Guatemala

The Saint Paul Area Synod’s Guatemala Committee walks alongside our Christian siblings in the Iglesia Luterana Agustina de Guatemala (ILAG) in an authentic and mutually transformative companion synod relationship based on prayer, projects and presence. Since its founding in 1991, the ILAG (the Augustinian Lutheran Church of Guatemala) has ministered to people living in the margins of Guatemalan society, particularly the indigenous poor. From the lowlands of Petén in the north to the ravines of Guatemala City, the ILAG works to make God’s grace known to all. The ILAG has more than 2,000 members in 18 congregations.

The ILAG operates an elementary school, Colegio Luterano Agustino de Guatemala (CLAG), in Guatemala City, serving nearly 200 students, from preschool through sixth grade. Thanks to the support of our synod, this school operates out of a newly renovated facility and was able to navigate the pandemic through the gift of computer technology for teachers and students. Click here to watch a video on the CLAG.

The ILAG also supports the MILAGRO Women’s Education Center, which provides young women from rural communities with leadership skills and education for a trade. This gives them an opportunity for economic independence. Click here to watch a video on the impact of the MILAGRO Center.

Our synod and the ILAG formed a partnership in 2005 and have been walking together to learn more about what it means to be Lutheran in our global church. Through visiting companions, receiving the pastoral team as guests, prayerful support, supporting projects, and living through the values of accompaniment, companions on each end of the partnership have grown more deeply into faith.

Support for ILAG Ministries

The Guatemala Committee holds a Guatemala Gala in the fall, which raises around $100,000 for ILAG ministries each year. Recent projects supported by gala donations include:

  • Purchase and renovation of a new building for the CLAG elementary school to replace a cramped one perched precariously on the edge of a ravine. The new school accommodates nearly 200 students in an inviting, safe learning space.
  • Disaster relief including purchase of critical supplies after hurricanes struck Guatemala in 2020. ILAG staff delivered food, cleaning supplies and solar powered lamps to remote areas.
  • Technology to assist with pandemic distance learning for schools and improved communication with congregations in remote locations.
  • SEED program for agricultural instruction in rural communities, in cooperation with the ELCA.
  • Expansion of health ministry including nutrition and sanitation education and training for rural community health promoters.
  • Development of music ministry including instruction and instruments for MILAGRO students and congregational worship leaders.
  • Leadership development efforts, including scholarships, theological training, Sunday School teacher instruction and more, which lift up women and youth to become church leaders.

Ways to Be Involved

  • Prayer is a cornerstone of our relationship with the ILAG; we encourage congregations and individuals to pray for their partner congregations and the ILAG as a whole. In particular, we invited you to pray each Friday at 8 p.m.…”wherever you are and whenever you are able.”
  • Follow our Guatemala Friends of the Saint Paul Area Synod Facebook page.
  • Subscribe to the monthly Caminando Juntos newsletter. Click here and select the Guatemala email list.
  • Attend a Guatemala Friends events, held quarterly, for news and updates about the ILAG and our companionship.
  • Plan a Zoom call for your congregation with its companion congregation, send video greetings or write to your companions.
  • Attend the annual Guatemala Gala.
  • Give generously…as you are able…to support the ILAG’s ongoing educational programs for leadership development, scholarships, theological training, health ministry, music ministry or special needs that might arise.
  • Plan a visit to your congregation’s partner in Guatemala! Learn more about traveling to Guatemala.

Traveling to Guatemala

Over the years, hundreds of people have traveled to Guatemala to visit their Lutheran siblings, witnessing the radical hospitality, grace, and joy of this relationship. We also practice presence and hospitality when Saint Paul Area Synod congregations host guests from Guatemala. In both Guatemala and Minnesota, guests may be asked to preach in worship, teach Sunday School, participate in baptisms, and share a congregational meal. Time spent with companions is centered around relationship and discovering news ways to understand our shared Christian faith.

Learn more about traveling to Guatemala.

History of the ILAG

The ILAG was founded by Padre Horacio Castillo in 1991, as Guatemala suffered through a catastrophic and deadly 36-year civil war. This war ended in 1996 with the signing of peace accords, written by a legal committee that included Padre Horacio.

The first churches of the ILAG were formed in Guatemala City among internally displaced persons who had fled into the city during the war and were living (and still are living) in the ravines of the city. Many come from the margins of Guatemalan society, predominantly indigenous people of few material resources.

During the war, Padre Horacio visited refugee camps in Mexico. As those refugees began to return to Guatemala, they connected with him again, leading to the ILAG growing in the rural areas of the country as well as well as the city. The ILAG continues to grow each year, adding mission sites and churches as communities hear that the ILAG pastoral team walks with people, delivers the gospel freely to all people, and visits their communities regularly to bring the word of God.

The ILAG has grown into 17 congregations, as well as an elementary school in Guatemala City. Bishop Castillo retired in 2014, and the Rev. Karen Castillo now serves as president of the ILAG.

ELCA Relationship

The ILAG’s formal relationship with the ELCA began in 1998 with a visit to Guatemala by the Rev. Rafael Malpica Padilla, former executive director of ELCA Global Mission. The Rev. Malpica visited parishes in both Guatemala City and rural areas. Upon seeing the need that existed in the Iglesia Luterana Agustina de Guatemala, he asked the ELCA to support the ILAG. The ELCA not only provides financial support for educational scholarships, but also works closely with the ILAG in leadership and ministry development.

Questions?

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