I don’t know why, but it seems that in the Lutheran church, we may not rely on personal testimonies as much as other faith traditions. Personal stories of faith are often powerful – hearing the good news from an individual directly to you. When I sat down with Pastor Esther, her lifelong devotion to God was evident, even as we communicated through a translator, her daughter, Pastor Karen Castillo.
In our conversation, Esther talked about her mother, who valued education and raised her in the church. Now, she is following in her own mother’s footsteps, supporting her daughters and grandchildren in the faith in Guatemala. When I visited, Esther was presenting at a retreat for young rural women. I found her to be a role model of strength, resilience, encouraging the women to develop their gifts for God’s glory. There are many challenges to ministry in a country with a great deal of poverty, yet Pastor Esther maintains a positive approach and a sense of humor.
The partnership between the St. Paul Area Synod and the Iglesia Luterana Agustina Guatemala (ILAG) is a vibrant one. A majority of the church members are indigenous and are living on the margins of society since the civil war in Guatemala ended in 1996. Many of them were forced into camps as refugees in Mexico and have returned to the rural areas, where the churches are growing. Pastor Esther is at the right place at the right time to support a growing Lutheran presence in Guatemala. With 2000 members in 17 congregations and two elementary schools, there is much work to be done.
If you are interested in learning more about ILAG, visit the St. Paul Area Synod: