A year ago, Presbyterian worship services got underway in Barrio La Libertad, Cobán. The truth is that after moving to Cobán in June 2014, we realized that a Presbyterian Church was needed not only to serve the community, but also for us. After several months of family devotions on Sundays and plenty of prayer, we invited others to worship with us in our garage (photo on left). The congregation has grown gradually, and on Sunday we held of service of thanksgtiving for our first year (photo on right).
As you’d expect, the year included lots of firsts—first baptisms, first members, first ordination of elders and deacons, and first weddings. A youth group, Sunday school, Bible study classes, Holy Communion and fellowship activities were initiated. The year provided myriad opportunities for our family to learn about Cobán’s cultural traditions and social realities, and to meet many interesting and good-hearted people. It was a year of trying to shape the NCD’s identity as a Reformed congregation in a religious landscape dominated by Roman Catholics, Nazarenes, and Pentecostals. There were challenges along the way—juggling church and family in the same place, completing the manse, expanding the worship area, the theft of our amplifier, the kidnapping of a church member, and seeking to figure out how best to respond to the needs of the poor in the barrio. It was a pleasure to welcome numerous mission teams from the United States, each one bringing encouragement and a sense of connection with the wider Church. We’re thankful for the continuation of the NCD’s ties with Northminster Presbyterian Church, of Cincinnati, Ohio, a partnership that started almost three years ago.
To mark this anniversary, members held a weekend of special events. On Saturday, Aug. 29, two busloads of participants traveled to the cloud forest near Purulhá for a day-long retreat. We enjoyed a nature hike (see photo), swimming, soccer, devotional, a workshop on “The Fruit of the Spirit,” and we savored the famous turkey soup called Kak’ik. On Sunday, Aug. 30, worship was held for the first time at the nearby Presbyterian Complex, in the unfinished shell of the Administration and Mission Center. At 6:00 AM church members started hauling chairs, tables, hymnals, speakers, and other equipment from the church building, to set up and decorate for the 10:00 AM service. (See photo) There were 81 persons in attendance—a record for us! Afterwards, church cooks served a delicious meal of barbecued chicken. We then hauled everything back to the church building and, to top things off, played yet another soccer game.
Among the congregation’s goals for the next year are:
1. To keep reaching out to people at their needs as we proclaim the saving grace of Jesus Christ.
2. To find more ways to intertwine our spiritual family with the rest of the community, especially the Q’eqchi’ population;
3.To increase strength in numbers, resources and organization so that the church can be officially chartered;
4. To begin forming small faith groups in other parts of Cobán and beyond;
5. To finish the building at the Presbyterian Complex that will be our long-term location.
Praise be to God for the extraordinary blessing of participating with so many others in Christ’s mission in Cobán, witnessing the miracle of God’s divine plan as it unfolds phase by phase.