Who We Are
The Gregorys in Guatemala are Brian, Kelly, Ellsley, and Westin. Born, raised, and currently living in Seattle, WA, we are following God’s call to Guatemala in August 2019. Brian is an Episcopal priest, Kelly is a high school teacher, and Ellsley (4) and Westin (2) are our two great kids. We’re excited for the ways our family will be formed by our experience in a new country and culture, and even more excited about the ways God will be at work in us and around us.
In the Spring of 2014, I traveled to Guatemala for the first time on a cross-cultural immersion trip with Seattle Pacific Seminary. The guiding questions of that trip were:
- Where do we find Jesus?
- Where do we see God at work?
- What is God doing in a context much different than our own?
We took a half-day tour of an organization called Safe Passage which works in the community surrounding the Guatemala city garbage dump. Over 60,000 people are supported economically off the dump, including the thousands who work in the dump, sorting and scavenging for trash to be recycled or sold, and the residents of the neighborhood surrounding the dump that process the trash.
Safe Passage serves children and families, helping them break out of the cycle of poverty through robust education programming while nurturing and affirming the dignity of all people by offering psychosocial emotional support. The organization serves over 550 students ranging from age 4 to adults in Safe Passage’s Adult Literacy Program. Creamos, Safe Passage’s social entrepreneurship partner organization, provides economic opportunity beyond the dump, emotional support, and educational opportunities for women in the community.
Where was Jesus? It turns out Jesus was in the Guatemala city garbage dump.
When I served as a youth director, I took youth on short-term mission trips to Safe Passage in 2015 and 2017. While there, I got to see more of Safe Passage’s work and engage with people from the dump community. As I learned and experienced more, it became very clear that God was at work in remarkable ways through Safe Passage. Wholeness for individuals, families, and the community; justice; hope; and dignity for all people are just some of the results of Safe Passage’s work. On the second trip to work with Safe Passage, I began to sense a call to join more deeply in that work by serving as a long-term volunteer.
The day after I returned home from that trip, our family was moving to a new house. Needless to say, things were a bit hectic and unsettled at home, but that call was so strong I couldn’t wait to bring it up to Kelly. When we returned home from the airport that night, I told Kelly, “I know this is not a good time to ask you this, but would you ever consider moving to Guatemala?” To my surprise, she said yes. The two years since have been spent discerning that sense of call and what it would mean for our family to relocate for a season to join the work God is doing in Guatemala. This discernment has included discussions with the bishop of The Episcopal Diocese of Guatemala about ways I can continue to serve with the church as a priest.
As an Episcopal priest, part of my vocation is to proclaim the good news of what God has done for the world in Jesus and gather community that continues the work of Jesus. I am excited to be a part of the Safe Passage and Episcopal Church communities and invite others into the work God is doing in Guatemala.
While we are excited for the work we will do in Guatemala, we are also excited about the ways our time there will be formative for the future. Eventually, I would like to plant a church in South Seattle, the most diverse area of the city and one of the most diverse areas of the United States. That church will be an intentionally multi-cultural and multi-ethnic community. Our time in Guatemala will be an opportunity to learn how to navigate across culture, as well as an experience of being culturally displaced and, perhaps for the first time in my life, be on the “outside” of the dominant culture. We also recognize how profound an experience this will be for our two children, Ellsley and Westin. While they might not have many long-term memories of our time in Guatemala, the time our family spent in Guatemala will be part of their origin story and part of our family’s story, and we are excited to see how this experience will shape who they are and bear fruit in their lives.
Having grown up involved in various ministries and churches, faith has always been a driving force in my life. At the same time, the idea of entering in to a somewhat formal discernment process to discover where God was leading felt relatively new.
The last two years of discernment have been transformative. It required me to set some of the logistics aside and focus on where God is calling our family, and the big picture of how God will work in us and through us in Guatemala. The community that has surrounded us, asked questions, listened, and provided the time and space for us to listen to God’s call has been a gift and has helped me better understand and articulate my excitement as well as my fear. This process has challenged me to trust in God’s provision and the support of those around us.
Brian and I traveled to Guatemala in February 2019 to give me a better understanding of what moving would actually look like. In visiting Episcopal churches and touring Safe Passage, I was taken in by this beautiful country and its people. On a trip that had many moments of feeling overwhelmed by the possibility of relocating our family, my anxiety seemed to melt away when I sat with a group of women from Creamos, Safe Passage’s social entrepreneurship program. Instead of feeling overwhelmed by fear, I felt passionate about the work God is doing and being a part of it. I know that the coming year will challenge us in ways we haven’t even considered yet, but I am excited for how God will use this experience to shape our family and those around us.
As we reflect on our lives, it has become clear that many of our life experiences have led to this adventure. From Brian’s priestly ministry and desire to gather communities that join in God’s work in the world, to Kelly’s gifts as a teacher, and our desire to step out of our places of comfort and the support systems we have close to home in order to be stretched and grow as a family, all of these things and more converged in Guatemala and it became clear that God is calling us to offer ourselves to the work God is doing there.
At Safe Passage, Brian will be the Support Team Coordinator, working with short-term volunteer teams from the United States as they travel to Guatemala to join in the work of serving the community around the Guatemala City garbage dump. This role includes sharing the story of Safe Passage and recruiting new volunteers. Equipping, recruiting, and supporting volunteers is a large part of what it means to be a priest, and Brian is excited to both use and grow in his ability to do this for Safe Passage. Kelly will be using her expertise in education to provide support and training for teachers and students at Safe Passage. She will serve as an English teacher, assist and mentor lead teachers in Safe Passage’s middle school and high school programs, and help with curriculum development and planning for Safe Passage’s adult literacy program.
In The Episcopal Diocese of Guatemala, Brian will be serving as an assisting priest and working with Bishop Romero to involve the Episcopal Church in the work of Safe Passage. Kelly will be teaching English classes at an Episcopal school in San Andrés Itzapa.
Mission, in its truest sense, is finding what God is doing in the world and becoming a part of it. God is doing wonderful things in Guatemala through Safe Passage and the Episcopal Church and we are delighted to partner with these two organizations.
Latest News From The Gregorys
There is a lot to share about our life and work in Guatemala. Check out our latest blog updates below or visit out blog page to see more.
It is hard to believe we have been in Guatemala for more than a month now. Our first week and a half was spent taking a bit of time getting settled (yes, there is privilege in our ability to take that time and space)…
The last several weeks – the last few months, actually – have been a whirlwind of planning, packing, saying goodbye, and making arrangements for our move to Guatemala. Each member of our family…
By now you’ve likely seen the photo from several weeks ago. Father, Oscar Alberto Martinez, and his two-year-old daughter, Angie Valeria, drowned in the Rio Grande…