Thursday, January 8, 2015

Return to Chijolom

Caber and Sineala visiting the church in Chijolom
The closing out of one year and the welcoming of another year is often taken as a time to reflect on the journeys that bring us to each confluence of years. Our recent visit to the remote village of Chijolom in the final days of 2014 was for us a wonderful reflection of our Guatemala journey. Our son Caber, and his wife Sineala, came to Cobán to visit us and spend the holidays with us. In addition to quality family time, we discussed taking an excursion to explore some of the fascinating natural, cultural, or archeological sites in Guatemala. With so much to choose from, we were a bit surprised (and also proud) to hear them say, “Our church in Spokane has been praying regularly for the church in Chijolom (and they for us) for over six years now. We would love to be able to meet some of the people and see the church and the community”.

It would not be an easy excursion. First we would have to travel by ‘chicken bus’ for four hours over rough dirt roads to the town of Senahú. There we would spend the night, and after coordinating with Pastor Santiago in Chijolom, we would arrange for a four-wheel drive pickup truck to take us, and any other people heading that way, for another four-hour journey over treacherous mountain roads to reach the village. Even so, this was where they wanted to go. After the ride to Senahu and a night in the local hotel, we awoke to chilly and rainy New Year’s Eve day. Our ride met us in the morning and we climbed into the back of the truck, holding on tightly to the metal rack as we bounced over rocks and across small streams on what passes for a ‘pretty good road’ here in Guatemala. From the vantage point of the truck bed, the vegetation, waterfalls, and steep cliffs of the scenery of the Alta Verapaz is vivid and breathtaking, even when viewed through rain-splattered glasses.
The church building project in Chijolom, 2008
(Pastor Santiago is far left in yellow shirt)
Chijolom was one of the first communities Debbie visited in 2008 as a first-time delegate from the Inland Northwest Presbytery, the US partner to the Guatemalan Polochic Presbytery. On that visit, she recalled how moved the people of the community were when they received a visit from their partners from so far away. The group was shown the project underway to construct a church building, and a group photo was taken of the congregation and the visitors inside the four-foot walls of the building in progress. That photo hangs outside the sanctuary of Knox Presbyterian Church in Spokane, WA. It’s the reason the two churches became liked as ‘prayer partners’ years ago. Looking back over our journey, we can see how that first visit to Chijolom planted the seeds for what would grow into a life-changing call to full-time ministry in Guatemala. And here we were again, at the request of our son, seeing where it all started for us.
Inside the completed church building
Some of the leaders of the Chijolom church
The church building is complete, and the church community of 36 families is growing with plans and dreams for its future. We enjoyed meeting with the church leaders and hearing about their ministry. We sat in the church sanctuary, sipping hot horchata, trying to dry out, hearing each leader’s testimony and plans for ministry. We walked around the community a bit, looking at, and talking about community projects the church (primarily through their youth ministry) hopes to do. For us, we saw what can happen in a church a community after six years of prayerful ministry. We saw how seeds sown in a Guatemalan mountain village grew into a new ministry. And we saw how a simple ministry of two churches committing to pray for each other can affect individual lives in both congregations.
Outside the church - In the rain
After a meal together we knew the hour was getting late. Our driver would need to take us back to Senahú and then return to Chijolom. We exchanged contact information and said our good byes. What a wonderful way to finish out our second year end in Guatemala!

Happy New Year!

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

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