This blog is written by Philip Beisswenger, a mission worker serving with the Presbyterian church in Guatemala with my wife Bacilia and our three children–Matthew (12), Manny (9), and Stefi (7). I also have an adult son in the U.S. Air Force in North Carolina, and lives with his wife and baby girl. I’m a Presbyterian minister from Nashville, Tennessee. My studies at Macalester College and Vanderbilt Divinity School included two years in Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Colombia in the early 1980’s. Since then I’ve pastored in small and large churches in Tennessee, served four years as a Methodist missionary in Honduras, and two years as program director at a homeless shelter. Prior to coming to Guatemala in August 2010, I worked for nine years as Hispanic Ministries Coordinator for the Presbytery of Middle Tennessee and as pastor at Eastminster Presbyterian Church, a multi-cultual congregation in Nashville.
Bacilia is originally from Honduras, and studied business and accounting. She’s fluent in three languages–Garifuna, Spanish and English. Before we became mission workers in Guatemala, she was a governing elder at Eastminster Presbyterian Church. She serves as a deaconess and in the music ministry at Guatemala City’s Central Presbyterian Church.
In this blog I focus on our experiences in this beautiful country, our interactions with the diverse people here, and the many ways that the grace of Jesus Christ is alive amidst the violence and poverty that have plagued Guatemala over the years. There’s a high interest in what’s happening in the Presbyterian church, and as a pastor I can’t help but add some reflections on the Bible and the spiritual life.
“The Rooster Crows” might seem like a peculiar name for a missionary’s blog, and I suppose it is. Nonetheless, the rooster (gallo in Spanish) is a misunderstood symbol that’s particularly fitting for God’s work in Guatemala. Let me explain:
In the Bible, the most famous rooster is the one that Peter heard after denying Jesus for a third time. The rooster’s cry jolted Peter into a painful awareness of his faithlessness. We might even wonder if the cock’s crow wasn’t meant to rub it in, squawking, “I knew you’d mess up! I told you so! I told you so!” But Jesus had a more redeeming purpose in mind.
Why the sound of a rooster? Why not the screech of an eagle, or the bark of a dog? Could it be that Jesus chose the rooster’s crow because of its ancient meaning–the advent of the dawn. Through history the cock’s crow has hailed the sun’s victory over night, and signaled the beginning of another day. Foreseeing Peter’s failure, Jesus saw to it that good news of grace could be heard during Peter’s darkest hour. Knowing he’d be headed for crucifixion when Peter needed him most, Jesus pre-arranged for Peter a sign of resurrection.
Signs of a new day are needed in Guatemala, where darkness persists. Eighteen years ago, a civil war ended here, along with military atrocities against the poor and thei advocates. Yet, spirals of violence didn’t stop; they just began to spin in a different deadly direction. Today, killing is rampant in Guatemala, with gang warfare, lynchings, kidnappings, and senseless slaughter. Once again the defenseless poor bear the brunt of it.
Under these circumstances, despair could easily prevail. That’s why the rooster’s crow is such a fitting symbol for Guatemala. And, as anyone who lives here can attest, roosters are heard all over the place. Perhaps it’s God plan, that they be dispersed into every neighborhood, repeating the same heartening refrain: “Christ lives! The dawn is coming! The dawn is coming!” (or something to that effect).
I came to Guatemala well aware, like Peter, of my imperfect faith. I also believe that God is announcing to this country that a new day is at hand, and that Jesus Christ is providing the grace and power for it to come. With that in mind, I add this blog’s voice to those of so many other roosters that are crowing about the exciting possibilities of this new day.