Iglesia Del Camino ~ Antigua, Guatemala

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Iglesia del Camino

The church group that we had the privilege to work through here in Antigua, Guatemala is the Iglesias del Camino.  We cannot thank Steve Otto and his team enough for allowing us to come and be a part of their ministry.  What they are doing here is truly amazing.  They have such wonderful hearts for the Lord and for the people of Guatemala. 

To Steve, what you are doing here is wonderful.  We thank God for you and your family.  Your work is making such a positive impact on the lives of the people around you.  We feel blessed to have met you, worked with you, and had even a small part in the work that your ministry is doing.  Thank you for everything!

To Clay, you were incredible!  We couldn't have imagined a better person to work with our group.  Thank you for everything you did for us....and for putting up with us all week!  You were also a true blessing and we thank you for helping to make this experience as wonderful as it was. 

To the entire IDC team, thank you for all that you did for us and all that you do for the Lord.  The work that you do is inspirational to us all.  You will all be in our constant prayers!  We hope and pray that we will see you again one day...but no matter what, you will all be in our hearts forever.  Thank you, thank you, thank you!!

Day Six: The Final Touches

After visiting the Mayan Ruins, several of the guys headed back up the mountainside in Pastores to the Gonzales's home to finish up some last details on their home.  The rest of the group headed to the Mercado to pick up some food items to present the family with.  We then climbed the steep path one last time. 

The family came out, we gave them our gifts, and then we presented the family with their new home.  What an honor to be a part of something so special for such a beautiful family.  Their tears of joy and their words of thanks will remain in our hearts forever.  To be able to show them the love we have for them and the love Jesus has for them is an experience that we will never forget.  I thank God that we were able to serve in His plan for this family in even this small way. 

The grandmother said that she had been on several waiting lists for many years to get a new home and all I could think of as she said that was that they were just waiting on us.  I truly believe that God's will was carried out....that our church family and their family were meant to serve each other in the ways that we did this week.  We may have built them a home...but their family built so much more for us.  As they thanked us....we were thanking them.  What they gave us, we can carry with us in our hearts for the rest of our lives.

As we prayed together, I think we all knew that despite the fact that we would soon be descending that moutain path....we would never really leave them.  A part of us will always reside with the Gonazalez family in Pastores, Guatemala.  Our prayers will forever be with them. 

God is moving mightily in Guatemala....and he has moved mightily in the lives and hearts of our mission team.  We will never be the same again.  We CAN'T be the same again.  God has altered our hearts and our minds....our perceptions.  We were put outside of our comfort zones.  We grew in the Lord.  We have formed bonds with one another that I pray will remain strong.   We have met some incredible people who are doing incredible things to further the kingdom of God.  We had the chance to serve the Lord in an amazing way! 

In Acts 20:35 it says, "In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, "It is more blessed to give than to receive"."    And to that I say, "AMEN!"   

Again, we thank you all for your prayers and support.  We thank God for allowing us to serve Him in such a powerful way...to be a part of His plan for the people of Guatemala.  It is so humbling to be used for God's purposes...to see His love in action....and to give to others.  This trip has truly been a blessing for us.

For more, please visit Jason's blog by clicking HERE

Day Six: The Mayan Ruins and The Mercado

Day Six is our final day in Guatemala.  The realization of this brings many mixed emotions.  We are not quite ready to leave....there's so much more to do.  But we are also more than ready to see our families and our homes.  God has opened our hearts to this country and its people and it's hard to say goodbye.  Before we do though, we had the opportunity to see an important piece of the history of Guatemala and its people; the Mayan Ruins in Iximche. 

We went through a small museum where Steve and Clay told us a little bit about how the ruins looked in their heyday...and how the Mayan culture was basically destroyed.  Steve also gave us some sobering background on the civil war that tore this country apart not too long ago. 

 The boys really loved the wide open spaces of the ruins!  They were able to run and stretch their legs!  Steve's son, Jackson, was along for this trip and I think the five boys had a blast running, climbing, and seeing what was left of all of these ancient buildings. 

At the back of the ruins, there is an area that has reopened to Mayan traditional services and sacrifices.  There was a large group holding a service.  It was disturbing watching people chant, bow down, and praise a god that is false.  Their hopes for life, health, and happiness are hinging upon a god that is not there.  It was heartbreaking to see so many who were being lead down this path. 

