Saturday, December 29, 2012

December news

Two and a half first-ever conversations with Rene and Pastor Gerardo by Facebook video chat have punctuated December. The first one and a half came when Gerardo was ill, and produced little new information. The second came between Perry, Gerardo, and Rene, and mainly served to make an appointment for another such conversation at around 10:30 next Saturday morning, January 5, from Perry and Stephanie’s house, as well as alerting Crescent Hill folks that Rene and Gerardo had – on Christmas Eve, it turns out – sent a three-page information sheet – with, among other things, information on how some of the money sent in early December had been spent on experiences related to the theological education trainings.

At the December gathering Crescent Hill folks explained to Rene and Gerardo that the church was willing to send some money for two Estoreño Presbytery reps to go to the Guatemala Mission Network gathering in Guatemala City in late January, but Crescent Hill wasn’t sure someone from the church was going to be able to be there (and, unlike last time, Maria Arroyo will not be there for work). At this point – although some money is available - it appears that no Crescent Hill rep will be there.

The half dozen Crescent Hill folks at the meeting also talked about the importance of finding out more about how the presbytery is spending the communications budget (which the group agreed the presbytery would get the second $300 installment of) for winning approval of the proposed partnership plan/extension from Crescent Hill’s Outreach Council and then session. And they also talked about ways to engage the congregation in the partnership and making the yard sale fund-raiser. More on all of these - plus hopefully deciphering Gerardo’s information sheet and talking with him again – at the 9:30 a.m. Saturday, January 5 gathering.


Monday, December 10, 2012

December prayers

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

- On Sunday, December 2, and the week thereafter:  Altar de Noe church in El Estor’s Los Cerritos neighborhood, Pastor Raul Contreras Tut and family, and elders, deacons, and members.

- On Sunday, December 9, and the week thereafter:  Espiritu Santo church in El Estor’s San Marcos neighborhood, Pastor José Domingo Xo Ical and family, and elders, deacons, and members

- On Sunday, December 16, and the week thereafter:  Monte Sinai church in the village of San Carlos El Pouvenir outside of Puerto Barrios, Pastor Santos Teyul Mucu and family, and elders, deacons, and members

- On Sunday, December 23, and the week thereafter:  Hijo del Dios Viviente church in the village of La Guitarra, Pastor Fidel Juc and family, and members, deacons, and elders

- On Sunday, December 30, and during the week thereafter:  El Buen Samaritano church in El Estor’s Nueva Amanacer neighborhood, and members, deacons, and elders

- On Sunday, January 6, and during the week thereafter:  Panzos church and members, deacons, and elders

- On Sunday, January 13, and during the week thereafter:  Esfuerza congregation, Pastor Antonio Tec and family, and worshipers

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Early December gathering

Crescent Hill folks interested in Guatemala mission will gather at 11:30 a.m. this Saturday, December 1, at Soni, Brad, and Hilda's, at 209 Fairfax Avenue, down the street from Trinity High School (pictured aerially above) in St. Matthews.  The group will try again to reach Guatemala partners by phone and will discuss a possible early 2013 Guatemala visit.  The later time is for folks who want to participate in the United Crescent Hill Ministries Santa Spring and Stroll, as the one-year anniversary of three Guatemalan partners' Kentuckiana visit is remembered.  Everyone is welcome.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

November news

Half a dozen Crescent Hill folks gathered at the Fireside Room, four days before Election Day in the United States, to talk about Guatemala mission. The group leaned towards spending some money to send Pastor Jane and anyone else who would go to the Guatemala Mission Network gathering in early 2013 in Guatemala City, and perhaps to Izabal also, but stopped short of endorsing the trip partly pending more discussions with Pastor Jane. The group endorsed going ahead and sending a draft partnership plan to Outreach Council and perhaps to session and Guatemalan partners for review. The group tried calling five Guatemalan friends (Gerardo, Ramiro, Raul Contreras, Maria, and Antonio), but left messages with four and had a terrible connection with someone on Maria’s cell phone. The group agreed to meet next on the first Saturday of December, December 2, at Soni’s.

Following the meeting Perry sent Rene a long e-mail, which Rene said he would pass on to Raul Contreras. Several people have confirmed that Gerardo is ailing and is with out-of-town relatives. Also, Wednesday, with no one at the meeting, Outreach held off on blessing the partnership plan, wanting to know more information about the communications budget (where it is coming from and what it is being spent on), some of which is not yet available (because Crescent Hill hasn’t yet received the report on that). In addition, Maria translated the draft partnership plan into Spanish.


October blues

Waves of bad news have come out of Guatemala recently. First there was news about more land seizures and political violence in the Polocic Valley, which is adjacent to Izabal and is quite near Panzos. Then late last month an earthquake struck the northwestern part of Guatemala, around the town of San Marcos. Prayers for our friends and their neighbors in Guatemala as they not only deal with personal tragedies but weather calamities and political and economic insecurity.


Saturday, November 3, 2012

November prayers

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

-On Sunday, November 4, 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, November 11, 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, November 18, and the week thereafter: Puerto del Cielo church in the El Estor suburb of La Union.

- On Sunday, November 25, and the week thereafter: Arca de Noe church in El Estor, Pastor Gerardo Pop Ich and family, and elders, deacons, and members.

- On Sunday, December 2, and the week thereafter: Altar de Noe church in El Estor’s Los Cerritos neighborhood, Pastor Raul Contreras Tut and family, and elders, deacons, and members.

