Monday, July 11, 2016

Late summer prayers

On these weeks Crescent Hill church will prayer for and with the following Guatemala partners:

-On Sunday, July 17, and during the week thereafter: Estoreño Presbytery Executive Committee, President Gerardo Pop Ich, and other officers.

 -On Sunday, July 24, and during the week thereafter:  Estoreño Presbytery Presbyterian Women organization, President Ema, and other officers.

-On Sunday, July 31, and during the week thereafter:  Estoreño Presbytery youth and young adult organization, President Willman, and other officers.

-On Sunday, August 7, and during the week thereafter:  Peniel church in Boqueron, Pastor Fidel Juc, and members, deacons, and elders.

-On Sunday, August 14, 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, August 21, 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, August 28, and the week thereafter:  Puerta del Cielo congregation in the El Estor suburb of La Union of El Estor, Pastor Leonel Cacao, and all worshipers

-On Sunday, September 4, and the week thereafter: Arca de Noe church in El Estor, Pastor Santos Teyul Mucu and family, and members, deacons, and elders.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

We cannot thank you enough

On behalf of the team who visited our Q’ekchi’ partners in Guatemala, please accept our gratitude for all the ways you supported this opportunity. I am sorry that I will be unable to be with you all for today’s service. (I will be attending a family reunion which I have prayed would happen for a very long time. Thanks be to God.)

Today, you will sample some of the experiences we had. We hope it will provide a better understanding why our church feels this partnership is so important. I trust you will see why miles, cultures, theological differences, travel difficulties, and other barriers between us and our Q’ekchi’ sisters and brothers are truly insignificant. When we get to know one another and work in partnership, God is glorified and God’s work is done so much more effectively.

I felt I was carried by angels on this trip. I believe some of those were heavenly ones, others were our Guatemalan partners, and others were you – our church family, and other family and friends. We felt your presence. We were physically supported, emotionally held and spiritually uplifted by your many gifts.

The letters from our special prayer partners blessed us beyond measure. You knew our trip plans and wrote special words of encouragement for each step of our journey. We received them just when they were most needed. The comfort of knowing that you and others in our church were praying for us kept us calmer and stronger.

Many of you gave monetary support to make this visit possible. Countless others attended fundraising events, purchased items at silent auctions or gave a gift for easier traveling. Whatever way you supported the Guatemalan Connection made a significant difference.

Our prayer is that the ministry of our Guatemalan partnership will continue to deepen and even more will become involved. There are amazing blessings awaiting us all.

-Soni Castleberry

July 10 worship plan

Crescent Hill Presbyterian Church
Service for the Lord’s Day
15th Sunday in Ordinary Time
July 10, 2016

Liturgists: Guatemala Team

We Gather in God’s Name

Welcome Guests! (See Notes for Newcomers on insert)

The Prayer Bowl Calls Us to Worship                        

Greeting by Elder Marsha Berry                                                                                                                                                                                                                      
Leader: The grace of the risen Christ be with you.
People: And also with you.

The Life of the Church                                          

Prelude: “Alabaré”         
Alabaré, alabaré. Alabaré a mi Señor. 
Translation: Praises, praises. Praises be to God!]                             

Pouring of the Baptismal Water (Nick Kissel)      

*Call to Worship (Jane Larsen-Wigger)
Leader: Sing out with joy to God. Worship the Holy One with gladness. Come into God’s presence with singing.
People: Praises! Praises! Praises be to God!                            

*Hymn #637 “Cantad al Señor”
[Guatemala Team will sing verse 1 in Spanish, then all join in verses 1, 3, and 5 in either English or Spanish]

*Call to Confession (Perry Chang and Stephanie Gregory)                                       

*Prayer of Confession
All: Lord, we have sinned against you and others by failing to apply partnership principles such as mutuality, cooperation, and shared sacrifice in church partnerships and in other relationships in our lives. We have harbored pride and self-pity, held back our time and money and energy and ideas, struck out on our own, and behaved badly with friends both old and new. We trust that, in your mercy, you will see past our flaws and draw us closer to you, inspiring both our friends and us to work both steadily and hard to reveal more and more of Your Kingdom here on earth.                                                
[Silence for examination of conscience and personal prayers of confession]

*Declaration of Forgiveness
Leader: . . . . in the name of Jesus Christ you are forgiven.
People: Thanks be to God.                                                                  

*Sung Response #595 “Santo, santo, santo”                                                  
Santo, santo, santo. ¡Mi corazón te adora!
Mi corazón te sabe decir: ¡Santo eres, Señor!

