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!*



Guatemala Mission Team – Day 3

Today was another awesome day. It was also a very long day. With much to be
done it was decided that we would eat breakfast at 6:00 and leave for the
build site by 6:30. The Medical Team got up and cooked breakfast and the
Build Team was on site by 8:00 AM.

*View from the mission house in the morning*

The day started with another long hike back up the mountain and some of the
brightest smiles you will ever see. There were a few children and teens in
the village that had shoes that were in horrible shape. Toes busting out
the front or seams coming apart all the way around. Shoes were located for
these children from the donations that you sent to Guatemala. I’ll never
forget the look on the face of one little boy when he got a “new” pair of
Nikes. He kicked his old busted shoes off into a creek.

*Boy so excited to get new shoes!*

*Diane having a shoe distribution for the children*

The Build Team made great strides and as of right now they have three
houses completely finished, one house framed up and ready for tin, one
house to be completely built, and seven houses only lacking the front
section/windows and doors. The goal for tomorrow is to finish everything
but the fronts of the last two houses. That’s a big task and it’s going to
be a big chore, so we’re ALL going to the mountain tomorrow. All 29 of us
will make the trip and together we’ll nearly be finished after tomorrow.

*Courtney building a door*

*Some of the children helping Tammy with a door*

*Tillmon marked something off his bucket list – to climb a tree in
Guatemala*

*Skip teaching Turner how to build a house*

*Tyler and Jeremy putting on a roof*

*Diane and KT learned how to build windows and doors and let the kids help
them*

*Tucker helping build a house*

*Diane and KT with their completed window*

The Medical Team completed their final clinic today. They gave out meds at
Pastor Hector’s church. The building of that church was part of the tasks
tackled by one of our earlier missions to Guatemala. The med team got a
pleasant surprise today when they were invited to a nearby orphanage to
play with their children. Those who went were moved to tears by what they
saw. 30 some odd children packed into a meager building and living a bare
existence, but still SO HAPPY! Happy to be played with, happy to be loved,
happy to sing for our people. In the words of Olivia Lewis, “This was one
of the best days of my life.” Why? Because the way the children hugged her.
She said she doesn’t think she’s ever been hugged like that before.

*Anna loving on some kids at the clinic*

*Olivia loving on some kids from the orphanage*

*Olivia and Sandra passing out toys to some of the kids*

*Sandra playing games with one of the girls*

*Allison checking out a patient*

I speak for the entire team when I ask that you pray for our strength to be
renewed in an Isaiah 40:31 type of way tomorrow.



Guatemala Mission Team – Day 2

Today was an awesome day for the Heucks Retreat Guatemala Mission Team. Get
use to hearing that phrase, because I’m fairly sure you’ll see it again.

Monday was a day filled with travel and bouts of waiting. Getting settled
in the Mission House and getting our bearings was the order of the day.
Tuesday was our first chance to see how God would use us on the mission
field.

The morning started a breakfast of eggs, bacon, grits, blackberries, and
pancakes. The pancakes were nearly abandoned after two false starts by
Jeremy Loy and Tillmon Bishop. Luckily, our pastor is not only skilled at
expository preaching, he also makes a mean pancake.

*Jeremy and Tillmon’s failed attempt at pancakes*

Devotion time was led by Brother Ken and he shared a verse from……wait
for it……..JAMES!!!! His favorite “right strawry epistle.” His message of
encouragement was followed by a last bit of advice from our in-country
missionary, John.

After that the medicines were loaded into one van for the medical team and
the tools were loaded into three trucks and one van for the build teams.

The medical team has a great day and saw over 100 patients at the church
they served at. It’s no coincidence that some of the most compassionate
ladies you will ever meet represent our church body in this mission. The
medicine is served with a huge shot of love from our people. Tomorrow the
team will move to another church and will continue to give out medicine and
vitamins and love.

*Courtney helping one of the ladies*

*Olivia with some of the kids at the med site*

*Sandra loving on some kids at the med site*

*Notice Courtney is sock footed in this picture. That’s because she gave
her shoes to a lady with 15 children who needed a new pair of shoes!*

*Allison looking at a boy at the med site*

*Olivia, KT, and Kat having fun with one of the kids at the med site*

*Rosemary helping one of the patients*

The Build Team drove a little over an hour to start their day. As we were
driving I looked at the countryside and noticed the houses we were passing.
I saw people living in houses made of wood, stucco, tin, blocks, and
concrete. I kept thinking, “These people are poor, but they don’t look
destitute. Surely we won’t be helping these people.” I kept wondering,
where are those who we will serve?

We found them in a valley that sat in a curve in the road. They stood
waiting for us with anxious faces. They celebrated our arrival by setting
off fireworks. Seriously, they set off fireworks.

They were eager to help us carry our gear to their village in the hills.
The huge hills. The baby mountain hills. The steep baby mountains. Once we
made it up to the build sites, then we commenced building. Progress went
good. Three homes were finished and are ready for concrete, then
doors/windows, and then dedication. Three more homes are framed up and
ready for tin in the morning. The goal is to build three/four more new
homes tomorrow after finishing the ones we started.

*The locals helping us carry the equipment up the mountain*

*This was a single mom that was brought to tears as we were praying over
the house site before we started*

*Jeremy and Tyler working on a house*

*Tammy and Katie working on building the doors*

*Bro. Ken and some of the locals looking over the ledge at the house
Viktor’s team was building directly below them*

*Turner building a door*

*Jeremy crossing the “bridge” on the way back down to the vehicles*

The stories shared tonight during devotion centered around the love we felt
for these people. The entire team is excited to know that all the homes
we’ll be building will be in this same valley. The people there are so
poor. And they have no idea. They are so happy and so extremely eager to
help us as we build them new homes. Romans 5:6-8 tell us that, “For while
we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one
will scarcely dire for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person
one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we
were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Today we met some VERY good people. So easy to love. I think that as we go
out tomorrow, both groups will focus on conveying our love of Christ to
these people, even with our broken Spanish. We will tell them that Christ
died for them and that is why we are here to give them medicines, to build
them houses, and to tell them the good news of Jesus Christ.



Guatemala Mission Team – Day 1

Praise the Lord! We arrived safe and sound in Guatemala and all of our
luggage made it without any problems.

We started the morning out bright (well dark) and early at the church with
breakfast thanks to the Nations’ family! A couple of our team members even
had to drive through downed power lines from a tornado to make it there –
we weren’t about to let anything stop us!

After breakfast, we loaded up on the bus and headed to Jackson. Once
there, we got all 60 of our bags checked and all of us through security and
boarded on the plane. Thankfully, we were able to fly above the weather
while heading to Atlanta, although it did get a little rocky on a decent to
the Atlanta airport. Our flight left Jackson a little late, which meant we
didn’t land in Atlanta until it was time to board our next flight. But the
Lord was gracious, and we were still able to make it to the gate with
plenty of time to board before our flight to Guatemala took off. Once on
board, it was a long 3 hour flight until we landed in Guatemala.

[image: Before boarding bus to leave]

*Before loading bus to leave for Jackson*

We collected our luggage, rented vehicles, and headed to Grace Mission
Home. After we got settled at the house, we headed back to town for some
food. After getting a little food in our bellies, we headed back to the
house to sort through all the medicine and personal hygiene items we
brought. We might have all been a little like zombies at this point! Once
the sorting was done, it was time to get rested up for the next day!
Looking forward to seeing what all the Lord has in store for us this week!

*In Guatemala trying to collect all our luggage*

*It took a few different carts for all of our luggage*

*Tillmon sorting vitamins*

*Everyone helping to sort all of the items we brought*



Guatemala Mission Team – ¡Adios Amigos!

*”May the glory of the Lord endure forever; may the Lord rejoice in his
works” – Psalm 104:31*

Yesterday morning we attended Cesar’s church. It was a wonderful time
worshiping with our Guatemalan brothers and sisters. Tillmon preached and
Diane did her chalk drawing of Jesus on the cross. They also called us all
on stage to thank us for doing the medical mission and food distribution.
Finally, we presented the speaker system to the church. They were very
touched and thankful for the gift. We received many hugs and thanks as we
left. What a wonderful picture of what Heaven will be like.

Well its time to go. We’ve seen God do mighty things this week, but now we
have to get back to our “normal” lives. It’s been said many times this week
for us to not go back to our everyday lives and not be forever changed by
this trip. Pray for us as we go back to work, school, kids, etc. Pray that
what we saw and experienced this week will have a lasting effect on our
lives. That it will move us to good work in the name of our Lord. More
importantly, that it will move us to spread the Gospel when we’re back in
Mississippi. Continue to pray for the new Christians in the “Community of
Blessing” as they have a large mission field all around them. And thank you
for your prayers. They have been felt and we’ve seen the effects. We love
you all. Thank you for supporting and praying for us.



Guatemala Mission Team – Day 6

*”Shout for joy to God, all the earth; sing the glory of his name; give to
him glorious praise! Say to God, How awesome are your deeds! So great is
your power that your enemies come cringing to you. All the earth worships
you and sings praises to you; they sing praises to your name.” – Psalm
66:1-4*

Praise be to God for he is mighty in power! How do you describe a day like
today? I’ll just be honest with y’all, I don’t know how to exactly express
it in words. Amazing, wonderful, powerful, praiseworthy, awestruck,
glorious, greatness, and majestic all seem to pale in comparison to what we
experienced today. Your many prayers came to fruition today! Thank you so
very much for your prayers. They were not in vain. God showed up today in a
mighty way. During the home dedications, we gained 12 new brothers and
sisters in Christ! Let me break that down by family so that you can see how
your prayers were fulfilled.

*The Hernandez Family*

Felix and his wife Angelica both accepted Christ today! They kneed down on
the porch of their new home and accepted Christ!

*The Lopez Family*

Sandra was already a Christian, but her daughter Wendy was not. As her
mother prayed over her, Wendy prayed to receive Christ as her personal Lord
and Savior!

*The Hernandez Family*

Carlos and Dora are both already Christians. During Cesar’s Gospel
presentation, their oldest child Karen decided to ask Christ into her
heart! Praise be to God!

*The Torres Family*

Both of Gracíela and Vernacíous’ grandsons accepted Christ today. With
tears in their eyes, Cesar and Romano both accepted Christ. Also, Reanna
Perez (sister-in-law) was at their home and accepted Christ. What a
wonderful sight to see God work in the hearts of these people!

*The **Guitterez** Family*

Dora expressed to us that her and her husband Juan were already Christians.
Cesar then challenged Dora with the great commission to make disciples in
her community.

*The Torres Family*

What a wonderful day to see a whole family of Christians in this community.
All three of Raul and Marta’s children (Lilian, Wendy, and Ezekial)
accepted Christ today! Raul and Marta are already Christians but Raul did
rededicated his life to Christ.

*The Lopez Family*

José and his wife Elizabeth both asked Christ to be their personal Lord and
Savior today!

*The Perez Family*

As stated earlier, Reanna accepted Christ when the Gospel was presented at
her in-laws house. Francisco was gone to work at the time. Pray Reanna will
express to her husband what happened in her heart today and spread the Good
News to him.

It is truly a thing of God what we witnessed today. The images of
grandparents and parents praying over their children as they accepted
Christ will forever be engrained in my head. One lady said she prayed for 7
years for her grandson’s salvation and that someone would come and present
the Gospel to him. Today, he became a Christian! How great it is to be used
by God for his plans and purposes!

Thank you so much for your prayers! Please continue to pray for these new
Christians as they start a new chapter of their lives. Pray that Christ
will be spread like wild fire throughout the community. May God be
glorified in the “Community of Blessing.” May all the praise and glory be
to God and God alone!

*”Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!” – 2 Corinthians 9:15*