Monthly Archives: November 2013

Achí Churches Decide to Join IENPG

Pastors of the Reformed Church of Guatemala—six congregations in the town of Cubulco and surrounding villages—decided yesterday to seek membership in the IENPG (Evangelical National Presbyterian Church of Guatemala). They’re of Achí ethnicity. A morning dialogue took place over the IENPG’s policies on a wide range of issues like Holy Communion, ordination of women, speaking in tongues, worship styles, and training of pastors. Copies of the IENPG’s constitution had been sent beforehand as a basis for the discussion. I accompanied Isaías Garcia, IENPG Permanent Secretary, along with two representatives of the neighboring Polochíc Q’eqchi’ Presbytery. (See photo of group, and of an old colonial bridge leading into Cubulco)DSC01421DSC01419

After the dialogue, pastors and other church leaders mulled over their options, and chose to join the IENPG. Now they will enter a process of formally requesting admission and transitioning into their new denominational relationship. These churches were formed 19 years ago as a mission of the Reformed Church of Canada.

The trip also included a additional day in Sayaxché, Petén, for the plenary meeting of the Petén Q’eqchi’ Presbytery. We worked on a strategic plan for improving the presbytery’s administration and financial stewardship, recruiting and training of new pastors, strengthening Presbyterian identity, reactivating the women’s organization, and legalizing church properties.

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Why not Integrate Guatemalan Presbyterians into Your Guatemalan Mission?

U.S. Presbyterians often get involved in mission work in Guatemala through organizations like Habitat for Humanity,DSC01412 Heifer Project, Living Waters for the World, and other Christian and secular service agencies. When they become aware that a vibrant Presbyterian denomination exists in Guatemala, they often desire to connect to it somehow.

About a year ago, this happened to members of First Presbyterian Church of Kingsport, Tennessee, and they decided to do something about it. Already deeply involved with water projects in marginalized communities on the outskirts of Guatemala City, they contacted me about possibilities for a relationship with area Presbyterians. I intruduced them to Bethel Presbyterian Church, a small congregation in a working class neighborhood DSC01417that quickly embraced the idea of partnering with Kingsport. After worshipping together on several trips, Kingsport FPC sent a commission this past week with the purpose of building a long-term partnership between the two churches.

For four days, they met with Bethel’s pastor, session, women, and youth. They worshipped, toured the neighborhood, and visited two mission congregations that Bethel supports. Each asked the other, “How can we help your church be stronger?” Visits were also DSC01409included to the schools and hospital with which Kingsport already has partnerships.

Now the Kingsport team has returned to Tennessee, and the process moves forward. Both groups have agreed to work on defining a covenant, and to focus on some joint projects in Guatemala such as supporting the local school, starting a clean water ministry, and improving Sunday school classrooms. Bethel has agreed to host a Kingsport youth team this next year. The mission connection is growing stronger and wider.DSC01415

Photos from the visit: Kingsport FPC presents a painting to Bethel leaders; Bethel’s building in the Sabana Arriba neighborhood; sharing a fellowship meal; youth band warms up for service.

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Eliza is Born!

Video call snapshot 3Today is a wonderful milestone–I became a grandfather! My beautiful granddaughter Eliza Evelyn Beisswenger was born in Goldsboro, North Carolina. There weren’t any complications along the way, thank God! Mom Holli is tired, relieved, and , as is dad Daniel. Seeing them all on Skype was thrilling, although being there would’ve been better. Welcome, baby Eliza! It’s such a blessing to have you here on God’s earth!

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Denver Presbytery in Discernment about New Partnership

Seven representatives of the Presbytery of Denver travelled to Guatemala for a week of exploring mission partnership opportunities. We focused on four different places— the Reformed Churches in Cubulco, Baja Verapáz; the Franja Transversal Presbytery in Alta Verapáz; the Ixcán Presbytery in Quiché; and the Presbyterian mission in Cobán. It was a demanding schedule as we moved through three departments using vans, boats, truck beds, and hiking in a downpour.  I lost track of how many bowls of caldo de gallina criolla we were served; it’s a spicy Q’eqchi’ soup featuring free-range chicken. One day we hiked through jungle to Laguna Lechua, a pristine, circular lake that’s thought to have been created by an ancient meteorite. At every stop there was abundant hospitality, and our friendly driver, Alfredo, made sure we got there safely.

