By Alex Morse, Growing Projects and Latin America Programs for Foods Resource Bank
Beginning in the 1980's, the Evangelical Conference of Churches of Guatemala (CIEDEG) began working with a group of Ixil - Maya communities near the city of Nebaj. At that point Guatemala had already experienced nearly 20 years of conflict, but the worst suffering for the Ixil people was only starting.
President Efrain Rios Mott had taken power through a coup and he believed that the Ixil people were secretly supporting the armed groups in the mountains. Rios Mott's army was unable to eliminate the armed groups, so he ordered his soldiers to eliminate the Ixil communities he believed were supplying them with food. In communities like Pulay, soldiers entered the villages, took adult men prisoner, killed livestock, burned the crops in the fields, and turned homes to ash. Most prisoners were never heard from again.
Ixil families fled high into the mountains and began living as "communities of resistance." When asked what this meant, they say "to resist at this point just meant surviving; it meant not letting the Ixil people disappear."
In 1996, the government signed peace accords, committing to helping indigenous communities rebuild. Those commitments were never kept. Today, 80% of indigenous children in Guatemala are malnourished, one of the highest rates of child malnutrition in the world.
When the Guatemalan the Ixil community was suffering from the neglect of the Guatemalan government, you were here, providing assistance. Through your support of Week of Compassion, CIEDEG has been able to continue supporting the needs of Ixil communities near Nebaj.
In a partnership with Church World Service and Foods Resource Bank, CIEDEG has been providing sustainable agricultural training to some of the communities most affected by the conflict. CIEDEG not only teaches people to grow more food, but also works to help reweave the social fabric of the communities after more than 40 years of violence.
CIEDEG helps families produce more food through the use of greenhouses. Groups of five to six women build and then work in a greenhouse together. Families provide most of the materials, and CIEDEG provides them with the plastic greenhouse covering and training. These greenhouses allow families to grow enough to feed themselves, and allows for them to earn an income by selling their vegetables at market. In an area where jobs and land are scarce, tomatoes, cucumbers, and bell peppers can be transformational.
María, one of the women who works in a greenhouse with other families, shared: "I give thanks to God for the opportunity this greenhouse has given me to provide for my family, I no longer have to buy produce from the market, and my husband no longer has to migrate in search of work." Another woman, Petrona said, "Last month we harvested 350 lbs of tomatoes from the greenhouse between the six of us in our group. Most of that was eaten by our families, but we sold a little bit at the market, so we can plant again. We don't want to be dependent on others."
Each year, CIEDEG is able to train new groups and reach new families with their work. CIEDEG has built more than 100 greenhouses, and this month four more are being constructed. This is community transformation and it is happening because you are here through Week of Compassion.
Using the Special Offering Resources
The Planning and Resource Guide has a wealth of resources to help in sermon preparation!
Some ideas for preaching:
The Children's Activity: Soup Pot Parable and The Mission Moments make for compelling sermon illustrations.
Use the details of the Mission Moments as the base of a narrative sermon. Give plenty of sensory details to help the congregation imagine themselves physically present to those they have been present to through Week of Compassion. Explore the idea of encountering Christ in the people of the stories.
If you have projection capabilities in your sanctuary, use the Hope After Hope video. We have all encountered challenges--mountains. Most of us can name the people who helped us scale the mountains, the people who trekked alongside us, and the sources of our hope. Pair stories connected to your congregation with the stories of the video and Marcel's Mission Moment story.
Use images as a way of exploring the idea of "You Are Here." Print or project images from your congregation's outreach ministries as well as the Week of Compassion special offering poster or slimsert images. Invite people to look deeply, considering the questions "Where am I?" "Where is my neighbor?" and "Where is Christ?" Structure your sermon around possible responses to those questions (the sermon starter/theological interpretation in the Planning and Resource Guide may be helpful here).
When Rev. José Francisco Morales Jr. (Disciples Seminary Foundation) preached for Week of Compassion this past Sunday, he focused his sermon on the concept of the glory of God. After establishing the concept of the glory of God as the 'weighty presence' of God, most palpable in moments of liberation, Rev. Morales turns his focus to the encounter with God's glory characterized in Matthew 25:31-46, which begins with Christ returning 'in glory.' Read an excerpt from his sermon here.
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