Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Guatemala Wrap-up

We made it safely to Antigua late yesterday afternoon after stopping to visit Lake Atitlan and taking a boat ride there. We got settled in to our hotel and then went exploring a bit in the evening, enjoying a typical Guatemalan restaurant just off of the central plaza.

Today we'll explore some more of the city before returning to Guatemala City after lunch to visit the Tabitha ministry. After that, it's winding down a bit this evening and getting ready for an early departure tomorrow.

It's been a wonderfully blessed week. I don't think I ever commented on the final day's activity after the trip up to the mountains to distribute food on Tuesday. On Wednesday, we split up into 4 or 5 teams (can't remember which right now) and were joined by Mary Wood [former children's minister at our church now serving as a volunteer in Guatemala with her husband Joe] as we delivered bags of food to needy folks in the neighborhood of the church. Several decisions for Christ were made among those who received the food. That afternoon, we went to an institute with young people between the ages of 12-18. We again split up into multiple teams to share the gospel with the students. I translated for Jeff who did an outstanding job of presenting his testimony and the gospel. Again, many indicated by their responses that they had accepted Christ.

That evening, we met at the church for a farewell gathering and were blessed by their words of appreciation and some souvenirs that they gave us to remember them by.  The youth did a skit in which they recounted the areas in which our team had ministered there during the week.  Lots of hugs and tears as we said farewells to some folks we had learned to love in the space of a few days.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Tuesday in Guatemala

Tuesday was an exciting day for the team.  After spending some additional time on Monday weighing more rice and beans in 5 lb. bags and packing those up along with sugar, flour, and powdered milk, we headed out Tuesday morning for a village named Tierra Colorada on the side of a mountain southwest of Quetzaltenango.  We had been forewarned that we might have to hike a good bit of the way as the road was steep and winding.  Fortunately, the van was able to make it all the way to the top.  We were grateful as we probably climbed between 800 and 1000 feet higher than the 7500 feet altitude or so that Quetzaltenango is situated at.  Our first activity there was speaking to the kids in a community school.  There were very well-behaved and paid close attention to the Bible stories and the presentation of the gospel. 

After concluding the presentations in each class, we were invited for a typical lunch (chicken and rice) with some tamales as well at the home of the president of the parents' association.  It was a few hundred yards down the mountainside to the home and the hike back up after lunch was breathtaking--literally.  We were all pretty winded from the thin air by the time we got back up to the school. 

There, we waited as the mothers of the children gathered to receive the bags of food that had been taken up the mountain in a truck (which gratefully also successfully climbed all the way to the village).  Jeff Arnold, our youth minister shared a testimony followed by a testimony from Martha Wakely.  Martha is bilingual so I didn't have to translate for her.  Then Josh Stowe, pastor of Wyatt Park Baptist, shared the gospel utilizing the story of Jesus' encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well.  Afterwards, the pastor of the Judah Baptist Church (our host church for the week) shared an invitation and several of the women responded.

We learned afterwards when we visited a neighboring church a few miles from this village that earlier evangelical groups that had attempted to share the gospel in Tierra Colorada had been run out of the village with stones.  The principal of the school is a believer and is trying to share the love of Christ with the families who attend there.  She was present on Sunday morning for the worship service at the Judah Baptist Church and returned on Wednesday night for the farewell service to express thanks for the inroads that the gifts of the food bags had made in the community.

We wrapped up Tuesday evening with the final night of leadership training at the Judah Church with representatives from three different churches present. I don't think anyone stayed up too late that evening after we got back to the hotel and had dinner.  It was an exhausting but fulfilling day.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Guatemala Reports

I failed to do any further posting about out recent Guatemala trip while there, though I did manage to send a few brief email updates to the church during the course of the week.  I thought that I'd post those in the next couple of days to give some insight into some of the things we did.

Here's a report I sent on Monday the 14th:

We've had another good day with a few changes of plans. We were going to distribute bags of food in the area of the church this morning but did a quick change of plans when we learned that the school we were planning on visiting on Wednesday was going to have teacher training sessions that day rather than classes. We went and had a great time with about 400 kids (I think) in all. Afterwards, it was lunch time at church, followed by VBS, packing more bags of food for the families tomorrow, and then training tonight.

