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Guatemala 2015 – Day 7

Today was a very special day.  We had the opportunity to go and worship at Pastor Cesar’s church.  We heard songs we knew, though we may not have known the words they were singing.  We heard Bro. Wayne Moak preach as Cesar translated for his congregation.  Near the end of the service Cesar asked the people seated around us (we split up and sat in different locations) to gather round us an pray for us.  One really unique aspect of prayer here in Guatemala is that even when someone is “leading” the prayer, everyone else is praying at the same time.  They pray more quietly so the leader can be heard, but instead of hearing one prayer, you hear 5 or 10 or 100.  It truly is a part of worship in which they all participate.

A view from the balcony at Pastor Cesar’s church.

 

Bro. Wayne preaching and Cesar translating the sermon for his congregation.

 

The heart of the people here is definitely one of humility and gratitude … even when we might look at them and think they don’t have much to be thankful for.  I hope some of those characteristics have rubbed off on us this week as we’ve served these beautiful people and been served by them.  We sought to love on them, found ourselves in love with them and loved by them in return.  Thank you Lord for a wonderful week!  Pray for our safe travel home tomorrow and more importantly for the continued spiritual growth of the people here and the spread of the Gospel to others.

If you can spend more than a few minutes with the people here (especially the kids) and not fall in love with them, something isn’t right.  It won’t be easy to leave!

 

Not only does Pastor Cesar have an incredibly sweet spirit but he also has impeccable taste in state universities!  🙂



Guatemala 2015 – Day 6

We anticipated this being an amazing day but really had no idea just what all God had in store.  To be honest, the day started on a low note.  We’ve had a few team members at less than 100% the past day or two and this morning learned of a few that weren’t going to be able to make the home dedications due to being sick.  Those that were able to go arrived in the village with nervous anticipation.

Another beautiful day on the mountain.

 

At the very first home we got a taste of how the day would go.  The homes were decorated beautifully with a carpet of pine needles, balloons, and streamers.  After our team dedicated the home and Cesar presented the Gospel, the family responded by trusting Christ as their savior.  All the sweat and splinters and money and time were worth those few moments … but God wasn’t done!  During the dedication of that home we heard what sounded like a pretty bad wreck on the highway beside the village.  A few of our team members had stayed with the trucks and quickly radioed up asking that our two ladies that served on the medical team come assist.  They drove to the highway and found a bus that had come around a turn to find a disabled pickup, hit the rock face on one side of the road and then veered across the highway and into a house on the other.  While many of those on board were injured, thank God none of the injuries were life threatening AND that our ladies were available and willing to go wade into a crowd of strangers and care for those on the bus.

Treating injuries from the bus accident.

 

As we progressed through all 10 homes we heard different team members verbally share the good news of Christ with each family.  Through (first and foremost) the Holy Spirit’s work in their hearts, the team’s hard work and loving attitudes, and the testimonies that were shared 8 people from 5 different families began a personal relationship with the God of the universe!  And of the other families, many were already our brothers and sisters in Christ.  It was humbling, exciting, fulfilling, and so much more to do what we were created to do … share the best news anyone could ever hear.  We are so thankful to God for using us as His hands, feet, and mouthpiece this week!

As beautiful as the scenery is here, it doesn’t compare to this sight!

 

This evening we were blessed to have Pastor Max bring his 7 daughters by to sing for us.  It was amazing to hear them!

Pastor Max’s talented daughters and our entire team.

 

This week we’ve built and strengthened many relationships.  With the Guatemalans and also with each other.  We’ve shared laughs, tears (it get’s dusty up there on that mountain at times … at least that’s the excuse the guys use when our get watery from seeing God work), and many memories.  We’ve had a great team and a great time!

Trying to get a group photo with our build team – as the sign says .. “Team #1” 🙂 – when some goober photobombs us.

 

To those who gave, thank you!

To those who prayed, thank you!

To those who watched over our families in our absence, thank you!

Each and every one of you came on this trip whether physically or in spirit, and each one of you was critical to our success.  Of course God could have done all this without any of us, but I hope you share our gratitude for being a part of such a wonderful working of His hands!



Guatemala 2015 – Day 5

As one of the team members said to me after supper tonight, it amazing how each day has been better than the last.  Today was a unique day in some ways – not just for this week, but unique compared to previous years as well.  Because all the teams worked so efficiently earlier in the week, there was time and manpower available to do things for the ministry here that wouldn’t have been done – at least not by us – otherwise.  A few of our folks took care of purchasing, picking up, and installing a new dishwasher.  Others worked on a few electrical issues around the mission house and property.  There were also a few plumbing tasks to tackle.  John and the others here at Grace Ministries spend so much of their time serving others.  It was a blessing for us as well as them that God allowed us to serve them for a change.