Although the Ruins were informative and beautiful, it was also a reminder of so many people who do not know the true and living Lord.  We have to pray mightily that these people will one day be saved.  This is why we are here.....to help spread the Gospel to a people who are living in the dark. 

As an end to our trip, we also went to the local Mercado (market) in Antigua to shop a little.  Now THIS was an interesting shopping experience!  The vendors (which there were literally hundreds of!) would call out to you from their booths.  Bartering and haggling ensued and we all got to walk away with some wonderful momentos from our Guatemala trip.   If you hear any of us saying "Gautever!"...we might have picked that up from here ;) 

This was our final Guatemalan experience!  It's hard to believe that our week is already over.  We feel like we just got here....yet we feel like we've been here forever.  Tomorrow morning we will board our plane and fly back home...but we will be going home as completely different people.  We have seen and experienced things that have changed our perceptions on life forever.  God is so good and He has worked in our hearts this week in a mighty way.  And we praise Him and thank Him for that!  We will see you all soon :)

In Him,
The Guatemala Team


Friday, February 25, 2011

Today was the day Jeff and I were looking forward to and had prayed would come to fruition for several months.  You see, last July, about the time God was revealing this mission trip, He also called us to sponsor a child through Compassion International.  At that time, we let Gracie and Forrest each choose a child to sponsor.  Forrest chose a little boy named Domingo from Mexico and Gracie chose a little girl named Keyla from Guatemala.  She picked her because she had on a pretty flowered dress.  Only God would know how that simple decision would impact our lives in a few months on a trip we knew nothing about.  As this trip began coming together, we realized we would be in the country Keyla lived in.  We began to research how we could meet her and back in November began the process of planning and being approved to meet her.  We were told by Compassion to pray this trip would happen, and in January we found out God had answered “YES!” to our prayers.  We began to prepare for our meeting, gathering some small gifts for her and continuing to pray.  We both knew this would probably be the highlight of our trip, as we already had a relationship with her through letters, and would get to build on that relationship as we continued to sponsor her. 
Keyla was scheduled to come with a member of her family, a Compassion worker from her project, and a Compassion translator/host.  They were to arrive at our hotel at 8 a.m.  To our surprise, about the time we came down for breakfast at 7 a.m., they were arriving.  As soon as she saw us, we both received hugs and warm greetings.  She was beautiful with her dark skin, her braided black hair, her missing front teeth, and wearing the clothes and shoes she had purchased with the money we sent for her birthday.  We sat down to eat and get to know her.  She gifted us with a tablecloth made from textiles her father sales.  It was an extremely kind gesture that we were not expecting.  She and Jeff bonded over their love of ice cream.   She wanted to know about Gracie and Forrest.
Our translator, Ms. Sonia, planned on us walking around Antigua, taking a horse drawn carriage ride, and eating at McDonald’s, which Keyla and her grandmother had never been to.  After breakfast, we set out towards Central Park, the main park/square in Antigua.  Within just a few feet of our hotel, Keyla grabbed my hand, as well as my heart.  From that moment on she was a part of us, a part of our family.  For the next four hours we toured Antigua, got ice cream, and she held hands with Jeff or me almost the entire time. Not one of us was uncomfortable; it felt as though she had been with us forever.  It was as normal as walking around holding Gracie or Forrest’s hand.  I truly believe God began to knit our hearts together all those months ago.  He is so very good.

We wanted to give her grandmother a gift and asked our translator what would be appropriate.  She told us we should visit the supermarket and let her pick something out.  Once in the supermarket, we went straight to the kitchen utensil and supply section and she picked out a big pan.  She told us she had wanted something like this for a very long time.  There are four families living together in their house and she does all the cooking.  It was 97 Quetzals…which is about $12 and she could never afford to buy it. During lunch, with tears pouring down her face she said she didn’t have money and couldn’t repay us, but she thanked us so much for loving Keyla.  She told us she never imagined she would get to do all we had done today in her lifetime.  This woman had left her town at 2 a.m. with her granddaughter to ride a chicken bus for 10 hours total to meet complete strangers and was thanking us.  This was one more example this week of people thanking us for what ended up being our blessing.
As we reflect on that day, we are amazed at the love we felt for Keyla and that she seemed to feel for us. Only God could do that.  She is a part of our family.  He puts families together.  When we go home, her picture will go next to Gracie and Forrest’s.  We are already discussing how we can get down here to see her again. Keyla is a very special little girl and she has opened our eyes to how cultural and language barriers can be knocked down with love.  We can’t wait to see her again.

