Walking With Guatemala

The 2016 KUCC Team in Guatemala

Our partnership with CEDEPCA began in the summer of 2012, when twelve women from Kirkwood UCC traveled to Guatemala to learn about the country and look for a way to “do mission” in a wider world. That search led the team to CEDEPCA, the Protestant Center for Pastoral Studies in Central America, which offers education, spiritual guidance, and social justice support for their community.  Inspired by this agency’s work, KUCC established a partnership with CEDEPCA. In October of 2014 we hosted two CEDEPCA staff members here, Ana Paxtor and Luis Sarpec. They visited disaster relief agencies and community support organizations whose work is similar to CEDEPCA’s mission in Guatemala, and they worked on improving their English.

A second team from KUCC traveled to Guatemala from June 21-28, 2016, to continue our partnership with CEDEPCA, learning more about the agency’s ministry and relief work. CEDEPCA hosted the nine KUCC travelers for this study/service trip. During their week in Guatemala, team members learned about the history and culture of the Guatemalan people and the challenges they face today.  In addition to visits to cultural centers, the team had lunch at a restaurant that employs individuals deported from the U.S. and toured a factory that makes and sells water filters to meet the region’s need for clean, drinkable water.

Then, in April of 2017, we welcomed a second pair of CEDEPCA staff members to KUCC. Antonieta de Morales and Priscila Barrientos spent a month with us in St. Louis, learning about disaster response here. Their stay also gave them opportunities to improve their English so that they can network more effectively with various agencies which can help them provide education, theological training, and disaster support for the communities they serve.

On April 15, Priscila (left above) and Atonieta (right above) helped with the Easter program sponsored for neighborhood families by God’s Helping Hands in North St. Louis.  In the photos above, they are helping with the Easter crafts and egg dying for a lot of happy children.

Photos from KUCC’s 2016 Trip to Guatemala


Caminando con Guatemala

(Walking with Guatemala) 

The walk began when 8 women from Kirkwood UCC traveled to Guatemala in the summer of 2012.  They went for the purpose of learning – learning about the country of Guatemala, listening to the stories of the people and hoping to find a way to “do mission” in Guatemala.

They found people helping themselves:

  • Women who suffered during the armed conflict in Guatemala and came together to form a weaving cooperative to insure the well being and education of their children
  • Children and adults with disabilities who learned skills that allowed them to be self-sufficient and contribute to the financial support of their families.
  • Adolescents who worked all day in fruit stands or rock quarries and then went to school to learn to read, write and develop vocational skills
  • Women who were the victims of domestic violence were learning how to speak up in compassionate ways
  • Seminarians who were studying to meet the needs of the churches in Guatemala
  • CEDEPCA staff who were traveling to all parts of the country to meet the psychological needs of survivors of natural disasters.

And they were doing all these things with the support of CEDEPCA (www.cedepca.us), the organization that hosted the women from KUCC.

In discussions with Judith Castaneda, General Coordinator for CEDEPCA, the KUCC group learned about being partners in mission.  They also learned that, while CEDEPCA has many groups from North American interested in visiting, they only have a few staff members who have the English language skills and understanding of North American culture to serve as guides for these groups.  This sparked an idea for partnership in mission – the idea that KUCC could provide opportunities for CEDEPCA staff members to be immersed in the culture and language of North America.  After numerous e-mails and Skype conversations, a plan for the partnership developed.

From October 2-9, 2013, Judith and two of her colleagues spent a week in St. Louis, helping plan a 5-6 week  immersion experience for two CEDEPCA staff members (tentatively scheduled for fall of 2014).  In addition to planning the immersion experience, Judith and her colleagues visited organizations and met with people in St. Louis that do work similar to that done by CEDEPCA (seminary education,  responding to natural disasters, working with immigration issues).  There were also opportunities for them to learn about St. Louis and share their Guatemala experiences with KUCC.

October, 2014:  Ana Paxtor and Luis Sarpec began their month long visit to St. Louis and KUCC.  This was their first visit to the city.  Ana and Luis are staff members at CEDEPCA (Protestant Center for Pastoral Studies in Central America) and they work in the area of disaster relief in Guatemala.  During their visit they were able to tour organizations and meet with  individuals involved in disaster relief in the United States.  Another purpose of their visit was to improve their English proficiency and to develop a better understanding of our culture so they can lead the many North American tours of CEDEPCA in Guatemala.  Ana and Luis stayed in the homes of some of the members of KUCC, participated in many activities of the church, and toured the city.

June, 2016:  A nine-member team, eight from KUCC and a friend, traveled to Guatemala to renew the partnership with CEDEPCA and to learn more about the communities the agency serves.  See photos above from this trip.