Friday, May 31, 2013

Our Last Day in Guatemala

Que es el amor? Que sabes?
(What is love? Do you know?)

We certainly learned about love today and this entire week in Guatemala. This morning after breakfast, two of our kind Guatemalan missionaries took our group to Kaminaljuyu archeological park. We spent a few hours looking at remains from Mayan ruins and running around. We must have taken 500 pictures in those few hours. It was great to get out of the house and have some free time to run around!
After we got back from the park and had lunch, we spent another day with the Guatemalan families, but this time families from Guatemala City came to us at the mission. We performed various children’s songs in Spanish then acted out a skit demonstrating love from one human to another and Christ’s ultimate act of love. Tito, Dominique, Alanah and Rachel worked with the younger children singing songs, giving a faith lesson and doing arts and crafts. Cesar, Karen and I spent time with the teenagers discussing our definition of love and how we can show God’s intention of love in all of our relationships.
            At the adult service, Manuel was asked to pray for Carlota, a sick woman who is close to meeting our Heavenly Father. So we visited La Libertad so we could pray at her bedside. It was a very special moment for the team as we prayed for her and her family, we witnessed her children shared their own special words with their mother. It was a very moving experience centralizing our focus on God’s Grace.
            As our day came to an end, we spent time with Kevin and Ginny reliving our favorite memories from this week and reflecting on everything we have learned about ourselves and our faith. It has been a truly wonderful week and we are all so blessed to have your support and prayers. It is a bittersweet feeling saying goodbye to Guatemala but we are all happy to come home to our families tomorrow! To our friends and family in the States: we’ll be seeing you soon. To our brothers and sisters in Christ in Guatemala: Muchas Gracias y Dios te bendiga.


Thursday, May 30, 2013

Spreading God's Love in Amatitlan Part Two: Gonzalez Park

Today we once again travled to Amatitlan, but this time we drove to the city and stopped at Gonzalez Park! We woke up at 7 as usual and after breakfast Cesar had devotions, today talking about God's love for all. After studying's God's Word we took a 45 minute drive and arrived at Gonzalez Park where the group split into threes to go on house visits. Brian's group, led by Manuel, visted two houses, one of which contained a wife with two children. Her husband wasn't true to her, and frequentally took other women, and sadly waqs also a drunkard. Manuel, Brian, and Rachel shared passages from 1 Peter, Pslams, Matthew and Revelation, all explaining God's power over the devil and His undending Grace and love. Alannah and the rest of the group then prayed for her and her family, that God may bless them, dismiss their problems, and bring the father to the faith. Michael's team (Tito, Sandra, and Deaky Beaky), had two visits. First too a family with four childern, containing a set of twins. However, one of the twins did not get enoughb oxygen during birth so he was mentaly handycapped. We shared versus from God's book and Michael shared our story and said God let him live for a purpose just like he let us. The second visit was for an abuela with Parkinson's disease. She asked if she was going to get better, we had to tell her no that it wouldn't and we paryed for healing and for her family.
After the visits the team ate and then started setting up for VBS, adult, and voung persons teaching. The kids were wonderful, and certainly loved the team's singing and yelled at the top of their lungs. The skit was equally a hit and the kids took the message very seriously! God was truly smiling on the CUC team today!
Sadly, Michael and I didn't get to participate in the youth and children's messages today because we were helping in the clinic. I transalated for Michael, (something thats extremely nerve racking and stressful). The first few patients had either back pain, gastritous (acid reflux) problems, or bacteral infections. Some also had joint pain from arthritous, and a baby even had a fungal infection that caused iching. When the last two patients were left Michael and I thought it would be smooth sailing, but God had other plans. One girl who was four years old had a abscess of the targus (little piece of cartilage of the ear) which was under the skin and had to be drained. This was extremely stressful for Michael as he didnt have a scapel to drain it and hard to use a pocket knife and blood glucose finger pokers to sucessfuly drain it, all the while the nina was wraithing in pain :(, we gave her antibiotics to make sure she would be ok and a sucker :). Also, the last paitent was a one year old child who somehow got a tiny pebble embedded in his lip. At first pressure didnt work and neither did tweazers, however after a while we finally got the pebble unlodged and everything went great from there. Evertime I thought I was useless or un-needed, God would step in and Sandra or Michael would need me to translate something to one another, or hold the little girls leg while they were operating on the abscess. I know God was smiling on the CUC team today fro mthe stroeis I was told on how successful the VBS and youth probrgams were, as well as our experiences in the clinic. God truely used both of our talents today to His Favor and Glory, using use to heal His children to the best of our abilities, hodge-podge medical procedures and imperfect Spanish and all. Todos el gloria a dios.
-Brian and Michael-

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Spreading God's Love to Buena Vista