- On Sunday, December 9, and the week thereafter: Espiritu Santo church in El Estor’s San Marcos neighborhood, Pastor José Domingo Xo Ical and family, and elders, deacons, and members.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Early November gathering

Please join us at 9:30 a.m. this Saturday, November 3, in the Fireside Room, for an opportunity to talk with friends in Guatemala and discern what God has in store next for the Crescent Hill-Estoreño Presbytery partnership.  Everyone is welcome.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Mid-October gathering

A last-minute phone conversation with Pastor Gerardo was a highlight of the mid-October Crescent Hill Guatemala mission gathering at Jane and Brad’s. Gerardo had sent Crescent Hill missives in August and September, and Carlos had followed up with a phone call at the beginning of October. Saturday midday found Gerardo and his wife Isabel in a town in the Polocic Valley, not too far from Panzos. Isabel has been very ill, perhaps with complications from her diabetes. Facing amputation as the logical medical step from Western doctors, Gerardo and she went to a naturopath to seek alternative treatment. Arca de Noe church has given Gerardo family medical leave to be with his wife for the treatment. Gerardo seemed genuinely pleased to hear from us, and he asked for prayers for Isabel, him, and their family, some with them and others back in El Estor taking care of each other.

Gerardo’s missives and the phone conversations caught Crescent Hill folks up somewhat on events in Izabal in between the mid-July visit and mid-October. In August the presbytery Presbyterian Women met and elected new officers: Carmen Quib Caal as president, Olivia Cucul Rax as vice president, Nury Marlena Cajbom as secretary, Angelina Maaz as treasurer, and – as board members at-large – Olga Coc Choc and Ana Maria Coc Tiul, outgoing president and summertime member of the presbytery’s partnership committee, Pastor Gerardo or Pastor Antonio as an advisor. Partly following up on a conversation at Louisville’s Presbyterian Center between Maria Arroyo and Gerardo, Ramiro, and Macaria, the PW developed an idea to ask for an $8,500 loan to fatten up the chickens of PW activists, with the revenue produced going both to repay the loan and for mission funds for their organization. Before the Crescent Hill group called Saturday and learned more about this, the group agreed that the church didn’t have money for this, but afterwards said they might be able to pursue this with Maria and with possible micro-lending sources (the Presbyterian Hunger Program, Oikos International??).

In late September the presbytery had met in a regular meeting. Gerardo, outgoing president, was only able to attend part of the meeting. Elected as president was Benjamin Sacul (Familia de Noe church pastor); as vice president, Ramiro; as treasurer, Roberto (Macaria’s husband, for a second consecutive term); as secretary, Raul Contreras (Altar de Noe church pastor and another member of the old partnership committee); and another secretary, Noe Chul. The presbytery seemed to create a new position for Gerardo, who had served various offices previously, as the advisor (kind of president emeritus). The presbytery also set in motion the creation of a Christian education committee and an international relations committee, which would take over for the old Crescent Hill partnership committee. It seemed that membership of this committee and the old committee would turn over some. Pablo Sacul, pastor of the Peniel church in Boqueron and President Benjamin’s father, would serve on the committee, along with Raul Contreras and representatives of Presbyterian Women and the youth and young adults (and others?), apparently some still to be selected.

In between the PW and presbytery gatherings, the Theological training institute, which had started in July when the Crescent Hill mission team was there, had their three-day September session, starting Tuesday, September 11. It wasn’t clear that Gerardo had a lot of news about that, but he did confirm that food (and transportation??) for that cost about $400, which is about Crescent Hill had sent the presbytery later in the month (and had hoped would last for two sessions). The group talked about possibly sending another $400 for the November session, which would it be it for that for the school year. Also discussed was sending the presbytery another $300 installment of the $600 a year communication budget for communicating with us, provided they document how the previous $300 had been (reasonably) spent, and $200 if they wanted to send two people to the end-of-January 2013 (Guatemala City) Guatemala mission network gathering, provided they understand that Crescent Hill might or might not be able to send anyone there.

Gerardo said they thought they had sent Crescent Hill a report about communications expenditures (by email), but Carlos asked Gerardo if he might have it re-sent (although Perry promised to look for it).

Carlos and Peter agreed to follow up with Gerardo with a longer phone conversation Sunday about the possible Panzos land transfer. Since Gerardo was near Panzos, he was slated to go to meet with some Panzos folks this Monday (October 15). Gerardo said that the Panzos municipal government had rented the Panzos land for 10 years. Gerardo said the Panzos congregation had a legal advisor who had somewhat facetiously suggested they contact the national church about it. Looming now is (apparently) the nickel mining company who had spent money to survey the land, meaning they may be intending a (legal or not) land grab (the nickel mine processing plant and Panzos are actually not near each other). A letter from Maria to the national church (IENPG) might be in order once Crescent Hill has a little more information about this.

Near the start of the meeting – given the time allotted for the meeting – Perry asked if folks could look over the English-language draft partnership plan and give feedback on it (probably by e-mail). Once the group is OK with it, it might be translated into Spanish and then shared with the Crescent Hill Outreach Council and session and the Estoreno International Relations Committee, not necessarily in that order. Feedback from any of those three might lead to revisions.

Even though Gerardo had sent Crescent Hill three missives, more or less without response, apparently presbytery leaders talked about trying to send Crescent Hill folks a report after the presbytery meeting, but decided to wait – not because of the delay in hearing back – but because they wished for some advice from Gerardo, who was off in the Polocic Valley with his wife.

The group celebrated Alec and Nick’s parents’ wedding (later that day) and Perry and Ana’s birthday. They agreed to meet again - including with a call to Raul Contreras – on Saturday morning, November 3, at a place to be announced, and perhaps make the first Saturday morning of the month a regular meeting time.


Sunday, October 7, 2012

October prayers

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

- On Sunday, September 30, and during the week thereafter: Esfuerza congregation, Pastor Antonio Tec and family, and worshipers.

