Sunday, July 6, 2014

Making Disciples – Summer update from Richard and Debbie

Dear Friends and Partners in Mission,

Summertime in Guatemala brings several changes to life and work in this “eternally spring” part of the world. We’re now in the rainy season. For us that means regular downpours usually in the mid to late afternoon. The summer months have also provided an opportunity to engage in our work more intentionally.

In order to serve the theological training needs of the church’s indigenous community, projects to take the training to the people are starting up around the country. The first of such projects is taking place here in Cobán, offering much needed and much asked for theological education to pastors and leaders of the surrounding indigenous presbyteries. The national seminary provides teachers and materials for the classes, the national church provides for food, lodging, and rented classrooms, and the participants (many with help from their US Presbyterian partners) provide for their travel expenses to attend the one week sessions.

Being able to sit in on these classes has been a great privilege for us. It has given us a glimpse into the lives of the participants, and an opportunity to understand their thirst for greater knowledge of our faith, our church, and those elements of pastoring that make them more effective servants of their congregations and their communities. A young man named Arturo personifies the profile of so many of these students. He first captured our attention when he took a turn translating the professor’s lecture into the Q’eqchí language for the benefit of those who needed translation from Spanish. He was the youngest translator to volunteer, and the only one to translate simultaneously during the lecture. He had a natural poise and confidence not often seen in the indigenous. We had the opportunity to get to know Arturo better when he volunteered to help with another project related to the new Presbyterian Complex in Cobán. Assuming he had benefitted from greater educational opportunities, we asked him about his schooling. We were surprised to learn that his formal education amounted to the third year of “Primaria”, or roughly a third grade education. He could tell we were surprised to hear this, so he went on to tell us that, being from a large family, there wasn’t enough money in the household to supply all the kids with everything they needed to attend school. So after the third year, the older kids stop so the brothers and sisters behind them get their chance at getting some education. Most of his literacy training is self-taught or learned from friends and other mentors.
Arturo and Debbie
Clearly, this 26 year old has a lot on the ball. His quiet nature, ready smile, and quick sense of humor cause him to find favor among his peers as well as those outside the indigenous community. He’s a natural leader which is why his pastor put his name in for participation in the training program. When asked if his dream is to be a pastor, he said “perhaps”. “Right now I want to learn more about our church and about God who has done so much for me”. When asked about which part of the training interested him the most, he said he was interested in the lecture on how the church makes decisions (polity) and that each elder and pastor in the church has the same voice and vote. He, like many indigenous, always thought the church was run by the powerful and sophisticated people who live in the capital city. “But now we’re learning that we have the same voice and vote that they have”. He says, “I think our church has a lot to say to the young people in my town.” (He is from the community of Chisec). There are so many among the indigenous who have lived without a voice or a vote in so many critical aspects of their lives. Who would have thought that educating young indigenous Presbyterians (about church polity of all things) would help them start finding their voices in their church, and in their communities?

One of the critical global issues identified by our church’s mission agency is focused on evangelism: “Together with other members of Christ’s body, we will share the good news of God’s love in Jesus Christ.” Educating leaders like Arturo empowers those ‘other members of Christ’s body’ to bring the church’s gospel message to those looking to find their voices. Your support for us and our ministry is truly bearing fruit that will improve the lives and ministries of this generation of leaders; and of leaders of generations yet to come. Thank you for believing in us and our work. Thank you for your prayers for us; we sense them regularly. Thank you for communicating with us and encouraging us. And thank you for the financial support that sustains our ministry here in Guatemala.

For the summer of 2014, please pray for us in the following areas:
1)      Our language study:  We found a language school here in Cobán! That story alone is quite interesting. We will probably always be students of Spanish. There is so much new to learn. Please pray that we will learn what we need to know in order to be effective ministers of the work God puts before us.
2)      The nature of our work: We love all aspects of our work so far. We’re excited about the current and potential plans the church is creating to build learning opportunities for the many indigenous members of this church. Please pray also for the many US Presbyterians who travel to Guatemala during this time of year to visit their partners.
3)      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 of Guatemala with the enabling blessings of education will be moved to support this ministry. Also pray that we will be effective communicators of this imperative initiative.

Blessings for a wonderful summer!

Richard and Debbie Welch

Richard and Debbie Welch
PC(USA) Mission Co-Workers, Guatemala

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