Mission Guatemala :: Day 11

Posted: August 6, 2018 in Mission Life
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Well, after our special send off and our ‘see you laters’ we did our best to get some rest, knowing our wake up call would be early… like 3:30 am early.  We had to be up and loaded at 4 am to head back to Guatemala City.  That’s just how traffic rolls in third world countries.

Thankfully the journey went a little faster on the way back into the city than we when arrived and travelled out.  I’m sure being exhausted and sleeping for a couple hours of the ride helped.  Some of us did get to see an awesome Guatemalan sunrise on our last day in country.  And then the beauty wore off as the gridlock increased.  It’s hard to imagine so many cars on the same road on an early Saturday morning.

But we made it to the city and were treated to an amazing breakfast at San Martin.  We all most certainly over indulged a bit on our last meal in Guatemala.  But we did finish in time to have a little shopping at one of the local markets.  It was so funny to see nearly the same items we see at the market in Nicaragua, just with Guatemala on them.  But we each found a few things to bring back to remember our time in Guatemala.

From there it was on to the airport and before you knew it, we were boarded and ready to fly back to the US.  Most of us were spread out which gave us some neat opportunities to share what we were doing and share the hope we have in the Gospel.  Some of us struggled more than others – especially if we were nestled between two Spanish speakers.  But we all did our best and also caught a bit more rest.

With the travel time and time change, we were back in the US around 5 pm.  We were welcomed back with what it seems the US is great at providing… long lines.  It took us nearly 2 hours to go through passport control, immigration and customs.  We watched a few other mission teams scrambling and pray that they made their connecting flight.

Being welcomed back into the US ushered in the other reality that we had forgotten about… cell phones.  We went from 11 days of face to face eye contact and great conversations to only seeing the top of people’s heads.  It was a sea of people, herded like cattle in lines… all face down in their phones.

All in all, coming back is a bittersweet time.  Each and every year that we launch out we face a bit of the same feelings… glad to be back to our lives and families here in the States, but also leaving a piece of our hearts behind.  This year was no exception in Guatemala.  We made some great friends, had some great ministry experiences and saw our hearts transformed in powerful ways by the Holy Spirit.

But one thing we say every year… just because our time in Guatemala is over and the mission is over for this year… we know that the mission never ends!  God has more work for us to do!  We long for the day when every nation, tribe and tongue has the opportunity to know of the life-transforming work of the Gospel!

Mission Guatemala :: Day 10

Posted: August 4, 2018 in Mission Life
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Today was our last full day on mission here in Guatemala which always makes it pretty emotional and bittersweet.  Our initial plans to host a fun day at camp for both groups ended up getting changed a bit… which on mission, you learn to roll with it.  Instead, the leaders here planned a half day of fun for our team to rest and recoup.

We loaded up the truck as they told us we were headed to a waterfall and swimming hole that was high in the mountains.  It was about an hour and a half long ride for us which was a bit interesting in the back of the truck.  We had to navigate up some steep roads, but the view and scenery along the way was amazing.

We arrived at a Christian camp called the Mount of Olives.  Not sure on the olives part, but it was definitely a hike up the mountain to get to the waterfalls, but boy when we did, the beauty was amazing.  We climbed our way up to the swimming hole under one of the larger waterfalls and jumped right in.  It was a bit chillier than we expected, but refreshing none the less.  We hung out for most of the morning and even enjoyed a picnic lunch.

But we had a deadline to meet, so we hustled back down the mountain to make it to our worksite at 2 pm.  It was time to pour the concrete floor for the second story which meant… bucket line!  This time, as we pulled up, we were amazed to see how many from the community had gathered to help.  Men, women and kids and they just kept coming.  Of course, throwing candy out of the truck probably helped gather a few kids along the way.

It is pretty hard work mixing the concrete on the ground – volcano style – which we also do in Nicaragua.  But then, the owner of our hotel agreed to bring down his concrete mixer.  This made the job so much easier and all people stood around watching this machine work.  For us, this was the first time in all of our third-world missions that we have been able to use such a machine.  But it made the best concrete and sped up the job considerably.

