Sunday, January 12, 2014

Richard and Debbie's 2013 Report

Dear Friends and Partners in Mission,

Richard and Debbie at
San Andres Xecul
What a year this has been! January of 2013 found Richard welcoming the New Year in anticipation of another year of new and ongoing projects with his colleagues at Triumph Composite Systems. Debbie was busy closing the books on the advent season and preparing for Epiphany with her colleagues in shared ministry at Knox Presbyterian Church. We were thinking about some much-needed improvements on our little farm, and enjoying the season in life where our adult children were close by and establishing themselves in life, work, and church. Earlier in the year we had seen a posting for mission co-workers in Guatemala, and after much prayer and discussion, decided to apply. But much time had passed since submitting our applications, and we found ourselves content in the fact that maybe it was not yet the time for us to change careers, and were preparing to refocus our efforts on the presbytery partnership that led us into thinking about Guatemala in the first place.

Yet here we are in Guatemala, completing the first phase of our year of “listening and learning”. Unbeknownst to us, our applications had been making their way through our denomination’s very thorough discernment process. Shortly after the New Year we were asked to provide more information, then an interview, and we got to thinking that maybe we properly discerned a call to this new ministry. And we felt assured, that if an offer became a reality, it would be the confirmation we were seeking. And our lives would be taking a whole new trajectory. Sooner than we might have felt ready, we were giving final handshakes and hugs to long-time colleagues of our respective places of employment and preparing for new introductions to colleagues in mission service all over the world as we began orientation, training, and preparation for deployment to our different countries of service.

In this first phase of our assignment, we have been focused on intense study of the Spanish language. As is so often the case with life’s many journeys, sometimes the best encouragement when faced with the challenges ahead is to look back and observe the progress we've made to date. When we do that, we’re reminded of John Newton’s words in Amazing Grace “Tis grace that brought me safe thus far and grace will lead me home”. Just when we need it the most, a teacher, friend, or colleague will tell us how good our Spanish is getting. It is good to know we are coming along, even though we know we still have much to learn. We know so many of our friends, family members, and partners are holding us up in prayer as we climb this language hurdle. Those prayers are felt every day and we are so thankful for them!

Though language study has been our primary focus this year, we've had opportunities to expand our “listening and learning” assignment to engage our ministry on several occasions. Each experience was a confirmation of how we've been surrounded with support and encouragement. First we were engaged by our colleagues from World Mission and the Presbyterian Foundation who invited us to join them in visits with representatives of our partner denomination. Next, we were invited to Guatemala City to meet with National Church Leaders and our Regional Liaison. Finally, a group from Heartland Presbytery, here on a visit to their partners, the Maya Quiche Presbytery, asked us to join them on a visit to one of their churches for the dedication of their new building. We learned in orientation that our denomination’s mission efforts are accomplished through a three-way team effort by World Mission, our global partners, and our U.S. church partners. In the short time we've been here studying Spanish, by God’s grace we've been blessed by opportunities to witness and engage firsthand this awesome community of faith in ministry. We are truly surrounded by a “great cloud of witnesses”.

Looking ahead to 2014, please pray for us in the following areas:

1) Our language study: First, thanks for the fact that we landed in a wonderful school and living situation. Some days, Spanish seems almost natural. Other days we wonder if we'll ever be able to communicate effectively. Please pray that we will learn what we need to learn in order to be effective ministers of the work God puts before us.

2) Transition to life in Coban: We finish our intensive language study on the 24th of January. After that our plan is to move up to Coban, set up house, continue language study, and begin to engage with some of the ministry initiatives of the Guatemalan church. Please pray for a safe move and smooth transition to our new setting.

3) The nature of our work: As is so often the case with dynamic international missional ministry, much has changed here in Guatemala since our job description was written and we stepped into this role. Please pray that we will be quick to understand and able to adapt (and respond as appropriate) to the changes on the ground here in Guatemala.

4) Ongoing financial support: Sustaining mission workers in the field continues to be an involved and costly challenge for our denomination. Please pray that those touched by a passion to serve our indigenous sisters and brothers around the world with the enabling blessings of education will be moved to support this ministry. Also pray that Debbie and I will be effective communicators of this imperative initiative.

Blessings for a happy and prosperous 2014!
Richard and Debbie Welch

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