When Jesus’ ‘Who do you say that I am?’ and Peter’s ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.’ is carried forward, it becomes a life-changing confession.
In the words of the Italian poet Ignazio Silone, “it will be as though Jesus never left this world.” He becomes the transforming presence in an individual and in the community of people who become living witnesses to the Baptismal-Confirmation confession: “Jesus is Lord.”
For Peter, it was the confession that sent him off to Rome, for Thomas to India, and for Paul into one Roman province after another; the same confession that, to this day, sends some off to serve beyond home and family.
At the age of thirteen I sat in a Sunday service and prayed Peter’s confession which I promised God I would live out as a doctor, and by the time I was nineteen I wanted to become a medical missionary, inspired by a summer church conference where I met Ruth Hoffstetter, home on furlough from India where she was a nurse under our church’s mission board.
Then, in college, a Bible course introduced me to Dr. Albert Schweitzer who became the ultimate urge to sing the old Sunday School song “I’ll go where you want me to go dear Lord, o’er mountain or plain or sea…”
Now I look back on a pastoral ministry that has never taken me beyond this Southeastern corner in Pennsylvania,
and for all but seven years has been in Montgomery County, making me a stay-at-home missionary.
Here the thrill of mission has come through others
- like India’s Dr. L.B.M. Joseph and Daisy when visiting and inspiring us with stories of the daughter of an American missionary doctor, Dr. Ida Scudder, and the beginnings of the Vellore Christian Medical School and Hospital;
- from individuals among us who have been missionaries in Africa, stories that await telling and hearing;
- from on-going visits of missionaries who open our eyes and our hearts to Peter’s confession being lived out in almost impossible places like Haiti;
- from mission trips that happen every year as teams of adults and youth go from us to spend a week somewhere in Appalachia and return to share stories of how the poorest of the poor became their inspiration through their faith in Christ Who walks with them each day;
-from individuals who go from Trinity for a short stay mission in places like Cuba and Guatemala…a photo-story that will bless us and inspire us as Judy shares her most recent visit.
All serve as sampling of how Peter’s confession is being carried forward and lived out in places all over this globe,
stories of missions and missionaries that inspire us…and also serve to alert us to everyday, often unnoticed Peter-like confessions that are happening in the life of our congregation through each of you.
My celebration is I now see the transforming presence of Christ is what binds His followers together wherever they are. The old song: “I’ll go where you want me to go, dear Lord," has a matching line: “I’ll stay where you want me to stay.”
To confess “Jesus is Lord!” creates Christian communities that are universally the same throughout the world.
Those who carry their confession to far off places and those who live it out at home hear Jesus say to them as He said to Peter: “Blessed are you!”
The blessing of the presence of Christ that gives us the strength to live each day and the joy of seeing the face of Christ in all who personalize Peter’s confession and the thrill of being a community of missionaries doing Christ-like service, bound together all over this world through the binding love of God brought near in Jesus Christ.
Music comes to the service of mission through a hymn to celebrate Peter’s confession and Jesus’ response.
“Thank our God for sisters, brothers…Joining heart to heart with others…we who are the church rejoice.” Amen.
A Story of Mission - "Guatemala Moment," told by Judith Fryer: Amigos de Chocola
In June I spent a week in Guatemala on a service project. Before talking about the project, I want to give you some background information so you have a better understanding of the project.
40% of the population of Guatemala is indigenous, Maya, and they speak more than a dozen languages. In 1960 a civil war began and lasted until 1996 – that’s 36 years! The Maya people were singled out for special brutality. By the end of the war 200,000 citizens were dead, with the army being blamed for 93% of the atrocities. But the Maya have always been a strong, resilient people.
This map shows the location of the small town of Chocola in western Guatemala, several hours from the nearest tourist spot. It is the site of an important group of ancient Maya ruins, more than 2,000 years old. The site has never been developed or studied. Nine years ago I joined an archaeology project in Chocola, under the auspices of Earthwatch, an international scientific organization.
We got to know some of the locals because a number of the men worked with us on the dig. Local women cooked our meals and cleaned our living quarters. Our lab was near the school, so the local children often visited with us through the open window as we cleaned hundred of artifacts.
