A Demonstration of the Power of Partnership

A letter from Richard and Debbie Welch, serving in Guatemala

October 2019

Write to Richard Welch
Write to Debbie Welch

Individuals: Give online to E200505 for Richard and Debbie Welch’s sending and support

Congregations: Give to D507571 for Richard and Debbie Welch’s sending and support

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Dear Friends and Partners in Mission,

“…And I need to warn you, The Q’eqchí people tend to be strong and stoic when it comes to medical care. Your friend is going to need three full days to rest and recuperate. And you will probably have to be strict about this with him. I’m recommending a less-invasive procedure, but it is only available at the private hospital. Will that be OK?”

We have a special relationship with Julian. This is probably because our friendship was forged several years before we became PC(USA) mission co-workers. In our involvement with our home presbytery’s partnership, and through different meetings and gatherings, we knew that Julian was a tireless church worker, pastor, evangelist, and leader in his own indigenous presbytery of the Polochic, as well as with other indigenous presbyteries in Guatemala. In Julian’s passion for education (to the point of ensuring that each of his seven children, including the girls, completed secondary school) we often worked together exploring and implementing projects for vocational, literary, and theological education. Because he is such a dynamo, we were ill-prepared when he called us to let us know that he was in too much pain to carry on with the project responsibilities we’d been working on together.

Fearing the worst, we insisted that Julian come to our home while we made an appointment for him to see Richard’s doctor to diagnose Julian’s condition and pursue treatment. After a physical exam, lab and ultrasound tests, our doctor concluded that Julian had a large bladder stone, and that without a procedure to remove the stone, his condition would not improve. The doctor took Richard aside to explain the process, the cost, and the challenges he would face trying to keep “a Q’eqchí person quiet for three days while recuperating,” which was difficult to hear. Such general statements about an entire people group, all too common here and elsewhere, are regular reminders of how we tend to see one another. We know Julian, and we knew that keeping him quiet for a few days would be a challenge, not because he is Q’eqchí, but because he is Julian.

Cost was also a challenge. While medical care is free to Guatemalans, the traditional surgical procedure available through the public hospital would be invasive, risky, and require a much longer recuperation time than newer methods, that are currently only available here at a local private hospital. There was little doubt that the private hospital was the only logical way forward but concerns about the cost weighed heavily on Julian’s mind, as it did on ours. We suggested contacting his partners to see if some of them might want to help, while we stepped out in faith and moved ahead with scheduling the procedure and prepared for his stay at our home for recuperation.

Julian, one of his sons and one of his daughters arrived at our home the evening before the big day. It was a joy and a relief to see that he came with his own support system. Although we anticipated a night in the hospital, the procedure went well enough, and with so much support, the doctor decided he could be discharged that evening. We were touched by how this large but very close family worked together to care for Julian. Daughter Norma confiscated his cell phone and acted as his secretary, informing family and friends of Julian’s recovery process and informing his ministry colleagues that he would be available “later.” Son Joel monitored blood pressure and sugar levels and kept track of the medications and dosages. The next few days saw a flurry of activity. Maria, Julian’s wife, arrived the day after surgery, escorted by another son. We lost count, but we’re pretty sure that just about every child and a few friends stopped in to check on Julian. When not tending to their father, they shopped, cooked, and cleaned our house. Before we knew it, it was Friday and time for Julian’s post-op appointment and the “OK” to head home.

Early Saturday morning the family prepared to leave. Julian’s partners had come through. We received word that many of his partners sent contributions to offset the cost of his treatment. That news, coupled by the visits, the care, and the messages we received from friends far away who wanted Julian to know that he was being prayed for, almost proved too much for him. As we gathered for the traditional parting prayer, Julian’s voice cracked with emotion as he expressed his gratitude, joy, and wonderment at being so loved, so cared for, and surrounded and supported by a community that includes family, neighbors, colleagues, and sisters and brothers in a country and culture so far removed from his own. We then embraced as they all left, and suddenly the house felt weirdly quiet.

As “professional” mission co-workers, we are often seen as ministers, doing God’s work in a faraway place where many needs abound. And while we hold to and embrace the callings that God has put on our lives, we also witness and experience the caring and supportive ministry we so often receive from you who pray for us, encourage us, and support our ministry financially. As we reflect on Julian’s prayer, we hope the thanks we express to you is as powerful and effective as the thanks we heard from Julian. Through our friend, we’ve learned once again of the power in our partnerships. Thank you for being with us on the journey!

Richard and Debbie Welch

Blog: http://guatemalapanorama.blogspot.com/

Please read this important message from Sara Lisherness, interim director of Presbyterian World Mission

Dear friend of Presbyterian Mission,

Greetings in Christ! As the interim director of Presbyterian World Mission, I am grateful to have the opportunity to thank you for your continued support of PC(USA) mission co-workers.

The enclosed newsletter bears witness to some of the many ways in which God is at work in the world through long-standing relationships between global partners and the PC(USA). These partnerships are nurtured and strengthened by the presence of mission co-workers in over 40 countries; you are an important part of this partnership too, as you learn about and share how our church is involved in global ministry; as you pray for our partners and mission co-workers; and as you take action to work with others for God’s justice, peace and healing.

I write to invite you to continue joining us in partnership in three ways. First, your prayers are always needed. Please pray that God will continue guiding the shared work of the PC(USA) and global partners as we engage together in service around the world. Pray, too, for mission co-workers, that they may feel encouraged in the work they are doing under the leadership of global partners.

Second, please consider making a year-end gift for the sending and support of at least one mission co-worker. There is a remittance form at the end of this letter and an enclosed envelope so that you can send in a special year-end gift.

Finally, I encourage you to ask your session to include one or more mission co-workers in your congregation’s mission budget for 2020 and beyond. PC(USA) mission co-workers’ sending and support costs are funded by the designated gifts of individuals and congregations like yours; your gifts allow Presbyterian World Mission to fulfill global partners’ requests for mission personnel.

Faithfully in Christ,

Sara Pottschmidt Lisherness
Director, Compassion, Peace and Justice Ministry
Interim Director, Presbyterian World Mission


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