Sunday, April 7, 2013

Adios Tactic......Until We Meet Again!

Yesterday we spent the morning moving cindercrete blocks.  There is much more work to be done as the plan is to build a 7 foot wall around the 21 acres of the guest house.  It will be neat to see how things change the next time we return.

After lunch we travelled to a mountain village called Pambach.  This is a village with a history of pain and suffering.  In 1982, during the civil war, the military marched into the isolated village and took all of the boys and men.  They marched them over a nearby hilltop and murdered them.  The village girls and women were left to fend for themselves.  As we listened to Les tranlsate their story, we were blessed by their testimony.  Despite the hurt and pain at the hand of a group who should protect, the village is healing by the grace of God.  A few years after the massacre, a missionary found the village and prayed that God would give Him Pambach.  Now the village has over 80 evangelical Christians praising God.  We ended our time with these people praying and singing. 

Our final night in Tactic was another emotional debrief as we shared the moments we felt God revealing Himself to us.  We are excited to share our stories with you at our sharing evening.  We hope you will all join us.

We head off to church this morning and then on to Antigua.  We will likely not be able to blog again, but will be home before you know it.  Continued prayer for safety and health in our travels is appreciated.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Mi Casa Es Tu Casa

We had so many sponsor children to visit we turned our work day and coffee plantation tour into home visits.  Though the other opportuntities would have been good too, these visits are more important not only to our team, but also to the children we sponsor.  Every family we visitted was proud to have us enter their home and pray with them. 

Yesterday, we saw many impoverished homes.  In addition to our sponsor homes, we took groceries to a family of 7 living on the side of a hill in a wood slat, tin roof 12x12 home.  Inside there is no electricity, no running water or sewer system, and really no furniture other than a bed for the 5 children and their parents to share.  They have so little and we have too much.  They appreciate so little and we take for granted so much.  As the children clung to our students, we lifted our voices to God in their little house and prayed for God's blessing on this family. 

Last night we enjoyed a churrascos meal with the Chicoy teachers.  We have enjoyed getting to know them throughout the week.  They were invaluable as helpers with our VBS  and it was great to have an informal time to get to know them.  After the meal we played soccer with them.  With this size of group, we played in rotations.   When one team scored, the other team came off and a new team took on the winner.  I think the Guatemalan team won as they played the entire first half of the game against our rotating teams.

We thank you again for your prayers.   Due to yesterday's winding roads, we have a few team members who are not feeling well.  Please pray for calm stomachs.  As well, some of our team played soccer so hard, we have blistered feet.  Please pray for healing. We have a work day ahead of us and know with existing on less sleep we will need strength for the day.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Where do we begin......

Our day started at Chicoy school where we joined them for devotions.  This is the most impoverished school commmunity.  Knowing this made watching them worship even more amazing.  A kindergarten boy stood out the most.  Through each song, he raised his face and hands to the Lord and sang wholeheartedly.  When it was time to praise the Lord by jumping, he jumped for joy repeatedly.  His heart felt worship, despite his circumstances, challenges us to acknowledge the things we allow to get in the way of our own worship.  We were honoured to have the chance to sing for them today and to have them wrap their arms around us and pray a prayer of thanksgiving and safety in our journey.  Before we left, every student in the school came through our hug line.  Though it took a bit of time we were truly blessed to possibly be the only person who would hug them that day.  We were also honoured to be trusted as 85% of Guatemalan children suffer from abuse.  These are a hurting people who cling to God for their hope; they know that one day they will be free from their pain and suffering.  In the meantime, they praise God and this gives them peace and a joy that cannot be described in words.

After devotions, we visitted the sink hole.  This is one of the darkest places in the Tactic area as many rituals are performed within it.  The beauty that surrounds it and the sound of our voices lifted to God reminds us that God goes before us in all things.  When we call on God to meet us where we are, He answers in amazing ways.  God was truly present in the sink hole as we were challenged to leave our burdens, sins and anger in this place.  The team left a very dark place lighter.

This afternoon we travelled to Coban for our hospital visit.  This was by far the most difficult experience we have had this trip.  Before we entered the building we were reminded that this is a place of hopelessness.  Most often the sick come here expecting to die as they have tried all other resources with no results.  The hospital is understaffed, under resourced and in disrepair.  It is a place of sadness.  We, however, must remain strong and not cry as we are their hope.  As we entered the building, we could see the pain in the faces of all we encountered.  We spent our time in the children's ward where we prayed for each patient and his or her family.  We also gave them a stuffed toy to bring them some comfort.  Even the team hosts felt this was one of the most difficult days in the hospital.  Amidst the issues of the hospital, families wait.  Many of today's families didn't speak Spanish and few of the hospital staff speak anything else.  These families are lost as they cannot understand the doctor and live in fear of what is happening to their child.  We encountered many children with illnesses who in Canada would not have to stay in hospital.  We also encountered children who had illnesses that baffled the Guatemalan doctors.  It is these children who challenge us the most to think of the advantages we have with the medical system in North America. 

