Transforming Christian Education in Guatemala
Last week I traveled to Guatemala, heart of the Mayan empire, for my first experience of teaching in a “recinto,” one of the 15 theological centers in Latin America contracting with the Universidad Bíblica Latinoamericana. CEDEPCA (Centro de Estudios Pastorales de Centro América) is an organization in Guatemala City that offers seminary level classes through the UBL, and also focuses on women's studies and ecumenical relationships.
The system works like this: a month before I arrive, the students receive the module (assignments) and anthology (readings) and meet for 4 Saturdays with the on-site professor. Supposedly they complete all the readings and assignments before I arrive. Then I teach a 40-hour intensive course (8:00-5:00 Monday to Friday) and they have a week to turn in their final project, which they send me by email.
When I met with the on-site prof, his first comment was that the course had left the students in shock. What on earth? He explained that the readings had made them realize how much needed to be changed in the Christian education programs in their churches. The years of civil war, corruption, poverty, repression, poor school systems . . . had left their toll on the Christians and their communities.
I had 11 students registered for the class, and was a bit taken aback when 17 showed up the first day. They "wanted to take advantage of this wonderful opportunity to hear the Catedrática (university professor)." I hadn't realized I was such a celebrity. But as I listened to them, I realized how great the need was. They had come specifically to learn how to set up a more effective and transforming educational program in their churches. The group ranged from 27-62 in age, several retired university professors, a number of pastors, a dentist, an electrical engineer, a nurse, a retired Bayer executive. For a final project they had to devise a plan to implement a Christian education project in their ministry context, taking into account all that they had learned.
Let me tell you about some of the students:
- Isaac works with university students, in the Latin American branch of Intervarsity Christian Fellowship, helping young people as they begin to question and develop their own thought-through faith.
- Luis Alberto is a pastor, currently working in a “red zone” of the city, which refers to a high crime area. He takes Cokes to the gang members as they play on the local soccer field, and has built relationships with them that have brought many to Christ.
- Marta is 62 but feels 72. A retired nurse, she became a Christian at age 50, and since then has worked tirelessly for her little rural church where she is part of the pastoral team. She traveled 2 hours each way to get to class each day.
- Liz is active in everything in her church and denomination. She teaches, leads workshops, writes curriculum, works with women’s groups, completely undeterred by a bad hip that requires her to walk with a cane. She has never been able to afford a hip replacement, but next month, a medical team is coming and she is scheduled finally to get a new hip. I can only imagine what her energy level will be without constant pain.
I am filled with gratitude for this ministry that gives me the opportunity to work together with people in a variety of countries to transform their faith communities, setting forth a vision of God’s work in the world that calls for our participation.
Will you participate in my ministry? I currently have less than half the support I need to continue. The matching grant fund, ending May 31 (in 2 weeks!), offers to multiply your giving by 50% if you pledge a dollar a day ($30 a month) for a year. Just sign up at: http://www.internationalministries.org/missionaries/79Together in ministry,