Mission to Guatemala

UPAVIM Delegation in 2011

UPAVIMWhat are the lives of our neighbors like that share the same hemisphere? What do we have in common? How are we different? In an effort to understand the lives of the Guatemalan people, and they of ours, DGFUMC has sent several teams to live with members of the Unidas Para Viver Mejor (UPAVIM) Christian community in the impoverished outskirts of Guatemala City. We have also hosted two teams of women from UPAVIM in our homes in Downers Grove. UPAVIM is a cooperative association of about 88 women from marginalized areas. Some are widows, some were abandoned by their husbands, and some are dealing with alcoholism in their families. Many are sole providers of economic support for their families. They began helping themselves and their community in 1988 with a Healthy Baby program, then decided to create products to sell to generate funds. With those funds they have built a facility which houses a medical clinic with a pharmacy and laboratory, a daycare, a school from K-6th grade, a library, soy milk production, a bakery and rooms for the manufacture and shipping of their handicrafts. They are now working in a number of ways to achieve better housing, clean water, better education and health care for the thousands of people in their community.

We travel not to build buildings, but to build a long-term relationship. As Christians, we are charged with reaching out in understanding. In the Beatitudes we are told to put ourselves in "the other person’s shoes." Because our world is so diverse, we need greater understanding of cultural traditions, religious practices, trade, sharing resources, reducing pollution, and peaceful ways of resolving conflict. And, as Christians, we need to stand in solidarity alongside one another in the problems we face.

Meet the UPAVIMas

Aldina Antonia Velasquez NavarroWe will soon be welcoming five women from the UPAVIM cooperative in Guatemala City to Downers Grove. They will be here from October 3 to 11, staying with DGFUMC families and participating in the life of the church, including worship, Sunday School, UMW meetings, etc. They will also see the outreach activities of our congregation, such as PADS and Family Shelter Services. They will be accompanied by Brian Tyler, an American working for Sister Parish, the organization that coordinates our connection to Guatemala.

Here we are posting an introduction to each of them. We hope you will all have a chance to meet them soon.

Crafting A Relationship

The Reality Behind the Craft Sales

Nicole at UPAVIMOn April 28, after the 11am service, we will hear a presentation by Nicole Hertel Meirose describing the history of the UPAVIM cooperative in Guatemala City and the value of our connection to their community. Until 2012, Nicole was the regional coordinator in Guatemala for Sister Parish, an organization that fosters links between churches in the United States and communities in Central America. She can therefore provide a unique insight into the Mezquital community, in which UPAVIM is located, the challenges they have faced and overcome in building a school, clinic, and other services to the surrounding community, and the purpose behind our relationship - how it enriches both communities.

Later this year, a delegation of women from the UPAVIM will be visiting us in Downers Grove and there will be many opportunities for the congregation to meet them and share our stories. To help us prepare for this visit, we invite all church members to hear first-hand what life in Guatemala City is like, who these remarkable women are, and how our bond with them impacts all of us.

Lunch will be provided. It is not necessary to register in advance - you are welcome to just show up if you are interested - but please fill in the sign-up form below if you know that you will be coming. 

Chapel Hall
Sunday, April 28, 2013 - 12:15pm

UPAVIM Spring Craft Sale

On April 28, we will be welcoming Nicole Hertel Meirose, who as the Guatemala coordinator for Sister Parish, helped to arrange our last visit to the UPAVIM cooperative in 2011. This will be a wonderful opportunity to learn about what the women of UPAVIM have achieved and what life is like in Guatemala City. Read more about it here:

| Crafting a Relationship - The Reality Behind the Craft Sales |

In the weeks surrounding her visit, we are once again selling some of the beautiful crafts that they produce -  colorful bags of all sizes, scarves, kitchen accessories, jewelry, and more - just in time for Mother's Day and the season of graduations. You can find gifts for these occasions and at the same time support community improvement projects in Guatemala through the spring craft sales.

Please come visit us in the Parlor between services on April 21, April 28, and May 5.

Alternative Gift Fair

What do you buy the person who has everything? How about a goat, a beautiful South American craft, or a share in the aid work being done to help people in more than 100 countries around the world?

The Advent season is filled with many warm traditions, and one of those traditions at First United Methodist Church is the Alternative Gift Fair. Many of you are familiar with the beautiful crafts handmade by the artisans of our church's Guatemalan sister organization, the UPAVIM (United for Better Living) cooperative. These are gifts that give twice – your family and friends will enjoy receiving these lovely items, and you will also be supporting improvement projects in UPAVIM’s impoverished home community of La Esperanza in Guatemala City. We have a large selection to choose from - colorful bags of all sizes, scarves, Christmas ornaments, kitchen accessories, jewelry, and more.

