Guatemalan jungle church attracting non-orthodox neighbors

The building of a new church structure in the jungles of Guatemala is well underway and drawing the attention and patronage of even non-Orthodox neighbors, reports Fr. John Chakos, a missionary for the Orthodox Church in Guatemala, on the blog “The Word From Guatemala.”

Having just returned from visiting the new site of the future St. John the Baptist Orthodox Church in the Ixcan region village of Los Ángeles, Fr. John writes that he 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 zealous Orthodox Christians are worshiping in a temporary structure with a dirt floor, wooden slat walls, and a sheet metal roof in the meantime, Fr. John writes elsewhere.

The bulk of the funds for the new church have come from St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church in Des Plaines, Illinois, where Fr. John previously served, and an unnamed Christian foundation, but even the locals have begun to support the project, though they were skeptical at first.

Like those who ridiculed the prophet Noah, “[t]he area neighbors thought they were dreamers and would start something that would never be completed,” but now those same neighbors, “many of whom are not Orthodox, are making their own donations, asking for prayers and helping with the construction.”

Fr. John notes that the building project has drawn together the men, women, and children of the community, transforming their tropical jungle, where once they hid during the civil war, into a paradise. They hope to make the parish a regional center for spreading the Orthodox faith in Guatemala, where Orthodoxy is already growing rapidly. Over 300 village churches in the mountains of Guatemala and southern Mexico are already spiritual home to many thousands of indigenous Mayans who have been received into or are currently seeking the Orthodox faith.

“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,” Fr. John writes.

The church is set to be consecrated by Metropolitan Athenagoras (Aneste) of Mexico of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Mexico, Central America, Columbia, Venezuela, and the Caribbean Islands under the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople.