Posted by: amandacraft | April 16, 2015

Uncertain future for Presbyterian Mission Co-workers

It is with sadness that I share this article written by Hunter Farrell, Director of World Mission, concerning the future viability of mission co-workers in service worldwide.  You may read the article published by Presbyterian Outlook.

At this time I do not have more information about what positions would be cut and if Omar’s or my position’s will be affected.  However, I want to share with you the current financial realities, and ask that you continue to pray for those of us serving and for those partners who will also be heavily affected by not receiving the accompaniment and assistance that comes in hosting a Mission Co-worker.

I also want to take this opportunity to thank you for the encouragement for and interest in the ministries in which we engage. They have kept us inspired and motivated. We hope you understand how God’s light is shining and God’s mission is alive especially along the US-Mexico border and in Guatemala because you enable significant ministries to grow. We invite you to continue to play this key role by praying for us, learning more about the work we are a part of, and supporting us financially. If you feel called to donate now you may do so by visiting our Mission Connections profile page and click on the link to donate to our ministry. THANK YOU! And may God’s blessings be with you.

Posted by: amandacraft | February 7, 2015

Voices from the Border and Beyond – a few more articles

A few more articles have been posted by the Presbyterian News Service about the travel study seminar focused on immigration – Voices from the Border and Beyond.  The two articles talk more deeply about the border between Mexico and Guatemala and the group’s time in Guatemala and El Salvador.  You can view them by clicking the titles below:

1.  Two women, two borders, one cause:  In witnessing the plight of thousands of Central American migrants seeking hope along dangerous paths, two women offer a temporary home for the homeless. Written by Paul Seebach and posted on Feb. 2, 2015.

2.  Dreams and dangers: For many migrants, the lure of a better life means risking countless perils.  Written by Paul Seebach and posted on Feb. 4, 2015.

I also wanted to draw your attention to another article on Presbyterian News Service.  This one highlights the work at one of the Presbyterian Border Region Outreach (PBRO)‘s border ministry sites, Frontera de Cristo.  The ministry provided by Café Justo is a perfect example of when we find ways to make the market fair (not free) and make direct connections between growers and consumers, the results can be transformative.  Growers gain more control of their goods and their quality of life.  These controls have a lasting impact on communities.  And we are grateful for Mark Adams and Miriam Maldonado Escobar‘s key accompaniment to make this dream a reality – yay, for PCUSA mission co-workers!

Mexico-based coffee cooperatives empower growers, eliminate need for migration.  Posted on January 31, 2015.

Reflective prayer:

We acknowledge that we are privileged to be part of a larger family as your children.  However, God, we sometimes forget the family we do not see everyday. We forget about their struggles and strife, and we forget to celebrate when they celebrate.  Help us to remember that we, too, need to share our struggles and celebrations.  As we hear and reflect on these struggles and celebrations, help us begin to dream about positive, lasting, sustainable, transformative experiences and be better sisters and brothers.  It is a privilege to be part of a larger family and we have the opportunity to reach out.  Enable us to reach within in order to reach out.  AMEN.

Happy New Year 2015!

I know it has been a while since my last blog post.  The shift and transition in my work focus over the past year left me little time to dedicate to my blog.  I apologize for my absence and appreciate your understanding.

For my first blog of 2015, I want to introduce you to a unique mission trip experience.  Out of a desire to work regionally, PCUSA mission co-workers came together to create a seminar experience focused on immigration – Central America to the US migration.  Ten different mission co-workers located in the US/Mexico borderlands, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador came together to plan an experience that would give voice and face to the migration story of so many Central Americans.  Additional program offices also lent essential programmatic/educational support – Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, Presbyterian Hunger Program, Office of Immigration Issues and others.  During the experience, the participants would also have direct contact with Presbyterian Church (USA)’s global partners in the region to learn more closely about what they are doing to address the concerns connected with migration.