-On Sunday, October 7, and during the week thereafter: Q’eqchi’ Estoreño, Izabal Presbytery Executive Committee, President Gerardo Pop Ich, and other officers.

-On Sunday, October 14, and during the week thereafter: Estoreño Presbytery Presbyterian Women organization, President Maria Coc Tial, and other officers.

-On Sunday, October 21, and during the week thereafter: Estoreño Presbytery youth and young adult organization, President Roderico Sacul Tiul, and other officers.

-On Sunday, October 28, and during the week thereafter: Peniel church in Boqueron, Pastor Pablo Sacul, and members, deacons, and elders.

-On Sunday, November 4, 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.

Late September letter

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Mid-October gathering

Crescent Hill folks interested in the Guatemala mission partnership will gather at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday, October 13, at the Larsen-Wigger home at 619 Emery Road. On the agenda will be updating the CHPC-Estoreño Presbytery partnership plan, responding to recent Estoreño inquiries, possible participation in the late January-early February Guatemala mission network gathering, calling our Estoreño partners (including about the proposed Panzos land transfer), and other issues. Everyone is welcome.

Monday, August 27, 2012

September prayers

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

- On Sunday, September 2, and the week thereafter: Monte Sinai church in the village of San Carlos El Pouvenir outside of Puerto Barrios, Pastor Santos Teyul Mucu and family, and elders, deacons, and members

- On Sunday, September 9, and the week thereafter: Hijo del Dios Viviente church in the village of La Guitarra, Pastor Fidel Juc and family, and members, deacons, and elders

- On Sunday, September 16, and during the week thereafter: El Buen Samaritano church in El Estor’s Nuevo Amanacer neighborhood, and members, deacons, and elders

- On Sunday, September 23, and during the week thereafter: Panzos church and members, deacons, and elders

- On Sunday, September 30, and during the week thereafter: Esfuerza congregation, Pastor Antonio Tec and family, and worshipers

-On Sunday, October 7, and during the week thereafter: Q’eqchi’ Estoreño, Izabal Presbytery Executive Committee, President Gerardo Pop Ich, and other officers

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Discussion with Maria

Half a dozen Crescent Hill folks interested in Guatemala mission gathered for lunch at Hillbilly Tea Thursday, to talk with Maria Arroyo about some issues associated with relationships among Crescent Hill church, the EstoreñoPresbytery, and the national church in Guatemala. The group agreed that Peter would contact members of the presbytery ‘s partnership committee and ask the presbytery to write a letter to the IENPG inquiring about the status of the land the church apparently owns where the families of the Hurricane Mitch Panzos community live (which the families would like to subdivide among them), and to copy Crescent Hill. Maria will also write Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA), which apparently generated the money that was used to buy the land in the aftermath of the hurricane, to make a similar inquiry. Carlos and the presbytery may check in with each other about the letter if need be.

The group also had a wide-ranging discussion about theological education efforts, particularly for Q’eqchi’ pastors and congregational leaders. The group told Maria about the new training initiative in Estoreño and she pointed out the challenge of having the instruction based in Q’eqchi’. She said there was also an ongoing effort in Coban, at the Nazarene seminary there, which was in Q’eqchi’. She endorsed what Estoreño was doing – with needed help from the IENPG and the Presbyterian seminary in Guatemala – and endorsed Crescent Hill continuing to modestly financially support that effort (like the $400 the presbytery has asked for for food for the pastors and so on during two fall sessions). But Maria and the group agreed that Crescent Hill folks might make sure the Estoreño folks know about the Coban initiative and that eventually some Estoreño folks might participate in that too. Discussions about possible future release of the frozen Walton funds, which are earmarked partly for Q’eqchi’ education, are ongoing.

Maria also said that Crescent Hill need not “tithe” 5% for each project-based donation the church makes to the presbytery, but might periodically send $50 or $100 to the PC(USA) to send on to the IENPG, as a way to support the national church of which Estoreño Presbytery is part.


Amy's great picture display

Monday, August 20, 2012

Hillbilly haven

Folks interested in the Guatemala partnership are going to talk with Maria Arroyo at 12 noon this Thursday, August 23, at Hillbilly Tea across 1st Street from White Castle. We’ll get together for less than an hour to follow up with our discussion with Maria a couple of years back, talking about relations between the IENPG, Guatemalan presbyteries, the PC(USA), and us, particularly as it relates to the possible Panzos land distribution and, to a lesser extent, the 5% IEPNG tithe, various theological education options, and the Walton funds.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Ginny's message

Having never been to Guatemala I really did not know what to expect. And during one of our planning session for our upcoming trip Doug told us to “think different”—different smells, different sights, different sounds—different. That was good advice—I was not used to the smell of burning trash especially when rubber was being burned too—a clearly toxic smell. I was not used to being woken up by crowing roosters and grunting pigs. I was not used to seeing chickens, roosters, pigs and dogs running free to scrounge for whatever food they could find. And I was not used to seeing such poverty—many streets simply made of dirt, sparse food, houses put together out of wood and metal, limited medical care and little access to clean water. This made my heart ache.

But in the midst of this different I saw another different, I saw children full of love—who were always welcomed by their parents and other loving adults no matter what was going on—worship, a meeting, a conversation or a meal. I did not see any parents yelling or scolding their children. In fact when we did some writing, drawing and even skits, the children were included just like everyone else. In one workshop when we were acting out bible stories that describe qualities of good leadership in the Bible, one group did the story of the lost sheep and a little boy was the lost sheep tucked away in the middle of a group of adults—only to be found and lifted up and hugged. I saw children who felt loved, included and cared for and families who were so proud of each other. That warned my heart.

