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Giving and Receiving

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

November 2017

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)


“For it is in giving that we receive.” Francis of Assisi

As we enter our fifth year as mission co-workers, we continue to be in awe of the gifts we have received in our service. Brian and I had careers working in nonprofits and faith-based organizations and understood the life of service and how we are positively impacted by giving of ourselves. Yet, little did we know when we accepted the call to be with the Sinodica (Presbyterian Women of Guatemala) that we would receive so much more than we give. Studies show that serving increases our faith, happiness and self-esteem, plus we get to encounter others intimately, rather than from a distance. As we move out of our comfort zones, God gives us what we need. PC(USA) mission co-workers work alongside their partners, listening and learning from them how to go forward in our work together. The Sinodica are all volunteers, willingly serving and always saying, “it is a privilege to serve in this way.”

New leaders against domestic violence and sexual assault.

Another gift we have received during our term are the relationships with you. Many of you have become friends who have shared the ups and downs of our lives and service. Many of you we haven’t met, but we are recipients of the gift of your prayers, which we feel and appreciate as we navigate a life that is so different.

As we wrap up 2017, here are the highlights of how your gifts have supported the work of the Sinodica:

Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault Workshops: Over 150 women attended, learning the impact of domestic and sexual violence and how to support their sisters. In August, the Sinodica sponsored a three-day “train the trainers” attended by 30 women who have committed to hold four workshops in their regions. Betty Carrera Paz from CEDEPCA’s Women’s Ministries partnered with the Sinodica to lead these workshops. Sue Butrell from Westminster Presbyterian Church in Portland, Oregon, and Rev. Kathy Gorman-Koombs from Albany Presbytery volunteered their experience, resources and time to help lead. This theme will continue into 2018, with a focus on younger women.

Men in the Mirror workshop.

Men in the Mirror: Over two days, more than 60 men, pastors and elders learned ways to combat domestic violence and machismo, and to be better husbands and fathers. The author of the curriculum, Rev. Kevin Frederich from western North Carolina, presented the workshop with Brian.

Change in Scholarships for Women in Seminary: The Sinodica’s decision to extend the scholarships to young single women will help create the change needed to include more women in the church. In 2017, almost half of the 28 scholarships were given to young women. Contributions to these scholarships may be made through EO #51830.

Brian attending seminary scholarship committee.

Micro-Loan Workshops: Workshops in five regions introduced the Sinodica to the benefits of micro-loans.

Focus on Budgets and Relationships with Donors: The Sinodica is learning how to thank donors like you as well as to use your generous gifts in ways that benefit the Presbyterian Women in Guatemala most. You can continue to support the general work of the Sinodica through EO #51618.

Sandi at pastors’ retreat.

Retreat for Women Pastors: Bethany Presbyterian Church and Davis Community Church in Sacramento, California, supported and led this retreat in which women shared safely and confidentially what it is like to be a woman pastor in Guatemala.

Annual Spiritual Retreat for Sinodica leaders: Brian and I led this retreat focusing on self-care and reflection.

Focus on Relationships with K’ekchi Presbyterials: The Sinodica made several visits to the Coban area, where women are isolated, education is limited and poverty is extreme. Through these trips, the Sinodica supported their sisters, and they launched an initiative to support basic education. The Sinodica’s annual convention was held in Coban, with a visit from Judy Parsons, who represented PC(USA)/Presbyterian Women.

Collaborative Water Project: Partnership between World Mission, the Guatemalan Presbyterian Church Deacon Committee, Mission Impact and our colleagues Richard and Debbie Welch led to the installation of 75 water filters in homes in the K’ekchi region.

This year we had several delegation visits. We work with the delegations prior to their visits, learning ways to include their gifts in our work with the Sinodica. These visits included Bible studies, spiritual retreats, preaching by women pastors, music and new friendships. Here is a glimpse of our visitors:

US/Guatemala Partnership Meeting in Guatemala: Over 60 participants, representing nine partnerships, celebrated and shared over three days.

Flint River Presbytery in Georgia: This included time at the partnership meeting, a trip to Coban, a small retreat with the Sinodica leaders and preaching in worship by Pastor Leanne Simmons. Another visit is planned for January 2018, when this presbytery will sponsor the yearly spiritual retreat for the Sinodica.

Newport Presbyterian Church in Bellevue, Washington: This church visited us for the first time and accompanied the Flint River Presbytery. They plan to return in March.

Westminster Presbyterian Church in Portland, Oregon: A delegation of 12 from this congregation supported a day-long workshop on being a woman elder in the church. Pastor Laurie Newman preached in a Maya Quiche church.

Hamblen Park Pres. Church and Sinodica leaders, who have come to listen to Men in the Mirror participants.

Hamblin Park Presbyterian Church in Spokane, Washington: Visiting with the desire to experience our life and work, members of this congregation witnessed the positive impact of Men in the Mirror. Pastor Betsey Moe preached in a K’ekchi church in Coban. This visit led them to participate in a book project in a public school in Coban, and to plan a visit in the spring to take part in a sewing project to create marketable products.

Bethany Presbyterian Church and Davis Community Church in Sacramento, California: Not only did this group come to listen and learn about our work, but they supported and led a retreat for women pastors and a music workshop at the Presbyterian Seminary. A broken ukelele traveled with us, making music wherever we went! The group plans to return in 2018 to minister through music.

Covenant Presbyterian Church in Madison, Wisconsin: Three members of this congregation visited in August. They support our work and are also partners with a Guatemalan Presbyterian Church and support education and other projects through their partnership and friendship.

I have learned this year that receiving is not always easy, especially when it is from someone who has so much less. After my mother’s death, Juana, an obrera (helper) in the Sinodica, came to me and snuck a wad of quetzals in my hand. She shared that in her culture, when there is a death this is the way to show love and help with the costs of a funeral. I, in my North American way, refused her money, telling her I couldn’t accept it, as I knew she didn’t have much. And then I thought about my action, went back and asked Juana if that was rude, and if other women offered, I should accept. She told me “yes.” I learned from my honest sister about receiving graciously with an open heart. Her love and care for me are what matters most.

It is with gratitude that we have received your gifts. We hope that you will continue to bless us and the Sinodica with your financial gifts and prayers.

“It is the heart that does the giving; the fingers only let go.” Nigerian proverb

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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