Iris Ministries under the leadership of Rolland and Heidi Baker has commissioned a group of Iris missionaries to carry the love and glory of God through Central and South America on a one year missions trip. This blog is the documentation of that journey.
Wednesday, November 2, 2011
In Search of Christ's Maya Itza Bride
San Jose, Guatemala Wednesday, November 2, 2011 . In Search of Christ's Maya Itza Bride
The other day each member of our Iris Latin America team signed up for different ministries that were on their hearts as we are encouraging them to minister in the areas that they are passionate about. People signed up to minister in the prisons, in the hospitals, to the children, to the women and in the churches. These are all awesome areas of ministry and I know that I will join the team at various times in these areas of ministry. But I signed up to minister in the villages, especially among the unreached people groups. We have a week to be able to explore our passions in missions while waiting here in Guatemala for our vehicle to be repaired.
I began to pull out my ethno-linguistic maps to see what people groups were in this area. I saw a large area populated by the Kekchi as well as the Maya Mopan people, both of whom we have ministered to in Belize. But then I spotted a people group called the Maya Itza in the area north of Lake Peten, which is the lake we are staying near. I began to research Joshua Project online to see if the Itza people group was listed. The Itza people weren't listed under Guatemala, but when I searched for them further on Joshua project, they were listed as an extinct language. From there I went to Google and found out more about the Maya Itza. I began to see some conflicting information about how many people speaking the Itza language were living...numbering from a handful to over 1,900. Historically the Itza capital was on Flores island in Santa Elena. These people occupied land here in Guatemala all the way to the Yucatan peninsula in Mexico. They were conquered by the Spanish in the 1600's and are now located only here in the Lake Peten area. As I researched further, I found that the Maya Itza worshipped and sacrificed to the winged serpent, which I have seen all over the artwork and carvings of this area. It was evident that the Maya Itza were in dire need of the transforming power of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I then looked on Google Earth to see what cities were north of Lake Peten. I saw that the cities of San Jose and San Andreas were in this area. Just to confirm that the Maya Itza lived in these two cities I asked the locals who worked at the hotel. They also confirmed that the Maya Itza live in those two cities.
As my passion and desire is to carry God's love and glory to the remaining unreached and less-reached people groups, I decided to rent a motorcycle with Jesse and drive around Lake Peten to do a scouting trip so that others could join us in visiting these Itza towns later in the week. So this morning we got on the motorbike that we rented from some German hippies and set off toward San Jose and San Andreas. We took the road just north of us in El Remate which turned out to be an unpaved road all the way to San Jose. We noticed that all the people in this area looked very indigenous. Jesse spotted a big black snake slithering into the jungle as a huge bird almost flew into my face. We swirved around the rocks and through the mud and water on the road.
After about an hour and a half we reached San Jose, where we asked many people where we could find someone who speaks the Maya Itza language. They told us to find a man named Rejenaldo who lived up a huge hill near the center of San Jose. Jesse got off the motorbike to hike up the steep hill as I drove up. We finally found Rejenaldo, who was a white haired older Mayan man. He was very polite and welcoming of Jesse and I. We began by simply asking questions about the Itza language and culture. He was a bit guarded about sharing information as other universities have come to him in order to gather information. Rejenaldo is only one of twenty Itza speakers in San Jose and is the chairman of a committee that is trying to keep the Maya Itza language and culture alive. He informed us that in 1950 everyone in San Jose spoke Itza but now the younger generations are taught only Spanish in school. It is difficult to spark interest among the Itza youth to retain their language and culture. After sharing that we were missionaries and not university students, Rejenaldo began to teach us some of the nearly extinct Maya Itza language. Here are some examples:
Hello - Bishabel
How are you? - Bishia ni lech
I'm fine - Hach malo
Jesus loves you - No hoch tu ka a nil u ka tech
Thank you - Yos bo tik
Your welcome - Mish ba a li i
Maya Itza is a beautiful language. We told Rejenaldo how precious the Maya Itza were to Jesus. In fact, we were able to share the gospel of Christ with Rejenaldo in Spanish. He was open to our message, but said that others had come with an agenda to try and convert him, his family and his village, to no avail. We made it clear that we were simply there to share the love of God. As we entered Rejenaldo's home there was a table against the wall with all of these bowls containing food and candles burning and a cross. We asked him if they were Catholic. He said they weren't Catholic but followed the religion of that area. As he explained the significance of these bowls and how they were offered to ancestors and used for healing purposes of sick people in the village, Jesse and I realized just how unreached and steeped in paganism and witchcraft the Maya Itza people truly are.
Our scouting trip today was a success as we were able to locate the almost extinct Maya Itza people group and share the gospel and love of Jesus with one of the last remaining Itza speakers. We informed Rejenaldo that we would be bringing our team to San Jose later this week to minister and love on the Maya Itza people. We then prayed with Rejenaldo; that God would resurrect the Maya Itza language through him and that he would feel the presence, love, peace and joy of Holy Spirit. I hope that Rejenaldo will be home later this week when we return. There is such a desire in the heart of God for His Maya Itza bride to be brought to the wedding feast of the Lamb. We pray that the seeds planted today would bear much fruit and that we will have the opportunity to lead many Maya Itza to Christ. Thank you for partnering with us in prayer for this very thing.
Jesse and I finished our scouting trip by riding our motorbike around the other side of Lake Peten and praying around the island of Flores. It took us a total of around three hours total to ride around the entire lake, which is Guatemala's second largest lake.