Unexpected Joys

Date posted: Tuesday 11 July 2017

Over the past year, I have observed time and again the deep passion of those working in our companion relationship with the Iglesia Luterana Agustina de Guatemala (ILAG). The monthly task force meetings, the annual fundraising gala, and the visits with ILAG president Karen Castillo, all have helped me to understand a great deal. But it took my own trip to Guatemala last month to stir up those same kind of feelings in me. 
Now, I admit I was a little apprehensive about going. I knew of Guatemala's extremely painful and violent history, as well as the poverty, inequality and other social challenges throughout the country. I knew there would be challenges in matters of personal comfort and feelings of safety, as well as not speaking the local language. At the same time, I knew that I had to make this trip. Many experienced travelers had urged me to go; more importantly, I felt God calling me into this journey of vulnerability, to choose faith over fear, and authentic community over material comfort.
Sure enough, the joy and blessings of this experience far outweighed all the challenges. Four weeks ago, in this space, Pastor Stefanie Fauth wonderfully described our trip, and the many unexpected joys. We shared time with companions whose hospitality and welcome were overwhelming, whose faith and courage were inspiring, whose gifts and talents for worship and music were delightful, and whose desire to keep learning and growing was humbling. We learned the power of prayer and presence, and saw for ourselves the positive impact of our joint projects such as water tanks and wood stoves, especially on easing the burdens of daily life on women. All in all, the experience reminded me of what Paul declared in 2 Corinthians 4:17: "...Our present troubles are small and won't last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever!"
My hope and prayer is that you will notice the tug on your own heart to get involved, or more involved, and especially to go whenever you are given the opportunity. The rewards of coming to know and love our brothers and sisters in Christ in the ILAG churches, by walking together in a spirit of true accompaniment, far outweigh any challenges. And the faith, hope, and love experienced in this relationship provides an important antidote to the anxiety so often rampant in our own culture today.
I also urge congregations who are not yet in a companion relationship with an ILAG church to prayerfully consider doing so. The eager and hard-working ILAG faith community at San Antonio will make someone a great partner. In addition, God is lifting up other new congregations that will soon be ready for a partnership. So please contact Janet Metcalfe, the ILAG Task Force chair, or me in the synod office, to get more information on this wonderful opportunity. Don't delay - for the Kairos moment - the right time - is now!
The Rev. Joe Lees
Saint Paul Area Synod, ELCA