Saturday, November 29, 2014

Celebrating 20 years in partnership

“Richard, if you were available over the next few days, we could sure use some help with some meetings and an upcoming workshop. We’d love to have you join us.” This was an invitation I didn’t expect. I wasn’t prepared, having only packed for a two-night stay. But the opportunity to travel to new places and work closely with people and programs new to me beaconed. Really, there was no way I could say “no”. I believe it was a divinely-inspired opportunity, and I was blessed to be a part of it.

It started with an invitation from the leader of the mission partnership between the Presbytery of
20 Years of Partnership
Western North Carolina and two Guatemalan presbyteries: Suchitepéquez, and Sur
Occidente. They were celebrating the 20th anniversary of their partnership, and graciously invited the mission workers in Guatemala to be part of it. Over the course of this long-term relationship, the partners had developed an efficient and sophisticated ministry, working together in areas of education, women’s issues, and health promotion. What a great way to observe their approach to mission partnership. The gathering took place at the Presbyterian seminary in the Western part of Guatemala. An intense summer travel schedule left Debbie a little under the weather, so she stayed home while I left the cool, rainy mountains of the Alta Verapaz for the warm, humid Pacific coast.

Doug and Mimi taking photos of scholarship recipients
Arriving Thursday afternoon, I would stay the night at the seminary, and then attend meetings and the celebration on Friday. Saturday I would make the journey back to Cobán. Then I met Dr. Doug Michael and his wife Mimi. Doug and Mimi have a long history of health promotion and education through their home congregation, 1st Presbyterian Church of Newton, N.C. The church is engaged in the partnership, and Doug and Mimi had returned to Guatemala as representatives of their congregation with a visit to their sister congregation in the Sur Occidente presbytery, El Redentor. Their visit to their partners was well-planned and prepared. Meetings with the church’s leaders were scheduled, and a workshop with the presbytery’s health promoters was to take place at another church building, starting shortly after the worship service. Another person was needed to provide some translation support and to just be a part of the visit. So Doug and Mimi invited me along.

We stayed with a leading family of the community. The extended family that included Doug and
Our 'Family' during our stay
Mimi was automatically extended to include me. The church leaders, members, and all the kids, most of whom were able to attend school because of the generosity of church members thousands of miles away, embraced me as if I’d been walking with them for years. During the health promotion workshop I was invited to step in for one of the facilitators so she could attend to other duties. It was a role-playing exercise of the workshop, so I even got the chance to ‘ham it up’ a little. It was both a fun, and effective exercise to demonstrate how initial investments in healthy options like water filtration, wood stoves vented outside of buildings, vegetable gardens, and overall health promotion have long-term paybacks on the investment.
Health Promotion Workshop
Trying to convince this health promoter to buy some 'fun' stuff.

Playing games with the kids
“The job of savior of the world is already taken. 80% of ministry is just showing up.” Those were the words of Pastor Jenny McDevitt, one of the speakers at a recent gathering of Presbyterian Mission Workers that took place in El Salvador. My recent visit to Sur Occidente proved these words to me once again. An accomplished medical professional playing “rock, paper, scissors” with a local boy. A PC(USA) mission worker joking around with health promoters in a workshop, people who pray for, correspond with, and financially support mission workers around the globe… These are examples of what God can do when we just ‘show up’.

Richard and Debbie Welch
PC(USA) Mission Co-Workers, Guatemala
Double your financial support for Richard and Debbie. Gifts made to our ministry before December 31, 2014 will be matched by an anonymous donor. Don’t miss this opportunity!

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