Here is an excerpt from the trip promotional materials… “The Christian journey might be seen as one of migration, ‘the belief that God migrated to humanity so all of us in turn could migrate to God,’ from  Daniel G. Groody, C.S.C. This experience will start before heading to the border, as participants will be invited to explore how immigration touches all of us regardless of where we live and to discover the borders and immigrants in our own communities. The current wave of immigration is rooted in decades of poverty, failed government policies, broken families, lack of protection for children, and violence plaguing Central America’s northern triangle – Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. Participants in this trip will listen to the often-unheard voices of children and families sharing why they make the difficult decision to head northward.  We will wrestle with complex issues in order better to understand the root causes of immigration. We will explore how these various forces interconnect in the current exodus, delve into theological analysis and see how our global partners are engaging these issues. Together we will discern how we are called on to respond, identifying actions that can contribute positively to our world.” On

January 23, 2014, twelve participants and three facilitators embarked on this trip.  Among them are seminary students, migrants, pastors, presbytery leadership, advocates, and Linda Valentine, the Executive Director of the Presbyterian Mission Agency.  It is a diverse group dedicated to understanding more deeply why people are choosing (or forced) to leave their homes.  Below are two links to Presbyterian News Service articles written by Paul Seebech, Communication Specialist for Mission Communications of the Presbyterian Mission Agency.  Both articles highlight experiences from the US/Mexico border.  I hope to share other articles about the trip as they are ready.  Please enjoy viewing the articles by clicking on the titles.

1. Voices from the border and beyond: Along the U.S.–Mexico border, a Presbyterian congregation becomes home to women and children fleeing violence and poverty.  Published on January 27, 2015.

2. Desert pathways to a future uncertain: Complex issues inspire refugees’ journeys—and reactions to them. Published on January 29, 2015.

Prayer of Reflection: Today, God, we pray for those whose journeys lead them far from home.  We may never understand fully the circumstances that led them to this decision, but may they graced with safe travel and provided space to create a new home and a new life of dignity, hope, and peace.  Please also be with those they leave behind. May your presence comfort them.  And we also pray that you be present in the lives of those who stay in the midst of uncertainty, insecurity, injustice, and violence as they seek their own pathway to dignity, hope, and peace.      AMEN.

Posted by: amandacraft | April 22, 2013

Earth Day

We are still in the midst of the promises of the Resurrection, and yet our world continues to shutter from unspeakable and inexplicable violence.  God has given an open invitation to enjoy the goodness and righteousness desired for all creation.  However, as humans, we fall short in fulfilling our own end of the pact.  Instead, innocents are robbed of life far too soon and the earth weeps as we rob her of her richness.  We still have so much work to do, so many voices to hear, so many needs to meet, so many ills to forgive, so much injustice to overcome.  Are we ready?

I don’t always have the answers.  I often give in exhausted from just living the day.  However, I know God has different plans, different dreams.  So I wake each day, grateful for another chance to do something right.  Although some of the world’s problems seem so large and inaccessible, I forget to look at the root of them – our misunderstanding of how to love our neighbor.  If we could learn to love our neighbor, what would the world look like?  And what is a neighbor in today’s context?  I do not think it is only the person living next door.  Our world is far too connected for that response.  My “neighbor” is a complex answer in a globalized and integrated world that contains all of nature.  As I sit reflecting on Earth Day these questions linger in my mind.

Madre Tierra de Declaracion Universal de los Derechos Hermanos.

Madre Tierra de Declaracion Universal de los Derechos Hermanos.

So today I invite you to learn more about what the Presbyterian Church (USA) is doing as members care for the earth. Presbyterians for Earth Care, an Eco-Justice Network, offers worship resources and ideas for action for this special day.  As I become wiser, I know the small acts of remembering and learning are significant.  We should not shut down because we think problems are too large but be inspired and motivated by the small steps congregations and communities are taking in God’s name.  Let us be a community of light and hope in a world that struggles with keeping the light going.

