A letter from Richard and Debbie Welch serving in Guatemala
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Dear Friends and Partners in Mission,
“The former leadership is gone now. You have been called to lead the people of your communities in matters of life and faith. As you prepare for leadership, ask yourselves, ‘What is the mission?’ ‘What is the charge?’ ‘What is the promise?’ ‘What is the method or the process that will lead to success? ‘How are we to prepare for this call to leadership?’ The answers to these questions are in the verses we just read. Look them over again and work together to discover these answers.” We were visiting the class, “The Bible in Mission.” And because we’d developed relationships with some of the professors and students over our time here, we quickly learned we weren’t going to get by with just observing the class. Shortly after dropping in, we were each assigned to participate in one of the small groups into which the class had been divided.
For the backdrop of this particular exercise the professor had selected the opening verses of the Old Testament book of Joshua. Moses, the “bigger than life,” charismatic, gifted, and clearly called leader of the entire Hebrew community, was gone. Joshua was now being called to fill some very big shoes. Professor Jorge, either by providence, accident, or through his understanding of the context from which this group of men and women from the indigenous communities arrived, presented this text in a way that resonated with almost everyone there. We listened to several powerful stories of several modern-day “Joshuas” striving to live out their calls to leadership in their communities under often very difficult circumstances.
Observation, Interpretation, Application
What is the mission? Lead this entire community across the river and possess a new land. What is the charge? Do this with faith and courage. What is the promise? God will be with you. The land is already yours. What is the process and how do we prepare? Sustain and build your faith and courage through God’s Word and observances of community worship. “These are good ‘textbook’ answers,” explained Professor Jorge. “Now, how does this apply to your ministries?” In taking these students through the process of reading, understanding, and finally applying the words of scripture to their daily lives, these students were being invited out of their comfort zones to relate Joshua’s experience to their own.
Patrona, a young leader of her community’s “presbyterial” or women’s organization, shared about the calling the members of her group felt to travel the often dangerous roads in their presbytery to build community among women in other villages. “That’s kind of like crossing a big river,” she said.
Gonzalo, a pastor and family man, talked about being called to serve in a new community that had recently lost their longtime and well-loved pastor to cancer. “Everything was about how he used to do things. He might not have been Moses, but it was really hard to continue after him.”
An older pastor shared memories from his youth about their pastor and community leader who had to flee the village during the country’s civil war because it had been rumored that he was collaborating with the rebels. “Others had to take his place, though they didn’t feel ready and it was dangerous.”
Often when we are privileged to witness and be a part of the stories and experiences of our sisters and brothers attending training classes, or when we visit with the young people attending secondary school on scholarships faithfully provided by their brothers and sisters in congregations in the U.S., or we experience vocational training projects that improve the lives of church family members, we think of how we wish you all could be here to be encouraged by these accounts of growth and transformation on so many levels. As we’ve said before, these are your stories. Your support and encouragement of ministries so far away from your places of work, life, and worship brings these stories closer to you, just as your participation in what is happening here brings you closer to us. Still, we wish you could experience each touched life firsthand.
Preparation without Passion, Passion without Preparation
At the conclusion of the class session the professor shared three possibilities for ministry. One is to have good preparation for ministry, but not the courage to carry it out effectively. The second possibility is to have the courage to step out in ministry, but be lacking in the preparation necessary to effectively lead and minister to the community of faith. Joshua’s story shows his preparation for his new and difficult role as well as the courage he had to step into that role and lead the people into new and unknown places. Before dismissing the class Jorge invited us to share anything we might want to share with the class. Looking at the last slide describing these three possibilities, Richard couldn’t help but make a comparison. The first one, “preparation without passion,” could describe his and many North American’s experiences. We’ve had the privilege of experiencing excellent preparation for our faith journeys from youth through our university years. Oftentimes however, we lack the passion necessary to step out in that faith journey. On the other hand, “passion without preparation” could describe the experiences of many in these classes. They sacrifice so much to be able to participate in ministry, and in order to take advantage of this training, they travel long distances away from work and family. In our experience of partnership, as we’ve helped provide for their preparation, maybe we can gain from their passion and courage for ministry.
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. It is such a joy for us to benefit from your preparation and passion. We invite your continued involvement as we keep these connections alive serving together in Guatemala!
Richard and Debbie Welch
The 2015 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, Page 70
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