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Ferrying across the Rio Passion: Day 5

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Most of our team took fare on one of the long ferry boats about as wide as a john boat and maybe 30 feet long- just for fun. I was one of the lazy bones who stayed in the van as it was carried on the larger "official" ferry that runs all night. Then north to the town of La Libertad on a pretty good straight road through flat country. All this Peten region is beautiful and green.

We visited two churches today. At the first we visited in the village of Chinetal. We went to the manse of the pastor. Dirt floor and slung hammocks for storage in the kitchen. Palm thatch roof. At our meeting with the session the pastor reminded us of the need for a new manse. We call these requests "solicitudes". This business of solicitudes is a key element in how the partnership between the Middle Tennessee Presbytery works with the Presbytery of the Qetchi Peten. We want to deal fairly with the overwhelming needs that the sessions of the Peten make known to us. And by "we", I mean the churches, the two presbyteries, and the mission teams who are commissioned to represent the Presbytery of Middle Tennessee on these trips. From hard experience we know that many things can go wrong on these missions. Among them are

1} mission teams coming from the U. S. come with their own agendas as to what these people "need", and build stuff that is poorly conceived and/or misinformed. All over Guatemala are the relics of failed mission projects;

2} a single congregation in the presbytery asks a visiting mission to launch into something that has not been properly researched or cleared with the other partnership churches. An example of this is a request that was made by one church that had visiting college teams tapping into a water line that was both poorly conceived and illegal. The solicitude systeem routes the requests of a congregation in a systematic and proper manner. The solicitude has to be authorized in order to be put into the cue for attention, and it needs the concurrence of a representive of all the churches in the Peten. This keeps everything transparent. It helps us make sure we have done the proper research as well.

3) The solicitudes are run through the presbytery itself.

This helps insure that what we do is born of the best wisdom of all parties involved. So, if we do end up having a role in building a new manse at Chinetal, which is in itself a very worthy project, it will be in line with the other priorities of the partner churches in the Peten. This also honors the polity connection with the National Presbyterian Church of Guatemala as well as the Presbytery of Middle Tennessee.

Hospatality is a cherished tradition of the Quetchi churches, and they exercise it by serving us food. Sometimes that means that we are served a pre-lunch an hour before the lunch at the next church. It is a bit of a balancing act to eat what is set before us and also honor the needs of our digestive systems.

Nuevo Canaan was our next destination. They have a tradition of setting off firecrackers to welcome us, and this visit was no except.

This country has become more hilly, reminding me of the lay of the land in middle Tennessee, with some beautiful limestone bluffs and streams along the way. Of course, we do not expect to see cabana and banana and papaya trees popping up in the corn fields in middle Tennessee!

We have traveled further north in the Peten, and we spend the night at a hotel in La Libertad. This place is not for the faint of heart!

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