Saturday, December 6, 2014

Guatemala Christmas Greetings!

Dear Friends and Partners in Mission,
Decorating a tree in the Coban mall
“Is that you Mary? Is that you Joseph? Why, if we knew it was you, we would have opened the door long ago. Please come in and dine with us.” This is a paraphrase of the final verses of the “Posada de Navidad” in which we participated last Advent season. Originally an exclusively Catholic tradition, the Posada we experienced was more ecumenical. A procession starts at one point in town with a small ‘float’ of a Nativity scene (the one we saw was made by local kids) that is carried by two people while others carry improvised lanterns. They stop at designated homes and businesses, knocking on doors, imitating Mary and Joseph, asking for food and shelter. Each stop turns them away and then some or all of the occupants join the procession. The group arrives at their destination where another group waits inside. Then, from opposite sides of the closed door the two groups sing a dialog back and forth, the group on the outside asking for food and shelter, the inside group singing for them to go away; for all they know they could be robbers or bad people. This goes on for several choruses until the inside group finally realizes it’s Mary and Joseph, the tune changes, the doors open, and the group sings a final verse together. Then everyone comes in for food, drink, and celebration.

As fun and charming as the activity is, the pragmatist in me always questioned the logic in the dialog that is sung. Mary and Joseph were just two people among many who would have been searching for shelter and support that night. They didn’t become the “Holy Family” until later in history. So, why would these folks suddenly recognize them and offer them help? As we complete our first year in Guatemala, we look at this story and dialogue differently. Now we see the traveling group as people on a new and strange journey, completely dependent on the generosity and provision of others. And for us, that’s something which with we can identify.

The people inside the house on the other side of the door have little reason to open the door, and plenty of reasons not to. But, they listen to their hearts. They take a risk. They believe that this strange couple on this new journey needs their support. They open their hearts and they open the door. Suddenly the tone and the spirit of the story changes completely. The participants, as well as the observers, take notice. And the miracle of the season begins to make perfect sense. At the time, such faithful action on the part of those inside seemed too hard to believe. Over the course of our ministry here, we’ve been shown just how much we have to learn about faithfulness.

You, our friends, supporters, and partners, have demonstrated repeatedly how stepping out in faith, in taking a risk, and believing in the work of our church here in Guatemala has transformed lives here in Guatemala, as well as within our own denomination. We’ve been humbled, encouraged, and blessed by every email, card or letter (slipped surreptitiously under our door by our local mail carrier), prayer, and every financial gift that sustains our ministry here in Guatemala, and we know that each expression of support is a demonstration of the faith and hope this season brings to us.

The outpouring of support from you, both individuals and congregations of our church, from locations around the country, has been a loving and encouraging confirmation of our call to work together as connected people of faith. We believe God has blessed our corporate efforts to share that spirit of a community of faith with our sisters and brothers here in Guatemala. In this season of hope and promise, we’d like to highlight a few “God moments” from this past year. Each speaks to one of the critical global issues our church has identified as God’s call to World Mission for this season of ministry.
1)      Addressing root causes of poverty around the world: In the community of Sayaxche we celebrated the gift of education opportunities provided to the children of indigenous churches through the support of their US partner. “We know we can no longer live as subsistence farmers like our parents once did. Because we could continue our education, we have opportunities for the future.” One student told us.
2)      Spreading the message of God’s love by training church leaders for community transformation: In our home town of Cobán, a program to provide a seminary education to indigenous church leaders has shown such promise, the church hopes to expand the program to other indigenous communities served by the National Presbyterian Church of Guatemala. “I loved learning about the history of our church, and how I can participate more in the decision-making processes of my church”. We believe this 20-something church leader has much to offer his church and community.
3)      Reconciling cultures of violence, including our own: A young indigenous woman spoke with a group of visiting US Presbyterians about her group’s ministry of reaching out to the women of remote, isolated communities, many still recovering from the pain of Guatemala’s long civil war. She was encouraged by a member of the visiting delegation, an elder Native American woman, working in her church to connect young people with their heritage and culture.

Merry Christmas from Debbie and Richard
This is our second Christmas in Guatemala. We’ve been having fond remembrances of Christmas last year, and have been looking forward with anticipation of new opportunities for our ministry in Guatemala as 2015 approaches. We hope and pray that you have been blessed by your participation in our own little “Posada” of faith and hope, and that you will join us on the next part of our journey here in Guatemala.

We wish for you the peace, the joy, and the hope that this season brings us.

Richard and Debbie Welch

The 2014 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 39
Read more about Richard and Debbie Welch's ministry
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!

1 comment:

  1. That is a really interesting view of the Posada.
    Expectant Advent and Merry Christmas to you both!