Today schools opened for a new academic year in Guatemala, including at the La Patria Norte Christian School in Cobán. Since the new campus isn’t ready yet at the Presbyterian Complex, La Patria Norte will make do another year at its current leased facilities. Spirits were high as initial ceremonies and worship took place this morning (see photo). Enrollment is down slightly so far, with 220 students in kindergarten through secondary, but there’s still time for more registrations. Our kids are excited about getting back to class. Matthew enters 7th grade (primer básico), Manny’s now a 4th grader, and Stefi’s a 2nd grader (see photo).
Among the secondary students at La Patria Norte are 3 from the Presbyterian Church in Chajul, Quiche. Mateo Caba, Elisabeth Mo, and Elena Caba (see photo) arrived in Cobán 2 days ago with their fathers, and will be studying to become legal professionals. This opportunity is made possible by scholarships from the school, with their room and board covered by contributions from Williamsburg (VA) Presbyterian Church. Through its partnership with Chajul Presbyterians, Williamsburg is also providing scholarships and tutoring for 10 middle school students in the Ixil region.
To help needy children start school on the right foot, Northminster Presbyterian Church, of Cincinnati, OH, has sponsored a school supplies project for Cobán’s La Libertad Public School. Northminster provided resources for 400 supply kits, which were assembled last Saturday by the youth of the new Presbyterian congregation, down the street from the school (see photo). The supplies will be distributed at a special school assembly on January 21.
Some 80 Q’eqchi’ pastors and church leaders expected to begin theological studies next Monday in Cobán, but the program’s start has been delayed due to uncertainty about funding. The Presbyterian Seminary hasn’t yet received approval of its 2015 proposal for Walton funds, and won’t be able to begin until the arrival of the funding, which is an endowment to support theological education for indigenous Presbyterians in Guatemala. Please pray that these resources will be available soon.
Q’eqchi’ Worship: Last Thursday, Cobán’s new Presbyterian Congregation held its first weekly Q’eqchi’-language service (see photo). Thank God for Pastor Federico Saquí and other Q’eqchi’ Presbyterians from Canaan, Chiséc, who are taking a 3 hour bus ride each way to make possible this ministry.
Land Purchase for New Esperanza: Yesterday Presbyterian representatives signed a contract to buy 114 manzanas (almost 200 acres) of undeveloped farmland for 18 families of the Nueva Esperanza (New Hope) community, in a remote area north of Cobán. This is an event of miraculous proportions for this community, which belongs to the Franja Transversal del Norte Presbytery. For years they’ve been squatters, hoping to reach an agreement to buy the land where they raise cardamom and corn. As their mission partner, the Presbytery of Denver, especially Englewood Presbyterian Church, has prayed for this community and came up with funds for a down payment. As it turned out, no deal could be reached with the landholder, but a better and larger piece of property became available nearby at a lower cost. This owner agreed to sell the land interest free! Prayers make a difference! The community will pay Q 60,000/year for 12 years from proceeds of future harvests. Please pray for these families as they now take apart their homes, church and school and move to their new place. (See photo of contract signing, with me; Fernando Martinez, Presbyterian Trustee; Flavio Poou Coc, Elder from Nueva Esperanza; Pastor Mateo Coc Coc of of Franja Transversal Presbytery; Julian Ixim Max, property seller; and Marco Antonio Chocooj, attorney)