I also saw women step into their roles as leaders in the body of Christ. We did a Women’s Workshop and we discussed the fact that each one of us is given gifts by God and when we use them we serve the world through the body of Christ and that makes us feel good. Well, after discussing this idea we sculpted our idea with clay—for example, one woman sculpted an ear because she likes to listen to people, one person a mouth because she likes to talk, one woman a broom because she likes to sweep, and one woman a microphone because she likes to go up front and sing in church. After exploring all of our gifts we talked about how we need to use these gifts because they serve God. When we finished some women heard there was going to be a workshop the next day for the church leader and when asked by one woman who it was for, we said, “church elders, deacons, pastors and anyone else in a leadership position.’ And to that the woman replied, “That would be all of us, all of the women”—and she was right and many came.

And during our last few minutes with our brothers and sisters in El Estor we sang “Unidos” together, and for one of the first times in my life I was speechless and filled to the brim with gratitude for such devoted disciples of Jesus Christ. So I must say that I have known God is everyone intellectually, but there was a part of me that thought I could being some type of knowledge or help to the folks in El Estor, maybe I knew just a little more, but what happened and has happened to many unsuspecting folks through the years, is I discovered that God was not only alive and well there, but that God was so very present that I was keenly aware of standing on Holy Ground.

Stephanie's message

I don’t know about you, but I remember summer family reunions. My family would all pile into a car and drive somewhere far away, West Virginia or Southern Ohio. There would be people there who my mom or dad would try to explain our kinship with. Eventually my eyes would glaze over as someone tried to explain that Rebecca was my cousin because her dad was the son of my dad’s father’s sister or some other complicated relationship. I would hear the story of how my dad and her dad would spend hours hiding up in the trees in the backyard so they wouldn’t have to play with the girl cousins. All I would hear was cousin and was satisfied that we were family. Somewhere there was a common progenitor.

As I’ve gotten older I look back fondly on these family reunions. As the older generations of my life pass away, these get-togethers become even more important to me. It becomes important to find out about the thirteen days that cousin Rebecca went without electricity after that summer storm. It becomes essential to see Roger’s seven children and multitude of grandchildren. Eventually I turn to Vincent and I start to explain this is your cousin; her dad is the son of my dad’s father’s sister. I would explain Roger used to baby sit me and one time fed me a box of chocolate cake mix because he didn’t know how to cook. I nudge Vincent in the ribs when his eyes glaze over, but I know he knows we’re family.

This was my third trip to Guatemala, but only my second visit to the Lake Izabal region. My first trip was a blur with lots of activity. My memories were of long bus rides, smiling faces, heat, making cement floors, doing math in the dirt with little girls, water bottles, heat, a beautiful lake, accepting people, and (did I mention?) heat. In December, our church was able to bring three members of our partner presbytery to Louisville. Perry, Vincent, and I hosted Ramiro. In my bad Spanish, Vincent’s worse Spanish, and Perry’s continued questions in Spanish we learned about Ramiro’s family and life in El Estor. On this return trip I looked forward to seeing Ramiro’s family, smiling faces, a beautiful lake, and accepting people. I knew to expect water bottles, long bus rides, and heat.

What I didn’t expect was the overwhelming feeling of family. It was a family reunion. Somehow these people weren’t just our partners. I had prayed for these people. I had memories of these people and this place. I remembered their faces. I knew my way from Arca de Noe church to the hotel. Most importantly of all, I knew they had prayed for my church, had memories of our visits, remembered some of the members of our group’s faces, and, as I pleasantly learned after our first night in El Estor, those little girls I did math in the dirt with, they remembered my name. They remembered me. We were family.

Don’t get me wrong. I think of Crescent Hill Presbyterian as my church home, but there is something about traveling so far away, not very often, and being accepted. I see Crescent Hill members pretty often. You all are kind of like immediate family. The kind you see all the time and sometimes take for granted. Going to El Estor I got to see my extended family. The kind you have to explain to your child how you’re related.

Exactly like other family reunions, hugs were given freely, smiles and nods were exchanged across the room, children born since our last visit or too young to remember peeked from behind mothers’ skirts. You can also ask our youth, Freddy was still there ready to throw the Frisbee or play soccer. This was just the same as those long trips to West Virginia except soccer w,uld be replaced by softball and cousin Freddy would probably be named Mike.

This trip served many purposes. We discussed our partnership. We visited several churches we had not seen before. We held several workshops. We played frisbee and soccer. But, most importantly. it reminded me that we are family. Crescent Hill and Presbyteriano de Izabal are my church family. We have a common progenitor. We are all part of God’s family.

Peter's message

The title of this little reflection is “Risk.” I’d thought about calling it “Faith,” but that’s something I know almost nothing about. On the other hand, risk to life and limb in Central America is something I fancy I know a good bit about. Maria and I lived there for almost 4 years in the 1980s.

When the group of us met last week to plan today’s worship service, one of us wondered out loud if we shouldn’t mention the risks that we had taken to travel and stay in Guatemala—the “intentional killing” rate there, for example, is 38 per 100,000 people, which is about nine times higher than it is in the U.S. Plus there’s a list of things like kidnapping, robbery, bad roads, bad drivers, malaria, dengue, and water-born illnesses that anyone with an unhealthy level of anxiety could brood over for a long time. But my immediate response to the suggestion that we talk about this, which in retrospect I see was a probably unsuccessful attempt at graciousness, was that I didn’t feel like I’d taken any significant risk.

