A letter from Philip and Bacilia Beisswenger in Guatemala
Grace to you, and Advent greetings from Guatemala!
For many in this country the holiday starts with “La Quema del Diablo” (the burning of the devil). On Dec. 7, prior to the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, people comb their homes for unwanted stuff that can be piled into big bonfires. It’s burned along with effigies of the devil as a symbolic purging of evil powers. The smoke and soot in the air, along with noise from firecrackers, is supposed to scare off wicked spirits. As a finale, men dress up in devil costumes and children gleefully chase them around.
As you’d expect, most Protestants tend to abstain from this Catholic-oriented tradition. Last year our family did our own version. We bought a red devil piñata in the market and had it signify the ungodly “stuff” that can interfere with our appreciation for Jesus’ birth. We stuffed it with firecrackers and lit a match to it (to our kids’ delight) as a vivid, loud prelude to the tranquil Advent practices that direct us toward the “Light of the world.”
This year the Evangelical National Presbyterian Church of Guatemala (IENPG) celebrated 50 years of autonomy from U.S. Presbyterians. While the IENPG and the PC(USA) enjoy historic ties, we still strive to better fulfill partnership ideals. Two chronic challenges are paternalism and passivity. Paternalism occurs when we overpower relationships with our resources and expectations, and passivity can appear when we accept dysfunction in partnerships for fear of seeming paternalistic.
Philip has been busy with visits to presbyteries, accompanying groups, checking on projects, and preaching and teaching across Guatemala. In mid-November the South Alabama Presbytery signed a covenant with the Presbiterio Q’eqchi’ Chiséc. Several other new partnerships are under way. Antigua’s first Presbyterian church was just chartered, and congregations are now under development in Cobán and Sayaxché. An exciting training program for Q’eqchi’ pastors is slated to start in January.
In Guatemala’s social arena, 2012 began with the inauguration of retired general Otto Perez as president. Concerns about a revival of government repression were heightened in early October when soldiers opened fire on indigenous protesters near Totonicapán, killing eight. This action was roundly condemned and led to a prohibition against soldiers at future political demonstrations. As for weather, there were fears that the rainy season would bring destructive floods like in previous years. Instead of floods, however, we got a giant eruption at Volcán de Fuego in September that forced 17 villages to evacuate, and then a 7.2 magnitude earthquake in November that caused calamity in 8 western departments.
As for our family, the past year has gone well for us. Matthew and Manny entered the 5th and 2nd grades, and Stefi began kindergarten. We moved to a new house that’s within walking distance of the school. Niece Jesy was baptized, and Bacilia is in deaconess training at our church. We’re especially thankful for two memorable family trips—one to Bacilia’s hometown in Honduras during Holy Week, and another to Denver, Colorado, in August for the wedding of Philip’s son Daniel to his new wife Holli.
We send our deep gratitude for supporters like you that enable us to participate in God’s mission in Guatemala. May your Christmas be filled with joyful moments and godly gifts, and through the next year may you keep chasing away “the devil” and putting out the welcome mat for Christ.
The Beisswengers—Philip, Bacilia, Matthew, Manny & Stefi
The 2012 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 6
The 2013 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 16
Read more about Philip and Bacilia Beisswenger's ministry
Blog: The Rooster Crows in Guatemala