Monday, November 24, 2014

Connecting the Dots/Continents

Historical events have a funny way in connecting to other historical events across the globe. Okay, not funny as in "ha-ha" but more of a "ah-ha" moment of making sense of why an event happened and why a country is the way it is. Bare with me for a few moments.



Europe was in a cris during the 16th century from contagious diseases, poor harvests, destructive wars, an obsession with 'death', etc. (Glad to not have been living there). The (orthodox) Catholic communities met (officially known as the Council of Trent) in 1545 to 1563 with a total of 25 sessions. The main topics discussed was the concern of the clergy's morality and to clarify the true Catholic teaching that would refute the theological positions of the various Protestant reformers and become a rallying point for a disintegrating Holy Roman Empire (Early: 2012, 91). Keep a Medieval Europe context... The result was a creation of Tridentine Catholicism. Now in Guatemala, the priests were, for the most part, absent from Mayan communities. As the result of the absence of priests, bishops, etc. the Mayans adopted Catholic practices and beliefs into their traditional culture and religion. A kind of syncretism. In Europe, the Catholics wanted to implement a basic framework that would hold for the next 400 years, but this was difficult to apply in Guatemala because 1. the Maya communities were isolated from the colonized pueblos and 2. there was a language barrier of translating the prayers, sermons, rituals into the native languages (there were over 23!) 3. when the priests did preach to the Maya communities, they were unaware of their culture (a.k.a. ethnocentric) which easily absorbed elements from other 'systems'. Big picture take away point- the Catholics were missionizing to the indigenous Maya population predominantly from the 1500s to the 1600s.

Connecting to another "dot" 400 years later--- there is a shift from Catholic missionizing to Protestant missionizing. Why? For one, the goals of the Council of Trent were not making enough of a dent in the issues that Mayans were facing such as: hunger, malnutrition, land loss, unusable land, poverty, lack of access to water, low literacy, lack of education... Thus, evangelism came on the scene in Guatemala. Interesting point- when I was researching the trial of former Guatemalan dictator Efrain Rios Montt, I read an excerpt that he claimed himself as a born-again Christian who gained quite a large following, almost having a 'mythic status'. Montt called for Pentecostal missionaries to come to Guatemala to provide food, medicine, and 'spiritual guidance' (Little: 2009, 44). Do not forget, Montt was responsible for the worst crimes against humanity in Guatemala's history (1982-1982) as he conducted an all-out genocide and scorched earth campaign against the Maya population (also known as la violencia). This shift from Catholicism to Pentecostal between 1976 and 1983 accounted for an increase in Pentecostal congregations in Guatemala by up to 35%.

Alrighty, those are some big leaps and a lot of dots to connect. On the bright side, will have plenty to analyze for the final write up.

"First comes creation, then comes country."
Jon Sobrino, SJ
November 20, 2014

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Little This and a Little That

To be in (somewhat) a chronological order, the focus of this week was how Guatemala achieved Independence from the Spanish Crown. Do not worry, I will not take you through a hundred years worth of history... but to be brief, Spain was losing its control and presence in Guatemala in the last twenty years of ruling the Kingdom (comprised of present day Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala and others). Napoleon's invasion of Spain and the decline of the Bourbon monarch threw Guatemala (and much of Latin America) into chaos. The colonial economy was in severe decline. From 1811 to 1818 was deemed the Bustamante Period which was seven years of turmoil. Then General Carlos de Urrutia took charge of the administration of the Kingdom until 1821. By then independent political parties were beginning to form: Caos and the Gazistas. On September 15, 1821, Gabino Gainza declared the "Act of Independence of the United Provinces of Central America" along with 19 articles and a preamble. In comparison to other Latin American countries who gained independence through a violent struggle, Guatemala declaration of independence was accomplished peacefully. Gavino Gainza continued as chief executive. From this point- I think I will not research into great detail the post-colonial era for now. Instead, I want to focus more on the role of religion in Guatemala and then specifically focus on Zacapa.

To jump ahead over a hundred years, I am researching the trial of Guatemala's former dictator Efrain Rios Montt for another class. Here is a brief outline of Guatemala's civil war that lasted from 1960 to 1996 with the signing of the Peace Accords. The bloodiest years were during the 1980s when the army began its counteroffensive strategy to combat guerrilla groups.

  • March 1982- General Montt along with the help of other discontent army officer seized power in a military coup d'etat which ousted Romeo lucas Garcia.
    • Montt became the first evangelical dictator in Guatemala and lead the counterinsurgency war that targeted indigenous Maya communities and declared a state of seige
  • July 6, 1982- Finca San Francsisco: over 300 indigenous residents were massacred
  • Reime of Montt- to create La Nueva Guatemala by usng psychological and ideological influence as military control
    • Fusiles y Frijoles (rifles and beans)- over 1 million were displaced and over 200,000 Mayans were disappeared, tortured and/or killed, and the decimation of hundreds of indigenous communities
    • Scorched earth campaign to exterminate the Ixil population
  • Montt was not put on trial until 2012 and was found guilty of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity but the case has been thrown out on the basis of technicalities. The trial is to resume in 2015
Here are a few links to news articles about the trial:

Monday, November 10, 2014

From the Precolonial Era to Independence

Trying to fit all the moving (literally) parts for this Independent Study has become a grand project.
To get my thoughts into somewhat of a row of ducks...

