Christ Church – Sister Parish Annual Report 2020

Christ Church in Blacksburg, VA shared this annual report with their congregation in a newsletter. View original PDF with photos.

The Christ Church Guatemala Sister Parish Committee continues to join in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Christ in San Andrés Itzapa, Guatemala as part of the international ecumenical organization Sister Parish/Iglesias Hermanas. You will recognize the name San Andrés Itzapa from our weekly prayer list; Christ Church Blacksburg is always on the prayer list of the San Andrés Itzapa Episcopal Community as well.

At left: San Andrés Itzapa provides food aid for families impacted by the pandemic restrictions in Guatemala.
At right: Map of area in Mesoamerica affected by years of drought (including San Andrés Itzapa).

Sister Parish “promotes intercultural and ecumenical understanding by establishing linkages between churches in the United States and faith-based communities in Central America. The linkages are based on direct person-to-person contact, with delegates living in each other’s homes and sharing each other’s realities” (

Several changes have occurred in 2020. First, our sister parish regional coordinator, Brian Tyler, has left his position to attend law school in Chicago, and Carrie Stengel, the Sister Parish executive director, is filling that gap for the moment. We wish Brian, his wife Ana Lucia, and their daughter Luna well in their new journey and thank him for
his service as a bridge between the two communities, an indispensable role supported by our linkage fee. Second, due to the pandemic, all planned delegations, from North to South and South to North, have been cancelled. These trips also help to support the bridge-building work of Sister Parish. We have fond memories of hosting our Sister Parish friends in Blacksburg in 2018.

This year has also brought changes in the world that have greatly affected our Sister Parish in Guatemala, including the pandemic, a continuation of the long-lasting drought, and devastating hurricanes with their rains and flooding. We thank those individual members of Christ Church who responded to the call for donations for food and health supplies (still current at, and members of the SAI committee who helped with the distribution in their community (see photo). San Andrés Itzapa is in the Central American Dry Corridor (see map), and drought has created serious problems for many families in SAI who depend on growing their own corn, a basic stable, served up as delicious tortillas (see a screen shot of a personal report from SAI; Jorge Luis is pictured and his words translated). Then Hurricanes Eta and Iota brought torrential rains and flooding (see map).

At left: Luis from San Andrés Itzapa talks about the impact of the pandemic.
At right: Map showing area affected by hurricanes this fall (includes San Andrés Itzapa)

Of course, schools in Guatemala, like schools throughout the world, have faced changes in 2020, but, amid these changes, our ongoing project with San Andrés Itzapa continues to offer 30 scholarships to enable poorer children who have completed the second grade to continue in the third through sixth grades, completing elementary school. When we made our visit to San Andrés in 2015, the delegation met with some of these students and their families. We were touched by their love of learning and their desire to tell us about their lives and families.

About $135 a year can supply registration and fees, school supplies, a school uniform, and a pair of shoes to make an enormous difference in the life of a young student and his or her family. The Christ Church Outreach Committee has been supportive of this ministry for a number of years. The money received through the parish grant process and the remaining amount raised during the Season of Giving from Christ Church families and individuals allows these children to continue the schooling that we take for granted in our country. Our partners in San Andrés Itzapa, an indigenous (Maya) community, work with the bilingual (Kaqchikel/Spanish) elementary school, Chay Balam, to identify the students and work with Padre Miguel Salanic, the students, and their parents throughout the year to keep things on track. The SAI new school year begins in January.

We always welcome parishioners to join with the Guatemala Sister Parish Committee as we find ways to affirm our solidarity with our neighbors to the South. Perhaps you would like to volunteer as a prayer partner for one of our scholarship students in 2021. Or perhaps you would like to be a part of an occasional Zoom conversation (Spanish not required because a translator will be with us). Or perhaps you are ready to think about being a part of our next North to South delegation when it is safe to resume travel. Please let us know how YOU are ready to connect to our brothers and sisters in Christ in San Andrés Itzapa.

Muchas gracias for your continued support of our committee and our Sister Parish.
Elizabeth Struthers Malbon, Maureen Perry, Sharon Harrell

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