Scripture – Luke 10:25-37, “The Good Samaritan”

Luke 10:25-28

25 Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus.[j] “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?” 27 He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” 28 And he said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.”

Prayer –

God we know we fall short of bringing your realm to this world, not knowing how to love our neighbors.  Fear and ignorance often dictate how we interact with neighbors instead of love and grace.  Help us to understand how these shortcomings lead to hate and violence.  Help us to learn to love one another and your creation in order to transform how we live.  Let us learn to be agents of change.  AMEN.

This is a prayer written by the Rev. Mark Koenig, Director of Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations.  Mark and I worked together for several years with the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program.  I have deep respect for him – his commitment, his thoughtfulness, his desire to create a more just world, and his genuine faithfulness.  Thank you, Mark, for sharing this!  Please feel free to use this in your communities of faith.

Prayer of Confession from Compassion, Peace and Justice Training Day

God of grace and goodness,

what we claim as our own,

you create and give to us.

What we would use for ourselves alone,

you entrust to us for the blessing of all.

Where we perceive scarcity,

you provide enough for all.

Where we grasp and hoard,

you invite us to share.

Where we privilege some at the expense of others,

you endow all with value, worth and dignity

Where we divide and exclude,

you invite and welcome all to the table.

When we turn from your way,

you love us still.

When we fall short,

you make possible new beginnings.

God of grace and goodness,

forgive us, renew us.

Open us afresh to the leading of your Holy Spirit

for the living of our days.

We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

This prayer was written for the opening worship service at the 5 April 2013 Compassion, Peace and Justice Training Day by the Rev. W. Mark Koenig. It may be used freely.

Posted by: amandacraft | April 10, 2013

Songs of Nature

I had the unique privilege of spending some time with the Young Adult Volunteers (YAVs) serving in Guatemala in early March.  They were working with Spiritual Director, and former PCUSA mission co-worker in Guatemala, Jeannene Wiseman, to provide tools to help them process their time in Guatemala as they move into the second half of their year-long mission experience.  I would have enjoyed spending the entire retreat with them, but I was grateful that they graciously allowed me to participate during a few hours one morning.  During that particular segment of  the retreat, they were working on noticing.

I wrote the following reflection out of that time:

God, you’re inviting us in, aren’t you?
You tempt us with things so beautiful.
You offer front row seats for a private concert – “songs of nature.”
My ears are treated to these melodies and counter harmonies:Guatemala woodpecker(2)
A chorus of birds celebrating your day,
Woodpeckers adding the percussion,
The crinkle beneath my feet providing the harmony,
Jacaranda petals falling and settling gently on the ground are the strings,
Wind rustling through the leaves fills the role of the wind instruments,
Singing human voices of the young and old add depth to the experience. 
You create things that go beyond my understanding of beauty and harmony.
But suddenly I am pushed back to my worldly reality by the screeching ambulance siren.
Why, God, is it that we humans must disrupt the harmony and beauty found in nature’s stillness?
Why, God, is it that we must fill the silence as if we struggle to dominate instead of integrate?
Please, Lord, keep inviting us in.
One day we will hear and understand.

I thank the YAVs and Jeanne for allowing me to be a part even if briefly of this experience.  I also thank you for sharing so honestly and deeply.  My life is busy with small children, work, and school.  This was a gift – to sit still, listen, and experience God’s loving grace.

If you would like to learn more about the YAV experience in Guatemala, please visit these two blogs:

L-R: Myself, Victorina (Moderator of Maya Quiche Presbyterial), and Annie (YAV)

L-R: Myself, Victorina (Moderator of Maya Quiche Presbyterial), and Annie (YAV)

Annie Aeschbacher –

Rachel Lee –

Please learn more about the Young Adult Volunteer Program.  This Presbyterian Church USA supported year-long mission experience is for young adults.  The program is still accepting applications for those interested in serving at national sites for this year (August 2013- August 2014).  For those interested in serving in an international site, your applications for the following year (August 2014-August 2015) are due by January 2014.

