Saturday, March 31, 2018

New Testament Books Now Available!

Back in 2011, Fred and Arlene Jonkman and their daughter came to Guatemala to do a number of workshops on the Sunday School Curriculum that they had translated into Spanish. you can read about this visit if you go back in my blog to 2011. The result of this visit was that WD funded the printing of the OT book at the end of 2012. Since that time I have been responsible for distributing these book. Over the years I sold around 450 copies of the OT book. At the beginning of 2017 I started looking into having the NT book printed since I had enough money from the sales of the OT books to be able to print the NT book. However, it took quite some month to get the printing done largely because we could not find the right file that I could give to the printer. After months of searching the correct file was found and I was able to get the NT books printed. Since November of 2017 we have 500 copies of the NT book available.
One of the focuses this year for me to use others who live in different parts of Guatemala to help with the sale and distribution of the books. One of the difficulties I have had in previous years is distributing the books in a cost effective way. I have met on several occasions with different leaders from the Presbyterian church who are willing to help with this. My hope is that if they do a good job, they can take over this ministry since I am leaving Guatemala in 2019. 

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Visit of Hellen's Brothers

It is not often in life that you can be part of an event that is the highlight on some one's life. Almost a year ago, Brian Dennett and I had the privilege of being part of an event like this which ended up not only being the highlight in the lives of two elderly men, but also was a highlight in our lives.
I wrote the following article for a magazine last year...... (For those who don't know the history of the work in Cubulco see my posts from November, 2013 that give a more complete picture).

In early January of this year (2017) I received an email from Mary Shaw informing me that the two youngest brothers of Helen Neuenswander would be coming to Guatemala in March for a brief visit and would like to go to Cubulco. Mary and Helen were the women that started the work in Cubulco back in the 1950’s when they came to translate the New Testament into Cubulco Achi. Helen was the one who had the vision for a hospital and she was the one responsible for the development of health care in that region. Although Helen died in 1990, Mary is still alive and well at the ripe old age of 96. Helen came from a family of 10 children and the two brothers that were coming, Bill and Dan, were number 9 and 10. Both were not young men anymore as they were 80 and 79 years old. 
I immediately contacted the two brothers and made arrangements with them to visit Cubulco. I also contacted Julio, the hospital administrator to see what kind of special event could be arranged to recognize the work that Helen’s family did by supporting the work of Helen and Mary. The Neuenswander family were very supportive of the work in Cubulco when Helen and Mary were there. Since their trip to Guatemala was very short and because they had other commitments, they only had time to visit Cubulco for one day. On the day of the trip, Brian Dennett and I picked them up from their hotel in Antigua at around 5:00AM and drove via some back roads to Cubulco. Although this drive was over winding and unpaved roads it saved us hours in travel time. The brothers told us that they appreciated the unpaved roads as it helped put things somewhat in context for them as Helen and Mary would have had to travel on dirt roads back in the day. On the drive to Cubulco they shared many stories of Helen and Mary and it came as a surprise to us that they had never visited Cubulco. This made the trip all the more special since these men were coming to see a town, people, context, and work that they had only heard about but had never seen with their own eyes.
We made good time in our drive to Cubulco and arrived earlier than planned. Julio (hospital administrator) had told me that we could not arrive before 9:00 because they had a special event planned. Since we had time to kill, I decided to take the men to see the translation work that FRMI is doing. They met with the translators and promoters and also saw the materials that the translation team had produced over the years. Both brothers were very emotional and surprised that the translation work had continued on. They had assumed that after their sister passed away and Mary left the work had stopped. They were overjoyed to see that the work had not only continued on but had multiplied over the years. They took a number of the materials produced by the translation team with them to show to family back home.

