February 3 – My Dear John Letter


My older brother John will join us in Guatemala next week. More precisely we, the Guatemala Mission Away Team, will join him in Guatemala next week. John retired to Antigua, Guatemala, about a year ago and he met last year’s Away Team on the last night of the trip when we stayed in Antigua prior to heading the airport in Guatemala City the next morning. After spending time with some of the team members and hearing some of our stories, he wondered if he might join us in our work in San Lucas Toliman this year. The rest is history, as they say.

So next Saturday afternoon, John will greet us at the Guatemala City Airport and become a part of the LPC Guatemala Mission Away Team.  John brings a wealth of construction experience and skill to the team – commodities sorely lacking in his younger brother – and will contribute much to our work.

John knows the details of the trip – when to be at the airport and the “what to bring” list every team member receives, and I will be in touch again this week to remind him of those details. But, still, I owe him another letter, a big-picture, why and how, letter.  It will go something like this:

Dear John,

Just one more week until we’ll meet in Guatemala. I am looking forward to the trip and, especially, to you being a part of our team.  You’ll meet some of the same people you met a year ago, plus some others. It’s a great group of Langhorne Presbyterians!

As you know, you will be a member of the Construction Team.  The goals for the week are  ambitious, but our team vets are pretty sure they will be able to complete all the projects on the list.

The rest of the group will be divided between the Clinic Team and the Children’s Team.

So, why do we do this? I guess the answer is pretty simple. Jesus told us to.

We go in the name Christ who sends his people out into the whole world to bear witness to his love and mercy in both word and deed. We go to tell about the coming and already-here Kingdom God is building, and we do so by what we say and, in this case, especially, by what we do. Following Jesus who healed the sick and fed the hungry, who called the children to come close and the fishermen to drop their nets and follow him, we build houses, offer medicine and hope to the sick and hopeless, and share Bible stories and love with the children.

The why part of our mission is simple. Jesus told us to.

The how part of our mission is something about which we have thought a lot at LPC. We’ve studied the scriptures and looked at the best practices of effective cross-cultural mission. Our core principals are:

“Mission With” not “Mission To.”  Ours is an alongside mission. We are coming along side Promised Land Ministries, a Guatemalan-born, Guatemalan-led, and Guatemalan-sensitive ministry.  We are not the wealthy and wise ones bringing what we have to Guatemala. Our goal is to humbly bring some of what God has given us for use with and by our Guatemalan partners as together we seek physical and spiritual good for the People of the Lake. You will see Promised Land School, a 52-week a year presence in San Lucas Toliman. Our year-round support of the children there may be the most important work we do.

Helping Without Hurting. Sometimes our best intentions do more harm than good. For instance, it turns out that too often our donated clothing hurts rather than helps. All those free t-shirts can drive local seamstresses and merchants out of business. We do our best to see that the houses we build, the medicine we bring, the games of duck, duck, goose (pato, pato, ganso) we play do no harm.

Recognizing our own poverty. Poverty is more than a lack of material goods. We talk about:

  1. Material poverty – a lack of life sustaining food, shelter, clothing, and economic opportunity
  2. Relational poverty – a lack of life sustaining community; friends and family
  3. Poverty of self – a lack of life sustaining self-knowledge, worth, and possibility
  4. Spiritual poverty – a lack of life-sustaining knowledge and experience of God’s love and grace.

Many of those we will meet in Guatemala are oppressed by material poverty. We can help alleviate that poverty. God may use us to alleviate some of their other poverties, as well. And he may use our Guatemalan friends and fellow mission team members to alleviate our relational, self, or spiritual poverties.

Why? Because Jesus told us to. How? Mission with, helping without hurting, recognizing our own poverty.

I think it’s going to be a great trip. I’m glad you are going to be a part of it.  See you in a week.



Yes, I think I’ll say something like that.

See you Sunday