Friday, February 08, 2008

Further Reflections on Guatemala

I had mentioned the idea of following up my previous post about the most recent trip to Guatemala with some additional reflections. I apologize that I’m just now getting around to doing so. I wanted to explain a bit about why the Baptist General Convention of Missouri has focused on leadership training in the western part of the country for our partnership efforts. When we first entered into the partnership with the Guatemalan Baptist Convention, we asked them to assess their own needs as a convention and suggest some areas in which we might be of assistance to them. I may be a little bit “old school” in this regard, but it’s my conviction (based upon some fairly extensive reading in the field of missiology as well as first-hand experience in Latin America for some 16 years) that cross-cultural missionaries can make one of their most meaningful and long-lasting contributions to the task of reaching a nation or people group for Christ and equipping believers in that setting to reproduce themselves when those efforts are done in cooperation with national believers.

I’m fully aware that this begs the question somewhat of what to do with there are no (or perhaps just a handful) of national Christians living in the culture. But when such believers do exist and have developed their own leadership structures—be that a convention-like entity or a similar body—to ignore these recognized leaders and fail to take their counsel under advisement in planning and executing mission strategy seems to be both counterproductive and a demonstration of an attitude of superiority or paternalism. Our focus on leadership training in western Guatemala is the direct result of the Guatemala Baptist Convention leadership having identified with us this area as being one of strategic importance in their work. We were informed when we were exploring with them about partnership possibilities that this part of the country had received very little in outside assistance, unlike some other areas that had experienced ongoing partnerships with some Baptist state conventions from the U.S.

While we haven’t had the degree of involvement I would desire from pastors and churches affiliated with our convention in the partnership, we’ve been able to meet our commitment to offer a training course each six months, beginning in January 2007. We’ve already tentatively set the dates for the next session for July 14-18 of this year. The response to our efforts has been overwhelmingly positive. The number of pastors and leaders participating has increased with each training conference, maxing out this past time at the number of 70 that we had established as an upper limit to keep the event financially feasible for our convention. The affirmation we’ve received both from the convention leaders and the conference participants has certainly served to confirm that what we’re doing is meeting needs.

We’re just a week away from the first of what I hope will be several church-to-church trips in this partnership. Our team met yesterday afternoon and were joined by one of the ladies from St. Louis who will be accompanying us this time. It turns out that I knew her daughter from the time she served as a journeyman in Argentina. As the Disney song goes, “It’s a small world after all.” We still have a few loose ends to wrap up, but it seems that the trip is coming together. The church is having a special commissioning time and prayer for us at the beginning of the service this Sunday. Well, I need to wrap this up and move on to some other things. Thanks for reading and for praying for our upcoming trip.

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