After a brief visit with the translation team we drove to the hospital. I had made arrangements with the hospital to do some sort of ceremony to make the visit special. However, the hospital staff went above and beyond what I had envisioned. When we drove up the street to the hospital, it was lined with students from the local high school who were clapping and cheering their arrival. The local media was present filming and taking photos and the hospital staff and Cubulco dignitaries lined the front of the hospital. Both brothers were speechless and deeply moved by the reception they received. Afterward we held a brief ceremony in front of the hospital together with the hospital staff, people from Cubulco, local media, and students. In this ceremony, I narrated briefly the history of the work in Cubulco so that those present (especially the youth) would understand how things were many decades ago and how the hospital started. Next the hospital staff shared about the work that they do, followed by Bill and Dan who shared from their hearts about Helen and Mary and the work that they had done. From there we gave them a tour of the facilities and showed them how the work has not only continued but has grown. Once again the brothers were amazed by this. Throughout the day, people who had known their sister came by to thank them for the work that she had done. Several of these people shared how they had either worked with her or had been treated by her.     
After eating lunch and doing a few interviews with the local media we departed Cubulco at around 2PM and drove back to Antigua to drop the men off at their hotel. All of us were exhausted because of the long and emotional day, but were grateful for this wonderful time together. Before we parted ways, both Bill and Dan tearfully expressed what an amazing and emotional experience this had been for them. They thanked us profusely and said “thank you for giving these old men the most amazing and impactful experience of our lives”. As Brian and I were driving home afterward we reflected on the day and how special it was for us to have been a part of this and to have been able to make a dream come true for these two “old” men.
In the weeks and months following the visit Brian and I have stayed in contact with Bill and Dan. Throughout the trip together we encouraged them to keep the legacy that their sister started in Cubulco going by sharing with their family and friends about their visit and the work that continues on. Recently, at the Neuenswander’s annual family reunion close to 300 family members showed up and heard about the experiences that Bill and Dan had. At the end they held a collection and raised more than $14,000 for the hospital. What a testimony and legacy this family has and we hope and pray that they will continue to prayerfully and financially support the hospital and the work that is on going in Cubulco and that they will be able to pass this on to their children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Taking up Blogging Again

It has been a little over two years since I last wrote on my blog. I am going to make a go at it again this coming year. One of the hard things about staying motivated in blogging and writing newsletters is the feeling that perhaps few people read and appreciate it. When talking to different people one gets reactions from both ends of the spectrum from "I don't have time or desire to read blog entries" to "I really appreciate it". Often when on furlough we get told that we need to do a better job communicating. While we agree, communication is also a two way street and requires not just for us to do our job, but also the listener to give feedback and respond.  
With that out of the way....... the last entry I did was about the turmoil in Guatemala related to a massive government scandal that ousted many important government officials including the president and vice president. Many of these officials are still in jail awaiting trial. 
Image resultSince that time we had elections and an upstart rose rapidly to power and popularity and ended up becoming Guatemala's president. Jimmy Morales is a Guatemalan businessman who professes to be a Christian who is the current president. His time in power has had mixed reviews. He has done some very positive things and then there are other things that haven't been so good. Having said all that, it is extremely difficult to be in government and leader of a country that is controlled by wealthy elite and organized crime. Furthermore, it is hard to operate when a foreign anti-corruption entity (CICIG) backed by the international community has more power than the government. While CICIG has done many good things, there is also a political agenda behind them. That is what you see in developing countries all the time that the international community has an agenda and they want to impose that agenda on the country under the pretense of "helping". The reality is that few really want to help, but want these countries to hold to the same "morals, standards and ethics" (or in my opinion often lack thereof) as they do. It is really is another expression of colonialism, imperialism, and expansionism. It is another arrogant way of saying "we are more advanced, developed, and superior than you and you need (and want) to become like us. Also there exists this idea that all the people in the world desire what we have and want to be like the developed world. I feel that this way of reasoning comes from the evolutionary teaching that is prevalent in the world today.
Please pray for the developing world as they face these battles daily to hold on to their identity, autonomy, morals all the while needing to change and getting pressured by the international community to hold to a "progressive" agenda. Pray also for Guatemala's president who appears to be motivated to do what is right, but faces a lot of pressure from the outside world and the press who often paints him as being incapable. Jimmy Morales had a comedy show on TV in which he portrayed a man from the rural area who gets close to becoming the president of the country. Because of his show the press often refers to him as being a comedian or clown running the country. In reality he is well educated not only in business and politics but also theology. The reality is that even if he was a clown, he can't do any worse than many of the other "clowns" that have run Guatemala or the ones that are running different countries in the world including our own countries in the so called "developed world".