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Alabama Baptist teams to work alongside locals in poor areascomment (0)

January 4, 2007

By Grace Thornton

In the rolling hills and mountains surrounding Guatemala’s Lake Atitlan, coffee farmers with a keen eye can spot a spare square foot a mile away.

With the exception of roads and narrow footpaths, coffee plants are planted everywhere there’s a little bit of room. When your life and livelihood are at stake, there’s no sense in wasting space.

Diego Tzina Reanda, pastor of Iglesia Evangelica Bautista El Buen Pastor (The Good Shepherd Evangelical Baptist Church) in the city of Santiago Atitlan, believes no differently — he’s all about claiming spare space in order to save lives. A little over a decade ago, he spotted a clearing in nearby Chacayá, a village thick with coffee beans and unsaved souls ready for harvest.

And the only thing Reanda wanted to plant there was a Baptist church.

Eleven years later, Iglesia Bautista Jesus es el Camino (Jesus is the Way Baptist Church) is 140 members strong and growing. It’s growing so much, in fact, that Nov. 29, 2006, Reanda’s church threw a farewell celebration for Jesus es el Camino because the membership, with Pastor Pedro Julajuj at the helm, is becoming its own entity.

But even though Julajuj’s congregation has flown from the nest, Reanda hasn’t stopped providing all the help he can for the fledgling church. Through his friendship with Carlos Lemus, Hispanic missionary to Autauga and Chilton Baptist associations, Reanda has linked the church with missions teams that can help meet many of its needs.

In March, a team from Chilton Association will do medical missions work at Jesus es el Camino, and in July, a team of youth from Autauga Association will do Vacation Bible School and other projects there.

Lemus, who served as a pastor and national Baptist convention leader in Guatemala before coming to Alabama several years ago, said, "It is good to be able to help my people in Guatemala and Alabama by linking resources with needs."

In Chacayá, the needs are great.

Parents make only $2 or $2.50 a day, so many children suffer from malnourishment, according to Julajuj. Many children work hard, picking coffee beans and collecting and carrying water and firewood for the family.

"They do not have water in their home, so they go to the lake to do laundry, fish and get drinking water, and many go barefoot because they have no shoes," Julajuj said.

For information on participating in Guatemala missions, call 1-800-264-1225, Ext. 239.


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