Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Our growing and praying team


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.

We were joined by our newest members.... a few arrived by plane about 10 days ago, and even our youngest member enjoyed the prayer room (well -cuddles in the prayer room at least!) - it being the first time she´d left her home since being born just 7 days earlier.
 I will keep the prayer room at my house, and continue to use it to inspire me in praying for the world and how Latin Americans can be a part of God´s mission in different parts of the world.












Monday, 11 May 2015

Politics Guatemala Style...

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

Mobilization

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!

Back Again

It´s been a while since I´ve written any blog posts - and I hate blogs that always start with an apology for now having written in a while, so I´m not going to offer any apology at all and just get on with updating....

Having got back to Guatemala in Feb, and catching up with various people and projects, I went on holiday to Mexico. I had a great time of just relaxing, out of reach of emails and phone calls, just a week walking on the beach, relaxing in a hammock, reading books (Naked Spirituality by Brian McLaren was fantastic) and watching sunsets.




I watched crabs race to the waves, pelicans glide just above the breaking waves, those tiny birds that run along the shore so fast that you can´t see their legs, jelly fish just lying about, and one day three fins in the water - which I thought were sharks, but it turns out they were more likely to be Tonina fish who have similar fins! (slightly disappointed with that  - but it was still great to watch them).

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Snow to Ash to Sulpher Steam - within a week!! - and a few nice people as well.

2 weeks ago I left the UK. We drove to the airport through a snowstorm (OK - more like a snow shower!) and 24 hours later, back in Guatemala I was experiencing a different sort of shower. I was clearing up the garden (after 5months of being unattended) - and thought to myself  'I´d forgotten how dusty it is in Guatemala'. Reading the news later, I realised that it wasn´t just the normal dust - but also a showering of volcanic ash from Fuego Volcano, which isn´t too far away. The ash is great for the garden - as it provides extra nutrients and creates very fertile soil - but not to be washed down the drains, where it can cause blockages. Fuego is one of the active volcanoes in Guatemala - and has an almost constant display of rising smoke and occassionally of lava flares. But it has been more active over the last week. The airport was closed for about 24 hours to clear the runway of ash.

Thankfully it was open again by the time I went to Nicaragua for the Central America team conference. We experienced a volcano there too, when we visited Volcan Masaya - another active one. This one is surrounded by a barren landscape as in the earth resulted from the sulphur deposits that this volcano expelled in an eruption rather than the fertile type! And there is still sulphur steam rising from the enormous crater.






Whilst we were there (in Nicaragua), we had a great time for the other Latin Link members in Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Mexico....


 All together.
Guatemala and Mexico.

Friday, 6 February 2015

Towards Authentic Community

I like airports.. they are always places that I can be by myself and reflect. Or at least, when I travel alone (which is mostly), it´s always a good time to reflect on what´s gone before and what´s coming next.... Here´s a few thoughts that I wrote down yesterday at the airport... 

Over 6 months ago, I wrote a few blog posts about friendship. I admit that they make fairly depressing reading. Since then, I´ve been gradually working through where all those feelings came from and where I go to from here.

I´m recognising that many times, we feel disappointed with things, not necessarily because we´re rubbish at them, but because we have a longing for something more or better. For me, I think my reflections about the difficulties of friendship stem from (and is just one part of) a desire for authentic community. My previous blogs focussed on the need for friendships where you know others deeply and are deeply known yourself. 

But then I´ve also experienced being in a community, where I don´t have many friendships like that, but where I actually feel very much 'at home' because we connect on a different level; of shared values of how we see and understand the world around us, and a shared desire to see transformation in our communities and relationships, and where there´s an intentionality and accountability about how we connect together. 

So I´m realising that community happens on many different levels. Maybe finding authenticity and acceptance is easier at some levels than others. Some of it seems to be as a result of proactively creating an environment where community can grow. But there also seems to be abit of an unknown to it too - a chemisty - or a connection - that can´t be explained or programmed or manufactured. Maybe it´s just something about being in the right place at the right time, which sparks something good - and with the right encouragement it grows and develops. 

There is so much in our societies today that prevent or actively discourage community. Our hyper-consumerist and individualistic cultures promise us self-fulfilment and satisfaction but (even if you can afford all the things they´re selling, ) they don´t deliver. They only result in a shallow and superficial veneer of the real thing; all spin and no content; 'Dissatisfaction Guarenteed'. Even when you recognise your dissatisfaction with the last thing, the advertisers will attempt to convince you that the 'next thing' will be the solution. So many of us fall for the same trick again and again. 

I wonder, is there a correlation between longing for and creating authentic community life, and rejecting the consumerist merry-go-round and getting out of the 'rat-race'. I have a feeling there is - and that´s something that I´m excited about studying further in some way or other. 

But in the  meantime, I´m determined to put my 'discontent' with the way things are, to good use. As far as it´s up to me, I want to do whatever I can to create authentic community, or to at least create an environment in which authentic friendships and community can germinate and grow. 

Who´s with me?

Monday, 26 January 2015

Mobilizing Elephants

I´ve just come back from a conference in Thailand, which was really inspiring in terms of my role in the Core team. Over the next few months, I´ll be working out how to implement some of the things I learnt. But I also had an extra day there, and managed to see a bit of wildlife......

 Butterflies
 Orchids
 Elephants!






 Waterfalls
And then I followed the sun back to the UK!