Thursday, September 29, 2011

October prayers

This month Crescent Hill church will pray with and for our Guatemalan partners:

- On Sunday, October 2, and the week thereafter: Jesus Es la Puerta church in the El Estor suburb of El Chupon. and worshipers.

- On Sunday, October 9, and during the week thereafter: Arca de Noe church in El Estor, Pastor Gerardo Ich Pop and family, and members, deacons, and elders

- On Sunday, October 16, and the week thereafter: Altar de Noe church in El Estor’s Los Cerritos neighborhood, Pastor Raul Contreras Tut and family, and members, deacons, and elders.

- On Sunday, October 23, and the week thereafter: Espiritu Santo church in El Estor’s San Marcos neighborhood, Pastor José Domingo Xo Ical and family, and members, deacons, and elders.

- On Sunday, October 30, 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 members, deacons, and elders.

Trip progress

Amanda Craft (pictured above with her son), with whom Crescent Hill has been working on the possible visit by Estoreño Presbytery reps to Kentuckiana this fall, approved the new dates (Tuesday, November29-Wednesday, December 7 – in two months) and said Crescent Hill ought to be able to get new letters to her via colleague Karla Koll, who will stop back at the Presbyterian Center as she wraps up accompanying PC(USA) International Peacemaker Juana Herlinda in mid-October. In the mean time, Amanda said she would go ahead and set up the visa application appointments for the five reps. About the dates that have now been firmed up somewhat, commented Amanda: “PS - Wouldn't it be crazy if they actually got to see snow?!?”

-- Perry

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Fall is here!

New English as a foreign language teaching ministry coordinator Sky Ott reminded folks Sunday that the first day of classes for the spring term is one week from Monday, on October 2. Some publicity has gone up and teachers have been calling their students. Crescent Hill folks will prepare food, set up, and clean up the meal in two weeks, during the second week of class.

Crescent Hill Spanish teacher Ada Asenjo also announced via e-mail this weekend that the fifth term of the Spanish class will begin the same week as EFL, on Thursday, October 5. It will again run between 6:00 and 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, before choir practice, in the Fireside Room. Cost will be $70, for a seven-week session that will end the Thursday before Thanksgiving (November 17).

-- Perry

Food for Thought photographs

Faith Stories project

With her family looking on, Crescent Hill’s Jennifer Thalman Kepler explained the genesis and possible future of the Faith Stories project of her theater company, Looking for Lilith, at a Food for Thought lunch after worship Sunday. The project goes back to Jennifer’s year as a Presbyterian young adult volunteer in Guatemala, when women in Guatemalan asked what she did back in the United States and she explained she had been active in theater. Eventually, Looking for Lilith led workshops in which she helped women tell their stories and then develop them into a play, which they eventually performed for others. A key part of this process was encouraging and enabling women to reflect on their lives and their faith, including on challenges they faced and how they did and could overcome those challenges. Eventually women they worked with (including one from Izabal) began to want lead workshop themselves, helping Guatemalan reflect on their experiences with the health care sector, with poverty and hunger, and with domestic violence, and how they might confront those challenges. A touring play, in Spanish and English, reflecting on the lives and faith of women in both Guatemala and the United States, is also envisioned. During the recession, Jennifer conceded, funding for projects like this has been more difficult to assemble.

Looking for Lilith led a theater workshop for young people this summer at Crescent Hill, and they have been involved in the transformation of the old James Lees Memorial Presbyterian Church into a new 1741 Frankfort Avenue space. Crescent Hill and Looking for Lilith folks have talked about combining forces for a Faith Stories-like project in Estoreño Presbytery, and Lowell and Jennifer talked Sunday about Jennifer showing a longer video (longer than the one she showed Sunday) about the project at an upcoming Crescent Hill Guatemala partnership gathering.

-- Perry

Tentative new plans

At the start of the Spanish-language/bilingual Sunday school class Sunday, Carlos (pictured above) reported to the other folks there (pictured below) that he had talked with Gerardo and that Gerardo explained that he and the four other travelers preferred to visit the week plus after Thanksgiving, from Tuesday, November 29, probably through Wednesday, December 7.

Carlos called back after worship Sunday to confirm: the Guatemalans would actually leave El Estor on Monday, November 28, and so would be ready to leave the Guatemala City (?) airport on Tuesday morning. It sounded like they were flexible enough to stay in Kentuckiana for a whole week and a night and therefore wouldn’t get back to El Estor until Thursday, December 8.

Gerardo had previously wondered about both the cost of the trip and the cold weather. But he said this weekend that there were some things they needed to care of at church the week Crescent Hill had suggested (the week before Thanksgiving), and this day-by-day schedule insured they only missed one weekend of worship services.

