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We arrived!

Dates: July 14 – 21

We’re happy to report that Team Westend arrived safely in Guatemala!  One delayed flight, one massive trip to Atlanta Airport’s Chick-Fil-A, one lost bag, one very rainy night, one LONG and BUMPY ride to the base, and an overwhelming gratitude for answered prayers for safe arrival here and the opportunity to partner with Paradise Bound in ministry to the people of Guatemala this week.

Morning broke here to a beautiful view of the sun rising over the mountains below us, and many of us took the opportunity to spend our personal devotion time out on the patio overlooking  breathtaking scenery.  Our devotions focused on Romans 12:1-3 and 9-12, and our prayer is that our service will be a “living sacrifice”, an act of worship, that glorifies the Lord and that His light will shine through us.  We covet your prayers for these things.

Today we are traveling several hours from the base to help with a medical clinic.  Dan Smith from PB and his staff run that, and we have bulging bags and suitcases full of toys and games and goodies for the local kids, which is what most of us will be doing today.

Prayers appreciated for:

safety traveling many hours today

physical health and avoiding sickness

team unity

the people we will serve today and that many will learn about and commit their lives to Jesus

the staff at Paradise Bound as they facilitate our stay

Thank you, faithful prayer warriors!

 

 

“You should’ve been there, man.”

Dan asked us during team devotions tonight how we were going to share our experiences here in Guatemala with our people back home, and Grant H’s quote pretty much sums it up:  “You should’ve been there, man.”

How do we put into words that which defies definition simply because we don’t have words that can accurately articulate what we experienced?

Today was our building dedication day.  Our 5 building teams spent the last two days building and finishing off our 5 homes and today we dedicated these homes, one at a time, with the families receiving them, and PBM pastors presented the gospel to them at the same time.

The building team joined their home’s family inside the home for the dedication and shared a suitcase full of housewarming gifts that we’d assembled for them.  Team members each had the opportunity to say a few words to their families, while Dan translated.  Either Hermano Jesus or Pablo, PBM pastors, presented the gospel to the family and then we offered up a prayer, Guatemalan style.

The rest of our team spent the hour+ at each home praying and singing and reading Scripture.

That’s what we did today.

But that doesn’t begin to convey what happened today, and we’re somewhat at a loss as to put our experience to words.  But yet we want to somehow convey to those of you back home some of what we experienced today, so each building team jotted down some reflections about today:

Team 1 (Joe, Brian, Faith, Maddy, Nick, Joan, Gabby) building for Maria and Eva:

When we arrived at the village today we saw that each of the homes we built were decorated festively and that pine needles were spread in front of the door, which Dan explained was reserved for only special occasions.  We were humbled to see the depth of love that Eva, a 16 yr old girl, had for her mom, who is very ill.  One of the housewarming gifts we gave was a pair of sunglasses.  Eva put them on and loved the way they looked in the mirror!  The Holy Spirit was so present in this home and Eva wept when Hermano Jesus presented the gospel.  Though we couldn’t understand all of the actual words he spoke, we understood the power of the message that he gave and we saw it through Eva as she accepted Jesus as her savior.  

Team 2 (Bryan, Emily B, Ethan, Brendon, Lucas, Haley, Carissa) for Ana & Vidal and their boys Denis, Brandon, and Macario:

When Pablo began preaching, the boys were very distracted.  Dan asked the group — those of us inside with the family and the rest of the team praying outside the house — to pray for them to be free of those distractions.  ALL of us began praying immediately for those boys to settle down and allow their parents to listen to Pablo’s message, and within minutes they were quiet!  It was an immediate answer to prayer, and as we reflected on this during devotions tonight Dan reminded us that we need to pray expecting that God WILL answer and we need to pray claiming victory in His name.  Ana Maria suffered a severe burn to her arm and has been treated as an outcast.  She communicated that her family had been sad for so long, and this home brought them Joy.  Bryan prayed for Denis (one of the boys) to be overwhelmed by God’s love, and instantly Denis dropped to his knees.  While praying outside the other 4 homes, we found ourselves, as a group, intermittently praying, reading Scripture out loud and singing — all usually happening at the same time.  Jeremy brought his guitar and spent most of the day singing over these homes, sometimes by himself and sometimes with a few others and sometimes with the entire group.  MANY times as someone was reading Scripture, Jeremy would be singing and the song matched perfectly (and sometimes with exact phrases) with the Scripture being read out loud by someone else.  We felt the Holy Spirit moving in so many ways, many of which are not describable with words in a blog, but this is one tangible example of where His presence was so clearly evident.  This family gave their lives to Christ after presented with the gospel!

