Guatemalan Reflections: Thinking Theologically about Economic Realities

Why a Mission’s Trip

This summer Pastor Jennifer and I were asked to visit one of Victory Church’s missionaries — Gabby Munoz at Living Water Teaching in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala. Our Ministers in Residence, Mark and Stephenie Shanks journey to Quetzaltenango, Guatemala every Christmas for their shoebox ministry and encouraged us to come. If all goes well we’ll start doing annual church wide mission trips. We tried to take a team with us but it’s not the right time for our Victors (those who attend Victory Church.)

Given that our children have grown up a bit we thought it would be a great opportunity for their spiritual formation and for them to experience the Spanish speaking world. They are both in middle school and their spirituality is at a critical time. Pastor Jennifer and I both feel that a missions trip this early would be life changing.

We have a sense that the Spirit will do something dramatic in their formative years and this could be the catalyst.

Theology and Economics Collide

At dinner a few nights before we left I asked my children, “Babies, do you know what poverty smells like?” My children looked at me with the strangest look.

A few days later they understood what I was saying as we stood in a “basurero”. A basurero is city dump.  And it is here where Gabby Munoz’s ministry happens as she cares for colony of 100 families (300 people) that call this place home. As we stood there in the basurero I was put in conflict with myself. The pastor trained in theology and the manager trained in economics seems to be at odds.

My heart was torn because I know that God will always side with the poor and oppressed (Psalm 12:5) and these people need to be loved and comforted for they truly are the least of these. Conversely, I can see there is a vicious cycle of declining foreign investment rate, scarcity in production increase and that combination negatively decreases incomes. At bottom it’s a lack of productivity growth from domestically created capital. (World Bank, 2014.).

I could see it and it wasn’t simply data on a spread sheet it was a live in flesh and blood. Pain. Despair. Lack of Hope. That’s what I saw.

Applying Business to Ministry

After a few days of thinking prayer, we had a conversation with Gabby about raising the economic resources to fund her ministry. We started thinking about raising our own “foreign investment” from American churches and increasing production.  Our thought was buy two buildings: one for ministry and the other for investment. Renting out one building to local businesses for passive income and using that income to house a preschool and tuition for the basurero children.  We are still in that process so pray for us.

Merging the disciplines could be completed. Though as long as the focus is on real people I’m positive the Spirit will lead, guide and direct this journey of pastoring faith, work and economics.

If you’d like to view some video on this trip, click on this link: “The Basurero” from Victory Church AG on Vimeo.