On Pentecost, Peter declared, “The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off.” (Acts 2:39) Interpretations of Peter’s words often highlight “your children” and downplay “all who are far off.” However, the message is quite clear—God’s covenant comprises a mixture of both the familiar and the strange, the intimate and the distant. The experience of divine forgiveness somehow binds us to our closest kindred as well as the diaspora of believers that we barely recognize and tend to ignore. The grace of Christ creates a faith circle that’s expands beyond family ties, proximity, and similarity. It stretches dramatically to encompass those whose culture, language and life circumstances are sharply different than our own.
During the past two months, one U.S. mission team after another joined with Guatemalans to share their common faith, distinct gifts, and diverse ways of life. New friendships and ongoing partnerships were fueled by a passion for companionship and discipleship. It all signaled a fulfillment of the Pentecost promise that Peter proclaimed. Here are a few words about two of these teams:
Trinity Presbyterian Church, Fairhope, AL: This multi-generational team was hosted by Cobán’s Presbyterian congregation. Led by Stephen Davis, the team had 22 members, including five belonging to the same family. They labored alongside Presbyterians from Cobán and Chiséc, mostly mounting concrete wallboards on the Center for Mission and Administration at the Presbyterian Complex (see group snapshot). While at it, they also fell in love with neighborhood kids that wandered over to play and participate. In worship we all sang “May the God of Hope Go with Us” in English and Spanish, and Pastor Matt McCullum preached (see photo). Other highlights included a Q’eqchi cultural show by students at the La Patria Norte School (see photo), a heated soccer contest between Trinity and Cobán youth, and an outing to the Hun Nal Ye ecological park for hiking, swimming, tubing, fishing, and horseback riding. Afterwards, the Trinity team described the visit as “incredibly meaningful for every person.”
First Presbyterian Church, Kingsport, TN: This team of 7 members was led by Pastor Sharon Amstutz. During the first half of their visit, they strengthened an ongoing relationship with Bethel Presbyterian Church, a congregation in the working-class barrio of Sabana Arriba, in Guatemala City. The principal project was to carry out a food basket ministry to needy people of the church and community. After a trip to the market to purchase food staples, 30 baskets were assembled at the church. Two ministry groups were formed with people from both congregations. At each home, the groups sang, read scripture, prayed, and delivered a food basket (see photo). At every stop, the group was welcomed with sincere thanks. Other activities included joint worship with a sermon by Sharon, a lively youth gathering, and visits with Sunday school classes. The second part of the week was in up in Cobán, painting walls of the church and manse with Presbyterians there (see photo). A special recognition was given for the generous contribution the Kingsport church gave last year in memory of Bee Rigby to support building at Cobán’s Presbyterian Complex. Once back in the States, a Kingsport team member commented: “Everyone had an amazing time in Guatemala” and “We so enjoyed working and worshipping alongside each congregation.”
Soon, news about two other summer teams—Williamsburg (VA) Presbyterian Church and Northminster Presbyterian Church, Cincinnati, OH.