Guatemala-Peten Partnership Task Force

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The Guatemala-Peten Partnership Task Force meets each month. Contact David Carlton or Lavona Russell to become involved in this ministry.

One of the most enduring mission efforts undertaken by Presbytery of Middle Tennessee, this mission — launched by members of several PMT churches in 2001 — is now in its 20th year. Within a few years, an official partnership was established with the Peten Q’eqchi Presbytery of Guatemala (PQP). The Guatemala-Peten Partnership Task Force (GPPTF) works boldly with our Guatemalan partners on mutually agreed upon goals, initiatives and operating principles. Through direct communication (with the assistance of the mission workers and the National Church) we visit regularly, update our goals, and take action accordingly as we seek to serve the Lord and empower each other to be disciples of Christ. Mission values include accountability, transparency, reciprocity, flexibility, and serving with compassion, dignity and integrity.

This partnership supports eight churches in the Peten region of Guatemala with:

  • Leadership development
  • Theological education
  • Literacy / childhood education
  • Ministry with women
  • Medical or other support through mission trips
  • Evangelism / faith formation
  • Disaster assistance

The Peten is the northern, most rural third of Guatemala. It is rich with Mayan archaeological sites, but poor economically, populated by indigenous Maya Q’eqchi communities who have been living off the land as farmers for many generations. The region has a 90% illiteracy rate and has among the worst health outcomes and lowest life expectancies in Latin America. When this partnership was founded in 2001, the Peten was specifically chosen as where mission efforts could have the most impact. The rural communities of the Peten are underserved by other mission outreach to Guatemala due to the remote locations, the poverty, and the language challenges. The mission model this partnership aspires to is a reciprocal, authentic, and relational model, oriented around listening.

Our biggest needs (more information below):

  1. Currently: Support for our mission trips, especially the medical mission trip scheduled for March 2022. Designate “Mission” or “Petrocinia Memorial Mission Fund” in honor of the late Petrocinia Cholom Coc (see video below)
  2. Continued funding for Basico education, our equivalent of primary and middle school. ($6,000+ per year total covers 21+ children)
  3. Task Force members who speak Spanish: Our Q’eqchi-speaking ministers all speak nominal Spanish. A trilingual Q’eqchi / Spanish speaker would be invaluable.
  4. Pastor support through monthly giving: Our minister partners are mainly volunteers. In addition to theological training, we provide them with a minimal monthly stipend to build their church.
Patrocinia Cholom Cac

Supporting this mission partnership with your resources or your time helps to build the work of Christ in rural Guatemala, changing lives and strengthening communities.  

Add the Guatemala-Peten Partnership to your annual mission outreach budget. Donations can be made on this website (top right Give Now button). On the second page of the donation form, underneath the credit card section, in the “Notes” field designate “Guatemala” and (if you wish) one of the specific needs below. Checks may be mailed to Presbytery of Middle Tennessee, 1113 Murfreesboro Rd., Suite 106 #216, Franklin, TN 37064, designate on the check “Guatemala.” General donations for the Guatemala-Peten Partnership will be applied wherever the need is greatest.


MOST URGENT NEED: Our mission partners in the Peten have been hit severely in 2020-2021. They were already struggling with hunger, poverty, and recurrent droughts which threaten harvests, and now with Coronavirus lockdowns bringing the already meager economy to a halt, further exacerbating hunger and malnutrition.  Food assistance during this time has been literally life-saving. (2021 – Please reach out to a GPPTF member prior to designating a donation to this area to check the current situation.)


LARGEST FUNDING NEED:  Our PQP partners have told us that public school is free at the grade school level, yet the country’s spending on education is one of the lowest in the world and schools in the Peten are sparsely located. For Basico (our equivalent of middle school) fees for books, uniforms (required), transportation, and school supplies are  prohibitive for most families, causing children to drop out and join their parents working the fields. The average education level among adults in the Peten is 3rd grade (equivalent), and of course, our partners are like parents here at home — they want better for their children. Supporting Basico education will strengthen the church communities we serve over time. Since 2017, with the support of many generous Presbyterians, we have funded Basico for 8 villages with scholarships — between 21 and 28 students every year. To sponsor one child, the average annual cost is 2,200 Quetzals ($285 at the current exchange rate).


