SAN ANDRES, Semetabaj, Guatemala – When the Rev. Tom Heaton and David Burns started Mission Guatemala in September 2010, neither could envision what the mission would ultimately become – a ministry with a medical and dental clinic, a program that feeds 170 children each week and a base camp from which dozens of United Methodist churches in the United States would serve in the highlands of Guatemala.

The latter, especially, became a reality for 15 United Methodist pastors from Indiana in mid-October, all of whom had traveled to Guatemala to serve and to learn more about Mission Guatemala. These pastors, representing all of the districts across the state, brought gifts from their respective congregations but returned with a new awareness of what God is doing in Guatemala and a pledge to support the mission in the years to come.

As Heaton, a pastor in the Indiana Conference and director of Mission Guatemala, explained, “We are really a Matthew 25 ministry, as we are seeking to fulfill Christ’s commission: ‘I was hungry and you gave me something to eat; I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink; I was naked and you clothed me.’”

Indeed, much of the disciple-making of Mission Guatemala is contextual from both sides – as lives are touched in Guatemala, but also in the States, as laity and clergy return to their respective congregations to bear witness to God’s grace and to the partnerships that make mission fulfilling.

“We are truly a United Methodist Mission in Guatemala,” Heaton explained. “We partner predominantly with United Methodist congregations in the Indiana Conference, and our purpose is expressed in the words of John Wesley: ‘Do all the good you can.’”

Touched lives

Congregations that partner with Mission Guatemala (for as little as $50 per month) have already touched thousands of lives.

“Our medical clinic served more than 5,200 persons in 2012,” Heaton noted, “and congregations of all sizes have had a hand in partnering with us.”

In fact, no gift is too small to make an impact in Guatemala, as every dollar and volunteer or team is maximized to carry forward the mainstay ministries and new initiatives.

The United Methodist clergy who arrived on the scene in October were all impressed by the work and have all supported the mission in various ways. Most were especially impressed by the way that Mission Guatemala has involved and partnered with the Guatemalan communities to staff, inform and earn the trust of those who are being served. Likewise, those who receive help from Mission Guatemala partner with their own sweat-equity and work.

The Rev. Andy Kinsey, pastor of Grace UMC in Franklin, noted, “Mission trips here are building bridges back to our congregations in Indiana. This clergy trip demonstrates that congregations of all sizes, rural or urban, can have an impact. This is also theological education for clergy, as it helps us think through our missiology. We get so busy, we don’t often have time to reflect on what God is doing outside our congregations.”

The Rev. Rodney Frieden, pastor at Hagerstown UMC, affirmed, “Serving at Mission Guatemala is a way of multiplying awareness and support. Now, not only are pastors aware but we can carry this excitement, spirit and support back to our congregations. We all have a story to tell about Mission Guatemala.”

An example

As Heaton pointed out, “We hope that Mission Guatemala can be an example of how mission can work in The United Methodist Church throughout our conferences – work that is supported by pastors and congregations who will form partnerships in mission.”

In fact, this partnership is something that these United Methodist pastors understand. They hope that a clergy mission trip from Indiana can become an annual affair. Several of these pastors, in fact, have made several trips to Mission Guatemala because they want to engage their congregations and serve as an example of Christ’s love for the world. No doubt, many will return on the next clergy trip.

For those pastors and congregations who are eager to learn more and have not yet partnered, they don’t have to go to Guatemala to do so. Heaton, who divides time between Guatemala and Indiana, would be happy to tell the story, and one can always visit the Mission Guatemala website ( to learn more in word, deed and photos of the marvelous ministry that is taking place in the highlands of Guatemala.

Pastors and others taking the mission trip included Rusty Allanson of Indianapolis, Toni Carmer of Warsaw, Jim Clark of Dyer, Beth Ann Cook of Bedford, Rodney Frieden of Hagerstown, Thom Hoffmeyer of Charlestown, Aaron Hobbs of Noblesville, Jennifer and John Huff of Brook, Bob Land of Huntington, Andy Kinsey of Franklin, Matthew Landry of Winamac, William Nickrand of LaPorte, Todd Outcalt of Brownsburg, Charles Patton of Frankfort and Nick Robinson of Fort Wayne.

Mission Guatemala is an Advance of The United Methodist Church (Mission Guatemala Advance #30192140).

Todd Outcalt serves as senior pastor of Calvary United Methodist Church in Brownsburg, Ind.

“Mission trips here are building bridges back to our congregations in Indiana.”

– Andy Kinsey

Photos courtesy of Rodney Frieden

GUATEMALA – 15 pastors, from across Indiana representing all ten district, spent more than a week learning about outreach ministries of food, dental health and medicine with Mission Guatemala based at San Andres, Semetabaj.