When it was my turn to say what I thought was the most important thing to share at this worship service, I said it was the trip we took to Panzos. This happened on our first full morning in El Estor, the morning after we’d spent the night in the homes of different members of the Arca de Noe church. Some of us, including Jane, were giving a workshop on church leadership at the presbytery meeting, so only about half our group made the trip.

The trip took about an hour, following the northern side of Lake Izabal. Just as we reached the border between the departments of Izabal and Alta Verapaz we came to a dirt road leading off toward the mountain to the north. A man was waiting for us beside a gate, which he was already opening by the time our mini-bus got there. He hopped onto the bus and rode with us for the trip out to the community, which was only about a half mile.

The bus stopped at a house, the first house of 18, as it turned out, the house that was closest to the road. We piled out. The community was all waiting there for us. The sun was hot and bright. We were invited into the porch of the house, kind of a lean-to. This space was used to store two stacks of hundred-weight bags of chemical fertilizer that the people had managed to buy cheaply through a government program and which they were saving for the time when they actually had any land to use it on.

The space was maybe ten feet square, not room enough for everyone, but enough room for us, the visitors, to all sit down in the shade.

This territory was familiar to me. When I lived in Central America I often traveled out to rural communities of incredibly poor people, who showed me every kindness and all hospitality, and asked them to talk to me about what they were going through.

These families had been part of a larger community that lived right there until about 3 years ago when they were persuaded to move to work a big farm on the other side of the mountain range. Then, recently, 18 of the families decided to move back because the other place didn’t have a school. They didn’t really have a school in Panzos either, as it turned out. The kids (35 of them) now have to walk an hour and a half to school.

They said that they didn’t own the land. The land was owned by the National Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Guatemala, the IENPG, which had bought it to relocate families displaced by the destruction of Hurricane Mitch in 1998. There was a hold-up. They didn’t know what it was. The land had to be surveyed. There were questions about the title. Lawyers were needed for something. They were working through the Presbytery of El Estor to try to get things moving but they didn’t know where the process was. Whether it was a question of lack of resources, lack of commitment, forgetfulness, bureaucracy…. They didn’t know.

After our talk we sang some hymns and prayed and then we walked around the community for a while. People were in the middle of building their houses or carving out a flat space on the mountainside in preparation for building. They had some sweet potatoes and squash here and there. We loosened up a bit, talked about the great view and the nice breeze they had up on the mountain.

We were only in Panzos for about two hours but we went from feeling like Martians dropping in from a spaceship to feeling like the same people who come from very, very different circumstances.

Here’s the thing. Although we couldn’t have expected it or predicted it, our visit cheered them up enormously. Just showing up and listening to them say what they were going through made them feel a little more connected to the rest of the world.

They had testified, and we witnessed their testimony. If we accepted that what they said was true, which we did, then we became in some sense—a sense we haven’t yet defined—responsible for their testimony. That’s the risk we’re taking, the risk that we would go to Guatemala and get to know people and begin to feel responsible, before the God we say we believe in, as witnesses to their situation.

Doug's message

Not here yet . . .

Monday, August 13, 2012

Sunday worship plan

We Gather in God’s Name

Welcome Guests!

Creation Calls Us to Worship

Greeting by Elder Gayle Trautwein

Leader: The peace of the risen Christ be with you.

People: And also with you.

The Life of the Church

Prelude: “The Music of the Jungle”

*Call to Worship (Perry Chang)

Leader: The mountains shelter the oasis. The sun and rain nourish your creation. The lake and fields feed your people. And the animals cry out your name.

People: Alleluia! God is here!

*Hymn #472 PH “Cantad al Señor/O Sing to the Lord” (Sing the first verse in Spanish and all others in English)

*Prayer of Confession (Soni Castleberry)

Leader: Creator Dios, you made the heavens and the earth, el sol and la luna. You formed the sky above and the aqua below. You let the waters separate into seas, rivers and lagos.

People: You made the tierra that emerged rich for growing all kinds of plantas to meet our daily needs. You created stars to give luz to this world and to provide direction and structure for our time.

Leader: You filled your creation with fish, birds and other living creatures. And finally, you created an hombre and a mujer in your own image and with dominion over themselves and all you had made. You proclaimed it all — excellente!

People: Dear God, we confess that we take for granted your amazing creaciónes. We abuse the land, waters, air and creatures that inhabit them. We abuse each other and ourselves too.

Leader: We forget you created each of us as único, equal beings meant to be interdependent. Instead, we become uncomfortable when others do not seem like us. We forget those diferencias are just other images of you in them.

People: You created us to work in partnership. Instead, we fear reaching out to form conexiónes or do not trust that you will make a way to allow us to experience things we did not believe we could.

Leader: Help us, Dios, to be more willing to step out of our comfort zones. Help us escuchar to you and act on what we hear. Help us to believe the verdad that you are always with us—here at home, in Guatemala, wherever we are.

People: In the name of Christ, we offer ourselves for forgiveness yet again.

(Silence for examination of conscience and personal prayers of confession)

*Pouring of the Baptismal Water

*Hymn #2007 SF “Santa, Santo, Santo”

(Doug Yeager will play, then Luiz Kemmerle will sing a cappella, then congregation will be invited to join in singing)

Santo, santo, santo,
mi corazón te adora!
Mi corazón te sabe decir:
Santo eres, Dios!

*Declaration of Forgiveness

Leader: God forgives us:

People: God makes peace within us and among us.

Leader: Let us claim this healing, in faith and hope.

*Sung Response: “Bienvenido!”

Bienvenido! Bienvenido!
Los hermanos hoy aquí
nos gozamos endecir;
Bienvenido! Bienvenido!
Al volvernos a reunir,

(Loose translation: Welcome! We have great joy in saying Welcome! Until we meet again, Welcome!)

