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Enriching Strong Relationships

A Letter from Eliane Menezes, serving in Guatemala

Summer 2021

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Dear friends,

Ministry with the women of Guatemala is all about relationships. During my first year in Guatemala, I focused on learning the nuances of Guatemalan culture and the language. I wanted to establish deep relationships with the Presbyterian women. I was the foreigner, and I knew I had to take my time to get to know the women and give them the opportunity of getting to know me.

Working with the National Union of Presbyterian Women of the National Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Guatemala gave me the honor to reach out not only to the women, but also to their families, their communities of faith, and people around them. I learned how to move around and get to the places I needed to go as soon as possible. I made myself available for my sisters to be present at any event, such as meetings, conventions, worship services, and so on. I delighted in each one of those moments while traveling with my sisters around the country as we worked together for the Kingdom of God.

One event I remember vividly is the convention Sinódica Occidente in the Village San José Chicalquix, in San Carlos Sija, Quetzaltenango with about 120 Presbyterian Women and their families. The Village San José Chicalquix is located high up in the western highlands of Quetzaltenango. To get there I first had to travel five hours by bus from my home in Guatemala City to Xela, Quetzaltenango. There I met my good friend Maria Roselia Romero who is the moderator of the National Union of Presbyterian Women of Guatemala (UNMP). I spent a comfortable night at her house and the next day got up at dawn to travel with Maria Roselia, her husband Cirilo Romero, Maura Vasques who is a member at large of the UNMP, and her daughter by car over narrow mountainous roads to the Village San José Chicalquix. The weather was very cold, and we arrived at 8AM at Eben Ezer Presbyterian Church.

We were not the first women to arrive. The church was filled with women and their children who had travelled from small villages all over the area, along bumpy roads, in the beds of trucks, with their small children by their sides, to attend this Synod meeting of Presbyterian Women. Most of these women had slept in the church building the night of the convention on mattresses or simply on the floor on blankets that they had brought with them. Nothing could keep them away from the fellowship, worship, and educational opportunities that this Synod meeting provided.

When they arrived, they and their children were welcomed with warm cups of coffee and pastries. Chicken stew bubbled in large cauldrons on the stove and over open wood fires ready to be ladled out to celebrate our fellowship meal. Worship was joyous with women reading the Word of God and singing happily together.

One young woman I met brought her three small children with her. As the children played around her, and were carried in her arms, she confided in me that she wanted desperately to continue her education. I was so grateful that I was able to tell her about the two different scholarships that the National Union of Presbyterian Women of Guatemala has available to presbyterian women – one for secular studies and one for theological studies. With gratitude in her eyes, she smiled, gathered up her children and went rejoicing to cement her bonds of fellowship with the other women. These are the kinds of strong relationships that I have with the Presbyterian Women groups. We join together so that we can serve each other better.

Sadly, because of the pandemic, I had to return to the U.S. The mutual trust and respect we built during all of the Presbyterian Women gatherings has allowed us to keep in close touch and continue to serve together. We continue working together virtually (via WhatsApp, Zoom, etc.) and are learning new ways of being connected and of fulfilling our calling to this ministry.

I am using similar techniques to strengthen relationships with PC(USA)’s faithful partners while developing new ones with presbyteries, congregations, and individuals. I have been in contact with many sisters and brothers, fortifying our calling to serve God and God’s people in Guatemala. The response I have received has been amazing and I have been grateful for the chance that I have had to share about this wonderful ministry in Guatemala.

I have been invited to participate in different opportunities with churches and presbyteries where I have shared stories about the women’s ministry in Guatemala. We had time to get to know one another and share about our love and commitment to the ministries to which God has called each one of us.

During the week I was able to speak with Mission Committees and Bible Study groups. I enjoyed participating in worship services by preaching, giving the Minute for Mission, and having conversations following the worship services. I have been challenged to learn new ways of being connected, especially utilizing various virtual platforms, including how to videotape myself for my participation in those events. I even presided over the Lord’s Supper virtually for the first time. I couldn’t have imagined that one day I would be sharing this precious moment from my own dinner table with participants from all over the world.

Please remember that this ministry is vibrant because of your generosity. Please talk to your congregation or presbytery about getting to know what God is doing in Guatemala and consider hosting me for a virtual visit.

Many blessings, Eliane


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