Thursday, December 17, 2009

Bruno's hotel (March 30-31)

With a stop to say good-bye and get soft drinks, we went more or less straight from the microbus to our hotel in Rio Dulce, Brun's, the same hotel on the river and under the bridge where the 2007 summer mission team stayed on the way to and from El Estor. The majority of the pastors who accompanied the spring 2009 team to Rio Dulce also stopped by our rooms for a few minutes. I got a chance to share a good half of my photos with a couple of the pastors. We felt a little sheepish stahying in these comparatively luxurious standards - not so much by U.S. standards - but with CNN on the TV, air-conditioned rooms with hot showers and conventional U.S.-style toilets, and an open-air resaurant on the riverfront where we could eat salad and drink drinks with ice. On our way to dinner, Ellen wondered out loud why North American mission teams always seemed to need a drink after spending time with their partners (and then at dinner some of us . . ). Pictured far below is Maria, a woman from whom I bought a bunch of items for gifts, mainly Tuesday morning during breakfast. I also ventured into town, in Rio Dulce, before blogging at the hotel's Internet cafe and before dinner. Ellen went to bank, and I found something very few people would have in the United States: Rio Dulce T-shirts.

-- Perry

Spanish class

Want to brush up on your high school Spanish? Or want to be able to communicate a bit with new neighbors? Want to get ready for our next trip to Guatemala?

Then consider signing up for Spanish Classes that will be offered here at CHPC beginning in January. Ada Asenjo will be teaching an 8-week beginner/intermediate level course. At this time, the plan is for the class to meet on Tuesday evenings, 6:30-8:00 pm. The cost will be $80 for the 8 weeks, plus the purchase of a textbook.

If you are (or someone you know is) interested, please contact Ada (896-9171) or the church office ( or 893-5381) to sign up. We will only offer this class if there’s a minimum of 8 people interested. The class will be limited to 15 persons.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Coban or bust?

Crescent Hill folks are still in communication with Presbyterian mission co-worker Roger Marriott and others involved in the Amigos de K’ekchi, a federation of PC(USA) congregations and presbyteries involved in partnerships with Q’eqchi’-speaking evangelical Presbyterian groups in Guatemala, including those from Washington state and the Nashville area, about possible 2010 gatherings in Guatemala. The notes from the October 2009 Amigos gathering in Cincinnati suggested that Amigos folks would reconvene in Coban, a north central Guatemala city that is a center of Q’eqchi’ culture, for a gathering with Guatemalan partners. We had talked about visiting cultural sites in the Coban area (Pastor Delia Leal's area) and gathering somewhere outside of Izabal with our partners for Bible study and further conversation. The Amigos gathering we thought might combine these two schemes. More recent Roger Marriot e-mail, however, suggests a shift from summertime to this April (soon!) (both are during the rainy season) and stresses either kicking off the term of a Q’eqchi’-speaking mini-seminary in Coban, which Roger hoped Crescent Hill and others would financially support, or possibly a school construction project, which Presbyterians in the Carolinas were interested in. Crescent Hill folks are likely more interested in the cultural sightseeing, Bible study, and conversations with other North Americans and Guatemalan partners than they are in seminary or school construction. But the conversation continues – although so far mainly with Roger Marriott.

-- Perry

Guatemala greeting cards

For the past two weeks Soni in the Narthex - joined by Stephanie in Fireside Room also, this past Sunday - has been selling for Christmas sets of a dozen greeting cards with art work by Guatemalan women who participated in the women's workshop that Crescent Hill women on the summer 2007 Guatemala mission trip led. The art was part of the Guatemalan women's depiction about how God was at work in their days. The women were mainly from churches that are part of the Guatemalan presbytery with which Crescent Hill now has a partnership. Sets of 12 unique cards run $10, which goes towards Crescent Hill's Guatemalan partnership fund. Supporters of the partnership will have one more opportunity to purchase cards this Sunday, when Eva will sell them in the narthex. Take home a unique set of cards and support the Guatemala mission partnership also!

-- Perry

Studying church unity

Throughout the fall Carlos’s bilingual mission partnership class and leaders of the Estoreño Presbytery – along with perhaps other Crescent Hill and Estoreño folks on their own - have been considering ecumenism (interchurch unity), partly via study of the following scripture passages: John 17: 20-28, Ephesians 4: 1-6, 1 Corinthians 1: 10-17, and Galatians 3:28.

