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Guatemala 2015 – Day 1

While there may not be unbelievable stories or harrowing tales to share from the first day of our mission trip, I believe that very fact is reason to be thankful.  There weren’t any major setbacks in our travel.  No near-death experiences.  And we arrived on-time, and safe.  To all of you who have lifted us up in prayer today and in the days and weeks leading up to this trip, know that God was faithful (as He always is!) and answered your prayers and ours!

We began the day with full bellies and good fellowship thanks to breakfast provided by the Moaks and Nations.  By 3:00am we were packed and ready to board the bus…

The whole group less 2 members who met us at the airport.

The group made it through security in Jackson and a layover in Atlanta with no issues.  From there it was on to the last leg of our trip, Guatemala City.  We met John who, along with his wife, provide the primary leadership for Grace Ministries.  

Loading our bags onto the truck to be taken to the mission house.  John, the missionary stationed here, is pictured at the center.

As you may expect, we were a weary bunch by the time we arrived at the mission house.  The remainder of the afternoon was taken up with necessary tasks so we’d be prepared for the work ahead – exchanging currency, buying groceries, unpacking and organizing supplies.  Despite our weariness, there were still plenty of laughs, such as the sight of Maurice in a ladies flower-print hat.  🙂

Always smiling and always making others smile.  God has given us an amazing group of individuals, all with unique gifts to be used by Him in the week ahead.

The evening concluded with a discussion of our goals for the week and even some new ministry opportunities that God may be leading Grace Ministries (and therefore us) to take part in.  We look forward to seeing God move and to sharing our excitement with you in the days ahead.  Stay tuned!



Guatemala Mission Team – Day 7

Guess what. Today was another awesome day. Told you that would be a running theme throughout this week. We got up this morning and traveled to worship with Cesar and his congregation.  We got caught up in some Palm Sunday parade traffic and once again, we got to see some fireworks. The laws about fireworks are obviously pretty lax in this country. It looked like they were lighting a bag of gunpowder with a fuse.

Pine needles and flowers in the middle of the road for a parade

The guy lighting the fireworks running.  Their fuses are MUCH shorter than ours.

Cesar’s church truly is a beacon in the community. It is a massive concrete and block building that has a metal dome ceiling. It has been visible to us as we pass by on the highway every day on our way to and from our worksite.

Cesar’s church, or “The Blue Dome” as several of us call it.

The service was beautiful. It was so cool to see these people releasing their children to children’s church, making announcements about an upcoming trip, and singing the same songs we sing at Heucks. Brother Ken preached a brief sermon that Cesar interpreted. Brother Ken shared from John 10 and told the people of Guatemala that our common Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ, was the reason that we had come. Cesar then preached a sermon and though we could not understand every word, the emotions and intensity that he used transcended any language.

Our group in front of Cesar’s church

We also gifted the church with a new projector and two new wireless microphones. If you haven’t heard, these items were donated to us by a business when we attempted to buy them before our trip. The warmth and love from the people in the church was palpable. Their hugs and smiles so genuine and sweet. In groups they circled around with us and we held hands and prayed for each other in English and Spanish. Again, today was awesome.

Cesar proudly showing his congregation the projector give to them.

We leave in the morning and tonight we had our final devotional time. I know that this week God has worked through this mission team. My greatest hope is that God has been glorified and that when we leave, the people here won’t only remember who we were or what we did, but who sent us and who we serve. 



Guatemala Mission Team – Day 6

In 1 Kings 19:11-12, God reveals just a fraction of his glory to Elijah.

And he said, “Go out and stand on the mount before the LORD.” And behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper.”

That verse was shared in church on a Sunday evening after our team returned from Guatemala a few years ago. It went from the lips of Viktor Thompson to my heart and it’s been there ever since. It was in my head today as I looked out over the valley that has so richly blessed this mission team this week.

With the help of Tico and Cesar, our interpreters, we dedicated twelve houses today. Having never been to Guatemala before this year, I had heard that dedication day was a special time. I now know that goes for both the mission team and the occupants of the new homes. The importance of this day was made evident when we arrived at our first home site to the sight of balloons, streamers, flowers, and fireworks. Remember, these people have nothing. They are as poor as anyone you have ever seen, but the pride in their new home burst out from their hearts onto their faces.

The last home we built was one of the first houses dedicated. At that house the father of the family rededicated his life to Christ and the mother prayed to accept Jesus as her Lord and Savior. The cheer could be heard across the mountain.

I won’t go through each family and each house (because frankly I would butcher the spelling of their names), but I will tell you that today was absolutely amazing. The emotions of the day were so strong, for everyone.

After dedicating homes the team went to a church and disturbed food to 150 families. Again, it was awesome. The highlight of the food distribution was when Courtney, Allison, and Viktor recognized a family that had built a house for on a previous mission trip. By following God’s will and doing God’s work, Heucks Retreat is leaving a mark on the people of Guatemala. You should have seen the hugs this family had for our people. It was beautiful.

 

Not going to lie, in many ways, today has been emotionally draining. And I mean that in the best way possible. This week houses were built, relationships were created, friendships were made, souls were won, and through it all, God was glorified.

Tomorrow we will travel to Cesar’s church to worship with his congregation. Pray for safe travel in the busy Palm Sunday traffic.  

We’ll end with a poem Courtney shared with us tonight that sums things up pretty perfectly:

Volcano rumbling,  cool breezes, bumpy road. 

Twenty nine  people doing what they are told.

Medication gathered. What will be seen today?

Coughing, red eyes and shoes given away. 

House sites are cleaned off, hands ready for use. 

Fireworks ignited, sickness …no excuse. 

Heavy tools, eager faces. Where to go today?

The dirty hand of a small child leading the way. 

Combo se llama? What is your name? 

