Amidst a cold spell and drizzly weather in Coban, a team from the Presbytery of South Alabama began building a perimeter wall around the area of the Presbyterian complex. Each day volunteers from their partner—the Chisec Presbytery—traveled up the mountain to help. Together they also painted the exterior of the storage building and cleared the entranceway for the property. Over the weekend, we visited five churches in the Chisec area, worshipping and making plans for future endeavors such as water projects, theological training, and visits by two groups from South Alabama this coming June. (See photos)
In a high-spirited worship service on January 20, the new church development (NCD) in Cobán was officially launched. IENPG officials from across the country were on hand, as well as Q’eqchi theological students, staff, students and parents of the La Patria Norte School, and South Alabama team members. During the service, I was introduced as organizing pastor of the NCD by Pastor Ivan Paz, IENPG Moderator. (See photos of La Patria Norte liturgical dance group and installation)
After the installation, my turn came to offer remarks: “The vision for this church is that it be Protestant, Presbyterian, Guatemalan and Cobanera. Someone might wonder, ‘if that’s the vision, why’s the new pastor a gringo, and why’s his name Philip Beisswenger, which doesn’t sound Guatemalan or Cobanera?’ I think the best response is that our God is very mysterious, and that God is great enough to do things in unlikely ways that none would expect. For the past year and a half, we on our new church commission have followed Jesus’ instruction to ‘Ask the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest field.’ After so much prayer without finding the right person, the commission approached me about answering the call. As it turns out, sometimes when we pray that God send someone, we find out that we ourselves are the answers to that prayer.”
On a different subject, tor the past 3 ½ years we’ve worked in Guatemala under the auspices of PC(USA) World Mission. Bacilia and I always will be grateful to the PC(USA) for this mission opportunity. It’s been enriching for us and, we think, beneficial for numerous new partners with the Presbyterian Church of Guatemala (IENPG). Nonetheless, due to some disagreements with World Mission about the application of partnership principles, Bacilia and I have decided not to renew our assignment. Our service doesn’t conclude until July 2014, so I’ll still be available to accompany visiting teams from the U.S. After July, our plan is to stay in Guatemala. The Presbyterian Church of Guatemala has asked us to continue to serve with them in the ongoing development of international partnerships and projects. We’re in the process of figuring out together all of what that will entail. I’ll keep you posted about these plans, but please play that all things will work together for good for everybody.