Saturday, February 9, 2013

Guatemala mission network

Although some of the most intense times at the Guatemala mission network gathering were spent in theological and business discussions among our partners, various translators/facilitators, and me, plenty of time was also spent talking about the future of the Guatemalan mission network and the relationship between the two national churches. I participated in some of the discussions about the future of the network. With no moderator or convener during the past two years, much of network leadership came from PC(USA) mission worker Philip Beisswinger and Tracey King-Ortega, PC(USA) Central America regional liaison, along with the July network gathering planning group that included Ellen and Jane. PC(USA) folks who were part of the gathering decided to ask folks in this planning group to continue working with Philip, Tracey, and other PC(USA) staff now to plan an all-PC(USA) network gathering next year in the United States. This planning group was encouraged to add more people to its group as needed (as well as to accept a resignation or two if necessary ) and to reconstitute itself in some form or another to then plan a joint PC(USA)-Guatemalan church network gathering in Guatemala in two years (in other words, in 2015). There was discussion about the PC(USA) part of the network in the future possibly supporting a parallel gathering of Guatemalan partners, in Guatemala, also on even years, or possibly going back to bringing Guatemalans to the U.S. meetings.

North Americans at the gathering, and separately Guatemalans at the gathering, each drafted statements of purpose, which I will aim to share, and I volunteered to work with Tracey King-Ortega, and possibly others, to try to start up some online social networking and educational activities – initially with the PC(USA) side of the network – that might include an e-mail list, a Facebook group, a blog, and one or two webinars, one possibly a book club discussion group about a book about Presbyterian partnership principles or about Guatemala and the other possibly a presentation, and then questions and answers, about the Guatemalan educational system led by folks from a mission team that investigated this.



The current Estoreño Presbytery Executive Committee members are:

-President Benjamin Sacul (Pablo’s son and Familia de Noe pastor)
-Vice President Ramiro Quib
-Secretary Raul Contreras Tut (Altar de Noe church pastor)
-Corresponding Secretary Noe Chub
-Treasurer Roberto Caal (Macaria’s husband)
-At-large member Santo Teyal Munc, pastor of the Monte Sinai church near Puerto Barrios
-At-large member Carlos Enrique Tut Coc
-At-large member Santiago Chub
-Collaborator Gerardo Ich Pop

The current presbytery International Relations Committee members are:
-President Raul Contreras Tut
-Vice President Pablo Sacul
-Treasurer Gerardo Ich Pop
-Secretary Ramiro Quib
-At-large member Carmen Quib
-At-large member Maria Xo Ical
-At-large member Nury Marleny Cajbom

The next presbyter-wide assembly will take place the Familia de Noe church March 15-16 (Saturday and Sunday). The presbytery-wide women’s and youth and young adult organizations will meet simultaneously. Another presbytery-wide gathering will take place September 13-14.

-Ramiro’s correct cell phone number: 407 87225
-Milton Garcia:
-Marina de Monterroso (of the International Relations committee and Occidente Presbytery):
-Alma Lili Rodriguez (pastor of the Fuente de Luz church, a member of Occidente Presbytery and advisor to the Guatemalan Presbyterian Women organization):
-Miriam Mazariegos (Living Waters for the World in-country Guatemala coordinator):
-El Carmen Hotel (Roberto's hotel in Antigua):



What I told Gerardo and Pablo, the two Estoreño Presbytery representatives at the Guatemala Mission Network gathering, that I would recommend to the Crescent Hill Guatemala Mission Task Force:

1. That we “forgive” their expenditure of $300 for communication between us which we had sent last February, which they spent instead of the theological education for church leaders program.

2. That we gladly begin to receive detailed financial reports – like the ones we have been receiving in other areas – for communication expenditures (both monthly).

3. That we change our draft partnership plan for 2013-2015 not to give a specific monthly amount for communication and that our partners and we revisit the correct amount in June or July.

4. That we report to the Outreach Council that our partners are spending the communication budget on computer time, cell phone minutes, and equipment rental.

5. That we consider feedback from the Outreach Council and the Guatemalans before we submit to the partnership plan to the session for consideration in March.

6. That we figure out a way to transmit a singed copy of our plan to the Guatemalans later this spring and that we gladly accept their own plan at that time.