Puzzle Piece #1- Scholarly research is going very, very well. This week was focused on completing the history of the Precolonial, Conquest, and Colonial Era of Guatemala. Key figures in Guatemala's history include: Pedro de Alvarado, Dona Beatriz de la Cueva, Francisco de la Cueva and Bishop Francisco Marroquin, Licenciado Alonso de Maldoado, Father Pedro Pardo de Figueroa, Felipe V, Pape Paul III, Bartolome de las Casas. Key Concepts: Popol Vuh, Mixton War, personalismo, Habsburg Bureaucracy, Bourbon Reforms, Catholic Church, Audiencia de los Confines, Intendency System, repartimiento/encomienda systems, cofradia, Enlightenment, syncretism...

Puzzle Piece #2- Crossroads Community Church held a fundraiser for Omar de Leon and his young daughter. Omar was offere a significant raise at his current job here in Illinois, but he turned it down to be a missionary in Zacapa where he will help raise-up leaders of all ages. Enough donations were made to cover his expenses for all of 2015. Also during this fundraiser, the Celeste Centro/Mission Center was presented in order to get the "full picture" of why Omar is ready to commit to moving to Guatemala. All fundraising for the Centro will be allocated by and through Share the Hope Missions- Crossraods.

Puzzle Piece #3- After the fundraiser, I am seriously considering changing from a nonprofit corporation to a private business. One reason being that if I were an independent, I could get up and running much faster and not have to worry about the IRS... Just a thought.

Deuteronomy 16:17
Every man shall give as he is able,
according to the blessing of the Lord your God
which He has given you

Monday, November 3, 2014

Want the 411 on Guatemala?

If it were even possible, I would definitely be a VIP for Loyola's library with the amount of books I have collected about Guatemala. This week's main focus was to gather basic information about Guatemala such as:

  • Geography (42,000 square miles)
    • Location
    • Climate/Weather
    • Geographical Areas
      • Coastal Plains/Lowlands
      • Piedmont/Transitional Zones
      • Highlands/Mountains (2/3 of the country)
    • Terrain/Topography (3 Geographical Zones)
      • Tierra Caliente
      • Tierra Templada
      • Tierra Fria
    • Mountain Ranges
      • Sierra Madre
      • Sierra de Cuchumatanes
    • Volcanoes 
      In Antigua- puff puff
      • Tajamulco
      • Tacana
      • Acetenango
      • Fuego (my awesome photography skills)
      • Agua
      • Atitlan
      • Pacaya
    • Natural Resources/Agriculture
    • Natrual Hazards
    • Environmental Issues
  • Population
    • Age
    • Growth Rate
    • Ethnic Groups
  • Language 
    Click on the link on the Left
  • Urbanization
    • Major cities
  • Religion
  • Literacy Rate
  • Demographic Profile
  • Income Level
    • GDP
    • GNI
Like I have mentioned before, the above bullet points will be in much more detail in my final write up. It is important for those going to Guatemala to know the basics, so all of this information will be provided prior to departure for missionaries.

Making progress folks!

Proverbs 3:27
Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due,
when it is in your power to do it

Monday, October 27, 2014

Commence Phase 3

Now that all the research in regards to forming a 501c3 has been completed (Phase 1) and having gone to Guatemala twice this year (Phase 2), I can now-finally- begin Phase 3. From now through November the plan is to research Guatemala. That sounds like a very daunting task, but having nearly completed a minor in Latin American Studies, I have a solid grasp on how to go about studying a country. Also, from conducting research on a separate project (Uncovering LUC's Solidarity with El Salvador- my other blog) I learned how to efficiently go about research engines and finding reliable information. In case you are curious about what all goes equates researching a country...

  1. Basic Info.- (Demographics from 2013 Census, Hispanic Pew, World Bank; Geography, etc.)
  2. History- (Precolonial Era, Colonial Era, Independence, Civil War, Cold War, etc.)
  3. Religion- (Precolonial Mayan religious practices, Catholicism, shifts away from Catholicism, Lutheran dominance in Conevisa, Zacapa etc.)
  4. Case Study of Zacapa- (more indepth analysis of the state and Conevisa if possible)
  5. Current Status- (Guatemala today and what it means to do mission work)
The goal of researching Guatemala --> Zacapa --> Conevisa in my mind is logical and relates to the whole purpose of why I chose to do this Independent Study. In my opinion, if you truly want to "make a difference" by doing mission work in another country, the best way to do so is to know the area- understanding why the community is the way it is. By having basic background knowledge on the area in which you wish to serve will give you a much better understanding in how you can help make a difference. My hope is that if and when this nonprofit gets up and running, churches will take the time to learn about Zacapa before embarking to do God's work. I will help teach the churches that simply going on a trip to a Third World country building, teaching, etc. for a few days does not make a difference (I call these band-aid trips) and in fact, usually worsens the community because a dependent relationship is being formed. Wanting to make an impact is not enough, you have to understand the how and the why in order to build relationships- now THAT will make a difference.

