Presbytery of Lacandon Mission Trip
FUPC’s First Efforts in Global Ministry
After years of prayerful discernment, First United Presbyterian Church made a commitment to become involved in hands-on ministry in a global setting. The desire was to develop a relationship in a Spanish-speaking country, expanding Solar Under the Sun into new regions. Toward that effort, Parish Associate Rev. Leslie Belden, Ted Belden, an elder at First United Presbyterian Church, and Roger Haak, choir member, 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) instead of beds there are hammocks to sleep in.
The Presbytery of Arkansas was in a covenant relationship with the Presbytery of Lacandon in Chiapas, Mexico. The Presbyterian Women of the Presbytery of Arkansas visited 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 sent a delegation for a work-camp at least annually to work side-by-side with those from the Presbytery of Lacandon building their camp and a new sanctuary for the Presbyterian Church in Santo Domingo. During that week of work the representatives from the Presbytery of Arkansas also conducted a Bible School for the children of Santo Domingo.
First United Presbyterian Church had hoped 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 had been installing water purification plants in Chiapas, and is a partner of the Synod of the Sun’s Solar Under the Sun program.
The Presbyterian Church of Mexico has more recently broken relationship with the PC(USA) and mandated that all presbyteries in Mexico, including the Presbytery of Lacandon, to suspend covenant relationships with presbyteries in the United States of America. It is hoped that at some point in the future the relationship between the Presbyterian Church of Mexico and the Presbyterian Church in the United States will be renewed.
As this avenue of ministry was closed, God put new opportunities before FUPC in the country of Honduras.