Strong Roots in the Land of Many Trees

by Juan Sarmiento

Guatemala
Day One

A view of the Coban area

A view of the Coban area

"You’re a tree replanted in Eden, bearing fresh fruit every month, never dropping a leaf, always in blossom" (From Psalm 1, The Message)

Commonly known as the “country of the eternal spring” Guatemala received her name from the expression “land of many trees” in Mayan languages that are so much part of the rich heritage of what is now known Central America.

Our group in this trip is made up of Rev. Daniel Smoak (Westminster Presbyterian Church –  Charleston, SC), Rev. Gordon Turnbull (John Knox Presbyterian Church – Greenville, SC), Rev. Rob Weingartner (Executive Director, The Outreach Foundation) and myself. We are here to join the Beisswenger family who serve with the Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Guatemala, under appointment of The Antioch Partners, in a series of meetings to become better acquainted with how God is at work in the Q’eqchi’ region through ministries of theological education, educational ministries (K-12) and a new a multicultural congregation in Coban.

Although this is my first time to visit here, the many and memorable friendships with several very faithful Guatemalans over two decades of ministry in Southern California give plenty of reasons to feel particularly connected to the people of these beautifully fertile lands. However appreciative I may be of my previous exposure to the abounding positive aspects of Guatemalan culture, there is nothing like being here, experiencing first-hand some of what it means to live as God’s people in this place. 

Rev. Eligio Pastor Garcia, principal at “La Patria Norte” school. Once a victim of repressive violence now sees his role as helping rebuild a wounded nation.

Rev. Eligio Pastor Garcia, principal at “La Patria Norte” school. Once a victim of repressive violence now sees his role as helping rebuild a wounded nation.

Our first day here has been filled with encounters with people who experience the pain of violent dislocation, mounting economic pressures and revolting discrimination with relentless faith. Sisters and brothers that refuse to be overcome by bitterness and fear but see themselves as enabled by the Holy Spirit to freely give forth the delightful fruit of Christ’s love.

Over the next few days, I will be sharing some of our experiences and reflections as we sit under the hospitable shadow of fellow Presbyterians in Guatemala, listen to their stories of transformative courage and learn more from their reinvigorating commitment to joining God in mission. Would you join us?

The Herrera Family. Three of their children have left the country to provide for the home.

The Herrera Family. Three of their children have left the country to provide for the home.

Juan J. Sarmiento
Associate Director for Mission