June 25, 2017
Greetings from the first capital of Guatemala--colonial Antigua--a beautiful city established in 1542. We awoke this morning to a plume of gray smoke arising from the top of Volcano El Fuego, a scary sight after yesterday's tremor of 6.9 on the Richter scale with epicenter near Antigua. Fortunately for everyone, no significant damage was done. The mating call of peacocks that could be heard in the early morning hours roused us from bed for our last full day in Guatemala.
After breakfast, we boarded our van for a return trip to the capital, were welcomed back by the CEDEPCA staff for a historical overview of this beautiful but tragic country, a debriefing session and the celebration of holy communion. We thought of you all back home everyday and want very much to be able to share our experiences in meaningful ways when the time comes. In the meantime, please be in prayer for our Christian sisters and brothers in Guatemala as they struggle to remain faithful under difficult circumstances.
Your fellow disciples,
- Jeanne Guest and Beth Meyer
June 23, 2017
Our fifth day in Guatemala started with the slight shake of an earthquake. Everyone is fine and praying that the rest of Guatemala is as well.
As we leave the hotel and drive out of Santiago de Atitle we see the local people going about their daily routines. All busy getting things they need, children already in school, mothers watching younger ones. Much like any American town yet very different. We pass the ADISA school where we spent time yesterday and the feeling is like we are leaving family. Along the way to Antigua we pass farms alone the rolling hillsides, small villages, some hillsides that have slide due in combination to the earthquake and rains. It is a long drive from Santiago to Antigua but we are not only in God's hands but the expert hands of our driver, Freddy. He maneuvers the pothole ridden, worn, curvey roads like a professional. We arrive in Antigua late in the afternoon and check into our next hotel. This is a day of relaxing, seeing the local sights and picking up a few things for family and friends. Those who support and pray for us back home.
We have enjoyed our time here in Guatemala as it draws to a close. We have learned, we have touched people's lives as they have deeply touched ours. This journey has been rewarding in many ways. I feel blessed to have been able to take it and share it with others. I have learned a lot and have made new friends. I feel truly blessed by God.
Yours in faith,
- Mary Bishop
Enjoying dinner at a local restaurant
Rock slide after earthquake along the road
June 22, 2017
We began our Wednesday in Guatemala with a boat ride across Lago Atitlan to the town of Santiago de Atitlan. We had calm and beautiful weather for the ride across this lake, with volcanic landscapes on all sides. Once we landed, it was a short walk to ADISA, a school for children and adults with disabilities. We talked with Francisco, who along with his wife, realized there was a need for special education in their community. Along with the Guatemalan government, their school educates close to 100 students, with focus on inclusion for these students in local "mainstream" schools. They also provide job opportunities for adults with disabilities, to help them earn an income and promote their independence by creating crafts and performing various jobs for the community. After seeing the joy on the children's faces in school, the pride the adults had in their craft, and the energy from the teachers, it was very apparent God was here with Francisco at ADISA.
We left ADISA and met another organization, ANADESA, at the Peace Park in the community of Panabaj. The Peace Park was created to honor the 13 civilians killed by the military in this community, after a peaceful protest was met with violence. To this day, it is the only city in Guatemala that military cannot enter. ANADESA was started in 2005, to provide assistance following the landslides of Hurricane Stan and the 300 lives it claimed. ANADESA is busy in this community educating women and children, preparing them to be more successful members of the community.
We then drove to the Catholic Church in town, where Father Stanley Rother was murdered in 1981, for his role in preaching to and helping the indigenous community. The love for this pastor from Oklahoma was overwhelming, despite this tragedy occurring more than 20 years ago. We saw a sign leaving the church that read "94 days until Rother's being made a Saint in the Catholic Church."
Guatemala is a country of contrasts. The treatment of women versus men. Fancy resort housing surrounding dirty slums. Official peace despite persistent turmoil. But we walk away from today with one constant: We are all created in God's image.
Peace and love,
June 21, 2017
Today we left Guatemala City and drove to Chamaltenango to visit Corazon du Mujer, a women's weaving cooperative. This cooperative was formed by indigenous women of Guatemala who were survivors of the Guatemalan civil war. During the war, there was displacement and genocide of many of the indigenous people. These women banded together to support each other and to weave to support their families. They produce beautiful weavings in the native Guatemalan style. The women included us in their cooperative meeting. One of the women had to start walking from her home at 4 am in order to get to the meeting. Some of the members shared their stories with us of how they had survived the genocide when many of their family members and neighbors were killed.