Day Five: Kid's Event in Santa Maria de Jesus

After lunch, we got in the vans and headed up the side of one of the volcanoes to a village that is about 98% Mayan.  Many of the older residents don't speak Spanish!  Steve, our coordinator, explained to us that until about 5 years ago, there wasn't a paved road going to this area so very few people went in or came out.  Iglesia Del Camino has only been working with Pastor Gabriel and his church for about 3 months now and this was the first children's event that they had done with this community.  Pastor Gabriel is currently is seminary and once he completes his studies, he will be the ONLY pastor in the entire area up there who has gone to seminary. 

The people are indigenous to the area and we saw alot more traditional dress.  You could also tell that this area was extremely poor....even more so than the other villages we had visited.  But just the same as the other places, it seemed like a signal went up and we have over 200 kids come to play with us! 

We set up stations in the church and in an outdoor area.  The kids got to color, get little heart sticker tattoos, play soccer, play with beach balls, and make cross bracelets.  They absolutely loved the activities!  Jason shared some words about Jesus and His love for all of them.  He spoke with them about faith and how Jesus died for our sins.  Our prayer is that his words and all of our actions will have a profound effect on their lives at some point....whether we ever see it or not!

We had a hard time saying good-bye....and the hugs from the children made it even more difficult.  As we drove back down the mountain, I began to wonder how in the world do we go back home after this?  I know that we have all been changed in such profound ways and I pray that the changes are permanent. 

For day six, we will be traveling to see the Mayan Ruins in Ixymche and getting a chance to shop at the local Mercado (market).  This will be our final day in Antigua.  Please continue to pray for our team.  This trip has been an experience that we will never forget!

In Him,
The Guatemala Team

Day Five: Completing the House

This post is very picture heavy, so I'll go light on the words! 

The house we built was up a very steep climb.  It was very difficult to imagine going up and down this path every single day.  Many of us had to stop and rest on the way up!

Crystal presented Karla with a few new books that were in Spanish.  These books were kindly donated for us to be able to give out.  Karla and her brothers were very excited: 

Karla gave us (well....she gave Alicia!) a beautiful picture that she had colored:

On the back it read, (and this is loosely translated!) "May God be with you wherever you go.  Thank you for the house for my grandparents". 

Here is Karla modeling her new FCA shirt!  The Crusaders are now being represented in Guatemala :)  She loved her new clothes and it was so precious to see her react to them just as any other child would do.  She immediately wanted to try them on and show them off:

Before long, the walls were going up and the roof was being framed up: 

Karla let Alicia fix her hair for her....you could tell that she loved getting pampered a little bit: 

Then, her mother came over and Alison showed her how to french braid her daughter's hair.  Her mother was so excited to learn how to do this: 

Karla's mom was thrilled with learning something new and she was a VERY fast learner!

Karla's first french braid :)

And then it was back to the real work!  The ceiling panels were framed up, insulated, and covered with siding.  These panels also included two sky lights that let in a ton of natural lighting: 

The panels were secured into place and that completed the main structure of the home: 

Karla really enjoyed getting to watch the entire process.  She was very interested in what was going on and you coulde tell that she was excited about the new house: 

And as you can see.....we supported each other in many different ways: 

The new home let in alot of natural lighting, which was a stark contrast to the home they were currently living in.  With two skylights and two windows, this home felt so much more light and comfortable.  The family didn't run and lights during the daytime in their home, so they did all of their work right in the doorway so they could see: 

And as you can see, we adhered to all of the strictest of building safety codes:  

How many Baptist woman does it take to attach a siding corner piece?  We had to use some serious teamwork to get these jobs done!

Then, we attached the gutters, flashing, and doors: 

(Beth is serious with a drill now...  If anyone needs and power drilling done, she is the one to call!!)

