Tuesday, August 31, 2010

September prayer schedule

Crescent Hill folks will pray in September with:

- Sunday, August 29, and during the week thereafter: Peniel church in Boqueron, Pastor Fidel Juc and spouse Jesus, and members, deacons, and elders

- Sunday, September 5, and during the week thereafter: Familia de Noe church, Pastor Benjamin Sacul and spouse Carlota, and members, deacons, and elders

- Sunday, September 12, and during the week thereafter: Lirio de los Valles church in the San Jorge neighborhood, Pastor Mario Xo Ical, and members, deacons, and elders

- Sunday, September 19, and during the week thereafter: Puerto del Cielo church in the La Union neighborhood, Pastors Pablo Sacul and Roberto Caal, and worshipers

- Sunday, September 26, and during the week thereafter: Jesus Es la Puerta church in the El Chupon neighborhood, Pastor Antonio Tec, and worshipers

- Sunday, October 3, and during the week thereafter: Arca de Noe church, Pastor Gerardo Pop Ich, and members, deacons, and elders

Perry's August 29 message

Being in partnership can help us lose control.

I’m a big planner. So it’s gratifying to me when things here at church seem to go more or less according to plan, our plan. When we’re working in partnership - and especially on one of these trips – we’re working with several groups within our local church, with mission workers abroad, and – most importantly - with partners like the folks with the Q’eqchi’ Estoreño, Izabal Presbytery. On a trip we’re also working in an unfamiliar setting, in an unfamiliar culture, and with an unfamiliar language. In setting like that, it becomes even more clear that it’s God, not any of us, who is in control.

I’m going to share a couple of examples of this from the trip. We’d been engaged in a series of discussions about partnership in general and about our partnership in particular. One afternoon we took a break and went to a Mayan artifacts museum. After a while our Guatemalan friends slipped out. We had heard before that they would be going to the home of a couple of PC(USA mission workers, where they would brainstorm about the future of our partnership. Pastor Jane’s mantra before and during the trip had been: we don’t know what’s going to happen. And we truly didn’t know what was going to happen. Would we get a divorce? Would we stay together? Or would our partnership go in an entirely different direction? I honestly don’t think that the Guatemalans themselves knew what was going to happen. As is often the case, however, something worked out. The Guatemalans came back, and they and we recommitted ourselves to the partnership, filling in some details, pending governing body feedback. None of us had known what was going to happen. God – not any of us – was in control.

A day later the Guatemalans and we went our separate ways, as we left Coban in our van. A couple of hours down the road I began not to feel well. After a while I told the driver that I needed us to stop. I checked in with Ellen, the retired mission worker who helped lead our group, who said: Perry, this isn’t a very safe place to stop. I thought about it for a split second, and then I headed off into the sunset. As I walked away, Jane’s words rang in my ears: we don’t know what’s going to happen. We had pulled over on the side of a busy highway, but otherwise in the middle of nowhere, in one of the most dangerous countries in the world. Half an hour later, I walked back to the van. I won’t say we weren’t any worse for the wear. But we survived and eventually made it to Antigua. I didn’t plan to get sick, and I certainly didn’t plan for us to stop along the side of the road. But God had a plan. We made it to our destination and back to Louisville. God was in control.

Ever since our departure from Antigua, I’ve been reminded about this. Our experiences in Guatemala helped prepare me for losing control. They also helped me start to accept and understand it. I trust that being in partnership is helping many of us understand. May it be so.

- Perry

Notes for Claudia's August 29 message

I wanted to be prepared!!!! I wanted to get the most out of this trip, not to mention I was representing Crescent Hill. I did take this serious. SO-o-o-o-o, I took time the week before we left to journal, pray, and have quiet time each day to reflect. I wrote in my journal “I want to be able to give of myself without holding back because of all the newness, strangers, cultural differences, etc. “We only have 5 days to make meaningful relationships”.

My prayers were for guidance, travel safety, tolerance of differences, tolerance of the weather and living conditions. I prayed for willingness and understanding. I didn’t know to pray for flexibility but Jane, Perry, and Ellen had that covered. I made my first prayer shawl. I really didn’t know if there was a certain procedure or chant when you made a prayer shawl so I just talked to God while I worked on it. I thought of each person going on the trip and for God’s guidance and protection. The phrase that coming to me during this week of reflection and preparation was “humble me lord.” I even asked Mickey Alexander if there wasn’t a hymn with this refrain because in my head it came with a tune. Mickey was not able to find anything like that in his collections.

