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A Tribute to Julio

A Letter from Brian and Sandi Thompson-Royer, serving in Guatemala

August 2018

Write to Sandi Thompson-Royer
Write to Brian Thompson-Royer

Individuals: Give online to E200334 for Brian and Sandi Thompson-Royer’s sending and support

Congregations: Give to D507581 for Brian and Sandi Thompson-Royer’s sending and support

Churches are asked to send donations through your congregation’s normal receiving site (this is usually your presbytery)


It has been one year since my mother passed. Grieving has become a theme in my life — I am trying to understand it and learn about this difficult journey. So many different feelings and emotions accompanied with less passion and energy to engage in my life and do my work. Our experiences with death have continued this year, with Brian’s mom also passing in March. Guatemalans have much more experience than I do with death, and I do believe being here has helped me learn that stepping back and grieving is part of life. I am grateful for those who will listen and the conversations I’ve had with so many about loss.

In June, we had another loss. I was in the middle of wrapping up my second quarter newsletter when I heard the news, and I just couldn’t keep writing. This newsletter is a tribute to Julio Roca of ADEHGUA, a Guatemalan nonprofit that helps Guatemalan women learn to run businesses. “Julio believed that change for his beloved country of Guatemala could best come by strengthening and empowering women. He was key in establishing the microloan project and worked with dedication and passion. We were inspired by and are deeply grateful for his life, example, and partnership. He will be greatly missed, but the women who have benefited from this project remain part of his legacy” (Mimi Michaels, Presbyterian Women of Western NC, microloan project coordinator).

Irma has been selling ceviche for many years. With her loan, she was able to increase her business success, and now her husband also has a cart selling ceviche. She has been part of the program for two years and envisions a third cart for another family member.

Marcia is a participant who owns a small store with basics such as sugar, eggs, beans, and rice. At first her husband refused to allow her to participate in the loan program. Knowing this was necessary to support her family, she decided to go ahead anyway. Her loans have allowed her to increase her inventory, and her business has grown. Recently, her husband lost his job. He now is her biggest supporter, and the family is working together.

Things have changed so much since that first summer meeting when ADEHGUA introduced a new microloan program that the Presbyterian Women of Western NC Presbyterian hoped to support. We’d only been in Guatemala a few short months. We were not sure about much of anything! As always, on the coast it was hot and humid, and beads of sweat bubbled all over my body. Along with Julio and Mildred from ADEGHUA and Mimi Michaels and Ellen Dozier from Western NC Presbyterian, we waited for Presbyterian Women leaders from Sur Occidente and Suchi presbyteries. Late is normal, and I have learned to not worry! It really is a miracle that women in Guatemala make it to meetings with their very full lives, and you just cannot determine bus schedules. (One day Brian and I were bussing down to the coast and two busses broke down after we got on. We were frustrated, late and upset. But not the Guatemalans. They wait for another bus and pay again.) Mimi and Ellen were a little frustrated — and nervous.

Fast forward almost four years, and over 100 women have received microloans and have either started or grown their existing businesses. In the spring of 2015, 32 women participated in the first cycle of the program, and they are now in the sixth 6-month cycle. They are saving money, learning to work together, and as Mimi says, “We have seen God at work in the lives of the women in the project as they have grown in their business skills, in a deeper understanding of themselves as people of value and worth, and in their abilities to work together.”

Microloan groups meet every two weeks to report their progress. ADEHGUA collects payments and keeps records for each project. All of the money goes back into the pot for future loans and to pay fees to ADEHGUA for administering the program. Some of the projects receiving funding so far include raising chickens, pigs and other livestock; cooking projects where food is made to sell; a small store that provides basic supplies; raising corn; making and selling clothing; and selling firewood and coal. Mildred, who leads group meetings for ADEGHUA, will tell you that it’s not about the money and the small loans — it’s more about what the women are learning about their rights, self-esteem, and the power of coming together for change. They are saving money, creating small businesses, and including their families in their successes.

During the first three cycles of the microloan project, women learned everything related to the economic aspects of the project — how to invest their loans and manage their businesses, how to save, how to manage the secretary and treasurer books, and how to cash a check. During cycles 4-6, while the work with the loans continues, the focus has shifted to strengthening the women’s understanding of themselves as people of value, with rights and a voice in their families and communities. We hope that through a variety of workshops and activities, the women’s self-awareness and confidence will grow; they will see opportunities and choices they have; and they will grow spiritually, into a deeper understanding of God and themselves.

This year, the Presbyterian Women of Western NC received a PW grant that they will use to support the microloan project. As our supporting churches hear of the program’s effectiveness, they are deciding they too want to support the women’s success. In April, a team of nine from Covenant Presbyterian Church in Palo Alto, CA, visited. We met with ADEGHA and heard personal stories from the women as we shared lunch together. After our lunch and stories, we ventured out in the pouring rain to see Irma’s ceviche cart in action!

In September, Westminster Presbyterian Church in Portland, OR, will visit and see how their resources support other groups. New connections and friendships have developed, and most importantly, women in Guatemala have gained business skills and more financial resources. Both Covenant and Westminster are partnering with Western NC and are developing personal relationships! Brian and I are so grateful to help facilitate this partnership and to see God in action.

Many blessings to you all and thank you for your continued support and prayers! We especially appreciate the personal emails and notes that we receive. These keep us going and serving the women in Guatemala. Your financial support is how these relationships and this ministry are able to continue. Please continue to give.

Sandi and Brian

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