Guatemala (MNN/HCJB) — A training event in Guatemala last month blended pastoral and radio training as an international group of five facilitators led a group of pastors, church leaders, and radio programmers.
Unlike much of the training held by HCJB Global, the conference "combined training on missions, spiritual formation and leadership along with workshops on radio (in the same event)," said Roger Reimer, former director of the Healthcare Division for Latin America, who led sessions on leadership.
"We have been working with this group of learners–mostly Quiché indigenous people and some Guatemalan mestizos–for two years," added Américo Saavedra, director of Apoyo, the mission's pastoral training and development ministry. "On previous occasions we combined the topics of leadership, radio and small-business principles."
23 Guatemalans took part in the most recent conference — seven radio students and 16 leadership students. This event, held at the Guatemalan Evangelical Seminary in Chimaltenango from April 10-13, built on three earlier sessions and will continue with an event next October at the same venue. Chimaltenango is a city of 85,000 about 35 miles west of Guatemala City.
Being involved in an Apoyo workshop was a first for Reimer, and the same was true for missionary broadcaster Tim Dawson from Quito who led radio courses along with Jhair Ramírez, a Guatemalan who works at Radio Cultural Amigos in Chiquimula. Saavedra taught the class, "Mission of the Church," while Meison Missly, a Peruvian pastor who serves as the Apoyo coordinator in Guatemala, taught spiritual formation.
The leadership trainees — rural pastors and lay leaders — came from across the country, but all of the radio training participants were young people from Bethesda Evangelical Church in Quiacquix, Totonicapán, which operates its own radio station.
The broadcasters face many challenges, "especially a need for training and more experience. Usually the stations we work with are staffed by volunteers, many who have other responsibilities such as their families, jobs, and university studies," Dawson related. "Another challenge is that radio isn't easy to do well — it takes work and commitment. When we listen to good radio stations, we often think it sounds so easy, but that's because the staff is good at what they do and they work hard at it."
As one radio trainee put it, "Many announcers and producers do what they want on the radio, not what their listeners need, and they need to know and learn how to do what their listener wants."
Reimer described the workshop's format as "purposefully participative" as attendees applied the topics to the present-day situation in Guatemala. According to Operation World, the country continues to emerge from 36 years of guerrilla warfare (1960-1996) that resulted in 200,000 deaths, more than 40,000 "disappearances" and countless numbers of refugees.
"Guatemala is a country dealing with the crime of extortion, and the brutal realities of that environment reminded everyone of the divine protection we all need," Reimer said.
One of the participants, Eliseo Tumax, son of Pastor Obispo Tumax at Bethesda, led an enthusiastic time of singing at the beginning of the morning and evening devotional times.
Another attendee commented, "It's impressive how you've been able to teach in an understandable manner. I've been edified greatly. Your sensitivity touched my heart, and the Lord has taught us."
Reimer said the event also had a personal impact on him. "The opportunity to invest my experiences as a leader in the lives of pastors and church leaders from around Guatemala was very encouraging. Their responses to me were gratifying, and I thank the Lord for this open door."
"Good questions, good interaction, good fellowship, and lots of learning might be the best description of what happened," added Saavedra. "The subjects taught were well received. I'm extremely pleased to see significant growth taking place in the lives of the participants, especially the folks from Quiacquix."
"Pastor Obispo has done a remarkable job mentoring his people," Saavedra concluded. "The participants' quick, well-thought-out responses show that maturing is indeed taking place. The potential of making a long-term impact in their community is already here."