Sunday, 29 November -0001 19:00

Being a Reformed Church in the Mountains of Guatemala

Written by Rev. E. Everts
In this article we want to tell you something about one of the most important aspects of our mission work in Guatemala: the churches in the aldeas. Beside the central church in Cubulco, five churches have been built in the aldeas, where every week the congregation gathers around the Word of God. In these churches, obreros are active. They work as ÒbrothersÓ in their aldea families and usually were the first believers in Christ in those places. By way of the Bible Institute they received education to explain and teach the Bible and lead the congregation.

Aldea Life
From the beginning it was the main object of FRC missions to bring the gospel to the indigenous Ach’ people in the mountains of the municipality of Cubulco. Until about fifteen years ago the community lived totally separated from the outside world. There has been much change since then. Roads have been constructed in a part of the area. With support of our mission, a bridge was built which opened the area where the five churches are located. Still, it is not possible to reach this part of Cubulco by car. There are no roads, only trails that can only be traveled by foot, horse or mule. In several places, there is fresh water, but no electricity, except here and there a solar-panel. Tortillas are baked on a wood-fire. The children go to school if there is a teacher. If people are looking for medical care, they have to travel a long distance, and then often it is too late.

Visiting the Aldeas
Every month we visit all the aldea churches. We go in two groups. Every group consists of two persons from the church of Cubulco, together with the obreros from the aldeas who join us to visit each otherÕs churches. This is important for the mutual bond and support. We are a little group, and therefore we are dependent on each other. Mission work is a battle at the frontline; the devil is always trying to destroy the work of God, for example by sowing discord. These ÒbrothersÓ have a lonely position in their own aldea. Therefore, we see it as our permanent task to nurture the bond of brotherly fellowship so they can support each other with full confidence.

I want to give you some examples as to what we find during these visits. These are examples only, but many more could be mentioned. These will explain something about the diversity of needs.

Chirramos - Among the Roman Catholic people there is an enduring resistance against the members of our church. They not only get blamed for everything, but they also suffer discrimination because they visit the Reformed Church. This means a spiritual struggle.

Patuy - A special service was held in the house of a sick and elderly person. He is not from our church and he used to work in the Roman Catholic Church as a catechism teacher. His children showed much resistance to the gospel at first. A son of the man is a witchdoctor. Still it is marvelous that it was possible to read and to meditate on the Word of God in the presence of all. Later, we heard that the man died. It is a pity that the children did not accept our involvement afterwards.

Xeœl - Here the resistance to the gospel manifested itself in another way. Suddenly there is backbiting and there are problems between some people. A witchdoctor tries to discourage people to come to our church by spreading false rumours and threats. We have to listen to the accusations, judge their credibility, and finally come to a conclusion.

Los Pajales Ð Here we are intensely confronted with the powers of superstition. A service was held with a family because of their fear of the evil powers. Two children were sitting on a pile of firewood. The brother who led in prayer opened his eyes after saying amen, and at that moment he saw a snake coming out of the pile of firewood. To these people a snake is a sign that something bad will happen. Will this event frighten them or will they lay hold on the Word of God, which says that He has all powers in His hands? DidnÕt He save them during prayer, especially the children sitting on the firewood?

Pichal - Church attendance was down. One of the causes is the competition of the Òfull gospel congregation.Ó This church knows how to attract people by their emphasis on emotions. New Christians sometimes lack sufficient biblical-spiritual discernment to resist these temptations.

Gratitude and Struggle
There is much reason for being grateful. Regularly there are persons from outside the churches who show interest. Often services are held in the homes with members and non-members who request this; for example at the occasion of a birthday or a good harvest, but also to pray for the sick or for other needs. There are always opportunities to freely open the Word of God and to pass something on about the mercy of Christ. We may sow with confidence, praying for God to give the increase. This gives us courage when we meet difficulties.

The examples we have given make it clear that there is much to do and there are many struggles. It is important to teach the brothers and sisters in the faith in order that they will be rooted in Christ. They need support and encouragement in their new way of life in the Lord, especially when their Christianity brings strife and struggle.

Building Up the Church
An important part of our work is building up church life. That means that our goal is that a healthy local church is formed which functions as the body of Christ. In such a congregation every member has his place and task where he or she serves God and works together to build up the congregation. In this area, much has to be done yet; for example, to have a well-functioning consistory. In various churches office-bearers have been appointed, but in practice the consistory does not function as it should. This year we want to work on the training of office-bearers and leaders for Sunday school in the aldeas. Where the awareness of responsibility grows, the knowledge of Christ and love to Him and His work will deepen.

A special point of attention has to do with material things. Generally, the members of the congregation have very little means of subsistence. Still, it is important that they learn from the love of Christ to take their responsibility and so help build up the congregation with what they have. The church has the diaconal calling to bear one anotherÕs burdens. From time to time we explain the significance of the collection in the service. We also try to develop a vision and a practice of a well-structured book-keeping.

Setting up a regular church-life in the mountains of Cubulco is difficult. It is a region where it is hardly possible to find employment. The dryness and the condition of the soil hardly give any opportunities for agriculture or cattle-breeding. To obtain a sufficient family income, most people need to go to the coast to work to harvest coffee or sugar-cane. Whole families, or the male bread-winner, leave their homes for one month or more. It is clear that this is a drawback for church life. It also shows that we cannot understand the spiritual situation of the church apart from the socio-economic context. During the past years the FRC mission, together with AMG/Word & Deed, have been looking for possibilities to assist in this respect. An example is the realization of the bridge that has been mentioned before. What we are able to do is limited, considering the needs and the possibilities.

Growing
When I asked Pastor Ken Herfst what should be the main focus of my work, he answered Òstrengthening the church.Ó It is a process of growing up and that is not an easy process. Much love, patience and perseverance are needed, not only from the side of the missionaries and the obreros, but also from the side of the members of the churches. Above all, we need the guidance of the Holy Spirit, Who gives growth in faith and strengthens the life of the church of Christ.

That is the need of the Church all over the world. It makes us stand united together, as churches in Guatemala and in North America. Therefore I want to ask you to be one with us in the bonds of prayer. Pray that the church in Cubulco will persist in the good fight of faith and that it will grow, not only in numbers, but also spiritually through the power of the gospel. Pray that the flames of the love of Christ will not be extinguished, but will burst into a fire so that people will live in love for Him and make Him known in word and deed to those who still live without Him. Pray for courage, wisdom and diligence for those who give guidance. May there be many more in the churches of Cubulco who know their calling to serve in the church of Christ.

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