Our greatest challenge, however, was the abandoned children.  In the nursery, mothers had walked away from three newborn babies.  These babies will be taken to an orphanage as soon as space becomes available.  In the mean time they wait with no mother to hold them.  Our team held these babies and loved them for the few minutes we could.  With our understanding of family, we struggle to understand a mother or father leaving a helpless child; however, we were challenged to think how difficult a task this must be for that parent.  Living in poverty, abuse, alcoholism, etc.... these parents feel a life a part from them is better than a life in their world.  This is difficult to comprehend, but when viewed as a sacrifice on the parents' part one begins to empathize not only with the child left behind, but also with the grieving mother who has no child to hold.

Outside of the nursery there were two other abandoned babies.  Our hearts ached as some of us held a little girl about nine months old with down syndrome and club feet.  There are few people willing to adopt a child with special needs.  Because of this, she doesn't take a place in the local orphanage.  Instead she waits.  We were happy to hear that a woman who has ties to Impact Ministries is opening an orphanage for children with special needs.  This will help many children in the future.  Our hearts still ache, however, for the little girl our team named Precious.    Keeping dry eyes was no easy task, but with God's help we managed it at least until we left the building. 

At debrief this evening, there wasn't a dry eye in the room.  God is working in all of our hearts.  He is challenging and teaching.  He is affirming and convicting.  He is showing us the needs of a people and encouraging us to give our lives to the Lord to serve Him wherever He calls us.  Thank you again for your prayers.  We needed them today.  We will also need them as we come home and try to adjust to a lifestyle that is so counter to what we see here.  Please pray for strength, continued safety and God's continued movement amongst us.  We are blessed!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Our Hearts, God's Love, Their Hope

We have had two wonderful, but emotional days.  Our VBS is over and part of our hearts are left with the people of Terra Linda.  We began our day in a devotional at a Vida School.  We joined in worship and again were amazed by the excitement and energy of our time together.  We were truly touched as the young children gathered around us to pray for us.  They held us tight as their teacher led them in prayer.  We will be forever changed by our experience with all of these beautiful children.

After the devotional we participated in a fun market activity.  Despite a few mix-ups in translation, all teams managed to complete the activity and enjoy the experience.  As we walked amongst the booths, we were mindful of a hard working people who had hauled all of their produce to the market. As we returned from the market a couple of our team members blessed a Guatemalan man by helping push his cart of produce up a steep hill. In turn we were blessed by his gratitude.

We spent this afternoon with the children of Terra Linda.  Yesterday we had 80 children and 20 adults gathered in the shack.  Expecting more in attendance today, we moved our VBS from the tiny shanty to a pasture at the bottom of the hill.  The adults of the community worked hard after our first day to clear it for our use.  We were amazed as we drove up to be greeted by 140 children and many of their mothers.  Some of the men of the community gathered as well.  God is good.  Today in an open space, under a beautiful blue sky, we shared about Jesus.  The children and adults listened as we told of his life and the children made bracelets to remind them of our time together. 

After our teaching time we handed out the Cristo Me Ama t-shirts.  Of the 150 shirts, we had 3 adult large shirts left.  The children were so grateful for this gift that some had tears in their eyes as we put the shirts on them.  Though some of the shirts came down to their ankles, they wore them with pride.  As we played with the children, the field was filled with colour and laughter.   We closed our VBS with our tranlsator giving invitation for the children.  Most of the children repeated the prayer.  It was very heart warming to see some of them raise their hands in commitment. 

 It is an understatement to say it was very difficult to say goodbye.  All of the team struggled as the children came through for their final hugs.  Though we only spent 3 days with them, our hearts were affected by their sadness, their desire for love and the new hope we see for them.  We look forward to sharing with you all of God's work with Terra Linda and the opportunity RCS has to continue to serve this people.

