2017 marks the 30-year anniversary of a relationship between the village of Santa Maria Tzeja, Ixcán, Guatemala and the Congregational Church of Needham, MA. Needham has sent 2 delegations per year to this village since 1987. Over the years Needham has helped Santa Maria Tzeja (SMT) with scholarships, development funds and above all, friendship. This year is my 21st delegation trip. No other visit has been so welcoming.
The founders of the church / village partnership, Kay and Clark Taylor, are a part of the delegation. Both in their 80’s, Kay and Clark are making what they expect to be their last visit to SMT. They are highly loved and respected by the people here. On our first day we were welcomed with marimba music, played by middle school students, dances, welcoming speeches, smiles, handshakes and hugs. Our path to our living quarters was decorated flowers, an archway made from palm branches and lined with students in their indigenous dress.
Kay and Clark first came here when the village was under military control and half the pre-1982 population (when violence struck this area) had fled to Mexico to avoid the being killed by the army. It was an extremely poor village. In the years that have passed the village now has over 40 college graduates and SMT has become a beacon of progress and hope the poverty of Ixcán.
As we walk the paths and roads of SMT, we are constantly stopped by passers-by who wish to give their personal greetings and thanks to Kay and Clark. What a legacy……thirty years of spreading love, justice, friendship, leadership, educational reform and human rights to a community and region.
The partnership has not been one-sided. The people here have responded with interest, desire, hard work, dedication and an equal measure of love. Indeed, they have enriched the lives of all the delegations with their spirit, love for life, peacefulness and commitment to family and community.
What started 30 years ago will certainly continue to grow and thrive into the future through the lives of the many people who have been changed by this remarkable partnership.
Santa Maria Tzeja, Ixcán, Guatemala.