*The Peace                                                           
Leader: La paz del Señor esté con ustedes.
People: Y tambien con usted. 
[Translation: The peace of Christ be with you. And also with you.]                                  
We Hear and Proclaim God’s Word

Prayer for Illumination

Scripture: 1 Samuel 3:3b-10                                    

Ben Langley
Cara Bridgman
Elisabeth McNinch
Doug Yeager                                                                                                                                        

We Respond to God’s Word

*Hymn #625 “How Great Thou Art” [Sing in whatever language you can!]

Prayers of the People (Shannon Bostrom)

The Offering                
Offertory: “Havoun” (Doug Yeager)                                                           
*Sung Response: “Alabaré”                                                           
Alabaré, alabaré. Alabaré a mi Señor.
[Translation: Praises, praises. Praises be to God.]                              

We Give Thanks to God

*Prayer of Thanksgiving                                    
Leader: Let us give thanks to God!
People: It is right to give our thanks and praise.
We Go in God’s Name

*Hymn #765 “Song of Hope” [Sing first in English, then in Spanish]


*All: Alleluia! Amen.         

Guatemala worship July 10

The 2016 Guatemala visit team will lead worship on Sunday, July 10, in Henry Young Hall in the back building.  Featured will be songs, music, photos, and video from the 2016 visit.  Ben Langley, Cara Bridgman, Elisabeth McNinch, and Doug Yeager will preach.  Jane Larsen-Wigger, Stephanie Gregory, Perry Chang, Shannon Bostrom, and Mary Love will participate in other ways, with written words from Soni Castleberry.  A lunch meeting - open to all - of CHPC's Racial Justice Catalyst group, in the Gathering Room, will follow.



Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Old friends: Ana

It's true that Pastor Jane's previous tenure in Guatemala or her 2006 sabbatical there helped lead to the development of the Estore  o-CHPC partnership.  But so did a parallel visit from Pastor Carlos Lara, a Guatemalan church leader, and his family.  Carlos pastored Crescent Hill in summer 2006, worked at the Presbyterian Center, and then started study at the Presbyterian seminary.  So his wife, son, and daughter stayed in Kentuckiana - and eventually North Carolina - where they attended Presbyterian college.  Ana served as a youth elder at Crescent Hill and the whole family contributed mightily to the development of the partnership (Carlos had helped steer CHPC to Estore no Presbytery, and it was often Carlos who led the phone calls, initially to his old friend, Pastor Gerardo).  Crescent Hill sent the family off with a blessing as the Lara parents headed off to Richmond, Virginia, where Carlos helped a global mission enterprise, and both kids returned to Guatemala.

On the second and final Saturday of the visit, team members et al. reconnected with Ana, one of the two kids, on the grounds of the Guatemala City Mennonite seminary where they stayed Saturday night.  Team members ate, chatted with Ana and each other, and Ana crashed in the female team members' room (where Lowell and other 2010 male visit team members had stayed).  She also joined the team for breakfast and then got a ride to the airport, from which she was to take a shuttle back to her hometown of Antigua.  There she lives with relatives, and works connecting volunteers from around the world with assignments of varying lengths in a magnet school in a town outside Antigua (near where her uncle lives).  Carlitos is managing the family hotel in which members of several other teams have stayed.  The team had originally planned to visit Antigua - and the brother and sister - but - when shifted to returning to Guatemala City only - hatched this plan to see Ana in the city.  Ana participated in the team et. al's late night and morning discussions and planning conversations.  It was great to see her.


Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Por launcha: Day 2

Early Saturday morning, Alfredo got up and rode a launcha boat to Puerto Barrios, where Alfredo had parked the van.  But the launcha he rode back had no lifeguards and twice as many people as rode in Martin's boat.  While Alfredo drove the van back from Puerto Barrios to Rio Dulce, the team et al., Martin, and his wife (instead of Benjamin) boarded the boat at the Livingston wharfs and traveled up the Rio Dulce river through bluffs, Q'eqchi' villages, and through a very wide part of the river that was essentially another lake.  Martin et al. also investigated a tributary within a Q'eqchi' village, a lily pad rivulet and bird mangrove island, and a place along the north side of the river with a hot springs.  Most of the team members et al. jumped in.  Along the way, the boat - and its motor - hit a big log - turning off the motor and scaring the team - all the more so because Saturday morning's ride had been much more placid than Friday afternoon's final ride.  The boat passed Rio Dulce, went under the bridge, and swung by the fort at San Felipe, which the Spanish conquerors built to control access to Lake Izabal and ultimately the coast.  The fort - with its cannons - commanded the connection between the lake and the river, which was narrow at that point - and is said to have prevented pirates from raiding the lake, where the Spanish traded with the Mayans for gold (or swindled them?) and perhaps mined gold.  A few minutes later the boat was back under the bridge and docking in Rio Dulce, where Alfredo, the van, and lunch at Bruno's awaited.



