Loaves and Fishes in Abundance
I am always surprised where I will find something about hunger and how we are called to help bring it [...]
Date posted: Monday 26 March 2018
Nuevo Porvenir and Playito Cerro Alto are each located on high plateaus above the Rio Chixoy (Negro), in jungle environment in North Central Guatemala, and only accessible by river boat. Both villages are comprised of 17-18 families living in hand-cut, wood board sided homes with dirt floors with no running water or electricity, other than an occasional gas generator. However, that’s where the similarity ends.
The village culture in Nuevo Porvenir recently underwent a drastic change. The village families voted 9 to 8 to grant the ownership of the then existing church building and land to the Catholic Church. The 8 remaining Lutheran families were then faced with having no building to serve as the place of worship. Upon the eve of our visit, we received a letter co-authored by Pastor Raul Cao and Church Council Leader Raymundo Quil assuring us that the 8 Lutheran families were functioning well and definitely looking forward to our visit.
As our delegation of eleven began our journey to the villages, we were a bit apprehensive as to what situation we would experience upon arrival at Nuevo Porvenir. Upon arriving at the village, it became immediately obvious that we had nothing to fear. The families appeared happy to see us as they welcomed us with open arms and a lunch of hot tortias and black beans. Before embarking on our trip we had sent the village funds for a new church building. In anticipation of our arrival, the villagers, with help from neighboring Lutheran congregations, had constructed a new church building in less than three weeks. We joined our Lutheran brothers and sisters in Blessing the new church building and worshiping together that afternoon. Two baptisms were conducted during the service and two families from adjacent villages announced their intent to join the congregation. New beginnings and congregational growth bode well for the future of Nuevo Porvenir.
The only visible, negative effect of the religious schism in Nuevo Porvenir was the impact on the children. As we played games and engaged in craft projects with the children, it was evident the Catholic families would not allow their children to interact with the Lutheran children. Remembering from past visits, Oscar and Hamlet were best of friends, but, now could no longer play together. Situations such as this tugged at our hearts. We only wish we could have had more time to spend strengthening our relationship with the Lutheran families and re-gaining relationships with the Catholic families.
Playito, on the other hand is unified village of 17 families, well organized under the leadership of the two founding village patriarchs, Herlindo and Paublo. We were welcomed into the village with the typical fireworks and music played from the front patio of the church. Many improvements have been installed in the village during the past five-year association we have maintained with the village. (We have also supported similar improvements in Nuevo Porvenir – latrines, water collection and filtration, smokeless cooking stoves, etc.) The only missing, essential element, according to the villagers, was a corn grinder to alleviate the need to pay for corn grinding in a neighboring village. At the morning meeting with the church council, we announced that we were going to provide a corn grinder to the village. As part of this, the villagers signed a Covenant to provide a portion of their corn grinding savings to the ILAG's MILAGRO Women's Education Center. The remainder of their savings could be used to support individual families and village improvements. A form of “Leveraged Buy-in.” With a resounding “UZ”, the villagers accepted our proposal.
Oh yes, the new beginning and congregational growth in Playito. For the past two years, we had become acquainted with two of the MILAGRO participants, Yolanda and Israel. Isreal happens to be from Playito and is Herlindo’s Grandson. Yolanda and Israel fell in love while at the MILAGRO and were married in a lovely ceremony in Playito during our visit – thus adding a new family to the village. Further, Yolanda is training to become an ILAG Pastor and, when ordained, will be installed as the Pastor for the church in Playito.
We are looking forward to supporting the continued growth of both villages as well as the sustained growth of MILAGO. I’m excited that my granddaughter, Luvia, is one of two young women from Playito attending MILAGRO.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the experience of traveling to the river via the “short-cut”. We endured two and one-half hours of bumping over a hot, dusty dirt road in Estuardo’s autobus after leaving the paved highway North of Coban to arrive at the point where we transferred to a pick-up truck. It was another, rough, half hour ride down the mountainous terrain, standing in the back of the pick-up truck, hanging onto a metal cage structure, before arriving at the river. The boat ride was very smooth.
Robert Ready, aka Roberto
Mount Olivet Lutheran Church