Well as you can imagine lots of large groups go to Guatemala to do mission work. We saw groups of 20, 30 and more in the airport, with matching T-shirts. Quickly the word spread “I hope Perry doesn’t get any ideas.” That just didn’t seem Crescent Hill to me.

There was a large group staying at the Nazarene Center where we stayed. We saw them g
generally at the evening meal. I’m going to tell you I judged this group:
- For not eating the tortillas and asking for only bread at meals.
- For bringing cereal for their breakfast rather that experiencing the culture they were living in.
- For having other motives beyond their building project.

Well my prayers for humility hadn’t kicked in yet.!!!!!

This group felt exhausted each night from their physical labor. At the end of the week they reported having “saved” some 50+ young people, their largest number yet.

- Did they feel a relationship to the people they helped? I can’t say
- Did they go home feeling fulfilled? I can’t say for sure, but probably
- Did the Guatemalan people benefit from their visit? YES
- Did the Guatemalan people feel a relationship to this group?
- Will that same group return?
- Will they continue to communicate with one another?
- Will they continue to pray for one another?

This is what the Guatemalan people see:

Large groups of Americans doing work
- Sending help
- Sending money

Americans have:
- Money!!!!
- Education!!!!
- Means to travel!!!!
- Higher education especially with regard to the Bible

They must be rich, smart, know more than us, they know the Bible better. ……..

The obvious question for our Guatemalan Partners to us is ----

Are we going to provide material help??? Isn’t that what partners do – SHARE. Share what they have??? Early on in the trip this is a conflict for me. I GET IT, it makes sense they would wonder how we are going to help them with all of our resources

As we talked and worked through the semantics of the word partnership/compañerismo I think both groups had to really stop and think about a lot.

What do we bring to the partnership?
- Willingness to share ideas
- Desire to get to know the people
- Financial assistance for this trip, travel, food, and shelter for out partners.
- Small gifts of salted peanuts, Spanish literature, youth Bible lessons.
- Commitment to the partnership – visit at least one time per year.
- Desire to learn about the culture
- Desire to learn Spanish so we can communicate more effectively.
- Committed to praying for them, sharing in fasts,
- Cultural Difference
- Jane – a wonderful role model for the women

We have a desire for an ongoing relationship. One that encourages one another, that reaches out to people in a country that may feel forgotten, at least, if not repressed and discriminated against.

What do they bring to the partnership?
- Devotion to God and Bible study
- Rich culture that changes very slowly
- Strong commitment to family – women in group/market
- MANY NEEDS: physical, health, education, material, financial, safety,
- Cultural differences
- Civil war just 15 years ago that lasted more that 35 years.
- Their needs are great – We were told the Kek’ Chi’ people are at the bottom of the social hierarchy. They are very often discriminated against even though they are large in number.
- Lack of trust – their government doesn’t protect, provide, guide them.

It’s all about the perception of what Americans mean to Guatemalans. It was very hard for me to fully understand what this partnership means, why we are here, are we working our own agenda, what’s the right thing to do.

I remember telling Jane I GET IT!!!!! They do have so many needs and we have so much material wealth in comparison.


We are a small church – they are a presbytery of more that 35 churches. We’ve been advised not to talk money for at least three years. We want relationship, we know how important relationship is.


When the youth described their mission work in eastern KY last week something rang true for me. They talked about how it felt to work hard and no one coming out to say thank you or to say anything to them. Later they learned how very hard it is for some of us to accept help or to show gratitude. Receiving help can be very humbling, but it does make a difference when it’s from people that care about you. I have experienced this right here at home.

How do the Guatemalan people feel when the Great and Powerful Americans sweep into their country every summer, pour concrete floors, repair roofs, develop soccer fields, etc. I would bet they are VERY GRATEFUL. Is it not another affirmation that they are the needy, less educated, living with less TAKERS and we are the have it all, know it all, GIVERS. This is a very dangerous perception for both sides. In a partnership both sides give and both sides receive. There is not one partner more powerful or stonger than the other.

I received many gifts while in Guatemala. The greatest gifts I received from the Guatemalan people, were:

- Not just a warm welcome
- Not just hospitality
- Not just acceptance
- Not just respect for your ideas
- Not just warm smiles, friendliness

I felt truly loved. BY STRANGERS. On Monday, Romi, the woman we made tortillas with, hugged me. Her hug was so sincere, like she’s known me for years rather than two days. She hugged me like she truly loved me, bringing tears to my eyes.

After we hiked to the top of the mountain at Semuc Champey, took victory pictures WE MADE IT!!! Gerardo put his arm around my shoulder and kissed my cheek, saying in English “BERY GOOD.”