Team 3 (Adam, Emily S., Jacobi, Colton, Grant, Brooke, Samantha) for Maria:

As we approached the home of Maria Alvarez we noticed the decorations on the new house we had built against the backdrop of mountains rising in the distance, and it was such a beautiful sight.  The people in the village were ready to celebrate and so were the angels in heaven!  Maria relayed that she had had a vision of the house we built, and we were amazed by the gratitude she expressed to us for the gifts we had given her.  She demonstrated to us the same hospitaliaty as Jesus did, establishing common ground across cultures.  When Maria was asked if she accepted Jesus, her replay was simply, “I see no other way.”  Jesus is indeed the way, the truth, and the life.

Team 4:  (Rog, Sue, Nick C, Isabel, Olivia T., Anna, Ben) for Mario & Hilda and their children Maribel, Raul, Erma, Gabriel:

There was really no way to describe our experience today other than that it was a glimpse of heaven.  The Holy Spirit became tangible through songs and scripture matching perfectly, through answered prayers for less distraction inside the home, and through the blessings of sharing gifts with the homeowners.  We felt the spiritual warfare happening at this home, but the power of Jesus Christ overcame and this family dedicated their lives to Christ!  Pastor Pablo even made use of our wall art, as he used one of the verses written on the wall to share the gospel message with the family.  

Team 5:  (Jeremy, Marilee, Heidi, Brianna, Katie, Nathanael, Ambrosia) for Mateo and his grown daughter Miyia:

Group 5, the “red” group (all the building groups were color-coded) was blessed today to witness the power of the Holy Spirit work in the lives of Mateo and Miyia and their extended family.  Dear sweet Mateo greeted every member of the group he could work his way to, and thanked Dan over and over again for the gift of his house and his bed and his mattress (what could very well be his first mattress ever).  Working “with Christ” (per Dan’s devotional with us this week) meant sensing ‘holy’ chills as the breeze blew the breath of God into our worship and the silencing of the winds allowing us to experience voices singing, reading Scripture, and praying earnest prayers for the salvation of souls.  God’s power rained down as all 10 of our Guatemalan brothers & sisters accepted Jesus into their hearts.  We rejoiced in a circle of song that broke through cultural and language barriers to the heart of the matter:  we all serve the same God, and we now know we will worship together once again in Heaven.  

ALL of our families accepted Jesus today!  In group devotions ahead of dedication day we talked about Scripture passages that mention blessings to the third and fourth generations, and today we saw lives changed that will continue to send ripples for generations to come.  Witnessing the moment that people give their lives to Christ is breathtaking and holy; many people were overcome with emotion and wept as they accepted the invitation from one of the pastors to commit to Jesus.  That God would invite us to work with Him and witness the very moment that people surrendered their lives to Him leaves us without words.  Words simply can’t describe what happened today.

For our team, today was faced with some trepidation and anxiety.  What is it like to pray and sing and read Scripture for 5 hours?  Can we maintain focus and avoid distractions during that time?  Will our families be receptive to the gospel message?

God answered so many, many prayers that were spoken and sang and whispered and thought today. We prayed and sang and cried, and read Scripture and cried some more, and prayed and sang and wept and prayed and read Scripture.  And prayed and cried and cried and read Scripture again and again.  It was emotionally and spiritually exhausting and exhilarating at the same time.

Sharing testimonies in our small groups and also as a large group tonight, several people  shared about how this week has changed their lives.  We celebrated (and cried some more!) as we talked, and Dan reminded us that GOD changes lives — not Guatemala.  Surrendering our heart to God WILL change us and will affect every other part of our life and we needn’t go to Guatemala or any other part of the world for this; we simply need to get on our knees.

We’ve been trying to load some pictures to Westend’s Facebook page; please look through those.  They too are insufficient to describe what today was like, but they do provide some visuals about what we’re talking about here.