Scripture reflection – Psalm 147 (NRSV)

Psalm 147:7, “ Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving; make melody to our God on the lyre.”


Thank you, God, for giving so abundantly.  Your world is full of miraculous creation of beauty and harmony beyond our human understanding.  May we take time to notice that beauty and harmony.  Let us let go of those worldly things that disrupt the beauty and separates us from living in harmony.  May we work to one day be integrated members of the harmonious chorus.  AMEN.

Posted by: amandacraft | April 4, 2013

The color purple

IMG_1565Lent comes alive in La Antigua, Guatemala.  The celebrations held during lent and holy week are now the largest in the world surpassing what is done in Seville, Spain.  Churches take turns to host processions that depict Christ’s life during the lenten season.  Holy week processions focus on Christ’s arrest, trial, crucifixion, burial, and resurrection.  The life-like statues conjure up stark images as men, women, and children lumber along cobble-stoned streets carrying heavy platforms displaying the protagonists.  The streets themselves come alive with splashes of bright colored “carpets” made of dyed sawdust, fresh flowers, fruit, and pine needles.  The artistry is intoxicating.

This will be my 6th lenten season in Antigua.  And although I enjoy and respect the tradition and significance it holds for Catholic Guatemalans, I try to seek out something new – something I have not noticed in previous years.   This year what catches my attention is color.

Of course the town is draped in the liturgical color for lent – purple.  Purple banners have over windows and balconies.  The dried flower arrangements that adorn doorways are filled with purple flowers.  However, what I have not noticed before are the purple jacaranda blossoms.  jacaranda trees in parque central Jacaranda trees are tall and large, and when the flowers are in bloom they pack the limbs as if they are leaves.  The flowers are small and delicate giving off a soft, sweet smell.  Guatemalans respect these seemingly insignificant blossoms for their medicinal properties.  Boiling the flowers in a tea is a natural alternative to calming microbial infections in the digestive system (a common problem in Guatemala).

The irony is not lost on me.  Here is a purple flower that has healing properties enjoying full bloom during a liturgical season focused on healing.  God has such an interesting way of speaking, no?  Jesus’ death is significant since it was a divine 220px-BlueJacarandaFlowersact meant to heal the many wrongs, shortcomings, and sins of the world.  I am reminded of this through a tiny tree blossom.  The power to heal does not have to come from something grandiose, but through delicate, small acts that have the capacity to transform.  I am hoping that I can challenge myself to notice and name more of these acts.


God you have given to use freely, even offering the ultimate sacrifice of your human son.  Help us to understand that through Christ’s resurrection we are invited to live this life anew.  May we be transformed by the acts of our sins dying, our lives healed, and being given a new chance to glorify your name.  Halleluiah, Christ has risen.  AMEN.

Posted by: amandacraft | March 8, 2013

International Women’s Day – how to walk with…

Guatemala is a society that conforms to strict gender roles.  There are glimmers of change – there is almost gender parity in the universities – and women are seeking employment and political positions that give rise to the female voice.  However, these glimmers are still weak.   Guatemala remains one of the most dangerous places for women and girls.  A sad reality to remnants of cultural and political violence that lingers unresolved and a legal system that is too ineffective to bring justice.  So my question is this, how do you walk with women living under these circumstances?

