On May 28, 2012, Fr. Andres Giron and I made an historic visit to the humble village of Los Angeles in the region of Ixcan. It would be the first time that Fr. Andres would meet with them on their spiritual journey to the Orthodox Church. To celebrate this special occasion, some of the village men awoke early that morning to go fishing at the nearby river. To their surprise and utter delight, they caught a large 15 kilo fish, which they would later boil for our meal. To the fishermen it was a sign: God was blessing their decision to become Orthodox Christians. Now after five years, another surprise and unexpected blessing sprang up in the midst of their jungle habitat.

River running alongside the church’s property where the large fish was caught.

The old church

Climbing up the steep, muddy path to the old church in Los Angeles.

The parish of St. John the Baptist, my first parish assignment in Chicago, and a Christian foundation have provided the funds to build a new church in honor of the Baptist. I have just returned from visiting the new site and was greatly impressed, not only with the progress, but also with the quality of workmanship. With no professional skill and no detailed architectural drawings, they have managed to erect a glorious structure. The area neighbors thought they were dreamers and would start something that would never be completed. Now those same neighbors, many of whom are not Orthodox, are making their own donations, asking for prayers and helping with the construction.

The village work crew with Fr. Evangelos and Fr. John.

This has been a real community effort- men, women and children carrying stones from the nearby riverbed for the foundation and sand used to mix the cement. While you can’t see it from the photos, these people live in humble wooden shacks under the shade of the tropical jungle that covers them. That same jungle was their protection during the civil war, when they did not know whether they would live or die from the shelling. Now their refer to it as their paradise. The completion of this house of worship, born of much prayer, fasting and many sacrifices, will be a testament to their faith and a great witness of Orthodoxy’s love for those living in remote places and in seeming anonymity, and yet known to God. The long suffering people of Ixcan are the hidden saints of the Church. Their prophetic vision and love for the faith will bring many to Christ. In St. John’s Gospel, Jesus said: “And I have other sheep which are not of this fold, them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd” (John 10:16). The people of Ixcan have heard His voice and now are true members of Christ’s flock.

Frontal view of the new church under construction.

The new church, dedicated to John the Baptist, is a cruciform structure.

Side view of the church which will be blessed by Archbishop Athenagoras on April 22, 2018.


  1. Neil and Ellen latanzi says

    Dear Fr. John,

    Greetings in our Lord Jesus Christ !

    Please allow me to introduce myself. My wife Ellen and I attend St. Spyridon Orthodox Church in Loveland, Colorado, USA

    My wife and I have just watched a 30 minute YouTube video regarding our Brothers and Sisters in Aguacate and the work God is doing there.

    Our main question is, what is the best way we can help ?

    Peace in Jesus,
    Neil & Ellen Latanzi

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