Last night here in Guate

Well…it is our last night here in Guate. We had quite a lovely day in Antigua. Antigua is not only a beautiful, rustic city but also a global hub for artists, local professionals, indigenous people wearing their traditional clothing, and drifters from all over the world. It is an interesting mixture of ruins, cobblestone streets, majestic cathedrals, noisy traffic, quaint restaurants, commercialism in the form of traditional markets and stores like North Face, and also what proved to be a highlight of the day- the world’s most beautiful McDonalds. We had so much fun not only learning how to barter (some better than others) in the markets but also taking one of our last van rides with each other where some of thee goofiest conversations would take place but also some of the sweetest and most profound conversations would happen as well.

I think it is safe to say that we have a love-hate relationship with those white vans! They have safely taken us to the most remote parts of this country. They have provided a space for us to not only be physically close with each other but, as mentioned, provided an ambiance where we became friends with each other- laughing and crying. However, these vans were not luxurious. They barely (if at all) had air conditioning. We found out that Guatemala likes their speed bumps- some purposefully made and some that have simply formed because their GDOT (Guatemala Department of Transportation…I made that up) doesn’t really seem to mind if the summer’s rainy season washes out roads leaving huge gullies and crevices.

I think those vans can help begin to paint a picture of some of the things we may have learned and grappled with this week. Stick with me here for a few more thoughts:

One of the vans broke down on the way to pick us up from the airport. This meant that we had to stuff 36 of us as well as our luggage in 3 passenger vans. Seats had to be removed and strapped to the top of one of the vans. Some of the Luggage had to be strapped there as well. We had to sit 4-5 of us in each row. It was hot. Many of us didn’t really know each other well at all. We had no choice but to move close to one another.

See we have been given the gift of space in the United States. It is a gift. We don’t need to feel guilty about this at all. But, with this gift of space we, as an American culture, have created for ourselves a sense of physical separation from one another. Again, not necessarily a bad thing. Our houses and neighborhoods are spread apart, we have large schools, and large churches where (at least in our family’s church) we may not sit by anyone we know for 2-3 weeks. Soooo…what’s the lesson here? Our physical closeness in these vans connected us in profound ways this week. We had to look each other in the eye. We couldn’t avoid talking to the people we accidentally would lean into as we took on those large pot holes. We shielded our eyes from the same dust that came pouring through the air conditioning vents when it started up. We saw the same beautiful volcano which was spitting out little streams of red lava in the (far) distance. And, we saw the same hard images of what tragic poverty looks like. We shared life because we shared a small space.

Might this mean for all of us leaving Guatemala in just a few short hours and for those who are taking time to read this entry (you are a brave soul) that we have a huge challenge in front of us? YES! I will speak for myself here: On Monday I will get in my car by myself and drive to work. I will go to work at a very large school (the Guatemalan family I helped build a house couldn’t imagine a school of over 900 students) and I will teach in a large classroom where students can sit spread apart from one another. In the evening, I will look for a space in the house where I can spread out and subconsciously claim it as my space for the night and my kids will either retreat to their own bedrooms or to another space in the house. This is just the way it is. It is not a bad thing necessarily and it is certainly not a sin. It is what it is.

So what? Am I turning this blog entry into a call for building smaller houses? Live in communes with each other? Construct neighborhoods with central meeting areas and common spaces? No! I think all of this is currently being done by people in our country (Have you watched Tiny House Hunters on HGTV? It makes me claustrophobic.) Was the point of this trip to ask and attempt to answer this question: “How do we share life with one another when we return to a culture that (if we are honest) encourages and allows for vast physical distance and also relational distance?” No! I think it is a good question for all of us on this trip and those brave souls reading this to think about often.

I think the point may be this (and then I have to stop typing because we all need to get up in about 2 hours to leave for the airport): At the end of our last devotion tonight Dan and Anya laid a cross down on the floor. Next to that cross they put 2-3 hammers, a box of nails, some pencils, and some small pieces of paper. Dan invited all of us to move towards that cross, get on our knees, write down that burden or barrier, and then nail it to the old rugged cross.

That is just what these beautiful students did…they first moved towards the cross. This group is so special and seconds after Dan’s invitation there were 4 and then suddenly 10 and then 20 and only after just minutes 32 students kneeling around the cross writing down that burden and nailing it once and for all to the cross. Then, they moved toward each other. These beautiful students began to pray over one another, hug each other, laugh with each other, and cry with one another. The vans were certainly a tool to bring us close this week (as were the bunk beds) but the GLUE that has bonded this group has been their obedience to carry out the message of Jesus Christ to those hurting and forgotten in the farthest reaches of Guatemala and also the sweet acceptance of his grace and sacrifice for their own lives.

Thanks for reading,

Cindy

PS…Even though our trip is almost done there is more information and updates that we would like to share with you about the library that we are beginning to stock for Pastor Pablo and Hermano Jesus, the church that we are helping to fund in the village where we built, and the pastor that we are supporting in this same village. I will most likely be writing these updates early next week on this blog page and sending out an email to parents too. Please remember to check this blog if you are not one of the team member’s parents and won’t be receiving the email!