This evening we were welcomed into the home of a Guatemalan believer.  We made our own meal and enjoyed their hospitality and the husband's testimony.  We were truly humbled to have him share his life of sadness and hardship only to challenge us to always forgive and to never carry anger.  It has been a very full day.  We have an even more emotional day ahead of us.  We appreciate your prayers and support and ask that you pray for the commitments that were made today and for the seeds that were planted from our time with them.  God is working within and through us.  Thank you for joining with us on our journey.

Monday, April 1, 2013

A Humbling Day

We began our day in Chamche School.  As we entered the building we were met with friendly smiles and polite Holas!  We joined the children in worship.  Words cannot do justice to the joyful noise they offer to the Lord.  As we watch the littlest child to the oldest teachers praise God in song, we struggled with the contrast of our worship back home.  With arms lifted high and tears in a few of our eyes, we joined them in praising the one true God. 

When the students left for class, our hearts were touched as the children reached for a hug from us.  This simple act of kindness crosses the language barriers and we can speak volumes into each others' lives with no words.  For many of the children our hugs showed them a love they may not see in their single parent, abusive and poverty stricken homes.  We were truly humbled by their love for the Lord and for us.

After the devotional we were put to work.  Our team worked hard hauling bags of sand up the side of a mountain.  We worked joyfully alongside a few Guatemalan men admiring their strength and perseverance.  Conditioning on our prairie roads could not prepare us for the steep and winding trails.  We were again humbled by the work ethic of the people.

This afternoon was also our first day of VBS.  We are excited to come home and share this experience with you.  Our VBS is in a village called Terra Linda (Beautiful Land).  This community does not have a church or a school.  We are blessed and honoured to be the first mission team to visit them.

The moms and children met us on the road and walked behind us as we travelled a hillside path to a tin roof shanty where they meet for village gatherings.  The building itself is on a plateau and is about 20 feet by 20 feet inside.  Our 29 team members filled over a 1/4 of the space.  45 children and 30 adults joined us.  The people of the village speak a local language.  We spoke English; our translator shared in Spanish and a local man (now a teacher with Impact Ministries) translated our words into the local language.

We opened our time with them in song.  With the language difference we struggled to teach our children's songs and made the decision to sing to them.  Their request for a second song spoke volumes.  After our lesson we handed out Cristo Me Amo colouring books and crayons.  They were so excited to sit and colour.  Some of them had never held a crayon before.  Even the moms and, soon after, the dads joined us to colour.  The building was filled and the path to and from the shanty was lined with people colouring.  The team circulated amongst the children helping and encouraging.  The joy the people of Terra Linda took in such a  small activity was humbling.  We are reminded of how much we have and how much we take for granted.  We closed our time together with more singing and an invitation for them to receive Jesus.

Tonight we get to hear a Guatemalan believer's testimony.  Thank you for praying for us.  Please pray for continued health and safety for our team.  Pray for the people of Terra Linda.  Pray too for the seeds we planted today.

Access to the Internet is still difficult.  Pictures are not easy to upload.  We will try our best another day.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Safe and Sound

After a full day of travelling, we had a good night's rest at Seteca, the largest theological seminary school in Central America.  The grounds are beautiful.  It's a quiet oasis in the midst of much cement. 

We had an early start today.  After breakfast at Pollo Campero, we spent an hour in down town Guatemala.  Holy week is coming to an end and the streets were full of people and parades. The mix of catholicism and rituals from the mayan traditions are an overwhelming sight to see.

We travelled safely toTactic this afternoon.  We are getting settled and and off to tour the grounds.  Unfortunately, there is no wifi access.  To be able to blog, we need to borrow a data stick from the Guest House hosts and use their computer.  We will try to update occasionally to advise you of our prayer needs and our experiences.  When possible we'll try to post a picture or two.  For now, please know we are safe and excited to be here. 

Friday, March 29, 2013

Our Bags Are Packed and We're Ready To Go.....

We leave tomorrow morning on an early flight and we are glad to have you journey with us.  We will do our best to capture the moments that both challenge and affirm us.  We are grateful for this opportunity and are humbled to be His servants. 

Our blog is subject to WIFI availability, but we will post as regularly as we can. As you wait for news from us, we ask you to pray.
Please Pray:
  • for our health and well-being
  • for anxieties as we step out of our comfort zones
  • for safety in our travels and through our experiences
  • for team unity
  • for our lives to be impacted/changed
  • for our hearts to be challenged
  • for spiritual growth
  • for strength as we experience eye-opening and difficult situations/sights
Please Give Thanks:
  • for God's provision
  • for Impact Ministries
  • for the Guatemalan people
  • for this opportunity to be God's hands and feet in a developing country