When Accompaniment Becomes a Calling

Date posted: Tuesday 21 November 2017

In June of 2018, I will be heading to Guatemala with members of Our Savior's Lutheran in Circle Pines. My first trip to visit our companions was in the summer of 2015. During the two nights we spent "in community" in Nueva Guatemala, I slept in my hammock. The men of the community scouted out what they felt to be the best area for me, not far from the communal cooking and dining area. At 3 AM of my first morning, I was awakened by the chug chugging of a diesel generator, the pulsing of weak electric lights, chickens squawking, and laughter. Lots of laughter. I don't understand Q'eqchi', the language that the women were speaking. But I understand laughter, and listening to those women laugh at 3 in the morning as they built their cook fire and then prepared food for the day, told me everything I needed to know about what it meant to have us, their sisters and brothers in Christ, among them as their guests.
During that visit I listened to the members of the San Isidro Labrador congregation talk about their dream that they would one day be able to build a new church building to replace their existing structure that was small, hot and see through. The heat, of course, they could do nothing about, but they needed more room for worship and community events, and they longed to have walls that didn't swell in the rain and contract under the bright sun, leaving inch wide gaps between planks. The following summer, our delegation members asked about partnering with them to address their problematic water supply. "What we really need," they said, "is a new home for our faith. One that we can be proud of, that will be the center of our community." And that was when we started to talk in earnest with our sisters and brothers about partnering with them to make their dream a reality.
Our commitment was $14,000. That's not a huge sum, but the money was not exactly flowing in. Finally, knowing that we needed to complete our undertaking, we decided our celebration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation would be about raising the remaining six or seven thousand, with October 26, Reformation Sunday, as our target date. So we shared the stories of our partnership.  We talked about God's grace. We prayed about our call to love one another as God has loved us. And the money flowed in.  We met our goal on October 12. Over the next three weeks, people would stop one of the pastors and say, "I meant to contribute to this. Can I still do so?" That's when we realized that the corporate goal had become personal calling. What a great way to celebrate the Reformation. We can't wait to participate in the dedication of Nueva Guatemala's new church home when we visit next June.
The Rev. Steve Sylvester
Lead Pastor
Our Savior's Lutheran Church, Circle Pines