YES - God did answer my prayers. I was humbled. I felt comfortable to be myself with the people of Guatemala. God used these wonderful people to show me the enormity, the power, and the strength of God’s love.

I know my perception of the Guatemalan people is very different now, than before my trip. I can only hope we have left some part of ourselves, some special moment or connection, with them that might change their perception of Crescent Hill Americans – whether we are Right or Wrong.

Now I ask myself, and you, is relationship important when reaching out to people that have so many monetary needs? I think those moments and connections that we make with others are what make us who we are.

-- Claudia

Andrea's August 29 message

This trip to Guatemala was the first time I’ve traveled internationally. Until this year, I never needed a passport or hepatitis shots or even malaria prevention medication to go anywhere.

We arrived at Louisville’s airport early Saturday morning. Saying our goodbyes to our team member Ana, who had made a very difficult decision not to go, and to our families and friends who sent us on our way, we left Louisville and arrived safely in Houston as planned. It was still rather early in the morning, and we had changed time zones, so it was with some confusion we discussed our departure time to Guatemala. I tried to reassure the group that we had another hour to our layover and when we went to the flight information display, we discovered that I was on a different flight to Guatemala City that departed one hour later than Jane, Claudia, Lowell and Perry’s flight.

The airline customer service representatives put me on stand-by for the same flight as the others, but I wasn’t very hopeful that I would join them. There is a rule that each international flight passenger must be on the same plane as his or her luggage and it takes two hours to re-route a checked bag. Again, with limited travel experience the only thing I know about baggage conveyors is from the scene in Toy Story 2, and if Pixar’s interpretation is accurate, then there was no way I’d make that flight. So, as it became increasingly apparent that I would be traveling from Houston to Guatemala City alone, I became increasingly anxious.

Well, I wrapped myself up in the prayer shawl Claudia made for our trip and tried to be brave. Sitting by myself at the gate and for the remainder of my solitary travels that I began thinking things like:

Why am I going on this trip? Why am I going so far away from my kids?

What am I going to do if I can’t find anyone I know when I get to Guatemala?

Why didn’t I at least REVIEW my Spanish?

I was second guessing every decision I’d made up to this point. The questions continued to swirl in my head, the plane experienced turbulence and my anxiety gave way to panic. I was feeling out-of-control and having a very hard time accepting the THIS could be God’s plan.

Feeling out-of-control is the way in which many Guatemalans live on a daily basis. Ellen shared this insight with us during one of our planning meetings. Specifically, we were talking about the recent eruption of volcano Pacaya. The volcano hurled lava and rocks and rained thick black ash over Guatemala City and surrounding areas. Schools were closed and thousands of residents were evacuated. Days later, the country was battered by tropical storm Agatha. Some areas received more than 20” of rain in 24 hours. Fourteen bridges were out around the country and landslides blocked many highways. The presence of ash from Pacaya contributed to the flooding because of blocked drains and sewers. But the death and destruction from landslides and flash floods are not simply the results of natural disasters. Poverty, lack of government regulation, poorly built buildings and little storm water management all came into play.

Pastor Delia Leal met with us during our trip and explained that Coban is fast becoming a city plagued by drug trafficking and violence. She told us that people as young as age 13 are joining gangs, lured by cell phones, guns and cars. People are afraid to get married and leave their names with their wives and children. And the younger generation has little interest in the church. Delia feels the challenges of a new kind of pastoral ministry.

The public transportation in Guatemala City is at high risk for attacks. The recycled and colorfully painted former US school buses, are popular within cities yet, extremely vulnerable to violence. While we were still in Coban, a hand grenade was tossed onto a bus in Guatemala City killing 20 passengers. The Saturday we left for the airport, we witnessed a rifle wielding passenger in a van one lane over.

Guatemala had perhaps one of the most brutal and certainly the longest civil wars, spanning three decades (from 1960-1996), leaving roughly 200,000 dead and thousands "disappeared" in the conflict. Human rights abuses and a deliberate marginalization of the indigenous population left the country with a host of unhealed wounds.

Despite all these struggles and uncertainties, I found our sisters and brothers from the Estoreño Presbytery to be such loving and faith filled children of God. It was my privilege to spend time with them praying, learning, eating, singing, studying and hiking. The witness, and sharing of experiences, will always be with me.
Pastor Jose Domingo, leader of the Espiritu Santo Church explained to us ways in which they reach out to their community. They host a Fiesta, a campaign of evangelism. For two to three days, surrounded by meals, music groups and preaching, people are invited to accept Christ and reconcile with God. They also make personal visits to people in their community in the same way Jesus sent out his disciples, telling them how they can have eternal life and talking to them about Jesus Christ. Jose Domingo’s church extends visits to people who are sick or in need. And they pray, they pray for healing. He refers to his church’s missions as ‘palabras y hechos’ words and doing.

