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A Year of Intercultural Encounters

A letter from Leslie Vogel, serving in Guatemala

December 2017

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Grace and peace.

What a year it has been!

CEDEPCA’s Intercultural Encounters program has been going full speed ahead this year, with 21 different groups that totaled 310 participants. There has also been a fascinating variety in the groups: variety in age, gender, and make-up of participants; variety in many different kinds of experiences that we have been able to offer/provide; and several “first time” groups. The following are only three of the eight groups with which I have been able to work this year. My CEDEPCA colleagues have also enjoyed a similar range and variety.

Interfaith group from Atlanta, GA: The group was made up of equal numbers of Christians, Jews, and Muslim men and women. Our time included visiting a Muslim mosque and a Jewish synagogue here in Guatemala City. In each place, we enjoyed wonderful conversation and a meal with the spiritual leaders and their congregants afterwards.

First Presbyterian Church, Berkeley: More than twenty college youth with a variety of majors engaged in a serious study of migration issues through biblical/theological lenses. They spent weeks prior to their visit reading and studying in preparation.

Brevard-Davidson River Presbyterian Church, from Western North Carolina: Participants from this congregation included three families of both parents and two children each, ranging in age from 10 to 16 years old. They engaged in a congregation-to-congregation partnership.

In August, I co-led a travel-study seminar planned jointly with the PC(USA) Peacemaking and Environmental Justice programs and with mission co-worker colleague Karla Koll, who is now at the Latin American Biblical University in Costa Rica. In a future letter, I will share some of my own observations and reflections about that journey. In the meantime, two of the participants have already published online about their experiences:

Sermons on Peacemaking, Climate Justice and Faith travel study seminar, preached by the Rev. Jeff Geary
Sept. 3: Reforestation as Redemption — Forest Sunday
Sept. 10: Reclaiming Land and Life — Land Sunday
Sept. 17: La Tierra No Se Vende — Wilderness Sunday

Participant Pamela Brubaker’s article on a World Council of Churches blog

An added bonus was that the fruits of the labors of an entire team with whom I traveled a year ago finally came to fruition and were made available to the public this fall:

From Genesis to Exodus is a film on the multiple, complex, and heartbreaking root causes of migration to the U.S. from Central America.

It was filmed and produced by staff persons from the Office of the General Assembly (OGA) of the PC(USA). The film is the fruit of a wonderful collaborative effort during November 2016, with mission co-workers Tracey King-Ortega and Amanda Craft, and with staff from OGA, including Stated Clerk, Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson II.

Resources include:

From Genesis to Exodus film

Story Map for From Genesis to Exodus film

Reflection Guide for From Genesis to Exodus film, for use by groups watching, studying, and discussing the film and subject matter

General website containing all these resources

As if all of that weren’t enough, I also had the opportunity during September and October to travel for a month with the Rev. Delia Leal, CEDEPCA’s Regional Coordinator for the Women’s Ministry. Delia was one of fifteen International Peacemakers invited by the PC(USA)’s Peacemaking Program to travel throughout the U.S., speaking in presbyteries and individual congregations about their roles as Christian peacemakers in their particular contexts. More about that wonderful adventure in a future letter!

This year has brought many vocational challenges along with deep satisfactions. I am ever grateful to God for the opportunities to work and serve with and through CEDEPCA, accompanying North Americans who want to learn more about how God is at work in Guatemala, and also accompanying Guatemalans who are willing partners in God’s work of bringing about God’s reign of justice and peace in a land where the very opposite are far too easily found.

I thank those of you who accompany me with your emails, prayers, and financial support. I also invite those of you who have not yet done so to please make a one-time contribution or a regular pledge toward my sending and support. Information on how to do so can be found at the end of this letter.

I also invite you to begin envisioning how, when, and where you might utilize me to speak to your congregation, and/or your presbytery during June, July, and August 2018. Part of my commitment as a Presbyterian mission co-worker is to visit the U.S. and supporting individuals and congregations. Please consider inviting me to visit your church, presbytery, or Presbyterian Women’s group to speak, lead a Sunday School class, preach, etc. I look forward to hearing from you and to building my schedule as spring and summer approach.

In the meantime, as we approach Advent and Christmas, let us come and adore the Christ Child, inviting him into our hearts, our homes, our communities, even our places of work. May Jesus bring peace and goodwill to a world longing, and in great need, for that justice and peace.

Leslie S. Vogel

Please read and reflect on the English translation of CEDEPCA’s yearly Advent devotional:

Creative_Commons-BYNCNDYou may freely reuse and distribute this article in its entirety for non-commercial purposes in any medium. Please include author attribution, photography credits, and a link to the original article. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDeratives 4.0 International License.

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