Por launcha: Day 1

Trips on a "launcha" (boat) played a big role in the last phase of the visit.  Early Friday morning Ben and Alfredo went down to the docks in Puerto Barrios and were approached by Martin, whose boat and assistance the team ended chartering for about 26 hours.  The boat was medium-sized, with a tarp roof, Martin in the back with the back with the motor and the steering wheel, and - on Friday - young Benjamin as the sailor.  An hour later the whole group returned, loaded luggage into the front of the boat, and boarded, sat down, and donned life jackets. When speeding along, the front of the boat went up in the air, and so passengers couldn't really see ahead (Benjamin stood in the front and peered around the stern).  On the first bot ride, the boat left the Puerto Barrios harbor rounded a point and traveled along the mouth of the Rio Dulce river into the Gulf of Honduras (on the edge of the Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico and ultimately to the Atlantic Ocean), past Livingston and and landed at a dock near the Italian hotel where the group would spend Friday night.  An early sign of some excitement came when a big wave soaked some of several team members while they were docking.  After checking in, the team (plus Martin, Raul, and Ramiro) boarded the boat again, paralleled the coastline about 20 minutes and then docked at the Seven Altars.  There team members et al. briefly toured a tiny museum about the Garifuna culture (Afro-Caribbean group - drawn primarily from a Caribbean maroon colony of escaped slaves drawn to the eastern coasts of Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua, whose languages mixed various European, African, and indigenous languages that is Guatemala's 26th cultural group.)  Then team member began "creeking" up past seven waterfalls, initially on rocks and eventually in the water.  Ultimately, most of team members et al. made it to or close to some of the waterfalls.  Nearly half of these made it at least close to the big waterfall at the top, where they either swam and/or stood under the big waterfall.  This visit took a little longer than anticipated, and the tide ans waves were picking up when the team et al. re-loaded on the boat and traveled about 15 minutes further to the "White Beach," close to the border with Belize.  There was no dock at the beach, and so everyone got a little more wet disembarking from the boat.  Some people swam, and others just relaxed.  An extra little trip further up the coast to where Ramiro's brother lives didn't materialize because of the choppy waves and dwindling gas supply.  The trip back - ostensibly to the hotel - turned it to be difficult.  The waves were very choppy, and the ride took long also because Martin deemed it too unsafe to land at the hotel.  The ride in general resembled a roller-coaster ride, with the boat going up and down, pounding, going airborne, etc. - in a way that scared and possibly injured many on the boat.  It was also a blast.  Instead of landinga t the hotel, the boat docked at the main docks in Livingston, and landing there pout the team et al. in the middle of the town, with its mix of Q'eqchi', Ladino, and Garifuna cultures.  Overland roads - on trucks and buses - gave team members et al. a chance to see more of the city (as the traveled back of forth between the docks and eating and shopping, on the one hand, and the hotel, on the other hand).


Monday, July 4, 2016

Tough night

Thursday night was a tough night.  The team's hotel was located somewhat bizarrely in the middle of the port in Puerto Barrios.  The hotel was partly an interesting old hotel building, but it was somewhat run down, some rooms had shower mildew, and it was blazing hot - and slow service - for dinner.  But the most difficult thing was the presence of not only two (male) presbytery executive committee members Ramiro and Raul but also three from an outlying (but nearby) church that the team had originally planned to visit (but got re-directed away from by presbytery leaders).  The confluence of people was a reunion of the three-member Estore  o Presbytery visit team to Kentuckiana two years ago, since Rosa Marina was there from the outlying Monte Sinai church, but with a twist.  The two men and Rosa Marina were not speaking with each other, because of some conflict between Rosa Marina and the presbytery.  During dinner some of the team talked with Rosa Marina, received a gift from her on behalf of the church, returned a skirt, and heard about some activities/projects of her church.  Others stayed with Ramiro and Raul as the fumed about Rosa Marina's presence and her pitch (in the form of attaching possible costs to projects and activities) and the cost of dinner.  Still others on the team fled the scene by going out to the pool.  Ultimately, CHPC folks made no promises to Rosa Marina and sent her off with  her son and one other man identified as an elder of her church (who had all arrived by motorcycle) late at night and in the rain.  Later, Ben Langley, Jane, and Perry talked with Raul and Ramiro and cleared the air somewhat.  In the morning, breakfast above the ball was more enjoyable, and was peppered by the appearance of the colustas (or agouti).