7. That we add to the plan, before all of that, another bullet point with a pledge to work with the Guatemalans to explore with them other possible U.S. partners, including perhaps the Mid-Kentucky Presbytery, various PC(USA) grant programs, and (unsaid) micro-credit programs for possible projects such as the proposed chicken proposal, use of the dewing machines, crafts sales to the United States, or a water project.

8. That we would continue to explore alternative ways to transmit financial information to the Guatemalans and that in the future – only after the bank has told us that the money has reached Guatemala - we send single-topic e-mail messages about financial transmissions, with the exact amount and purpose, not only to Rene but also to Roberto (the presbytery treasurer) and others.

9. That all (or a portion of) the proceeds of the possible late spring church yard sale go to the presbytery’s theological education program.

10. That we consider future visits – one direction or another – in 2013 or 2014.

11. That we talk with Guatemalan partners during the morning of the first Saturday of every month – by Skype/Facebook video chat, or, if necessary, by phone – except for we skip this in February 2013.

Gerardo, Pablo, Ellen, and I also engaged in spirited/intense discussion:

1. About whether we need a joint, general covenant

2. About whether our partners had informed us in a timely manner about some alternative use of funds we had sent

3. About whether we had informed our partners about transmission of funds and their intended purposes in an effective, timely, and accurate money

4. About the extent of Gerardo and Pablo’s knowledge about the situation with the Esfuerza congregation and a Guatemalan Presbyterian Women visit to Kzabal

I am also tentatively planning to give World Mission’s Marisa Bustamante a $150 check as our 5% “tithe” to IENPG (more or less 5% of the amount we’ve sent to the presbytery so far).


Top 10

Top 10 reasons why it was a good idea that the church sent Perry to Guatemala:

1. Ellen and I (along with some other translator/facilitators) engaged Gerardo and Pablo in conversation about the work of the partnership four times for a total of five hours. Some provisional decisions emerged.

2. Gerardo, Pablo, and I, along with some others, were able to engaged in two small-group theological discussions, about some pictures we chose, two biblical passages, and questions about our partnership. Mission was the theme of all the conversations, and Gerardo and Pablo sometimes said things that surprised me.

3. I got to participate in discussions about the future of the Guatemalan Mission Network and of the relationship between the PC(USA) and Guatemalan national church (the IENPG). Topics included future network gatherings, the purpose of the network, and the vest way to transmit money to Guatemalan partners. I volunteered to help with some online network educational activities.

4. I got to meet and talk with a number of people who we might engage in the future: the IENPG permanent secretary, the head of PRESGOV the head of the presbytery seminary in Guatemala, the only member of the IENPG international relations committee with an e-mail address, the head of the Guatemalan version of Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, the head of the network of La Patria K-12 schools, the leaders of Living Waters for the World in Guatemala, a female pastor who is the advisor to Presbyterian Women in Guatemala, the two men who emerged as the most influential in the North American side of the network (aside from the mission workers), and two people from a Cincinnati area church that is trying to set up a partnership with a fledgling multi-function ministry in Coban. I was also able to catch with old CHPC friends – besides Gerardo and Pablo – including several present and former mission workers and some folks who were involved in Amigos de K’ekchi’. I also talked by phone with Ramiro and Antonio.

5. I got to improve my Spanish via 32 hours of Spanish classes in Antigua, homework and review, and lots of practice in the Antigua and Guatemala City areas. For the most part, I spoke little English for eight days. I hope that improvement or my Spanish will in some ways benefit the partnership.

6. I got to chit-chat with Gerardo and Pablo, about the death of Gerardo’s wife, about their families, about the future of their ministries, and about the Q’eqchi’ language.

7. I got to meet and visit with Carlos and Nora’s families, including exchanging gifts, which I hope will strengthen our connections with the extended Lara-Lopez family and our Guatemalan ministries.

8. I got to participate in some difficult conversations, which included Gerardo confronting the IENPG permanent secretary and me confronting Gerardo, Pablo, and Ellen about some issues. I was also a witness for women’s pastoral leadership, another issue.

9. My visit and our conversations made more palatable the possibility that our church will not make another 2013 visit.

10. I got to talk with people and reflect on my future, including possibly a future that would involve continued participation in the partnership. Ramiro and I agreed to pray for each other, as both of us are at career crossroads.