MONTHLY SUPPORT: We provide small monthly stipends for each church’s part-time Pastor and several church workers, as well as occasional additional support for specific projects or needs. Churches supported are in Zapaol II, Valle Nuevo, Xexan II, Chinatal, Nueva Canaan, Tamariz, Sayaxche, San Juan Acul, and Cobanerita. We also provide additional funding for one pastor leader serving as our main liaison. Monthly pledges of $20 ($240 annual) or in any amount will help sustain the current level of support. (See video below of conversation with Pastors from 2019 trip.)


SPECIAL NEED: Every month our task force meets (virtually) with our liaisons in Guatemala to maintain our relationships with church partners, field special requests, discuss church developments, address fundraising needs, and plan future mission trips. We welcome new members to join, especially those with special skills or who speak Spanish. Communicating directly is a challenge: our Q’eqchi-speaking ministers all speak nominal Spanish, and a trilingual Q’eqchi / Spanish speaker on our task force would allow us to speak directly with our pastors. Our meeting varies each month; recently we have met from 4 to 5:30 pm on the 3rd Thursday of the month.  To join the task force, please contact David Carlton or Lavona Russell. Current active members include Moderator David Carlton (Second Presbyterian,) Barb Hall (co-founder of the partnership, East Brentwood Presbyterian – EBPC,) Lavona Russell (EBPC,) Mike Magee (EBPC,) Pastor John Hilley (EBPC,) Jael Fuentes-Molina (Nueva Vida), and Kira Hilley (EBPC.)  Our partnership is supported in Guatemala by Keith Vandegrift and Lana Bell.


Experience first-hand our partners in Christ! The GPCC organizes at least one annual mission trip to The Peten, Guatemala. The March 2020 trip (with a Medical focus) marked 19 years of continuous trips. To date, 36 PMT churches and 113 individuals have participated in this life-enriching experience.  The focus of each trip is relationship driven and grounded in our Covenant. Participants contribute or fundraise for their airfare, travel and lodging costs, and GPCC fundraises for supplies, equipment, and translator needs. We would love to have you join us! For questions or to express interest please contact Michael Magee. Past mission trip reports with photos are at links from the bottom of this page.


The pastors and elders of the Presbiterio Q’eqchi Peten (PQP) are receiving theological education in structured, one-week sessions in cooperation with the IENPG (Guatemalan Presbyterian National Church) seminaries.  Our PQP partners have expressed the amazing difference that this education has made to them and to their churches. This training is made possible by The Walton Funds and by financial assistance from the Presbytery of Middle Tennessee (PMT) to supplement secondary costs of books and transportation.


The Women in our PQP partner churches receive training through partner Guatemalan Presbyterian organizations.  Their training includes organizational skills and collaborative work such as the “Pig Project” launched in 2014. Women from individual churches raised pigs and chickens, using the profits to fund a Presbiterial (Presbyterian Women) group.

Empowering women is a long-term priority for this partnership, though it is atypical in patriarchal societies. Gender inequality means that often men receive more education, including another language (as is often the case in Guatemala) and they will not always pass that learning on to the children. Men are busy earning a living and teaching the children is thought of as the women’s responsibility. However, all research shows that by investing in educating and empowering women, they pass this education and empowerment down to the children which benefits communities as a whole.

Our partnership is supported in Guatemala by Keith Vandegrift and Lana Bell

For more information about the Guatemala-Peten Partnership, visit these links: 

Our Pastor partners in Guatemala (Peten Presbytery) send their greetings and thanks for the pastor-to-pastor support they receive their brothers and sisters here in the Presbytery of Middle Tennessee. Video length: 2’27” taken during our partnership visit March 2-9, 2019.

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