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Courageous Conversations in Guatemala

A letter from Sandi Thompson-Royer serving in Guatemala

October 2016

Write to: Sandi Thompson-Royer

Write to: Brian Thompson-Royer

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

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

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

Dear Friends,

Can you imagine preaching and telling your very personal story of abuse from the pulpit?

One brave seminary student felt the call to share her story just one day after 45 men and women from her presbytery, seminary and a partner church in Madison, Wis., came together to learn about domestic violence and make plans to be more involved.

Margot, a student from the Escuela Socio Teologica, a Presbyterian seminary that teaches students to be pastors and community organizers, had experienced all forms of abuse by her husband and father of her three boys. After her 6-year-old son was beaten for trying to protect her, Margot decided it was time to leave her marriage. The safety and support of her family and church gave her the courage and ability to leave. Today she is the mother of teenage boys, a strong, independent woman with a goal to pastor a church and work for change in her community.

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Margot preaching about her experience

Guatemala is an extremely patriarchal country. Each day women are killed because of their gender. There are only eight women pastors and few women elders in the more than 400 Presbyterian churches in Guatemala. The Presbyterian Church of Guatemala is a global partner of Presbyterian World Mission. For the Sinodica (Presbyterian Women of Guatemala) to courageously step out in hopes of changing the culture is a huge deal!

In our work as mission co-workers my husband, Brian, and I support leadership development with the Sinodica. For more than 30 years I have worked in the domestic violence and sexual assault field and know too well that violence against women is a global issue. I am thrilled to see the Sinodica’s strength of commitment to not be silent. Leaders have decided it’s time to devote the year to having “courageous conversations” in the church.

Sandi with Sinodica leaders Maura and Betty

Sandi with Sinodica leaders Maura and Betty

The Sinodica has strategically prioritized ways to address what has impacted too many women and families. The first thing they plan to do is assemble a team of leaders who will be trained with help from the Protestant Center for Pastoral Studies in Central America (CEDEPCA by its Guatemalan acronym), another PC(USA) global partner, to go out into the 25 presbyteries and educate congregations about domestic violence and the ways they can support victims. Secondly, they plan to hold a training for men using Rev. Dr. Kevin Frederich’s curriculum “Men in the Mirror,” which has been translated into Spanish. Rev. Dr. Frederich, of Western North Carolina Presbytery, will travel to Guatemala in February 2017 to provide a two-day retreat for more than 40 men. Participants will learn to be more reflective, thus better husbands and fathers, and they will go and teach what they learn in their churches. Lastly, several microloan workshops will be offered to women. Microloans are a way for women to have a small business and earn money, which increases their ability to be independent. These efforts seek to change the culture of Guatemalan churches and communities with the hope of less violence and healthier communities.

Margot’s story is only one that we’ve heard from our Presbyterian sisters in Guatemala. Abuse happens with wives of pastors as well. Child sexual abuse is also a problem and we recently heard about a teacher molesting girls in a rural school.

Brian and I are honored to be walking with the Sinodica as they courageously work toward change. Please pray for us and consider supporting our work. If you’d like to learn more about our ministry in Guatemala, consider inviting us to your Presbyterian Women spring or fall gatherings in 2017. To schedule a visit, email sandi.thompson-royer@pcusa.org.

As always, we are grateful for all the ways you support our ministry here in Guatemala. Maybe your Presbyterian Women’s group is also having Courageous Conversations around domestic violence? Please let them know what their sisters in Guatemala are up to! We are able to walk alongside the Sinodica, supporting their work because of your contributions. Please keep those prayers coming! It also makes our day to receive personal emails!

God’s peace to each of you,

Sandi and Brian Thompson-Royer


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