Dear amigos en Cristo,
Greetings from Guatemala! I’m here at last! Now our journey as a team is beginning in full force. As you’ll see, we are being thrown right into the fire.
Σας παρακαλούμε να προσευχηθείτε θερμά ( σε προσευχές, παρακλήσεις και στη Θεία Λειτουργία ) για τον π. Αντώνιο, ο οποίος βρίσκεται σε κρίσιμη κατάσταση, λόγω ακρωτηριασμού των άκρων.
Fr. Antonio Patá Tuctuc has fallen gravely ill with a blood infection. He is one of only six Orthodox priests in Guatemala under Metropolitan Athenagoras [In photo: Fr. Antonio is shown seated]. After the falling asleep of Fr. Andres Giron, this illness is yet another challenge for the communities.
Attempts to save Fr. Antonio’s life began with a leg amputation. Soon, however, Fr. Antonio developed further complications and infections. Now we are praying for a miracle.
During my first week, I spent time at the Orthodox Monastery of the Holy Trinity, which is higher up on Lake Amatitlan. [In photo: the monastery church]
During my second week, I transitioned to living in the low-lying tropics of the Pacific Coast. I currently live with Fr. Mihail and Fr. Alexios on a farm outside Nueva Concepcion (click here to see pictures from a liturgy in the farm’s chapel).
My primary tasks have been to accompany Fr. Antonio and to help immediately in the far-flung parishes. Right after arriving in Nueva Concepcion, Fr. Mihail sent me out to lead a Sunday Matins/Orthros service (reader’s version) in a community that had no priest. In the coming weeks, I will visit more parishes, give sermons in the communities, and begin catechizing the people—while also trying to improve my knowledge of Spanish.
Ways to Help
Prayer requests: I beg you to pray for Fr. Antonio’s health and for the encouragement of the other five priests.
Send encouragement to the priests: You can email me a message of encouragement (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I will translate it and give it to the priests. This is an especially good way for Sunday School groups to help! Please write only one sentence so the priests have time to read the messages.
Volunteer: This summer’s mission team to Guatemala needs more volunteers! Sign up here.
“Your arrival in Guatemala comes at a critical time in the Church.” These were Fr. John Chakos’ words to me when I was feeling overwhelmed by the challenges in Guatemala and the illness of Fr. Antonio. “You were not expecting to be thrown into the midst of the fire so soon. I’m sure you can handle it.” What helps me to handle the flames is seeing the signs of God’s providential care each day. Even in the midst of the fiery furnace, God brings a sprinkling of dew.
On many days, God brings this dew through encouragement from all of you. One day I received these two pictures from different parts of the world (above right), both showing people’s prayers for Guatemala. The first is a Sunday School class in Pennsylvania that is holding up my prayer card; the second is a family’s fridge in Tokyo, Japan, with my pray card next to the children’s drawings. What a beautiful moment of encouragement!
On other days, God brings dew through tender reminders of his presence. If you recall the story I told in my last newsletter, you’ll remember my exhortation to sharpen your spiritual “machetes” and join me in this struggle. Well, on my very first day in Guatemala I was tasked with removing weeds at the monastery on Lake Amatitlan. Can you guess what tool they gave me? Yes, a machete. God has a gentle and loving sense of humor!
So, in the midst of our struggles, God is with us. In the midst of the fiery furnace, he covers the flames with dew. And in the midst of the sadness facing Fr. Antonio and the priests, God has brought his love into Guatemala through all of you who are supporting me and praying for Guatemala.
With tremendous gratitude for your solidarity,
Questions or comments? Contact me at email@example.com.