Site 2013Lots of time was spent shoveling dirt in drizzly weather, hauling sand and water across a field, and mixing concrete by hand. A contractor and his helpers directed our efforts. Each day, volunteers from the Chiséc Presbytery traveled to partner with the group. One day a large group of secondary students from La Patria arrived to help.

By the end of an adventuresome week, the building’s foundation was done. Some team members wished they could’ve had more to show back home for their efforts, but the great importance of foundations isn’t easily visible for everyone. God notices them, however. I have no doubt that God is pleased that the Kenosha team fit so nicely into his plans for expanding ministry in Cobán and the surrounding region.

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