This view never gets boring.
Saturday, 4 July 2015
I started the day in San Pedro La Laguna - so began with a swim in the Lake. That´s always the best way to start any day... but especially one that marks a new year and a new decade!.
(well actually I only remembered to take photos half way through the evening, so there´s lots of people missing ... but here´s a few who were there.... .)
Monday, 22 June 2015
I can´t remember much about being 12. I certainly can´t remember having any life changing decisions to make.
Last week in the Guatemalan news, was the story that highlights just how different life can be, even for children as young as 12. A young lad called Angel, went missing. The alert was raised but police were unable to find him. The following morning, police were called to the Belice bridge in Guatemala city, where locals had seen a boy thrown from the bridge. Later the story of what had happened emerged. He was kidnapped by a local gang and held for over a day. The following morning, he was ordered to kill a bus driver - a request often made of youngsters to initiate new recruits into Guatemalas gangs. When he refused, he was given another choice; of how he would prefer to die; either cut into pieces (the spanish word used literally means to be quartered), or to be thrown from the bridge. (Puente Belice is a busy traffic bridge in the city, crossing a ravine hundreds of feet below). Amazingly he survived the fall, but is in critical condition.
It highlights the violence, manipulation and fear that characterize life in the marginal zones of Guatemala city but the fact that Angel choose not to kill - most likely, knowing that it may mean the end of his own life, is also a cause for hope.
Thursday, 4 June 2015
Politics has come alive in Guatemala. In previous election years, the majority of the population had a sense of resignation that their task was to choose the least worst of a bad bunch, and that after the initial euphoria of victory, election promises would be forgotten and they would simply get more of the same.
This year, the involvement of a UN backed organisation working against impunity, has revealed two big corruption scandals at high levels of the government and the public sector. Arrests have been made, and investigations are ongoing.
It kickstarted a series of peaceful manifestations which have galvanised the middle classes into action. A couple of friends have felt very emotional about the chance to protest. Knowing that one of my friends father was killed over 30 years ago, specifically for standing up for workers rights -- helps me to understand why. For many in the middle classes (only about 10% of the population), they have grown up with a sense that there is nothing they can do to influence the politics of Guatemala or its outworkings in everyday life. That has changed now - but it is very fragile. The BBC wrote a slightly overenthusiastic article about how peaceful protests have changed this violent country (http://www.bbc.com/news/blogs-trending-32882520). It is true that the protests have remained mostly peaceful -- but that hasn´t affected the normal violence that continues in every day life.
The protests are calling for the Presidents resignation, although so far no specific charges have been brought against him. The Evangelical Alliance made a statement that the Presidents resignation would de-stabilize the country and called churches to respect authority (and assumed that that meant passivity and not protesting in the face of corruption). Amongst my friends, that brought about a florish of facebook statuses basically saying that the EA does not represent them. The EA seemed to have missed the point that although the protests are calling for resignation, that is not the only thing. The protests are much broader than that. They have encouraged ordinary citizens to properly evaluate the claims of Presidential candidates and political parties and call them to account. Groups have been painting over and cleaning up political propaganda which has been placed or painted illegally on rocks, trees, lamp posts. Whereas before it seemed like the political classes could get away with lies and manipulations, and financial corruption, without anyone calling them out, even when there was broad public knowledge of what was happening. Not any longer. The protests (involving up to 50,000 in the last one) seems to have awoken a generation to be actively involved in politics. They have brought diverse groups together with a common call for justice. Even the student union groups of the state university and the private universities, have joined together -- unthinkable only a few months ago.
Last weekend, I went to a prayer event early one saturday morning. About 1500 people gathered in the main square where later that day, the protesters would also gather. This cross-denominational group (again - that sort of unity would have been unheard of 6 months ago) came together simply to pray for justice in this country - and that the protests would continue to be peaceful. In spite of what I would say was an unhelpful dose of patriotism mixed in with the event, it was a moving time to stand (and kneel) with others in prayer for this country.
The protests continue - as the corruption cases now move forward, and more revelations of dodgy dealings emerge every week. The protests started with a general anti-corruption theme. Now we are also beginning to see specific suggestions for reform (most importantly to electoral processes and the financing of political parties and campaigns). It´s going to be a very interesting few months, as we get closer to the elections in September.
Tuesday, 19 May 2015
Saturday was the Latin Link International Day of Prayer - and this year we focussed on mission mobilization.
We organised ourselves a prayer room with lots of creative activities, and had a great time together.
Monday, 11 May 2015
It´s election year in Guatemala, with the presidential elections due in September, so now the billboards are full of smiling faces asking for your vote. But recent events have been a bit different to the usual campaigning, and have galvanised many people into action.