Old friends: Alfredo

One of the other old friends Crescent Hill visit team members spend time with on this visit was Alfredo, an employee of the Guatemalan national Presbyterian church's visit unit, who served as driver and guide for the 2012 visit.  Alfredo did the same for this year's visit.  Alfredo is a great driver who has historically gotten along great with CHPC youth and has stayed in touch with a lot of 2012 team members by Facebook.  Alfredo is a non-Presbyterian Protestant whose cheerful and calm demeanor, subtle guidance, solid liaison-ing with Guatemalans on the team's behalf, and assertive but skillful driving, really made for a big part of the success of both the 2012 and 2016 visits.

Even though Alfredo has driven North American church teams all over the country, CHPCers - and Alfredo - went for the for the first time to two new places.  Driving over a hill on the way to La Guitarra, Ramiro - and the team - came across such a beautiful, lush, green, mountain vista that even Alfredo stopped the van in the middle of a narrow road to take a picture himself (and to let team members take pictures).  Early in the morning, Friday morning, Ben and Alfredo went down to the wharfs in Puerto Barrios and Alfredo helped take the lead with founding and negotiating with Martin, captain of what became the team's 26-hour home away from home on the water.  Alfredo had never visited Livingston also, and so all of it was new to him.  On the crazy launcha ride from White Beach back to Livingston, Alfredo sat towards the front of boat and hammed it up as much as ahyone about the fear and discomfort from the ride.


Presbytery leaders

Five members of the Estore  o Presbytery executive committee accompanied the team on its visits around Izabal.  All men and all but one pastors, these five took turns introducing the team and leading prayers during the various church visits.  The team's visits also provided presbytery leaders with a special reason to visit the churches - including some outlying churches - and gave them some transportation to do so.  Only four of the five visited the Hijo del Dios Viviente church in La Guitarra, and only two traveled to Puerto Barrios and Livingston with the team.  These two were:

-Ramiro, a teacher turned businessman who is the presbytery treasurer and advisor to the presbytery's youth and young adult organization, is an elder in the Altar de Noe church (the presbytery's largest church, in central El Estor).  He is the only Estore o person to visit Crescent Hill twice.  Ramiro missed Monday's activities because he had to drive all night to go to a national church board meeting in which the division of the national church into five synods (including possibly an all-Q'eqchi' synod) was discussed (and then drive all night to get back).  Ramiro and his family also helped prepare the team's Monday and Wednesday lunches, and hosted two team members in their home Sunday night.  Ramiro seemed to be tired through the visit (as one might expect) and his stomach was ailing too.  He spoke about spending a lot of time on church work that he might have spent on his business and privately about the truck that is the centerpiece of his business ailing.  Ramiro spoke the most at the La Guitarra church.

-Raul Contreras, a singer and pastor at the Altar de Noe church, and again - one of the three Guatemalans who visited CHPC in 2014.  Raul again proved to be a dynamic personality and a bit of a cut-up.  He was the first of the two to join the team members swimming at the Seven Altars waterfalls.  Raul's church also hosted Tuesday's children's and youth workshop and women's dialogue, and so many on the team got not only to meet his wife Elvira but also to tour his house and recording studio.  Raul mentioned that his oldest child, 19-year-ood Delia, is not only pregnant but also has anemia and asked people to pray for her.

-Gerardo was long a dominant force in the partnership, as a friend of Carlos Lara from way back (the Guatemalan pastor turned LPTS student who guest-pastored at CHPC for part of Jane's 2006 sabbatical), as teh pastor of the presbytery largest church (El Estor's Arca de Noe), and as the presbytery leader who at least talked as if he best understood PC(USA)-style partnership principles.  But then Gerardo's wife became ill and died, he developed health problems, the Arca de Noe church shifted to a different pastor, and he lost his home.  Since then, however, he has remarried, found a new call at the Hijo del Dios Viviente church in La Guitarra, and is now president of the presbytery again.  He was definitely part of the presbytery executive committee welcoming team.  He was also the one who apparently talked about broader partnership principles during the various church visits.  And I suspect it was partly because he is the pastor at the La Guitarra church that the team visited there instead of Rosa Marina's Monte Sinai church.  There team got to met his new wife (Loida?), a former Arca de Noe parishioner or his.  

