During the past couple of weeks there’s been lots of cross-country travel, and plenty of forward movement for God’s mission. First was a visit by Sycamore Presbyterian Church, of Cincinnati, Ohio, to the northern mountains of Huehuetenango. This church is considering reviving a mission partnership that the Cincinnati Presbytery previously had with the Q’anjob’al Presbytery. Getting to the Q’anjob’al region was more challenging than usual due to highway blockages by protesting indigenous organizations and government workers. Once we arrived, the seven Ohioans united with the Q’anjob’al executive committee, women’s society, and youth leadership to share ideas for combined service. (See one of many group photos) We visited several villages, exploring prospects for medical teams as well as water and agricultural projects. The week was filled with moments for worship, fun, and laughter. (See photo of me with children from the church in San Juan Ixcoy) Towards the end, moving recognitions were bestowed upon Ron Cowgill, long-time, faithful coordinator of the partnership. A Q’anjob’al-language Bible was presented to him signed by Q’anjob’al leaders and the team. The return trip from Huehuetenango was made much faster by a chartered plane that flew us to Guatemala City. (See photo)
The same day that Sycamore left for the U.S., a delegation from The Outreach Foundation, based in Franklin, Tennessee, arrived to investigate theological training and church projects, especially in the Cobán area. The visitors were Rev. Rob Weingartner, Executive Director, and Elder Tom McDow, Trustee and President-elect of the board. A quick-paced itinerary included dialogue sessions with leaders of the Presbyterian Evangelical Seminary, the Chiséc Q’eqchi’ Presbytery, and Pastor Isaias Garcia, IENPG General Secretary. (See photo) They participated in the Wednesday night Bible study with Cobán´s new Presbyterian congregation, and attended a meeting of the Multi-Institutional Board that leads development of Cobán’s Presbyterian Complex.
They also joined with other well-wishers and excited family members to celebrate the graduation of 60 Q’eqchi’, Poqomchí and Ixil Presbyterians—26 with theology degrees in Practical Pastoral Theology and 34 in Bible and Mission. (See photos) Guatemala’s Evangelical Presbyterian Seminary awarded diplomas in either Practical Pastoral Theology or Bible and Mission at the auditorium of Cobán’s La Patria Norte School. Scholarships for this program were provided by the seminary with support of Walton funds from the PC(USA). A number of PC(USA) partners also helped with student travel costs, including Middle Tennessee Presbytery and Williamsburg Presbyterian Church. Plans are for this training program to grow again next year with an additional degree in church administration along with workshops in strategic planning, organization and accounting.
One can only marvel at the good things that come together in God’s mission in places like Guatemala through divine grace and collaborative efforts. Even more encouraging and wonderful are the signs that God has much more in store for the days and years to come. Praise be to God!