According to the schedule they suggested, they would be in Kentuckiana for most of the week and then here for the second Sunday of Advent and into the next week. They would not be here for a presbytery meeting or for the EFL ministry or Spanish class fall terms.

Carlos reported that Pastor Jane was OK with the schedule. The schedule may go to Amanda later this week unless other Crescent Hill folks articulately and assertively push alternatives.

Gerardo also laid out who the new members of the Estoreño Presbytery executive committee are: Gerardo himself, president; Benjamin Sacul, vice president; clerk, Raul Contreras (also slated to be on the team visiting Kentuckiana); Roberto Caal, treasurer; and Antonio Cubal, corresponding secretary, along with Mario Ich, Angel Sacul, and Noe Puv.

- Perry

Guatemalan film

Crescent Hill’s Carlos and Hilda have been frequenting U of L’s Latin American Film Festival which this month has been focusing on films from Guatemala. At the Spanish-language/bilingual Sunday-school class, Carlos touted “The Return of Lencho,” a film shown this past Friday that illustrated the situation for creative Guatemalan young people. He also promoted the film to be shown this coming Thursday, at 7:00 p.m. in the new auditorium at U of L’s main Ekstrom Library, “Puro Mula” or “Slacker” (logo pictured above). A reception with the filmmaker, at 6:00 p.m., will precede the showing of the film, which will also be shown at 12 noon Friday at the same location.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Sunday lunch

Sunday after worship and a bread and soup lunch, Crescent Hill’s Jennifer Thalman Kepler (pictured above left with baby Carolina) will speak – as part of the “Food for Thought” series – about the Faith Stories Project, which has taken place primarily in Guatemala. Coming out of her work as a PC(USA) young adult volunteer in Guatemala, the project has involved women telling faith formation stories and weaving them into theatrical performances. Fresh off hosting an indigenous Guatemalan woman who is involved in the project, Jennifer will tell us what might be next for the project, including possibly involvement with Crescent Hill’s Estoreño partners.

-- Perry

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Gathering graphics

Last day of summer gathering

In between quiche and birthday cake, half a dozen Crescent Hill folks interested in the Crescent Hill’s Guatemala mission partnership gathered at the Fireside Room and talked among each other – and then with Pastor Gerardo, who it turns out was in the midst of the annual Estoreño Presbytery assembly – about when the Kentuckiana visit by presbytery representatives might be. The Crescent Hill group proposed Friday, November 10-Saturday, November 18, after the elections in Guatemala and the United States, but before Thanksgiving vacation (and even colder weather). Gerardo said he’d have to check in with the other four presbytery reps slated to go on the trip, only some of whom were at the meeting. He also hinted that they'd rather avoid arctic weather and said some folks wondered whether all the money spent on the visit would be better spent on projects in the presbytery. Gerardo said there was some violence associated with the election, but things have calmed down now. No effects of the earthquakes elsewhere in Guatemala. Carlos and Gerardo agreed to talk again on Saturday. No date was set for the next meeting, although Thursday, October 6 is a possibility and the need to talk more about both housing and a schedule for the visit presents itself.

- Perry

Start of new school year

Fall got started with the first Spanish-language bilingual Sunday school of the year meeting at 9:45 a.m. Sunday in the Education Building Upper Room. Carlos introduced a Presbyterian Women “Horizons” Spanish-language Bible study on the Book of Revelation. Right off students noticed that the final book of the New Testament is called Apocalipsis in Spanish. But it turns in Greek apocalypse refers to that which is revealed. Discovers will continue this coming Sunday.

Then Wednesday folks from the three Presbyterian congregations continued to plan for the fall English as a foreign language term, which will begin Monday, October 2, with a discussion about teaching materials among half a dozen EFL teachers (pictured above).

- Perry

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Thoughts and information

Amanda, Rene, Gerardo, and Ellen Dozier (pictured above) all shared thoughts and information this week. Amanda messaged that, as far as she knows, the U.S. consulate is going to want to know exact dates, and Crescent Hill’s partners are going to receive visas for exact dates, rather than open-ended three-month visas whose clock starts whenever the partners arrive.

Rene – and, through Rene, Gerardo – e-mailed to say that they had gotten the e-mail about the possible delay with the trip and they were going to be meeting (apparently about the scheduling issues). They said they’d e-mail their recommendation.

Rene said there is a dispute about the local election in El Estor, pitting the mayor who was reelected against some others. Rene also said it has been raining some there, and Ellen said the part of the country that Izabal is in has gotten the worst rains lately, but no mass landslides.

