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A Heart-Changing Encounter

A letter from Leslie Vogel serving in Guatemala

October 2016

Write to Leslie Vogel

IndividualsGive online to E200483 for Leslie Vogel’s sending and support

Congregations: Give to D507562 for Leslie Vogel’s sending and support

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

Dear companions in mission, friends, family, colleagues:

I thank my God every time I remember you, constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you, because of your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now. ~ Philippians 1:3-5 (NRSV)

My assignment here in Guatemala with the Protestant Center for Pastoral Studies in Central America (CEDEPCA) has been renewed by the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) for an additional four-year term – until January 2020! I already feel a refreshed sense of energy for working with Intercultural Encounters (IE) groups, and for assisting with grant-writing and support for CEDEPCA’s other three programs: Women’s Ministry, Disaster Ministry and the “Road to Emmaus” Biblical-Theological Seminary.

During my Interpretation Assignment in the U.S. in April and May, one of the many churches where I was able to worship was Fourth Presbyterian in Greenville, SC. During an adult education class, the group participants shared stories and testimonies from their February 2016 Intercultural Encounter (IE) in Guatemala with CEDEPCA. It was a rare opportunity for me. At CEDEPCA, we lead many IE groups during a year, and some of them write to us after their return. However, we don’t often have an opportunity to witness first-hand the impact of their visit here on their lives “back home,” nor do we see and hear how they are communicating that impact to members of their school or church families.

Hearing the testimonies of these people with whom I had traveled barely two months prior was both an honor and a confirmation that we are, in fact, accomplishing some of the goals we have set for ourselves in our work with visiting groups by being catalysts in bringing about changes in the perspectives and lives of our participants.

I want to share with you the words of one of those travelers from the February group. Vonnie aptly describes her own point of departure before she arrived, what she saw, heard and experienced during her Intercultural Encounter in Guatemala, and how that impacted and transformed her.

My Heart was Changed

I’ve always considered myself a “very busy person.”

On this trip I learned to sit and listen. I didn’t pick up a hammer, shovel, or organize a work space – I didn’t build, feed, or bring medical supplies to the good people of Guatemala.

Instead I was fed, and shown God’s love in stories of horror and hope.

I learned that there is a difference between “doing for” and “being with” another. “Doing for” implies power and control. “Being with” another allows vulnerability.

I know I heard the voice of God – I heard God speak to me in the voices of pain and hope shared by men and women. One story involved an innocent woman caught up in the 36 year Guatemalan civil war which lasted from 1960 – 1996. As a child, she saw her father killed and mother raped by government soldiers. She wept as she shared with us, but quickly wiped her tears away. She survived to get an education and have a family. I met her with a group called Corazón de Mujer (The Heart of Women). Women with similar stories have banded together to form a weaving cooperative so they can support themselves and their children. They weave beautiful fabric using back strap looms. They work from home, watch their children, cook dinner while weaving. I felt such love during our visit. We were fed a delicious lunch and all ate at a common table. As I sat and listened to the women chat with each other – not understanding what they said – I thought, “this could be my circle meeting.” Women enjoying time together…

I’ve thought about the many ways my heart was changed by my trip to Guatemala. Before making a judgement about another, I will stop and ask to hear their story. And I will become vulnerable by sharing my story too. Thank you for listening.

Yvonne Vance (used with author’s permission)

I am grateful every day that I have the opportunity to learn and grow in my own faith journey by accompanying the people of Guatemala. Experiences and testimonies like Vonnie’s nourish my gratitude for opportunities to share glimpses of the lives and faith of Guatemalan people with U.S. Christians.

I am also grateful to people like you,

  • who read my letters,
  • who pray for me and my colleagues at CEDEPCA, as well as for the people of Guatemala with whom and for whom we work
  • who support this ministry through your prayers and financial gifts

If you have been reading my letters and praying for me, CEDEPCA, and Guatemala, I thank you! But if you have not yet taken the opportunity to make a commitment toward my sending and support as a PC(USA) mission co-worker, now is the time. Although my assignment was renewed until 2020, I am not “fully funded” for these next 3 and ½ years. My term could be ended prematurely if there is insufficient funding for my ministry as IE facilitator with CEDEPCA.

Please prayerfully consider making a personal or family contribution, whether a one-time gift or a monthly or annual commitment: whatever works with your budget. Please consider asking your congregation and/or your mission, peacemaking, outreach and/or social justice committee to build a line item of support into their annual budget. Every gift counts, however large or small; every commitment makes a difference. $10.00/month = $120/year. $1.00/day = $365/year.

I am periodically in the United States for Interpretation Assignment, and/or to visit family. If you would like to invite me to visit and speak at your church, or at a meeting of a cluster of churches, please let me know and I will begin thinking creatively about how to work that into my future plans.

I am blessed that my daughter, Luz Rebeca, moved to Guatemala last January and is working as a midwife in a women’s reproductive health clinic outside of Antigua. I am able to see Luz at least once or twice a month. We were also able to travel to the U.S. in April and join my son, Amando, and other Vogel extended family for my niece Sarah’s wedding.

I hold you all in my prayers as your children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews have returned or are returning to school this fall, and also as many of you face life-threatening illnesses, debilitating conditions, and celebratory life events. I pray for our country as we approach the November presidential elections. Regardless of where you align yourself politically, I hope that you will prayerfully consider the impact of your vote on not only your own lives and communities, but on the lives of your sisters and brothers around the world who feel the brunt of U.S. global political and economic policy.

May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the communion and empowerment of the Holy Spirit be with you, now and always.

The Rev. Leslie Vogel
Mission Co-Worker, Presbyterian Church (USA) with the
Protestant Center for Pastoral Studies in Central America – CEDEPCA

Please read this important message from Tony De La Rosa, Interim Executive Director, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. (Isaiah 43:1b-2, NRSV)

Dear Friend of the Presbyterian Mission Agency:

Thank you for your prayers and for your financial support of Leslie Vogel this year, and any previous year. We hear from our mission co-workers how much your prayerful financial support has meant to them. Please know that you are a vital part of ministries throughout Guatemala.

Even as I thank you, I want to let you know that this is a critical time for our congregations and all people of faith to commit themselves to support mission co-workers like Leslie. Our global church partners greatly value her service, and you well know how important this ministry is in building connections between the body of Christ in the U.S. and Guatemala.

We have historically relied on endowment interest and the general offering from congregations to sustain the vital work of all of our mission workers. Those sources of funding have greatly diminished. It is only through the gifts of individuals and congregations that we are able to keep Leslie doing the life-giving work God called her to do. A year ago, in May 2015, we had to recall some mission workers due to a lack of funding. World Mission communicated the challenge to you, and you responded decisively and generously. Through your response, we heard the Spirit remind us, “Fear not!”

Today, I’m asking you to consider an additional gift for this year, and to increase the gift you may consider for 2017. Sending and support costs include not only salary but also health insurance and retirement contributions, orientation, language training, housing, travel to the country of service, children’s education, emergency evacuation costs, and visa/passport costs.

My heartfelt thanks for your prayers and support of our Presbyterian mission co-workers. In the coming season, we will celebrate God’s sending of the Christ child, the source of the good news we share. May you experience anew the hope, peace, joy, and love that are ours because “perfect love casts out fear” (I John 4:18).

Thank you for saying “yes” to love.

With you in Christ,
Tony De La Rosa
Interim Executive Director, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

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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