-Fidel is the most quiet of the executive committee members, and also the one who got tapped to do the fewest introductions, etc.  As soon as the team arrived, Fidel started to let people know about the death of one of his two sons, who died in March.  Fidel is a former presbytery presidents who has pastored two different churches, the Peniel church in Boqueron (that Pastor Pablo Sacul pastored before he died) and the Hijo del Dois Viviente in La Guitarra (that Gerardo pastors now).  2007 team members met Fidel and his wife, Jesus, and he also participated in the 2010 Coban retreat.  He and also Jesus and parishioners are building a parsonage in Boqueron.  Even in this transition, Fidel and Jesus hosted two team members Sunday night.  The team's visit to their church was one of the most enjoyable, relaxed visits.

-Pastor Mario, from the Lirio de los Valles church from the Los Cerritos neighborhood of El Estor, was the fifth of the Executive Committee members who accompanied the team, but the only who did not go to La Guitarra.  Recall that Crescent Hill team members have visited his church in 2009, 2012, and 2016, and each time the church was in a new building (if not in a new location).



La Guitarra

Leaving Izabal for the first time during the 2012 visit the group opted not to drive off the highway to Tikal to visit the Hijo del Dios Viviente church in La Guitarra but did stop for about 20 minutes and chat with three or four elders from the church.  This time on their final Izabal day the group had talked about going to visit the Monte Sinai church in the San Carlos El Porvenir, in the vicinty of Puerto Barrios.  But presbytery leaders angled team members back to La Guitarra.  And so, leaving Es Estor Thursday morning, the group stopped at Bruno's in Rio Dulce, for lunch, turned north on the highway to Tikal, and then turned left into a back road and drove about half an hour west into a breathtaking set of green mountains and valleys.  On the way, even Alfredo - who has driven all over the country (except for not to La Guitarra or Livingston) - stopped the car in the middle of the narrow road after the van cleared a hill and a lush green valley panorama to take a picture.  Team members also noticed a different style of traditional Q'eqchi' dress among some women in this area, called a magna, which differed from the more prevalent camisole and juapiel style.  Arriving in one of a series of small towns on the road, which included a private school nearby, and the Hijo del Dios Viviente church and parsonage, the team and presbytery leaders were in La Guitarra.  A worship service that paralleled Wednesday's services took place, with Ramiro taking the lead this time.  For the last time, Elisabeth and Jane read and interpreted scripture, and the team played and sang a couple of hymns (such as "Santo, Santo, Santo" and "El Cantad Se or." La Guitarra folks also surprised the team and presbytery leaders with a chicken lunch.  Before and after and in between the service and (second) lunch, the team met and chatted some of the church/community folks, including Gerardo's new wife, Loida (?), and a couple that had been at Tuesday's workshops (Irma and one of the men 2012 team members had met, Jesus), and Lucia, whose chicken had died for lunch.  After an hour plus in La Guitarra, the team and presbytery leaders and Alfredo (minus Gerardo who was back at his new home to stay and Fidel, who had brought some grain to La Guitarra and was slated to return to El Estor the next day) retraced their steps on the way past Rio Dulce to Puerto Barrios.


The prayer

Before making the visit, Crescent Hill folks had said they were interested in learning more about their Guatemalan partners' spiritual practices, including their prayer life. Late Wednesday - after the partnership dialogue but before dinner - two of the three women who had represented the presbytery's Presbyterian Women organization in the partnership dialogue - asked to stop by to see Cara, who had been ill all day and had been in her room the whole day, with a rotating series of people, plus a doctor and physician's assistant periodically.  Ema and Maria stopped by and asked if they could pray for Cara.  While Cara, Ben Bridgman, Jane, Soni, and Stephanie watched and listened, Ema prayed an intense almost Pentecostal prayer in Q'eqhchi' apparently for healing and peace for Cara.  Team members were amazed, and many teams were shed - until Perry interrupted asking for a room key.


Partnership dialogue

Team members and Estore  o  Presbytery leaders essentially engaged in three partnership dialogues.  In worship services Pastor Jane and Pastor Gerardo  - among others - spoke about partnership in the course of preaching, speaking, and reading scripture - and some of this was translated for each other. The formal partnership dialogue came late Wednesday after a full day of visiting churches, and after stopping by the house of Ema, a presbytery's sororital worker, where some of the team members drank juice and the van picked up Ema and another leader of the presbytery's Presbyterian Women organization to participate in the dialogue outside at the hotel.  The formal dialogue focused on money, which seemed fine.  Ramiro did a lot of the talking, but Gerardo, Raul, Jane, and (once or two) one of the woman spoke some also.  Eventually, a proposal surfaced that Crescent Hill send $1,000 to the presbytery for this year's theological education program, with possibly another $250 to help five Estore o folks register for the 2017 theological education program (hopefully with one or two women included).  The group eventually also talked about the possibility of giving a discretionary fund to the presbytery women's group to help women and families with pastoral needs across the presbytery, and possibly some additional money to the presbytery for other projects (such as improving the presbytery offices).  An extension of this discussion came afterwards, as the presbytery leaders (male and female) dined with team members.