I am still learning why I went on this trip. I believe that the feelings of helplessness and vulnerability I experienced on my flight, though short-lived, allowed me to be open to empathy for our brothers and sisters in Guatemala.

So it is through palabras y hechos, words and doing, that I hope to express to you what I learned, what I saw and how I lived for a week in Guatemala. You know about the pain and the suffering and I wish you could hear it in the passionate prayers the Guatemalans lifted simultaneously to God. I hope to help you see the beauty. I want to show you what the country looks like. I want you to see a palm tree and a pine tree side by side. I want you to taste the coffee grown on the plantation we toured, to consider the harvesting of cardamom we saw all along the mountainsides and listen to the rush of el Rio Cahabon flowing wildly underneath peaceful pools of water. I want you to see corn growing everywhere and to imagine preparing tortillas on a comal over an open fire before each meal. I want to tell you about fumbling through a foreign language, relying on tones and gestures to communicate, and in the end saying a tearful “good bye,” “adios” or, in Q’eqchi’, “chin w’anb’i.”

- Andrea

Thursday, August 26, 2010

We're official (again)!

In June the 2010 Crescent Hill Guatemala mission team drew up a list of commitments that we pledged the church would implement, pending governing body approval. (One form that pledge took was pasting a commitments text on the partnership banner and signing this (pictured above).) Earlier this month the Crescent Hill Outreach Council approved these commitments and recommended to session members that they approve the commitments. Last night session approved them. Session members asked a couple of questions about follow-up travel, including possible travel by some of the Guatemalan partners to Louisville and the United States.

The Estoreño Presbytery mission team was also slated to take their compromiso back to the presbytery executive committee members for their consideration and possible approval. We are in the midst of translating our commitments and we will e-mail what we have, in Spanish, for their commitments and ours, and find out how that matches up with what they have and find out what action if any the presbytery executive committee has taken.

Also being translated is the packet of information and proposals, which they gave us in Spanish. We are also to prepare (eventually) in Spanish such an information packet for the Guatemalans.

See also the July 2010 blog entries under "Crescent Hill church's commitments," "Compromiso," "Commitments," and "Informes."

-- Perry

Friday, August 20, 2010

Wednesday EFL discussion

A dozen Crescent Hill folks joined with folks from James Lees and Covenant Community churches Wednesday at James Lees to brainstorm about the joint English as a foreign language teaching ministry and other possible ministries with new immigrants. The group heard from folks who had partiicpated in a brainstorming discussion among Spanish speakers the previous Saturday about new ideas: networking for things like jobs, workshops on auto mechanics or cooking, connection with services (medical, dental, legal), establishing a cooperative small business (in catering or the arts, for example), establishing a center for immigrants. Also mentioned were a joint presbytery-seminary Spanish-language commissioned lay pastor training program (which will get started in September) and a presbytery-wide discussion on immigration earlier this summer led by PC(USA) immigration expert Julia Thorne, as well as a Spanish-language anti-violence discussion series for women that Crescent Hill’s Nora led this spring. Held simultaneously with this discussion – across the hall – was a discussion apparently with James Lees and Covenant Community folks about the small business idea.

The EFL group next plowed ahead with a discussion about EFL ministry possibilities. The group reviewed all types of possibilities before going back to the Monday and Wednesday night classes with some food possibilities. A food subgroup will consider different food possibilities: no food, food like last school year, only snacks, paying students to prepare food – with Kari at the lead. Dirk will serve as teacher coordinator, with some questions about curriculum to deal with. Two other groups formed, about publicity and about the possibility of a center for immigrants (also cooperative business?) (also with the possibility of some government money). Crescent Hill folks expressed interest in all of the groups, except the food group, including those who indicated interest in helping teach either Monday or Wednesday night. Still to be selected: site coordinator. Jen, last year’s site coordinator, will continue to help with the publicity, and the food coordinators from individual churches may be responsible for making sure the building gets opened. The group talked about hiring someone to serve as child care coordinator (possibly someone from Crescent Hill). In addition to coordinators for specific areas taking more responsibility, each night (Monday and Wednesday) may land a host/coordinator for that night only.

