Monday, September 19, 2011

Constant Shaking!

The earth has been shaking lately here in Guatemala.  Today was especially "shaky" as we had four decent sized earthquakes.  The biggest ones measured 4.8 and 5.8.  The epicenter was some 60 kms east of us in the same area that I wrote about a few weeks ago where the earth has been shaking constantly for the past months and years.  Reports are that one woman died when her poorly built house collapsed on her.  2 motorists died in a landslide triggered by the earthquakes and the rain.  We are getting towards the latter end of the rainy season which means a lot more landslides.  The reason why we see more landslides now is that....1. the ground has become saturated with water and 2. the rains are more steady and constant.  Instead of pouring for a half and hour it will now rain steadily for several hours which causes the ground to become more saturated.  When it pours the water does not have time to seep into the ground so the majority runs off.  However, when it drizzles it seeps more into the ground causing the soil to become heavy and therefore cause more landslides.  Thankfully, we have never been directly affected by landslides.  Lia and I were commenting on that this past weekend as we went to Cubulco and then back again.  We saw little landslides all over the place or big rocks in the middle of the road.  We have never had a slide come down on us or right in front of us.  We have been spared so far and we are grateful to our Creator for that.  Please pray for us as we have to travel the roads which at times are treacherous that God will keep us safe as He has done so far.
The following video clip will give you some idea as to what part of the road is like to Cubulco.  This was taken several weeks ago, but since that time there are a lot more landslides and parts of the road missing.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Installation Service of Pastor Xicara

August 20th, 2011 was a historic day for the Reformed Churches of Cubulco.  It was the day that the churches installed Edgar Xicara (shikarah) as their first Guatemalan pastor.  It was a real privilege to be able to witness this historic event.  I was asked to lead the service and Pastor Ken Herfst was invited to do the installation and preach the message.  This was special to see since he was the one who started the work almost 20 years ago and he could as former pastor hand over the care of the church to Pastor Xicara.  Pastor Ken Herfst preached on 1 Thessalonians 2:1-13. 
The road to finding a Guatemalan pastor was a long and difficult one.  It started several years before the Everts left Cubulco in 2008.  Together with the churches we began talking about who should be the next pastor.  As missionaries and mission we felt it would be good if the churches have a Guatemalan pastor.  The churches agreed although they felt it would be better not only to have a Guatemalan pastor but also a missionary pastor.   We began praying about this and searching for a candidate that would be willing to take up the task of shepherding the Cubulco churches.  This proved to be quite difficult since it was hard to find a man who felt called and willing to live and work in Cubulco.  We had a number of potential candidates visit and one by one it was evident that they were not what the church needed.  We had one pastor who worked in Cubulco every other week for close to a year but eventually the churches decided that he was not the right candidate due differences in doctrine.
            Finally, in September of 2010 Pastor Edgar Xicara from a Presbyterian Church in Guatemala City came down for 3 days to lead an outreach service in Pichal.  The people were pleased with his style and manner and so we started making arrangements to have him come and visit Cubulco on a regular basis.  Due to other commitments, Pastor Xicara was not able to start visiting on a biweekly basis until the end of December.  After several months it was clear to all that the Cubulco Churches wanted to call him as their pastor.

In order to do so however, many things had to be discussed and arranged.  The churches had never called a pastor before so they had no idea as to how to go about doing that.  They had no idea as to how much he should be paid and what other arrangements should be made.  We began the long process of discussing these items and making the proper arrangements.  We had numerous meetings and often it felt like we did not get anywhere.  Often in exasperation the obreros would tell me that I should just take care of all these details and that they would trust my judgment.  I would reply each time that I would not do this and that this was something they needed to work through.  Finally, after months of meetings, long discussion and negotiations we came to an agreement as church, mission and also with Pastor Xicara.  The churches agreed to provide 25% of the salary.  While this percentage does not sound like much it is a big step for them.  The mission will be providing 75% of the funding in the first year, but this amount will be reduced each year and the churches will be contributing more and more as the years go by.   
Pastor Edgar Xicara, wife Ericka, and son Juan Fernando
            On June 15, pastor Xicara, together with his wife Ericka moved to Cubulco.  I left on furlough the following week knowing that the churches were in good hands.  Since the churches and pastor Xicara wanted me to be present for the installation service they set the date for August 20th so that I could be there to witness it.  That was also the date that Pastor Ken Herfst would be available.
            It truly was a special historical moment for us and it was a privilege to be able to witness this.  We ask that you will pray continually with us for Pastor Edgar and his wife Ericka both of whom have always been very active members of the churches they have been a part of.  Also pray that God will give him the strength to visit all the churches since he is in his early 60’s.  Finally, pray for the churches that they will give according to what God has given them and that God will multiply their tithes and offerings in order to sustain their pastor and the needs of the churches.


While many in the world were commemorating the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the US, September 11th was the day that Guatemalans lined up to vote for the country's next leaders.  Around 11 parties were running for the presidency, although of those there were only about 3 that stood any chance of winning.  
This election year was an interesting one.  During my 11previous years here I never took too much interest in the country's politics, until this year.  Politics here is definitely not boring.  There is a lot of drama, corruption, etc.  For instance the country's first lady decided to challenge the constitution and run for president.  The constitution states that a close family member can not run for president in the next election.  To try and subvert the constitution  she divorced her husband for "love" of the country thinking that she would be free to run for president.  Thankfully, the constitution was upheld and several weeks ago it was ruled that she could not run.  Since the deadline had passed to register for the running her party suddenly lost any opportunity of running the country once again. 
In Guatemala elections are much different than that of Canada and the States.  The first big difference is the number of political parties.  I counted at least 14 parties.  The second is that elections are for all levels of government from top to bottom. For instance the local mayor belongs to a political party.  This makes voting challenging.  As one Guatemalan said to me that you need to vote for a person and not for a party.  The mayor you vote for might belong to a different party than the president you vote for.  Presidential candidates and party officials often do not do a good job of screening who runs for their party.   
The way it looks so far is that no party has the majority of the votes.  This will mean that in November Guatemalans will again have to go to the polls to vote in the second round between the two parties that have the highest percentage of votes in the first round.   Right now the Patriot Party is in the lead with 36-38% of the votes.  The party in second place trails with 25% of the votes.  The Patriot Party (formerly known as the "Heavy Hand Party) lost in the second round during the previous elections.  Their leader is an former general and he has vowed to use "heavy hand" tactics to deal with organized crime and gangs.  He plans to combat violence with military might.  In general people here in Guatemala welcome this kind of strategy since they are tired of living in fear.  Most people here have been affected in one way or another by the violence.  Just last week in AMG we saw the effects as a girl in the office had her brother gunned down in front of her.  
We know that in the end the only thing that can really bring about lasting change is the Gospel of Christ.  Therefore, we ask you to pray for the country of Guatemala and the party that will run this country and that God will use us to minister to the people of Guatemala.