Friends, thank you for praying us through this day.  We felt your prayers so strongly and cannot express enough our gratitude for your joining us in growing God’s kingdom in our village today — you may not have been present with us in the village, but your prayers were a tangible presence.  We prayed and sang and read Scripture for most of the day without fighting issues of distraction and without growing weary (we wished we had more houses to dedicate when we were done!).  Families accepted Jesus and you prayed with us for their souls.  Each and every team member was present (after battling some illness in previous days) for the dedications.  The rain held off completely while we were in the village.  We traveled to and from the village safely.  Our hearts are full.  Thanks for praying for us.

Finally, prayer requests for our final day in Guatemala:

  1.  Several students became ill with the flu tonight.  We are taking good care of them and they are all sleeping it off now, but it’s caused some anxiety and we’re praying fervently that no one else gets this.
  2.  Free day in Antigua tomorrow — after spending some time at the orphanage tomorrow morning we’re heading to Antigua to play tourist for a few hours.
  3.  Final team devotions tomorrow night — these are powerful times of prayer, worship, and sharing.
  4. Pray in advance of our trip home for uneventful travel, restored and full health for our team members, and stamina for a long day of travel after a very short night of sleep.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stucco day!

Update:  thanks for your prayers for the health of our team.  Emily B stayed back, with Joan L taking excellent care of her back at the base, and is feeling back to normal tonight.  A few others aren’t feeling 100% BUT we’re thankful that we’re not facing additional illness tonight.  AND there was NO RAIN today, despite constantly threatening skies.  Thank you for your prayers for these specific requests!  Tomorrow is a big day as we dedicate our homes and we ask for prayers that each of our team members can participate in this!

After a restless night due to illness, we were up at 5:30 and left the base at 6:30 for our drive to our village.  Brian M was thrilled to drive for the first time today and “LOVED IT!”  Someone in his van is reported to have said that he was *gasp* even better than Adam V as a driver!  Protecting unnamed sources here and not naming names!  All 3 drivers (Adam, Brian, and PBM’s Anya) got us safely to our village today.

Roger M:  “another busy day.  Up early heading down the road to the other mountain side across the valley from us.  Just a few miles as the crow flies, about a 45 minutes drive down narrow bumpy roads.  I’m still struck by the sheet metal and ramshackle houses and what we would consider horrible living conditions.  Judging by the looks on the faces of the locals and especially the children they seem a happy bunch, quite healthy.  The women and children are especially well dressed and are polite and friendly.  Don’t they know how poor they are is my recurring though, but then I realize that I’m just spoiled rotten.   My other thought is deep and wide is God’s love for all of us, and we are ALL God’s beloved children, and my attitude is not to feel pity but just to love them as Christ’s dear children and my brothers and sisters in Christ.”

Our goals today were twofold:  to stucco the outsides of all the homes we built yesterday, and to paint the interior.

Stucco is messy, messy, messy.  And messy.  Paradise Bound’s signature salmon-colored stucco awaited us in wheelbarrows this morning, and we did this part of our day as a full team, working together as a large group to finish the exteriors of each of our 5 homes.  It took about 30 minutes/home, and we were finished even before lunch was ready.  See Westend’s Facebook page for pictures from today … Dan had regaled us with tales of stucco wars from previous teams and (thankfully) no stucco wars broke out — just a few stucco shenanigans 🙂 and a few stucco mishaps as well.

The villagers cooked another delicious lunch for us today, which was one of Olivia T’s favorite parts of the day.  They spent all day preparing different tostados for us even though they struggle to provide for just their own families.  She said, “It really touched me to see them do that for us and it motivated me to push through the heat and to work on their house to the best of my abilities.  It is such a blessing to be able to do this for this family and I am so thankful to have this opportunity.”

After that, we broke into our building teams and headed back to our individual homes to paint the interiors.  This involves painting one coat of aqua blue, followed by personalized touches each team worked collaboratively on for their particular home.  EAch team selected verses for each of the walls in the home and added other decorative details as well.

Anna W loved seeing their family come in the painted and stucco’d house for the first time today and working as a team to complete all of the finishing touches in the home.  Isabelle M also loved this part of the day and especially involving the family in selecting verses to paint on the walls of their new home (and she says “love you mom and dad” :).

