Monday, July 9, 2018

Basic July visit itinerary

7/13  Travel to Guatemala City

7/14  Travel to Rio Dulce Hotel Banana Palms

7/15  Travel to El Estor/Church/Program

Overnight with Families

Check in with Hotel Calle Real

7/17  Church visits

7/18  Travel to Puerto Barrios/ St. Tomas de Castilla Hotel Puerto Libre

7/19  Travel to Antigua Hotel El Carmen

7/20  In Antigua

Commissioning July visit team, by Mary Love

Guatemala Team: Soni Castleberry, Sharon Kutz-Mellem, Perry Chang, and Doug Yeager

[To Guatemala Visit Team]:
Leader: God has called you to a particular mission—to visit our Kekchi sisters and brothers to deepen our partnership relationship with the women of Estoreño Presbytery. Do you welcome the responsibility of this service as a part of your commitment to follow Jesus, to love neighbors, and to work for the reconciling of the world?
Team: I do.

[To the congregation]:
Leader: And do you, members and friends of Crescent Hill Presbyterian Church, promise to prayerfully support and encourage all of these friends in this ministry?
People: We do.
Leader: Let us pray:
All: We ask your blessing, O God, on these friends
            who stand before us this day.
            Bless their journey and their visit.
            May they be strengthened in their faith
            and upheld in your love.
            May this visit further our partnership—
            not just with Guatemalan sisters and brothers,
            but also with the Christ whom we follow.

[To Guatemala Visit Team]:
Leader: You are commissioned to service on our behalf and in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.        Go with our prayers and be mutually encouraged through your visit with our Q’ekchi sisters and brothers.

Summertime involvement opportunities

You’re invited to be involved in Crescent Hill’s Guatemala mission partnership this summer by serving as a prayer partner for ONE of the FOUR Crescent hill folks who will visit with our partners Friday, July 13-Saturday, July 21, and/or by helping out with the Saturday, August 11 St. Joseph’s annual picnic fund-raiser that will generate financial support for the partnership.

Prayer partners will be asked to write ONE note for the visit team member with whom you are partnered and pray for this person while they are on the visit.   While on this visit, team members will visit Q’eqchi Estoreño Izabal Presbytery churches, including the Monte Sinai church in faraway San Carlos El Pourvenir, and lead Vacation Bible School and Men’s Group small-group discussions.
On St. Joseph’s Saturday, CHPC folks will work with the neighbors, St. Joseph’s, and security personnel hired by CHPC to block off the street next to the church (Westminster Court) and invite folks driving to the picnic to park in the church parking lot or in the grass past the playground in exchange for a $10 donation. This is an opportunity to help out our Westminster Court neighbors and let people know about our church community and our Guatemala partnership. 

St. Joseph’s Saturday volunteers will split their time among: (1) inviting people (in their cars) through the temporary gate to be erected at the corner of Crescent Avenue and Westminster Court and receiving their money; (2) directing them into the parking lot/onto the grass, monitoring the number of empty spaces, and letting the person at Crescent Avenue know whether there are empty spaces; and (3) sometimes educating people about the opportunity to park their cars at CPHC by holding a sign along Crescent Avenue, Frankfort Avenue, or Hillcrest Avenue.

You may sign up to serve as a prayer partner or as a St. Joseph’s Saturday volunteer before or after worship on Sunday, July 1, or Sunday, July 8 (when the visit team members will be commissioned) or by email.


May 12 gathering notes

Present: Sharon Kutz-Mellem, Bob Mellem, Doug Yeager, Soni Castleberry, Carrie Mook Bridgman, Mary Love, Elisa Owens, Stephanie Gregory

Opened with sharing of highs/lows and prayer

Report on visit—
1.       Followed planned schedule for trip with Enrique as driver.  First night was spent in Antigua at Carlos Lara’s brother’s hotel (Hotel Carmen) and had dinner with Carlos David Lara with his new wife, Irma, and son, Sebastian (11 years old).
2.       Left early for Rio Dulce (Bruno’s) and stayed for one night and dinner, were joined by Marta an Obrera with a diploma in theology and her son Leonel at Bruno’s.  They became traveling companions on the way to La Guitarra.
3.       Rosa Marina, Pastor Benjamin, and 2 other women with children rode together in the van with Soni, Sharon, Elisa, and Carrie.
4.       The road to La Guitarra was bad due to excessive rain.  2 ½ hours to get to La Guitarra.  Enrique contracted with a driver from town to bring everyone back.  The contracted driver had a more appropriate vehicle and was familiar with the road and challenges.
5.       Once in La Guitarra everyone was greeted by Ana Coc Tuel (sp?) an officer in the presbytery and Gerardo. Soni, Sharon, Carrie, and Elisa stayed in a home with 5 bedrooms. 
6.       1st night there, Wednesday, had an opening worship and dinner.  Everyone was asked to sing.  They sang “Go With Us, Lord” in the round.
7.       Thursday—led a bible study focusing on the story of Ruth, encouraging their friendship with each other.  Rosa Marina acted as translator from Spanish to Q’eqechi (she is also now involved with the Looking for Lilith group in Guatemala).
8.       During the meeting women were weeping because they were overwhelmed with what God had done through them in the past year.  Many had been reluctant to become officers originally.
9.       Men present were Fidel as advisor, Ramiro, Gerardo, and Benjamin.  Raul Contreras was unable to leave work for the trip.  At one point when the men were discussing money, Gerardo had said it was the women’s meeting and got up and went to the back of the building leaving the women alone.  This was viewed positively as letting the women have more autonomy.
10.   Left early the next morning and ate breakfast as Sarita’s. 
11.   When they got back to the city they were able to meet up with Rubina and her fiancé, Moses.  They were escorted through town with Rubina, Moses, and Enrique.
12.   They made two phone calls about the money that was sent to IENPG, but nothing was resolved.  Was told at one point that it is tied up in customs because the wrong person signed for it.

IENPG Money Situation
1.       Money has still not been released to our partners. Our partners are aware that we have sent the money and that IENPG is not releasing the money.
2.       Phil Beisswenger has offered to help, but it isn’t sure there is anything he can do.
3.       Ben has also called after our group called from Guatemala.  Still nothing resolved. 
4.       Doug proposed that we should contact Jose Luis Casal at PCUSA Presbyterian Mission Agency to see if he can talk to IENPG.  Elisa said she would contact Jose Casal.  Doug thought we should ask for the 5% handling fee, that they usually charge, be waived due to the delay in processing for our partners.

Planning for July Visit—Stuffed bulletins with pictures of trip while discussing.
1.       Soni reviewed the cost of the April trip.  The total cost was $5,400 for 4 people and 2 nights staying with families.

a.       $3,600 for airfare
b.       $84 phone costs
c.       $897 for driver and van
d.       $15 transfer fees
e.       $842 room and meals

2.       Our budget for Guatemala is negative $600.   We should have around $1,500 at the end of April.
a.       Two biggest and successful fundraisers so far are St. Joe’s parking which brings in around $1,200 and Soup Sales which has been averaging around $300/month.  We will resume soup in the fall.  Some discussion of summer cold soups, but nothing decided.
3.       The expected cost for 8 people to travel to Guatemala this July would be approximately $10,000.  People will need to pay more or need to do more fund raising.
a.       Possible travelers: Sharon Kutz-Mellem, Bob Kutz-Mellem, Doug Yeager, Perry Chang, Soni Castleberry, Ben Langley, Will Farrell, Molly Casteel, Madeline Wilding, Dalen Payton, and Phil Lloyd-Sidle.
b.       Proposed purpose of trip-
                                                                           i.      Church Visitation
                                                                         ii.      Men’s Group dealing with domestic violence and difficulties of being indigenous men in Guatemala. This could piggyback off of what Brian and Sandy Thompson Royer are doing using the scripture based book Man in the Mirror.  (They are leaving in September) (This has been broached with Raul Contreras) Our approach would be more therapeutic based, less guilt, but a place to express frustrations and what is a constructive outlet for frustrations.
                                                                       iii.      Women/Youth groups would continue with church visits, sharing our presence, VBS activities, and possible parallel women’s group discussing what it is like to be a woman in Guatemala.
                                                                       iv.      We should also contact them to see what they want us to do.
                                                                         v.      Possibly visiting Rosa Marina’s church.
PCUSA Guatemala Network Group
1.       Ben Langley and Shannon Bostrom attended last spring.
2.       2014 came to Louisville and held meeting at Cedar Ridge
3.       This year is going to be held September 4th-7th, Tuesday-Friday. Mary Love, Soni Castleberry, and Perry Chang are on planning committee. It is being held at PCUSA and a hotel downtown.  Registration fee is $100 and includes meals. It is a chance to hear from PCUSA, Mission Co-Workers, and other people who have partnerships.  We can share best practices, IENPG issues, women and men’s groups.
Concluded with Prayer
Elisa, Doug, Soni, and Stephanie stayed for phone call.
1.       Ana Coc Tiel was a no answer, no message. Ramiro answered.  He was on the way to Rosa Marina’s church.  We were able to again express frustration with IENPG not releasing money and Shannon and Megan having their baby before we lost the call

-Stephanie Gregory

Summer 2018 prayers

In summer 2018 Crescent Hill will pray for and with Guatemala partners:

-On Sunday, May 6, and during the week thereafter:  Peniel church in Boqueron, Pastor Fidel Juc, and members, deacons, and elders.

