Sunday, July 14, 2013

Loaves and Fishes

            Ever since I could do chores, the LEAST favorite on the to-do list to do was emptying out the trash. Even though this job took a total of about maybe 5 minutes, I hated doing it and still do to this day and my roommates and parents can tell you all that.

Today (Friday), on the way back to Guatemala City, we were told there was going to be a surprise. After driving for a couple hours, we were told we were being taken to the Ravine in Chimaltenango. As we approached the Ravine, we didn’t know what to expect and weren’t prepared mentally at all. Uncertainty, anxiety and mixed emotions were running through my head and I am sure in many others’ heads. We stepped out of the bus into rain and a bit of a stench but were greeted by smiling faces full of pride and JOY. Men, women and children of all ages work there sorting through the garbage and waste to see if anything is worth saving to clean up and then sell at the market. It took everything to not be filled with sadness but instead hope and prayers.

As we unloaded the beans, rice, milk, juice, snacks and clothing, I turned to Janine and we both questioned the amount of supplies we had. There wasn’t enough. We were told there were 40 families to divide it all to. As I prayed to myself, I heard Janine praying out loud and we were both praying the same prayer of multiplying. We started to pass out the supplies to the women and children and then the men. Before we knew it, everyone had gotten rice, beans, cookies, juice and milk… with plenty left over. We went through the line again with everyone receiving more rice, beans, cookies and juice… with some STILL left over. Friends and family, God MULTIPLIED and provided more than enough for these 40 families. All the girls received dresses. All the men received shirts. All the boys received clothes. There was even a newborn baby there who received not one but two outfits. Some men were even blessed with shoes. When Janine and I found each other after, we were in utter shock. God performed a miracle right before our eyes.

Never underestimate God and what He has planned. Our stop at the Ravine was not planned by us but planned by God from the very beginning. Though we were not prepared mentally, God prepared our hearts and equipped us with exactly what we needed. This was no doubt, everyone’s hit for the day and what a way to end the week.

As we bring this week to an end, it is only right to thank all of those who have been supporting us both financially and through prayer before the trip, during the trip and through the transition of coming home. There is no way this trip could have gone more smoothly without your help and the Father’s. God was with us every step of the way and provided the way just like He said He will.

As a team, we can all say that yes, we were impacted by the children and families we saw this week but also by the “dream team” with us, Pablo, Julia, Cesar and Ranfis. These 4 translators have something special in them that is contagious. Their leadership, love, compassion, ability to teach, patience and so many other qualities impacted us more than they or you will ever be able to understand. They were PRIME examples for the kids to look up to and even us as well. Their openness with us and the kids and the work they put into this week is commendable and they will forever have a special place both on the team and in each and every one of our hearts for different reasons.

Personally I would like ALL the members of the team. I came on at last minute and I honestly have never felt so welcomed and loved by a group of strangers. You guys welcomed me with open arms just like I was one of your own and from the get-go I felt like I have known you for years. I am so grateful to have met you and you bet I will be seeing you in the near future. Love you all and I hope I have been as much of a blessing to you as you have been to me.

At the end of the meeting, there seemed to be one for sure consensus as a whole team…

We WILL be back Guatemala, one way or another. Let’s hit the calendars!
                                                                                                        Jackie Reinink


Thursday, July 11, 2013

Blessings, Tears and Salvation

Today our day started with the delivery of supplies and blessing at the house we helped build for Dolores and her family.  So many emotions as we arrived, such treasured relationships developed in just a short few days.  Lots of hugs from three generations of beautiful women starting with Grandma, the mother of fourteen children, one of whom, Dolores was receiving a gift of a home.  Her previous home was made of just four bamboo walls.  As we walked up the path carrying the supplies we were so warmly greeted it was like we were truly family. Dolores' son, Ishmael, had such a look of pride about him.  He helped throughout the entire build and hopefully will be able to use the skills he learned to help provide for his family as the oldest son.  Over the last three days of the build we were able to really get to know Dolores' family and their stories about the struggles they face.  Loss of her husband to another woman, bad weather blowing down the walls of her home, sisters who have lost husbands to tragedy, one while 4 months pregnant.  They have struggled so much yet are still faithful in God's ability to provide for each of them.  They are an inspiration in faith that I will carry with me always.  They are so thankful for everything God has provided them.

