Conference Minister Rev. Bill Lyons in Guatemala

Bill spent the month of August in a Spanish immersion program in Guatemala. He checked in periodically with photos and reflections. Scroll down to view them.

He'll be sharing his reflections and photos at United Church of Sun City's Fall Harvest Potluck on Thursday, October 10 at 5 p.m. All are welcome. There will even be a couple of Guatemalan dishes!

The familiar words jumped into my ears during noon liturgy at the cathedral in Antigua, Guatemala today. En el nombre del Padre, y del Hijo, y del Espíritu Santo... Recemos... y con tu espiritu... Señor, escucha nuestra... And then these words that I wasn’t expecting, offered by the priest before he pronounced the closing prescription during the prayers of the people, “Oremos por nuestros hermanos y hermanas en los Estados Unidos que sufrieron violencia...” “Let us pray for our brothers and sisters in the United States who are suffering violence...”

Before worship I’d enjoyed breakfast at a packed restaurante and a morning on the Plaza del Mayor with hundreds and hundreds of locals and tourists celebrating Central American music, drama, and dance. Almost to a person, friends and family told me to “be safe” during my time here. Receiving the words, “Paz sea contigo,” “Peace be with you,” and saying them into smiling eyes in a standing-room-only sanctuary two thousand miles from home, holding hands spontaneously as we recited the Lord’s Prayer - in Spanish to my right, in French to my left, and my words in English - I suddenly felt safe, so very safe. And I wondered if I felt safer than people going to church or to festivals or to the mall back home today. My prayers during worship were with the families of victims in Gilroy, in El Paso, in Dayton, and in every ‘next city’ until we find the collective will to stop hate, take away the guns, and re-humanize our neighbors. To that end let us pray to God and work together.

After a week of classes the weekend was for Lago Attitlan and Chichicastenango to learn the cultural context of Central American Spanish. The Mayan culture is rich and beautiful! And this is probably the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen on earth. It’s market day and Election Day as well as Sunday. The outside altar, steps and center aisle of the church are for Mayan rituals; mass was said earlier this morning. Learning in class, even when it is one-on-one, is intense, but nothing like traveling on your own and trying to speak only the language you are studying.

There are many ways to learn Spanish. Today I spent the afternoon listening to 8 year olds read to me on Probigua’s BiblioBus. La experiéncia tocó mi corazon! Y enseñó que no leo tan bien como un estudiente de segundo grado. Sigh.

This is where the real work of learning Spanish is happening for me. Four hours a day, five days a week. And then another 3-4 hours of homework and practice happens at a local café or at the grandest McDonalds I’ve ever seen! I vote for adding the McTres Leches cake here to the McD’s menu in the states!

God is doing amazing work in and through the Concejo Ecuménico Cristiano de Guatemala. I was privileged to travel to Guatemala City to meet Hector, Brayan, Pamela, and José, several of the Concejo leaders. They told me about their accompaniment of communities of resistance fighting their own government and big foreign business interest so that people can have clean water, safe working conditions, a public university (the only one in the country). They reminded me of the trauma of injustice and the price people of faith have paid to restore and preserve it. We shared conversation about how we can work together to improve the standard of living for people throughout Guatemala and Central America thus reducing the need for people to flee violence and poverty. The Concejo has years of experience bringing people together for dialogue, accompanying communities of resistance, improving groups of people’s lives, and lifting up indigenous communities. We can learn much from them. I encourage you to check them out online, support them prayerfully, and know that they can also be trusted with your financial support.