Ellen reminded us that Karla Koll and Juana Herlinda, the PC(USA) international peacemaker whom Karla is accompanying, are currently here in Louisville (Karla, for the second time this summer/fall; Juana, with Crescent Hill’s own Paul, Jennifer, and Carolina). Ellen also said the high price of commodities such as corn, and the continuing Great Recession, are affecting ordinary Guatemalans like other people around the world.

Ellen recommended Crescent Hill folks check before the Thursday gathering to find out whether the Guatemalans have e-mailed, but call them Thursday either way (all the more so because Crescent Hill’s e-mail indicated there might be a phone call this week). Ellen stayed more or less agnostic on the how soon should the rescheduled visit be issue.

She said she had dinner with Carlos and Ana, who live about an hour from her, two weeks ago, and she remains open to trying to visit Kentuckiana during the visit by CHPC’s Guatemalan partners – but not if it’s during the second half of November and early part of December, when she’ll be in Guatemala partly as part of a Western North Carolina Presbytery trip to Guatemala.

-- Perry

Monday, September 19, 2011

Thursday gathering

Crescent Hill folks interested in the Guatemala partnership wlil gather at 6:00 p.m. this Thursday, September 22, in the Fireside Room, largely to plan for the Guatemalan representatives' possible Kentuckiana visit. The gathering will end before choir practice at 7:30 p.m. Refreshments will be served. Everyone is welcome.


A series of eathquakes hit Guatemala, blocking roads and killing at least one person, apparently in south central Guatemala.

Friday, September 16, 2011


Amanda Craft and I have been in touch a couple of times this month. Earlier this month Amanda (pictured above with her son) let us know that she had received photos that would work for U.S. visas and she was prepared to make the Guatemalans appointments at the U.S. consulate. But Amanda also shared that she had changed her mind – she no longer thought it was realistic that the Guatemalans could get appointments and visas with enough time for us to buy airline tickets, before the first week of October (when we had planned the visit).

So I asked Amanda to hold off and let Crescent Hill folks consult with each other and – likely – with our Guatemalan partners. During that time I hoped we would decide about what to do. Especially as we’ve waited, the first week of October I suspect is out of the question. Amanda has said she thinks the Guatemalans should be there for the runoff election. She and I talked about waiting until after the elections in Guatemala and the United States. Jane won’t be here Thanksgiving week. That leaves us with the middle week of November.

Jane also raised the possibility of waiting and asking the Guatemalans to come in the spring, when the weather is better and when we may less busy than in mid-November. Amanda said either could work but she wondered with me about loss of momentum. She also raised a second concern: She is not 100% certain she is going to return to Guatemala after leaving at the end of the year, and so, if we wanted the Guatemalans to visit around Derby Week, for example, we’d have to shift to working with someone else (since Amanda will definitely be in the United States in mid-winter and might might not be returning at all). (That’d probably be Philip Beisswinger, Amanda said.)

But Amanda did say she thought she could help get visas in December for the Guatemalans for an early spring visit (like March).

So, if we want to stick with Amanda, we probably have a choice between something like the week before the week of Thanksgiving 2011 (for example, Friday, November 11, through Saturday, November 18) or the week before St. Patrick’s Day 2012 (Friday, March 9, though Saturday, March 17).

I have e-mailed the Guatemalans asking them for their preferences, but I suspect we’ll want to call them not later than our next gathering, at 6:00 p.m. next Thursday, September 22.

-- Perry

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Election surprise

Guatemala’s election Sunday produced somewhat of a surprise. No candidate – including the front-running right-wing presidential candidate Otto Perez Molina (pictured)– received the required 50 percent plus one simple majority. In a November runoff against Molina is a wealthy businessman turned populist who campaigned for aid for the poor and for the death penalty. Recall that the governing center-left government ended up running no presidential candidate, and public concern about violence translated into a election campaign focused on security issues.

-- Perry

Early September gathering

Half a dozen plus Crescent Hill folks interested in Guatemala mission met Wednesday evening at Heine Brothers. Soni reported that the August yard sale made approximately $3,000 for Guatemala mission. People praised the organization of the event. Perry reported that Amanda Craft has finalized the Estoreño Presbytery representatives’ visa applications, is trying to set up their appointments at the U.S. Consulate in Guatemala, and has suggested Crescent Hill sit tight, rather than going ahead and buying airline tickets for October 7-15, or going ahead and moving the trip to a later date (like in November). The group agreed with that. Apparently if the five reps receive visas they will be for three months. The group agreed to go ahead and plan for a week-plus schedule for the visit, for October 7-15, knowing that it is possible the actual week/dates will need to be shifted. There was some discussion about the wisdom of the Huber Farm visit as the big non-Sunday activity for the Guatemalans to meet lots of Crescent Hill folks. The group worked on a tentative schedule, but agreed to meet at 6:00 p.m. on Thursday, September 22, at the Fireside Room, to continue planning. Carlos talked about the presidential election this Sunday, September 11, in which the victor in the presidential race seems clear, and Perry mentioned a follow-up visit to the Boone County (KY) Jail immigrant detention center coming up later this month.