It turns out that we're delivering almost 200 bags of food at one time rather than individually tomorrow. I had been wondering how we were going to manage time-wise to deliver that many bags. It's a village in the mountains where we're going. Carol has warned us we'll probably have to hike the last part of the way up there. The other warning she gave us was that there are no bathroom facilities there and we're going to be there for a good part of the day. We'll be speaking in a smaller school there in the morning with about 250 kids, and then after a lunch of sandwiches that the church is preparing, we'll be sharing testimonies and a message with about 200 Mayan families who live there. Then we'll deliver the food. Because there are so many families, the food (beans and rice at least) were purchased in bulk (100 lb. bags), so we've spent a good deal of time with the help of church members weighing and packaging the food for delivery.

Also got to see Pastor Santiago from San Marcos today. He's the fellow who has taken in so many homeless kids and is teaching them carpentry skills and helping them with an education. He has a new young man with him named Sergio who's 18 whose parents were killed. He has never attended school in his life until now.

Had a good visit this morning with the leaders of the local pastors' association to assure them that Carol's departure from the convention and Roger's return to Nicaragua wouldn't curtail the BGCM's partnership with this area but that we would be working directly with the association rather than the convention.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

A Busy Day

We had a good first day of ministry on the missions trip to Guatemala.  One of the most interesting things about the worship service this morning was having the music and praise time led by a group from the Guatemalan National Police.  They had a drummer, guitarist, keyboard player, and several singers.  When one hears so much about the corruption in the police departments across Latin America, it was very refreshing to see this group lead an impassioned time of worship.  I had the chance to preach to the adults afterwards while other team members taught Sunday School classes for the children.

After lunch which the church provided for us, we weighed and packaged black beans and rice which had been purchased in bulk (100 lb. bags), as well as cooking oil, sugar, and powdered milk.  After doing this with lots of help from the church members, we played a little stick-ball with some of the kids before beginning VBS with about 40 kids in all.  When we finished VBS, we packed 60 backpacks with school supplies that our church members had donated for the children of the church.  We had some extra supplies which we'll be taking to a public school later in the week.

We made a quick trip back to the hotel to refresh for a half hour or so before returning to the church for leadership training.  Our children's minister led a session for children's workers while our youth minister did likewise for youth workers.  Josh Stowe, pastor from Wyatt Park in St. Joseph, led a session for the adults which I translated.  After that it was back to the hotel for a rather late spaghetti dinner.  I think everyone is pretty exhausted after a busy day on the heels of a long travel day yesterday.  Hopefully we'll catch up on some sleep tonight.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Arrived Safely in Quetzaltenango

After a long day of travel (awakened at 4:00 a.m.), we arrived this evening about 9:00 in Quetzaltenango.  Tomorrow morning we will worship with the Judah Baptist Church in the morning, have VBS for their kids in the afternoon, and host a leadership training event in the evening for the area churches here.  I'd give a longer update, but my body is saying it's time to go to sleep.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Guatemala Beckons Again

It seems like I just returned from Guatemala (which I did last month) and now I'm off again this Saturday.  This will be our church's fourth missions trip to the western part of the country.  Our previous trips took us to Cantel, San Marcos and Tejutla, and Totonicapan.  This time we'll be working with the Judah Baptist Church (no h on it in Spanish however) in Quetzaltenango.  That's the same city where we host the leadership training conferences each six months so we'll be staying in the same hotel we do for those trips--the Bella Luna (beautiful moon). 

We had seven from our church slated to go, but one of our ladies wound up in the hospital today with a collapsed lung and won't be able to travel with us.  Two of our number are traveling down early tomorrow (Wednesday) to spend a couple of days training the workers at the Tabitha Ministry near the city dump in Guatemala City.  They will join us at the airport when we fly in on Saturday to make the trip out west to Quetzaltenango.  We're slated to speak in a few public schools, to lead a VBS at the Judah Baptist Church, to spend a day doing outreach and providing fund for hungry families at a mission of the church in the mountains, and to offer leadership training classes for the local Baptist churches in Quetzaltenango in the evenings. 

We'll be joined by Josh Stowe, pastor of Wyatt Park Baptist in St. Joseph, MO and his wife as well as a third member of their church who is bilingual and will help with the translation duties.  It's always a wonderful blessing to be able to spend a week in Guatemala serving alongside some wonderul folks.