A letter from Richard and Debbie Welch serving in Guatemala
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Dear Friends and Partners in Mission,
“Richard and Debbi . . . Do you have to raise your own support in order to do your work? Just what does the process for financing of your mission look like?”
From the middle of March until the middle of May we were in the U.S., traveling to different places, visiting friends, family, congregations, presbyteries, and supporters, sharing firsthand the stories of transformation, hope, and faith that have touched our lives as we’ve lived out our calling in Guatemala. As we traveled this question above would regularly come up. Talking about one’s personal work-related finances is not something we were brought up to do. Many of us were taught that talking about money was rude, insensitive, and something that makes others uncomfortable.
“Fundraising is proclaiming what we believe in such a way that we offer other people an opportunity to participate with us in our vision and mission”
– Henri Nouwen.
There are several reasons beyond initial curiosity that led to our regularly being asked questions about the financing of our work. Many have heard about the recent announcement of a shortfall in funding that could result in the recalling of many mission co-workers from around the world. (Read about this situation in the Presbyterian News Service article at this web address: www.pcusa.org/news/2015/5/5/presbyterian-world-mission-funding-gap-may-force-r/). Others, familiar with other mission sending agencies, were wondering how the Presbyterian World Mission funding process compares.
So, from the ‘Since you asked’ department, we were sent to Guatemala as an act of faith on the part of Presbyterian World Mission. Technically, we didn’t have to raise our own support before embarking on this new mission. We have always been expected to share about our work, invite participation with us, and never weary of thanking every person and congregation for partnering with us. Of course there is the reality that mission work cannot continue without the continued support of our partners around the church. And so, as it should be, the work can only go forward in a shared connection of faithful sacrifice between those serving directly ‘on the ground’ in mission, and those supporting the ministries of mission co-workers.
The very process of sharing about our work while in the U.S. has made us much more aware of the connection we share between us, our supporters, and our brothers and sisters in Guatemala. Now that we are back in Guatemala, we’d like to share some of these connections we experienced as we traveled to Texas, Washington, Illinois, Wisconsin, Colorado, California, and Oregon. Time and available space does not allow us to share every transformative encounter we experienced. But here are some examples.
“If I had $100 I would buy a house and a car for my family.” This was displayed proudly on the bulletin board outside a classroom at the Irene K. Mendez Elementary School in San Marcos, Texas. It caught our eyes because it was written in Spanish and reflected the hopes and dreams of so many we encounter through our work. At this school 90 percent of the students qualify for free meal assistance. But the potential and promise of so many of them is displayed on boards throughout the school. First Presbyterian Church of San Marcos is partnering with this school, providing volunteer mentors, special programs, and help with school supplies. We instantly related to our connection through the realization of the impact of education on lives of young people and adults everywhere.
Go to the people. Live among them. Love them. Learn from them. Serve them. Plan with them. Start with what they know. Build on what they have…” —From an old Chinese poem, shared by the moderator of the Guatemala task force of the Inland Northwest Presbytery. At this gathering were people with whom we traveled on our very first trips to Guatemala. How refreshing it is to center ourselves repeatedly in some of the principles of partnership. How we practice the two-way street of partnership is always challenging. As we shared and made plans together, we were reminded of some of our denomination’s statements on partnership learned during our orientation. One states, “Partnership calls for interdependence in which mutual aid comes to all, where mutual accountability resides, and no partner dominates another because of affluence or ‘expertise.’ ”
“… So if we ask for money from people who have money, we have to love them deeply. We do not need to worry about the money. Rather, we need to worry about whether, through the invitation we offer them and the relationship we develop with them, they will come closer to God.”—Henri Nouwen. Richard grew up in an affluent suburb of Chicago and received the foundation of his spiritual formation at First Presbyterian Church of Lake Forest. The principles of the joys of generosity, service, commitment, and mission were instilled through the Christian education programs of 50 years ago and had much to do with preparing a young spirit for a call to mission service many years later. We were delighted to discover how these principles are still celebrated. During our time in Chicago it was our privilege to volunteer at the church’s annual auction, raising funds for local mission partners. It was a joyous event, and though we were guests we were welcomed into a relationship that was heartfelt and real. The same Spirit was alive and present at this gathering that we’ve experienced in some of the most remote villages in Guatemala.
“This has got to be the best ice cream I’ve ever tasted!”—Debbie Welch at an ice cream social at Presbyterian Church of the Covenant, Denver. This was a gathering of missioners from the church who were preparing to leave the following morning to visit their partners in Guatemala. When we gathered for worship the following Sunday, we brought greetings from our new Presbyterian church in Cobán at exactly the same time the delegation from this church was delivering their greetings in Cobán. Talk about a connectional moment!
Our stories are truly connected. We consider ourselves blessed and thankful for our connection with you who read our updates, correspond with us, pray for us, and support us financially. We invite your continued involvement as we keep that connection alive serving together in Guatemala!
Richard and Debbie Welch
The 2015 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, Page 70
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