To me the answer is ally-building.  Listening to others’ stories, understanding their realities, and working together to find solutions are three important steps to ally-building.  The piece I challenge myself with is walking alongside these women, patiently and gently pushing them for change.  I exige tus derechosappreciate this picture from the International Women’s March in NYC and Rally at the UN (picture taken by Bruce Reyes-Chow).  It says, “woman demand your rights.”  In Guatemala this is a risky notion.  Women are not always free to demand their rights, or if they do, they can place themselves in physical and emotional danger.  Their communities can outcast them for demanding their rights.  Family can turn them out and churches can discipline them.  Culturally they are taught to endure silently what comes their way.  However, what I love about this picture is that it asks us to risk all of that.  If we do not stand up for ourselves, then nothing will change.  I go back to the women who for centuries before me fought for something different.  Women lost their lives for those changes.  I know it can be simple for me to take this posture; I’m not risking everything.  However, I hope with proper ally building, women will see that they are not alone.  They maybe risking their current life but in risking what exists, something new can be born.  The world is transformed through this dying and birthing.  If women are supported sufficiently and widely by allies then the risk is diminished.  We are called to stand by those who suffer not only to comfort them but also to seek justice so that the suffering does not continue.  Being change agents is not an easy task, but we must dream and hope and work for something better for all.  I am called to share the Good News so that God’s children may all be free!

Some of my favorite pictures from the rally.  You can see more at Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations facebook page.  Thank you Bruce Reyes-Chow for photographing this important moment.

presbyterians for peace and justice mundo sin violencia justice not impunity

Let us not be silent when we need to talk.  Let us not look the other way when someone needs help.  Let us lift up our voices for a different world – one that values women and girls for what they are – created in God’s image to celebrate the life God has given.  We are equals in God’s eyes – not the same – but equally loved.  Let us think about how to learn to share that love.

Resources to use this International Women’s Day –

1.  Check out what is happening at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women.  This year they are looking at issues of violence against women and girls.  Something very timely for Guatemala.

2.  Research resources listed through the United Nations Women2000 and Beyond series.  The series began in 1992 under the title Women2000 to promote the goals of the Nairobi Forward-looking Strategies for the Advancement of Women. In 2002, the title for the series was changed to Women2000 and Beyond.

3.  Visit the Presbyterian Women in the PC(USA) Facebook page about up-to-date events and resources.

Peace and blessings to you.  I thank you for wanting to accompany our many sisters in faith.  It is in walking together we can take small steps forward.

Posted by: amandacraft | February 12, 2013

By God’s grace…

Motherhood is not something that has come easily to me.  I have always hoped for a family – one with several children.  But, dreaming about something and living it are very different.  Daily I am challenged by balancing the responsibilities at hand – family, work, and school.  This is not unlike many mothers, but it appears that others handle it with grace and patience.  Living in a culture where women are born to be mothers doesn’t necessarily make this challenge any easier.

My oldest son is now 3, and is vivacious, extroverted, and smart.  He is also a child who is demanding of others’ time, since he doesn’t quite like toIMG_2413 entertain himself.  I know this because it is never a mystery to what he is thinking (going back to the vivacious and extroverted part).  I struggle to provide him with an environment that allows him to grow and develop without stifling his over-the-top personality.  Many times as I review the day in my mind, I lament about the many moments in which I failed to do so.  And then the worry sets in.  Am I leaving lasting scars?  What will he remember from his childhood?  Oh, how could I have done that better?  In spite of all of this, he is extremely aware of the world happening around him.  He is constantly absorbing things even when he seems distracted.   Then there are moments of reassurance that calm my worries.

We were playing on the swings the other day – an activity my son LOVES.  He is chatting about this and that, and I’m only half paying attention to what he’s saying thinking about the number of things I need to get done that day.  I then realize he’s stopped talking and looking at me.  Oops, he’s waiting  for a response.  I ask him kindly to repeat the question.  He does so – he’s asked who has put the many little stones on the ground below the swing set.  My mind is racing to come up with someone – the groundskeeper, other children, our neighbor’s dog.  In my silence, Ale answers his own question, “It was probably God, wasn’t it, Mama?”  I’m thrown back into the moment.  “Yes, Ale, you’re right.” It is really all I can say.  And then I am acutely aware of the Holy Spirit moving among us.  My worries are settled knowing that in the midst of my shortcomings, Ale is growing up just right.  Through God’s grace, he is learning the rights and wrongs of this world.  His imagination, creativity, and understanding are not being stifled but are blossoming with God’s help.  The Divine walks with us correcting my mistakes and ensuring Ale he has a loving and nurturing place to grow.  It is through his innocence and honesty that I can see God’s purity at work.  Whew, I can rest well tonight knowing we’ll both survive.

