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Transformed Lives

A letter from Sandi Thompson-Royer serving in Guatemala

October 2016

Write to Sandi Thompson-Royer
Write to Brian Thompson-Royer

Individuals: Give online to E200334 for Sandi and Brian Thompson-Royer’s sending and support

Congregations: Give to D507581 for Sandi and Brian Thompson-Royer’s sending and support

Churches are asked to send donations through your congregation’s normal receiving site (this is usually your presbytery).

Vacation Bible School at First Presbyterian Church in Spokane meant that the young kids spent a day serving in a men’s shelter in downtown Spokane, Wash. Mary asked her granddaughter what they did all day. Her response was, “Grandma, we just played checkers!”

Rudy Dyck, from Covenant Presbyterian Church in Palo Alto, is retired and now volunteers his time to serve at the Opportunity Center. He was struck by how sitting and listening has changed him. His pastor, Rev. Margaret Boles, told him this was a “ministry of presence.” This was a new sort of ministry for him. Story after story, our hosts shared how they’ve been transformed by hearing the stories and spending time with people different from themselves. These experiences come from “mission trips” to other countries or from spending time with people in their own communities where they are engaged in ministries of presence.

“It’s better to have a partner than go it alone. Share the work, share the wealth. And if one falls down, the other helps, but if there’s no one to help, tough!”
Ecclesiastes 4:9-11 The Message

While on Interpretation Assignment for three months in the U.S., a time for sharing with Presbyterians about God’s mission in Guatemala, Brian and I shared stories of how our lives have been transformed by the women we work with in Guatemala, and how we’ve learned that by just “being and walking with our sisters” transformation happens for them, too. We didn’t know what to expect when we asked U.S. Presbyterians we visited this question, “How have you been transformed by an experience in mission or meeting someone different than yourself? How will you live life differently after this experience?” Over and over we heard about the impact of relationships. Ecclesiastes tells us that we need each other. All of us. As the relationships begin and we learn from each other, then we can know ways to engage more deeply and learn ways we can help one another. Mission is happening in churches in the U.S. through community gardens, feeding and housing the homeless, supporting domestic violence shelters, and advocating for justice. This was incredible to see and experience. We had the opportunity to visit over 40 churches in 13 states and felt the love and support of you all. Your interest in God’s mission in the U.S. and in Guatemala, and your deep commitment to relationships with us and our mission partners lifts our spirits!

Having recently returned to Guatemala, we are gradually transitioning back into our ministry here. Our Guatemalan colleagues were anxious to hear about our visit to the U.S. The Directiva (Presbyterian Women leaders) threw a big surprise party for us with a special dinner, presents, songs and prayer. We are moved by their love and willingness to walk with us!

Domestic violence workshop

Domestic violence workshop
Picture 1 of 3

We recently spent ten days with a delegation from Covenant Presbyterian Church in Madison, Wis. We experienced their love for their partners in the Suchi Presbytery here in Guatemala. There were new travelers from Covenant and others who had ¬¬been here many times with deep relationships and were so excited to see the children they’ve watched grow up. One full day during their visit I helped lead a domestic violence/sexual assault workshop. With both men and women from the U.S. and Guatemala attending, eyes were opened. We talked about ways the U.S. church can be more involved. Women from the Suchi Presbytery and students from the Escuela Socio Teologica Seminary (seminary and social work) participated. Workshops are generally well attended and people are eager to learn. The seminary students are learning to be social workers and pastors. At church we heard from Margot, also a seminary student. She preached, sharing her personal story of domestic violence, how it affected her children, and the love and support she received from family and church. Her story impacted us all and we look forward to Margot’s growing leadership in the church.

This September Brian will accompany Rev. Kevin Fredericks from Western North Carolina Presbytery as he shares his curriculum Men in the Mirror with male leaders of the Presbyterian Church in Guatemala. The executive council of the National Presbyterian Church in Guatemala (23 men and one woman) unanimously supported walking with the Sinodica (Presbyterian Women) to invite Kevin to lead a “train the trainers” workshop that will train the men to lead a 10-week session of Bible study, personal reflection, and looking at ways men can be more sensitive and involved in the lives of their families. Many U.S. Presbyterian partners will support Men in the Mirror through scholarships for the 45 men attending.

I wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t also share that it has been a difficult transition coming back to Guatemala. We are 2 1/2 years into our service and we miss our grandchildren who are growing so quickly! I truly enjoyed those real-life hugs, waking up together, taking long walks and smelling the summer flowers. Brian took a train ride with Marion, our oldest grandson, to visit Seattle and attend a Mariner’s baseball game! I’m not sure who had more fun! We were able to say “goodbye” to our pastor, Rev. Paul Rodkey, in Spokane, Wash., who recently retired. He and his wife Kerri will join the Peace Corps in Batswana, Africa.

I want to close with a blessing shared during each of our presentations in the U.S. This blessing was given to Brian by Vilma Sanez, the new moderator for the Sinodica, just before we left Guatemala in April. After a finance meeting she gave Brian a big, warm Guatemalan hug and said, “You and Sandi are our messengers to our sisters and brothers in the U.S. Please share with them our love, our thanks and give them our blessings each place you go.” With tears in our eyes and love in our hearts we carried that message to each of you from Vilma and the women leaders of the National Guatemalan Presbyterian Church.

As we travel back and forth and call both the Spokane, Wash., and Guatemala regions home, we invite you to travel back and forth with us, through your prayers, your correspondence, your visits, and your financial commitment to God’s mission in Guatemala. We know we are loved and prayed for by each of you. Thank you for your support and willingness to walk with us on this journey!

Sandi and Brian Thompson-Royer

Please read below for an important note from Hunter Farrell:

Dear Friend of World Mission:

“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)

Thank you for your prayers and for your financial support of Sandi and Brian Thompson-Royer this year, and any previous year. I know from my 15 years as a Presbyterian mission co-worker that your prayerful financial support has meant the world to them.

Even as I thank you, I want to let you know that this is a critical time for churches and individuals to commit themselves to support Sandi and Brian. 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 churches to sustain the vital work of all of our mission workers. Those sources of funding have greatly diminished, and it is only through the over-and-above gifts of individuals and congregations that we are able to keep Sandi and Brian doing the life-giving work God called them to do. A year ago, in May of 2015, for the first time in recent history, we had to recall some mission workers due to a lack of funding. We 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” (1 John 4:18).

Thank you for saying “yes” to love.

With you in Christ,
Hunter Farrell
Director, World Mission, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

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