Since we didn’t get to say our “see you laters” at camp, we walked the road in Limones and got to say some.  It was sweet to see the kids at their homes and we had a few tearful “see you laters.”  We also got to walk down to a micro-finance project sponsored by Sarai which is a mechanical corn grinder to make tortillas.  This is such a blessing to the community and saves a bunch of hard work.  It was also neat for us to see the other aspects of the ministry here.  They really have a similar vision to ours when it comes to ministry and missions – and that is invest in a community in a way that shows and tells the love of Christ and empowers the people to grow, develop and succeed.

After a few more “see you laters” and hugs, we had to head back to the ministry center and get everything packed.  Reality started to set in that this was our last night.  But we had no idea what was in store for later.

We did an early pre-dinner team time and then were escorted back to the ministry center.  We arrived to live music and a special seating area outside.  It was a fabulous last meal with all the ministry and community leaders that we worked alongside all mission attending.  We were challenged and prayed over and then given a token on their appreciation.  We, too, got to express our gratitude to God for leading us to Guatemala this year and to the ministry and all our new friends for being such gracious and loving hosts.  We are most certainly leaving a piece of our hearts down here in Guatemala.

The students are off to bed as I write as we have a 3:30am wake up call.  We have to be on the road by 4am to give the travel time needed to make it back to Guatemala City.

It’s hard to believe our time here is almost over.  We are so grateful to God for leading us here and giving us this time here to serve and to be blessed by serving here.  And we are incredibly grateful to each of you for reading, supporting financially and most importantly praying for us daily.

Mission Guatemala :: Day 9

Posted: August 3, 2018 in Mission Life
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You can tell where we are on this mission based on how slowly we all walk down the stairs from our room to the truck in the morning.  Based on today’s walk, you can tell we are nearing the end of this mission here in Guatemala.  Our spirits and hearts are full, but our body is most certainly pretty weak and exhausted at times.  The days are full and the evenings are focused and at times intense.  But we press on toward the goal – we want to finish well.

At the construction site, we are working on the tallest building we have ever built.  We were readying the well house, which will be a 3-story structure, with the water tank being on the top floor.  We worked alongside the crew getting forms filled for the support columns.  We also made rebar which ties the entire structure together.  And of course, we moved some more dirt.  Our bucket lines are world famous.

We had a surprise visitor at our worksite today and that was the mayor of Gualan.  Los Limones is one of 200 communities within Gualan.  He came by to not only see the work, but respond to a request to have a power line run to the ministry center.  This would be pretty phenomenal as no one in Limones has power.  The ministry center was to be completely solar powered, but having electricity opens the doors to such greater ministry abilities.  And no sooner had the mayor left (after we had a chance to circle up and pray for him) did two representatives from the electric company arrive to start planning.  I guess it pays to know the mayor here.

It was then back to the main ministry center to prepare for the kids arrival and our last full day of camp. We have done two sets of kids for two different days of camp, with today being day four for camp.  We jumped right back into relationships with these kids which are forming and growing quickly and we are grateful.  It has been neat to see them move from pretty reserved and shy, to more open to know us, play with us and trust us in relationship with them.

The stations continue to run well and each passing day seems to get better and better as we learn to adjust to the different ages and attention spans of the kids.  From an art poster that was “all about me” to kickball, from Bible stories about Daniel to teaching about English then mixed in with some singing and crazy dance moves and you’ve got our camp.  And it was a good day… until we realized it was the last day.  We had planned and prepared to run a 5th and final day of camp for all 100+ kids (both groups together) of fun activities, team challenges and of course a Gospel presentation.  But the plans changed and so we were a bit saddened to learn we were saying our “See you later” (because we don’t believe in saying goodbye).  And in true Nicaragua fashion, we had to chase the bus out.