Hair braids and tattoos, a good soccer game. 

Steep hills, thin air, stopping to breathe.

Hardest work ever, but not wanting to leave. 

Gracias, de nada… The smiles are so real!

What was that Lord, is that You that I feel? 

Undeserved happiness, elated fatigue 

The love that we showed, for You. Did it please?

The seeds were planted…souls for You to win.

You touched me this week. How long till I feel it again? 



Guatemala Mission Team – Day 5

Today was a day of rest for the Guatemala Mission Team. We traveled two
hours into the mountains to Lake Atitlán. At one time or another this week
it has been called the biggest lake in the Western Hemisphere, the deepest
lake in South America, or the largest lake in the universe. It is actually
the deepest lake in Central America. It is also one of the most beautiful
places I’ve ever seen. The lake sits high in the mountains and is backed by
three volcanoes.

“In the beginning, Gods created the heavens and the earth.” – Genesis 1:1

That verse was in my head as I looked out upon a place where Heaven and
Earth nearly meet. Our God is so powerful and his plan is so perfect. We’ve
seen that time and time again this week. This group from Heucks Retreat is
exactly where God wants us to be serving the exact people that God ordained
for us to meet. Needs are met, relationships are built, and through it all,
God is glorified.

The team used today to relax, do some souvenir shopping, and enjoy the
beautiful scenery. On the way back to the mission house we stopped and had
a sit down meal. The fellowship and the rest were much needed.

Tomorrow is a big day for the 29 members of the team. We will return to the
valley where we have built 12 houses. We will finish two houses by
attaching fronts to them and we’ll dedicate all 12 new homes. We will also
do a food distribution in the afternoon. We pray that God will move
mightily in the valley tomorrow. Pray for our team, pray for our
interpreters, and pray that our Guatemalan friends will be moved by the
gospel.



Guatemala Mission Team – Day 4

Where does love come from? That was on my mind this morning when I looked
out from our final build spot. The team had split up into three groups to
tackle the remainder of our work in the valley. As the final two houses
were finished a group went out and put the front sections on the houses
that had been concreted the night before. With nearly the entire group
there together for the first time, the work went quickly and the labor
wasn’t as difficult as the day before.

*Several of our group loving on the children*

*Loving on some more children*

*This guy was digging a site for his house out of the side of the mountain.
Viktor helped him for awhile.*

*Cliff playing with some of the kids*

*Maurice loving on a sweet girl*

John, the in-country missionary, challenged us earlier in the week to
really get to know the people we were helping. To ask them their names and
remember their names and use their names when speaking to them. John was
instructing us on how to love the people. Mission accomplished. Today was a
day filled with some work, but with lots of love. And that brings me back
to my question, where does love come from?

*Rosemary putting on a roof*

*Skip and Karla build a window*

*Olivia and Kat helping Katie put up a window*

*Greg and Kat putting up a door*

*Caleb and David putting the front on a house*

*Courtney hanging a door*

*Don and Greg working on a door*

*Anna digging a hole*

I see my love for the Guatemalan people coming from a few different places.
First off, they have some of the most beautiful children in the world. If I
could get through customs, I would try to smuggle twelve of them home in my
carry on. Secondly, they desire our help. They are proud people, but they
know that the help we provide in materials and equipment is something they
can’t do for themselves. They take it a step further by helping us build
the homes. They dig the post holes beside us, they concrete the floor after
we leave, and they are there beside us throughout the entire process.
Thirdly, they love each other. My words can do no justice to how much these
people care about one another. Sisters carrying their siblings on their
backs, siblings sharing candy with each other (without being told),
neighbors working all day to help build a home for a friend or relative.

*Maurice helping a guy cut a board for his house*

*About a 6 year old girl carrying her baby sibling*

*Angela, Katie, and Kat*

*KT sharing her sandwich with the children*

*Playing fútbol*

*While playing fútbol Turner fell in a briar patch. The locals picked him
up and pulled the stickers out for him.*

*Fredo helping put on the roof*

*Kat with a boy who lives in this house we built*

*Mark S. with three of the guys who helped us build several of the houses*

Fredo, Theresa, Enoch, Alex, Chicago (A Jeremy Loy interpretation of a
Guatemalan name), Katie, and Marta are just a few of the people we met and
fell in love with this week. Can a non-Christian come to this remote
valley in the hills outside of Chimaltenango, Guatemala and love these
people? Absolutely. However, the type of love I’ve seen this week, the
“feet washing” type of love as our pastor calls it, that love only comes
from a heart that knows Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. I think the
outside world would call what we’ve done “humanizing”, but all we’ve done
is show these people the love of Christ. The challenge for myself and for
all Christians is to love those who aren’t so easy to love. Those who
aren’t as cute as Alex or as funny as Fredo. Those people that we come into
contact with who we think that we don’t care for. I was also blown away by
the power of love. Love is a bridge that spans two languages. You don’t
need to know how to speak Spanish to come on a mission trip to Guatemala.
All you need to be able to do is love and if you don’t know how to do that,
don’t worry, the people of this country will teach you.

*Alex*

*Katie and Theresa*

*Jeremy having an arm wrestling match*

*KT and Angela gave these guys their sweatshirts*

*Some of the ladies making tortillas at one of the house sites*

*All that was in one of the huts beside a house we were building*

*The water they use for everything, including drinking*

*Don loving on Alex and Theresa and their sister*

*Our team with some of the guys that helped them build the house and their
children*

*Karla showing some love*

“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his
friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I
call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing;
but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I
have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and
appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should
abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to
you. These things I command you, so that you will love one another.” – John
15:13-17

*Today was a shorter day so a few went and played at the mall after we got
back. Turner had fun riding a 4-wheeler*

*Sandra always has to make sure she looks good, even on the side of a
mountain in Guatemala!*