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Letter from the Mensajero de Cristo Lutheran Church of Guatemala (March 30, 2017)

(The Guatemala congregation which Grace supports has changed its name from The Santa Elena Church of Guatemala to Mensajero de Cristo Lutheran Church of Guatemala.)

Appreciated Brothers and Sisters of Grace,

We write this letter to you, now that we are at an ILAG retreat. We have received information about the date which you are going to come and visit. We are very happy to be able to know that you will arrive at our church May 20-22, 2018. On May 12 of this year the Pastoral Team of the ILAG will visit us, and we are going to celebrate our anniversary with baptisms of children, first communions and weddings. All this, thanks to your prayers, we are growing in our faith.

We are very happy and we wait for you with open arms, and you, Lee Nelson, we wait for you, knowing you personally, and all those who are going to arrive at our church, Messenger of Christ, and we hope to share all with you.

Here it is very hot.

Many blessings and may the God of love care for you and protect you.
—Your friends in Christ, Santos Chun Che, Jorge Chitay and the congregation.

Letter to Iglesia Luterana Agustina Mensajero de Cristo, November 2016

2015 Christmas Letter from Pastor Karen

Grace Lutheran Church has been a partner since 2010 with La Iglesia Luterana Agustina de Guatemala (in English, “Augustinian Lutheran Church of Guatemala”), a growing Lutheran community in Central America. This organization, more commonly known as ILAG, currently hosts sixteen churches and one elementary school in Guatemala. The sister congregation of Grace, Santa Elena 20 de octubre, is located in the northwest region of Guatemala; we have traveled there four times to be with our Guatemalan “family.”

ILAG currently has approximately 2,000 church members. These members come from the margins of the Guatemalan society; they are typically people of few resources and are predominantly indigenous. They need our assistance.

“Grace in Guatemala 2015”

In May, eight members of Grace traveled to Guatemala to visit our partner congregation in Santa Elena. Pastor Karen Castillo, ILAG president, and Todd Thompson, ILAG music director, went with us. This was the fourth time a delegation from Grace travelled to experience “caminando juntos” (walking together) with our brothers and sisters in Christ. As usual there were fun activities for the kids and the women. We met with the men of the church about their plans and followed them one day to the river, passing by their croplands.

Worship on Sunday was “high church,” complete with a procession, incense, and Pastor Karen in full liturgical regalia. Todd played the guitar while we sang songs in several languages. We celebrated three baptisms, which added a sense of joy to the morning.

One afternoon we went to visit families with special requests. There were birthdays to honor along with concerns for health. It was especially meaningful to lay hands on those who were ill while prayers were said in English, Spanish and Q’eqchi (Mayan dialect).

We were excited to see progress on the new church building. The cinder block walls were up, showing magnificent windows on each side and a wonderful entrance in front. We had to imagine what it will be like when the blocks are covered with stucco, the roof is added, and the new, blue doors and window frames are added. They expect it to be completed in a few months and everyone at Grace was invited to the dedication early next year!

Following our visit to Santa Elena, we spent two days at beautiful Lake Atitlan in western Guatemala. We explored a nature preserve, took a boat tour on the lake, and visited women’s collectives in local villages, one that produces woven goods and another that grows medicinal herbs.

The travelers: Charley Belden, Mark Brandell, Marlys Brandell, Amy Hagen, Chuck Swanson, Kelsey Wolf, Lisa Wolf, and Julie Vagle

Letter from Santa Elena Congregation
ILAVSE, May 18, 2015

Dear brothers and sisters of our sister church Grace, Minnesota, USA:

By this letter, please receive our most sincere greetings and blessings from our lord Jesus Christ.

I write you this letter to thank you for the visits from the different delegations of Grace Lutheran Church. For us, it has been a blessing to have you with us and to be able to share much in the little time we spend together. We would like to get to know all the brothers and sisters of Grace, but that’s not possible; however, we feel so happy to know that we have a heavenly Father, God, who sees all, cares for us all, protects us and loves us equally.

In the same manner, we thank you so much for the trust and unconditional help you have offered us for the construction of our temple [church], which now has the form of a temple. We are so happy to know that the work that we have contributed by our hands, and the money that you have supported us with, all of this we do for the Lord, and by this we are carrying out the command that he gave us in Matthew 28:19, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations….”

All of us here in our church are very anxious to soon be able to put on a roof and then to inaugurate it [the temple]. Between now and then, we invite Pastor John Matthews and Pastor Andrea Roske-Metcalfe and all the members of the Grace Lutheran Church congregation to this inauguration. We don’t yet have the date, but we will let you know immediately upon knowing it. We really hope that it will be next year, God willing.

In all of our worship services we pray for you and we are so happy to hear from the brothers and sisters of the delegation who today tell us that you also pray for us. Thank you infinitely.

May the peace of our Lord and the Holy Spirit guard you and keep you and protect you for life eternal. Amen.

[Marked with the seal of the Iglesia Luterana Agustina Virgen de Santa Elena 20 de octubre, and signed by all adult members of the congregation.]

ILAG Update

Our ILAG (Guatemala) ministry continues to grow and thrive. We share excitement with our Lutheran friends in Santa Elena 20 de octubre over the construction of their new sanctuary, with a hoped-for completion date in 2016. We plan to visit our friends and celebrate their new building upon completed, all are invited to travel with our group.

In June 2015 our Grace congregation collected coins to put the roof on the church. The coins collected in the piggy bank totaled $1,155. With an additional special donation of $2000. we are sending Santa Elena $3,155. to put the roof on their new church!


ILAG was founded in 1991 by Bishop Horacio and Pastora Esther Castillo and their family. In 2005, the ELCA Saint Paul Area Synod assembly established a companion synod relationship with ILAG. In 2009, the Synod asked Grace Lutheran Church to become a partner church with ILAG.

Since then, Grace members have traveled to Guatemala on a regular basis, providing monetary and physical assistance to the mission. Grace fully supports the ILAG mission, and requests your thoughtful donations to help maintain and grow the church’s local presence.

More Information

ILAG Companion Congregation Covenant (PDF format)
ELCA information about ILAG partnership
Video message from ILAG president Rev. Karen Castillo
ILAG Facebook page

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