Monday, September 26, 2016

¡Guatemala feliz

This bridge was built by slaves in the late 1400s.
Guatemala, whose name means "place of many trees" is a beautiful country, very mountainous with many rivers, lakes and forests, as well as volcanoes.  Not only is it rich geographically, it is rich in history, going back thousands of years with many historical buildings and landmarks.  Unfortunately, it is also has had many challenges - a civil war from 1960-1996, earthquakes (the one in 1976 killed 200,000) and hurricanes, just to name a few.  Guatemala is a land of extremes in many ways: highlands and lowlands, wetlands and deserts, historical and modern, and a wide gap between the rich and the poor.

A very shaky bridge leading to one of the villages.
We spent time this past week with Partners Worldwide and a church called Lluvias de Gracia (Rains of Grace).  Lluvias de Gracia has planted many churches throughout Guatemala, approximately 250.  On Wednesday, we took time to travel to some remote villages and visit a few of the small churches in those villages, learning about the types of business and work in which the members are involved.  The pastors all serve as volunteers (with no salary) and therefore most are involved in some sort of work.  Many work as day laborers in some of the large farms in the area - coffee, corn, bananas or sugar.  It was great to walk into these villages of 200 people or less, and see these churches - often the only one in the village - persevering under challenging circumstances.  While Guatemala is certainly different culturally than many places in Africa where I have worked, there are many similarities as it relates to the struggle of business and the challenges of poverty.

A coffee plant nursery in one of the villages.
We then spent some time with the leadership who are looking to help empower not just the business members of these churches but also the pastors in terms of poverty alleviation.  We took them through the two day workshop of understanding the God of Business in the Old and New Testament, as well as understanding the various needs of reconciliation that need to be done in the Marketplace.  The message was very well received and there was real excitement about the potential of working through their many churches with Discipling Marketplace Leaders.  One of the pastoral supervisors who was in attendance was going to speak with thirty pastors the very next day and he decided to immediately start presenting this material.
One of the churches of Lluvias de Gracia, with Pastor George.

The particular group around the table was unique in some ways as there was more "haves" at the table than "have nots."  The challenge in this case is to help the "haves" understand the necessity of the operating from a "pull" not a "push" - meaning that those struggling with poverty and the volunteer pastors must have a say in the solution if there is to be any progress.  There can't be a decision that "all pastors will run a business" when many pastors may not be gifted or have the desire to run a business.  My experience with Asset Based Community Development and Restorers came in very handy for those discussions.
Very traditional dress in one of the villages, worn by all the women.

Overall, it was a very good week in which we learned a lot about Guatemala and they learned about Discipling Marketplace Leaders.  They will now consider as a church how to begin implementation of this ministry.

We are thankful to God for this opportunity and we covet your prayers for Lluvias de Gracia as they seek to move their people out of poverty to discover the full potential that God has for them!
Part of the group with whom we spent time.  A dynamic bunch of leaders, passionate about Christ, His Church, as well as a strong desire to end poverty.

A prayer meeting held in front of the presidential mansion at 6 am on Saturday morning.  What a blessing to participate with these Christians praying for their country, their leaders, their economy, and their people!