-On Sunday, May 13, and during the week thereafter: Familia de Noe church in El Estor’s Sinai neighborhood, Pastor Benjamin Sacul and family, and members, deacons, and elders.

-On Sunday, May 20, and the week thereafter: Lirio de los Valles church in El Estor’s San Jorge neighborhood, Pastor Mario Xo Ical and family, and members, deacons, and elders.

-On Sunday, May 27, and the week thereafter:  Puerta del Cielo congregation in the El Estor suburb of La Union of El Estor, Pastor Leonel Cacao, and all worshipers

 -On Sunday, June 3, and the week thereafter: Arca de Noe church in El Estor, Pastor Ramiro Quib Caal and family, and members, deacons, and elders.

-On Sunday, June 10, and the week thereafter:  Altar de Noe church in El Estor’s Los Cerritos neighborhood, Pastor Raul Contreras Tut and family, and all who worship there.

-On Sunday, June 17, and the week thereafter:  Espiritu Santo church in El Estor’s San Marcos neighborhood, Pastor José Domingo Xo Ical and family, and all who worship there.

-On Sunday, June 24, and the week thereafter: Monte Sinai church in the village of San Carlos El Pouvenir outside of Puerto Barrios, Pastor José Sub and family, and all who worship there.

-On Sunday, July 1, and during the week thereafter: El Buen Samaritano church in the village of Nueva Amanacer neighborhood, Pastor Jorge Ortiz and family, and all who worship there.

-On Sunday, July 8, and the week thereafter:  Galilea congregation in El Estor’s Esfuerza neighborhood, Pastor Angel Martin Sacul and family, and all who worship there.

-On Sunday, July 15, and the week thereafter:  Emanuel congregation in the Huracan Mich community of Panzos, Pastor Oscar Tzul Coc and family, and all who worship there.

-On Sunday, July 22, and the week thereafter:  Marc’am congregation, Pastor Gonzalo Tiul Choc and family, and all who worship there

Pastor Elisa's visit reflections

Today we have been enjoying in our liturgy the poetry of Julia Esquivel, who was exiled from Guatemala during its civil war. The women with whom we have a relationship are also Qechchi, and I am bold to believe are her spiritual heirs. At least, I am betting that their voices might be heard through hers. As introduction to what I found most meaningful about the trip, I read from the Dedication of Esquivel’s book, The Certainty of Spring: Poems by a Guatemalan in Exile.
Here what Julia, and through her other Quechchi women, may want to speak to our hearts?
I offer these pages to the women of Guatemala. These poems are simple plants born of our hard reality.
More than poems, they are deep breaths which allow me to keep going in the hope that life is more powerful than death. They express urgency and the hope that we do all we can to expand the space in which we can live together as human beings, respecting and defending life.
These words are for you, women of Guatemala—indigenous, girls, widows, old and young—wherever you are. These poems are for you, working women that survive as domestics; for you, women who carry on your back baskets and bundles in the market; for you, homemakers who perform daily miracles to stretch pennies so that they last until the end of the month; for you, women who work in government offices; for you, women who are teachers, union members, laborers, campesinas, journalists, professionals, students, writers, nuns, Christians, Catholics and Protestants, Jews, Adventists or of any other religious faith.
These pages are also dedicated to you, women who have preferred to live a comfortable life, concerning yourself only with yourself and your small nuclear family … and who, nonetheless are not happy…
Finally, these pages are dedicated in a special way to all of you, men and women, who, torn apart by the terrible situation in which so many Guatemalans live, have let go little by little of all you clung to and, with nothing left to hold on to, have felt free to become brothers and sisters with all those whom we have crucified: the illiterate, the anemic, the sick who have no medical care, the unemployed and the laid off, those who have been pushed into crime, beggars, the persecuted… The list is very long (and includes those Gary told us about who do not receive their daily bread, and so are served by Bread for the world .) Julia continues: “Every day we find ourselves with them wherever we are in Guatemala.”
Here these words from Julia Esquivel’s poem about the civil war and its aftermath called, “We Dream Awake,”
…What won’t let us sleep
what won’t let us rest
what won’t stop pulsing away
here within
is the silent warm weeping
of the Indian women without their husbands,
the tragic gaze of the children
engraved deep down in our memory….
What became true for many of us North Americans during that time more than two decades ago during and after the central American civil wars, was that we began to be inspired and converted by the faith of the people of Central America. They taught us about the connection between cross and resurrection; they offered a hope that defied all the odds. The women whose meeting we went to observe are kin to Julia Esquivel. Not just by blood of the Quechchi people, but by experience. Those who are more than 21 years old, who we have had the privilege of meeting, lived through some of the tragedy of which Julia Esquivel writes on these pages into the hope of redemption. But by God’s grace and the human faith God enables, and that alone.
We got to witness that extraordinary resilience. That love of life in defiance of death and all that threatens it that all human faith witnesses to. That God of love and life and hope we have all learned to love, and love more deeply through our partners in Guatemala – or maybe people in other nations like them?
This trip, one of the most extraordinary things we witnessed too place at the business meeting of the Presbyterian Women’s group. If you can imagine such a thing! The Spirit at work during a business meeting! The five women who were officers, elected last year this time, were up in front of the church listening to reports of each of the churches come in. The churches were describing the ministries the women’s groups had been involved in over the course of the last year. And, during this seemingly mundane exercise, many of the officers dissolved into tears. We were perplexed. What was going on? Why were they upset? So we asked. What is the problem? We wanted to know. Are they upset that they are finishing up a year of service? Was the year too hard on them? Did they not accomplish what they’d hoped?
Quite the contrary, we learned. The women were weeping precisely because of the change they had seen in themselves (all had been reluctant to accept leadership positions because they were unsure of how they would serve there AND take care of their families) and in the churches they served in and through. As the litany of accomplishments was read out in that setting, the women became overwhelmed at what the Holy Spirit had accomplished in them and through them. As such, they wept. Tears of joy.
I’d like to end with the end of Esquivel’s poem, which may speak to the redemption they felt of themselves and their people at that moment. Continuing from earlier……the end of “we dream awake.”
What won’t let us sleep
is that we’ve been threatened with Resurrection!
Because every evening,
tired by now from the endless
counting since 1954,
we still go on loving life
and we won’t accept their death.
We’ve been threatened with Resurrection
because we’ve touched their lifeless bodies
and their souls have penetrated our own,
now doubly strengthened.
Because in this Marathon of hope,
there are always replacements
to carry on the strength
until we reach that goal
beyond death….
Be with us in this vigil
and you’ll learn what it means to dream
you’ll know then
how wonderful it is
to live threatened with Resurrection!
To dream, awake
to watch, asleep
to live, dying
and to know yourself already Risen!
-Elisa Owen