In one of our team devotional times, we reflected on the promise we find in Scripture that when God sends out His word, it does not return empty.  His word is alive!  Painting words of Scripture on the walls of these homes will surround these families with the living word of God for years to come.  One neat story:  Mateo, an older gentleman receiving one of our homes, came around as Nathanael K had just written out the verse he was planning to paint in the home on a piece of cement board — he planned to copy the words from the cement board onto the wall (we used a Spanish Bible to translate our chosen verses).  Nathanael wrote out I John 3:16 on his ragged piece of cement board, and while starting to paint these on the wall Mateo hobbled over and gestured that he wanted the cement board itself, with Nathanael’s quickly jotted Spanish verse, hung on the wall rather than painting the words.  It was such a beautiful moment, and as Marilee M observed, just one of several ‘holy’ moments as teams imprinted God’s word on the walls of these homes.

Dan encouraged us to follow the prompting of the Holy Spirit in selecting our home’s verses.  He shared with us that one home PB build years ago was for a family who did not dedicate their lives to Christ on home dedication day — but this woman stopped Dan two years later and shared with him that she had just accepted Jesus as her Savior, and that the words of Scripture surrounding her each day were part of what led her to salvation.  Check out our pictures on Facebook to see some of the verses in our homes, and we’ll share more tomorrow as well as we dedicate these homes and turn them over to our families.

We wrapped up interior painting mid-afternoon and headed back to the base for MUCH needed showers and a treat for supper:  Dominos Pizza!

In team devotions today, we focused on preparing ourselves for dedication day tomorrow.  We’ll head out again before 7 and head to the village.  At each home, the team building the home will join the family inside as well as a pastor from PBM.  Our teams have prepared housewarming suitcases full of gifts to present to the family, and the PBM pastor will present the gospel as well, and our hope and prayer is that those who do not know Jesus will commit their lives to him tomorrow.  The rest of the team will be laying hands on the homes and praying and singing for each hour-long dedication — for all 5 homes.

Dan challenged us to prepare for this important day in team devotions tonight and to prepare for spiritual warfare as the gospel is presented to our families.  Would you join us in praying specifically and by name for these precious families?

Family #17:  Vidal, Ana, & their 3 boys Denis, Brandon, and Macario

Family #18:  Gregoria (a widow) and her daughter Eva

Family #20:  Mario, Maria and their kids Marible, Irma, Raul, and ARvaro

Family #21:  Maria, a widow

Family #25:  Mateo, a widower, and his daughter Miyia

Please also pray for our team as we prepare for an intense day of prayer, worship, and dedication starting around 7:30 a.m. (9:30 Michigan time) and lasting until mid-afternoon.  Please pray that we will be faithful and focused in our prayer and worship as we surround these homes and families with the love and gospel of Jesus.  Continued prayers for safety traveling to and from the village, for healing for our team members battling illness and infection, and for NO other team members to become ill are so appreciated.

 

 

 

Monday evening update | Answer: if you can count them it’s not enough …

As we gathered for team devotions with Dan tonight, he opened by sharing the answer to a question that a close friend once posed to him:  “if you can count them it’s not enough.”

He asked us to guess what the question was.  “How many times do you think of Jesus Christ each day?” was that question.  He shared with us that that conversation deeply affected him and his ministry here at PB as well as this quote from Oswald Chambers:  “thoughts of ourselves hinder our usefulness to God.”

This opened our time of worship and study together tonight from John 12, where Jesus asked Peter three times if he loved him, and then told him, “feed my sheep.”  Dan urged us to LOVE Jesus, and to be IN LOVE with Jesus.  To want and crave time with Him, and rearrange our time and our lives for him because He is IN LOVE with us and has already done everything He can to give us the opportunity to spend eternity with Him.

God’s word calls us to die unto ourselves so that we may live.  And dying to ourselves requires loving God, and loving God is expressed by loving other people.

Dan challenged us with this question:  what’s the one thing that stands between you and Jesus?  It’s not sin because Jesus has already forgiven our sin … so it’s us. Something in us. When we surrender to God, who loves us, it’s everything and will change our lives.

Against this backdrop was our day spent starting homebuilding in our village.  One more trek across winding mountain roads brought us to a steep hill along which were our building sites.

We broke into 5 building teams, under the leadership of a PBM staff member, and headed off to meet our families and start construction.  But first, we prayed, Guatemalan style, with and for our families who will be receiving these homes this week!

By “home”, we mean “room” by American standards.  These homes are the size of a small bedroom in the USA, and yet these homes are such a blessing as they come with cement floors, drywalled walls, and a roof that keeps out the elements.  More than what many of them have right now.