-- Perry

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Land rights

A Guatemala Mission Network notice alerted network participants to an underlying trend in Guatemala: a systematic effort by the Guatemalan military and police and private security guards to aid Guatemalan business interests and try to satiate their need for additional land by evicting indigenous families off their land. Indigenous families often lacked secure deeds, even though the peace treaty that the government and rebels negotiated in the early 1990s ostensibly guaranteed them land rights anyway. With mining, timber, and agricultural interests in search of more land, the weak government – even an ostensibly center-left government – is apparently only too willing to cooperate in transferring land to these interests, or unable to stop it. Apparently the United Nations Commission on Human Rights has taken in interest in this process – perhaps all the more so because the alliance of security forces have greeted organized efforts to the land confiscation with violence, including apparent assassinations in eastern Guatemala (including the woman pictured speaking above on a boat trip across Lake Izabal). It remains to be seen what the election of a new government – probably a right-wing government with links with Guatemala’s right-wing death-squad past and a vow to restore law and order. As far as the drug cartels and gangs, they were rumored to have connections with the center-left government, but they may be endemic enough to make their way – or be in charge – whoever is in power.

-- Perry

Friday, September 2, 2011


Crescent Hill’s Hunter Farrell and Maria Arroyo joined several other PC(USA) World Mission personnel and several hundred listeners and questioners Thursday to dialogue about how the PC(USA) and the Presbyterian Church in Mexico came to be separated and what might come next, including for the many PC(USA) and Mexican congregations in partnerships and with trip plans, some as soon as next week. Mexican church leaders – who had taken a break from their partnership with the PC(USA) once before – had been following the vote on Amendment 10-A, which opened the door to possible ordination of gays and lesbians as deacons, (ruling) elders, and ministers (teaching elders). After the amendment passed both the PC(USA) General Assembly and enough presbyteries, this summer – Hunter, Maria, PC(USA) Stated Clerk Gradye Parsons, and others met with Mexican church officials to try to talk them out of breaking with the PC(USA). They asked tough questions, and the next day the all-adult male delegates to the Mexican General Assembly voted something like 110-30 in favor of severing the relationship, immediately after rejecting ordination of women again. Subsequently, Mexican church leaders have instructed Mexican presbyteries and congregations to maintain relationships only with PC(USA) presbyteries and congregations that voted against 10-A and are willing to sign a statement repudiating the adoption of the amendment. (The Mexicans have already asked Living Waters for the World to do this.) The church has said it will welcome back the PC(USA) into partnership if the PC(USA) reverses its stand.

Hunter, Maria, and others didn’t really have responses for all of the tough questions participants swamped them with via webinar. In particular, it wasn’t clear exactly what congregations and presbyteries with payments or visits planned for the next few weeks should do. PC(USA) leaders hedged on the exact meaning of the vote. On the one hand, to honor the decision, maybe we should not work in Mexico. On the other hand, very important ministries are going on in Mexico, on the U.S.-Mexico border, and in the United States with Mexican Americans others, and perhaps we can found other church, parachurch ministries, and even secular groups to partner with to carry out these existing ministries or start new ones (they hinted about Habitat for Humanity).

You might recall that the Guatemalan church – meeting back in May – shortly before the amendment passed the presbyteries – indicated they disagreed with the vote but would not break with the PC(USA)> Maria said no partner churches other than the Mexican church has broken with the PC(USA), but hinted that other churches – when their General Assemblies take place over the next year – may consider it. There’s no indication that the Guatemalan church will reconsider its position because of the stance of its northern neighbor church (in Mexico). However, questions may arise about it, and – should Crescent Hill folks own up to the fact that we initiated a version of the amendment in Mid-Kentucky Presbytery – something that Mexican church leaders, but perhaps not Guatemalan church leaders, may be aware of – interesting discussions may ensue.

PC(USA) leaders indicated that – historically – the Mexican church has been relatively conservative theologically, and note that on paper the Guatemalan church ordains women, while the Mexican church does not. Leaders also mentioned that – with 2 million members – the Mexican church is now almost as big as the PC(USA). They did not also mention that their country (Mexico) is slowly becoming a rising power in the world economy.

-- Perry