Church planters press into new territories in GuatemalaBy Jewel Showalter Eastern Mennonite Missions
CAHABON, Guatemala — Before moving to Nuevo Esperanza in January, K’ekchi’ church planter Mariano Choc had been traveling four hours every week — on foot — to plant a church there.
Two years earlier, when he had first entered the region, Choc was often rebuffed and slandered. Yet even as false rumors flew around the community, Choc turned to God for encouragement and forgave his enemies.
Galen and Phyllis Groff, long-term Eastern Mennonite Mission workers among the K’ekchi’, kept close contact with Choc during this difficult time, offering prayer, counsel and encouragement.
Once in a particularly difficult financial situation, Choc’s wife, Matilde, suggested he quit so he could do a better job of providing for his family. After all, weren’t they his first responsibility?
Choc prayed about it and sensed God saying, “I will provide for you.” Shortly thereafter, when the family was out of food, someone unexpectedly gave Choc a bag of corn. Another handed him 200 quetzals (about $25).
When Matilde witnessed this unexpected provision, she agreed he should continue the ministry. She became very supportive, often accompanying Choc on trips to Nuevo Esperanza. Her own ministry among the women blossomed.
This commitment to church planting in a new region meant financial sacrifice and difficulties for their family, but the Chocs testify the joys in ministry have outweighed the difficulties.
Nuevo Esperanza is located in a hot-climate area of Guatemala, different from most of the K’ekchi’ regions. Because the Choc family had previously lived in hot conditions, they felt like God had uniquely prepared them to move to the region — though the move meant painful family separations.
Before moving, the Chocs made arrangements for their children, ages 12 and 14, to stay behind and live with their married siblings so they could continue their schooling.
In the face of the separation, a K’ekchi’ brother encouraged Mariano and Matilde with Jesus’ words from Mark 10:29-30, “ ‘Truly I tell you,’ Jesus replied, ‘no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields — along with persecutions — and in the age to come eternal life.’ ”
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