Near the end of our project, several of the men in our group decided to form a small non-profit organization to help the people and the community. They named it Amigos de Chocola. One of the men had experience working with non-profits and got it off to a good start. The archaeology project shut down shortly after we left, due to local politics, which I don’t understand, but our presence in the community has remained, through the Amigos. Also working with us on the dig were Ann Kraemer, an American grad student in medical anthropology, and Victor Diaz, a local young man interested in studying business. They became the main contacts and resources for the Amigos. They have since married and continue to live and work in Chocola, and serve on the Board of Amigos.
Theoretically education in Guatemala is free, but the parents must pay an annual enrollment fee and provide school uniforms and textbooks for their children, and in secondary school there are additional fees. Throughout Guatemala, 80% of the people live in poverty. 78,000 children do not attend school, 70% of which are girls. Many children work at least part of the day. Every year a girl stays in school boosts her eventual wages by 10-20%, and it improves her health and that of her future children. Because of all those reasons, the main goal of Amigos de Chocola is to raise money for scholarships, and to help the school in general.
Last Fall I received an e-mail, announcing the first community service trip to Chocola by the Amigos. Of course I said yes! In June, seven of us made the trip. Only 3 of us were from the original archaeology group; the rest had learned about Amigos in various ways over the years, and joined in supporting their projects.
It was good to get back to Chocola. Although we are a small NGO (non-government organization) and do not have a church relationship, everyone in the group is a Christian: several Presbyterians, Methodists, a Unitarian, and a UCC. Every night we heard singing and preaching from one or another of the local churches. Our leader told us that formerly the town had serious alcoholism problems. The Evangelicals came in, convinced them that drinking is a sin, and put a lot of peer pressure on people to join the church. There is no longer an alcoholism problem in Chocola.
A friend of Ann and Victor had just built a house over the storage area on his parents’ property. He and his family had not yet moved in, but he was happy to rent it to us for the week. Actually, we were the guinea pigs. We had electricity and running water. The electricity was fine, and the plumbing usually worked, but the hot water hadn’t been connected. But after a hot day of work, a cold shower wasn’t so bad. It was the rainy season, and we had water coming through the roof and under the windows.
Every day we alternated between two local homes, where the women prepared our two main meals.
Our primary focus was working on projects at the school. This is the schoolyard, with classrooms on two sides. This is the school office, and behind it are the restrooms. I’ll talk about that later.
Our first job was to paint the school office. It reminded me of ASP. There wasn’t enough room for all 7 of us to work at the same time. So we took turns painting and socializing with some of the students. They study English, and some were happy to practice with us. They also enjoyed watching us work.
We saw some of the classrooms and the computer lab. Over the years, Amigos has donated about 35 used computers, and the school has a very capable young man who teaches computer classes. During our visit, Amigos announced that we will fund the purchase and installation of an internet system at the school, complete with the receiving tower, wi-fi devices, and router, as well as the monthly service charge covering the remainder of this school year (October). Beginning next year, the monthly costs will be added to the tuition of each student (about $.35 per student per month)
Another one of our projects was to renovate the school restrooms. Every afternoon, the town water is shut off for several hours. In order to provide water for the school restrooms, Amigos bought a large water tank, which was installed by local workmen while we were there. We also painted the walls of the restrooms.
Our third work project was in conjunction with our 19 scholarship students. There is a large commercial workshop in town, abandoned shortly after the German coffee producers were forced to leave Guatemala around the time of WWII. Some of the equipment is still used by locals, and there are plans to turn part of it into a museum. The scholarship students have undertaken to clean it up, dusting off the equipment and removing accumulated trash. We spent an afternoon working with them on that project.
By the way, the town received its name when the Germans were looking it over as a place to do business. The local people said, in their Mayan language, Chok La, which means Come on in.
Amigos de Chocola also works with other non-profit groups. One of them is Seeds for the Future. We visited their office to learn about their work teaching local families to grow some of their own food. They work with 41 families. We visited several of their gardens.
On our last day, the families of our scholarship students thanked us with a picnic lunch. Before the meal, we presented certificates to each of the scholarship students. A fitting ending to a successful week.