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Day 5

Hello everyone, thanks for checking up on us,
Today, we left the villages for the last time. We all cried so much today, it was soooo emotional. As we arrived to the village, we could immediately see that the families appreciated their houses very much, as they had decorated them all with balloons, streamers, and palm branches. The entire team went to every house, accompanied by all the village kids. It was very powerful to be involved in such a closeknit community. Once we got to each house, the fun began.
At every site, the team that built the house went inside, with the family, and started the dedication service. First, we presented personal gifts that we purchased before we left. After this, Dan Smith, our leader, brought out salt, soap, and beans, for the family. He described to them, in Spanish, how each of these related the Christian faith, using analogies they could understand. He then gave them their own Spanish Bible, and again tied in his earlier gifts using analogies connected to The Faith. As soon as this was finished, our families had the opportunity to thank us and share any thoughts they had about us. It was really incredible to see just how much they appreciated this gift and how much the job we had done would impact their lives. After this, every member of the building team shared their own thankfulness for everything the family had done in their lives. This is where most of our Guate-family members started crying, as it was a very powerful moment for all. Once we were out of the way, the Guatemalan pastors got to work and shared the Gospel and what God had put on their hearts. Every family member excepted Christ or renewed their faith today!
While the builders were in their houses, everyone else was outside singing praise songs, reading the Bible out loud, or praying for the family. Towards the end, Anya or Dan would give us updates and tell us specifics about what to pray for (certain family members, distractions, or just praises) and we would all lay our hands on the outside of the house, praying that it would be a blessed structure that would become a sanctuary for love and hope in the village.
Once we had all the houses done, we said our last goodbyes, hopeful for the hike back to the base that we were sure was going to take place (we normally drive around a valley, we were planning on hiking straight through it.) Due to sickness, and running late, we were instead blessed with ice cream, a bumpy car ride, and visiting the village’s Evangelical church. It was such a powerful experience, to go and meet the pastor’s wife, son, and see the beginning stage of a new church that our excess of funds raised for the trip will help pay for. We all prayed “Guatemalan style” over the pastor (everyone puts their hands on others’ shoulders and prays out loud at the same time.) The pastor humbled himself, and got on his hands and knees and started praying in Spanish along with us. He and his wife started crying out to God, both verbally and weeping.
We are all VERY excited to get to sleep in till 7:30 tomorrow, we are used to getting up at 5:30, so this is a very small but much appreciated blessing. We are all safe and sound. We love you all and miss you back home ūüôā

With love,
JD, Sophia, Jenna, Lauren, Jon, and Tori

Day 4

Hey Everyone!

Today we made a lot of progress on our houses. We started the day bright and early at 5:30 am, and woke up to the amazing breakfast of the toast of the France (French Toast.) Once we got to the village everyone split up and continued on with their houses. Today was stucco and painting day. Because the houses are far apart, it took quite a while to rotate through the stucco. After the messy job was done, everyone was allowed to go to their own house and paint beautiful artwork on the inside. Some families joined in and contributed to the decoration of the home. The smiles on the communities faces were uplifting and priceless. All the houses turned out amazing and all were built as best as could be. We were given a lot of time to bond with the children of the families. Amid the heat, the chef that has been cooking for us all week traveled to the village and made us Tostados for lunch.

Tonight we had a lot of free time to play games and bond with the other team members around Dominos pizza. We look forward to hearing Anya’s testimony during devotions tonight!!

Tomorrow we will be putting the finishing touches on the houses and dedicating the homes to the families. This includes lots of prayer and gifts being given to the new home owners. Tomorrow is our final day working in the villages.

Your prayers would be greatly appreciated as we finish our work here – and for Katelyn’s forehead. (She was attacked by an Iphone 6 early yesterday morning – the Iphone is okay)

Be blessed. ‚̧

Katelyn, Olivia, and Kezia

Day 3

Hello everyone,

Today, we had the fun opportunity to wake up at 6 AM, after only about 5 and a half hours of sleep. We got back to the base very late last night after encountering some obstacles on the drive home from our medical clinic. We had a hearty breakfast, and we left the base at 7 AM, for our first day of building houses. We were split into 5 different teams, each assigned a different house to build. When we got to our build sites, the foundations were already poured, and all the materials were already present. Before we started working, we surrounded and prayed over the families we were building for. Once we were finished with that, we started construction.

The houses are very simple, square structures, made out of a metal frame with drywall on the inside for walls and cement board outside for protection from the elements. The construction took about 5 hours, and we got all of the walls put up, inside and out, and also put the porches on (simple aluminum overhangs in front of the houses.) Tomorrow, we will finish the houses; this involves painting the insides, putting a roof on, and applying stucco to the outside walls. Once this is done, we will dedicate the house to the family and present them with our gifts, this will happen on Wednesday. While certain teams were waiting for the others to finish, we were able to play with the village kids and give them gifts such as candy, stickers, and coloring books.