Scripture reflection – Luke 18: 15-17 (NRSV)

15People were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them; and when the disciples saw it, they sternly ordered them not to do it. 16But Jesus called for them and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. 17Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.”


God I have so many shortcomings to confess, worries that overwhelm my mind and heart.  However, I come to you today to thank you for your faithfulness and guidance.  You work among me even when I am not aware.  You correct my many mistakes with grace and love.  My I learn to come to you as a child – with innocence and honesty.  It is you who puts the little stones in place in my life.  For this I am grateful.  Amen.

Posted by: amandacraft | February 6, 2013

International Crisis Group work in Guatemala

International Crisis Group is a non-profit, independent NGO dedicated to ending conflict worldwide.  This group is renowned lgo_icgfor its study and reporting on situations of violence and of reconciliation and peacemaking.  The following is a report about peaceful protest turned violent in Guatemala’s highland region and the ongoing problems with Guatemala’s weak police force and the exclusion and marginalization of its indigenous peoples.

Totonicapán: Tension in Guatemala’s Indigenous Hinterland

Guatemala City/Bogotá/Brussels  |   6 Feb 2013

The killing of protestors last October was a tragedy foretold by those who have long warned against Guatemala’s use of the armed forces to maintain domestic peace.

Totonicapán: Tension in Guatemala’s Indigenous Hinterland, the latest report from the International Crisis Group, examines how using the army for law enforcement and to maintain public order in a country with extensive economic inequalities is especially perilous. The danger became tragically clear on 4 October 2012, when soldiers apparently opened fire on a march protesting high electricity prices and demanding affordable education and recognition and promotion of indigenous rights in the highland Maya town of Totonicapán, killing six and injuring more than 30.

“Tensions are high in many indigenous areas over issues such as mining and access to land, education and electricity’’, says Mary Speck, Crisis Group’s Senior Guatemala Analyst. “This makes it all the more urgent for Guatemala to build civilian security forces trained to manage demonstrations without resorting to violence”.

Protests, especially among the desperately poor indigenous population, are on the rise, as a multitude of issues fuel conflict in many rural areas. The recent past makes such unrest particularly dangerous. Between 1960 and 1996, the country suffered one of the most brutal counter-insurgency campaigns in Latin American history, during which an estimated 200,000 people died, most of them from Maya communities in the western highlands.

Although initially sceptical that soldiers had used lethal force, President Otto Pérez Molina did the right thing by allowing prosecutors to conduct an investigation that has so far resulted in charges against an army colonel and eight soldiers. He has also promised to refrain from sending armed soldiers to demonstrations, though his government continues to use the military to supplement the deficiencies of civilian police who are overwhelmed even by ordinary street crime much less the drug cartels that now penetrate Guatemala.

The government needs to give indigenous populations a voice and a stake in the formulation and implementation of policies that affect their culture and livelihoods. It also needs to make police reform a top priority, establishing a timeline and benchmarks for transferring law enforcement duties away from the military, as required under the 1996 peace accords.

The Congress needs to establish an effective legal framework that allows indigenous communities to resolve legitimate concerns about the environmental and social impact of hydroelectric and mining projects. Investors should cooperate with indigenous and environmental activists to implement extractive industry best practices designed to protect local interests. Finally, leaders from across the political spectrum should work to ensure that indigenous peoples – who make up half or nearly half the population – secure the representation they deserve within the country’s political institutions.

“The onus is not on the national government alone. Local and communal authorities, as well as organisations that represent indigenous and rural interests, need to negotiate in good faith to reach democratic compromises on how to manage natural resources”, says Javier Ciurlizza, Crisis Group’s Latin America and Caribbean Program Director”. “Investors should perform environmental and human rights due diligence, focusing on the special needs and challenges faced by indigenous communities”.

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