Theological discussions

A passage from Matthews (25: 31-46) about Christians having fed Jesus when they fed other hungry people provoked some interesting responses, during one of the two or three theological discussions that were part of the Guatemala Mission Network gathering. Gerardo said that both words and deeds are important for Christians. By this, I interpreted him as saying that both talking with people about our Christian faith and showing them Christian love by helping care for them are important. Both Gerardo and Pablo also talked about the threat of Hell – for those who failed to feed others/Jesus – that this passage refers to. But then Pablo went on to say that God would like everyone to be saved. It’s up to us to help feed and talk about our faith with other people so that all may be with God, Pablo said. God has the power to help us with these tasks, Gerardo said, and our task, I added, it to trust God that God will enable us to reach people through word and deed.



For me, some of the most moving moments of the network gathering occurred through music. Two Central Presbyterian Church bands performed during the gathering’s opening worship service, and the singing by an all-male bluegrass/Christian contemporary barbershop quartet particularly struck me. During that same opening worship service, those there also sang a series of hymns, mainly in Spanish. The singing of one hymn, “How Great Thou Art,” which Crescent Hill folks have heard sung in El Estor also, really struck me. Standing next to me, Gerardo and Pablo sang harmonies in Spanish that really warmed my heart.

A final magical musical moment appeared when an improvising Philip Beisswinger – the PC(USA) mission worker who led much of the gathering and who had threatened to start singing if folks at the gathering didn’t come back from a break quickly enough – sure enough, began to sing the old Gospel song “Stand Up and Tell Me if You Love My Jesus.” Soon, Philip had many of us (North Americans and Guatemalans) singing and – in turn – waving our hands, moving around, and even dancing. During each of these magical movements – and all the more so in the totally unplanned singing and dancing moment – the Holy Spirit seemed to really be at work in the Central Presbyterian sanctuary.


Church change

When I couldn’t reach Ramiro (one of the three Guatemalans who visited Kentuckiana about a year ago) by phone from Antigua, I tried instead Antonio, a Q’eqchi’ minister who had been friends with PC(USA) mission workers in Guatemala and then moved to Izabal and, when the mission team visited last summer, was pastoring a mission congregation of the Arca de Noe church in the outlying El Estor community of Esfuerza. I couldn’t understand everything Antonio said, but my impression was that the Esfuerza congregation had closed and Antonio and his family had moved an hour away. Later, Gerardo said that they didn’t know what was happening with this congregation because they hadn’t been able to reach Antonio. Ellen suggested that Crescent Hill folks continue to pray for Antonio and his family and the Esfuerza congregation, although Antonio might also be contacted again by a more fluent Spanish speaker for clarification.

Pablo also explained that a mission church has recently been developed in Acacar, which apparently is an outlying village.

Pablo and Gerardo also provided the names of leaders of several congregations in outlying areas: Oscar Tzul in Panzos, Antonio Choc Yut in Nueva Amanacer, and Mariano Cuz in Acacar.


New friends

A number of interesting people (who were new to me) with important messages engaged me in conversation during the three-day Guatemala Mission Network gathering:

-Isaias Garcia, the newish permanent secretary of the national Presbyterian church (IENPG), with whom PC(USA) mission worker Amanda Craft and I talked over lunch about – of all things – difficulties getting PC(USA) new church developments started.

-Pastor Todd Jenkins, a volunteer coordinator for Living Waters for the World in Guatemala (and also two colleagues), maintained that Waters has changed its approach to stress partnership formation first, and water, projects, if any, second, and he and two colleagues suggested that – pending water testing – water from Lake Izabal should be good enough to purify and the approval to sell non-church members challenge should be surmountable.

-A leader of the small network of La Patria Presbyterian private schools in Guatemala who apparently helped supervise the La Patria school in Coban that a Crescent Hill mission team visited in 2010 explained how the IENPG and La Patria are trying to build a school, Presbyterian church, training institute, guest house, and sports field at a new site in Coban, which they will own.

-Ramiro Bolaños, the dean of Guatemala’s Presbyterian seminary, although he said No to more support of the Estoreño Presbytery theological education training program, apparently persuaded Gerardo and Pablo that the presbytery should send five pastors (all that is allowed) to the Q’eqchi’-language theological education program in Coban that will start in February and will run one three-day weekend per month for much of 2013.

