Mission to Guatemala

UPAVIM Delegation in 2011

UPAVIMWhat are the lives of our neighbors like that share the same hemisphere? What do we have in common? How are we different? In an effort to understand the lives of the Guatemalan people, and they of ours, DGFUMC has sent several teams to live with members of the Unidas Para Viver Mejor (UPAVIM) Christian community in the impoverished outskirts of Guatemala City. We have also hosted two teams of women from UPAVIM in our homes in Downers Grove. UPAVIM is a cooperative association of about 88 women from marginalized areas. Some are widows, some were abandoned by their husbands, and some are dealing with alcoholism in their families. Many are sole providers of economic support for their families. They began helping themselves and their community in 1988 with a Healthy Baby program, then decided to create products to sell to generate funds. With those funds they have built a facility which houses a medical clinic with a pharmacy and laboratory, a daycare, a school from K-6th grade, a library, soy milk production, a bakery and rooms for the manufacture and shipping of their handicrafts. They are now working in a number of ways to achieve better housing, clean water, better education and health care for the thousands of people in their community.


We travel not to build buildings, but to build a long-term relationship. As Christians, we are charged with reaching out in understanding. In the Beatitudes we are told to put ourselves in "the other person’s shoes." Because our world is so diverse, we need greater understanding of cultural traditions, religious practices, trade, sharing resources, reducing pollution, and peaceful ways of resolving conflict. And, as Christians, we need to stand in solidarity alongside one another in the problems we face.

Hola from La Esperanza, Guatemala

Hola a todos! I’m here writing from a lovely café I discovered today, it’s only a short transmetro ride away from my Guatemalan residence. While I’ve got stable internet access, I wanted to take the time to give you all an update about what I’ve been doing at UPAVIM for the past month (time has flown by!).

My time with these kids has reinforced every reason I had for coming to Guatemala. With every “Hola Seño Lexie!” I receive while walking down to the taco guy, and each buenos días beso, or even boquet of eucalyptus leaves (I can’t seem to shake this cough/sinus infection), I feel God’s presence in a place where one may not think it could be found.

Generations in Solidarity

Honoring voices of the past, bringing hope for the future

Generations in SolidarityPlease join us on Saturday, April 26 at 7:00 p.m. for a public screening and discussion of Generations in Solidarity – a 45 minute documentary film which explores the governmental and faith-community relationships between North and Central America over the past 25 years.

Filmed on location in Guatemala, El Salvador and North America, Generations in Solidarity tells the story of how Sister Parish, an ecumenical social justice organization, began to link faith-based communities between North and Central America.  Their goals during the darkest days of the civil wars in Central America were to provide hope and stand in solidarity with the people of Central America – who continue to struggle for justice today amid violence, globalization and environmental degradation. The film encourages us to establish long-term relationships and interconnectedness with faith communities in Central America, challenging us to discover how the role of solidarity is as important as charity in providing support. We are asked to reflect on the source and nature of injustice in Central America and the parallels to environmental and social issues being faced in the U.S. today.

Click below to see the trailer and register for this event.

Saturday, April 26, 2014 - 7:00pm

Alternative Gift Fair

UPAVIM Crafts VideoWhat do you buy the person who has everything? How about a goat, a beautiful South American craft, or a share in the aid work being done to help people in more than 100 countries around the world?

The Advent season is filled with many warm traditions, and one of those traditions at First United Methodist Church is the Alternative Gift Fair. Many of you are familiar with the beautiful crafts handmade by the artisans of our church's Guatemalan sister organization, the UPAVIM (United for Better Living) cooperative. These are gifts that give twice – your family and friends will enjoy receiving these lovely items, and you will also be supporting improvement projects in UPAVIM’s impoverished home community of La Esperanza in Guatemala City. We have a large selection to choose from - colorful bags of all sizes, scarves, Christmas ornaments, kitchen accessories, jewelry, and more.

You can also purchase livestock to combat world hunger as part of Heifer International. Best of all, you’ll be able to check off a few more names on your holiday gift-giving list while making a difference in our world. What a perfect way to celebrate the true meaning of Christmas!

Please come visit us in the Parlor after each service during the Advent season.


Justice for Genocide: A Survivor's Story

Rios-Montt TrialNISGUA (Network in Solidarity with the People of Guatemala) is an organization that provides support for justice in Guatemala, for example by providing "accompaniers", people who travel with potential trial witnesses to protect them from harm. They have organized a tour of the United States visiting Chicago this Friday, Nov. 8, when there will be a talk by the president of the Association for Justice and Reconciliation, Anselmo Roldán Aguilar, about his experience as a survivor of the genocide committed in the 1980s when Guatemala was under the rule of the dictator, Efraín Ríos Montt. This will be a wonderful opportunity to hear first hand what lay behind this year's trial for genocide and to understand the background to the formation of communities like La Esperanza and the UPAVIM cooperative. Ellen Moore, who looked after our church's delegation to UPAVIM in 2011, will be there.