*The Peace in Q´eqchi´

Leader: Lix tuktuil rusilal li kawa chi cuank eeriki ut kukin.
People: Lix tuktuil rusilal li kawa chi cuank eeriki ut kukin.

(Translation: May the peace of Christ be with you.)

(Greet one another with signs of Christ’s peace.)

*Sung Response: “Peace, Salaam, Shalom”

Peace, Salaam, Shalom,
Peace, Salaam, Shalom,
Peace, Salaam, Shalom,
Peace, Salaam, Shalom.

*Litany of Parting

Congregation: May God be with you there.
Children: May God be with you here.

We Hear and Proclaim God’s Word

Prayer for Illumination

The Message Through Scripture and Reflection

Genesis 1#26-27 (Doug Yeager)

John 1#1-5, 14 (Luiz Kemmerle)
Reflection (Peter Kemmerle)

Romans 1#8-12 (Vince Mathews)
Reflection (Stephanie Gregory)
Reflection (Douglass Yeager)

Deuteronomy 31#7-8 (Ginny Brown)
Reflection (Ginny Brown)

We Respond to God’s Word

*Hymn: “Unidos” (Sing first in English, then in Spanish)

Together, together, in your name, we gather.
Together, together, in your name, we gather.
Then we’ll have in this world peace and love around us.
Then we’ll have in this world peace and love around us.
Together we’re united; we hold hands as we struggle;
we walk into the world singing God’s song of love.
The glory of our Lord, resplendent ever will shine.
The whole world will be joyful with love and peace.

Unidos, unidos, en tu nombre unidos.
Unidos, unidos, en tu nombre unidos.
Pues en esté mundo paz y amor tendremos,
Pues en esté mundo paz y amor tendremos.
Unidos, siempre unidos, toman donos las manos
iremos por el mundo cantando al amor.
La Gloria de Jesus, al fin resplandecera
Y el mundo llenara de amor y de paz.

Gathering the Prayers of the People (Ginny Brown)

Minute for Mission (Amanda Craft)

The Offering (Perry Chang)

Offertory: “Raul’s Song”

*Sung Response #2184 SF “Sent Out in Jesus’ Name” (Sing in either English or Spanish)

English: Sent out in Jesus’ name, our hands are ready now
to make the earth the place in which the kingdom comes.
Sent out in Jesus’ name, our hands are ready now
to make the earth the place in which the kingdom comes.
The angels cannot change a world of hurt and pain
into a world of love, of justice and of peace.
The task is ours to do, to set it really free,
O help us to obey and carry out your will.

Spanish: Enviado soy de Dios, mi mano lista está
para construir con El un mundo fraternal.
Enviado soy de Dios, mi mano lista está
para construir con El un mundo fraternal.
Los ángeles no son enviados a cambiar
un mundo de dolor por un mundo de paz.
Me ha tocadoa mí hacerlo realidad; ayúdame, Señor, a hacer tu voluntad.

We Give Thanks to God

*Prayer of Thanksgiving

Leader: Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
People: It is right to give our thanks and praise.
Leader: Take what we and our brothers and sisters in Christ offer
People: and blend it into a heavenly concoction that unites us in praise, service, and thanksgiving to You.

We Go in God’s Name

*Hymn #432 PH “Song of Hope” (Sing first in Spanish, then in English)

*Charge and Blessing (Jane Larsen-Wigger)

All: *Alleluia! Amen!

Another conversation

As preparations for the Sunday, August 12 Guatemala mission trip-focused worship service wound down before worship August 5, 2012 Guatemala mission team members brainstormed more about trip follow-up.  Perry suggested that, instead of trying to rush the draft partnership plan through the Outreach Council and session, the Guatemala task force take more time to deliberate about it and perhaps to run it by the Estoreño partnership committee.  Other suggested it be edited more.  Peter also suggested that follow-up about the possible Panzos land distribution take place.  Eventually, the group agreed to arrange to talk with CHPC’s Maria Arroyo about a range of issues related to working with the Guatemalan Presbyterian church (IENPG), the Q’eqchi’ presbyteries, and the PC(USA):  facilitating the land distribution, trying to figure out the recommended 5% tithe to IENPG in connection with all gifts to individual presbyteries, sorting out the three different Q’eqchi’ theological education initiatives, and tracking the possible freeing up of the Walton funds for the education of indigenous people in Guatemala.  Perry was to try to arrange such a time for discussion, which would build on a lunchtime discussion with Maria at Impellizeri’s on Main Street after the January 2011 Guatemala mission network gathering that she attended.


Wednesday, August 8, 2012

August prayers

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

- On Sunday, August 5, and the week thereafter:  Puerto del Cielo church in the El Estor suburb of La Union and worshipers.

- On Sunday, August 12, and the week thereafter: Arca de Noe church in El Estor, Pastor Gerardo Pop Ich and family, and elders, deacons, and members.

- On Sunday, August 19, and the week thereafter: Altar de Noe church in El Estor’s Los Cerritos neighborhood, Pastor Raul Contreras Tut and family, and elders, deacons, and members.

- On Sunday, August 26, and the week thereafter: Espiritu Santo church in El Estor’s San Marcos neighborhood, Pastor José Domingo Xo Ical and family, and elders, deacons, and members.

- On Sunday, September 2, and the week thereafter: Monte Sinai church in the village of San Carlos El Pouvenir outside of Puerto Barrios, Pastor Pastor Santos Teyul Mucu and family, and elders, deacons, and members.