You might be surprised to hear that a group of (mostly) unskilled laborers can construct a basic home in a matter of hours — even less if you’re the group under the guidance of Anya, a 20-somethingblonde  petite powerhouse PBM staffer originally from Rockford who gets the job DONE.  Not surprisingly, her group finished first and the team was dispersed to the other building sites tohelp them finish up!

It took until early afternoon to build the homes, and we completed the walls, porch overhang, porch roof, and window and door installation.

All in the midst of indescribably beautiful scenery.  One building group tonight praised God with the words of Psalm 8 and Bryan M remembered Brian Dyk, his teacher from West Side Christian School, saying “how can you look outside and not see God?”  Ethan H echoed those sentiments and noted the beautiful backdrop is one of the places he saw God today.

Brenden commented how everyone came together as a group and Haley agreed with that and loved everyone’s enthusiasm for the work today.  Simply accomplishing the task of completing an entire home in 4 hours was where Carissa K saw God today.

Emily B loved talking to her group’s family and learning about what they grow in their garden — and once again, we’re all amazed at how much we can communicate without speaking each other’s language!

One other awesome thing about today:  a group of women in the village spent the entire morning cooking us a delicious lunch, and served it to us with table coverings and fresh flowers as well.  We who went to served, were served.  We humbly received this gift with very grateful hearts (and hungry bellies — it was hard work today!).

So many blessings.

Tonight we enjoyed some down time at the base, as well as a quick shower (5 minutes each is all we get!) and a delicious taco dinner.  Lights out is earlier tonight because we have a 5:30 wakeup tomorrow.  We’re hoping that Emily B and Emily S adjust their alarms tonight.  Wanting to get up a bit earlier this morning, Emily B set her alarm for 4:45 and when it went off she and Emily S got up and headed outside on the patio.  Quite some time passed, and they wondered why the sun hadn’t come up yet?  They checked inside and saw that it was only about 3:30 a.m.  Turns out Emily B hadn’t taken her phone out of airplane mode and it was still on Michigan time!  So those ladies had an extra-short night last night, but enjoyed some peaceful time in the middle of the night on the patio here at the base!

Prayer requests:

  1.  No rain!  Tomorrow is stucco day and if it rains we have to go back on Thursday and do it again.  Please pray the rain holds off (it held off today!).
  2. Safety as we travel.  Roads here make Michigan roads look pretty incredible.
  3. Physical health and strength to complete our work.
  4. That the families we are building for will see Jesus through us and give their lives to him at the homes’ decision on Wednesday.
  5. For our team to grow in our personal relationship with the Lord through our time here in Guatemala.

Thank you, dear friends, for your continued prayers and encouragement.

 

Medical Clinic Day 2| Monday afternoon update

It’s Monday afternoon in Guatemala and we just finished our first day of building homes in the village, but we’re a day behind blogging and trying to catch up so this post is about yesterday’s medical clinic and worship service.

Dan let us (mercifully) sleep in until 8:00 Sunday morning following our very late night in Saturday night’s clinic trip, and we spent the morning sorting supplies that we brought down and getting ready for our medical clinic.  We also gathered for our morning team devotions/worship service, focusing on the story of Paul and Silas’ trip to Macedonia and their subsequent beating, imprisonment, and ultimately their release following the earthquake that freed them from their chains.  Dan led us through a study of this passage and we reflected on how the jailkeeper’s salvation, and that of his family, came at great personal expense on the part of Paul and Silas.  Weeks of their time, miles of travel, brutal beatings, and imprisonment — all to save one man and his family, and they didn’t know when setting out on their journey that that was their ultimate goal and purpose in that time.  They simply obeyed when called to go.  Dan challenged us to consider what we have done, and are willing to do, to follow God’s call and on what it truly means to FOLLOW Jesus, truly follow him.  What are we willing to do?  To spend?  To give?  To go?  And we prayed over the call that God had placed on our team for that day:  to head to another village for a medical clinic and gospel presentation.

Sunday’s village was just an hour away, a welcome change from Saturday’s travel schedule!  Dan prepared us that it would be a very different place culturally, “a much more Christian Reformed feel to it than Saturday’s village” :).  Traditionally Catholic, this village was much more reserved and traditional than Saturday’s villagers’ open curiosity and easy interactions.  While not as far away, the gravel roads and steep mountain turns made for an adventurous trip and BEAUTIFUL scenery.  Lots of laughs too as we bumped along the rural roads! One of our favorite parts of our drives each day is the drive down the road that PB’s mission base is on.  Our three white vans caravan down the drive and along the way the local children come running out of their homes and down the road towards the vans shouting “dulce!” which means “sweet” — they know that when the big white vans go that candy is tossed out of the windows!  Their faces light up when they catch a tossed piece and we love starting our drive this way.  *Some* of us (Sue M) have been known to ‘toss liberally’ and we realized today we better ration our supplies a bit better so that we don’t run out these next few days!

