The partnership of Latin Americans with a local church open to fresh ideas is bringing breakthrough to the hard graft of outreach into the local community.
Dalry is a small town with a population over around 6,000 in north Ayrshire, Scotland. Dalry Trinity Church received an Incoming Mission couple, Sadoc and Vivi Chongo, in August 2016.
Different eating patterns, amazement over the amount of tea drunk, being shocked at how cold a Scottish summer was and daunted by what winter would be like, and learning to tune in to the Scottish accent, have all been part of the Chongos’ adaptation. The biggest initial impression though was the church’s demographic. Mainly made up of retired people, this was in stark contrast to the many youth and young families in church back in Guatemala. ‘The older generation back home,’ remarked Sadoc, ‘are truly retired and not very involved in church ministry. But here, older people still have passion and great commitment.’
A key element of Sadoc and Vivi’s work is reaching out to the young generation. It had been 16 years since the church’s last youth group. Just before Christmas, though, six teenagers from church came to Sadoc and Vivi’s home to know each other a little more. The New Year has seen the beginning of an afterschool club for older primary schoolchildren, and the local primary school is inviting the church minister and them in to take monthly assemblies. A good number are on the invitation list to a forthcoming Christianity Explored course.
Vital to all this has been the breaking down of barriers. In November, the local community was invited to a cultural evening at the church entitled ‘Guatemalan Voices’. Over 140 people turned up to hear about Sadoc and Vivi’s previous mission experience in the slums of Guatemala City – over double what had been expected. Seeing these needs prompted many to ask, why come to Scotland? This opened an ongoing dialogue about how the same spiritual questions and needs face people wherever they live. Many at that evening remarked about how they had warmed to the easy-going and open attitude of this couple with whom they can explore life and faith questions.
On another occasion, an encounter with a Communist, whom many felt intimidated by, further illustrates this. Sadoc responded to the man’s confrontational approach with politeness and respect, finding common ground in books they’d both read containing some Christian reference. Attending ‘Guatemalan Voices’ was this Marxist’s first visit to a church, followed soon after by a mince pie party at the manse. Sadoc encouraged him to bring a fiddle and joined him on guitar, the two men playing Christmas songs that led to folk music and an impromptu ceilidh. Hostility and confrontation have been replaced by genuine enquiry.