You can also purchase livestock to combat world hunger as part of Heifer International, handcrafted items from the Peru-Titicaca Border Ministry, and help support the United Methodist Committee on Relief. Best of all, you’ll be able to check off a few more names on your holiday gift-giving list while making a difference in our world. What a perfect way to celebrate the true meaning of Christmas!

Please come visit us in the Parlor after each service during the Advent season.


UPAVIM Spring Craft Sale

Spring is here, and with it come graduations and Mother's Day! You can find gifts for these occasions and at the same time support community improvement projects in Guatemala through the spring UPAVIM craft sales.

We will be selling beautiful crafts handmade by the artisans of our church's Guatemalan sister organization, the UPAVIM (United for Better Living) cooperative - colorful bags of all sizes, scarves, kitchen accessories, jewelry, and more.

Please come visit us in the Parlor between services on April 22, April 29, and May 6.

Alternative Gift Fair

What do you give the person with everything? Well, a gift from our Advent Alternative Gift Fair! Every Sunday until Christmas, the Missions work area will be in the Parlor offering a range of Christmas gifts to bring not just a smile to your loved one's face but also justice and hope to people far away.

The fair will be held from November 27 until December 18.

Chontolá and Chichicastenango

Weaving at Ruth & NaomiIt doesn't seem possible that our time in Guatemala is nearly over. We have just returned to the Sister Parish center in the heart of Guatemala City after a couple of days on the road. Marta Roja, one of the UPAVIMas, drove us through stunning scenery to Chichicastenango, a famous market town in the Quiché region, about 90 miles northwest of the capital. This is one of the centers of Mayan culture in Guatemala, so the visit gave us a chance to witness the resilience of the indigenous people in spite of the attempts to wipe it out during the civil war. Ellen, our Sister Parish coordinator, introduced us to Pastor Diego, who described how he established the Ruth and Naomi cooperative to help women devastated by the conflict to support themselves. We were taken to meet some of those women, who live on steep hillsides close to the small village of Chontolá, and whose houses could only be reached by narrow footpaths through fruit orchards and corn fields. After days amidst the diesel fumes of a crowded city, this simple walk with breathtaking views across cloud-capped mountains, was truly restorative. Once there, they showed us age-old hand-weaving skills used to produce a range of colorful crafts with designs typical of the region. Since they mostly only speak their native Quiché language, Ellen and Diego combined to provide two-stage translations of their inspiring story.

Guatemala Weekend

IMG_1638Friday morning we woke up early and prepared for our trip to UPAVIM. The ride through downtown Guatemala City and into the outskirts of town (Zone 12) was scenic, and our tightly packed bus enjoyed the trip. When we arrived at UPAVIM, we were warmly welcomed by the UPAVIM women. We were then given a tour of the facility where we saw the school, the bakery, the library, and the arts and crafts work area. We had a huge lunch (that was quite delicious!) and then we were introduced to our host families. We all slept well and early on Friday night, and each had our own stories to share of the experiences we had at the houses. Almost all of the host families have children and large families, which makes evenings enjoyable and fun.

Guatemala: Day 2

Hola! Today was day two of our Guatemala mission, and we were exposed to a closer look at Guatemalan history and scenery. We started off the day with a representative from NISGUA (Network in Solidarity with the People of Guatemala), which is an organization that works for justice in Guatemala. Carrie came to the Sister Parish Center to help provide the DGFUMC delegation a better understanding of the history of Guatemala and the involvement that the United States had in the Guatemalan civil war. We learned that, in order to understand the present, a knowledge of the past is necessary. 

Buenas Tardes de Guatemala

Houston stopoverThe 2011 DGFUMC delegation to our sisters in UPAVIM has arrived in Guatemala City. After an early morning flight from Chicago and a brief stopover in Houston, we landed safely in Guatemala City (with all our luggage) just after 1pm. We were greeted by a number of UPAVIMAs, including several who visited Downers Grove in 2009, waiting patiently outside with the Sister Parish coordinator, Ellen Moore. The value of our hermanamiento was once again demonstrated by the warmth of their welcome, whether renewing past friendships or meeting new faces. This is a relationship that is enriching both communities, and we are excited that it is being refreshed once again.

Thank you for all your prayers and good wishes. We will try to post messages whenever we have access to the internet. You can follow our progress on the Guatemala blog.


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