This was also a much smaller village and medical clinic, yet the purpose remained the same:  to serve the villagers and offer them physical healing with the ultimate goal that through their physical healing and transformation they would experience the eternal healing that comes from Jesus Christ.  While some of our team assisted in the medical clinic, the rest of the group played with the kids and worked at making conversation (as best you can do when speaking different languages) with the adults.  They were much more reserved than Saturday’s villagers and it took a bit more to engage them in play and conversation — but as time passed, they opened up to our team.

Katie A. met a girl named Angelica, and she spoke to her in Spanish and taught her how to make a bracelet.  They just kept smiling at each other and in those moments, “my heart was full.  I saw really saw God.”

Nathanael K. “enjoyed building relationships and sharing my testimony with the villagers.”  More on that in a bit.

Ambrosia P. met a little boy “whom I fell in love with the second I saw him.  He stayed by my side the entire night.  We hugged, ‘eskimo kissed’ and a few other things.”

Jeremy M spent much of the afternoon playing with the children of the village.  “These beautiful children were so eager for love and attention.  A little boy named Tommy was looking for someone to play soccer and color with.  I was so blessed to have an opportunity to get to know him and his family.”

Brianna D and some of the other girls met a group of teenage girls — 3 sisters with another friend — and spent time ‘chatting’ and reading a Spanish/English children’s book back and forth, learning how to pronounce Spanish words from the village girls and teaching them a few phrases in English from the book.  They giggled when trying to say “picnic” :)!  The village girls wanted Brianna and the girls to stay in Guatemala, and by the end of the evening they parted as “nuevas amigas”; new friends.

After the clinic ended, we showed the Jesus Film that we’d shared the night before and then our team sang some songs for the villagers and two of our students shared their testimonies.  As last night, it was such a precious time to see our students step into an uncomfortable situation and share with these villagers the ways that Jesus has changed their lives.  Nathanael K and Brianna D’s testimonies were beautiful reminders of the faithfulness of Jesus in difficult circumstances and it was an honor to witness this!

Pastor Pablo brought the message to this village.  Dan told us that Pablo is the most brilliant professor in their seminary and this village would be more receptive to Pablo’s style of teaching, and he was right.  We were talking about the experience on our way home and a number of us remarked that this was a tough crowd and we were not certain anyone would come forward and answer the gospel call; they were stoic throughout the message and our singing and testimonies BUT God worked in a number of their hearts and they stepped forward and surrendered their lives to Jesus!  Tears and hugs accompanied the Bibles that we distributed, and we were again humbled that God would allow us to be part of these life-changing decisions for him.  Marilee M said the “knowing that God sent us here for a purpose and that even reaching ONE soul for Him gives us victory.  We plant the seeds.”

THANK YOU all for your prayers — family, friends, church family, and the larger PB family as well.  We see answers to prayer literally unfold before our eyes.  We’ve traveled miles and miles and hours and hours on treacherous roads without incident.  Our team is quite healthy (besides some infected bug bites and one case of upset stomach).  Village children warmed up to us and some reluctant parents allowed their children to join in on the fun.  Entire families received life-changing medical care.  People showing no emotion during the gospel presentation broke down in tears when coming forward to commit their lives to Christ.  Our team — individually and as a whole — has received from Dan and his staff tremendous blessings and personal ministry, for which we are so thankful.  God is working in our hearts as well as those whom we are here to serve this week.

Please continue to pray for:

  • health and safety as we travel
  • for technology to allow us to share updates and photos (we’ve been using a phone to write blogs until today, when the computer finally let us log on!)
  • that the rains will hold off while we build and dedicate our homes the next two days (today’s dry weather was a direct answer to that specific prayer!)
  • the families we are building for, that the homes will be a blessing to them and that as they hear the gospel as we dedicate their homes on Wednesday that they will welcome Jesus into their hearts.