Now, as we work in Limones again tomorrow, it’s likely that we will see a good number of the kids from camp, so we are excited to spend time in their community and then get our official “see you later” in there.

But the end of the mission is in sight… at least when it comes to our time in Guatemala.  Please pray that we will finish well.  Pray that hearts and lives will be changed by the Gospel.  Pray that each of us will return different than how we came.

Mission Guatemala :: Day 8

Posted: August 2, 2018 in Mission Life
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The Lord continues to amaze us in His beauty of His creation down here, the joy and laughter of the kids at camp and even all the blood, sweat and tears (and there has been all three) that has gone into our construction project.  And our individual time and team time with the Lord has been challenging and rewarding.  God doesn’t always show up in the ways we hope or even expect but we most certainly can say that He is with us and moving in our hearts and through our team.  And for that we are grateful and most certainly give Him glory.

As we headed from the ministry center to the construction site, we are greeted all along the way.  Especially as we turn down the little dirt road that takes us right through Los Limones.  What used to be some strange looks and a few waves has now become kids yelling and chasing the truck (some are fast enough to jump in for a ride).  And more and more show up at the site to just hang out with us as we work.  This is the power of relationships that crosses linguistic barriers.  It’s the power of love on display.

The quote of today from construction was, “There isn’t a pore of my body that sweat isn’t pouring out of.”  We were all drenched from a 110 heat index within the first half hour of work.  And we were right back at it with backfilling dirt to the completed walls and then working another section of wall to complete.  Our construction finished with our famous bucket line (or bucklet line in Spanish – shout out to Santos in Nicaragua for that one).  We had a long stretch to cover to move a huge mix of concrete to fill the forms that will reach three stories on the well house.  Slowly but surely progress is being made.

It was then back to the center to welcome the kids back to camp.  This was the return of our first group of kids (we have M-W kids and T-TH kids).  And these are the youngest, never been to camp kids.  So it is a bit more challenging.  But we learned not to separate the younger siblings – which hopefully I can share about what we’ve seen and learned from Guatemalan family culture, but today went much smoother with these precious kids.  Each station continues to engage and enrich their lives.

After dinner at the center, we were grateful for another rain shower.  It drops the temps easily by 10 degrees.  And the farmers here – which mainly do corn and beans – are incredibly dependent on the rain and it has been much needed.

Our evening team time is always a highlight for me and we’ve taken a look how God calls us to “be anxious for nothing.”  This of course is easier said than done, but God has been exposing our hearts and moving deeply with the promises from His Word.

We do still have a few stomachs that are unsettled, but really everyone is doing well.  Exhaustion sets in at times, but the attitudes and team camaraderie has remained strong.  Thank you for continuing to pray and follow our journey from afar.  Pray that we will remain healthy and finish well.

Mission Guatemala :: Day 7

Posted: August 1, 2018 in Mission Life
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Well, today we settled in to our regular routine which involves a half-day of construction in the morning and then camp in the afternoon.  Although, this morning started with a literal bang to celebrate one of our team member’s birthday during breakfast.  Apparently the Guatemalan tradition is to light off some fireworks first thing to celebrate and they were shockingly loud!  But that got our day going for sure!

We loaded up and got right to work at the site and today was summed up with two words: move dirt.  We have now set most of the footers and so we are now having to backfill the walls with dirt.  We formed our ever impressive bucket lines to move that dirt!  But it was hot, exhausting work so to a degree we were relieved to only have a half day.

Next up was lunch with the kids.  Today’s camp was a totally different group of kids which was around 40-50 of them.  The kids come from Limones like our other group, but these are already a part of the feeding program.  So they already knew the routine and were comfortable with us since we had been together last week.  This made camp run much more smoothly thank yesterday.  And it also helped that we had one day of running camp already under our belt.  But the team did an amazing job running each of their stations – despite some dealing with a little upset stomach or just feeling worn down.  But we are committed to working hard and getting as much finished as possible.  And we are leaning in on God’s strength in both construction and in camp.

