It’s simply a stunning place. This picture doesn’t do it justice.
The western highlands of Guatemala. Where mountain volcanoes tower over beautiful blue lakes and lush green jungles. Where fields of corn and coffee plants dot the landscape around small rural villages. Where the Mayan people live, speaking over twenty different indigenous languages and wearing the brightest and most beautiful colors you’ve ever seen.
But the highlands of Guatemala is also an area where 80% live below the poverty line, many in extreme poverty (making it, along with Haiti, the two poorest areas in the Western hemisphere). A place where Christians have made a small impact, but where most Mayans still worship their ancient pagan gods alongside the Roman Catholic saints that the conquistadors introduced in the 16th century. A place where civil war recently devastated the region for over thirty years and where Hurricanes Stan and Mitch wiped out entire villages in the last five years.
This Friday, I will be traveling to Guatemala with Ed Anderson, CEO of Healing Waters International (HWI). I couldn’t be more excited. Ten years ago, Janis and I first traveled there and fell in the love with the place and its people. Since then, we’ve been back numerous times—most significantly to bring our adopted son and daughter from Guatemala home. You could say that means Guatemala will always be special to us.
So, as the New Denver staff is beginning to think and pray about a global missions vision for New Denver Church, Guatemala is definitely a consideration. But not just because we love it. There are several other reasons that make it a place for us to strongly consider:
- Close proximity to Denver (a few hours on a plane) and very inexpensive for short-term trips
- Huge needs, both physical and spiritual (as mentioned before)
- Spanish speaking (Spanish is the most common second language among Americans)
- Presence of some local Christians in Guatemala already doing work we could partner with
- Openness to Americans
- Some great connections there already
This last point is important because when we moved back to Denver more than a year ago, Stephen, Jason, and I connected with Ed Anderson at HWI through a relative of Jason’s (HWI’s headquarters are in Golden, just outside Denver). Ed is amazing. And HWI is amazing. They partner with local churches in Mexico, Dominican Republic, Haiti, and Guatemala to install water filtration systems to provide clean, affordable water in areas where it doesn’t exist. In the process, these local churches not only meet a tangible physical need, they also become a greater redemptive presence in their communities.
HWI has mainly concentrated in large urban areas, but is beginning to develop a new prototype for a rural filtration system to use in the Mayan villages of Guatemala. Ed has invited me down to Guatemala this weekend to meet their indigenous staff, see several of their local projects, participate in their yearly staff conference, and begin to determine if it would be a good fit for New Denver Church to partner with HWI. If we decide to move forward, New Denver Church would connect with a local church in a Mayan village to help them install a new clean water system over the next year or two and develop a long-term relationship that would go well beyond clean water.
I should say that at this point, we’re just in the exploration phase. It’s possible that it won’t be a good fit for New Denver to work with HWI right now. It’s even possible that Guatemala isn’t the right place for us at this point; perhaps God has something else in mind and this trip is just part of the process of figuring that out. But…maybe this is the first step in something else big and bold that God is beginning to do in our small community.
- Please pray that the trip would go well.
- Pray that God would clarify his vision for us.
- And pray for God to help you begin to figure out how you can be a part of what he’s doing to help us share his love not only with our neighbors and our city, but with those around the world!
May God be gracious to us and bless us
and make his face shine on us—
so that your ways may be known on earth,
your salvation among all nations. Ps 67:1-2
PS: If I have time and internet access, I’ll post a few brief updates during the trip.