 

 

 

 

Sunday night update

Note:  we have spent the last two days at medical clinics, but tonight’s post is about our clinic YESTERDAY.  Today’s update will come tomorrow, and we are still trying to navigate technology challenges.  Be sure and check Facebook too, for if we are able to get any pictures posted they would be there.

Our first full day in Guatemala we traveled four hours from our base to a village in the mountains to play with the local children, set up a medical clinic, and share the gospel.  Stray dogs, random speed bumps. and the road laws acting as more of a suggestion than a rule made the journey undoubtedly unpredictable. The last hour to the village we drove through the forest — the rocky, muddy terrain caused us to bounce and jolt around the vans.  It was a lot of fun. None of us really knew what to expect, but the whole rise to the village we were full of awe and curiosity at the natural beauty around us.

Arriving at the village, some of us helped out at the clinic and the rest of us were left to play and connect with the children. We were amazed at joy  of the locals, and especially the kids we were able to play with.  Although there was a language barrier, we were able to connect with smiles and laughter and hand gestures — and it was helpful that a few of our students and leaders know some conversational Spanish! A group of our students started and led an hours-long game of soccer, others colored and made bracelets with groups of kids, and others blowed bubbles and painted nails and played with matchbox cars and other toys.  Most of the kids vastly underrated our Spanish-speaking skills, and jabbered in rapid-fire Spanish at us!  “Lo siento un poquito Espanol” was a phrase we mastered quickly!

As the day wore and the locals became more comfortable with us, we began to make deeper connections and learn their names.  “Te llamo?” was all it took to get a smile, a name, and the start of a relationship.  A little girl named Jamie quickly bonded with Colten and had a huge grin on her face whenever she was with him.  One little boy who was probably only three years old lives playing with bubbles and would giggle overtime when we popped a bubble!  We loved hearing his infectious laugh and seeing his eyes light up when we hugged him or said “muy bien” when we blew an especially large bubble.

Spending the afternoon hanging out with the villagers laid an important foundation for the evening.  When the sun set, we all headed over to the local church (that the villagers unexpectedly opened up for us — a blessing from God as its rainy season and was pouring all night long, which would have made an outdoor film showing very difficult) to watch the Jesus Film, a powerful depiction of Jesus’ death and resurrection.  We sang and shared testimonies.  Dan translated as Sue, Emily B, Ambrosia, and Maddy shared their testimonies, and this was a special time for our team.  Sharing your testimony in front of people who don’t know your language is a somewhat daunting task to begin with — throw in oppressive heat, exhaustion, and high emotions too — and it was a blessing for our team to hear these personal stories of our fellow team members’ faith journeys and to surround and support them with both prayers and laying on of hands as they stepped forward in faith to share their hearts with these villagers.

pastor Hermano Jesus shared a powerful message.  We couldn’t understand a word of it but it was delivered with such passion that we needn’t have understood the words to fully understand the meaning.  Many of the villagers, moved by the film and message and the Holy Spirit, came forward and gave their lives to Jesus Christ.  As we stood and kneeled with our hands on these precious people, many of us heard and felt them sobbing as they surrendered to the Lord and accepted his gift of salvation — and many of us wept along with them. What a special privilege and powerful experience, seeing the working of the Holy Spirit unfolding before our eyes!

We passed out Bibles and shared hugs and farewells with these villagers, many of whom were also now fellow believers and followers of Jesus — knowing that we will rejoice in heaven and worship at the feet of Jesus together one day!

Before we left, Dan gathered us around to pray — Guatemalan style: everyone out loud at the same time — for safety and protection for our 3-4 hour trip home.  He shared that the only major accidents they’ve had on the  road with teams in 20 years were the two times that they did not pray before leaving.  Please continue to pray for our physical protection on the roads and for the vans to hold up to the beating they take on extremely rough terrain, for the local and team drivers entrusted with safely transporting our group, and for the drivers we encounter on the road as well.

Believe it or not, one of the highlights of the day came on our way home, on dark winding mountain roads.  Dan had pointed out two volcanoes on our way to the village and noted that we might get lucky and see one erupting at night on our return trip — but probably not since it is somewhat rare and the likelihood of clouds obscuring the peak during rainy season was high.  Lo and behold, we saw the volcano erupt and spew glowing lava high into the air and cascading down the side of the volcano!  Dan said in his 20 years in Guatemala, it was in the top 3 eruptions he’s witnessed — a God sighting at the end of a simultaneously exhausting and exhilarating day.