After camp, we had a bit of a break before cleaning up and dinner time and got to experience the local market in Gualan.  It wasn’t quite the same as what we have been used to in Nicaragua, but it was still a great experience.

I’ve been really encouraged with our team time these past few nights.  The level of honest and openness to the work of the Holy Spirit has been awesome.  As well as a commitment to sit under God’s Word and have Him press into our hearts.  He is doing a good work.  It’s been a painful one at times, but we know that He does all things for our good and for His glory.

Thanks for continuing to follow along and pray for our team.  Pray for stomachs to fully heal and for us to finish well.  And don’t forget you can follow us on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/wsm.mission.nicaragua/), Instagram (@wildwoodstudents) and Twitter (@wildwoodstudent) to catch updates and more photos – since they struggle to upload here.

Mission Guatemala :: Day 6

Posted: July 31, 2018 in Mission Life
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Today was a different day for us that was full of new experiences.  Since the team has been pushing pretty hard, we were able to have an extra hour of rest this morning before heading down to the ministry center for breakfast and morning devotions.

We started our day with a bit of camp prep since today was our first day of camp with the Limones kids. Our team has not only been doing mission training all summer long, where part is learning together, but the other part is preparation.  Each of the students have roles that they chose to lead out in and there was a bit of excited apprehension as they were each preparing their area of camp.

But before camp, we were invited to visit one of the local Christian radio stations (Radio Redencion) in Gualan that partners with His Hands for a tour of their radio, TV and streaming ministry.  To get there, we got to experience traditional Guatemalan travel in a Tuk Tuk (think motorcycle with an inclosed small seating area).  We loaded up four to a Tuk Tuk and scooted our way through the city over to the station.

There at the station, we not only got a tour, but got to be live, on the air guests during the 10 o’clock hour.  We were interviewed by a local pastor, who is one of the radio hosts, who asked me to share about our mission.  He also then asked questions to every member of the team.  Then I had the opportunity to field some more questions from the host and also some listeners, share the Gospel and pray over the listeners – which we were told was in the thousands.  This was a crazy, cool experience for our team!

From there, we were back at the ministry center for to prep for the arrival of the campers.  We heard the truck horn and saw a bed full of kids (it’s how they roll down here) and some very happy but also apprehensive faces started walking in.  Most of these kids have never been to the center, nor had a camp experience.  Then the truck was back with the second load and we kicked off camp with about 70 kids from Limones.

Camp never runs super smoothly on the first day, but I was so encouraged to see our students in action.  From arts/crafts, to music, to Bible, English and sports – we were off and running.  The kids were much younger than we have ever had, so we did have some challenges, but our leaders adapted really well and camp day one seemed like a great start.  We’ll have a whole new group tomorrow, so be praying for that.  We are also praying that we can break through some of the shyness and start building relationships.

To finish off our night, after dinner, we walked over to the town center where folks gather.  We got to race some little go kart like things and just had a blast hanging out together.  We also scored some ice cream, so that always makes for a great night.  We just finished up our team time and are off to rest for a full day tomorrow.  We’ll start with a half-day of construction and then finish with camp.  Thanks for continuing to pray for us!

Mission Guatemala :: Day 5

Posted: July 30, 2018 in Mission Life
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Today I woke up thinking about our church family worshipping back at Wildwood, our Mission Atlanta team worshipping and serving in Atlanta and the fact that we are here serving (and the actual worship service came later) here in Guatemala.

So, we started our day after our breakfast and morning devotionals by heading out to work.  We divided out a few to form another team that tackled a few projects at the ministry center.  One was a lighting project and the other demo work – removing a section of thick concrete roof interlaced with rebar for kitchen ventilation.  While they were hard at work, the other team was back out in Los Limones working at the new ministry center in progress.  Today was full of more concrete work, laying block and moving dirt.  But we continue to make a bit more progress with each day.