-Miguel Angel Tale of PRESGOV. I praised Alfredo, driver for the 2012 Crescent Hill mission team, and told Miguel that Crescent Hill might be using PRESGOV services again. This man is the one who plans logistics and even activities for PRESGOV-facilitated mission trips. Last year Crescent Hill did not connect with him because the church mission team used PRESGOV for their van and Alfredo’s driving primarily, planning the trip ourselves.

-Carlos Herfst, a Canadian Guatemalan who runs the Diaconia, the Guatemalan Church’s version of Presbyterian Disaster Assistance. He gave a short presentation with good background about Guatemalan history and society that also outlined the range of kind of disasters that have attached Guatemalan society – not just natural disasters. I will make a PDF file version of his PowerPoint presentation available.

-Two female leaders of the Guatemalan church: Alma Lili, a pastor and advisor to the national Presbyterian Women organization, and Marina de Monterroso, a member of the national church’s International Relations committee, both of whom gave e-mail addresses for themselves. Marina remembered meeting with Jane and Ellen Dozier last July, at a planning meeting of the network gathering – and she is the one I told I would try to keep informed about partnership activities.

-Milton Garcia, the head of the IENPG youth and young adult ministry, who knows Ramiro and who had recently gotten married and had also been ordained as a minister the night before.

-Jim Moseley, presbytery executive of Delaware’s New Castle Presbytery. It turned out that Jim is acquainted with my old pastor (in Florida) and Pastor Jane. He and I talked about my future, which he had some ideas about, and he preached a magnificent sermon in the closing worship service, which included lots of nice repetition and conjured up a wonderful image (in our heads) of Jesus the carpenter fashioning yokes for oxen that we were encouraged to see as a metaphor for God and partnership activities.

-David Carlton, from Middle Tennessee Presbytery, who had information and opinions about many things. David had been several times to a Baptist church in Brownsboro, Kentucky, where a special type of spiritual music called Sacred Harp (made famous on the “Cold Mountain” soundtrack) is sung at an annual gathering.

-Harry Stone and Jane Whelan, two people from Cincinnati’s Eastminster Presbyterian Church, which is exploring starting what would be the third PC(USA) congregation to Guatemalan Presbyterian church presbytery partnership (the Crescent Hill-Estoreño partnership being one of the other two). The church first looked at partnering with the remnants of the old Izabal Presbytery, now located south of Lake Izabal, but decided visiting would be too difficult for their many older church members. At the same time, Cincinnati Presbytery itself is starting a presbytery-to-presbytery partnership. There are two three-way partnerships, one with two Guatemalan presbyteries and one PC(USA) presbytery and the other with one Guatemalan presbytery and two PC(USA) presbyteries. One U.S. presbytery, Baltimore, is shutting down its partnership because of transparency issues.

-Two women who helped translate/facilitate for Gerardo, Pablo, and me. Janet, a Guatemalan women from a Pentecostal church who had a friend with Guatemala City’s Central Presbyterian Church (which hosted the gathering) who translated during theological discussions among the three of us and also translated the Estoreño Presbytery’s 2013 theological education program proposal into English, and Judy Nebrig, a colleague of Ellen Dozier in Western North Carolina, who ended up tag-teaming with Ellen helping her translate at the majority of the business discussions among Gerardo, Pablo, and me.

Also interesting to reconnect with were Ellen; Amanda Craft, the fourth translator/facilitator, who joined her baby to help translate for Gerardo, Pablo, and me; Philip Beisswinger, the PC(USA) mission worker who organized and led much of the gathering; Tracey King-Ortega, the PC(USA)’s Central America regional liaison who spent the first night of the gathering in a Guatemala City hospital violently ill but who returned for Day 2 to facilitate several key small-group activities; Patrona, a Q’eqchi’ woman from the Izabal presbytery who has worked with Jennifer Thalman-Kepler and Looking for Lilith Theater Company’s Faith Stories project and who is now the Guatemalan church’s Presbyterian Women’s first (for now, unpaid) regional organizer; Karla Koll, another PC(USA) mission worker back teaching in Guatemala after being in the United States for cancer treatment; Dennis Smith, now a PC(USA) regional liaison in South America, who – like Karla – has spoken in the past at Crescent Hill about Guatemalan society; and Richard and Debbie Welch, old friends from the Amigos de K’ekchi’ organization that brought together U.S. Presbyterians partnering with Q’eqchi’ presbyteries whose Pacific Northwest Inland Northwest Presbytery has a partnership with the Estoreño-adjacent Polocic Presbytery that includes some of the Panzos area.