Doug's (Q'eqchi' Bible) distribution displays

Late July informe

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Food for Thought

Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) mission co-worker Amanda Craft (pictured above with son Ethan), who helped three representatives of Crescent Hill’s Guatemala partner presbytery obtain passports and visas to visit Kentuckiana, will be back at Crescent Hill Sunday (August 12) to give a Minute for Mission during worship and to talk over/after a Food for Thought lunch about her work with Guatemala Presbyterian women and women’s organizations.  Be there for a light lunch and inspiring and informative words and stories from Amanda.

August 12 worship

Sunday morning worship, August 12, will features members of the 2012 Guatemala mission team sharing and reflecting on what they learned from the trip.  The worship – planned partly this past Sunday (pictured above) will feature reflections from Doug, Ginny, Peter, Douglas, and possibly Stephanie, as well as music, singing, and vocalizing by Doug, Luiz, Vincent, and – on tape – Raul Contreras.  2007 mission team member Andrea will play piano.  Don’t miss it!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Women at Panzos singing

We're famous!

Flores maps

Peter's notes for the church history workshop

27 B.C. Julio Cesar se hace emperor
0 – nacimiento de Jesus Cristo
33 – crucificion de Jesus Cristo
33 – Pentecostes (Acts 2: 1-6)
33 – 120 periodo apostolico
51-59 – cartas de apostolo Paulo
325 – Consejo de Niceo y Credo
432 – Patricio va a irlanda
455 – Vandals sack Rome
570 – Nacimiento de Muhammed
711 – Musulmanes invaden a Espana (y se quedan hasta 1492)
1054 – schism in church, filioque, unleavened bread
1066 – invasión de Inglaterra por los franceses
1095 -1291 – Las Cruzadas
1181 – 1226 – San Francisco de Assis
1348 – Plaga bubonica en Europa – mueren 200 millon (1/3 de la población de Europa)
1441 – Esclavitud de Africanos por los portugueses
1492 Llegada de Columbus en las Americas
1494 Introduccion de Catolicismo en las Americas
1522 95 theses de Martin Lutero
1523 Conquista Hispana de Guatemala
1541- 1549 Juan Calvino hace reformas en Ginebra
1554 Juan Knox (esclavo 1547-1547) en Escocia
1572 – Masacre de San Bartolomeo en Francia (20K victimas)
1600 – crecimiento de la industria de azucar en las Americas, el motor para esclavitud. 12 millons de personas estan traidos a las Americas como esclavos, 2 de cada 3 para trabajar con industria de azucar

1620 – Ingleses llegan en Norteamerica (Mayflower)
1706 Fundacion de PC(USA), Philadelphia
1710 – 1930 – cientos de miles de irlandeses y gente de Escocia vinieron EEUU, mayoria de ellos fueron Presbiterianos

1775 – 1783 EEUU se libera de Inglaterra primera revolucion en las Americas.
1791 – liberacion de Haiti de Francia
1810 – Cumberland Presbyterian church se va porque querian relajar los requisitos para la ordinacion en areas de frontera.

1822-1824 Independencia de America Latina de Espana.
1856 – Pasteur muestra que microorganismos causan la enfermedad
1861-1865 - Guerra Civil de los EEUU
1876 – invencion de telefono
1885 – invencion del carro
1890 - Fundacion de IENPG
1897 - invencion del radio
1903 – invencion del avion
1920 – mujeres en los EEUU ganan derecho de votar
1939 – 1945 Segunda Guerra Mundial
1954 – Golpe contra gobierno de Jacobo Arbenz
1956 - Ordinacion de la primera pastora en la PC(USA
              Fundacion del primer presbiterio indigeno de la IENPG

1960 – 1996 La guerra en Guatemala
1962-1965 – Vatican II
1968 – Medellin
1976 – terremoto en Guatemala, 23,000 muertos
1983 - La reunion entre las dos iglesias presbiterianas en los EEUU.
1989 – fin de comunismo
1996 - Acorde de paz en Guatemala
2010 – REC y WARC juntan y forman la Comunion de Iglesias Reformadas del Mundo WCRC

Notes for Jane's Sunday sermons

Mark 4:36-41

Sea of Galilee – is really more like a Big Lake
A lot like Izabal.
Several miles long and a few across
But can see to the other side
Pretty much of all of Jesus’ ministry was there.
Began by calling fishermen as first disciples.
Began to teach by the Sea.
After resurrection – risen Christ appeared to those disciples.

The Sea – really important.
Also beautiful. Sea – sometimes peaceful.
But also – as you know from this lake – can be dangerous and chaotic.
Like life. Like discipleship.

Mark Chapter 4 – parables – about the realm of God.
Call for trust in God’s ways. God’s purpose.
God’s reign where ALL will kneel in peace and security.
Teaching people in awe.

THEN . . . after this kind of teaching,
Jesus invites the disciples to go with him, TO THE OTHER SIDE (of the Sea).
Hmmm . . . Not so sure. Long way. Dangerous waters.
Not sure what – or who – is on the other side.
Don’t know what is over there – could be threatening.
“The other side” represents all that is different, foreign.
If stay on our side . . . what to do, what to expect, the traditions.
The Sea keeps us from the unfamiliar.
But now Jesus is telling us to cross over,
to go through that boundary that separates us.

That’s what Jesus has called us to do in this partnership.
We – your presbytery, our church – are each crossing over . . .
not letting the Sea – or anything – separate us.
A little scary.
Means we get to know people who are different from us,
who talk a different language,
who have different traditions, ideas, ways of doing things,
who we don’t – or won’t – always understand and agree with.
But Jesus calls us to go – with Him – to cross over.

That’s why we are here. We heard Jesus call.
And so we – with our church praying and helping –
made the trip – hard, with a long day of travel –
And why some of you (Gerardo, Macaria, and Ramiro) –
made to trip to visit us, to cross over language –
hard trips, scary airplanes, and scary visa application process.

