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:
- 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.
- 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.
- Final team devotions tomorrow night — these are powerful times of prayer, worship, and sharing.
- 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.