A Letter from Richard and Debbie Welch, serving in Guatemala
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Dear Friends and Partners in Mission,
In 1517, Martin Luther is believed to have nailed his “Disputation on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences,” also known as “The 95 Theses,” to the door of the Wittenberg Castle Church. This act by Luther marked the beginning of the Protestant Reformation. Years later, Christians of the reformed tradition are celebrating this historic event all over the world. Guatemala is no exception. To celebrate the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Protestant Reformation, three different expressions of the Presbyterian Church’s witness in Guatemala—the 2017 class of indigenous theological training students, members of the newly-formed Antioch Presbyterian Church, and faculty and students of the local Presbyterian school, La Patria Norte—participated in a march through the streets of Cobán where we live. For us, it was a palpable reminder of how the church is touching lives here in Guatemala.
We started walking alongside the indigenous theological training students who were in Cobán for one of the week-long training sessions that are held throughout the year. These men and women are leaders in their churches and communities, and we’ve loved having the opportunity to get to know them. As we walked together, so many stories of faith, sacrifice, and victory were reflected in the faces of those we’ve come to know over the last few years of the program.
And as we visited with students just starting out in the program, we learned of the hopes and dreams these people have for their churches and communities. The students often have to travel long distances in uncomfortable and notoriously unsafe buses, spending time away from their jobs and families in order to participate in the program. Despite their sacrifice, so many want to express their joy and thanks for these training opportunities. The program is funded by faithful Presbyterians in the US, and the students are encouraged and motivated by the knowledge that fellow Presbyterians, far away in another country, are investing in their spiritual growth and development.
Running ahead in the procession, we joined up with the small contingent of members of our church community in Cobán. As Protestants around the world are celebrating the 500th year of that tradition, the Antioch Presbyterian Church in Cobán is celebrating its third year as a worshiping community. Elders from the church carried a banner commemorating the anniversary of the church’s establishment, and we were excited to see that the women elders of the church, something that is still too much of a rarity in Guatemala, were there to hold up the banner. This has been our first experience of being involved in new church development anywhere. The church had its humble beginnings in a rented garage, with a roof drainage system that often backed up in a hard rain. Those limitations did not impair the enthusiastic congregation from holding regular outreach events, doing service in the community, and welcoming new individuals and families to worship, fellowship, and ministry.
Eventually the church moved into its own facilities, built on land provided by the Guatemalan Presbyterian Church. So many members feel they have experienced such abundant blessings in just three short years. The members laughed and sang as they marched. Antioch Presbyterian Church is a community that has grown and thrived through the hard work and commitment of its diverse congregation and leadership. And much of this growth can be attributed to the accompaniment of PC(USA) supporters who have come alongside their Presbyterian partners here in Cobán through prayers and visits.
Moving to the back of the group of marchers, we walked with the students and faculty of La Patria Norte Presbyterian School. This preschool through high school academy is where several students from Cobán and the surrounding communities are able to study thanks to scholarships provided by individuals, churches and presbyteries of the PC(USA). We’ve gotten to know many of these young people through our involvement in facilitating some of these scholarships. And many of the students and their families are active members in our church. The school put a lot of effort into the day’s celebration. There were a couple of floats, including a precious depiction of Noah’s Ark by the primary grades. There was also music, dance, and some student-led reformation-related presentations given at the worship service that concluded our march.
Walking through the streets of Cobán, first with the Mayan theological training students, then with the members of our church, and finally with the faculty and students of La Patria Norte, we felt the presence of you, our friends and partners in mission. You have walked with us as we’ve participated in the witness of each of the ministries of our “reformation walk.” It is a joy to share these experiences with you. Thank you for taking the time to read our letters, for praying for us, for communicating with us, and for supporting us financially. This makes our work, and the work of each ministry we encountered on our walk, possible. You are walking with us. The connectional nature of our Presbyterian tradition celebrates our walking together. Even if your feet aren’t sore from the march, we’re so thankful that you are walking alongside us!
Blessings to you as we celebrate God’s faithfulness over the past 500 years and as we set our hopes on the days, and months, and years ahead!
Richard and Debbie Welch
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Please read this important message from Jose Luis Casal, Director, Presbyterian World Mission
Dear Friend of Presbyterian Mission,
What a joy to send this letter! As Presbyterian World Mission’s new director, I thank God for your faithful support of our mission co-workers. The enclosed newsletter celebrates the work you made possible by your prayers, engagement, and generous financial gifts. We can’t thank you enough.
After I began in April, I met with mission co-workers and global partners and was blessed to see firsthand the mighty ways God is working through them! Our global partners are asking us to help them move forward with life-changing ministries. Because of your support, we can say “yes” to these creative and exciting initiatives.
I write to invite you to make an even deeper commitment to this work. First, would you make a year-end gift for the sending and support of our mission co-workers? We need your gifts to end the year strong. With your help, we filled two new mission co-worker positions and plan to recruit for others. The needs in the world are great, and World Mission is poised to answer the call to serve.
Second, would you ask your session to add our mission co-workers to your congregation’s mission budget for 2018 and beyond? Our mission co-workers serve three-year or four-year terms. Your multi-year commitment will encourage them greatly.
Our mission co-workers are funded entirely from the special gifts of individuals and congregations like yours. Now more than ever, we need your financial support.
In faith, our mission co-workers accepted a call to mission service. In faith, World Mission sent them to work with our global partners. In faith, will you also commit to support this work with your prayers and financial gifts?
Jose Luis Casal
P.S. Your gift will help meet critical needs of our global partners. Thank you!
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