A few sights from Guatemala

Note: This post was originally located on the author's seminary blog and is now reposted here on Mayan Orthodoxy for background info.

Greetings! It's a cooler day here in Nueva Concepcion, and I have a chance to take a break. I just finished about four days of visits to parishes and ordinations with the bishop, and tomorrow we will leave for an even longer segment of travels. Before heading out tomorrow, I want to share some sights from Guatemala: people, places, and some of the more interesting things. Please click on any image to expand its size.

Padre Andres Giron and Fr. John Chakos

Padre Andres (pictured above, in the middle) is the leader of the Orthodox communities that came into the Orthodox Church in 2010. He is well known throughout Guatemala because of his history as a Catholic priest who struggled to get land for some of the poorest people to farm. In the 1980's he led La Marcha, a huge march by foot across Guatemala that was a meant to support the rights of the natives to buy the land that they desperately needed. He also was a member of the Guatemalan senate and a representative of Guatemala to the U.N. Through his struggles, he was able to gain land for the natives and has built 42 villages by his own hands.  The people who were helped by him are incredibly loyal to him, and he oversees over 300 churches that are now--because of his influence--part of the Orthodox Church.

Fr. John Chakos (pictured above, to the right) has been living in Guatemala since this January as a missionary priest. There is a tremendous need for education in the new Orthodox communities, and he is lending his hand in the effort to train catechists, to prepare people for the priesthood, and to lay the foundation for the growing Guatemalan church. Fr. John has a long background in missions and in serving the Church. Right after marrying, he and his wife served in the Peace Corps. in Brazil. From there he went back to the States to serve as a parish priest. Later, he spent time helping in the Orthodox churches in Africa, and most recently he was a long-time priest in Pittsburgh. Now he is in "retirement" here in Guatemala, where he works very hard to understand, support, and form the Orthodox communities.

Padre Mihail

Padre Mihail lives and works at the seminary in Nueva Concepcion, where Padre Andres spends much of his time. Along with a few others, he is taking classes in theology and is learning from Padre Andres and Fr. John Chakos. Padre Andres depends on him as his "right and left hand."

Madre Ines

Madre Ines is the abbess of the Orthodox monastery that is located on Lago Amatitlan, a little ways outside Guatemala City. Her community of nuns includes three others: Madre Ivonne, Madre Maria, and Hermana Monica. These nuns have built a gorgeous monastery on the lake Amatitlan and have established an excellent orphanage in Guatemala City, called the Hogar Rafael Ayau. The amount that these nuns have accomplished is incredible--I can't overstate it. During this visit, I will not spend very much time with them, but I was able to visit the monastery earlier this week and spend some time with Madre Ines and Madre Maria. I took the above picture on Monday after two ordinations took place at the monastery.

Views from the Seminary

The entrance to the seminary grounds.

These flowers are called pajaros del paraiso, or birds of paradise.

I found this little guy in my bedroom. Bugs and small animals can get in easily.

Here Padre Andres is meeting with villagers who live on land that
he won for them. This is also one of the rooms where we eat our meals.

Views from the road
Lots of people travel in the back of a pickup, sometimes as many
as 15 people. Many don't own any vehicle, and most of those
that do own one have to get a moped or motorcycle because of
the cost of gas: about $4.60 per gallon.

Here is a bridge that Padre Andres built to help a
nearby village. He has done SO much in this country.

This happens a lot!

Metropolitan Athenagoras

We met His Eminence, Metropolitan Athenagoras, at the airport last Friday and since then I have been traveling with him, two of his aides, Fr. John Chakos, and Padre Andres. We have already visited some of Padre Andres' parishes and will visit many more in the coming weeks. I hope to be able to post more sometime soon! However, because our next segment of travels will be much longer, it might be a while before I can write a post. Until then, Dios les bendiga y tengan un buen dia! Keep me in your prayers as we travel!