Along the way we ran into desperate needs. Several communities had recently lost their crops due to heavy flooding. In some villages the women and children must walk 30-40 minutes to a stream to fetch water. Numerous churches weren’t sure if the land they’d built on was really theirs. One pastor had just been threatened by a ruthless extortion gang and was selling his house to pay them. We toured an elementary school with one teacher that single-handedly teaches 53 students ranging from kindergarten to sixth grade, with another 10 enrolled for January.

We also witnessed many admirable things, such as a good hospital run by missionaries, quite a few new church buildings under construction, and dedicated pastors and church members that are overcoming many tough obstacles to spread the Gospel. It was an intense week filled with smiling faces and eye-opening experiences. Now the group from Denver Presbytery returns back home to seek God’s direction for the next steps in its new mission relationship.

Here are some photos from the trip: Achí women in Cubulco; breakfast at church in Atena, Ixcán; church in Vista Hermosa, Ixcán;  manse in Vista Hermosa, Ixcán; Laguna Lechua; crossing Chixoy River; missionary Nico Kattenburg in Cubulco; visiting church at Yamchicar; women’s dialogue at San Jacobo II.

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“Confluencia”—Living Waters Networks Conference

DSC01373This past week it was exciting to be part of the 1st International Networks Conference of Living Waters for the World (LWW). Fifty-five of us gathered at Guatemala’s Presbyterian Seminary around the theme of “confluencia.” There were representatives from Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Mexico, Cuba, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Ghana, Guatemala and the USA. Each of these networks labors to provide sustainable purification systems that bring clean water in communities in need, while spreading the good news of Jesus Christ.

We began and ended each day with worship, led by one of the networks.  There was simultaneous translation in English and Spanish to ensure full participation by everyone. Although I was glad to help with translation and driving, mostly I simply participated.

These are my conference highlights:

  • Bacilia and I enjoyed hosting the LWW leadership team and IENPG pastors for supper at our home on Saturday night. While Bacilia and niece Jesy made chicken burritos and plantains, Matthew and Manny showed their soccer moves and Stefi put on a ballet performance. I acted as greeter and waiter. LWW is blessed with a talented and staff and dedicated volunteer leaders, and it was great to meet all of them.
  • On Tuesday there was an in depth consideration of challenges and successes (see photo). Successes include more country networks and coordinators to help with the high demand for clean water, the growing number of U.S. partners (called “initiating partners”), and a closer relationship with PC(USA) World Mission.
  • Challenges include things like difficulties in getting health licenses, more health and hygiene education for local partners (called “operating partners), a high number of inactive or “orphaned” systems, complaints about water taste, the desire for more community outreach and clearer covenants, and problems finding bottles and replacement filters.
  • Wednesday featured visits to LWW water installation sites in the area. The site that most impressed me was a church in Retalhuleu called El Shaddai. The pastor, Fredy Monson (see photo with his wife Isa), DSC01378took us on a tour of their operation, which produces 2,000 5-gallon bottles of pure water a month. Half are donated to schools, clinics, retirement and children’s homes, and jails. Their partner in the U.S. is the Fox Valley Presbyterian Church in Geneva, Illinois.
  • A Thursday breakfast of LWW leaders with PC(USA) mission co-workers (like me). While eating pancakes and papaya we shared ideas about ways mission co-workers can contribute to the success of LWW, and how LWW can support and promote mission co-workers in our assignments.
  • Also on Thursday was the official start of a 5-year covenant between LWW and the IENPG. Church officials were on hand for the signing (see photo), DSC01380and to reach agreement about the hiring of a LWW coordinator in Guatemala who will work specifically with IENPG churches and institution. By the way, more purification systems have been installed in Guatemala—125—than in any other country.
  • On the last day, each network gave a presentation of 5-year visions, goals and actions, concluding with a service of Holy Communion (see photo) DSC01383and presenting of certificates.

During a worship led by the Cuban delegation, we shared in the following “Blessing of the Water:

We are in your presence, our God, Living Water. May this renewed water refresh us and transform us into a people who are responsible for your creation. May this renewed water gife us hope to make possible our dreams of justice, love and peace, to accompany and to serve our people and Your Church. Amen.

(A cup of pure water is handed to each of us and we are invited to drink from it)

Let’s drink a cup of this simple water. The atoms in water are five billion years. We are drinking the birth of the earth.

We drink a sip of water.

We sip this water and with it we are participating in the history of life. Its molecules were in the jungle, and its quantum particles have moved with the anemones of the sea. They lived in the wombs of our mothers, in the water of our baptism; now they are on the path of new transformation.

We drink the rest of the water.

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