Over the last few months, investigations have revealed a large scale corruption scheme within the taxation system of the trade authority (SAT). The Vicepresidents personal secretary is involved and has been on the run from the police. The last 3 saturdays, various organisations, from all sectors of society, have got together for peaceful protests outside the national palace (as well as similar events in other cities), calling for the resignation of the Vice President and the President, who it is assumed are also implicated - but who have immunity whilst they hold office.
During the first protest, the major TV channels did not cover the event, inspite of the thousands who attended. The police also used mobile phone signal blocking technology so that those in the square could not use social media during the protest. These apparent attempts at censorship have not stopped Guatemalans: the protests continue every saturday in the major cities; a small group of citizens have chained themselves to the railing of the national palace; and other groups have organised strategic roadblocks, all calling for resignations. Last week, the vice president did resign, in order to cooperate with the police investigation but this particular scandal has drawn attention to the wider issue of corruption in government and in the electoral system. The protests continue.
Some presidential candidates have used the situation to their advantage - using slogans showing themselves as alternatives to the thiefs and corruption. Others have become targets of the protests. One candidate, who has used the simple slogan of 'it´s his turn' as he came second in the last election, has had to cancel rallies because of the protests. Explanations of any real policies or plans have been absent so far.
For Guatemalans, who by culture, dislike and avoid conflict, it´s surprising and encouraging to see the growing dissatisfaction with the broken system. Although perhaps they have been dissatisfied for a long time, and have just become much more vocal about it recently.
Thursday, 30 April 2015
This next season in Guatemala, I will be focussing more on Mission Mobilization. That´s a funny term and one that we don´t hear that much, so to explain, here´s an excerpt from a document I´ve written recently which will give you an idea.
A church that is mobilised for mission is one which has a consistent commitment to pray for the world, both in terms of the need for integral mission and evangelism globally, as well as an engagement with world news and events. It is a church with a global perspective – regardless of whether it has any mission candidates within its congregation or whether it supports any specific missionaries.
Mobilisation is related to recruitment and sending structures, but it´s not the same thing.
When a church is mobilised for mission, then those within the congregation who feel they might have a call to missions, are encouraged in that call and trained up. Their church leadership is able to signpost them to appropriate training institutes, or Bible colleges. They may also give them space to test out their calling, by serving within the church, either locally or by sending them on a short term mission within their own country. A church that is mobilised for mission will help and walk alongside the person in evaluating the pros and cons of different mission agencies or denominational sending structures, as well as different regions of the world to which they may feel called. A church that is mobilised for mission will then support that candidate through application, selection processes and further training. A church that is mobilised for mission, will give spiritual covering to appropriate candidates, and support them in their fundraising efforts. They will then send them out with the churches blessing and prayers, and with a long term financial commitment (regardless of its size) to them. A church that is mobilised for mission will keep in regular contact with their missionaries and continue to pray for them corporately and encourage individual church members to do the same. A church that is mobilised for mission, will cooperate with the sending agency / denominational sending structure in the pastoral care of the missionary, both whilst they are in their country of service, as well as when they return, for ‘home leave’ and when they complete their time of service. A church that is mobilised for mission (but that doesn´t have any candidates from within its own congregation) will also seek to make contact with and support missionaries from neighbouring churches or their denomination or elsewhere.
In short, mobilisation is the groundwork needed for successful recruitment, and for sustainable and prayerful support for any missionaries a church sends or supports.
In Guatemala, very few churches have any interest in cross -cultural missions or much awareness of what´s going on internationally. Those that do have an interest in missions, struggle to sustain that interest, and even less an ongoing commitment to support missions. With a total of 25,000 churches in Guatemala, only 80 Guatemalan missionaries have been sent to servir cross-culturally elsewhere. Those mission candidates who make it through all the challenges often find it difficult to raise the financial support they need, and to sustain it whilst they are overseas. But there is huge potential; many Guatemalan Christians are passionate about sharing their faith, and often live sacrificially and generously - if it could only be directed towards missions, then the Guatemalan church could be a strong force for good.
So what does that mean for me? One of the keys is prayer, so my first task has been to start a prayer network for missions. At the moment, it´s simply a weekly email to inform and inspire prayer for the world, but I´m hoping that it will grow and develop. Another key is unity. Unfortunately the panarama of churches in Guatemala is one of division and competition, but I´m planning to talk with other mission agencies and denominations, to see if there are ways in which we can work together to train and encourage the church. It´s early days, but who knows what could happen!