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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.



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.