The women prepared a Guatemalan lunch and shared it with us. After lunch, they had all their weavings out on display for us to see. In addition to making some personal purchases, we bought 40 scarves to bring back to Fourth Presbyterian. So stay tuned for the upcoming Alternative Christmas Market where you will have the opportunity to see and purchase some of the beautiful scarves from Corazon du Mujer.
Later, after a bus ride of several hours, we arrived at Panajachel on the shores of Lake Atitlan, where we spent the night.
June 20, 2017
Monday we left our hotel and drove down into the dump in Guatemala City. Along the way we saw persons sorting cardboard, clothing, toys, tires - everything is sorted and used or sold. People who live here even find food to eat. In the midst of this misery is the Francisco Coll School which serves 233 students grades 1 - 6. The school is run by the Dominican Sisters of the Annunciation. Sister Marlene Guadron (pictured below) is the principal. Sister Marlene explained that many of the children have histories of abuse, neglect, and respiratory problems. Because of their situation and the abject poverty in which they live the children come to school hungry. Fifteen hundred dollars given by the endowment and $550 given by "The not so young adults" will be used for "snacks" for the children. We saw the children eating milk with cereal, oranges and juice. Sister Marlene commented, "The first graders are served first. They cannot do their school work on empty stomachs." It was pure joy to visit the children in their classrooms and see God's light in the midst of despair.
Next, we visited our hosts, CEDEPCA, the Protestant Center for Pastoral Studies in Central America www.cedepca.org - please visit their web site. Leslie Vogel (PCUSA Mission Worker) is accompanying and translating for us. One of their four programs is Women's Ministry - empowering women to understand and assume their personal and legal rights. It is very difficult to hear about the plight of women, specifically indigenous women in Guatemala. CEDEPCA brings hope to women here.
We enjoyed lunch with the staff in their beautiful garden.
Our last stop was House of Migrants run by Catholic order Juan Scalabrini. Their biblical impetus is Leviticus 19:33-34. This program gives medical and psychological assistance to deported and displaced refugees.
Each evening we share thoughts and feelings about our day. We also pray for the good people who work faithfully for their sisters and brothers in need.
June 19, 2017
Notice at the bottom of the banner it reads, "Welcome to Guatemala brothers (sisters) of South Carolina." They presented this banner to us.
It was great to wake up in Guatemala and to see the youth group from Second Presbyterian Church in Nashville, TN! They were concluding their trip. They worshiped at Central Presbyterian Church, the oldest Presbyterian Church in Guatemala. However, we drove out from Guatemala City and worshiped at (New) Jerusalem Presbyterian church. They welcomed us warmly and presented us with beautiful bags from Guatemala.
We loved seeing the brightly colored, small, plastic chairs for the children filled during Sunday School. The singing, the fellowship, the familiarity of a few tunes and the delicious traditional Guatemalan lunch shared together were a gift. It was a special day, as we were there for their simple yet meaningful laying of the first cornerstone of their new sanctuary. They plan to use their current sanctuary for Christian Education.
In the afternoon, we took a driving tour of Guatemala City, including Zone 14, where the diplomats live, to the shanties stacked on the hillside with no running water, electricity or sewage system. We stopped to stretch our legs in the rain and saw the Cathedral and Government Palace, as well as Central Presbyterian Church. While in the plaza (the square), we stopped to see the permanent memorial to the 41 girls killed in the fire on March 8th at the "Safe" Home. What a horrific tragedy!
We finished our day with dinner and devotion and reflection time. One of our team members said, "I am so glad to be here!" Thank you for your prayers. We're grateful!
-Jennifer Fouse Sheorn
The laying of the cornerstone of their new sanctuary.
"Jesus Loves The Little Children"
was sung by the children.
June 19, 2017
Guatemala Mission team departing church on Saturday AM.
Seven of us leave this morning to begin our trek to Guatemala via Atlanta. We will be gone for a week building relationships with the people of Guatemala. Please keep us in your prayers as we will be meeting with a potential sister church for Fourth Presbyterian Church. Most of all, prayers for safety and discernment. Looking forward to sharing our thoughts and pictures with you. Take care.