Dear friends in Christ,
I have exciting news to share! Normally I focus my updates on general news from Guatemala, but this time I want to share something special from my own life.
Over the past months, I have asked you to pray for my guidance in questions of marriage. That request is rather personal, but I have felt so much love and support from all of you that I wanted to share what was on my heart. Until this point I’ve been a tease, asking for prayers without offering details. Now I'm ready to spill the beans—to use an apt expression for life in Guatemala!
For some time I have been dating a young Orthodox woman from Guatemala. In American culture, relationships quickly become “Facebook official,” but things work differently in Guatemala. Especially in the indigenous villages, couples usually discern their relationships privately. So she and I have been quietly discerning our relationship under guidance from her parents and the local, Guatemalan priest.
The woman that I have been dating is Juana Pascual, the Orthodox medical student from Aguacate who is now studying in the city of Huehuetenango. We became good friends during my first term of service, frequently working together in the clinic (where I translate for visiting mission teams) and also with the choir in Aguacate (she was the choir director for many years). In my second term of service, Juanita and I realized that we were falling in love. It’s a beautiful thing when a close friendship slowly turns into something even deeper.
At this point, Juanita and I have been dating for a year and a half. In the last several months, we began to speak more directly about marriage. Then, just after New Year’s, we asked her parents if we could marry and they gave their blessing. We also spoke with the local Orthodox priest in Aguacate, as well as with my supervisors at the Orthodox Christian Mission Center (OCMC). Everyone is on board.
Now it’s official: Juanita and I are engaged!
I want to dispel any concerns from the outset: Juanita’s studies will continue uninterrupted. We are not interested in leaving Guatemala, and neither of us intends to change our vocations. On the contrary, our relationship has been possible because we both independently have felt called to serve here in Guatemala. If we had not shared that calling already, then we never would have considered dating in the first place.
This is our plan: At the end of this year, Juanita and I will get married here in Guatemala. Then I will move to Huehuetenango so that she can continue her studies. While living in Huehuetenango, I will continue working in the mission. I plan to take trips to Aguacate to continue teaching at the seminary and assisting with visiting mission teams. While in Huehuetenango I also can continue to produce Spanish-language teaching resources on my computer for use across the mission. In terms of my status as an OCMC long-term missionary, nothing will change. I will continue to work under OCMC, relying on your support each month. Looking farther to the future, we plan for Juanita to graduate from medical school and then both of us will return to Aguacate where she will work as a doctor in the medical clinic.
I feel compelled to share these personal details because so many of you know and love Jaunita. Quite a number of you also have supported her through the OCMC scholarship fund. It is a joy to finally share all of this with you publicly. Your prayers have buoyed Juanita and me throughout our relationship, and now we look forward to sharing our journey with you in the coming years.
Thank you for your love and support. If any of you would like to offer greetings or congratulations, I will translate your messages into Spanish so that Juanita and I can read them together. Thank you, from the bottom of our hearts!
Looking forward to many years of service,
Jesse & Juanita