2013 theological education proposal (in English)

Click on each image to enlarge:

2013 theological education proposal (in Spanish)

Click on each image to enlarge:

January Estoreño report

Click on each image to enlarge:

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Social divisions

The landscape of Guatemalan society came into even clearer focus for me through conversations I had with one of my Spanish teachers. She talked about key divisions in Guatemalan society:

-a three-way racial and cultural division among (1) Spaniards; (2) Ladinos or mestizos; and (3) indigenous people. Overlapping with this are geographic divisions between urban and rural areas and among different regions of the country.

-a division between men and women that occasionally became obvious during the Guatemala City gathering.

-a political division between the Right and Left that was most obvious during the quarter-century war when the military was linked with the Right and the guerrillas with the Left but is still evident today as the current president (a former commander of an Army special forces unit) and the previous president (apparently involved with the guerillas) were on opposite sides during the war (even though both are apparently Spaniards and the center-left former president is a Mayan priest)

-a four-way religious division among Roman Catholics, evangelical Protestants (including Presbyterians), Pentecostals, and adherents of Mayan spirituality, along with Garifunas who practice Afro-Caribbean folk religions or even Rastafarianism; Jews; and Muslims (with overlap among some of these).

My teacher talked about the difficulties that would-be upwardly mobile indigenous women would face. Not only would they need to change their dress and their language, but they would also need to change more deeply engrained cultural styles and probably also their facial and other physical appearance, which make-up, for example, could probably only alter ever so slightly.

A continuation of conflicts between communities in Izabal and the nickel mine company – now essentially in Russian hands – (and with which the government – including local government - is apparently allied) – brings into focus many of these divisions. While the nickel mine company and other industries continue to pollute Lake Izabal, the company has also become interested in the road that runs through the land claimed by the Hurricane Mitch community (composed of Presbyterians, essentially refugees) now again of Panzos. This fall the company tried to make a land grab. Seeking to avoid the violence that helped shut down the presbytery’s congregation in El Chupon (and may have killed at least one Presbyterian), the company asked Gerardo again to broker a deal, which, in this case, involved the community (no doubt fearful about what might happen if they stuck to their guns, so to speak) splitting the land with the company and essentially trading part of the land for the company agreeing to help build a school, church, and soccer field.

(We reminded Gerardo and Pablo about similar conflicts in Eastern Kentucky. They told us that the company is just exploring the possibility of mining nearby the Mitch community – that no actual mining is planned yet.)

At one point Gerardo suggested that we pray for calming and improvement of the situation in Panzos, since there is no way of knowing if the company will follow through on its end of the bargain. The deed transfers are slated to be finalized this week.

Gerardo said he also has a dream of reviving the El Estor interdenominational ministerial alliance and focusing its efforts and reaching out to workers of the mining company and locals in conflict with the company, as well to the company in hopes that it will agree to hire and train locals (a dangerous project, to make such a request, he said).  In the mean time, area Presbyterians will continue to pray for both the company and the people in the community in Panzos.

To me, this conflict – big business with allies among foreign companies and the Spaniard- and Ladino-dominated government vs. indigenous small farmers and their families – over land, in this case, really epitomizes the social divisions across the country.

Incidentally, Pablo and Gerardo explained why there are two different spelling for their cultural group (Q’eqchi’ and K’ekchi’). There are two Q’eqchi’ alphabets, one older and one newer. Some signs in El Estor are in the newer K’ekchi’ alphabet, while the Bibles Gerardo and we bought for some of the Estoreño church women were in the older Q’eqchi’ alphabet.


