A Letter from Amanda Craft in Guatemala
We awoke early for yet again another full day. The women were visibly tired, but in spite of that they showed excitement for the upcoming day. We loaded the car for a lengthy but easy trip through beautiful rolling hills in southern Georgia.
The two Guatemalan guests and I were invited to visit Bare Bulb Coffee Shop and church community, a new church development project in Flint River Presbytery. The teaching elder there, Rev. Nikki MacMillan, had been to Guatemala a few years ago. It was important to Flint River Presbytery to be able to show the women how they were trying to do church in a new way in a changing religious landscape. The richness of the experience went far beyond those wishes.
When presbyteries and churches engage in mission partnerships, it can be difficult to define how each gives and receives. There is often a focus on how global partners are helped through these exchanges. Groups from the U.S. church travel to visit various programs and projects that are supported by their efforts. They can physically see the transformation occur before them. However, I think that something much more subtle and deep happens in these partnerships that is more challenging to explain and quantify for those from the United States. However, I experienced this something special on the day we visited Bare Bulb.
The two women, Debora Martinez and Fulvia Rivas, were visiting as representatives of the Union Sinodica Femenil (Presbyterian Women) of the National Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Guatemala. Flint River Presbytery has enjoyed a partnership with the Sinodica for the past four years. We are still learning how to make this work well for all parties, and this visit was made possible to help strengthen those relationships. It was the first visit by Guatemalans to the presbytery. They had a busy schedule with early mornings and late nights; however, Flint River wanted to provide as many enriching experiences for the Guatemalans and the North Americans as they could.
This visit to Bare Bulb was to be rather informal. We were to have some time with Nikki and then with others as they filtered into the coffee shop. A mother and daughter joined us for lunch, and then we participated in a women’s book study group and then a women’s knitting group. I was not certain how the interactions would go and how the women would engage, but I was hopeful that the fluidness would lead to something powerful. And that’s what happened.
The book study group was working on Anne Lamott’s new book on prayer, Help, Thanks, Wow. The group was discussing the section about asking for help through prayer. Culturally as North Americans, we are taught that asking for help often connotes weakness. We should be able to make it on our own. This is reflected in how we pray and communicate with God. It can be an obstacle in our relationship with God and understanding how God truly wants to interact with us. However, this limitation does not exist for most in Guatemala. In fact, the women were amazed that anyone would have a problem going to God since it is God who is in control. These two guests jumped in, offering a depth of experience about how prayer has affected and changed their lives. They could recount story after story of difficulty that was healed by God’s hand through the invitation of prayer. The richness of their sharing was profound. Their message was simple. You do not have to worry about the words, because God already knows them. You just need to give time and attention to the practice. The beauty of the moment is that the others in the group gave the Guatemalan women the space to share. They asked questions about different kinds of prayer practices used in Guatemala. They were truly interested in learning.
So here were the Guatemalan women learning about a new way of doing church. And here were U.S. women learning how to pray differently. This is the majesty of the church family. We all have much to give and receive. We all have much to teach and to learn. Partnership is one vehicle to enable this sharing in a respectful and loving manner. I was glad to have been a part of this experience. I thank the many hands and hearts it took on behalf of Flint River Presbytery for making this trip a reality. There are a few who deserve a special thank-you for all that they invested in planning the trip—Pam Moye, former chair of the Guatemala Subcommittee; Gail Pursel, chair of the Guatemala Subcommittee; and Rev. Dr. Paul Luthman, Executive Presbyter. Without their energy and commitment, this trip would not have happened. I know that many fruits will come from it!
It is through your kind gifts and support that I can share stories like this one that touch us all. My gratitude is to each of you. I invite you to continue this journey with me, with my family, and with those in Mexico and Guatemala. We have much to learn from and to offer one another as God is revealed each day a bit more clearly.
The 2013 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 16
The 2014 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 35
Read more about Amanda Craft's ministry
Blog: Walking with Guatemalan sisters of faith