A Ministry of Transformation in Guatemala

Rev. Betsey Moe on her work as a mission co-worker
News Betsey Moe

After 17 years as a pastor, a restlessness and desire to be more prophetic led Rev. Betsey Moe, MDiv/MA '03, to work in Guatemala as a mission co-worker for the Presbyterian Church (USA). Her specific role is facilitator for the Intercultural Encounters Program of the Protestant Center for Pastoral Studies in Central America (CEDEPCA).

“CEDEPCA has been doing incredible work in Latin America for a long time, and I knew this is the place to be theologically if want to learn what God is doing in the larger church,” Moe says. “They’re speaking truth to power in the midst of a very difficult context and I wanted to learn from that.”

CEDEPCA offers virtual and in-person immersion programs for church groups, seminarians, college students, and others who wish to learn about the challenges impacting Guatemalans, from gender issues to environmental injustice and migration. As part of the team that receives North American visiting groups, Moe plans educational programs and itineraries. She also leads reflection discussions between visitors and the local people as part of a “ministry of transformation and engagement.” Visitors then return home with a broader perspective.

“I am drawn to this work because I see the urgent need for understanding and bridge building, especially on the part of U.S. citizens, as U.S. policies directly influence our brothers and sisters in Guatemala,” she says. “I’m inspired by what God is doing here.”

She first visited in 1993 as a college student, when the country was in the grip of civil war, returning three times through Hamblen Park Presbyterian Church in Spokane, Washington, where she served as pastor. “I was drawn by the rich history, strength and innovation of the people, and the beauty of the country,” she says.

The stories she heard during that initial trip at age 19 changed the way Moe saw herself as a Christian.

“Hearing from mothers who’d lost their children and husbands in the armed conflict and about the unimaginable suffering they endured made me realize that my faith couldn’t be something that just benefitted me,” she says. “Salvation is bigger than that. If we’re not engaged in what’s happening in the world, we’re not living out our faith.”

One of the most rewarding aspects of her role is working on women’s justice and empowerment issues, particularly domestic violence.

“There is a lot of fundamentalism and misreading of scripture that creates a male-dominant mindset,” Rev. Moe says. “CEDEPCA is tackling that from a theological angle, with bible studies and retreats teaching women and men to re-read scripture in their context, so they can find their voice and speak out against violence.”

She also has great admiration for her Guatemalan colleagues, as they’re a constant source of inspiration.

“It’s a privilege to work alongside people whose grassroots work is changing communities,” Moe says. “One colleague in the theological education program tells me stories about women in her courses, like the shy woman with an elementary school education sitting alone in a corner on the first day who was able to preach with power and conviction in front of other students by the end of the course.”

She and her husband, Eric, who works on the technical side of the virtual journeys, will decide in the coming year whether to continue for another four-year term as mission co-workers. They’re committed to remain until 2024, and Rev. Moe says they will wait for God’s call to guide their decision. “The time is always now to be engaged in justice and societal change.”

For more information about CEDEPCA’s programs, visit www.cedepca.org/en.

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