Friends, we feel and have experienced your prayers and we continue to covet your prayer coverage of our time in Guatemala, our team, and our work.  We ask that you pray specifically for:

safe travel to the village where we will be building homes for the next 3 days.  Physical health for our team (no sickness to report praise God!), and protection from injury and accidents while we work.

each of the members of our team as we all experience and process this in our own spiritual journeys. Dan has challenged us to put ourselves in the stories we are studying in the Bible and to wrestle and grapple with big faith questions:  where is my place in God’a story? What is he asking of me and what am I asking of him? Who is he calling me to witness to and am I willing to do what He is asking me to do to reach others with the gospel?

The villagers and specifically the families whose homes we are building these next 3 days.  We are building them a physical shelter and pray that this home is a tremendous blessing to them, but we are also praying over each family that in this home they will accept the Lord into their hearts and commit their lives to following him.  Pray that we will follow the prompting of the Holy Spirit as we work alongside of these families to build their homes, and that we will help to point them to Jesus.

 

 

 

 

Sunday morning update

This morning I am sitting on the open porch area of the mission base looking out at the blue skies and rolling green mountains that surround me. It’s an overwhelming reminder of what a beautiful creation God has made and what a beautiful country Guatemala is.  What a gift it is to be here this week.

Yeateeday we jumped right into ministry and spent the day at the village that was a rough 4-hour ride away. It creates a whirlwind of a start for our group that started with a nearly full 24 hour day of traveling before arriving at the base of Paradise Bound after midnight on Friday/Saturday morning.  We navigated travel and customs fairly smoothly, looked for lost luggage, traveled the crazy roads a couple hours to the base and crawled into bed around 1-1:30 a.m. local time. We were back up at 7 am, traveled 4 hours on roads you can’t even begin to describe and spent a full day receiving over 400 people in a medical clinic (our team organized and doled out medications), hanging out with kids, and worshipping God in 2 different languages.  The night ended with 60-70 people from the village coming forward to give their hearts to God.  It was a night filled with tears, hugs, and a lifetime reminder that God shows up when live is shares.  In short, it was a beautiful whirlwind of a couple days.

There is a story in Matthew where Jesus walks on water that has been resonating with me the past couple weeks and will become part of the focus for our devotions this week.  In this familiar story the disciples are in the boat in a whirlwind of their own surrounded by wind and waves.  Am doing in that moment, Jesus shows up.  It’s a moment we can relate to today. Amidst the chaos of the start of this trip, we saw Jesus so clearly last night.  It’s easy to see him this morning too surrounded by the incredible view we enjoy here at the base.  So many times we see in our own lives that God often shows up in the chaos.

After Peter sees Jesus walking on the water, he asks Jesus to call him out upon the waters and Jesus simple replies, “come.”  It’s an invite that is so rich in meaning and still calls out to us today.  In only our first day we saw so many beautiful people respond to that call.  We also make it our prayer that our students and leaders hear that invite as well.  It’s our deep prayer that our team will “come” closer to God because of what he does in us and through us this week.  That even amidst the chaos of our own lives and busy schedules that we hear our Lord and Savior to “come” closer to Him.  It’s remarkable how clearly that is already happening even in just one day in Guatemala.

Today we are going to head to another village for another clinic.  This one is not quite so far away.  We are so grateful for the prayers that are being offered.  We feel the results of those prayers and enter this day feeling surrounded by the love of our family and friends and wonderful church family back home. Please pray today for:

1. Last night Emily Busman’s grandmother passed away. It’s  hard being this far away when big things like that happen.

2. Katie Allyn’s bag was lost on the way down and we ask for prayers that the airline finds it and returns it to her. We think it arrived in Guatemala but may have been grabbed by someone else by mistake.  We have enough extra clothes and supplies that are getting her through bu it’s  just a little more chaos to navigate through.

3. That the people we serve today will see Jesus in us and come to know Him!

We are so excited to step into our work today.  Yesterday was an amazing day to experience.  It’s remarkable how the love of Jesus is a language that everyone can share.  Thank you for joining us on this journey from home and thank you for your continued support and prayers!  God is calling us to come to him again today and we do that with hearts filled with anticipation and wonder — much like Peter must have felt as he  ago to step out of the boat.  What an exciting moment we have before us today!

Also we are going to *try* to upload some pics to our Facebook page.