A third partnership dialogue late Friday night, after a debriefing and devotions that involved all team members plus Martin, Raul, and Ramiro. Raul, Ramiro, Perry, Ben Langley, and Jane discussed costs of the visit that Crescent Hill church would pay for (including a contribution to the families that hosted team members but not including reimbursement for the surprise lunches/refreshments offered by churches to team members and presbytery leaders).  Raul and Ramiro also explained how much they appreciated being included in the Puerto Barrios and Livingston trips.  Jane and Ben tried to explain a little more about Thursday night conversations between them and Rosa Marina.  Ramiro explained a little bit more about their perspective on issues with Rosa Marina.  Raul also drew a parallel to Jesus' parable about the good seeds and bad seeds, as is to suggest that Rosa Marina was a bad seed.


Quality cuisine

On every visit to El Estor Crescent Hill teams have eaten one lunch of fish, typically with head and eyes and all - typically fresh fish caught from the lake. One of the best meals the team had this time was the fish lunch - fried, cooked by Ramiro - but this time without the head and eyes.  That was Wednesday lunch, the team's second and final lunch at Arca de Noe.  Two surprise chicken lunches at faraway congregations - at the Emmanuel church in the Huracan Mich suburb of Panzos and the Hijo del Dios Viviente congregation in La Guitarra - were also good/memorable.  At Panzos, the chicken was particularly heat hot.  at La Guitarra, it turns out that was the one lunch came from two chickens owned by the cooks (instead of being bought).  The team's most memorable restaurant was probably at Livingston's Happy Feet restaurant, which featured cuisine of the Afro-Caribbean Garifuna culture, including the Garifun stew, which made up a little for the lack of eyes in the Romero-prepared lunch (lots of fish heads and eyes, shrimp heads and eyes, etc.).


Musical moments

During the middle of the week were some marvelous musical moments.  An early moment came when presbytery  leaders were stalling while the Crescent Hill and presbytery youth leaders were planning children's and youth activities.  Doug played flute, Raul Contreras sang, and Ramiro - who had gotten almost no sleep during the previous two nights, as traveled to and from Guatemala City and participated in national church board meetings - played the keyboard.  No offense to Doug and Ramiro but Raul Contreras - so heartfelt - and intense - had a voice that particularly divine.

Then, in three of  church visited Wednesday, different women's groups sang for the team, including one woman solo with a microphone. Other times the team sang in Spanish hymns that at least some presbytery leaders knew - "Holy, Holy, Holy" and "How Great Thou Art," for example.  No offense to the team, but the presbytery leaders' vocals, including harmony vocals - enhanced the team's sound - and in some cases part of the congregations (for example, on "Labore") helped the sound swelled even more (a bit like the sound of everyone praying at once - in Spanish, English, and Q'eqchi').  Sometimes these sounds also swelled when all or some of these were singing in smaller churches, which magnified the volume.

Another intense musical moment came during the team's visit to the Pastor Fidel's Peniel church in Boqueron.  The worship band that sang and played in this church included two young boys, including Darwin, who wailed away on percussion and belted out, singing with the other worship band members.

Presbytery leaders and team members were also serenaded by a Doug flute solo during several worship services.  The last night in El Estor Doug also serenaded team members and other hotel guests that a long flute solo that helped close out a long day for all.


Scripture and message

The centerpiece of the short message that Pastor Jane delivered at each of eight churches most of the team visited (not counting Arca de Noe, which got the full-blown sermon) - billed as a scripture reading was following scripture from Paul's first letter to the Philippians:   I thank my God every time I remember you, constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you,  because of your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now.  I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ.

Jane said that this prayer of Paul for the Philippians encapsulated how CHPC folks feel about friends in the Estore o Presbytery.  Jane stressed how much CHPC folks have been inspired by and learned Guatemalan brothers and sisters, including such areas as fasting and prayer life and evangelism and outreach.  She said visits, both ways, are important part of extending this, and she hoped they might have learned something from CHPC folks too.



