A fresh newsletter from Guatemala! Lots of photos and news from our blossoming Orthodox mission.

Νέα από την Ορθόδοξη Ιεραποστολή στη Γουατεμάλα.A fresh newsletter from Orthodox Christian Church in Guatemala! Lots of photos and news from our blossoming mission.

Feb – April 2016

Dear friends,

Spring greetings from here in Guatemala! This update will feature some extra photos at the end—enjoy! 🙂

Guatemala News

Clinic now open daily: In February, our clinic administrator (Juana Pascual) began offering basic medical care from 8am to 2pm, daily. I’ve seen her handle both routine visits and emergencies like deep lacerations with lots of bleeding. From August 2015 until now, the clinic has offered a total of 1,197 patient visits.

Dental and medical teams: Right now a dental team is treating patients in Aguacate (see team photo on right). We also have upcoming medical teams in mid April and in August. Volunteer for August.

Bookmaking project is funded: In my last newsletter I asked for donations to help us purchase bookmaking equipment. We finished the fundraising, thanks to many of you! Now we are selecting a copy machine to purchase, and we already bought a binding machine. Thank you so much!

Our bishop visited three villages: In March His Eminence Athenagoras visited Pebil Pam, Tajumuco, and Aguacate. My favorite moment was when the people of Pebil Pam greeted him with fiddles and guitars! (watch video)

Personal News

Completed calendar of readings and saints for April – June: My biggest ongoing project is a monthly liturgical calendar in Spanish for the parishes across Guatemala. We just published the edition for April, May, and June (download a copy here). This project requires lots of translation work, so I oversee everything, but my ultimate goal is to teach four of the seminarians how to take control of the project (see photo below with finished copies). For this edition I taught them how to gather the daily Scripture readings in Spanish.

Visited Metropolis in Mexico City: In January and February I spent a week in Mexico City with Fr. Evangelos. We met with our archbishop, visited parishes in the capital, and sought theological resources.

Building collection of theological works in Spanish: In Mexico City I looked for as many patristic and theological works as I could find in Spanish. On the bus ride back to Guatemala I was carrying almost a hundred books! Now we have a small library in Aguacate.

Taught lenten retreat: During clean week I taught parish leaders about the themes and special hymns of lent (see below). They loved the story of St. Mary of Egypt.

Ways to Help

Prayer requests:

  • My greatest concern is the educational program for our pre-seminarians. We want to enroll four of them in a long-distance Spanish theological program, but the process has been so long. Please pray that they will be able to begin soon!
  • Please pray for my mom and dad, and for my brother. They’re doing well, but they have to put up with my living so far from home. We miss one another a lot. Soon I will begin to decide whether I should come back to Guatemala for another two-year term, and my family could use your prayers during that discernment.

Items to Donate:
Several people have asked what items we currently need in Guatemala. Incense and self-lighting charcoal always are useful. Crosses on necklaces also are wonderful because we need tons of baptismal crosses and people can’t easily get them here (they should be three-bar crosses if possible). I also would like to get lots of copies of the Spanish translation of Father Arseny because this is a very accessible book that contains many theological concepts in the stories. It would be excellent to hand out to the parish leaders and/or pre-seminarians. If you would like to donate an item, contact me for how to send it.

Final Word

The mission teams are keeping me and Fr. John quite occupied this month (interpreting between Spanish and English) so I won’t write a long reflection. But know that every day I take a few minutes to think of all of you after Matins and Vespers. We celebrate those morning and evening services each day with the pre-seminarians. That means that every smile that I share with the pre-seminarians, and every song that I sing with them, gets woven together with my thoughts for all of you. Please keep praying for us just as we pray for you—Christ unites us. Thank you for all your love and support!

In Christ,

Above: the group of parish leaders at our lenten retreat. Some traveled for a full day to attend.

Above: the people of Pebil Pam greet our bishop with folk songs

Above: meeting with His Eminence Athenagoras in Mexico City

Above: visiting an Orthodox monastery just outside Mexico City

Above: teaching the pre-seminarians how to gather the daily readings to put into our monthly calendar

Above: a man from the parish community in Aguacate invited me to eat lunch at his home. He showed me his guitar and asked for photos together. Lovely afternoon with him and his family!

Above: our growing collection of theological and patristic works in Spanish. It’s wonderful to have these. Now we are reading the sayings of the desert fathers in Spanish during Great Lent. Blessed fast and joyous Pascha (Easter)!

Contact me with questions, suggestions, or encouragement atj.brandow@ocmc.org.




