It was 3:30 Sunday afternoon and I felt a tap on my shoulder. It was my wife, Shirley. “Do you feel well enough to go to church this evening?” she asked. I had been in bed the last two days recovering from some sort of intestinal bug I had picked up during our travels in Guatemala. I was supposed to have brought greetings from the Presbyterian Church in Canada to the Filadelphia Presbyterian Church at their Saturday evening service, but that had been out of the question. An additional 24 hours with antibiotics in my system made me feel a little more human.
I got up, got dressed and soon there was a knock on the door. It was Ken Kim and Barb Summers. Ken, director of Presbyterian World Service and Development, was our tour guide and translator for the trip. Barb, communications coordinator, was the chief photographer and a great traveling companion. More recently, they, along with Shirley, had been my nursemaids. Soon we arrived at the Filadelphia church in La Esperanza (esperanza is Spanish for “hope”).
As we entered the sanctuary, I was struck by its simple beauty. It is an oasis of hope in communities that have too intimately known the pain of war and poverty. The congregation sees their facilities as something to be shared with the whole community and I learned that the new sanctuary was a dream of the congregation that came about with some help from the PCC’s mission partnership program.
Four congregations in the Presbytery of Hamilton (Alberton; St. Paul’s, Carluke; Knox, Binbrook; and Chedoke, Hamilton) raised $25,000 — half the cost for the building project. Two work teams (one in August 2008 and another in February 2010) journeyed to Guatemala to work alongside members of the Filadelphia congregation and to learn more about the mission work of the PCC. Jay Brenzil, one of the participants in the first team, described the experience saying, “I always thought that ‘doing mission’ meant doing work projects. I have learned that mission is not about doing work for others, but about working with others: forming relationships and bettering ourselves.”
When we returned to the hotel, I flopped back into bed after swallowing the last two pills in my antibiotic regimen. It was 8:30 p.m. I had managed three hours straight in the vertical position! As I drifted off to sleep, I thanked God for antibiotics, for the support of family and friends (thank you, Shirley, Ken and Barb) and for the fact that we really can do more together than we can ever accomplish on our own. The next day I woke up actually feeling hungry, eager to start a new day, and with a new awareness that we truly are partners in possibility — partners with one another through God’s love in Jesus Christ and partners with God in whom all things are possible!
The title for this article is borrowed from the Vine’s mission study for children and youth. Find out more at presbyterian.ca/thevine.
Lindsey Hepburn-Aley co-ordinates mission trips, which help congregations connect with mission partners and build on the ongoing work supported by Presbyterians Sharing and PWS&D.
Contact her at [email protected]
Rev. Dr. Herb Gale is associate secretary of Planned Giving. Follow his journey as moderator by reading his blog at presbyterian.ca/moderator.