Sometimes we had to work in some tight spaces, but with alot of determination...we always found a way to get the task finished: 

Karla and her mother presented us with thank you letters and drawings: 

We weren't able to completely finish the house, so our plan was to return the next day and present the family with their new home.  We wanted to buy some needed items for them and pray with them.  As we headed down the mountain, we felt a sense of immense joy and accomplishment.  Throughout the build, our team was able to stay focused on our mission.  Through all of the obstacles that we faced,  we worked together and in the end we were able to give a beautiful family something that they so desperately needed.  With God's help, this mission was made possible.  And because of His grace, this family has a true home. 

In Him,
The Guatemala Team

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Day Four: The House Build

We had been waiting on the house building project with high anticipation for the whole week.  We had no idea what to expect with this task but we knew that it was going to be life-changing, not only for the family we would be building a home for, but also for ourselves.  All we knew about the logistics of the project was that it was going to be high up on the mountain. 

After a VERY steep climb while carrying all of our tools and equipment (and about 3 stops to take a breathing break!) we reached a tin wall with a makeshift metal gate.  Inside of that gate was the Gonzalez family.  A family of grandparents, parents, and three children live in this tiny compound of about 2 sleeping buildings:

The family had running water, but their bathroom is a makeshift shack covered in tarps and cloths.  Inside of the structure is a cement toilet....which was basically a cement circle with a hole in the middle:

The kitchen is just a lean-to off of the back of the house with a table and a flat surface that had ashes on it where we assume the cooking is done: 

We got to meet Karla, the Gonzalez's five-year-old granddaughter who lives with her family in a little shack right behind the grandparent's home: 

Her brothers, Kevin and Estiven, were attending school at the bottom of the hill.  We were able to meet them later in the afternoon after Karla and her mother went down to pick them up. 

 Our first task was to unload all of the materials and organize everything into sections.  The home consisted of two panels on the front, back, and both sides, four roof panels, and one interior wall.  The two boxes that everything was packed in weighed about 700-800 pounds each and were carried up the mountain by about 10 men each.  After having just trekked up the same mountail trail with our tools, we had a hard time imagining how in the world they did that. 

 Everyone quickly found a job to do, whether it was framing up the walls, installing insulation, installing the metal siding, or talking with the family.  Pretty soon, we were working in a pretty good rhythm!

Karla formed a special bond with Alicia.  The play-doh made for a great ice-breaker with this shy little girl and it wasn't long before Alicia had herself a constant shadow for the day!  Karla is such a precious child and she was very interested in all of the work that was being done at her house.  

And we MIGHT have over-worked Clay, one of the Iglesia Del Camino workers!  He's been an invaluable part of our mission this week, providing translator services, a major helping hand, and comic relief :) 

As we worked on this home.....the gravity of what we were doing hit us all.  Mr. Gonzalez is a boot maker and his entire family lives in this tiny area.  The edge of the mountain is a mere 6 feet away from their home.  We realized that without someone helping them in this way, they would never have been able to do this for themselves.  Just being able to give something like this to another is a feeling that is indescribable.  To be able to help provide a home for someone else....to afford them shelter and show them that someone out there cares for them....there are no words that can adequately portray the feelings and emotions.  It is God's love being shown in a tangible way!  And we cannot thank Him enough for allowing us to be a part of this.  When you feel so small and feel as if you can't make any sort of impact in the life of another....well, just watching the little face of Karla as she saw this new home being erected for her family dispels any of those feelings.  This morning, Suzanne's Bible verse was Philipians 4:13:  "I can do ALL things through Christ who strengthens me".  and that is the TRUTH!!  We can and HAVE done all things this week....and it's all been through the strength of Christ.  We've seen that truth over and over again in the past few days and we thank God for showing us! 

Thank you all for your prayers this week.  Please continue to pray for us tomorrow as we travel to see the Aztec Ruins and then hike back up the mountain to pray with Gonzalez family and bless their home.  I pray that we can touch their hearts in a way that will show them the love of Christ.  Tomorrow will be our last day in Antigua, so please also pray for our travels home. 

We will post more on the completion of the home and on our trip to an indigenous village on the side of the volcano!  God is doing some amazing things in this country :)

In Him,
The Guatemala Team