The Pentecostal Free Will Baptist Church of Guatemala, under the leadership of National Director Roman Gonzales and his wife Socorro, leads eight churches which are spread throughout Guatemala.
Rev. Roman Gonzales
8 churches. Work was organized in 1990.
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Approximately 90 percent are of Mayan descent. Amid the country’s great cultural and linguistic diversity, four major peoples can be distinguished: the Ladino (descendants of Amerindians and Spaniards), the Maya, the Garifuna (of the Caribbean region) and the Xinca.
Mainly Catholic. In recent years a number of Protestant groups have appeared. The Mayan Religion has also survived.
Spanish is official but most of the population speak one of the 22 Maya dialects.
National Advancement Party, conservative; Guatemalan Republican Alliance (FRG), ultra-right-wing; Christian Democracy of Guatemala (DCG); Union of the National Center (UCN); New Guatemala Democratic Front, a new left wing coalition; Solidarity Action Movement (MAS). The National Revolutionary Unity of Guatemala (URNG) is a coalition of different armed groups.
República de Guatemala
Guadalajara 1,650,000 people; Netzahualcóyotl 1,250,500; Monterrey 1,069,000; Puebla 1,007,200; Ciudad Juárez 789,500 (1990).
Constitutional Democratic Republic
September 16, Independence Day (1810).
The country occupies the southern portion of North America. It is mostly mountainous, with the Western Sierra Madre range on the Pacific side, the Eastern Sierra Madre on the Gulf of Mexico, the Southern Sierra Madre and the Sierra Neovolcánica Transversal along the central part of the country. The climate varies from dry desert wasteland conditions in the north to rainy tropical conditions in southeastern Mexico, with a mild climate in the central plateau, where the majority of the population live. Due to its geological structure, Mexico has abundant hydrocarbon reserves, both on and off shore. The great climatic diversity leads to very varied vegetation. The rainforests in the southeastern zone and the temperate forests on the slopes of the Sierra Neovolcánica are strategic economic centers. The river system is scanty and unevenly distributed throughout the country. Air, water and soil pollution levels are high in industrial areas. Deforestation affects 6,000 sq km per year. Mexico City and its surrounding area suffers from high levels of smog and atmospheric pollution.
Christmas in Guatemala 1994
– By Mary Lillie Avery, Former PFWB Missionaries in Guatemala
Having arrived in Guatemala in early September with help from our God-sent mentors, we found a Spanish school, and a new house, moved into it, and even renewed our visas. We saw how God intervened when a fellow missionary family was kidnapped. God providentially used a school teacher to connect the mother and her young son with a Christian Guatemalan bus driver who took them on his regular route to safety. In the original plan, we would have been part of the caravan from which they were kidnapped. Then two nights before Thanksgiving Day, another new missionary friend was shot, at close range in the face through a window. God miraculously spared him, also.
A far less serious incident involved my struggle with a sinus infection for over two months. I couldn’t drink anything cold, nor hold my head down without crippling sinus pain. I remember on Friday promising a friend, a fellow missionary language student, that I would return home and then go straight to bed. However, I had to go back into Antigua that afternoon, and our paths crossed. Sharing a few words, he reminded me that I should have been in bed
recuperating. As we stood on the sidewalk there in town, he began praying for me. As he prayed, I felt the fever leaving and my body cooling all over. The relief started at the crown of my head and literally traveled all the way down to the soles of my feet like a wave going over me. I knew God had healed me. This was a sensation I never felt before or since.
Here in this Central American country, Gary and I had even celebrated our 40th birthday while in language school, studying and practicing Spanish, plunging our whole family into a new culture. While it was so easy for the children, Aubrey, Joy, and Rhonda, sometimes our adult brains were in such total overload that we couldn’t stand the thought of hearing even one more word in Spanish.
We had had a great Thanksgiving Day, a traditional meal of turkey plus uplifting fellowship with other missionaries. God had been so good to us, we had many new friends.
Next came our first Christmas away from family and old friends, the five of us.
We had received our Christmas spending money from the Ladies Auxiliary (Women’s Ministries) from the “Christmas in August” offering. I still cry with thanksgiving when I think of what that money meant to us at Christmas time, in a foreign country. We had enough money to live, but practically no money for Christmas gifts or the more expensive shipped-in foods typical of a United States Christmas. But truly God provides – from people who have struggled themselves – some may be close friends, even family, some are just acquaintances, some we will never meet until we get to heaven, but all having a vested interest in us and the work God had sent us to do. As Christmas day drew near, we had put up some Christmas decorations, done a little shopping for the children, even played Christmas music brought from North Carolina. However, it just wasn’t Christmas. The weather was too warm and we still didn’t have a proper tree. It was illegal to cut a tree down for Christmas. The local markets sold trees made from just limbs with cedar branches nailed on in the shape of a tree, which was then nailed to makeshift stands. Perhaps their life would be about three days, without lights, then “droop-shed city.” Somehow no matter what we did, it just wasn’t Christmas without an evergreen tree. One missionary mentor family had a beautiful, modest artificial tree from the states. They even put green pine straw down in the living room floor around it for the familiar holiday smell. I had priced the artificial trees at a Guatemalan True Value, but they were much too expensive for our budget.
On Dec. 21, Gary and I rode into Guatemala City with some friends in a station wagon. On our way back home, we stopped at the supermarket. The other wife and I decided to make the long walk across the freeway to the True
Value with the men to follow later in the car. We wound our way upstairs to where the artificial trees were, (I rather sheepishly) in hopes that just maybe one tree would be“affordable.” Since it was so close to Christmas they were advertising half-price Christmas specials. I hoped to find a modest one because I didn’t want to be offensive to friends who couldn’t afford an expensive tree. As I passed a genuinely pretty large tree, I checked the price. Spotting a skinnier, less showy tree, I checked its price, nearly that of the larger $89 tree. I quickly decided on the less expensive one and waited for Gary, who had the money. We were so proud to take that Christmas tree to our children that evening. We put up and decorated our “landmark Christmas tree” that night, Joy’s 11th birthday. We were ready for Christmas then. It finally seemed like “it was Christmas,” and we were ready to celebrate the birth of our Savior. When I put our tree up with such pleasure, I felt guilty that we had such a traditional tree, such pretty decorations, when so many others didn’t have one. (One friend’s daughter had even strung lights on a rosebush and decorated it for a Christmas tree.)
We used that tree every year while we were in Guatemala, even when we were actually here for Christmas day. When we left Guatemala in 2001, we gave the tree to a dear friend who had worked faithfully with us. I still remember our “landmark Christmas tree” when I decorate for Christmas here at home in the states.