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Introducing Priscilla and Aquila—Visiting from Guatemala

A letter from Richard and Debbie Welch in the U.S., on Interpretation Assignment from Guatemala

Fall 2016

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).

Dear Friends and Partners in Mission,

“We are going to read six Bible passages that mention this husband and wife team, two people who are never mentioned separately. They are great examples of witnesses who obey Jesus’ last words in Acts 1:8. They ‘show and tell’ the message of Jesus ‘to the ends of the earth.’ We heard about the recent mission trip to Guatemala last week and now we get to meet Debbie and Richard, who attended church not very far from this place, and who took off for Guatemala to serve the church there.”

The last several months of 2016 have been spent traveling around the U.S. paying visits to some of the people we’ve gotten to know over our three and a half years of mission service in Guatemala. The long road trip has been lovingly punctuated by welcoming hospitality and care for our physical, spiritual, and emotional well-being by people who sheltered, fed, entertained, and encouraged us every step of our journey. The quotation above is from one of our more recent visits, a midweek outreach program to young people of an underserved neighborhood near our ‘home base’ outside of Spokane, Washington. Along with recreation, mentoring, and food, the participants engage in a short program, highlighted by a little drama, which communicates the work God is doing in their community and around the world. As an interesting twist on the sharing of our story of work and ministry in Guatemala, the leader tasked us to share our work in light of the ministry of Priscilla and Aquila, the first documented ‘missionary couple’ to accompany the Apostle Paul on one of his missionary journeys (Acts 18:18).

At first we were a little unsure about how we would present our work as PC(USA) mission co-workers from the perspective of this couple who simply showed traditional Jewish hospitality to Paul and later became leaders in their ‘house church.’ But Don, our host, who knows much about our life and work, had it all worked out. And as Priscilla and Aquila were ‘interviewed,’ we gained a fresh perspective on our work and ministry and how it intersects with the faithfulness and involvement you have demonstrated in your continued interest and support of our mission in Guatemala.

“In Acts 18:1-3 we read how Paul went to Corinth and stayed with Aquila and his wife Priscilla. Do church people stay at your house in Guatemala?” Hmm… That’s an interesting question. People from the church in Guatemala as well as people from the U.S. regularly come to our home. And just as we were able to offer hospitality to our sisters and brothers who come through Cobán, so many in our connected church have provided for us over these last several months.

“Next, in Acts 18:18, Paul leaves Corinth and takes Priscilla and Aquila with him. We notice that Priscilla is mentioned first, which is unusual. Is one of you ‘the boss’ in your work? How do you share the work? Do you ever travel with church leaders around Guatemala?” We love modeling to our Guatemalan partners how a husband and wife team can work together sharing leadership and other roles as different challenges emerge. We’ve also been blessed by the ministries of several Guatemalan as well as North American husband and wife teams who are doing amazing work in the church. As we’ve accompanied leaders on rough Guatemalan mountain roads to remote villages and as we’ve traveled freeways to visit exciting ministry projects around the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) we’ve witnessed women and men using their gifts to bless their communities with practical expressions of God’s love for them.

“Priscilla and Aquila spent some time with a new disciple named Apollos (Acts 18:24-26). They helped him to take a fresh look at the gospel, and because of their help, Apollos became a more effective minister. Is your perspective as a Christian ever an inspiration to the Guatemalan leaders you know? Are they ever an inspiration to you?” Our job gives us such wonderful opportunities to examine the scriptures together with leaders in our Guatemalan and U.S. church partners. Our different perspectives from life experiences, cultures, languages, and economic positions provide fresh understandings of passages we’ve read many times before. Just like we never looked at Priscilla and Aquila like this before, we think our perspectives revealed new things to our Guatemalan partners and the points of view our Guatemalan friends bring to our understanding have led to new discoveries along our faith journeys.

Pastor Don ended his interview with reference to some of Paul’s letters (2 Timothy 4:19, 1 Corinthians 16:19, and Romans 16:3-4). He pointed out how Paul gives instructions to “Greet Priscilla and Aquila.” “Do you get greeted when people write to you in Guatemala?” That question could only be answered from the perspective we have with our friends and supporters. When you take the time to read our letters and communicate back with us, or when you are willing to pray for us, our work, and our partners and provide your generous gifts of financial support that make our work possible it all adds to this beautiful narrative that connects us to one another and connects us to the work God is doing here in Guatemala.

Yes, we are truly greeted. As we prepare for our return to Guatemala, we are looking ahead to the end of our first term as mission co-workers. We have communicated to our partners and our sending mission organization our willingness to commit to another four-year term in Guatemala. Will you consider continuing with us as we embark on this new chapter of improving educational opportunities for our indigenous brothers and sisters of the Presbyterian Church of Guatemala? The journey will continue with your continued prayer, encouragement, and financial support of this work with our Guatemalan partners.

Blessings to you all in Christ!

Richard and Debbie Welch (aka: Priscilla and Aquila)

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 Richard and Debbie Welch 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 Richard and Debbie. Our global church partners greatly value their 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 Debbie and Richard doing the life-giving work God called them 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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