Also unlike some previous years, we only had need for one small build team to finish up homes today.  Because there wasn’t as much physical labor to be done, the team had a few hours to spare which they used to love on the people in the village.  As Bro. Wayne pointed out in our devotion this morning, all of the hard work we’ve done this week – building the homes and building relationships with the people – is leading up to tomorrow when the homes will be dedicated and the Gospel clearly shared with the families.  We’ve lived out the Gospel in our actions.  We’ve lived out the Gospel in kind words and laughter.  Now we will communicate the reason for all they’ve seen in us this week.

Putting the finishing touches on the homes.

 

Just as on the previous day, we also sent a team to another church in the community to do a medical clinic.  This time with the same two members serving to diagnose and treat the patients and with other members supporting by helping triage, translate, and occupy kids they were able to see 143 patients!  And just like before, all involved fell in love with the people, young and old alike.

Diagnosing patients.

 

A few of the smiling faces around the clinic area today.

 

The same church which hosted the medical clinic today also hosted a food distribution this afternoon.  We handed out what should be enough food to supplement an entire family for a month and did so for 200 families.  It was unique time in that this part of the ministry moreso than any of the others so far allowed us to connect – serve, touch, hug – the adults as well as the children.  To have 200 families arrive at a small church (which at the moment was essentially a large shed) with no issues – no pushing and shoving, nothing – and an expression of gratitude on every face is amazing and certainly a “God thing.”  It’s also very humbling and convicting to see such gratitude for really very little coming from people who have very little.

Here the families are beginning to line up for the food distribution.

 

Handing out food … and smiles!

 

There’s nothing like looking them in the eye and telling them that Jesus loves them while acting out that love in the same moment.

 

For supper we were joined by familiar faces in Pastor Cesar and his family.  Afterward we went upstairs and took some time to encourage them and also share a few gifts which should meet some immediate needs for this sweet family.  As Bro. Ken pointed out later on, because we have a common confession (Christ as our savior) we have a common bond even though we may be separated by thousands of miles and even greater distances in culture.  But despite such separation, I have never felt such a connection with another brother whom I barely know.  It’s something that can only be explained by understanding God’s word and the work of the Spirit.

Cesar and family.  Sweet people if ever there were any.



Guatemala 2015 – Day 4

Today we awoke to a beautiful sunrise with a clear sky out in front of the mission house but fog settled in the valley below revealing only a few tree tops.  God certainly knows how to paint a masterpiece!  Because the view was so perfect, we opted to do our morning Bible study on the roof of the mission house.  It certainly set the tone for the day with Bro. Ken talking about God’s perfect design and how He is most glorified in our weakness.

The sun was just beginning to hit the top of the volcano.

 

The tasks for the day were slightly different this time as we had a group going to do the first of two medical clinic days.  Despite having only a small group they were able to see 125 people today.  They treated aches and pains, swollen tonsils, and even q-tip cotton stuck deep within one individual’s ear.  So many things we take for granted because we have easy access to medical care and medicines are obstacles these people live with, sometimes for years.  Thanks God’s guidance in calling just the right people to serve on the team and just the right donations to be given, they received care and medication they likely would have never received otherwise.

Providing a service many of these people have no access to outside of this ministry.

 

Much of the success of the med team was thanks to those who went to simply play with the kids.  It may sound like a trivial task, but those individuals played a crucial role as well since they could keep the kids preoccupied while parents or siblings were being treated.  And more importantly, we could build relationships that, while they may only have lasted for the day, could have an eternal impact on those young lives.  One of our team members spoke of building a bond with a brother and sister in particular, and before they left stopping to say (in the best Spanish he could muster), “Very important … Jesus loves you.”  We pray the memories of fun and laughter tied to those simple words make them stick in the hearts and minds of those kids until the Jesus opens their hearts to see their need for him and trust that despite their sin, Jesus loves them.

Fun times that lead to sharing the most important message these kids could ever hear.

 

Of course we also sent build teams back to the village to finish a few homes and start the final ones.  They also saw God moving as one of the families in particular certainly seemed to be responsive to the prayer and brief words shared with them prior to the team starting the home.  We hope to see even more evidence of God moving in their hearts when we reach dedication day on Saturday.  Please focus your prayers for that day!