Romans 12:11
Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Back to the Books

So close to finishing "Section One" (the legal aspect) of this incredible project! Here is a quick blurb about about what I learned about applying for 501c3 tax exempt status after having filed the articles and after having prepared the bylaws- Although, I still do not understand 1023 versus a 1024...

Preparing the Tax Exemption Application
  1. Part I- Identification Applicant
  2. Part II- Organizational Structure
  3. Part III- Required Provisions in your Organizing Document
  4. Part IV- Narrative Description of your Activities
  5. Part V- Compensation and Financial Arrangements with Officers, Directors, Trustees, Employees, and Independent Contractors
  6. Part VI- Your Members and Other Individuals, and Organizations that Receive Benefits from you
  7. Part VII- Your History
  8. Part VII- Your Specific Activities
  9. Part IX- Financial Data (thus far)
  10. Part X- Public Charity Status
  11. Part XI- User Fee Information (of course you have to pay to have the IRS to look over this)
  12. Then you send in your user fee, EIN, Parts I-XI, completed schedule, articles signatures, and name of the organization
  13. Wait, and wait, and wait for approval as a public charity- or else be a foundation, which I do not want.

The tax exemption application looks to be one of the larger paperwork hurdles in starting a nonprofit organization. Basically, you must comb through line-by-line in the application. I am thinking about having a lawyer look it over because taxes just confuse me to no end. Only a few more posts about legal "stuff"- I promise!

Deuteronomy 31:6
Don't mistake God's patience for His absence,
His timing is perfect, and His presence is constant.
He's always with you!

Monday, October 13, 2014

What a Week!

Back in the USA and what an incredible week it was in Guatemala! God used the team to do His work in Conevisa in so many ways. For one, many of us were able to help a mother in Antigua by purchasing her handmade scarves, stuffed animals, and threaded goods of which all the money went to supporting her children. Doc, Julio, Mari, Mary, and Angie were able to provide dental cleanings, extractions, and fillings to approximately 70 men, women, and children in Conevisa. The municipal government of Zacapa reached 100% agreement to donate the 2.5 acres to construct the Celeste Mission Center on the mountain in the community and are willing to clearly the land for free as well as provide a bulldozer to begin construction in 2015. God blessed Omar and his daughter with providing a house in a very safe neighborhood so that they can move to El Maguay in December (only a few blocks from Nilss and his family!). God moved the heart of Doc on a whole new level, he is helping to sponsor the school and medical surgery expenses of a young girl in Zacapa- her life truly is forever changed. David is on fire to make the floor plans (I still want to call them blueprints but apparently that is an "old school" term...) for the Celeste Mission Center and the kids fell absolutely in love with him this past week. He had a constant following of little ones who wanted to help him on the computer, take pictures of anything and everything, and to play soccer. The team had the extra funds to buy over 160 pairs of Crocs for all the kids in the school as well as for those who are unable to attend school in Conevisa. This may seem like a small act of love, but it is much larger than one would think. In the past, the community has been promised by others groups time and time again that they were be supplied with shoes and never followed through on the promise. The kids are very excited to receive their new shoes in class on Monday morning. Also, by purchasing the majority of the shoes from the local market, we were able to support the local economy instead of the mass box stores ( I will not bore you on my position on the disadvantages of the large multibillion dollar industries that directly contribute to the cycle of poverty). How God used me this week- I will be frank, I usually do not play a whole lot with the kids while in country due to the constant meetings, construction of projects, etc. On Wednesday everything on our schedule got wiped out for whatever reason and THAT got me to play with the kids all day long. God brought little Ines into my life that day. She is about three years old and hardly ever speaks. She is dragged around by her older brother and was constantly covered in dirt and lice. She would hang out on the periphery whenever I was with the kids. On Friday when we went to say goodbye to everyone in Conevisa, she grabbed my leg and wanted to be carried. She clung to me so tight and did not want me to put her down. I am going to talk to Magalay (Magalay's heart is all about teaching little kids about Jesus as she hosts Bible studies in her home) about finding a way to sponsor her in some way.

God has plans for you and I, trust in Him and He will then make our paths straight

God keep us safe, safe tonight
Keep our eyes towards the sky,
Send out an army of angels to make us brave,
Keep us strong and unafraid,
God Keep Us Safe