Wednesday church visits

Wednesday represented a full day of church visits for executive committee members, Alfredo, and a rotating group of nine different CHPC team members (when not involved in pastoral care):

-Puerta del Cielo church in La Union.  Pastor Leonel was away working, but the team was met and worshiped with mainly women there, along with Antonio who had been there at Tuesday's workshops.  This is a relatively small church west of town, close to the nickel mine.

-Espiritu Santo church, where the 2007 visit team had their send-off service, was held.  Pastor Jose Domingo, whom CHPC folks had seen at length in 2010 at the Coban retreat, and his family and parishioners greeted, eventually with sodas.  The team met Jose' Domingo's mother-in-law, Angelica, who had figured prominently in a photo in front of the church, from the 2012 visit.  Espiritu Santo folks have built a front porch on the church, have rebuilt the walls, and were busy re-habing the altar.  In her remarks, Jane recalled that the initial CHPC-Estore   o partnership discussions took place around a table in this church.

-Lirio de los Valles church, Pastor Mario's church, was the last church vistied Wednesday morning.  It was CHPC folks' third time visiting the church, and every time Lirio de los Valles has been in a totally different building.  In 2009 music blared at very loud from the open-air ramshackle building.  This time Pastor Mario, Pastor Raul, and the women of the church sang a prayer for the team's one sick member, and Pastor Mario showed team members his home and plied them with more sodas.

-After lunch the team visited two more churches.  The Galilea church in the outlying northeastern Esfuerza neighborhood of El Estor. Some members of the 2012 CHPC team visited this congregation when it was much smaller, had no name, and was led by Antonio, from outside Coban.  Angel Sacul, son of the deceased presbytery leader Pablo Sacul, is the pastor now.  Once again a women's chorus sung for the team.  It was a little warm out there.  Pastor Jane got eager nods when she drew the parallel between the topography of the area around the Galilea church and that around its namesake, the Holy Land's Sea of Galilee.

-The final church visited, the Familia de Noe church, was the second church visited during the 2009 visit, when the team ate there and Ben Langley preached there.  Three years later a subgroup visited the church, with a totally new sanctuary built.  With some men working, this group was almost entirely women, who - once again - sang.  Pastor Benjamin and his family still live across town (the church is located in El Estor's Sinai neighborhood) and, with the church building a new parsonage, may need to decide whether to stick it out.  Benjamin is Angel's brother, another son of Pastor Pablo Sacul.  Like many Q'eqchi' Presbyterian families, Benjamin and wife Carlotta have a fair amount of children - in this case however, seven girls and only recently a boy.


Old friends: Debby and Richard Welch

Two more Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) mission co-workers, Debby Welch and Richard Welch, traveled by chicken bus across bumpy roads to rendezvous with the team Monday evening in El Estor.  CHPC folks originally met these folks  through "Amigos de K'eckhi' gatherings when they were helping lead the PC(USA)'s Inland Northwest Presbytery's partnership - originally with all of the Q'eqchi' presbyteries including what became Estore  o Presbytery and later just the Polocic Presbytery, just west of Estore   o.  For the past two years, the two have served as offiical PCIUSA) mission co-workers, living in Coban and specializing in education for the indigenous Presbyterians/people.  Like Leslie Vogel, the two aided CHPC partners adn CHPC by helping obtain passports and visas for CHPC partners to visit Kentuckiana two years ago.  The Welches shared meals with the team, participated in two debriefings/devotions, and plunged headlong into the workshops, with the team and partners, during Tuesday's children's and youth activities and women's dialogue.  This included helping translate.  In the theological educational program and in meetings in El Estor with women of the presbytery and others, the Welches had gotten to know a number of Estore   o folks.  Finally, the Welches shared with the team a status update about the Walton fund.  This fund set up by the Walmart owners for indigenous education where funds were misused historically, and now are only being slowly being released for the theological education in Coban.  This program is a three-year program focusing on Bible and theology that indigenous leaders from central and eastern Guatemala have been involved in - for three years to receive a diploma.  A number of Estore   o folks are involved in the program, including three who have graduated.  In general, many students are Q'eqchi' pastors, but others are from other indigenous/Mayan cultures and/or elders or deacons and a few are even women.  Most classes take place in Spanish, with a smattering of Q'eqchi'.  Students attended for five days at a time, five times a year.  Walton funding for the program has, however, has come somewhat slowly.

Wednesday morning Debby and Richard are slated to head off by micro-bus fro Rio Dulce and Guatemala City, where they were to meet with another group on Thursday afternoon.