One of the teams praying with the family whose home they were building.

 

Just as before, the build teams ploughed through the physical labor portion of the day, but also made time to build connections with the kids and homeowners.  It’s been amazing to watch as the kids have warmed up to us the longer we are there.  We know as long as we are willing to serve and faithful to show the love He has lavished on us, God will be faithful to bless us and use us to accomplish His will.  That is all we can ask.

Loving on the kids … and being loved on in return.

 

While it was a wonderful and productive day, it was also a long and hard day!  There was no shortage of tired eyes, achy backs, and sore muscles when we got back to the mission house.

Even our pastor needs some down-time once in awhile!

 

Tomorrow we will send a small group to do the finishing touches on the 10 homes we’ve built, a larger group to the second day of medical clinic, and others will disperse to do a few things for the ministry here that we wouldn’t have been able to do were it not for the hard work put in the past few days to get us ahead of schedule.  What can I say?  God is good!



Guatemala 2015 – Day 2

(NOTE: Our apologies for the delayed post.  Shortly after supper yesterday – Tuesday – the internet connection at the mission house went down.  It still wasn’t up when we left this morning.  So the post below is actually from Tuesday, Day 2.)

Today was our first day in the field, and what a day it was!  Not only did the two build teams complete a record amount of work (6 houses built except the fronts and #7 laid out with the posts set) but we also sent a team to work with a new ministry for Grace.  That team spent most of the day helping a group of ladies prepare food and activities for children from the very poorest families in Chimaltenango.  The ministry seeks to provide school tutoring, activities, and hot meals for at least one child from these extremely poor and overlooked families.  The kids provide the ministry with an avenue tby which to minister to and share the Gospel with their entire families, and change the lives of the (currently) 35 or so children in the program.  This is a truly unique opportunity and one we hope to watch grow over time.

A few of our team members with the kids in the tutoring program.

 

Doing a little babysitting before getting started for the day.

 

Back in the small village where the build teams worked today God immediately opened a door no one could have foreseen.  The last thing you would probably expect to find in a village where the terrain has next door neighbors separated by 50+ feet of elevation is a girl in a wheelchair … but that’s exactly who God led us to.  A few of our members had the opportunity to speak with the family and help educate both them and the girl on things they can do to help strengthen her crippled legs.

Bringing tools to the first sites.  You can get some indication as to how steep the terrain is in this village.

 

As stated above, the actual home builds went extremely well.  Both teams worked together well and with positive attitudes all around.  Before beginning each build the team would meet the family whose home they would build and pray with the family members who were present.  We got to work alongside some of the new home owners as well as others from the village who wanted to help.  Working in such close proximity allowed us to share laughs, high-fives, and love.  Of course there were also dozens of beautiful children to be found watching us as we worked.

Brother Wayne didn’t have to beg too much to get them to pose for a photo.

 

This is the first time Grace Ministries has worked with this particular village so the people, and the kids especially, didn’t quite what to expect when we arrived.  As such, the children watched from afar more often than not when the day began.  But as the day wore on and they got to see that we cared for them and their families, they quickly warmed up.

A few fashionistas in the making.

 

It’s an amazing and humbling thing to see these children who, quite honestly, live in extreme poverty and often squalid conditions by Western standards … and yet they are so happy and full of life.  The curiosity and wonder with which they look at things like power tools, white skin, and blonde hair brings a smile to your face.  And the smiles they give in return could melt any heart.  It’s no wonder Christ loved children as he did while on Earth, and it’s obvious how important it is that we share His love with them while they still have their whole lives ahead of them.

Bruce had an app that would record your voice and play it back sounding like you’d inhaled a bunch of helium.  I’m not sure who enjoyed it more … Bruce or the kids.

 

I pray God will use even the small gestures and simplest words this week to plant seeds in their hearts that one day will sprout and for which He will send someone else (maybe even you!) to harvest.  Please continue to pray that God will make our work efficient, our lips quick to speak the good news, and our hearts open to His moving.

A few more pictures from the day …

Tillmon provided the muscle for job.

 

One of the build teams installing tin on the house.

 

We’re not the only ones Corey had laughing today.

 

The roof is nearly done and it will soon be time to move on to the next house.

 

Defying gravity as the kids cheered on this jump-roping duo. 

 

A sweet moment with a precious child … one of many such moments this day.