The companion relationship between ELCA churches and ILAG churches is built on prayer, presence, and projects. In these things, we model accompaniment – defined by the values of mutuality, inclusivity, vulnerability, empowerment, and sustainability. To this end, walking with the ILAG means more than traveling to Guatemala or sending financial contributions – it is about building relationships and growing deeper in our faith through one another. See the full list of companion congregations.
At the center of our relationship is prayer. We often forget that sustaining a companionship is more than financial contributions and travel – in fact, we are brought together through our belief in Christ and God’s grace. Partnered congregations name each other in prayer every week. Churches are also encouraged to write to their companions and send greetings throughout the year.
Over the years, hundreds of people have traveled to Guatemala to visit their Lutheran brothers and sisters, 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. Discover more about traveling or email firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more about hosting guests.
When partners cannot be physically together in presence, congregations are encouraged to write regularly to their companions. Email email@example.com to learn more about sending letters to your companion congregation.
Serving those who live on the margins of society in Guatemala, the ILAG works alongside members to improve lives through faith as well as through projects. Working alongside ILAG communities, companion congregations identify needs and help to meet them. From congregational needs such as building a new church building, constructing pews, or purchasing hymnals, to community needs such as access to clean water or affordable education, churches come together to build a brighter future.
In addition to individual projects focused on a congregation's needs, the ILAG oversees larger education and health initiatives.
In Guatemala, particularly in the rural and poor regions where the ILAG serves, many children are forced to drop out of school in order to financially support the family. Especially for girls, education levels are low as they leave school to marry, have children, or take care of their families. One of the ILAG’s main initiatives is to break through these barriers and make education accessible to all.
El Mirador Primary School in Guatemala City serves about 100 children from pre-school through 6th grade. In Guatemala, there are nearly 4 million children without access to school. El Mirador Primary School serves an at-risk neighborhood where the alternative to schooling is to join a gang. Through the primary school, ILAG is helping children realize their potential.
Milagro Women’s Education Center serves women from rural communities who wish to continue their education. In rural Guatemala, a woman has limited education and is often married by age 14. But the Center is offering women another choice. At the Milagro Women’s Education Center, young women develop leadership skills and learn a trade that provides them with economic independence. Women who attend Milagro develop a higher sense of self-worth, have the tools to break the cycle of poverty, and are able to take control of their own future.
Scholarships are awarded to youth and adults seeking further education. Many of the rural communities do not have junior or senior high schools, meaning that students must leave home or complete correspondence courses. Scholarships help make these options possible.
Leadership training grants the opportunity to learn theological knowledge and teaching skills to become strong church council members, Sunday School and Confirmation Class teachers, and pastors. These intensive 4-day trainings are held four times a year at the Lutheran Center in Guatemala City, drawing church leaders from every congregation in the ILAG.
The areas of Guatemala where the ILAG serves have limited access to hospitals and clinics. Coupled with often hazardous working and living conditions, the ILAG recognized the need for a dedicated Health Committee. Working alongside this committee, community health promoters in Guatemala are equipped with knowledge and practice to bring back to their congregations and communities. Skills taught include good practices for sanitation, basic first aid, suturing, infection and wound control, use of medicinal plants, family planning, diabetes education, pesticide exposure, and CPR.
The Health Committee also hosts clinics and retreats, as well as yearly campaigns. Through listening to needs voiced by the communities, the ILAG and companion churches have hosted campaigns to bring composting dry latrines, clean water cisterns and filters, and fuel-efficient stoves to every community in the church.
Through the expertise of health promoters and the success of health campaigns, more than 2,000 members of the ILAG are leading safer, healthier lives.