Flashback: Preaching in Guatemala City

Guatemala City Central Park

In the early 1990’s I had the privilege of traveling to Guatemala City in Central America to preach.  It was such a joy to be able to proclaim the gospel of Jesus to eager listeners in a country shackled by the effects of sin.

The setting:  I arrived in Guatamala City during a time of civil war in the country.  Thankfully, a lull existed in the fighting during the time that I was there.  One evening I remember hearing gun shots while in my room.  I looked outside to see mini fires burning along the streets and witnessing men firing guns into the air.  I soon discovered that I was watching the people celebrate “The Day of the Dead” or Dia de los Difuntos.  This was a holiday dating back to the Aztecs.  The Aztecs dedicated this day to the goddess, Mictecacihuatl.  In Guatemala they used this day to remember and pray for deceased family members.  This type of ritual is foreign to biblical Christianity in that communion with the dead and praying to the dead are involved.

Guatemala was also very impoverished by our standards.  It was a constant vigil to try and avoid food and drink that would bring sickness.  I did not avoid the sickness and spent one night in a sleepless fever and intestinal issues.  In spite of the conditions and the sickness, it was a very rewarding experience.

I spent a great deal of time with a Guatemalan family.  Both the husband and his son served as pastor of a church which met in their home.  Both of these men and the wife/mother treated me with such Christian grace.  I was honored when their hospitality which included a wonderful meal in their home.

During the day, the son would take me into local establishments and homes.  He would introduce me to the men and women.  I had prepared a translated version of the gospel and my testimony.  I would read the good news of Jesus to these men and women.  The son then served as an interpreter as I answered questions from the people.

In the evenings, the church and guests would gather in the home of this family for worship.  Through an interpreter I had the opportunity of preaching Christ.  It was amazing watching men and women of all ages pack themselves into a home to hear from this American preacher.  They sat and stood wherever they could find a few inches.

One memorable day was spent in Central Park in downtown Guatemala City (see picture above).  With other Christians, we gathered at a central point in the park and began singing hymns.  A few feet away a man also arrived with a burlap-type bag and a suitcase.  He would invite people to come look inside the bag.  I could not tell what was in the bag, but noticed the bag was moving.  As the crowd gathered around him, he took a huge snake out of the bag.  He invited people to touch it and was drawing a larger crowd.  Finally, he placed the snake back into the bag and made the women and children leave his area.  When he was surrounded only by men, he opened his suitcase to reveal a stack of pornographic magazines that he tried to sell to the men.

At this point, our growing crowd began to sing even louder.  I was asked to speak to them.  No doubt, many were drawn by the singing.  But since I was an American who stands 6 feet 2 inches tall, I was also something of an oddity to the dark skinned and very short people.  I was about a foot taller than almost anybody in the crowd.  I preached about being free in Christ.  In the midst of war, we can have freedom in Christ.  I also pointed to the smut-peddler and spoke of being free in Christ.  As I proclaimed the gospel, dozens of men and women began weeping and praying that Christ would grant them this freedom.  It was such a joy to see the power of the gospel at work.

Perhaps you find yourself in bondage to sin and at war with God.  Jesus, the Son of God, died for those sins and was raised from the dead to break the shackles of sin.  Pray that God would have mercy on you.  Perhaps he will turn you from being his enemy to being his child.

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