A letter from Sandi Thompson-Royer serving in Guatemala
Individuals: Give online to E200334 for Brian and Sandi Thompson-Royer’s sending and support
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Nosotros Estamos Mejor Juntos
The sun pours into our kitchen window as I prepare my first cup of Guatemalan coffee. Looking out the window onto the rooftop across the way, I see magenta bougainvillea and other brilliant purple flowers gracing our neighborhood. There is always a scrawny but friendly yellow cat that hangs around for any scraps we might have. I see the herbs and flowers Brian has planted on the ledge in big pots because he can’t keep his hands out of the dirt. Beyond this close view are mountains. Quetzaltenango, where we live, is at 8,000 feet. On the other side of our apartment and the view outside our living room window is the volcano Santa Maria. How blessed we are to see such beauty. This is what I chose to see. Others might choose to see the same view differently. The streets are dirty. Dogs and teen boys lie on the streets too tired or drunk to care. Across the street from us is Funerales Quetzaltenango. Almost daily we experience death right in front of us. People are coming here to say goodbye to their loved ones. Bodies are buried quickly and we see the procession of people walking down the street, stopping traffic, to the cemetery close by where the body will be buried. We hear wails of sadness and grief. Until recently there was a bar directly across the street where we saw the sadness of alcohol, heard loud obnoxious music, and often fights after too much to drink. We choose to see the beauty and hope that also surrounds us. Life is hard in Guatemala.
Brian and I recently returned from the U.S., visiting over 25 churches in eight states. Too much travel for this girl! We are so grateful for the love we received along the way. And while it was exhausting, it gave us energy to return. Brian’s mom asked if all our travels were too much. Brian’s reply was, “We have been loved and prayed for along the way. How can you not feel and cherish that?” Dina, on the leadership team of the Guatemalan Presbyterian Women, called before we left to make sure we knew that they were praying for us each and every single night from 10 to 11 p.m. We felt those prayers.
As we celebrate one year of being in Guatemala, we have learned so much about the partnerships and support you all have given folks here. We have also learned from you how our sisters and brothers in Guatemala have impacted and changed each of you. This is what partnership is about. Over this year we have come to learn and truly believe that we are all better together. So many of you know why we love this place and the people so deeply. We experience the mystery of how their strong faith and joy happens with little material stuff, extended family, and a heavy load of suffering. We see the combined impact of the 22 U.S. Presbyterian partnerships between churches and presbyteries in Guatemala. The work you do and the long-term relationships you have here create so many new opportunities and hope for change. Some of the examples of the ways you have come alongside our Guatemalan church partners that we have seen over this past year are:
- Scholarships given for education, including basic education and seminary
- Support for better nutrition
- Hands-on assistance with agricultural projects, including coffee, more nutritious crops and gardens
- Help with developing clean water projects
- Supporting artisans to have access to markets
- Support for individuals to become professionals helping to change their communities
- Support for micro-credit loan groups that are empowering and changing the lives of women and their families
- Support for Libros Para Ninos—installing portable libraries in primary schools that didn’t have reading programs or many books
- Quickly responding to the request for two Guatemalan women to attend the PC(USA) PW Gathering
- Walking alongside women leaders; empowering women throughout the country in places where poverty, sexism and racism dominate
- Sharing continual prayer and concern for each other
For those of you engaged in these partnerships, blessings. We are here to help support you. What makes this work ‘mission’ is that we are doing it together as the church—as the global family of God. Part of our call is to be a bridge between your Guatemalan partners and you. We are able to support your involvement. For those of you who want to consider a commitment for a deeper involvement, contact us. Together we can explore your call and possibilities. We have much to share to make God’s world a brighter place full of more love, opportunities and justice.
Directly upon returning from the U.S. we attended the Assembly of the Guatemalan Presbyterian Church. Much like our PC(USA) General Assembly, this is a time to gather, share reports, and bring forth proposals and changes. I was reminded of how important the Sinodica is for the women here. It is a safe place for women to meet alone to share their faith and hopes for the church. Over 300 people from over 20 presbyteries in Guatemala gathered on a lake at a Presbyterian camp outside of Guatemala City. There were fewer than 30 women. The Presbyterian Women (Sinodica) comes with a voting voice, but I’m not sure they are listened to and they have little power among so many men. There were a few women elders from other presbyteries, but still very few presbyteries chose to elect women even though it is in their Book of Order. The church here is still a place where women are marginalized and have little voice. Even though using more inclusive language was passed by the Assembly several years ago, it is rarely practiced. In my report at the Assembly, I asked the women attending to stand and for the men to thank them for their work. After all, where would the church be without the women? Both in Guatemala and the U.S.
Apart from the church news, there are some very hopeful events happening in Guatemala. After huge countrywide protests led by indigenous groups last summer, the Monsanto Law was overturned. http://rt.com/usa/184833-guatemala-monsanto-trade-seeds/
After months of repeated national scandals of corruption in the government, three major nationwide street protests erupted spontaneously. The largest occurred in the main plaza in Guatemala City and had over 50,000 people attending. There have been protests for over two months in all the major cities. The vice president has resigned. Pressure is mounting on the president to resign. President Perez Molina was a general involved in the death squads during the civil war. This is the first time in Guatemala’s history that people of the middle and upper classes have led protests. These protests are a huge sign of hope and change. People are excited, talking, determined and hopeful. There is an upcoming national election in September. Protesters are calling for the corrupt candidates to step out of the election. There has been minimal violence and subtle pressures being exerted. Please keep praying: for a strong organization to form including the indigenous leaders; for no violence against protesters; and that there be positive changes in the government to improve education, health care and support for families.
Thank you all very much for your prayers, encouragement and financial support. Without your support of us and World Mission we would not be here. We invite you to consider a recurring contribution to our ministry positions here. Your support ensures that together we can continue working alongside our Guatemalan sisters and brothers.
The 2015 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 70
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