We were able to get back to the base around 6 pm, which is very early. Because of this, we had extra hours to relax, journal, and do devotions before bedtime.

Although we are all tired, we are writing to you in good health and in high spirits. We cannot thank you enough for the continued prayer support for our mission and the villagers that we are forming relationships with daily. We cannot wait to see you all soon, thanks again for everything.

On behalf of everyone, with love,

Maria and JD

Day One

Hi all!

We started off today with a great breakfast with better Guatemalan coffee. After a time of personal devotion, we had the opportunity to go down to the orphanage below our base, as well as pack meds and vitamins for our clinic days, the first of which was today, in a very remote village in Chimaltanango. In the orphanage, there are 8 adorable kids under 5, as opposed to the 17-20 that are normally staying here, which is awesome! After singing songs and our group devos we enjoyed another homemade meal and took off for our medical clinic.

After the bumpy, 2 hour ride, we finally arrived and set up for the afternoon. Some of us prepared meds for the families, and the rest of us played with the families and the kids. There were about 20 families that came through the clinic, which is a lot less than usual, due to the remote location of the village. We had the privilege of giving out toys and candy to the kids, and it was a joy to see their reactions. Everyone was very kind and welcoming.

After the clinic was finished, we set up for the “Jesus Film” (an excerpt from the¬†Passion of the Christ in Spanish.) Once that was finished, we sang praise songs and gave personal testimonies, translated by Dan Smith. After a powerful sermon by our Guatemalan pastor, Hermano Jesus, many of the villagers came forward and gave their life to Christ, surrounded on all sides by our team praying for them and their journey. We were also able to distribute Bibles to everyone in the village, even the children. We also gave out bags of food to the families. After packing up and saying our goodbyes, we headed back to our base.

Everyone is safe, healthy, and in good spirits! Thanks for the continued prayers.

On behalf of the whole team,

Ella, Audrey, and JD

Biblioteca? (Library?)

This morning I was able to give Pastor Pablo and Hermano Jesus (the two Guatemalan Pastors for PBM who will be working with us all week) a few theology books and a Timothy Keller book in Spanish.  I bought these at Baker Book House this past week.  During the PBM Board Retreat that Brian and I went to in October Pablo shared with the Board that he would love more theology books in Spanish.  Both of these men have been trained at the seminary but I think we could all agree that when you are in these professions like pastoring, counseling, and teaching that we all have a big desire and need for continual education in our areas.  Pablo was overwhelmed with joy this morning for these books.

I talked with a few people in the publishing industry earlier this fall in the US about the want from these Guatemalan pastors and they agreed that these types of theology books, commentaries, and other biblical resources can be hard to come by.

We have given you all the assignment to pray for us and Steph and her crew sent a beautiful email this morning sharing those prayer needs for today.  Could I give you all another assignment?  Would anybody be willing to hunt for more theological books for these two men?  Dan also shared that when Pablo and Hermano Jesus finish their lay pastor training they like to hand out copies of Jesus Calling in Spanish to their students.  Does anyone have any connection to anyone who could donate more of these resources?  It was just something that was laid on my heart this morning.  If we could work on collecting books like these over the next several weeks and months then we could give these books to other teams that are coming this winter and summer and give them a library!!

While I am giving out assignments..I thought of another one.  I am wondering if resources in large print exist or any audio resources.  Hermano Jesus has very poor vision and this would be such a blessing to him.

Thanks for reading!

Cindy

 

 

Good Morning from Guatemala!

We all woke up this morning from an awesome night of sleep. It’s so beautiful and peaceful here! Thanks for keeping us in your prayers these last 24 hours.

Our flight was smooth, and no bags were lost. Praising God for that!

We arrived last night after a 3 hour drive from the airport. We were able to drive through busy Guatemala City and the beautiful countryside of Chimaltenango. It’s such a dynamic place! Our evening consisted of unpacking, a delicious rice/chicken stew, lots of singing, team prayer time, and amazing showers. As a group, we were able to share different reasons why we are here. This team is amazing! It’s incredible to see the Holy Spirit at work already with this crew!

We woke up this morning feeling well-rested and ready to tackle our first day of ministry work. Today’s breakfast was eggs, refried beans, tortilla chips, watermelon, papaya juice, and way too much delicious Guatemalan coffee. Today, we are heading to set up our first medical clinic. We’re packing lots of medicine for the clinic and a few suitcases full of toys to help us get to know our new Guatemalan friends.

Please pray for:

  1. Safety as we travel through the hilly countryside today.
  2. Confidence as we practice our Spanish.
  3. Wisdom that we hand out correct medicines to match symptoms.
  4. Vulnerability as we have a chance to share our stories with new friends.
  5. Community among our team and the people we’ll be serving.

Much love on this Saturday morning,

Steph, Kezia, and Kylie