Greetings from Guatemala!
Greetings to you in this new year of 2023. My word for this year is gratitude. For several years it has been easy to focus on all that we are lacking. Yet in that time of restricted living, I think we all had the opportunity to learn new things as well. The experience of a slower pace of life helped us develop both family and work relationships as people were often more accessible. As we begin this new year, we are grateful for the teams that have arrived and for those that are planning to travel to our region. We are grateful for the ability to travel to visit partners, to hear firsthand about where they see God at work. The Lord says in Isaiah 43:19 “I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.”
We are grateful to have received family for extended periods of time in 2022 right up to Christmas when we enjoyed having our son, Ben, daughter in-law, Elissa, and our newest grandchild, Lenna. We are also very grateful for a new home which we moved into this Christmas (after our former landlady decided to sell the home that we had been in for the last 4 years). We now call Santa Cruz la Laguna (Lake Atitlan) our home and are enjoying settling into a new community among the several indigenous communities that surround this fascinating volcanic lake.
Being in this location has also brought us closer to some of our newer Guatemalan partners and the activities they are involved in. We welcomed a team from western Canada, Kurios https://www.kurios.ca/ for their 6-week international experience this January. Our colleague, Byron Velasquez, has worked hard with local churches to provide opportunities for faith and culture interactions. It is refreshing to be with young people who get to experience life and faith in a different way. In addition to some basic language learning, they are learning the basics of community development project planning and implementation alongside their Guatemalan hosts. The Canadians will accompany their Guatemalan friends in their local churches as they serve alongside their communities.
We look forward to travelling to the Dominican Republic in February and to Cuba in March to spend time with our partners, to introduce some Canadian colleagues, to experience their context today and evaluate our partnership. Our Cuban Partners in particular have been challenged by their current economic situation, lack of access to basic food, medication, fuel, and insufficient and intermittent power. They are looking to deepen our partnership of more than ten years as they work to build up their churches during these difficult times. During our travels, we will be accompanied by CBM colleagues for their first visit with our Dominican Republic and Cuban partners. These will be important visits as we work to gain understanding of our partners’ contexts and how we can collaborate in effective ways with each of them.
One area that has been of particular interest to all our partners and most recently Cuba, has been the Pastoring of Pastors. These intentional mentoring and accountability groups allow pastors to share their hearts and to grow in their own discipleship. Our colleague Bill Dyck (Calgary, Alberta) provides leadership and direction for these groups in the region. For good reason, our partners focus on theological training and how to lead the church, but often there is little focus on the spiritual and emotional health of pastors. We are thankful for Bill’s passion to see pastors be emotionally and spiritually healthy and fully equipped to lead their churches.
For our travels to the Dominican Republic and Cuba, as well as El Salvador and Guatemala as we spend time with partners and churches.
For our colleague Byron Valesquez as he plans and accompanies SENT teams in our region and for the churches that will host the Canadian visitors, that they will be encouraged.
For the SENT participants coming to Latin American and the Caribbean, for open hearts and minds.
For Kathryn Scott, our newest colleague as she continues to learn Spanish and envision her role. For our colleagues in Bolivia, Tim and Kallie Hutton, as they serve the churches in very practical ways.
For Bill Dyck as he connects both virtually and in person with pastoral leaders to have impact in their lives and ministry.
We want to thank you, our friends and supporters, for standing with us (for over 17 years for some). As we begin this new year, we are grateful to be surrounded by those who pray for us personally and the work that God has called us to. We hope to see some of you this year as we welcome visitors from Canada.
Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind, for he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things. – Psalm 107:8-9