During 2023, our siblings in Christ endured many hardships: a drought, a tropical storm, the migration of many Guatemalans, and gaps in children’s learning and emotional health. Students and staff at the elementary school worked hard to close the learning and emotional health gaps. Our siblings experienced ups and downs when they celebrated the election of anti-corruption President-Elect Bernardo Arévalo and felt crushed as many obstacles have been placed in his way to govern. And yet, the Iglesia Luterana Agustina de Guatemala leaders and pastors continued to walk together with church and community members, students and their families bringing messages of courage, strength, and hope that God is with them.

Planning for the 2024 program year began with worship on Jan. 8, followed by a staff meeting. After many years of dedicated educational responsibilities, Pastor Esther has retired from her leadership position at CLAG. She continues to be the Administrator of the Guest House and will do pastoral care. There has been some reorganization of ILAG and education ministry staff to better meet the needs of the ILAG and the people it serves. On the staff list, you will notice that a full-time accountant and administrative intern have been added and a new regional coordinator has been welcomed. As Pastor Beatriz transitioned into the role of director at CLAG, Marco André Castillo stepped into the role of coordinator.

ILAG community leaders and pastors met at the Lutheran Center Jan. 19-21 for the first leadership retreat of 2024. One of the challenges that is facing communities impacted by migration to the United States has been church leadership. Women are stepping forward to fill these roles and want to study to become pastors. However, travel to the Lutheran Center is impossible for these women given the many tasks they are responsible for as they raise their families on their own. So, to encourage and enable these women to pursue these leadership roles, Pastor Karen will be teaching theology and leadership classes during her visits to the communities.

The SEED program continues to see growth with positive results as Diego Gil and Salomón (field technician, ELCA grant) continue to accompany community participants. Those who had used the sustainable agriculture composting method of planting found that their crops survived the tropical storm and continued to grow and produce mature, delicious vegetables and fruits. Neighbors who had not used this method saw their gardens washed away by the torrential rain and wind. Plans are being made to distribute seed corn for the next planting season.

Over the past few years, the government has expressed concern about the role of the church and may attempt to limit its role to only worship and sacraments. Thus, “human development initiatives” could be viewed as “political activism.” To ensure that holistic ministry can continue under the ILAG umbrella if restrictions are placed upon churches, ILAG staff has worked with its attorney to create a legal foundation, Nach’ok (Moving Forward), with Diego as director. Many church bodies are using foundations to maintain support programs, provide grant opportunities for projects and build alliances that will assist in bringing needed education, health and infrastructure programs to rural areas. Pastor Karen and Diego or other staff will speak more about this during their visit this fall.

In his role as director of Nach’ok, Diego is responsible for the Human Development Initiative (HDI). Improving crop productivity through composting techniques and introducing a variety of produce is one of the initiatives. While working in the villages, church members have provided additional ideas that would improve their quality of life such as wells, corn production and child development.

2024 Human Development Initiative Goals:
  • Engage 150 families in growing productive and efficient gardens. (Currently 113 families participate.)
  • Connect La Esmeralda with electricity
  • Develop early childhood development program
  • Research wells

As the new school year begins, 140 students at CLAG and 16 young women at MILAGRO Center fill the buildings with energy and enthusiasm! More students continue to register at CLAG.

Continue to follow our Facebook page, Guatemala Friends of the Saint Paul Area Synod, to keep up to date on what’s going on in Guatemala.