Story Magazine

Third Quarter, 2007

Following Where the Spirit Leads

Amanda Olson de Castillo ('04) is pictured working with two youth she serves.

Amanda Olson de Castillo's Ministry Rests on a Solid Foundation

When Amanda Olson de Castillo went to Guatemala in 2004 to complete work for her Graduate Preaching Fellowship, the Luther graduate didn't intend to stay more than a few weeks. But then, she says, "I was put to work."

Last June, Olson de Castillo was ordained into the Augustinian Lutheran Church of Guatemala (ILAG) by its president, Padre Horacio Castillo, who became her father-in-law in 2006. Her missionary presence was commissioned by the Saint Paul Area Synod, the Southeastern U.S. Region and the Global Mission Unit of the ELCA.

Olson de Castillo helps attend to 17 congregations--both urban and rural--throughout Guatemala. The people she serves live on the margins of society. Most are still suffering from the after-effects of Guatemala's 36-year civil war. During the war, many people fled to Mexico. Now, a decade after the war's end, they are returning home. But the hardships and dislocation they experienced have destroyed their sense of community.

Olson de Castillo and her fellow Lutherans reach out to Guatemalans in a ministry of accompaniment.

"We put on rubber boots and hike in to be with them," she says. "We want to show them that they are not forgotten, to walk with them, and to help them understand that they can put their trust in Christ."

Padre Castillo praises Olson de Castillo's sincerity, understanding and ability to work creatively with the pastoral team.

"She identifies with the people of God and demonstrates a spirit of love and passion for the unfolding work of ministry in Christ," he says.

Jorge Mario Aba, 16, who serves as treasurer of his congregation in Guatemala City, has seen a change in the church since Olson de Castillo's arrival.

"We had young people in the church but there was nothing for them," he says. "Then two years ago, she began to work with the youth and teach classes to the children."

The focus on education is an essential element of ILAG's ministry. Many church members are illiterate. Others have only a second- or third-grade
education. The long-term goal of the pastoral team is to promote literacy and make it possible for congregational leaders to complete a high school education.

Olson de Castillo credits Luther Seminary with giving her a solid foundation in biblical study, the Lutheran confessions and the history of the church.

"These are valuable and necessary tools that allow one to go where the Spirit leads, preaching the Gospel and administering the sacraments," she says. "I had teachers who preached while they taught. They showed us not only how to talk about Christ, but also how to hand him over to those we
are called to pastor."

Olson de Castillo is pictured with parishioners in the sanctuary of another congregation she serves.