Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Connecting through Music

Following our mountain top experience with our new friends from Tennessee, we returned home to Cobán to catch up on things that can pile up when on the road for a week or so. We always have a sense of melancholy after saying ‘goodbye’ to visitors. To us it’s a good feeling as it confirms the connections we made while working together in ministry. Our melancholy was short lived. We had been contacted by a friend and colleague who informed us of a choral group from 4th Presbyterian Church in Chicago that was traveling in Guatemala and would be paying a visit to Cobán. She invited us to join them and meet with them during their brief stay in our area.

4th Presbyterian Church of Chicago
Choral Group at Coban Nazarene Church
What a treat to watch, listen, and then meet together with this talented, disciplined, and dedicated group of musicians! The Sunday morning service of the local Nazarene church was a packed house as word of the visiting Americans had gotten around. The children’s’ choir delighted everyone with several songs in Spanish and their native Q’eqchi language, the congregation sang together, and the 4th Presbyterian Church group sang several times during the service. As members of our church choir back in the U.S., we gained an appreciation for the hard work and commitment it takes to produce a sound that compliments and enhances worship. Through our experience with our talented, dedicated, and (thankfully) patient choir director, we were able to witness firsthand the process of taking work from ‘pretty good’ to an offering of worship to God and edification to the Church. On that Sunday in Cobán it was clear to us, as well as the local worshipers gathered that day, these folks are good… I mean, really good.

Meeting on Theological Education for Women
Yet, here they were, in Guatemala of all places, sharing their gifts with people who very likely have never experienced this kind of worship before. And not only did this group of missioners share their polished performance, they exchanged hugs, handshakes, and words of mutual appreciation that transcended the language barrier. On some occasions, they assembled impromptu choruses with the local young people. Visits over the years to churches of Guatemala’s indigenous Presbyterians have taught us something of our indigenous partner’s love and affinity for music. And the connection of music between these seemingly different people was strongly felt. It is a connection that transcends music to a genuine love and concern for sisters and brothers in another part of the world. This group arranged for and participated in several in-depth discussions on Guatemala’s social, economic, and political contexts, and how the Church is responding to these current challenges.

A good friend and fellow mission worker once told us how he can’t listen to indigenous women sing in a church service without getting choked up by the music. There’s nothing polished or particularly haunting in the music, and very few of us can understand the lyrics sung in a native language. It’s from knowing the pain, the poverty, the injustice and isolation from which so many of these women sing their choruses of praise and thanksgiving that causes the music to be so powerful. We’re reminded once again of how music so often inspires us to action in ways that surprise us. And we can’t help but think of our friends and supporters who are alongside us in our ministry with our indigenous partners. We pray that God puts a song in your hearts today that connects us in new and inspiring ways.
Indigenous Women singing in a church service

Richard and Debbie


  1. Yes, it was a great experience. Glad you liked it!

  2. It was such a joy to be able to be with you! Prayers continue from Chicago for your ministry and to all the work CEDEPCA and the Presbyterian Church is doing in Guatemala. I'm already trying to figure out how to come back!! ~S