A letter from Richard and Debbie Welch serving in Guatemala
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Dear Friends and Partners in Mission,
“Debbie! Riicharrr! (So many who want to call Richard by his English name stretch the ‘i’s, the ‘r’s, and drop the ‘d’.) You’re here again! Has it really been three years?” It was Fluvia, one of the strong women leaders of the Guatemalan Presbyterian Church. Fluvia delivers crushing hugs and is always full of energy. She’s one of the few people who have no problem correcting our Spanish. No “gringo power” as far as this woman is concerned. She’s actually kind of scary. After a brief greeting, made longer by the corrections to our grammar and vocabulary, she was off to greet other new arrivals. But her words lingered with us. Has it really been three years?
Goodness. At the conclusion of this year’s national assembly, we will have attended three of these meetings that are conducted annually by our partner, the National Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Guatemala (IENPG). Each year at this assembly, PC(USA) mission co-workers are invited to submit a report of their activities for the previous 12 months. We’d like to share the report we submitted this year with you, our friends and supporters. These last 12 months, in fact these last three years, have been an amazing journey in which we have been challenged, excited, frightened, assured, rewarded, and humbled by experiences and stories of people here in Guatemala. Sharing goals and accomplishments in the form of a report can make for dry reading, but we’re often asked for more specifics about the work we’re doing. So we’re delighted to share with you, those who share this fantastic journey with us and by whose support and confidence in us have made this journey possible, our report to the 2016 assembly.
Goals of the previous 12 months:
Last year we presented the following goals for our ministry. Our assessment of results of each of these goals follows each one:
1) Goal: Improve our Spanish language skills. Result: As time permits, we’re continuing our study at a local language school. We feel that we can communicate and participate in meetings. Improving our ability to communicate with our partner is vital to our continued effectiveness in this position. We plan to continue our study for the foreseeable future.
2) Goal: As Educational Consultants with Indigenous People of the IENPG, work in three areas of education:
a. Theological Education: Consult and advise the IENPG Walton Fund Administration Committee in their efforts to provide theological education programs to pastors and leaders of indigenous presbyteries. (This is a committee of the IENPG that oversees theological education projects funded by a PC(USA) endowment established by Sam and Helen Walton.) Result: By attending committee meetings, visiting theological education project sites, sitting in on classes, and visiting with students, we’ve been able to improve communications between the committee and the endowment’s managers, observe firsthand the impact of the program on indigenous leaders in the church, and listen to ideas to help improve the program and make it more accessible.
b. Secular Education: Support and coordinate projects between PC(USA) churches and presbyteries and their IENPG partners to provide scholarships, school supplies, uniforms, and other essentials to young people who otherwise would not have the opportunity to attend school. Result: We had the privilege of accompanying several visiting PC(USA) missioners as they worked alongside their IENPG partners in these education programs. We also had the opportunity to participate in the establishment of a new scholarship program, and we are working with a partnership to develop another in the coming year.
c. Vocational Education: Support and coordinate projects between PC(USA) churches and presbyteries and their IENPG partners to provide vocational training opportunities to adults in the IENPG presbyteries who are seeking a path out of poverty for them and their families. Result: With great joy we observed and supported several vocational projects, all of which were initiated by the women of indigenous IENPG presbyteries. The projects involved livestock raising, recapturing lost weaving techniques, and more sophisticated endeavors sustained by a growing microfinance program.
3) Goal: Work with the PC(USA) Guatemala Network to better connect PC(USA) groups with partnerships in Guatemala. Result: A Guatemala Network meeting was held during last year’s Big Tent event (July 30 – August 1). We were not able to attend last year’s event. We are in the process of planning a meeting for January 2017 here in Guatemala.
4) Goal: Work with PC(USA) visiting groups with interests and callings in the area of programs to improve educational opportunities for indigenous groups of the IENPG. Result: We were privileged to work with many visiting groups with interests and partnerships in the area of education with IENPG indigenous communities. This continues to be an activity we thoroughly enjoy and look forward to working with new and returning groups in the coming year.
Goals for next year (May 2016 – May 2017)
Our goals remain largely those of last year. We continue to believe, as do our partners, that improving communications between the IENPG and PC(USA) partners at all levels, from church-to-church partnerships to the fundamental partnership between our two denominations is key for making our programs and projects more connected, efficient, and effective.
Each goal and result in this report has a face and a story behind it. There’s Hermana Rosa, a poor single mom, seeking a theological education. There’s Carlos, a young beneficiary of a scholarship who now works in the government office of social services. There’s Patrocinia, who along with the women of her presbytery is now raising pigs to provide income for her family. And of course, there are all of you, each with his or her own story of faith and generosity that has resulted in your faithful support of our work over these past three years. When you take the time to read our letters and communicate back with us, or when you are willing to pray for us, our work and our partners, and provide your generous gifts of financial support that make our work possible, it all adds to this beautiful narrative that connects us to one another and connects us to the work God is doing here in Guatemala.
Blessings to you all in Christ,
Richard and Debbie Welch
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