Mutually Blessed

Date posted: Tuesday 30 May 2017

The members of Grace Lutheran Church in Apple Valley have enjoyed seven years of partnership with a wonderful congregation in Guatemala. We became involved in the Guatemalan ministry when one of our members participated in a tour of the ILAG churches in 2008. When he returned and told our congregation about the new global companionship opportunity, the excitement was immediately felt by others in the congregation. At that time, we had not participated in any mission opportunities and realized that we were finally being called to experience God's kingdom - and in a culture vastly different from suburban Saint Paul. There were advantages, too. For one, Guatemala is relatively close by (same time zone!) so traveling to companions was affordable and a relatively short flight. We realized, though, that the main advantage was to be "Christ in the world" for the new friends we would meet, while they did the same for us.
In August 2010, eight members of Grace joined a pastor from Memorial Lutheran Church in Afton to visit a congregation, Santa Elena 20 de Octubre, situated in the lowlands near the Mexican border. Memorial Lutheran in Afton had been involved with Santa Elena but was looking for additional support. 
Our first trip was a true adventure! The road into the village was impassable for vehicles so we had to walk in with our backpacks (over 3 miles) in tortuous heat. Of course, the village had no electricity or running water so we made do without creature comforts. But none of that mattered - the people were welcoming and wonderful and we especially fell in love with the children. Through worship, family visits, activities with the women and kids, and tours of the farmland with the men, we felt God's blessings for us and for them. On one visit, two languages (Spanish and Q'eqchi) were used in prayer and counseling for a young woman who was estranged from her family. We could not understand the words but understood the Spirit at work.
What followed were four more visits to Santa Elena when, each time, we walked together in faith and learned about the dreams of the congregation. One of their main wishes was for a permanent place to worship, and we were able to help. In May of 2016, on our fifth visit, we helped dedicate a new church building in a wonderful celebration with worship, prayer, and (loud!) music.
Is your congregation involved in a global mission project? If so, you've experienced the blessings that all participants share. If not, please consider a partnership with a congregation in the ILAG. They will be blessed by your friendship and support. You will be blessed by seeing their faith in a God that provides what is really needed. You will both learn that "Caminando Juntos" means being mutually blessed!
Chuck Swanson
Grace Lutheran Church, Apple Valley, MN