So, after my trip to Israel earlier this summer, I decided I should head on down to Central America to visit Guatemala as well. I just got back from a two-week class at a seminary in Guatemala City. One of my professors at Denver Seminary used to teach there, and he goes back with a few Denver students every couple of years to teach a class on hermeneutics and contextualization. There were six of us Americans in a class with about 12 Latin-American students from Guatemala, Peru, Argentina and Mexico.
In our class, we learned about the ministries these students have with their people. It is a completely different context in Guatemala. Their country has been ravaged by war and violence in a way we have never seen in the States. There is extreme wealth and crippling poverty. There are Guatemalans of Spanish descent and some of indigenous Mayan descent. The religious landscape is made up of Evangelicals (many of them Pentecostal), Catholics and the Mayan faith traditions. Because of this diverse context, ministry looks much different there than it would in North America or Europe or Asia. We talked about ministry in Guatemala and the U.S. — what are the needs of the people, what experiences are they bringing to the Scripture when they read it? We talked about the need to truly love the community you’re working with, whether they’re indigenous Guatemalans or teens in suburban Colorado.
We visited different ministries around Guatemala City, and it was fascinating. There is poverty in the rest of the world that many of us cannot even imagine. In Guatemala City, people scavenge through the city dump, searching for valuable things to sell. There are neighborhoods built around the dump — children playing in garbage, people living in pieced-together shacks. In the midst of this depression, there is a woman who started a ministry 25 years ago; her life is devoted to sharing the Gospel with those who work at the dump. She shares Jesus with them and helps provide for their physical needs. We visited a pastor who works with gang members who are in prison. It is extremely dangerous for him, but the prisoners have come to love and appreciate him. We visited with a woman who started a school in the most dangerous neighborhood in the cit. She rescues abused children and teaches them that even when their parents reject them, God will take them in. Each of these people works within their context to share Jesus with those around them. They are committed to their communities and their Lord.
I am still pondering the effects of my time in Guatemala and what action God is spurring me toward after this trip. There is injustice around the world, and if I play any part in it, I need to reconsider my actions. If I am not caring for the widows and orphans as I should be, I need to move toward that pure religion in honor of my Lord. I am a Christian committed to the text, to the inspired Word of God. How do I share that truth within my context, within the ministry opportunities God has provided for me?
The last day of our trip, we woke up to news of the movie theater shooting in Aurora. Some of my American classmates knew people at the theater, knew someone who was shot. It was a sobering reminder that whether in America or Guatemala or anywhere, things are broken. Sin has ruined us, and things are not as they once were, not as they were meant to be. But one day — one day — it will be restored. Christ will return and there will be new heavens and new earth. The physical, emotional, spiritual will be made whole again. We long for that day, and while we wait, we work to share the good news of Jesus and His redemption with anyone who needs to hear it.