After a half day of work, we gathered at the church in Limones for lunch on their adobe oven.  Despite not being a Guatemalan dish, they sure did cook up a mean pizza and we ate it off banana leaves (it’s what you do in a pinch when you don’t have plates).  It was awesome to see the oven in action and hear how it is a blessing for the community.  Of course, it was also fun to spend some time and play with some of the neighborhood kids (who also enjoyed some of the pizza).

We were grateful to enjoy a bit of Sabbath rest this afternoon before heading out to worship here in Gualan at Geo’s (one of the ministry leaders) church.  Apparently most here in Guatemala go to church services in the evening and not in the morning.  We went to church last night, and tonight had another opportunity to join our brothers and sisters here in worship.

One thing I always think about when we worship while on mission is what worship in Heaven must be like.  I can’t imagine what the sound of every nation, tribe and tongue all worshipping Jesus in unison will sound like.  We always get a glimpse of that and tonight was no exception.  The congregation was incredibly warm and welcoming and we even were prayed over up front and then received hugs from everyone in the congregation.  A bit later, I had the opportunity to again preach God’s Word.  I was so grateful to Maurisio, my translator, for making God’s Word hearable and understandable in Spanish.

Tomorrow we have a chance to tour the Christian radio station here in Gualan that is connected to His Hands Ministry.  I believe we will be live streaming, so check our Facebook page to see if you can catch the stream at 10am (2 hours behind EST).

We also start our first day of camp tomorrow and we are excited, but a bit apprehensive as well.  Camp has quite a bit of moving parts and we are praying it will all come together.  Thanks for praying with us!

Mission Guatemala :: Day 4

Posted: July 29, 2018 in Mission Life
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Since today was Saturday, we were scheduled to work construction only a half-day, but that meant and even earlier start to the day so we could get a good amount of work in.  It is pretty amazing how hard this team is working – on their summer break – and considering we were up and ready by 6:30am (Note to parents: they are obviously capable and willing – Ha!).

So we did hit the ground running when we arrived at the construction site and divided into a few block laying teams and trench diggers.  But then we needed the occasional “play with a kid break” for all involved.  It’s amazing how quickly the team will spring into action to learn a new skill or jump in to give someone a much needed water or shade break.  It is a rewarding part of the masonry work to see the walls going higher and higher.  But even better was a chance to see the blueprints and mock-up of what the final ministry center will look like.  This certainly helped give us all a bit of perspective on what we are doing, but also knowing that we are helping a much bigger vision and project than our team could possibly accomplish.

The plan was to stop midday and then head to a river with a group of teenagers from the village for a ministry outing.  We we excited to get a chance to cool down (and the water was pretty chilly) and just have some fun as a team and get to know some of the teenagers.  We had lunch together and then at the end of our time together gathered everyone and I had an opportunity to share the Gospel by talking about relationships.  We tried to do a bit of a Q&A, but culturally, they are really quiet and we also knew they were a bit unsure of us.  So, we decided to divide into a guys group and a girls group.  Then we could also talk a little more directly about a challenge to be a Godly teenager and understand relationships from God’s perspective.  It was a bit hard to process the reality that many of the girls here become emotionally and physically involved around 13 years old and some are even having babies at that age.  We were grateful to be able to present a different perspective and also help them see the beauty of the Gospel in a relationship with Jesus.

After the river outing, we were able to get some much needed down time before we loaded up to head to Sarai’s church in a village not too far from where we are staying.  It was an incredible experience to see her home and her neighborhood and join them in worship.  The music is fast, celebratory and passionate and we did our best despite not knowing many of the songs.  Two of our students, Parker and Anisa had the opportunity to stand and share their testimonies as a part of the service.  I was incredibly proud to see them have the courage to stand and share the hope they have found in Jesus.  Then I was privileged to have the opportunity to stand in and preach the sermon for worship tonight.  After worship, Sarai’s family made dinner for us and then we were able to walk down to another home for an ice cream like desert.  It was the perfect finish to a great day.

God is certainly moving in and amongst us and we are noticing.  We are doing our best to follow the lead of the Holy Spirit and be aware what He is doing in and through us.  Thanks for continuing to follow along and please continue to pray for us!

