Leslie occasionally returns to the U.S. and is available to visit congregations. Email her to learn about her schedule and invite her to speak with your ministry.
About Leslie Vogel’s ministry
Leslie is working as facilitator for CEDEPCA’s Intercultural Encounters Program, which provides North American church groups, theological seminarians, and college/university students the opportunity to discover Guatemala in all its diversity, beauty, and complexity and to experience the everyday life of Guatemalans through immersion programs. Leslie is part of the team that receives visiting groups, plans and facilitates their educational program and itinerary, interprets and leads reflection discussions.
The Protestant Center for Pastoral Studies in Central America (CEDEPCA), a long-time Presbyterian World Mission partner, has close ties with many presbyteries and Presbyterian congregations across the United States. In addition to the Intercultural Encounters Program, CEDEPCA offers training in pastoral, biblical, and theological studies, offers programs in women’s empowerment, and provides ministry in times of disaster.
Guatemala is the most populous and the most industrialized country in Central America. It is also by far the country with the highest percentage of indigenous population. The Maya, whose highly developed civilization from 300 to 900 C.E. made magnificent advancements in architecture, music, and mathematics and who built an extensive trade network, were enslaved in the 1500s by the Spanish conquistadores, who forced the Maya people to serve colonial estate owners. Since gaining independence in 1821 the country has been ruled by the military for most of its history, with the exception of two popularly elected governments that provided a 10-year period of democracy from 1944 to 1954. Amid U.S. government claims of Communist influence, the democratically elected government was toppled in 1954 in an invasion by U.S.–backed Guatemalan exiles. The ensuing military rule helped perpetuate an intense concentration of wealth and land that left the indigenous Maya population almost totally disenfranchised and thus contributed to a 36-year civil war. While peace accords were signed in December 1996, the country continues to struggle with violence, corruption, and economic challenges. Though traditionally a Roman Catholic country, a sizable portion of the population now belong to Protestant churches.
Read: PC(USA) mission co-worker receives Christian service award
About Leslie Vogel
As a student at Whitworth College (now University) Leslie participated in an extended study and service experience in Central American that changed her life. “Sometimes,” she says, “I think they should put a label on trips like these that says: ‘Warning: Participation in this experience could change the direction of your life permanently.’ However, I do not regret those changes.”
In Central America she encountered “incredibly faithful and courageous people who were facing life-threatening and life-altering situations.” Their committed discipleship amid great suffering changed the way she read and interpreted the Bible and led her to seek long-term service opportunities in the region.
After graduation from San Francisco Theological Seminary in 1985, Leslie worked for almost eight years in El Salvador, a portion of this time as a Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) mission co-worker. She also served two years under Presbyterian mission appointment as co-coordinator of the Central America Education Program at Stony Point (N.Y.) Center.
Throughout her life and ministry Leslie has been guided by “a sense of call that has always been expressed best by the Hebrew prophet, Micah (6:8): ‘What does [God] require of you but to do justice, to love tenderly, and to walk humbly with your God?’ This call has challenged and nurtured my soul by leading me to serve as a bridge between peoples and cultures, especially with Latin American women on a grassroots level.”
In recent years as her two children, Luz Rebeca and Amando, reached adulthood, Leslie went through a period of vocational discernment that clarified, renewed and strengthened her call.
Leslie sees her new assignment with CEDEPCA focusing on challenges related to poverty and violence, which are among three critical global issues identified by Presbyterian World Mission as priorities. Leslie explains: “I am particularly eager to learn about, and introduce groups to, the work CEDEPCA does in pastoral formation with women from all over Guatemala, addressing the root causes of poverty with an understanding that women and children are the large majority of ‘the poor,’ and examining the cultures of violence on many levels of society (political, criminal, domestic) in both Guatemala and the United States. I am also eager to share how U.S. Presbyterians are working with our global partners to address these concerns, grounded in our common faith in Jesus Christ.”
In her assignment with CEDECA Leslie perceives a strong connection with her own faith journey: “I look forward,” she says, “to opportunities to work with a team of Central Americans to host groups of people from the U.S. who are themselves seeking to engage in the kinds of transformational immersion experiences that changed my own life so many years ago.”
Leslie is a teaching elder of the Presbytery of the Grand Canyon and is affiliated with Palo Cristi Presbyterian Church in Paradise Valley, Arizona.
Leslie – April 30