Life, worship, and community in a Lutheran Church in a small Guatemalan village faces many of the challenges that churches in Minnesota face as well: the need for collaborative work, to build community, and to carefully manage assets. However, seeing how members of the Iglesia Luterana San Agustín energetically address these challenges while also managing diverse histories of resettlement, the demands of rural life, and resource challenges, was both humbling and inspiring. The focus and commitment of these fellow Lutherans was a welcome reminder that we - the people - are the church and that when we stand side by side we can perhaps more clearly see the strength of our faith.
There were many events last week to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the partnership between San Agustín of La Esmeralda and Augustana Lutheran of West St. Paul. Family Bible study provided an opportunity for all present to discuss how people of faith rely on God to help them resolve and overcome the giant Goliaths that may arise in daily life. Women's foot washing created personal moments that celebrated the hard work of women, linking their important work to words of the Bible (completed, possibly, after these same women finished cooking and serving a delicious anniversary lunch for 400 people)! The children participated in stories, songs, and crafts to celebrate Jesus' love for them and many competed in a soccer tournament on their church's new field. In addition, community worship and home visits reflected a growing and active church community dedicated to celebrating God's word through their actions.
During our visit we also experienced an emerging La Esmeralda Lutheran church community tradition in which the ringing of the newly arrived church bell in the middle of the night summoned the church's musicians and singers to participate in Las Mañanitas. During this event the musical group walked to a home where a birthday was being celebrated and sang a song to remind us of King David and baptism. We hope to accompany those singers on future visits - even though this year the 2 am start was more than our warm, tired, mosquito-net-wrapped bodies could quite manage....
The Iglesia Luterana San Agustín, La Esmeralda church community amazed me with their vibrant, warm welcome, their engagement in acts of faith, commitment to relationship building and their community, their welcoming of new members, creation of supportive traditions, and future planning for ways to grow in faith and service.
Living and worshipping as part of this community was a wonderful reminder of how faith in both Guatemala and Minnesota is strengthened through participation and partnership, and how through God all things are possible.
Augustana Lutheran, West St. Paul, MN