They will be giving their presentation this Friday at 7:30pm in the Chicago University Church at 5655 S. University Avenue. A group of us will be attending. If you are interested in joining us, please contact Ray Osborn.

Guatemala Connection: Thank You!

The Guatemala Connection would like to thank everyone who helped welcome our visitors from UPAVIM in Guatemala and made their visit such a success. To those of us who opened our homes, provided transportation, accompanied trips, made donations, purchased crafts, attended the barbecue, translated, and for the overall sharing of our lives our heartfelt thanks goes out to you all.

Special thanks to Kay Mundy, Ann & Bill Ault, Sharon Harman, Bruce Ritter, Jim Mizener, Don & Caryl Safford, Julie Stone, Dana Murphy, Kim Steele, Mark Pitstick, and Kay Miller.

UPAVIM Delegation Itinerary

Guatemala ConnectionThe five women visiting from the UPAVIM cooperative in Guatemala City have a busy schedule from October 3 to 11. During the week, they will find out about what life is like in Chicago, what activities our church is involved in, and see some of the issues that our society has to address. Find out more here about who's coming.

We hope that many church members will have a chance to meet the UPAVIMas. If you are interested in participating in one of the tour activities, please send an email to guatcondgfumc@gmail.com.

All-Church Barbecue

Making tortillasJoin us next Sunday, October 6th, when we welcome our visitors from Guatemala. The five women from the UPAVIM cooperative will be sharing their personal stories during each worship service and selling their beautiful crafts in the Parlor. The sales of these crafts help finance their school, daycare, clinic, laboratory, bakery and soy milk production making a difference in the lives of many in their impoverished community on the outskirts of Guatemala City.

After the 11 o’clock worship service we invite everyone to an all-church barbecue where our own chef extraordinaire, Don Safford, will be cooking for us. To help us anticipate the amount of glorious food needed, you may sign up by email  or call the church office. We will enjoy fellowship with one another and our friends from UPAVIM and they may even demonstrate a traditional Guatemalan dance.

Other opportunities to meet with the women are posted on the church website. We plan to take them to the North-South Football game on Friday night and to the Wednesday evening family meal.

Church Gym
Sunday, October 6, 2013 - 12:00pm

Meet the UPAVIMas

Aldina Antonia Velasquez NavarroWe will soon be welcoming five women from the UPAVIM cooperative in Guatemala City to Downers Grove. They will be here from October 3 to 11, staying with DGFUMC families and participating in the life of the church, including worship, Sunday School, UMW meetings, etc. They will also see the outreach activities of our congregation, such as PADS and Family Shelter Services. They will be accompanied by Brian Tyler, an American working for Sister Parish, the organization that coordinates our connection to Guatemala.

Here we are posting an introduction to each of them. We hope you will all have a chance to meet them soon.

Crafting A Relationship

The Reality Behind the Craft Sales

Nicole at UPAVIMOn April 28, after the 11am service, we will hear a presentation by Nicole Hertel Meirose describing the history of the UPAVIM cooperative in Guatemala City and the value of our connection to their community. Until 2012, Nicole was the regional coordinator in Guatemala for Sister Parish, an organization that fosters links between churches in the United States and communities in Central America. She can therefore provide a unique insight into the Mezquital community, in which UPAVIM is located, the challenges they have faced and overcome in building a school, clinic, and other services to the surrounding community, and the purpose behind our relationship - how it enriches both communities.

Later this year, a delegation of women from the UPAVIM will be visiting us in Downers Grove and there will be many opportunities for the congregation to meet them and share our stories. To help us prepare for this visit, we invite all church members to hear first-hand what life in Guatemala City is like, who these remarkable women are, and how our bond with them impacts all of us.

Lunch will be provided. It is not necessary to register in advance - you are welcome to just show up if you are interested - but please fill in the sign-up form below if you know that you will be coming. 

Chapel Hall
Sunday, April 28, 2013 - 12:15pm

UPAVIM Spring Craft Sale

On April 28, we will be welcoming Nicole Hertel Meirose, who as the Guatemala coordinator for Sister Parish, helped to arrange our last visit to the UPAVIM cooperative in 2011. This will be a wonderful opportunity to learn about what the women of UPAVIM have achieved and what life is like in Guatemala City. Read more about it here:

| Crafting a Relationship - The Reality Behind the Craft Sales |

In the weeks surrounding her visit, we are once again selling some of the beautiful crafts that they produce -  colorful bags of all sizes, scarves, kitchen accessories, jewelry, and more - just in time for Mother's Day and the season of graduations. You can find gifts for these occasions and at the same time support community improvement projects in Guatemala through the spring craft sales.

Please come visit us in the Parlor between services on April 21, April 28, and May 5.


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