We also delivered food and medical supplies to all past families who have received homes.  This was such a spiritual experience.  So many stories of struggling for medical needs and joblessness yet through it all they know God will provide for them.  The most beautiful thing happened at one home in particular.  When we asked what we could pray with them they said their grandmother was very ill and could we pray for her.  As we stepped into her home it was clear she was gravely ill. Pastor Diego, who was visiting families with us, informed us that she was ready to accept God as her Lord and Savior.  Being witness to this was incredible.  As Pastor Diego prayed the salvation prayer in his native language, Tz'utujil, we could not understand his words but did understand his conviction. As he prayed, it brought us tears of joy for her and our Lord.  Pray with us that the Lord will ease her suffering and if it is His will, that He will welcome her to her place in Heaven.

On a personal note I would like to say thank you to my prayer partners who took the time to write me such wonderful and inspiring letters for each day.  You have given me strength to trust in God where I feel I am weak.  Your faith is deep---thank you for sharing it with me.

Paula Lucero

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The many faces of redemption

There is something beautiful about raw humanity. Not the kind where you simply appreciate one another or recognize the benefits of when multiple cultures collide. I'm talking about the kind of humanity that is only visible when you begin to strip away the superficial layers that the years in our lives pile on top of us. Skepticism, cynicism, bitterness, anger, complacency - these are the layers that can cloud our vision and prevent us from viewing humanity in it's purest form. We don't set about our days seeking after these layers - but yet they seem to build and build and before we know it we've become robotic. We wake up in the morning, complete our daily routines and set out to check the tasks off our lists. At the end of the day we offer part of ourselves to our families or friends - articulating a "good" day or a "successful" day by our accomplishments.

This is the American way. The "be all you can be", "have it your way", "set your mind and achieve it" kind of life. We end up floating through the years without so much as a look over the shoulder because we've been justified along the way that this is acceptable.

But something unfortunate happens when we live this way - we miss out on humanity. We miss out on the simple interactions that can come about when we simply slow down for a few minutes to enjoy one another.

Today I witnessed an amazing example of true, un-adultered, raw humanity: three generations of loving family setting aside the agenda of the day to just "be" in relationship with three missionaries and two translators from our team. Set aside for a moment the reality that the two hours they spent with us meant sacrificing doing work that sustains their livelihood (at a whopping equivalent of 75 cents per day in wages).  Sisters who sat alongside one another in the dirt, with babies on their knees, laps or in their loving arms - laughing, smiling, asking us questions.  The loving grandmother, proudly telling us of her fourteen children and her four daughters who sat before us offering their time, their love, their curiosity about who we are.

I'm often asked why I want to spend time in Guatemala. It's the moments like today when I witness life and humanity that is stripped of all of life's business. Stripped away of the luxuries that we are offered in America in abundance as long as we strive our hardest to be better than the person next to us. Humanity is real and raw in Guatemala. Community is shared and love is offered freely. In these rural communities, no agenda is more important than getting to know the person in front of you - to earnestly seek to understand their needs, wants and desires. No meeting gets in the way. No deadline competes with the importance of caring for another human. No one is trying to "one up" the person next to them for a moment of prideful exaltation.

What's even more beautiful is their recognition of where this gift of humanity comes from - redemption. Sometimes, when we let our layers cloud our vision we seek redemption by working ourselves silly - by believing that our actions and efforts could somehow purchase our happiness. But that's not it at all, and that's what this family reminded me of today. That there are many faces to those who have been redeemed. They don't all look alike. They don't all speak the same language. They don't all live in the same conditions or have the same kinds of family. It's not earned by merit. It's not earned by being better than the person next to you. It's not earned by even trying.  It's a gift.

