Where Have These Shoes Traveled?

A Letter from Sandi and Brian Thompson-Royer, serving in Guatemala

December 2018

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

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

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

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


We had just consumed a typical Guatemalan meal cooked on the open fire in the kitchen of the church. Las Animas Presbyterian Church had welcomed us to give a domestic violence workshop with the women in a microloan group. Westminster Presbyterian Church in Portland, Oregon, was a new supporter of this project and wanted to make a visit and see in person how this project was making a difference. We were anxious to get out to visit a few of the projects, but the rain was intense. Finally, it subsided a little, and we slogged through the slippery mud down the alley to meet the woman who raised the ducks we had just eaten for lunch! She was so excited to show us her flock. She slipped out of her flip flops and made her way through the muddy area where they lived. Standing right in the middle of the mud with her ducks, she shared the story of her business of raising ducks and butchering for her community.

Where have these shoes been?

As mission co-workers, we were asked to come walk with the people of Guatemala. Micah 6:8 tells us to “act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with our God.” And so this theme of “where have these shoes been” is where I’d like to take you in our last newsletter. We are retiring as of April 1, 2019, after our travels through the US visiting our supporters and transitioning into retirement.

During this season, I am reminded of the journey that so many immigrants are making for a better life. I cannot even imagine being in their shoes. Literally, I know that most don’t have comfortable shoes to walk the hundreds of miles. We have met so many people and heard many stories of poverty, violence and the dream for a better life that we can understand the reason for this journey. Often, we were saddened and surprised when our Presbyterian sisters and brothers in Guatemala had to leave for the US without assurance of being granted entry upon arrival, and with the knowledge that they probably would not be welcomed. A pastor friend in Guatemala reminded me that this “was the reality of Guatemala.” They were walking for hope.

Our last year has been filled with transition and supporting the Sinodica (Presbyterian Women) leaders. We continue to be in awe of their dedication to the church and will miss them. They have explained the benefits of having mission co-workers and recently shared what they would like in the next person or couple who steps into our role. During our last week, the Directiva (national PW leaders) came to visit, bringing a special lunch and stories of how we shared our love and hope with them. Brian and I have shared our experience and gifts of collaboration and financial literacy, and we have assisted them in working to eliminate violence against women. We listened and helped facilitate the dreams, desires and needs of the women in the church. We love them!

Often people want to hear of the impact we are making. After living in Guatemala for four-and-a-half years, I truly believe that those who came to visit, listen and learn were the ones impacted the most. Our goal was for visiting groups to come to listen and learn from our sisters and brothers in Guatemala. We were grateful for the connections people made and their passion to return and walk even closer with the people. In May of 2016, Dr. Peter Baird traveled with the Sacramento presbytery to come to “listen and learn.” He brought his ukeleli, and we sang as we traveled. Music helps connect people, and Peter has a gift of including all. He is the son and grandson of Presbyterian pastors, and his parents were “fraternal” workers in Mexico when he was growing up. He has been a member of Bethany Presbyterian Church in Sacramento for 35 years, and this was his first mission trip since 1967. It was in Guatemala that he learned to put together his social activism and his spiritual and political lives.

Peter Baird and Pastor Osmundo.

Recently, he preached his first sermon in his church and spoke about his return to Guatemala to help lead the music workshop. On his first visit, he met Pastor Osmundo Ponce. He shared, “I felt like I was seeing a Dr. King and wanted to learn more about and from him. He has a profoundly prophetic voice uniting churchgoers of many faiths and secular revolutionaries.”

Peter’s career has been in justice music, and after hearing that Osmundo was part of the campesino movement, he offered to return and do a music workshop. Osmundo was thrilled by the prospect of bringing together young activists both in the church and community. Over the next year, we did our work of facilitating leadership and worked with Peter and Osmundo to create a three-day retreat where students and activists would come together to create music that could be taken to the churches and streets. Music that Inspires and Liberates was the theme.

