A letter from Richard and Debbie Welch in Guatemala
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Dear Friends and Partners in Mission,
“Yes, yes, we have approved your application for another four-year term ending 6/30/2021! Breathe Debbie, just breathe!”
As we closed our winter letter, we shared with you our calling to apply for another term of service as mission coworkers. Though we’ve sensed the call to continue the work we started in Guatemala and received encouragement from our Guatemalan partners, colleagues, and supervisors—and from many of you—we had to face and prepare for the possibility that our time in Guatemala might be coming to a close at the end of our first term.
We open this letter with the enthusiastic reply from Del Braaksma, our mission coordinator with the mission personnel team, to share with you the good news. We’ve been approved for another four-year term in Guatemala! As we write this letter, the end of our first term, and the beginning of our second term, is upon us. So, we’d like to take advantage of this annual ministry update to reflect on God’s faithfulness throughout these last four years and share some of our hopes and dreams for the four years that lie ahead. Here are some stories that have accented our journey as mission coworkers.
“As an overseas mission worker, you’ve got to remember the need to take care of yourself. ‘Self-care’ can never be an afterthought. You will never be effective in a new place, language, and culture if you don’t have a plan for taking care of yourself.” To our surprise, among all the valuable information gained in our World Mission orientation, this advice has been one of the most beneficial. “Paz en la Tormenta” (Peace in the Storm) is a new song we learned early in our new church experience. We’ve learned to “Be still and know that God is God.” And in those still moments, we remember that there are so many people praying for us, and the peace rushes over us.
“At what point did we really think we would be able to become proficient in a new language given our ages and past experiences? What were we thinking?” About halfway through our 11-week adventure of language school, our brains were starting to melt down. “I don’t get enough time to practice a concept before the next lesson is upon me. I feel like an idiot.” Then a friend or a colleague commented on our progress: “Wow, you two have certainly come a long way in your language skills.” A little encouragement right when we need it the most has consistently been God’s gift to us—lovingly delivered by God’s messengers, our friends, our colleagues, and our family members.
Settling into a home:
“Well, the apartment was going to be available, but our daughter has moved home and now she is in it.” Our hope was to move into an apartment in Cobán that was previously occupied by mission coworkers we’d gotten to know from earlier trips to Guatemala. It was a familiar place, and we were looking forward to something known. Those hopes were dashed when the apartment was no longer available. We were unsettled and worried. Then a friend told us about a house that had just become available. It was literally just around the corner from the apartment. The house is large, with a beautiful garden. It has become our home and a place where we practice hospitality.
Getting into “The work”:
We’ll always remember that first meeting. It was with a national church committee with the responsibility to develop and execute theological training programs for the growing number of indigenous church leaders. Fresh from language school, we did our best to keep up with the fast-talking ladino (non-indigenous Guatemalan) members of the committee. We found ourselves identifying with the representatives of the indigenous presbyteries who sat quiet and pensive. For these representatives, Spanish was their second language, as well. We were all struggling to keep up. As the representatives from the US Presbyterian church, we needed to understand the need and help to develop plans aligned with the purposes set forward by the US donors who were making these programs possible. “Am I getting this right?” Debbie asked as we did our best to follow the conversations. “This is going to be tough.”
Riding home from our latest meeting with this group, we remembered our first experience with them. The committee now is chaired by an educated, articulate, yet soft-spoken Mayan representative, selected by his presbytery. The ladino/a representation on the committee serves the mission of the group and includes a consultant from the seminary, a representative from the women’s association, and a recording secretary. What a difference a few years and a lot of prayer have made!
Reflecting on these events started as a way to tell Debbie and Richard’s story. But as we’ve recalled them, we’ve been reminded of how much our story has been the story of all who’ve walked alongside us. The connections that have been created and nurtured over these past four years have made this journey a living one. Despite the amazing encouragement we’ve received so far from so many of you, there is still financial need. So, we must continue to ask for your prayers and your consideration of ongoing support for our position, even as we thank you so much for the way you have held us up so far.
As we look forward to our next term, we hope to expand a new adult literacy program that provides the required secular education certification to indigenous church leaders that will allow them to continue formal seminary-level studies. Supporting indigenous young people in their pursuit of a formal education beyond the primary grades has been an exciting and rewarding endeavor for us and our US partners. We hope to connect more students with sponsors as the program grows. And as the enthusiasm grows among many US partners, we’re excited about working alongside many more creative and innovative vocational programs. Our experiences here have confirmed what we already know: Nothing is too hard for God!
Blessings to you as we celebrate God’s faithfulness in the past and our hope for the days ahead!
Richard and Debbie Welch
A note about our letters to you: We hope you enjoy reading them as much as we enjoy sharing them with you. We want you to know that you can receive our letters via email or read them online. That way, you’ll get to see the version that usually has more photos, you will be able to conserve the resources involved in printing and mailing the letters, and you’ll be able to receive them sooner than the traditional mail route. To sign up, go to our Mission Connections web page and click the ‘Subscribe to our Letters’ link, right below our photo.
Learn more about the Welches’ ministry through reading their blog: guatemalapanorama.blogspot.com/
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Tags: language, literacy, peace, self-care
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