In Romans 3:22-25a we learn that "the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith."

Redemption cannot be earned. It cannot be purchased. It cannot be merited to you based on how hard you work.  It is not held back based on your nationality, your socioeconomic status, your education level. It is pure and raw and can sometimes only be viewable when you allow yourself to remove the clouds in your vision.

Those family members and our team members - we had few things in common that the "world" cares about. But we shared a very important commonality - faith in the redemption that only God can provide to us.

I believe that was the Lord's gift to me today an in-your-face reminder of His redemption - expressed through the rawness of the human interaction that just a couple hours provided.  I pray your eyes are opened to His reminder to you as well.

~ Jenn

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Same but Different

Over the last few days in Guatemala I have been observing a beautiful gentle people and a stunning land. I have had a lot of joy in seeing the similarities between here and home. Yet there are differences too.

At school there are the same groups of kids; shy, thoughtful, bold and the "to cool for school" group. The difference is that school is a privilege and they love it. The boys looked at Elias funny when he said he hated school.

We are the same in having joy in a new house but different in the size and finishes.

Mothers have the same joy in seeing their boys work hard and learn new skills. It is different in that my son does not support the whole family.

The kids are the same in wanting attention, laughing with joy, and playing with abandon.  They are different than my own kids because their options are limited right now and I can give my kids every advantage. My hope and prayer is that someday we as a church body can make this contrast different........

Janine Simon

Peter 4:10

We are on day four of God’s mission here in Guatemala! I was asked on our way back into Cerro De Orro this afternoon what I thought so far. I cannot truly explain what I am thinking! What I do know is that God has been present every single day and with Him we cannot fail. Every single day since we left Seattle has been a blessing. To be here is surreal and I don’t think I will ever be able to wrap my mind around it. I can however wrap my heart around it. When you receive hugs, kisses, and love from complete strangers you are truly able to see how we are all His children and not really strangers at all.

Today was beautiful and I fell in love with each child we met. I wished that my family was here with me so that they could experience the joy that I did today. I know that Jordyn and Austin would have had a blast playing tickle war and soccer with all the kids. I have no doubt that all the kids would have fallen in love with Jeremy too and that they would have soften his heart in an instant. Missing them today!

It is so hard to describe what it is like to have 10 – 20 kids laughing, chasing, and loving on you. They want to sit on your lap, hold your hand, tickle you, love on you, and just be your friend! They follow you everywhere and if you sit down you are almost guaranteed to have one of them want to sit on your lap. Their laughter is contagious and so is their love.

“As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace”

– Peter 4:10

What I have found from spending a short amount of time here today is that I have reconfirmation that I was put here to serve others, particularly children. My heart is full!!! I wish I was able to write more but I truly cannot explain to you what is going on in this beautiful country. Every experience brings tears of joy! Every child I meet brings me closer and closer to the Lord and I pray that what we are doing here is being received. Each person on our team is bringing something special to this mission and each day reveals something new.

I cannot wait to get to bed and wake up and head back to the school tomorrow!

Katie Schaefer

Sunday, July 7, 2013

From a 13 yr old.....

Today I had a unique experience, something the American couldn't compare to. (Even if I am, myself, an American). A Guatemalan church service. They are longer than the ones we are used to, for sure. For me, even though I didn't understand because of the language barrier, I understood they were reading Psalms, which part of it I don't know exactly. But the pastor who was teaching today really made me wonder what the lesson was. When he talked he seemed slightly tense with his facial expressions and hand gestures.

We soon left service to the outside of the building where there was many, many children hanging around. What touched me the most at that moment was when I saw Katie on her knees in a skirt in the dirt playing tic-tac-toe with some of the kids.  Even though there was a language barrier, the fact that the kids and her were enjoying the game as if there was none. Also while waiting for our bus, I met a little girl named Liliana and she is 5 years old. Together we played peekaboo and I had her practice numbers. I would show an amount on my fingers and she would try to copy. Despite the fact we hardly know each other I feel like I really know her, as if I knew her before the trip.
Besides the church, we did go shopping today. The culture here is definitely held close to their hearts. You can tell in their wide range of handy-work. Their hand carved wooden boxes and containers, the hand stitched bags and clothes, the beaded jewelry, and so much more. If your a shopper, I recommend coming here. This is by far, way better than any shopping mall. Your interacting with locals who created the things they are selling, not store made but hand made.

