Augustinian Lutheran Church of Guatemala
Who is the Augustinian Lutheran Church of Guatemala and what are its ministries?
The President of the Augustana Lutheran Church of Guatemala celebrates a first communion
Founded in 1991, the Augustinian Lutheran Church of Guatemala (Iglesia Luterana Agustina de Guatemala - ILAG
) is the youngest of the Lutheran churches in Central America. Since its inception, the ILAG has accompanied marginal communities on the periphery of Guatemala City and rural villages of indigenous peasants, many of whom lived as refugees in Mexico during the country’s long civil war and returned to Guatemala after the signing of the 1996 peace accords.
The ILAG now has close to 2,000 members organized in 18 congregations and missions, most located in the departments of Alta Verapaz, Quiché and the Petén. Its committed team of pastors, teachers and evangelists work holistically to offer spiritual sustenance to people living in poverty and to improve overall living conditions in poor communities. Church programs include securing land titles for the landless, educating poor children (at two elementary schools in Guatemala City), enabling youth and adults to pursue secondary/higher education, community-based development projects and help for communities affected by natural disasters.How do the Augustinian Lutheran Church of Guatemala and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America accompany one another in ministry?
Typical napping for babies
Through the churchwide ELCA Global Mission unit, the ELCA relates to and is in bilateral relationship with over 80 companion churches and institutions and stewards a church-to-church relationship with ILAG. This relationship is deepened and extended by ILAG's relationships, through the ELCA Companion Synods program, with two ELCA Synods: the Southeastern Synod and Saint Paul Area Synod.Churchwide funding
through the ELCA Global Mission unit supports key priorities identified by the companions, including evangelism and outreach, scholarships for leadership training, primary school education, legal help for the resolution of protracted land disputes and disaster response.
The ELCA also funds signficant work through the Lutheran World Federation (LWF), a global communion of 140 churches (including the ELCA) and 68 million people that is grounded in a common Lutheran faith. The LWF provides space for Lutherans from around the world to share joys, challenges, and expertise as they seek the healing of the world. ELCA World Hunger funds help support the Department for World Service (DWS), the LWF’s relief and development arm, and the Department for Mission and Development (DMD), which focuses on holistic ministries through which the church participates in God’s mission to all creation.
In the “Q’eqchi half-moon” region of northern Guatemala, the regional program of the LWF Department for World Service
accompanies indigenous communities and organizations in:
- Sustainable agriculture
- Defense of indigenous peoples rights and autonomy
- Organized resistance to the environmental destruction caused by oil exploration, mining operations and hydroelectric dams
- Promotion of broad-based alliances for social change between indigenous communities and other civil society organizations including churches.
In addition, ELCA funds support Church World Service (CWS), which works in Guatemala. Supported by 36 denominations, including the ELCA, CWS is a U.S.-based ecumenical organization that works with partners to eradicate hunger and poverty and to promote peace and justice around the world.
Guatemala: The context in which the Augustinian Lutheran Church of Guatemala serves
The Mayan pyramid of Tikal
Guatemala gained independence from Spain in 1821. Half the 12 million inhabitants of this largest and most populous country in Central America are descendants of the indigenous Mayan peoples. The most numerous of Guatemala’s 24 different ethnic-linguistic groups can be traced back to the Mayan civilizations that existed prior to the Spanish conquest, including the K’iché, Kaqchikel, Q’eqchí and Mam peoples.
Despite their long and rich cultural legacy, the indigenous peoples of Guatemala have suffered exploitation, discrimination and even genocide. They were the primary victims of Guatemalan’s 36-year civil war (1960-96). More than 100,000 people were killed during the armed conflict and another 1 million displaced, either within Guatemala or as refugees in U.N.-sponsored camps in southern Mexico. U.N.-brokered peace talks brought Guatemala’s civil war to an end on December 29, 1996, but did little to alter the structural poverty and inequality that was a primary cause of the civil war.
Typical scene in Guatemala
More than a decade later, Guatemala continues to be an extremely poor country. An estimated 80% of the population lives in poverty and 2/3 of that number live in extreme poverty. Key indicators of human development, such as infant mortality and illiteracy rates, are among the worst in the Western Hemisphere.
Because the era of economic recovery anticipated following the end of the armed conflict never materialized, Guatemala´s most valuable “export” continues to be the men and women who emigrate to the U.S. in massive numbers to look for work. The financial remittances that they send back to family members in Guatemala continue to be the country’s primary source of foreign income, greater than export earnings and tourism combined.
Guatemala is highly vulnerable to a range of natural disasters including volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, and flooding and landslides triggered by tropical depressions, storms and hurricanes.
For up-to-date information on Guatemala, type “Guatemala” into an online search engine or visit: