Sunday, 29 November -0001 18:42

Mission News

Written by Mrs. Ludy Luth
Every year the Mission Committee of our denomination sends two delegates to Guatemala to observe the work done by our missionaries. This year's delegates were Rev. Neil Pronk and Peter Luth (treasurer of Missions). Mrs. Pronk and Mrs. Luth accompanied their husbands, but at their own expense, of course. Perhaps you ask, "Is it necessary to visit the mission field every year?" First hand, I have observed that it is not only necessary, but also very beneficial for all concerned. As the work changes, and in this case grows, the missionaries need to consult with the Mission Committee as to the focus and direction of their activities. We also noticed that they need the encouragement from the home front, and we at "home" need to understand what is involved in all their work. The two deputies were busy all the time while in Cubulco. Many meetings and observations of the work, including an overnight field trip, was on their schedule. Also, annual family visitation was held with the Herfsts, Mary Overduin, and also the Ottens, members of the Vineland Free Reformed Church, who work for AMG in Cubulco. Upon arrival, the deputies were given a schedule for their 8-day itinerary which was very helpful in organizing all the work that needed to be done. The trip was from March 6th to 16th, since travelling by air and the long, rough drive to Cubulco took up the rest of the time. Here is a brief report on the "Guatemala experience" by Mary Overduin's sister, Mrs. Ludy Luth.
"I Have Loved You"
God spoke to Jeremiah, saying, "Yea, I have loved you with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn you" (Jer.31:3). This verse from Scripture kept recurring in my mind as we met, fellowshipped and worshipped with the Achi in Cubulco. God sent His beloved Son to be the Saviour of the Achi as well as of anyone else who repents and believes in the Son of God. What a wonderful task the Herfsts and Mary have as they minister to these people in many different ways.

Rev. Ken Herfst (well known as Hermanos Carlos by the Christians of Cubulco) took us along to experience a church service at the home of his helper, Santiago and his wife Juana. It was a very special service, which was preceded by a birthday meal in honour of their 2-year old daughter. Church people and neighbours were invited to this meal. After the soup was dished out, more and more people came to join the party. We were treated royally, with rice soup with big chunks of meat in it. Meat is a delicacy, because the people are very poor and their meals are sober. We could eat as many tortillas as we desired. The Achi just dip their tortilla in the soup. Warm, sweet coffee is served as a drink, and tortillas are also dipped into the coffee. After the meal was finished, the tables were cleared away, and the benches were arranged for the service. Ken preached about Jesus, the source of life.

We found the people very friendly. They have beautiful facial features. They are small-boned and not very tall. They come up to our shoulders. Rev. Pronk and Mr. Luth looked VERY tall, especially when they wore their sombreros--common head-gear of all Cubulco men. The women and girls look very beautiful in their colourful guipiles and wrap-around skirts called cortes. Jackie Herfst and daughters Kathryn and Esther wear this type of clothing too, and it really suits them.

We went to this same home one day with Mary, when she held her weekly Bible class with the women. This class is held in the Achi language, since many of the women do not speak Spanish. Mary told the story of the paralytic man who was brought to Jesus by being lowered through the roof. One of the women closed the class with prayer. They are learning to sing some hymns in the Achi language, and soon Mary hopes to do some singing with them as well. These women seemed very interested in the Word of God. Jackie Herfst has just started to teach this same group of women how to embroider guipiles; they catch on very quickly and are proud of the results.

The Achi are hard-working people, a necessity for the basic existence of life. One member of the church, Rosa, together with her daughter Eulalia, demonstrated how to make tortillas. First they grind the corn into flour; then they roll the dough and make the round, flat tortillas. This is labour intensive and heavy work. We noticed that the women have skinny, muscular arms from all the grinding and stone pin-rolling they do daily. Everything is done by hand. Rosa feeds a family of eight and said she makes about 200 tortillas each day, divided over 3 meals. It takes all morning to make the tortillas. The women also have to gather firewood for the cooking, which can be a big chore. We met one mother with her two young children who had to walk two hours away from home to find the wood they needed. I was amazed to see how neatly and artistically the wood was bundled to be carried on their backs. Then the two-hour trek for home was ahead.

The land is mountainous and very rugged. Just that morning, we as a group had trekked up the Cubulco mountain, and it was NOT easy! I tried to imagine myself walking up the mountains with a heavy load of wood on my back. It gives me a great respect for the way these people live and take care of their families. I can't imagine having to spend 5 or 6 hours of my day just getting fuel for cooking the meals. The flick of a knob is all I need to do!

And men, how would you like to cut the grass on your lawns with a machete! That's how the Achi men cut grass. That is how the grass on the mission compound is cut. Yes indeed, the Achi people are hard workers!

Rev. Herfst teaches a Bible class every Saturday afternoon which is open to anyone interested in more in-depth Bible study. The particular day we were there, there were ten students. These Bible studies are held in the building which is used as a church on Sundays. The Sunday morning service in the recently acquired home used as a church building was a wonderful experience. Rev. Pronk was given the opportunity to bring greetings from our churches in Canada and the United States. He stressed the fact that the God we worship is the same God that Rev. Herfst preaches about, and the same God they now worship, as He reveals Himself in the Bible. He told them of the soon to come move of Gary DeSterke and family, and of Gary's plan to translate the Old Testament into Achi. We felt a real oneness with these wonderful people. Truly, God has His people among them; He has loved them with an everlasting love.

We could go on and tell of the different experiences we had in Cubulco. We saw Mary telling the story of Samson killing the lion, and we heard the children singing at the Sunday school class. We saw how these people need love and beauty in their lives, and especially how they need the Lord Who is Light, for in Him is no darkness. We saw how many in this area believe in superstitions and in a dead Christ. Paganism has a great stronghold in this area. With the psalmist of Psalm 36 we pray for them and for ourselves that in God's light we may see light.

We also saw firsthand how important it is for us as members of the Free Reformed Churches to remember the missionaries in our daily prayers. The visit from the deputies was helpful in many ways. Even the fact that Rev. Pronk could preach a sermon for them on Sunday evening was encouraging for them. Listening to sermons on cassette tapes is nice, but it is not the real thing! Letters and cards for the children are also very much appreciated by the families. The deputies' visit is a highlight for them. We pray that God will continue to richly bless Rev. Herfst and Jackie and their children, Mary, and John and Connie Otten with their little girls (and soon too Gary and Martha DeSterke and family) as they labour in this part of His vineyard. May the Good Shepherd Who loves His sheep, also draw the Achi whom He has loved with an everlasting love. May He use the workers there to show them the way of salvation.

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