Up until the late fifties, the sparsely populated jungle area of Ixcan in western Guatemala was thought to be worthless by the government. In an effort to populate the region for the benefit of the indigenous tribes, a program of land reform was initiated. Taking advantage of this opportunity, a Maryknoll priest- Father William Woods- purchased 100 square miles of inaccessible jungle land and began to form cooperatives to assist the Mayan people. With three airplanes, he and other pilots flew thousands of flights to take the produce of these cooperatives to market. Then in 1970, oil was discovered in that region. As a result, the now settled local people were forced to plant grass on their land and leave, thus ceding their land to the rich and powerful for exploitation. As the Mayans only advocate, Woods tried to prevent this land grab by bringing their plight to the attention of the world. He was warned by the military to leave or else. Shortly thereafter his plane crashed in the jungle, and within an hour key telltale components of the plane were removed from the site by the military. Later an army officer confirmed the suspicion of foul play.

The years after the priest’s martyric death were painful for the Ixcan colonizers. A number of times Guatemalan soldiers entered the Ixcan cooperatives to burn, to torture, and massacre the indigenous population. Many had to flee to Mexico or hide in the jungle in order to escape the genocide perpetrated by the Guatemalan army. When those who fled were finally repatriated in 1995 they returned to the Ixcan territory to often find that their original plots of land were given to others by the army. Through subsequent Church efforts most people have recovered their lands. Their gratitude and love for Father Bill Woods has never wavered. His photo hangs in many churches. The late Fr. Andres Giron, the founder of the Orthodox Church in Guatemala and onetime leader of the campesino movement for land reform, named one of the coastal villages he founded after William Woods.

Today, the Orthodox Christians of Ixcan, who were part of this turbulent history and the violent civil war, have vivid memories of this time of trouble. With the peace accords of 1996 and the restoration of their lands, they tried to create a new life for themselves. During the years that followed, however, a period of alienation and estrangement ensued between many of the humble peasants and the area Catholic parishes to which they belonged. They complained of indifference, neglect and even abusive treatment on the part of their clergy. After numerous efforts at reconciliation proved futile, a number of families made the decision on December 31st, 2009 to separate themselves from their mother church. It should be pointed out that in Guatemala and all of Latin America there have been massive defections from the Catholic Church since the 1970s as per a November 2014 Pew report. And so it was that in January of 2010, these disaffected Mayan communities in Ixcan petitioned to become members of the Orthodox Church under the leadership of Fr. Andres Giron. Expelled from the Catholic Church himself for his political activities, the Mayan people of Ixcan found in him a compassionate spiritual leader and defender of their rights.

I visited the faithful of Ixcan with Father Andres nearly four years ago for the first time. What I found was a faithful remnant living in the most humble of circumstances and praying in weathered shanty-like structures consisting of wooden slats, dirt floors covered with fragrant pine needles, and rusty tin roofs, from which colorful streamers hung. I call these the cathedrals of the poor, magnificent in their unassuming simplicity. Since we were visiting these remote outposts of the Church for the first time, the faithful wanted to offer us something special from their meager substance. Some of the village men at early dawn went to the nearby river, hoping to catch a big fish in honor of Fr. Andres’ first visit. They prayed before casting their nets. Then to their surprise and delight, they caught a 30 pound fish, which they proudly presented to us upon our arrival. They saw this large piscine prize as a confirmation of their decision to throw in their lot with Fr. Andres. After this four year hiatus, I was able to visit two of the communities again this past February of 2016, at which time they showed us two newly purchased parcels of land. Fr. Evangelos, the parish priest, who visits them every two months or so, told me that he would like to make the Holy Trinity parish in Mayaland a regional center for Orthodoxy. The potential for growth is great, and the people seem very mission minded. They feel that a proper Orthodox Church structure will give them the visibility they need to reach out and spread the faith to neighbors and friends. Presently, as before, the communities that I visited continue praying and worshiping in their temporary wooden structures. What is lacking in material beauty, however, is more than compensated for by a profound faith and spiritual vitality that shakes the very rafters of their humble churches. When homes and land were lost to them before, they found their consolation in Christ, who now has led them into the Orthodox fold. Their long journey through many trials is a great testament to their resilient faith. May we be worthy of their trust in us.

The faithful lifting their voices in praise



This entry was posted in America, Guatemala, Αμερική, Γουατεμάλα- Guatemala, ΗΠΑ - USA, Λατινική Αμερική ( Central and South America ) and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


Εισάγετε τα παρακάτω στοιχεία ή επιλέξτε ένα εικονίδιο για να συνδεθείτε:

Λογότυπο WordPress.com

Σχολιάζετε χρησιμοποιώντας τον λογαριασμό WordPress.com. Αποσύνδεση /  Αλλαγή )

Φωτογραφία Google

Σχολιάζετε χρησιμοποιώντας τον λογαριασμό Google. Αποσύνδεση /  Αλλαγή )

Φωτογραφία Twitter

Σχολιάζετε χρησιμοποιώντας τον λογαριασμό Twitter. Αποσύνδεση /  Αλλαγή )

Φωτογραφία Facebook

Σχολιάζετε χρησιμοποιώντας τον λογαριασμό Facebook. Αποσύνδεση /  Αλλαγή )

Σύνδεση με %s