Sunday, June 14, 2015

The Guatemalan Church Assembly – One Year Later

Indigenous Leaders at the National Assembly
A couple of weeks ago, we were invited to attend the National Assembly of our partner church, the National Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Guatemala. This was our second assembly since starting our work in Guatemala. Many of you might recall Debbie’s account of our first experience at the assembly (you can read her post here). In our first experience, the meeting was held at the church’s seminary during a particularly hot and humid week. Though everyone was welcoming and supportive, our fledgling language skills and general unfamiliarity with the proceedings left us pretty lost for most of the week. This year, the meeting was held at the church’s camp, Monte Sion, on scenic Lake Amatitlan. The weather was warm, but there was often a cooling breeze off the lake. And though we’d just returned from two months of visits in the US (stand by for a post on that adventure), our language abilities had improved to the point where it was much easier to follow the discussions. The national assembly has become an opportunity to strengthen existing and create new relationships with our sisters and brothers in this church. We even had opportunities to meet separately with some of our indigenous partners to plan visits and projects for the months ahead.
Impromptu planning meeting with Presbytery Leaders

As was the case last year (and we’ve learned that this is a pretty common occurrence) there was just too much business before the assembly to complete in the week allotted. A special session is being called for June 25th and 26th to complete the outstanding items on the docket. In the regular session, some significant business was completed. The church agreed to change from the current single Synod model of church government and divide into four geographic synods. A proposal to break off ties with the Presbyterian Church USA, in response to its recent redefinition of marriage, did not win approval. The Guatemalan church disapproves of the redefinition, but continues to believe our churches can continue working together. Reports were presented from many of the church’s institutions, special ministries, and individuals, including us. Last year we simply gave an introduction of ourselves and our work. This year we were expected to report on our activities of the past year and our goals for the coming year.
Introducing... Richard and Debbie

Seeing as we’ve shared our activities and goals with our partners in Guatemala, we felt it only makes sense that we share them with our partners up north who have been reading our updates and following our ministry. So, here they are (as presented to the assembly):

Monthly Highlights from May 2014 to May 2015. In addition to meetings and activities related to our role as educational consultants:

·        May, 2014: Attended assembly of Presbyterian Church of Guatemala.
·        June, 2014: Helped with visiting groups from Tennessee and Alabama.
·        July, 2014: Helped with visiting group from Washington.
·        August – September, 2014: Visits to US churches in Washington, Tennessee, and Colorado.
·        October, 2014: Gathering and CHE (Community Health Evangelism) training in El Salvador.
·        November, 2014: Support to the 20th anniversary celebration of partnership between the Presbytery of Western North Carolina and Suchitepéquez and Sur Occidente presbyteries.
·        November, 2014: Support to the 2nd anniversary celebration of the Q'eqchí Chisec youth ministry.
·        December, 2014: Visit to the community and church in Chijolom.
·        January, 2015: Celebration of pastora ordination in Maya-Quiche presbytery.
·        February, 2015: Helped with visiting group from Tennessee.
·        March – May, 2015: Visits to US churches in Washington, Illinois, Wisconsin, California, Colorado, and Oregon.
·        May, 2015: Attended assembly of Presbyterian Church of Guatemala

Sharing accomplishments and goals
Our prayer requests for the coming year, May 2015 – May 2016 include:

·        Our continued work on language and communication.
·        For the committees on which we serve, specifically for:
a.     Improved communications between the various committees and applicable entities within the PCUSA.
b.     Our hope to standardize the process for proposing, requesting, approving, and reporting on the use of funds provided through the PCUSA.
c.      Our goal to establish a timeline for education projects, from project proposal, approval, release of applicable funds, and reporting on the use of said funds.
d.     Wisdom and discernment as we begin discussions within our committees regarding future and long-term education projects within the church.
·        Our vision to work more closely with the (PCUSA) Guatemala Network.
·        Guidance as we work with applicable groups and institutions to improve access and quality of education, particularly among indigenous communities served by the Guatemalan Presbyterian Church.
·        The decision to create four new synods from the single synod will hopefully create better access to synod-wide activities for those for whom travel is difficult and expensive. However, the costs of creating the infrastructure and leadership in these new synods will be daunting. Please pray for creative and efficient ways for the church to govern itself without needing to divert scarce resources from the church’s ministry.
·        The church is seeking discernment in how to best engage in the current political currents of Guatemala. The discovery of recent government scandals has sparked an unprecedented reaction of public outcry against government corruption. For a number of historical reasons, public reaction to government corruption in Guatemala was generally apathy, or resignation to the fact that change was impossible. This time, the population is saying “Bastante!” (enough!). Many within the church are joining the protests demanding change. Pray that the church will seek and find its role in working for positive and peaceful change in Guatemala.
·        As always, we ask that you pray regarding our financial support. Many of you already know our church is facing an unprecedented shortfall in general mission funding, and as a result, there is a need to depend more upon the direct support to mission workers in order for them to remain in their countries of service. We’re so thankful for the support we’ve received from so many of you. Please pray for more partners willing to financially support our work in Guatemala.

Reflecting on our past year’s activities, we are somewhat overcome with thanksgiving for how far God has taken us on this new journey. As we give thanks to God for his faithful provision, we can’t help but recognize the fingerprints of those of you who have so faithfully supported us with your prayers, your encouragement through communications with us, and your financial support for us. The accomplishments of the last year and the dreams for the coming year are as much yours as they are ours. And we’re so blessed to be sharing this journey with all of you.

Thank-you all!
Debbie and Richard Welch
PC(USA) Mission Co-workers, Guatemala

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