The Presbyterian Church of Guatemala invited us to speak at their pastors training camp later in the week.
But for reasons of cheaper airfare, we flew in on Saturday, and then I was given the opportunity to preach two services at Iglesia Central Presbyterian, in zone one, across from the equivient to Capital Hill and next to the President’s working offices.
[more of the experience below]
Approximately 500 people attended the two services. I got to preach in Spanish. It was recorded, so if you want one, please ask and I’ll send it to you.
Liturgy was followed from the bulletin, using a blend of hymns and contemporary Spanish worship songs.
This church had a new experience for me: the prayer time. People were invited to the front to pray before the preaching of the word. The pulpit is on a raised platform, which had kneelers in front of it. This helped people come and kneel at the front. The elders came to lay hands and pray for individuals. I went up to spend some time praying, and two of the elders came by to pray for me.
I’m convinced that their prayers were guided by the Holy Spirit as they touched only on themes I was praying about.
The rest of the congregation did more singing during this time.
Greeting visitors was a calling them forth, having them stand up and share their names into a microphone. The whole congregation then waved at each guest individually. Ushers went and put a VISITOR sticker badge on them. I felt honored, even though i don’t recommend this practice in North America. With the exception of the badges, we experienced this type of greeting at the second church and at the conference we attended.
I was put on the spot to try translating greetings from Sam and Ben. He did his best, but I’m sure it wasn’t the cleanest or purest Spanish.
Between services, we were wisked to Applebees for a typical breakfast and back for the second service where the process was repeated all over again. For lunch we wanted some typical food, and taken to the Guate version of KFC. We ate very well and then taken on back to the camp. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to do much sight seeing in the historic areas around the church.
The church had a 3.00 pm evangelistic outreach, which we didn’t know about and thus didn’t work into the schedule. I talked with the elder in charge of this outreach, and learned they do a tract distribution, and personal invitation to a special service. They’ve had several conversions this year, and are celebrating some baptisms and the Lord’s supper.
We were returned to the camp where we could rest for a few mintues before running off to a church, El Buen Pastor in Amatitlan. A smaller church, about 150. They were having their missions conference. Daniel, our host at the camp is an elder.
We met their pastor, discovered they hadn’t arranged for a translator, so I preached again in Spanish. They were also gracious enough to move some flowers away from the pulpit so that I wouldn’t have an allergic reaction.
This time I really felt like a kairos moment was occuring, but I didn’t have the autority from the pastor to have an altar call. They don’t do that there at that church. Had I checked in with the pastor ahead of time, I would have likely continued with it, but that didn’t work.
The preaching of the Word.
All three sermons were on having a personal devotional time and the richness of having a regular, daily time with God to gain wisdom for living.
Many people commented on the power of the sermon. Those who said more than the cursory God bless you at the exit told me of how that sermon hit the spot. Most affirmed my ability to preach in Spanish. I know that GOd can use the scripture, even if I’m not always gramattically correct.
I remember seeing different social classes all worshipping together. Shaking hands with people from nearly all age groups. Dressed to the 9s and as campesinos who don’t have much. People saying things like “That sermon meant a lot to me” “This was a good reminder to me that I need to get back into the word.”\
God’s generous protection and provision
After evening church, we were taken again to Pollo Campero, the Guate version of KFC. A nice meal with Daniel and his wife. We told all sorts of preacher jokes, with me serving as a translator.
Some jokes didn’t translate without an explanation of the pun, and I had to deal with some really hard words going to Spanish, but we laughed alot.
While we were eating, the fuse box in the car under the passenger seat caught fire and the car couldn’t start. (Below is not our car, but a visual representation of the fire damage).
We thanked God that our fire driven breakdown occurred
- In a well lit and crowded parking lot
- In a parking lot with 24 hour security
- While we were inside the restaurant and not in the car
- That we were close to the camp for easy pick-up
- That the fire didn’t spread to the cabin of the car.
Daniel made arrangements for us to be picked up. On the way home, our driver on the way home said this town is very dangerous to walk in as a stranger. While we felt no danger, we were not ever allowed to be alone outside the camp. We heard stories of bus driver assassinations (about 2 a day, down from 5 a day), and read lots of state department warnings about the violent crime rate. We noticed that our hosts were taking to us to well developed and secure places to eat and kept us away from places that wouldn’t be wise to be in as a foreigner.
We passed the rest of the evening in prayer — wondering about spiritual warfare.
- Power problems coming in and out at the camp,
- Camera batteries running out,
- Supplies being left in our home countries
- Car fuse box shorting out.
- Even during one of our prayer meetings, the lights went out.
Daniel mentioned later that the power problems were a new issue that hadn’t happened before. Having learned that the camp had been a Mayan sacrifical ground, we took some authority and asked the Lord to clear a space for us to work in and for his spirit to move. Conincidentially, the lights came back on. We asked our intercessors to be praying along those lines, not wanting to deal with any spiritual warfare locally.
Monday: Antiguo Gautemala.
A day of tourism. Daniel took us to the old city, established in the 1500s if not sooner, but destroyed by earthquake and a resulting flood. We walked around, and it reminded me much of Cuszco Peru.
Visited ruins of the central church, had a great lunch of typical food, and we spent some time talking with Daniel about his view on the state of the church.
Had our picture taken with some local women dressed in typical garb, and simply passed the day. We continued telling jokes and generally building a relationship.
Praying for the conference.
We spent time as a team praying for God’s will to be done, praying for the camp, continuing to pray that God would create an open space for His spirit to work.
Our intercessors were guiding us to pray about thinking on our feet and seeing spiritual reality. We kept asking God to show us how to think on our feet, and how to network with people. Knowing that some of our teaching material would be new, we kept praying for receptivity and open minds.