Each group, first Quechi, and then Pokomchi, stayed at the Shekinah Center for two days. We all (ASOSAP staff, conferences speakers, and the pastors and wives) looked forward to seeing what God would do and what blessings He would bring. God came through as He always does. An example of this is the trust that has grown among the pastors & wives, conference speakers, and ASOSAP. This is the third year of the conference and the couples now feel comfortable to ask questions and debate the topics that are presented to them.
“It is a pleasure to be together again. I thank the ASOSAP brothers and sisters. I feel content and grateful to the Lord. What I have learned here was been very useful to me. I have grown in knowledge and my spiritual life has truly been transformed. I have been working in the church; sharing what I have learned with the church. I have also done pastoral couples conferences in the church. As I have learned here, I now have to share what I learned. This has benefited me and the church. The church is growing and I feel very content. I have learned so so much about God’s Word and I thank the ASOSAP and conference speakers for this.”
Pastor Antonio shared this important but taboo topic, that isn’t talked about openly here in churches in Guatemala. He taught that family is God’s precious creation and that family planning is a way to steward this in a God-pleasing manner. Together the couple can decide how many children they will have and the spacing between children, taking into consideration their financial resources. This cares for the whole family, especially the wife and children as they suffer when there are many children and not enough money to take care of them, as often happens in Guatemala.
The topic of specific birth control methods generated much lively discussion. The participants pointed out that the Bible doesn’t specifically address whether or not to use birth control. They were concerned about how to determine God’s will for them as couple regarding having children. Finally, it was agreed that God is Sovereign and aside from the issue of birth control, His Will would prevail. In the end the pastors said they would share this new knowledge with their churches, but would leave it to each individual couple to decide whether or not to use birth control. No one would be judged no matter what they decided. We are thankful the couples felt safe asking questions and discussing this important topic.
Pastor Antonio taught about financial planning as a family. He emphasized the importance of a couple discussing finances and making a budget together. This creates further unity and helps prevent conflicts over money. This really resonated with the pastors and wives and is something they will put into practice and share with their churches. They said that usually the wife isn’t informed about how much money the pastor makes, but then the wife makes purchases for the family. Also, there isn’t clear communication between them both on spending and this creates disagreements. They are so thankful to have tools to be in harmony as a family and plan for their future.
“First I want to thank you for great effort you have made in organizing this conference. This is my second time participating here. I really like the way this conference is run. The environment here is perfect for us as pastors to de-stress. In reality, we as pastors are involved in everything and very stressed. Here we have learned and it helps a lot. I thank God and the ASOSAP staff for the education. I think that a pastor should be learning and improving himself daily. The learning should never end until our time on earth is done. Thank you for the care that you have shown us. It is a blessing to us.”
Laughter mixed with Learning:
Amidst all this learning they had lots of fun too. During the education, there were fun games that were done as couples. Much laughter ensued. There was also time for rest and connection during breaks too. The wives enjoyed talking with each other and checking in on how they were doing personally and in ministry. The men did this as well. Bonds of friendship were observed. Serving in ministry is a huge honor, but it is also very draining and many people don’t understand. These pastors and wives understand and this connection is so meaningful to them.
Baking Banana Bread:
Another highlight was a new activity we did with them. We thought they would enjoy learning how to bake together and learn important lessons from it. And so they did! This activity really made an impression on them! They mentioned that they had never learned to do this together.
Each couple was given a recipe for banana bread and then one of the couple had to go to the “market” we had set up that had all the supplies and ingredients necessary. As most of the women can’t read, the men were the ones that took their recipe and went to market in search of the ingredients. The women anxiously waited as the men went off “market”. The men don’t do the shopping in their culture and there was much laughter as the men returned, many without everything that was needed. Many just went and tried to figure it out themselves or asked their fellow pastors (who didn’t know either); instead of asking ASOSAP staff who had the knowledge needed. It was compared to our lives, that often when we have a problem, we try to solve it ourselves instead of going to God and a person who has specialized knowledge that could help with the problem.
What really impacted the men, too, was a realization of how much their wives do seemingly effortlessly, going shopping and coming back with all that is needed for their family. This caused the pastors to have new admiration for their wives and also encouraged them to try to help their wives more. The lessons they learned made a huge impact in this male-centered culture! The couples really enjoyed this bonding time making the banana bread together and is a memory they won’t soon forget.
A last highlight was an evening of fireside games, worship, and devotions. There was much joy during this activity and drawing closer to God through prayer and worship. The couples were encouraged to be Heroes of the Faith as Hebrews 11 mentions. Living by faith was compared to running a race and doing it well. They reflected that to run a race well we must lighten our load. We must take off the sin and everything that weighs us down as the Heroes of the Faith did.
We know that through this whole conference, the pastors and wives were challenged, encouraged, and restored. We are so grateful to the church who sponsors this conference, to the conference speakers, and to you for covering this activity in prayer. We’ll leave you with these pastor’s words that express his gratitude to us. We also pass along these words to you in thankfulness for all that you do.
“May God bless this effort. I can see that you do it out of love for us. In the name of Jesus our Lord we bless your lives. May the Lord continue using you. Blessings”