Two Saturdays ago presbytery leaders were discussing ecumenism when Crescent Hill folks interrupted with a monthly phone call. This past Sunday half a dozen folks at the Crescent Hill class got into a discussion about whether the Hebrew Bible, the Old Testament, is all about Jesus and how a belief like this can squared with desires to be interfaith and to respect Muslim and Jewish interpretations of scripture.

Framing the class’s discussion of Galatians 3: 28 was a reading of the larger scriptural context: Galatians 3: 23-29. In English: Before this faith came, we were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed. So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith. Now that faith has come we are no longer under the supervision of the law. You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

In Spanish: Antes de venir esta fe, la ley nos tenia presos, encerrados hasta que la fe se revelara. Asi que la ley vino a ser nuestro guia encargado de conducirnos a Cristo, para que fueramos justificados por la fe. Pero ahora que ha llegado la fe, ya no estamos sujetos al guia. Todos ustedes son hijos de Dios mediante la fe en Cristo Jesus, porque todos los que han sido bautizados en Cristo se han revestido de Cristo. Ya no hay judio ni griego, esclavo ni libre, hombre ni mujer, sino que todos ustedes son uno solo en Cristo Jesus. Y si ustedes pertenecen a Cristo, son la descendencia de Abraham y herederos segun la promesa.

This month a newcomer, Hilda, has joined the class. Hilda has shared some of her experiences with environmental problems in Peru, problems that sound possible even worse than those in Izabal and eastern Kentucky.

-- Perry

Ana on Guatemalan Advent traditions

From the Sunday, December 4 worship service:

And it is in this time of preparation that we, the Lara-Lopez family, would like to share the Advent traditions of our home country, Guatemala. As we thought about it, we came to realize that, simply because something is a “tradition,” we do it, without really knowing the origins of the tradition or what it is that we are doing. As Guatemalans, we don’t really call our preparation for the coming of Jesus Advent, but we do have traditions that speak of the time of preparation that we all undergo. We have a variety of things that we do in order to prepare for the birth of Jesus. This all starts on December 7 with “La Quema del Diablo” or “The Burning of the Devil.” This is a tradition in which Guatemalans look for the unnecessary things they have at their homes so that they can make a bonfire representing how they are “getting the devil and those unnecessary things out of their houses and lives.” This is our way of cleaning our homes for the coming of baby Jesus, God.

There is another tradition that was brought to Guatemala in 1650 by a missionary from the Island of the Dogs. Do you even know where that is? Well, it’s Las Islas Canarias, or the Canary Islands. This tradition is called Nacimiento, or nativity scenes. Nacimiento is a visual representation of scenes from the nativity of Jesus of Nazareth. The Bethlehem scene is generally represented by Mary and Joseph in a manger, or, according to other traditions, in a stable, barn, or cave.

But it is in Antigua, our hometown, where some people have as a family tradition making very elaborate and beautiful Nacimientos. These families open their homes for others to come and see their Nacimientos. The Nacimiento is normally decorated with fruits of the season, like apples and manzanillas, and other natural stuff like sawdust (aserrin) of different colors. An interesting and important fact about the Nacimientos is that baby Jesus is missing from the scene. This is because it is not until December 25 that we celebrate Jesus’ birthday. Guatemalan traditions, in the mean time, emphasize Mary and Joseph’s quest for shelter.

To show this time of preparation for Mary and Joseph we have what it is called a Posada. This is a symbolic commemoration and reenactment of Mary and Joseph the pilgrims’ search for lodging. The Guatemalan tradition is that each participating family from a certain neighborhood will schedule a night for the posada to be held at their home. The pilgrims will walk from house to house singing the traditional Christmas songs along the way. They will ask for lodging in three different houses but it is only in the third house where they will be allowed in and where they will be invited to have supper with the family of the house. This is the big celebration where you enjoy your time together as brothers and sisters and where we see the community come closer together. This Posadas starts on December 16 and ends on Christmas Eve. At midnight on December 24, we celebrate the birth of Jesus together and Jesus can be placed in the nativity scene.

