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Mark and Rosalie Balfour's Link Letter no.1 January 2016

Mark and Rosalie Balfour, mission partners in Guatemala

Dear friends,

There’s a place on the other side of the world that’s utterly lodged in our hearts We remember with real clarity its sights and sounds – most definitely its smells – but most of all we remember its people. The last time we visited, we couldn’t leave it or its people behind. And that’s why we are sure that Jesus is calling us to go.

La Terminal is at the heart of Guatemala City

It’s said to be the largest market area in Central America. All sorts of business is conducted there – legitimate buying and selling – but also the kind of business that you find in similar areas all over the world: drugs, gangs, prostitution and protection rackets – all a factor of everyday life for the people who live and work there.

Mother and baby on La Terminal rubbish dump
A mother and child, who spend their days on La Terminal’s rubbish dump

We believe that Jesus is calling us to start a new church community in La Terminal

It’s an area where there is little or no consistent church presence. We believe that it is only through encountering the transforming love and power of Jesus that real change can come to the people of that place.

We will be working with street children and young people at risk

We will be offering them mentoring and life skills training at a new centre in La Terminal. This is in partnership with an organisation called Mi Arca (they work with the UK charity Street Kids Direct). However, initially we will be learning Spanish intensively in the colonial city of Antigua, about an hour’s drive away from the capital.

Two girls in La Terminal, Guatemala City
Two girls whom we met in La Terminal on our last visit

How did we end up in Guatemala?

It all started with Rosalie helping to lead a church youth mission trip to a home for rescued street children in Honduras – the extraordinary Manuelito Project. This came about through our church’s link with Duncan Dyason, the director of Street Kids Direct. On Rosalie’s return to the UK, we both felt we should go back to Honduras to investigate how we could further partner with Manuelito as a church. While we were there, plans formed for a sabbatical visit to include Guatemala as well as Honduras, so that we could see something of Duncan’s work in Guatemala with street children.

A view of La Terminal
A panoramic view of one of the roads in La Terminal taken through the barred window of a sexual health clinic. One of the places pictured here is a brothel in which arrests have recently been made for child prostitution.

So in 2013 we spent two months in Central America – a month in each country – joined at times by our sons and (future) daughter-in-law. Then a year later it was our 25th wedding anniversary and we thought about what we would most like to do to celebrate. We realised that we wanted nothing more than to go back to the streets of Guatemala City. So we did, accompanying Duncan and other Guatemalan friends for two weeks. In the days and weeks following that visit, we sensed a call from Jesus to make Guatemala our next home and, in particular, to plant a church in La Terminal.

Two brothers who live in La Terminal
Two brothers who live in La Terminal; the younger one is called Jesus

We are delighted to be mission partners in training with CMS

We believe that Jesus has called us into this partnership. Now it looks like we will be the first CMS mission partners in Central America and hope and pray for more to join us in that region. We have many Honduran friends and would hope to continue to support pastors and projects in that country, while making Guatemala our base.

Mother and daughter, La Terminal
A mother and daughter who work on the dump

We are busy preparing to leave our home and our church

For the past nine and a half years we have been involved in leading St Peter with St Mark’s in Maidenhead, where Mark has been vicar. We have loved being part of that church and it will not be easy to leave, but we know that Jesus is calling us on. We now have a large vicarage to clear: we have never owned our own home, so everything in our possession needs to be sold (the majority) or stored or given away. We would value lots of prayer in the practical details of our move from Maidenhead to Oxford, where we start our training this month and from there to Guatemala later this year. Alongside that will be the process of raising support and making visits to link churches. Pray that we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus through it all.

Bus in La Terminal
One of the buses parked in the Terminal (which gives the area its name)

Our sons and daughter-in-law share our heart for Central America

When we first spoke with them about our call to Guatemala, it didn’t exactly come to them as a surprise. Our oldest son Sam and his wife Lois live in London, where Sam is an officer in the Metropolitan Police. Dylan has just started university in York. Our wider families are also supportive and we are very grateful for that. Please do pray for them all at this big time of change for them and for us.

We are excited about this call

We know that it will be tough – but there’s also the joy that comes with joining in with Jesus’ mission in this world – and we would love for you to partner with us, if he is calling you to do that.

With love in Jesus,

Mark and Rosalie

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