Presbytery of Lacandon Mission Trip
Presbytery of Arkansas
Parish Associate Rev. Leslie Belden, Ted Belden, an elder at First United Presbyterian Church, and Roger Haak, who sings in the FUPC choir, were among the work-group delegation from the Presbytery of Arkansas who went to Chiapas, Mexico, over Spring Break in March 2011.
Chiapas is the southernmost state in Mexico, bordering Guatemala to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west. Rich in natural resources, it is one of the poorest regions in Mexico, and home to native descendents of the Mayan people who speak Tzeltal as their primary language and Spanish secondarily.
The Mayan ruins of Palenque are in the State of Chiapas, which is mountainous and scattered with small remote villages. Days are hot and nights are cold, vegetation abounds and is prone to overtake communities without zealous machetes. There is little indoor plumbing, and purified water is available through garden hoses running from small church-run purification systems. Food is cooked over wood-burning “stoves,” bathing is done in a river, there are outhouses with toilets rather than bathrooms, and (at least at the camp in Santo Domingo where we stayed) instead of beds there are hammocks to sleep in.
The Presbyterian Church is thriving, and the Presbytery of Lacandon, which makes up most of the state of Chiapas, is building a camp for its children in the small town of Santo Domingo, where they are also building a new sanctuary for the growing church.
The Presbytery of Arkansas is in a covenant relationship with the Presbytery of Lacandon. The Presbyterian Women of the Presbytery of Arkansas visit regularly with the women of the Presbytery of Lacandon, encouraging them in their ministry and serving as examples of Christ-centered women from a developed nation. The Presbytery of Arkansas also sends a delegation for a work-camp at least annually to work side-by-side with those from the Presbytery of Lacandon to work on building their camp and the new sanctuary for the Presbyterian Church in Santo Domingo. During that week of work the representatives from the Presbytery of Arkansas also conduct a Bible School for the children of Santo Domingo.
First United Presbyterian Church hopes to combine the Presbytery of Arkansas’ commitment to continued ministry with our sister Presbytery of Lacandon in Chiapas with the Synod of the Sun’s commitment to the Solar Under the Sun program. The need for purified water is great in the region of Chiapas, as the Mexican government cannot guarantee a continuous power supply to rural regions of the country, nor are there government-supplied pure water sources. While Solar Under the Sun has been prioritizing Haiti for their initial installations of solar panels, the Synod of Living Waters has been installing water purification plants in Chiapas, and is a partner of the Synod of the Sun’s Solar Under the Sun program.
The hope is that FUPC can send a contingency of volunteers to Chiapas each Spring Break to install a solar panel project to accompany a water purification system, and to continue to strengthen the relationship with the Presbytery of Lacandon already established through the Presbytery of Arkansas. Working alongside our brothers and sisters from the Presbytery of Arkansas, the Presbytery of Lacandon, the Synod of the Sun, and the Synod of Living Waters, we pray that God’s Spirit will open our eyes to new ways of living into the image of Jesus Christ.