The Guatemalans have a great eye for the natural beauties of their land and I envy it greatly. The place where we are staying has an indescribable view of the volcano, San Pedro. The lake beneath us is outstanding as well. For the artsy person I am, this is heaven to me. All the beautiful flowers and plants, the many hand made items, to the people. If only this was our daily lives.

On the trip so far, I have been stepping out of my comfort zone by trying new foods. In case you didn't know, I am quite picky on my food choices. Here, there is always meat with your meal, and I am not a big meat fan. But we had some in a restaurant we stopped at on our way to the main hotel that I absolutely loved. We had ordered two platters of chips and meats, I had the beef steak with rice. Let me tell you, that is THE BEST steak I have ever tasted, let alone the best beef I tasted. (Sorry Dad!) Besides meat I have tried guacamole, dragon fruit, hibiscus tea, various flavors of chicken, and various soups and pancakes.

All in all, the beginning of this trip as been amazing and I have loved strengthening our bond between the team. We have already had some tears shed and laughs laughed. I look forward to teaching the teens with my fellow small group leader, Jenn. I also look forward to construction on Tuesday. I love you all and I hope all is going well with you back at home.

May God bless you,
             Cassady Darr

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Acts 29 in Action

     As we flew over Guatemala City, I looked down at the beautiful lights and reflected on the amazing sight below me. The shining lights could have belonged to any city in the world. From the sky, Guatemala City looked like every other city; bright, beautiful and bustling with activity.  As I looked below, I knew that the lights of this city, in the country of Guatemala, held another reality I would soon encounter.  A reality that has drawn High Pointe to this country for years.  As I glanced over at Katie, I was inspired by her tears of joy which were an outward expression of the love and joy she was experiencing, knowing she was landing in a country to serve Christ. As we started to descend, Heather sensed my anxiety at the turbulence we were encountering and she gently held my hand which helped to calm my fear.  It was at this moment that I realized I was with family; a team who was here to walk this unknown road with me.

     We were joyfully and warmly greeted by Julia and Cesar as we departed from the airport.  I could tell that they were a natural extension of our church family and seeing them embrace the new members of our team was comforting.  It was then that we met our new family member, Jackie, who has fit in perfectly with our team.  We spent a great night together in Guatemala City and woke up today ready to get to work. After a delicious breakfast (with freshly squeezed pineapple juice, papaya, plantains and a made to order omelet), we had an insightful devotion with Janine, who led us through 1 Corinthians 13.  After we prayed, we embarked on our supply run at Walmart.  It was fulfilling purchasing medical supplies for the families we have supported over the years and I am looking forward to delivering the kits so that I can meet the people with which we have formed a lasting relationship.

     The drive to Santiago Atitlan was one of the most amazing experiences of my life.  The landscape is lush, with rolling hills, deep valleys and incredible vegetation.  As we kept driving away from the city, the new reality of Guatemala slowly came into sight and I knew why God has brought us to this country.  We came to express His love in a very practical and engaging way to a people who welcomes us with open arms.  I treasured each person we passed and felt my heart leap at each child who waved to me from the streets below.  Right now, as I reminisce on the faces I saw, I smile a joyful smile at being brought to this incredible country with my church family to love on people as we serve Christ.

     I am honored to be a part of this team and thrilled that God has allowed me this opportunity to serve the people of Guatemala.  And though I don't know what the days ahead will bring, I know that standing on the foundation of Christ will keep me grounded. 

     The High Pointe Guatemala 2013 team is ready to put Acts 29 into action...
                                                                                                                Cheryl Moyd