This last tradition is more than a reenactment; it is a ritual. It’s a ritual that brings us all to the human reality, the human need for hospitality, welcoming friends and strangers into our homes and lives. And today, on the first Sunday on the month, we would like to invite you all to reflect upon what Arthur Sutherland said in his book I Was a Stranger: A Christian Theology of Hospitality. “Hospitality ought to have reflection on the Eucharist. In ‘the breaking of the bread’ is the fullest expression of God’s hospitality toward us.” Also reflect upon what Ana Maria Pineda says in her chapter on hospitality in the book Practicing Our Faith: “Las Posadas [are] . . . more than [a] ritual. . . . All Christians are called to practice . . . hospitality. What is important is that each community discover[s] how to practice that hospitality in ways that are relevant to its own situation.” So we would like to invite you all to practice that kind of hospitality with your neighbors, friends, relatives, and all of those around you. And now . . . Let us walk in the light of the Lord.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Phoning Gerardo

Click on the arrow below to witness a tiny snippet of the phone conversation with Pastor Gerardo Pop Ich.

Highlands gathering

Half a dozen plus Crescent Hill folks gathered at Martha’s Original Highlands home Saturday to look ahead to 2010 for the Guatemala mission partnership. Returning from several weeks in Guatemala, Ellen – on her way out of town at the end of the month – reported on the robbery of Western North Carolina presbytery pastor while there on their November Guatemala. Ellen and others also reported on other local news: the sad election in Honduras, a drug cartel apparently operating in Izabal, and smelly sludge in western Guatemala’s deep touristy Lake Atitlan.

The group brainstormed about possible next in-person encounters with Estoreño Presbytery folks. With the possibility of an intergenerational/youth trip in summer 2011, discussion centered around either bringing a few Guatemalans to Louisville or meeting with some Guatemalans – with or without the Amigos de K’ekchi group – in Coban for fellowship, Bible study, and cultural tourism.

The group leaned towards the latter. After two tries, Carlos and Ana reached Pastor Gerardo, then in the middle of a discussion with other presbytery leaders about ecumenism (there their discussion paralleled one that has been taking place this fall in the bilingual mission partnership youth/adult Sunday school class that Carlos leads)..

Gerardo confirmed what Ellen had said, that he and his wife were feeling better. But he said the presbytery’s new treasurer, Ramiro Quib, a layperson from the Arca de Noe church, was ill, perhaps with diabetes. He also said youth and young adults from the presbytery would gather next weekend – on the 3rd week of Advent – to celebrate the first anniversary of the founding of their organization. The individual congregations of the presbytery are trying to coordinate – hold at the same time – their vigils and Lord’s Supper celebrations. They are also trying to do something Guatemalan evangelical Protestant churches don’t usually do much – celebrate Christmas.

Let us thank God for the youth and young adult of the presbytery and pray for healing for Ramiro.

The joint James Lees-Covenant Community-Crescent Hill English as a foreign language ministry wrapped up the fall term on Wednesday, Thanksgiving eve, with a graduation ceremony and supper that the students and their families supplied. Reports of the event were very good.

At an earlier meeting folks from the three churches had agreed to start up a longer winter term on Monday, January 11. Another planning meeting will take place at a time to be announced. Andrea will coordinate the meals Crescent Hill will contribute during the winter term.

Jane also reported that several people have signed up to take Spanish with Ada on Tuesday nights starting Tuesday, January 4. The class will proceed if eight people sign up. Tuition (not counting the book) is $80. If more than eight people sign up, the money will go to the Guatemala partnership fund.

The group will meet next at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, January 6, at a place to be determined (and possibly at the church).
-- Perry

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Saturday gathering

Crescent Hill folks interested in the church’s Guatemala mission partnership will gather at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday, December 5, at Martha's home. Here are the directions from Crescent Hill and St. Matthews. The address is 1502 Christy Avenue, and it’s in the Original Highlands. Take Grinstead Drive to Bardstown Road. Turn right at the light. Go through the next intersection, the one where Baxter Avenue and Bardstown Rd connect and Highland Avenue intersects. After this light, Christy Avenue is the second street on the left, just past Molly Malone’s (pictured above). Turn left and Martha's house is the second to last house on the left (a little brown shotgun). Come in the side door. Call Martha at 609-2948 if you need additional directions.

Folks at the gathering will try to develop a proposal to meet with Estoreño folks in 2010 and may hear a Guatemala update from Ellen.

Sobering news

Bad news continues to come out of Central America, with the fake election in Honduras - which the repressed left associated with topped President Zelaya boycotted and which the Obama Administration went along with - and the worsening economic and food crisis in eastern Guatemala. Further deepening Guatemala's economic gloom: smelly sludge has descended over Lake Atitlan, the deep mountain lake that usually draws many foreign tourists (like those pictured above, in better days for the lake). Hold your nose and stay tuned.