Andrew Berg and Margarita Valbuena
Andrew Berg and Margarita Valbuena ended mission service in 2011.
In January 2011 Andrew Berg and Margarita Valbuena were appointed to serve in Guatemala with the Evangelical Center for Pastoral Studies in Central America, which is commonly known by its Spanish acronym, CEDEPCA. This organization has deep ties with Presbyterian World Mission and many Presbyterian congregations and presbyteries across the United States. CEDEPCA offers training in pastoral, biblical and theological studies as well as publications and communications. It also supports programs in women’s empowerment and ministry in situations of crisis in addition to an Intercultural Encounter program that enables North Americans to experience the everyday life of Guatemalans through work and immersion projects. As intercultural encounter facilitator for CEDEPCA, Andrew will receive visiting groups, help plan the educational program and itinerary and lead reflection discussions with participants.
Andrew’s participation in a 2006 PC(USA) Young Adult Travel Seminar to Colombia was transformative in his faith journey and call to mission service. During the travel seminar Andrew had the opportunity to give a sermon to a small congregation about the kinship experienced by believers in Jesus Christ. It was the first time he had ever been invited to preach. His sermon was based on Ephesians 2:19-20, “Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets with Jesus Christ himself as the chief cornerstone.”
The sermon went much better than expected, and the affirmation he received from the congregants was unforgettable. More transformative, however, was his coming face to face with “the liberating notion that all the barriers that we allow to divide ourselves from each other — political borders, languages, cultures and worldly differences — have already been destroyed by Jesus Christ.”
It’s a Scriptural truth, he says, that will guide him in his mission service as he and Margarita invite Guatemalans and U.S. Presbyterians to focus on their commonalities rather than their differences.
Guatemala holds a dear place in the hearts of Andrew and Margarita. They served there together as college students in the small town of Todos Santos Chuchumatán on a summer service learning project. Little did they know at that time that they would one day return to Guatemala as husband and wife.
Both see their service as an opportunity to enrich their lives of faith and those of the people they encounter.
“My hope is to gain understanding and to be understood, both within myself and with the other people I have yet to meet along my faith journey,” Margarita says. “I truly hope that I will be able to use the talents that have been bestowed upon me by God, along with the skills I have acquired along the way, to promote tolerance built upon faith in God and in each other in order to become and remain active and effective members of our global community.”
Andrew says he hopes their service will build stronger partnerships between people, churches and organizations in Guatemala and the United States. “Hopefully, we’ll be able to facilitate experiences that deepen relationships, help participants grow in their faith and learn more about Guatemala and Central America.”
Both bring considerable international experience to their first long-term mission assignment. In addition to Guatemala and Colombia, Andrew served for seven months in Mexico as interim U.S. coordinator of Puentes de Cristo, part of the Presbyterian Border Ministry.
Earlier, he was a Red Cross volunteer in Louisiana in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and was deeply moved by the hope and faith of the survivors. He first sensed God’s calling to mission service while working there.
Margarita grew up as the daughter of Colombian immigrants, and from ages 7 months to 13 years she spent every summer in Colombia. When she was 14, she attended a summer camp in rural Mongolia. She also has been a Peace Corps volunteer in Ukraine.
Both Margarita and Andrew hold undergraduate degrees from the University of Michigan. Margarita studied psychology and Andrew majored in history and Spanish.
Margarita holds a master’s degree in child development from the Erikson Institute in Chicago.
Andrew comes to mission service from the staff of the University of Chicago, where he was an assistant director for university stewardship. Margarita was an assessor in the Office of Early Childhood for Chicago Public Schools
They attend St. James Presbyterian Church in Chicago. Andrew remains a member of First Presbyterian Church of Birmingham in his home state of Michigan.
Andrew - October 7
Margarita - October 14