Outreach and evangelism

Outreach and evangelism came up periodically during discussions between North Americans and Crescent Hill’s Guatemalan partners. Gerardo repeated that Crescent Hill visits to El Estor had produced a buzz among the neighborhoods in a town not used to seeing many North Americans. People in the community were curious and wondered when CHPC folks would return. I also explained that people come to and stay at Crescent Hill partly because of our exciting mission endeavors, and the Guatemalan partnership is certainly one of such endeavors that has generated excitement and provided focus, as well as spinoffs (such as the English classes and Spanish-language Bible study). I also explained that one reason why young people who might otherwise drift away from the church stay involved in the church and its youth group is the opportunity to participate in mission trips – including to Guatemala – which they become excited about. In these ways, Crescent Hill and Estoreño Presbytery’s involvement in the partnership serves an outreach and evangelism function for both of us.

- Perry

Teaching and learning

Teaching and learning loomed large as a theme at the late January gathering. Gerardo mentioned in a small group how much he had learned from all the visits during his time in Kentuckiana. Gerardo and Pablo pushed hard for the next phase of the theological education program, even pitching at a plenary and at the same time challenging the permanent secretary of the Guatemalan national Presbyterian church (IENPG) about the development of an alternative Q’eqchi’-language theological education program linked with both the national church and the Presbyterian seminary and based in Coban. (Nevertheless, Pablo and a few other Estoreño pastors will participate in the Coban program in addition to getting their El Estor-based program underway again, ostensibly both in February.)

Gerardo also talked about the Estoreño Presbytery’s incorporation of some Pentecostalist congregations and how important it is to try to teach and promote among these congregations Reformed/Presbyterian theology so that they can become Presbyterian congregations in more than name only. I know we are also interested in theological education – for ourselves and for our Guatemalan friends – and – whether or not we contribute all of the $3,000 or so requested – we will no doubt be involved somehow in theological education on their end in the future.

- Perry


Money was always a looming issue during the Guatemala Mission Network gathering at Guatemala City’s historic Central Presbyterian Church. There was a lot of discussion among the Guatemalans and North Americans about how money should be secondary in partnerships and should come only after partnership formation. But Gerardo mentioned that he could not help but notice during his December 2011 visit to the United States the comparative luxury around him. And a series of debates took place about whether North American Presbyterians should send money to their partners through the Guatemalan national church (the IENPG) and should pay a 5% tithe out of that money to the IENPG. Knowing this is controversial among Crescent Hill folks, I may give Marissa in PC(USA) World Mission a check for $150 and says it’s from us and let that be the tithe for what we have sent so far. I also have an e-mail address for a woman from the IENPG International Relations Committee and, with the CHPC task force’s OK, I will periodically e-mail her about our activities.


Women's leadership

Women’s leadership in the church was a frequent theme at the Guatemala City gathering. On the one hand, a number of the Guatemalans talked about how the example North American partners had provided of women’s pastoral leadership had helped move change along in Guatemalan churches (including in the national church, the IENPG). And women were definitely conspicuous in the gathering—for example, as translators at many events (including the four different women who translated all of the partnership business discussions among Gerardo, Pablo, and me and both of our theological discussions) and as the worship leader, as well as the lead guitarist, in the final worship service in Central Presbyterian Church’s sanctuary.

On the other hand, we learned that this past fall, while Amanda Craft was in the United States, the Guatemalan version of the General Assembly had essentially told the national Guatemalan Presbyterian Women organization, when it held a national meeting in a presbytery that does not sanction women’s pastoral leadership, the organization should ask a male pastor to lead the celebration of the Lord’s Supper (when female pastors from other presbyteries were already there participating). And our partners engaged in a peculiar de facto struggle with the national PW leaders, who showed pictures that appeared to be of them and Amanda visiting Arca de Noe church, while both Gerardo and Pablo denied that any such visit had taken place.


Wednesday, February 6, 2013

February prayers

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

-On Sunday, February 3, and during the week thereafter: Estoreño Presbytery Presbyterian Women organization, President Carmen Quib Caal, and other officers.

-On Sunday, February 10, and during the week thereafter: Estoreño Presbytery youth and young adult organization, President Ramiro Quib, and other officers.

-On Sunday, February 17, and during the week thereafter: Peniel church in Boqueron, Pastor Pablo Sacul, and members, deacons, and elders.

-On Sunday, February 24, 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, March 3, 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.