I've had a chance to look back on my last eight weeks abroad, and I'd like to offer a couple more reflections on the Church in Guatemala. My last post concluded the short chronicle covering Metropolitan Athenagoras' historic first visit to the parishes of the Guatemalan Orthodox Church. Now I would like to give you a closer look at daily life and prayer in the Guatemalan Church.
Daily LifeAfter finishing my work as the metropolitan's handy photographer, I began a one-month stay with Fr. Evangelos, the priest who oversees dozens of parishes in Guatemala and México. This gave me a nice taste of daily life in Guatemala and also a chance to see some beautiful sights. We spent a lot of time with Fr. Evangelos' extended family (he himself is unmarried), relaxed in his house in Aguacate, took a few trips to gorgeous rivers and springs, and enjoyed some delicious Guatemalan food. Here are a few sights from life with Fr. Evangelos and his family:
[Click on any photo to enlarge]
|Eating in Santa Cruz de la Quiché with Fr. Evangelos|
and his mother
|Traveling with Fr. Evangelos and company|
|Río Lagartero, near Nentón|
|Banana leaves are huge! Some are even bigger.|
|On our way to the Laguna Brava, where we|
slept for one night and enjoyed the gorgeous
water. We rode there on horseback.
|Paddling across the Laguna Brava|
|Fr. Evangelos' house in Aguacate|
|A typical breakfast: tortillas, beans, eggs, and coffee|
|Many parishioners are very poor, so they bring corn as a|
donation to Fr. Evangelos. We used the corn to make different
food items from scratch. Here I am helping to make pan de
elote, a dense, sweet, and creamy corn bread.
|Mixing the batter for pan de elote|
|Pan de elote: the finished product!|
|A yummy fruit called lichas in Guatemala. They are also named|
rambutans, and I believe they originally came from Asia.
|Traveling from the mountains to the Pacific Coast|
|Ahoy from the shore of the Pacific!|
Prayer and Worship
It wasn't just fun and games with Fr. Evangelos; we also did plenty of work! When it comes to his efforts as a priest, Fr. Evangelos is a workhorse, spending week after week on the road trying to care for his far-flung parishes. I traveled with him and assisted him during the services. Also, knowing that I wanted to practice Spanish, Fr. Evangelos would frequently put me on the spot to force me to learn more. He would unexpectedly ask me to say some words to the congregations during the services, and he also had me deliver two separate hour-long presentations to the catechists and youth leaders in México. Because I was "in action" much more during these activities, I don't have as many pictures, but here are a few:
|A wedding at Fr. Evangelos' parish in Aguacate. Weddings|
are done once or twice a month and often with multiple couples
at once. On this day there were four couples, all of them
appearing to be in their teens.
|A fitting visual metaphor: marriage needs to be lifted up by|
Christ, the Church, Our Lady and the Saints.
|Baptism in the church at Inchehuex|
|Meeting with the leaders of the Mexican communities. This is|
where I delivered my presentations to the same group
of leaders, instructing them on some basic Orthodox practices,
such as the sign of the cross, venerating icons, etc.
In addition to traveling with Fr. Evangelos, I also spent some time traveling with Fr. Blas to an area of México where he serves in a few communities. Fr. Blas is one of the three married Guatemalan priests, and he lives close to Fr. Andres in Escuintla. He and I traveled to Toquián, México, which is right next to the Mexican half of the volcano Tacaná (the border goes across the volcano). The two parishes that we visited were poorer than most of the other parishes that I have seen. Here are some pictures from our visits:
|The sign for the first parish that we visited|
|The community is very poor, possessing only this|
makeshift hut for a church.
|A moment of personal prayer when everyone speaks out their|
own words at the same time
|Another four-hour vigil with music, clapping, plenty of|
excitement, and a message at the end
|Walking to the second parish|
|Our charcoal came from someone's wood cooking stove|
|It was more difficult to get these coals going|
than the synthetic stuff that's common in the
|Songs at the end of Liturgy|
That wraps up this mostly-visual post on daily life and prayer in the Guatemalan Orthodox Church. I pray that many of you will get a chance to see these things for yourself! The Guatemalan Orthodox could use your presence, your love, and especially--whether you travel to Guatemala or not--your prayers. Thank you all for keeping them in mind and heart!