None of us actually on the water to get to each other –
more cars, buses, and airplanes.
We cross to learn about each other’s struggles
and for the joy of being discovered in our different places.

We learn so much coming here – being with you –
about how to be faithful in hard times,
how to witness to God’s love in the midst of violence,
how to start new churches with little money,
what makes your women’s organization so strong,
and keeps your young people engaged
and you – with us – see our setting –
ways to remove people’s busy-ness and distraction

(All in all) – so we can get know each other
and understand one another
and see not just our differences
but also what we have in common,
because we are really in the same boat –
and Jesus is there/here with us.

It won’t be easy.
Being a disciple of Jesus isn’t always easy.
But we don’t have to be afraid –
Because Jesus is here with us –
as we cross over (and)
go through the boundaries that separate us
and (as) we realize we are all one,
all in the same boat,
with Jesus who is moving us
together! –
closer to God’s kingdom
where all people everywhere
know security
and live together in peace.

We learn from each other –
and practice together –
trusting Jesus who is in the boat with us –
The One who stills the waters.
The One who points us in new directions.
The One who has called us to cross over
into each other’s territory.

I am very thankful that he has.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Gathering notes

Almost a dozen Crescent Hill folks interested in Guatemala mission gathered Sunday to talk about the recent Guatemala mission trip and follow-up. The half a dozen 2012 Guatemala mission team members there took turns sharing memories and reflections. A dominant theme among the mostly adult Guatemala repeat visitors was that it was like a family reunion, as they reconnected with people from previous trips and connected the dots about relationships among Guatemalans. Visualizing, implementing, and cementing relationship-building was a general theme also. Some team members raved about going to Tikal, while others said that more time spent in El Estor and environs might have been worthwhile. Folks there brainstormed about possible next steps: Jane underlined the possibility of additional support for the theological education institute for pastors and other church leaders, perhaps with leftover funds or through the rarely celebrated at Crescent Hill Theological Education Sunday, the Sunday before World Communion Sunday, when the local part of Crescent Hill’s Peacemaking Offering might go towards the training institute. Jane also talked about the possibility of asking if some of the women who shared with team members craft gifts, or even their PW circle colleagues, could be induced to make some more and send them to us and we could sell them, perhaps at an alternative Christmas fair, perhaps along with some Appalachian crafts, with the money being returned to them. This might result in something ongoing, Jane said, perhaps even involving those mystery sewing machines there (or the Guatemalans might in turn show Crescent Hill folks how to use the Guatemalans’ miniature looms). Jane also mentioned the possibility on the next trip of visiting other outlying churches: Monte Sinai, Hijo del Dios Viviente, and Buen Samaritano, and nearby towns like Puerto Barrios and Livingston.

Perry raised the possibility of joint mission projects such as bringing some Guatemalans to go on an Appalachian mission trip to Hazard and possibly joint fund-raising, for example, for Fletcher and Sarah’s children’s mission in Malawi and then having several Crescent Hill and Guatemalan folks travel there together. He also asked whether Crescent Hill was interested in reviving parallel Bible study or prayer vigils. Soni mentioned the possibility of a scrap-booking project in which some team members and others in the congregation might make scrapbooks about each successive trip/visit, using available photos and possibly other artifacts. Those gathered extended this to talk about the possibility of a Food for Thought Sunday lunch when Crescent Hill folks shared about the recent trip and perhaps other visits, using the scrapbooks or slides of the scrapbook materials. Assuming the August 12 Guatemala Sunday goes as planned, with the mission team-led worship service and the talk by Amanda Craft at lunch after worship, another team this might take place would be in November, perhaps in conjunction with a Guatemalan and Appalachian crafts fair.

Jane reported on her and Ellen’s participation in a Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Guatemala mission network gathering planning meeting, after the other team members have returned to the United States, when these folks brainstormed about a networking gathering in Guatemala in January 2013, during the dry season, which Jane had mixed feelings about and wasn’t sure Crescent Hill would be able to participate in.

Jane also mentioned a few things she’s include in future trips, including: everyone bringing a water bottle in advance, not staying at Bruno’s in Rio Dulce, giving people a couple of menu options only for dinner, and pre-ordering breakfast with all of the same menu. She also mentioned that she ran into Marisabela, the El Estor hotel proprietress, at the Hotel Spring in Guatemala City.

The group also talked about thank-you gifts and notes going to the many Crescent Hill folks who helped out, and the details/process of trying to replace the damaged Hotel Marisabela window air-conditioning unit. Perry expressed an interest in gathering more of the names, phone numbers, and e-mail addresses of partners that mission team members gathered while in Izabal. Perry said he’d help draft a possible new partnership plan/covenant, while Jane said she’d set a date for a smaller group to finalize plans for the Sunday, August 12 worship service. Jane urged any who had not to read the reflection statements by Appalachian mission team participants, and hoped that all team members in town would participate in the service in some way, with a handful presenting reflections.

The group also brainstormed a little about the second part of August's Guatemala Sunday: mission co-worker Amanda Craft's Food for Thought talk after worship. Jane suggested that Amanda focus on her work with women in Guatemala and Stephanie volunteered to make beans and rice. Another topic Amanda might address in connection with her work with Guatemalan church women: her own process of family change. More food preparation volunteers will be needed. Perry also indicated he would take a stab at a draft partnership plan, in consultation with others. There was also a general discussion about engaging the congregation more in the partnership. A few participants said the phrase "Guatemala mission task force" might turn some people, and the possibility of a name group name was raised.

There was no discussion about future gathering, although a 9:30 a.m. Saturday, August 11 date had been set tentatively.