A number of team leaders have emerged.  Paramount has been Pastor Jane, who played a critical role in planning the trip and who has led all of the debriefing and handled a few crises. Jane also preached a great sermon Sunday night and has delivered a short message (eventually at eight congregations), coupled with a Bible reading from Philippians, which has essentially distilled and localized a partnership message.  She has generally tag-teamed with Ben Langley, who planned most of the details of the visit and has been a strong personal presence throughout.  Ben has also done plenty of translation, and he preached a sermon at the Altar de Noe church about.  Doug has been involved in worship leadership, by - with his flute - essentially serving as the team's music director and accompanying the singing (as well as doing some translation).

New leaders have also emerged.  At the top of the list might be Cara and Elisabeth.  Before missing one day, Cara was really the driving force behind the children's and youth workshops, as she planned and led many activities and applied her charm/leadership skills.  Elisabeth has translated a lot for Pastor Jane or Cara (with the two of them, or the other two of them, often emerging as an all-female leadership duo).  In translating, she - as well as Ben and Doug - have helped shape decisions and insights through translation.  Ben Bridgman worked a lot with the kids - even outside the formal kids' workshop - and took a leadership role with caring for a sick team member.  Shannon claimed to be the most introverted of team members, but he also exercised worship leadership, accompanying other team members as they sang on either on his ukelele or Pastor Raul's guitar, and served as a king of group conscience.  Ben is a bit of a newcomer, but he led the 2009 visit also.

Old-timers Soni and Stephanie - along with Ben, Elisabeth, and Jane - both took leaderhsip roles helping care for the sick team member.

Gracias a Dios, for all the team leaders, old and new.


Women's dialogue

Tuesday afternoon's women's dialogue with representative from the women's groups from most of the presbytery's congregations went up and the four women from the team plus Debby went up and down. In the past, teams had planned women's workshops (which some of the Guatemalan women there Tuesday had attended) which included non-verbal activities.  This time the team wasn't sure if this was to be more of a meeting or a workshop and so only developed a few possible themes to talk about.  At the start, the CHPC women et al. also left t hings open so that the Estore  o Presbytery women could take the lead, if they chose to.  But instead some inertia took place.  It was hard to get the Q'eqchi' women to talk, and it was very hot inside and noisy outside and the group was quite a bit larger than the team had expected and so it was very hard to hear.  Eventually, a sort of worship service - which included singing - and a nonverbal activity - which got things going more - took place.  Some CHPC women also got to talk with the leaders of the presbytery's Presbyterian Women organization, and some interesting side conversation took place.  But probably the high point of the women's dialogue came after it had officially ended when all the women informally broke up into groups, and chatted with each other.  Some interesting interchanges ensued, including exchange of photos, phone numbers, and Facebook accounts.  Afterwards, the CHPC women also heard some tough words about another female presbytery leader.  The women were generally pretty successful at keeping the men out (CHPC's men and Richard generally hung out with a mix of men and other women and kids outside, throughout).  And it would have been a challenge to break up into formal small groups into the activity because the team had only one really good female translator (plus worrying about Spanish-to-Q'eqchi' translation).  By the end, there were a mix of feelings about the afternoon (on the part of the CHPC women there) (as well as some ideas about future dialogues).



Already (as of mid-week) a core part of the team's experience has been nightly debriefing and devotions (except for Sunday night during home stays).  Typically, the team gathers in a hotel room and Jane has gotten team members started off with questions/reflections (highlights and lowlights of the day, what you we learned? etc.) - giving everyone a chance to think about it and then going around the circle giving everyone a turn.  After some announcements and planning, a rotating series of people have led the even less secular devotions.  Ben Langley, Perry, and Elisabeth (later, Shannon, Doug, Ben Bridgman, and Cara) have read some scripture, offered some personal reflection, and then led a final prayer.  Sometimes some additional shared reflection has also occurred. All of this has also served to help troubleshoot the day, as well as ensuring team members' reflection included a more theological angle too.


Jane's sermon


Samuel story

Then the Lord called, “Samuel! Samuel!” and he said, “Here I am!” and ran to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call; lie down again.” So he went and lay down. The Lord called again, “Samuel!” Samuel got up and went to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call, my son; lie down again.” Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, and the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him. The Lord called Samuel again, a third time. And he got up and went to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” Then Eli perceived that the Lord was calling the boy. Therefore Eli said to Samuel, “Go, lie down; and if he calls you, you shall say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’” So Samuel went and lay down in his place.
10 Now the Lord came and stood there, calling as before, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”