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A Backpack, a Bag of Bibles, and a Baby

A letter from Richard and Debbie Welch, serving in Guatemala

November 2017

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

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


“Cuando lloras por las veces que intentaste,
y tratas de olvidar las lágrimas que lloraste.
Solo tienes pena y tristeza,
y el futuro incierto esperas,
puedes tener paz en la tormenta.”

Loosely translated, this opening verse to the song “Paz en La Tormenta” says, “When you cry in times of intensity, and you try to forget the tears that you cry; When you only have worry and sadness, and an uncertain future awaits, you can have peace in the storm.”

Dear Friends and Partners in Mission,

Some of you who have been reading our letters over the years might recall our description of an impressive young indigenous theology student named Arturo. Here’s a link to that earlier story: Since our encounter with Arturo in 2014, he has become somewhat of a surrogate son to us here in Guatemala. We’ve enjoyed this deepening relationship as he graduated from the theology program, got married, had a son, served both his home presbytery and the denomination by working with the Guatemalan church’s youth organization, and continued in his secular and theological studies.

Recently Arturo, his young wife Irma, and their infant son Esdras (Ezra) were guests in our Cobán home. They had stopped by our home on the way to a youth rally in the Izabal presbytery, about 80 miles from Cobán. We were shocked to learn of their plan. Guatemala, along with much of Central America, has felt the effects of the severe weather that impacted the southern US and Caribbean islands. Most recently, reports of flooding, mudslides, crop losses, and road closures from tropical storm Nate told the story of much suffering and danger to people attempting travel in this part of the country. The road this young family would be traversing is bad in mild weather. With the frequent reports of weather-related bus accidents, we had little confidence that the drivers of these vehicles were prepared for these conditions. Also, these young people would have to cross a flooded river (with their infant son) to make it to this youth rally.

“What could be so important about this meeting that you would take this risk right now?” Debbie asked as they prepared to head for the bus while another rainstorm pelted our metal roof. “We’re bringing bibles to the kids that participated in their first year of the program. They’re really excited about getting them” was Arturo’s reply. That appeared to be about all they were taking. Besides the bag of bibles, he had a stuffed day pack on his back, apparently with everything this young family would need over the next several days. It hardly seemed adequate for the journey ahead of them. But, wrapped in our rain gear that we lent them, they set off excitedly for their trip to the Izabal presbytery youth rally.

Later the following day, Arturo called us from the youth rally to let us know they were OK. It was a difficult journey. The bus had to be pulled out of the mud by a truck. The river was too flooded for the vehicle to cross, so they crossed in a small (I’m sure overloaded) dugout canoe. “We saw a lot of flooded homes,” Arturo said. “People have really been impacted by the rains this year.” But they were so happy to be there and to be participating in this youth gathering. He went on and on about how excited everyone was at the rally. For many of the recipients of the bibles, they were the first books they could call their very own. Wisely, almost all of them chose to keep their new bibles in their plastic wrappers—at least until the waters recede. The rally provided a small distraction and some hope to a community truly in need of some encouragement.

We often write or speak of the passion we observe in the lives and ministries of so many of our Guatemalan partners. Even when that passion takes on the appearance of unwarranted risk or downright craziness, we are still reminded of what it really means to trust in God’s provision for our lives and for our work. And though Debbie still wants to buy an infant life jacket for our surrogate grandson, we continue to marvel at how our partners do ministry in ways that so closely mirror what we read in scripture. “Take no bag (not even a diaper bag?) for the journey, or extra tunic, or sandals or a staff; for the worker is worth his keep.” Matthew 10:10. We are surrounded by people who develop and demonstrate their faith through their passions and their actions. Some pack up their families and head off on a perilous journey to participate in a ministry that they can only hope will be a blessing to others. And for some, that passion and action is expressed by holding up ministers and mission workers around the world in their ministries by praying for them, by reading their stories, and by financially supporting their ministries. Thank you for your faith, your trust, and your hope in us!

Richard and Debbie Welch

Please read this important message from Jose Luis Casal, Director, Presbyterian World Mission

Dear Friend of Presbyterian Mission,

What a joy to send this letter! As Presbyterian World Mission’s new director, I thank God for your faithful support of our mission co-workers. The enclosed newsletter celebrates the work you made possible by your prayers, engagement, and generous financial gifts. We can’t thank you enough.

After I began in April, I met with mission co-workers and global partners and was blessed to see firsthand the mighty ways God is working through them! Our global partners are asking us to help them move forward with life-changing ministries. Because of your support, we can say “yes” to these creative and exciting initiatives.

I write to invite you to make an even deeper commitment to this work. First, would you make a year-end gift for the sending and support of our mission co-workers? We need your gifts to end the year strong. With your help, we filled two new mission co-worker positions and plan to recruit for others. The needs in the world are great, and World Mission is poised to answer the call to serve.

Second, would you ask your session to add our mission co-workers to your congregation’s mission budget for 2018 and beyond? Our mission co-workers serve three-year or four-year terms. Your multi-year commitment will encourage them greatly.

Our mission co-workers are funded entirely from the special gifts of individuals and congregations like yours. Now more than ever, we need your financial support.

In faith, our mission co-workers accepted a call to mission service. In faith, World Mission sent them to work with our global partners. In faith, will you also commit to support this work with your prayers and financial gifts?

With gratitude,

Jose Luis Casal

P.S. Your gift will help meet critical needs of our global partners. Thank you!

Creative_Commons-BYNCNDYou may freely reuse and distribute this article in its entirety for non-commercial purposes in any medium. Please include author attribution, photography credits, and a link to the original article. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDeratives 4.0 International License.

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