Archive for October, 2004

Oct 1

Guatemala Survey Trip 2004 – A Partnership is Born

2004 | by Clint | Category: Global,Rabinal Achi,Trips

From Karen G.

Finally arrangements were set and God ordained the perfect time for the first exploratory trip to San Miguel Chicaj, Baja Verapaz, Guatemala. On September 11, 2004 four DSC folk together with the Olson’s met Rodrigo Barerra and several Achi young people at the airport in Guatemala City. We began the exciting process of asking, “What is God doing here?  How can we join Him?”

We learned much about the Achi people, their culture, their unique history and the centuries of repression at the hands of the minority ruling class.  The Barerra’s had arrived in San Miguel in 1976 to replace the original translators who had to abandon the project due to medical problems. Only months later a disastrous earthquake struck, killing over 22,000 people and splitting the Barrera house in half.  During the worst years of a 36-year civil war, in which tens of thousands of indigenous people were massacred, the Barerra family along with other missionaries went into hiding in Guatemala City. Through the years and through their tenacious determination to see the New Testament translated in the Achi language, Carol and Rodrigo had formed close friendships with some wonderful Achi people.  Many had helped with the translation. Many were Christian leaders that the family had known from birth.

El Don Rodrigo

In addition we learned of communities beyond San Miguel that had no evangelical witness, which practiced the old Mayan animistic worship or a Mayan/Catholic syncretism, of a resurgence of such practices since the war, of a new pride in native language and culture advocating a turn back to the old ways and old identities.  We learned first hand the importance of the scripture in the heart language of the people, particularly a people who had only heard it in the language of their oppressors.

Ester working diligently at the translation process

The network of earnest Christians that surrounded these translators included a middle-aged grandmother named Esther, currently the main Achi translator.   Esther since childhood has had a passion to see the things of God written in her heart language.  While still a child, she learned to read Achi and set about to translate a book of Bible stories for children; she was instrumental in translating the Chronological Bible Stories that were recently written and recorded for distribution.



David explaining his church planting plans

David Ixcopal, a full-time Achi evangelist whose desire is to cover the distant villages with the gospel of Christ, is also making quiet, careful impact in Baja Verapaz.  A father of eleven, he rounds up his own children and many eager youth, and makes trips to the “Samaria’s” and “uttermost parts” of Achi territory.  They show the Jesus film, visit homes and schools, and provide Vacation Bible Schools and preach, teach and pray with any who will receive them.





One of the most exciting discoveries was a thriving youth movement, led by Hector Hernandez, Eder Ixcopal, and other young adults who had gone after a generation disenchanted with the established churches of their parents; they shared their longing for a fresh movement of God that would speak into their particular situation.  Internet, cable TV, gangs, drugs, unemployment and poverty work together with new and old values to produce a generation of lost youth in San Miguel, Guatemala – torn between cultures and languages and values and remarkably similar to their counterparts all over the globe.

Hector and Eder

We shared fellowship, food, and pre-dawn fireworks (a traditional prank for special occasions) with these wonderful people; they welcomed us into their homes and gatherings where we traded testimonies and stories of our treasures in Christ. It was a wonderful, perspective-changing visit, and we came back full of deep excitement over God’s obvious leading to that place.

Carol, Karen and Esther

In addition, we had gathered strategic information for future visits, observed some very practical ways to lend our resources to help the translation effort, and talked the Barrera’s into providing for us a “wish list” full of hopes and dreams of resources for the Achi church.  We returned with hearts bursting to share what we had seen and heard, and God provided a perfect venue in our first “Great Commission as Life” conference, just a month later.  The scramble to get ready, to have a quality presentation worthy of the message, consumed every spare waking hour.  This became our first platform to share with the Desert Springs body the key issues in missions, to unveil the Achi focus and share a few of our experiences there.  The attendance was not what we had hoped, but those that participated seemed blessed and motivated toward global involvement….

Carol Barrera's notes during a translation team meeting

Amid all of the passion and excitement, we were forced to take time to process and evaluate the huge amount of information and impressions gained in Guatemala.  Two things were needed – a plan of action to come alongside the Barerra’s and the Achi believers in the best possible way, and a plan of action to move the Great Commission from the fringe to the center of the life of the church.

The most pressing thing we were able to do immediately was to provide support for the translators.  Because the translation process had taken so long and because the Barerra’s support had been largely provided by their parent’s generation, funds had been dwindling as these faithful were passing away. DSC was delighted to be able to provide the deficit.  We also began to research upgrading the computer equipment to simplify and speed up the translation checks Carol and Esther had been laboring through.  Soon came the opportunity to fund a project that had been on hold for some time: the recording of the Chronological Bible Stories in the Achi language.