Carrie's visit reflections: Valuing women

When we arrived at La Guitarra, we were welcomed by the president of the Presbyterian Women, Ana Coc Pop. She asked us if we would speak to the women during the meeting the next day, “just something to encourage them,” and maybe give a little Bible study. As we settled into the house where we were staying, we wondered what to say. Ruth came to mind immediately because the whole book is about a friendship between women and about women using the power they had to care for themselves and each other. We chose to read the most famous part of that book, Ruth’s speech to her mother-in-law Naomi: “Where you go I will go, and where you live I will live. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May God do so to me and more also if anything but death parts you from me.”
We were clear among ourselves and with the women there that we were not casting ourselves as either Ruth or Naomi in this story. Yes, we had spent time and money to come to be with them, but we could not and did not say, “Where you go I will go.” We were there to visit for a few days, and then were coming back here to our far safer and more comfortable lives. We saw God moving in the story of Ruth and Naomi in the same way we saw God moving in their gathering and in their lives and in their work with each other. We had the blessing of being witnesses to God in action. We saw the officers step up into leadership roles that Soni had seen their reluctance to accept last year. We saw the delegates speak up to challenge their leadership at times.
We also saw Boaz in their story, in the support they were given by one of the men present. There were a number of men present. The Presbyterian Women’s organization in the presbytery has an “advisor,” who according to their bylaws must be a pastor and is therefore a man because there are only four women pastors in the whole country. The executive council of the presbytery (all men) was also there, along with the pastor of the host church, Pastor Gerardo, who has come here to visit before, and several other pastors who had accompanied their delegations for security. At one point during the reports by the different churches, a question arose about finances, and the men began to take over the conversation. After a few minutes, though, Pastor Gerardo stood up from his seat near the front. “This is not a men’s meeting,” he said. “This is a women’s meeting, and the sisters need to do the talking.” Then he walked to the back of the sanctuary and sat down. The men shut up, and the women spoke up. It was beautiful to see.
Sometimes people here wonder why we have this partnership and what good it does, as we don’t do “mission trips” to build schools or put in water systems. We do offer some financial help, sending it to the presbytery for them to decide how it should be used, but mostly this is a matter of building relationships over time. And the growing understanding and support for women’s leadership among the women themselves and among at least several of the pastors and male elders in the presbytery is part of the contribution we have made—not by saying, “This is how it should be,” but just by showing up. That is part of our gift to them. Part of their gift to us is the friendships we are making, and the opportunity we have to witness the Holy Spirit at work there as She is here.
-Carrie Bridgman