Mission Guatemala :: Day 3

Posted: July 28, 2018 in Mission Life
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Our team is settling into the rhythm of life here on mission in Guatemala.  And it is awesome to see how the team has been focused on unity through a common Gospel and common mission.  Everything we do, we do together – from our meals, to times in God’s Word as a team, to construction, to playing with kids or just caring for one another.  And it has been a blessing to be invited into this ministry to get to know the ministry leaders and join with them and work where God is working.

As far as construction goes, most are finding their groove as to what they are able to do, but most are willing enough to step out of their comfort zone and learn new things by trying.  And even though the sun and temperature seems to be unrelenting, the attitude of serving with joy continues to shine through.

We continued construction on the ministry center and block by block we are going from footers to walls that are starting to have some height.  And of course there is more dirt to be moved, whether backfilling into the walls or removing part of the hill adjacent to the property.  The work can be tedious, but it was rewarding to see more and more sections completed.  And the skills being learned – from mixing concrete and mortar, to laying block, to building rebar are incredibly valuable.

Around noon, we took a break to head back to the ministry center for lunch.  With temps reaching 100, we took advantage of the siesta that is prevalent in Latin culture.  Some on the team went for the full experience and actually got a nap in before we headed back for more work in the afternoon.

More and more kids are coming around to the worksite, which is always a welcome sight (and often a quick break from the work).  But we are learning more names and relishing the chance to engage in some conversation or just to hold some kids or play.

On our way back from a full day of construction, we stopped for a community meeting to prepare for our camp that we will host next week.  It was awesome to see all the mothers and kids that had gathered to learn about what we will be doing and to get their “ticket” for camp.  We are excited to get to spend this time with them and can’t wait to see how God is going to use camp in their lives.

We finish each evening with team time – time together as a group where we debrief our day and spend some time in God’s Word.  And then we wrap the evening in small groups.  Our day is starting even earlier tomorrow, so we are off for some much needed rest.

Thanks for following our mission and for your continued prayer support!

Mission Guatemala :: Day 2

Posted: July 27, 2018 in Mission Life
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If we had to pick two words to recap today they just might have to be sweaty and sunburn.  We didn’t start that way, but we sure finished that way.

We started early and headed down the mountain to have breakfast and then a tour of the ministry center.  It is an amazing facility that houses the feeding program, education, recreation and even a medical clinic.  From there, we loaded up the back of the truck (how we travel in town) and made our way for our first visit to Los LImones, the primary community we will be working in.  We left the city and headed down the dirt road.  We made some stops along the way to see some of the ministry projects that have already been completed – like the church and the other two wells.

We then arrived at the third well, that was just completed and got to see the size and scope of the construction project we are working on.  We are helping build a building that will not only house the well, but be a functional community center for the people.  We got right to work – moving dirt, laying mortar and block for the footers, building rebar and making concrete.  Many of these skills we have from all our work in Nicaragua and we were pleased to see a very similar construction style.

About midday, we headed back to the ministry center in Gualan to participate in the feeding program.  Every Tuesday and Thursday, around 70 kids come to get lunch and then have an opportunity to learn and play.  We were most certainly down for the play until they had to go and left us exhausted!

Then it was back to Los LImones and right back to work.  We were amazed to see people from the community – especially a group of ladies jump right in and help with the work.  Then some of the kids from the program also gathered to see what was going on.  We’re excited to see these relationships beginning to form and can’t wait to really get to know them next week at camp.

After a full day of work, we were back to the ministry center for dinner.  Food just always seems to taste better when you are filthy and exhausted from a hard day of work.  From there, we headed back to the hostel to shower and get ready for our team time.  This is always a special part of each of our mission team’s experiences.  God has already been paving the way in our hearts and it was great to connect with God’s Word and each other tonight.

Our bodies are still adjusting, so we are praying for a good night’s rest and can’t wait to see what God has in store for us tomorrow!