The group talked about running a fall term from Monday, September 20, to Monday, November 22 (the Monday before Thanksgiving). The group also agreed to meet next at 6:30 p.m., on Wednesday, September 1 (the Wednesday before Labor Day weekend), when those interested would spend most of their times in smaller planning groups (child care, teachers, food, publicity, etc.).

After the meeting Joanne, who worked in the teaching corps last year, hung around James Lees and, as she was trying to leave, fell and broke her hip. With support of other Crescent Hill folks there, Joanne went to the hospital, where she underwent surgery Thursday. Please pray for healing for Joanne and support for her husband Lee.

-- Perry

Monday, August 16, 2010

Amanda Craft talk

Several dozen Crescent Hill church folks gathered this past Wednesday for supper, listening, an discussion with PC(USA) mission worker Amanda Craft. Amanda talked about her life and work in Guatemala and answered questions about the situation of women in Guatemala, how we could help her work, and how we could keep up with news in Guatemala. Kudos to Amanda for speaking with us despite not feeling well and to Andrea, Amy, Ken, and Mary for providing food and setting up.

- Perry

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Ana and Alejandra

At Saturday's gathering Ana reminisced about meeting one of the Guatemalan young people who July mission team members met in the Guatemala City airport, on the Guatemalans' way to the Presbyterian Youth Triennium in Indiana. They met when one of the young people, Alejandra, was asked with little warning to reflect on her Triennium experience in front of audience of some 5,000 youth, with Ana (also asked with little warning) to translate into English (pictured above). Ana, who was originally slated to go on the trip (but before that was slated to go to Triennium) was only able to go to Triennium because plans for her to go to Guatemala fell through.

-- Perry

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Labor Day month schedule

- Wednesday, August 11, at 6:00 p.m., in the Fellowship Hall: supper and talk by and discussion with Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Guatemala mission co-worker Amanda Craft, in the Fellowship Hall

- Saturday, August 14, at 5:30 p.m., at James Lees Memorial Presbyterian Church: Spanish-language worship service and discussion (in Spanish) about the English as a foreign language education ministry or other ministries with new immigrants.

- Wednesday, August 18, at 6:30 p.m., at James Lees Memorial Presbyterian Church: planning meeting about the English as a foreign language education ministry or other ministries with new immigrants.

- Saturday, August 21, at 9:30 a.m., at Pastor Jane’s office: planning meeting about the Sunday, August 29 worship service.

- Sunday, August 29, at 11:00 a.m., in the sanctuary: Guatemala mission trip worship service.

- Saturday, September 11, at 7:00 p.m., at St. Mary’s Catholic Church, in New Albany: Fiesta Latina

- Sunday, September 12, at 9:45 a.m., in the Fellowship Hall: Sunday school kick-off

- Wednesday, September 15, at 7:00 p.m., in the Fireside Room: Guatemala mission task force gathering

- Saturday, September 18, at 10:00 a.m., at Cedar Ridge camp: Mid-Kentucky presbytery meeting/old-fashioned camp meeting

August 7 gathering pictures

Monday, August 2, 2010

Amanda Craft talk

Join us for a light supper and discussion with Presbyterian mission co-worker Amanda Craft (pictured above with Ellen, her predecessor), who works with Presbyterian Women in Guatemala, starting at 6:00 p.m. in the Fellowship Hall. A meeting of the Outreach Council, starting at 7:00 p.m. in the Fireside Room, will follow. there will be no Healing and Wholeness Service this month.

You're invited!

Crescent Hill folks interested in the Guatemala misison parternship will gather at 9:30 a.m. this Saturday, August 7, at 3928 Kennison Avenue, in St. Matthews (502-384-4339). We will hear some about the trip and talk about the future. Everyone is welcome.


It was a surprise - and a pleasant surprise - to have arriving at church on Sunday, the day after the end of the 2010 Guatemala mission trip for most of us - to have two of our key guides from the 2009 trip, Jeff and Soila, in worship. You might remember that Soila was a missionary to the United States from Honduras who lived with the Stimson/Var Marter family and ministered among us in 2004. Soila and Jeff, her husband, helped staff a Mennonite retreat center in Guatemala City, where the 2009 team stayed twice, and drove us around and accompanied us for a substantial minority of that trip. The two were also on hand for a special Lunch Bunch, at the Havana Rumba, where three of the 2010 team members and three more 2007 team members joined us. Soila and Jeff are both educators in Pennsylvania now, after they strugged to get Soila in the country from Guatemala (they finally succeeded from Honduras, in the midst of the coup there.
-- Perry