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A letter from Richard and Debbie Welch, serving in Guatemala

September 2020

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)


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“It was predicted,
but it was still unexpected.”

Dear Friends and Partners in mission,

Folks around the world are no strangers to the sweet smell that comes after a rainfall, but did you know there is a special name for it? It’s called petrichor. It’s defined as the pleasant smell that frequently accompanies the first rain after a long period of warm, dry weather. This morning, as we prepared for our morning walk in the woods near our home, we stepped out into an unexpected and very welcome morning rain. The chance of this rain had been predicted. But with no measurable rainfall since the first of July, we didn’t take it seriously. So, the sight, the sound, and yes, the fragrance of the rain was poignant. While beautiful, the rain did force us to take another route for our walk. The tall wet grass would soak us. The change made for an invigorating start to our day.

While predicted as a possibility, but still unexpected and yet another disruption to our plans, our Presbyterian Mission Agency has offered a Voluntary Separation Program (VSP) to employees who meet age and length of service criteria. We meet those criteria. After much prayer and deliberation, we have decided to take the offer. We decided to be as transparent as possible about our discernment process and what led us to this decision. Those reasons can be found in the expanded version of this letter, posted on our blog:

We believe that for you, of most interest is, what’s next for us, and how does this decision impact the work we’ve been doing alongside you, our partners? The short answer is, “Together, we can ensure they will continue.” Some of you already know about our “exit strategy” that includes our continued involvement in Guatemala once we are no longer mission co-workers for Presbyterian World Mission. That strategy is based on our working with the Guatemala Partnership Network and re-engaging with our home presbytery’s mission partnership and other partnerships that would like our continued support.

We need to point out that as former PC(USA) mission co-workers, we will coordinate our involvement with World Mission. It is not our desire to impede or duplicate the ongoing mission of the church we love.

Specifics of ministry areas and projects:

Scholarships for young indigenous people to attend school:
This program has blessed and continues to bless the lives of many indigenous youth throughout Guatemala with opportunities to obtain a quality education through the secondary grades. For those sponsoring students via PC(USA) World Mission and the Guatemalan Presbyterian Church, our World Mission area office will continue to manage your generous donations as it has in the past. Rev. Leslie Vogel, our regional liaison, ( will coordinate with national church leaders and the schools.

Libros Abiertos children’s literacy program:
We have been inspired and amazed by how this program has ignited our partners’ passions as we’ve explored together how a creative approach to children’s literature can transform the learning experiences of children. As long as our PC(USA) partners continue to engage and support this program, and its supporting institution, La Puerta Abierta school in Santo Domingo Atitlán, we will continue to support it in a faithful method compatible with the missiological goals of our denomination.

Theological education for indigenous pastors and leaders:
Our position as consultants to the Guatemalan Presbyterian Church’s committee for planning these programs will end when we separate from World Mission. As with the youth scholarship program, coordination with national church leaders and the committee will be performed by our regional liaison, Leslie Vogel. We will continue to be available to provide secondary support for this program as needed.

Guatemala Mission Partnership Network:
Our involvement with the network predates our appointment as mission co-workers. We have long held the belief that the network can be a helpful tool as we seek to keep our partnerships relevant both at home and with our Guatemalan partners. We plan to continue as participants in the network, working alongside you in planning helpful and fun gatherings in Guatemala and in the U.S.

Supporting partnerships and logistics and accompaniment of visiting groups:
Traveling with and accompanying you on your visits to your Guatemalan partners has been the highlight of our time as mission co-workers. Debbie says, “It was working with visiting groups that kept us sane!” We will be delighted to continue supporting you in your partnerships. Of course, the dynamics will be different. Before making Debbie and Richard your ‘go-to’ people for your visit, remember that PresGOV continues to support visitors to Guatemala. And we encourage you to connect with our friend and colleague, Rev. Betsey Moe (, facilitator for the intercultural ministries program at CEDEPCA.

Yes, we would have wanted more time. We probably would always have wanted more time. But now, we begin the process of stepping away from our roles as mission co-workers and stepping back into the role as Presbyterians with a love and passion for our partners in the Guatemalan Presbyterian Church. If you don’t have them already, our personal email addresses are: Debbie:; Richard: Please feel free to contact us. We look forward to hearing from, and working with, you all!

God’s blessings and peace,

Richard and Debbie Welch

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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