Over 20 women and men (mostly young) came together to share their struggles with justice, learn how their faith and activism are linked, and write songs to share. The passionate songs they wrote unite faith and action. The titles and words that came out of the workshop say it best: I want to live, I want to dream, I want to feel freedom; But why is it necessity that children have to work?; We are brothers and sisters of all religions, with hope to change the situation: the land, the water, the fire and the air. We are Creations of the Lord. WE RAISE OUR VOICES, WE ARE ALL IMPORTANT IN THIS NATION, and Peace and Liberty.

One of the songs that was most dear to my heart was partially composed by one of the six women Presbyterian pastors in Guatemala who came to the retreat. She came with the idea and her strong voice and was willing to collaborate with her sister Cecilia who is professionally trained and a music leader. It was so beautiful to watch this song transform into harmony and love, just as the title suggests!

La Paz Existe — Peace Exists
Peace exists when there is love
Hate moves away when there is love
The barriers fall and there are no borders
When there is love.

On the final day of the workshop, a concert was held at a local Presbyterian Church. In a church where there is not a focus on justice and collaboration with other denominations, this was a bit of a risk. To our surprise, over 90 attended. We all sang loudly together at the end, inviting peace to our world.

Summing up his experiences in this workshop and his time in Guatemala, Peter explained, “Because of the faith I saw and felt, I’m a few steps forward in my faith journey, especially in reconnecting my spiritual and political values.” He witnessed the power of music in community-building and how much both the secular peace movement and the church need each other.

Osmundo encouraged us all to keep our hope alive, for nothing can change with hopelessness. “Without hope we cannot walk forward. … Brother and sister churches in the US can help us by being aware of our struggles and how similar they are — we both fight corruption, greedy corporations and autocratic governments that protect the rich against the poor. Here we struggle not just to live better, but to survive. Every day that we wake up and see the morning, we give thanks and we rededicate ourselves.”

Thank you for supporting us financially and spiritually. We hope to see many of you to say goodbye and encourage you to continue supporting this important partnership with the people in Guatemala through prayer and financial gifts to E200334.

May each of you have a blessed Christmas, and may you remember that we must walk together to transform our world. I have put the shoes that I wore for four years in Guatemala to rest. They were worn out, but I do have a new pair of Keen hiking shoes and hope to wear them out as well!

In Christ’s love,
Sandi and Brian

Please read this important message from José Luis Casal, Director, Presbyterian World Mission

Dear partners in God’s mission,

We near the close of 2018 inspired by the hope of Christ. God is transforming the world, and you are helping to make it happen.

Thank you very much for your support of our mission co-workers. The prayers and financial gifts of people like you enable them to work alongside global partners to address poverty, hopelessness, violence and other pressing problems in the name of Jesus Christ.

Every day, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) mission co-workers are blessed to be able to walk alongside their brothers and sisters across the globe. Listening to each other in faith and in friendship, they learn from each other how to work towards a world in which everyone flourishes. Acting upon what they discover together, PC(USA) mission co-workers and our global partners strengthen the body of Christ.

Because you are an integral part of God’s mission, I invite you to become more deeply committed to Presbyterian World Mission. First, would you make a year-end gift for the sending and support of our mission co-workers? The needs in the world are great, and World Mission is poised to answer God’s call to serve others.

I also invite you to ask your session to add our mission co-workers to your congregation’s prayer list and mission budget for 2019 and beyond. Your multi-year commitment will make a great difference in our involvement with our partners. The majority of our mission co-workers’ funding comes from the special gifts of individuals and congregations like yours, for God’s mission is a responsibility of the whole church, not a particular area of the church. Now more than ever, we need your financial support!

In faith, our mission co-workers accept a call to mission service. In faith, World Mission, representing the whole church and you, sends them to work with our global partners. In faith, will you also commit to support this work with your prayers and financial gifts? With hope and faith, I await your positive response!

At God’s service and at your service!

José Luis Casal

P.S. Your gift will help meet critical needs of our global partners. Thank you!

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