“WHAT KIND OF HOUSE WILL YOU BUILD FOR ME? says the Lord” (Isaiah66:1).

In the prophetic book of Isaiah, we are reminded by the Lord that “Heaven is My throne, and earth is the footstool of My feet” (Isaiah 66:1). As such, every place made by His hands can serve as His habitation or resting place. While it is true that God’s grandeur and glory cannot be contained in any one place, we, as his humble creatures, feel the need to set apart and make sacred certain spaces to worship Him as is meet. The Orthodox Christians in Mayaland, Guatemala, in response to this inner call of the human spirit, made answer to the Lord’s query, “What kind of house will you build for me?” Through much suffering and dislocation during the years of their bitter exile (1982-1994), when they were forcibly removed or fled from their homes during a brutal civil war, the only places of worship available to them were the mountains or jungles of Ixcan. They tell of a time when the priests would find them in their places of refuge and could only use tortillas to celebrate the Eucharist.

First visit to Mayaland on May 27, 2012

During my first visit to the faithful of Mayaland, Guatemala, on May 27, 2012, I experienced their faithfulness to the Lord through their humble, but heartfelt worship in a borrowed, but simple, shanty-like structure sheltering a compacted dirt floor. A flimsy sheet metal roof crowned their sacred space with a makeshift altar, set apart with local plants and flowers. Over the next 10 years, as the community grew, the desire for a spiritual home of their own increased. Another simple, wooden structure, not unlike the first, was erected on a hilly piece of land that Fr. Andres Giron had purchased on their behalf.

Fast forward to January 30, 2019, with start-up funding from a generous donor, initial work began on the Holy Protection of the Theotokos Church. Incredibly, the villagers themselves do all the work, not for pay, but as volunteers. Now, after nearly three years, on a hilly site with a deep slope, through the raging COVID pandemic with its attendant restrictions and building material shortages, a beautiful Byzantine structure now sits. The bitter history, with all its set-backs and disappointments, has given rise to a crown jewel of Orthodoxy in Mayaland. It now stands as a testament to the resilient faith of the Mayan believers. Not only did they break the hard rock of the mountain with determined hands to raise up a house of worship worthy of the Lord, they overcame the greater mountain of despair and rejection and loss that they felt as exiles in their war torn land.

With the glowing sun of a bright Thursday morning, on November 11, 2021, the feast day of the Great Martyr Minas, Fr. Evangelos Patá and I were warmly welcomed with fireworks and confetti by the faithful. We arrived to open the Church for its first Divine Liturgy, a wedding, three baptisms and many confessions. What a glorious reception we were given. The heavens seemed to open up for us as we cut the ribbon to the entrance of the church and walked into its sacred space. “What kind of house will you build for me? says the Lord.” I believe that the Orthodox Christians of Mayaland with one resounding voice and much love gave their reply; “One that is worthy of You.” Quoting again from Isaiah the Prophet, I believe these poignant words of the Lord fittingly declare His judgement on that which our Mayan brethren have wrought: “…and upon whom will I show respect, but to the humble and the peaceful and to him who trembles at My words” (Isaiah 66:2).

God willing, with the completion of all the interior finishes, we will invite Archbishop Athenagoras of Mexico to consecrate the Church in due time. Together, let us pray for the growth of Orthodoxy Christianity in Central America, which has found fertile ground in the land of the Mayas.

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