Today we had a 6 am wake up call for breakfast. We had to be up before 6 in order to leave at 7 for Buena Vista. Buena Vista is two hours away from where we are staying in Guatemala City. The drive was fun and we played games during the long journey. I sat in the back of the van where Betsy ended up getting invloved in a tickle war between Cesar and Sandra. Once we arrived in Buena Vista, we set up for the worship service in the morning. We set up stools and the microphone for the worship. The medical tent was set up and we got called up to introduce ourselves to the people. I was a little nervous, but when I went down the walkway, you could feel the love in the room.
After the service ended, some of us went on house visits. These visits consist of us going and asking a family what we can pray for them. The first house asked us to pray for her daughter that had a cankersore in her mouth. Then we walked to Rudy's family house. These visit stuck out to me because I read from Deuteronomy 31:6 which, explained how God will always be with us and will never leave or forsake us. I wanted his mom to know that no matter what worries she had for her son ,God will always be there. We prayed that God will help to heal Rudy and his stomach problems and that these familes will both be in our prayers. After the house visits, Kevin took us to a bridge that was built on top of discarded railroad tracks. It was great getting to look and be surrounded by God's creation.
The faith lessons went well. The kids loved the skit and the message it pointed out. The lesson was amazing because you could see God's love working through all of us. The love and smiles that I was given made me feel great because even though I don't understand Spanish,love sees no language barriers. I loved helping out with the snack and being able to tell the kids thank you in Spanish. I really didn't want to leave Buena Vista and I will remeber everyone that we met. My prayers will be with all of the familes when we leave Guatemala. I loved the two hour trip there and back. These experience will always stay with me and it taught me to just be more open.


Tuesday, May 28, 2013

God's Children in El Rincon

Today began with excitement but also a slight amount of aprehension because all of the planning we had done for our faith lessons and the practicing we had done for our skit. But any initial anxiety vanished at the sight of all the smiling children. Before we began our routine, there was ample time to play and laugh with the children, which is something I think we had all been looking forward to, and it did not disappoint. It was a completely unstructured moment, but it fostered so much joy for our team and the kids alike. What impressed me the most was seeing every member of the team interacting with the children. Even our members who were not confident in their Spanish-speaking abilities were sharing smiles and laughs with the kids. What that showed me is that God has given us the gifts of fun, and above all else love, which are both actions that trancend the language barrier. Interestingly enough, our theme this week is love. Our lesson aims to explain what love is and how true love is offered only from above. Our skit was well recieved with smiles laughs and applause. The songs we sang were loud and heartfelt, and our crafts and activities were enjoyed by all.
Because of God's love, today was a success.

We send God's blessings from Guatemala and thank everyone from home who supports our mission with their prayers and actions!

-Tito (Ted)

Monday, May 27, 2013

Monday's Blessings

Hola from Guatemala City, Guatemala!  What a fantastic day it's been!  We started the day bright and early by gathering at 7:00 AM for a delicious breakfast of pancakes and fresh fruit. We had devotions at 8:00, which were lead by Julian and translated by Oscar.  Julian spoke about forgiveness, and reminded us how important it is to forgive those who sin against us.  Of course Christ displayed the ultimate act of forgiveness by dying on the cross for us, and as redeemed children of God, we are called to forgive others. 

Immediately following devotions, we departed from the house and went to meet George Leger, who has a ministry called Only a Child.  He mentors and supports young men and helps them to succeed by reminding them how important and loved they are, and making sure they stay focused in their studies.  He felt called to come to Guatemala around 20 years ago to start this ministry, and has been leading it ever since.  He introduced the young men there today, and told us a little about each of them.  Most of them didn't have a positive and supportive father figure before coming to Only a Child, and once they got there, they really turned their lives around for the better.  I had goosebumps when he was saying all that they were accomplishing and what they were becoming.  George provides them with the opportunity to make wooden boxes in the wood shop, and these boxes are amazing!  We got to watch one of the young men make one, which was really neat. 

After the wood shop, we went to the cemetery and dump in Guatemala City.  The dump is a pretty large area in Guatemala City, and to get there, we walked through a cemetery.  The path was beaten and we had to watch out for broken glass, odd footing, and the multiple set of different steps.  Kevin lead the way, and once we got to the area which overlooked the dump, he told us a lot of different facts about it.  Many people living in Guatemala City have economic ties to the dump, even if they themselves don't actually live there.  Kevin reminded us that what people throw away, such as a doll with one arm missing or a glass bottle with a few sips left, are treasures for people in the dump.  Oh, how much I take for granted!  What an eye-opener, and such a reminder to pray for those who really have nothing.

After we went to the dump, we came back for lunch- we had an authentic Guatemalan meal.  Homemade guacamole, beans, rice, and tortillas.  The Guatemalan missionaries had lunch with us at the house, and we had great conversations with them.  It has been a blessing getting to know them!  After some down time after lunch, we left mid-afternoon to go on house visits.  We talked to a mother of elementary school aged children, and also her niece and mother.  The boys had some medical problems, and she said that even though she needed to work, she wanted to wait until her boys were well enough.  They all told us their favorite Bible passage and what it meant to them, and we also shared some verses with them.  After we prayed for them, we visted another home.  One of the things that touched my heart was when a mom was telling us through tears how overjoyed and thankful she was that her daughter is doing so well in school.  She is almost done with high school, and wants to study to become a doctor.   We prayed for her, as well as for her daughter, and for another mom and daughter who were there.  We said goodbye, thanked them for allowing us to come into their home to talk and pray with them, and then left to come back to the house for dinner.

We had a relaxing evening, and are ready for the day tomorrow.  We feel so blessed to be here, and we're thankful for your prayers and support.  May God bless you!

God's peace,

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Vamos a Iglesia!!

El Dia Numero Dos en Guatemala...Que Bueno!!
(Day Two in Gautemala, how great!!)

Our day was welcomed with our first morning waking up in our Guatemala home!  We all ate breakfast together preparing to visit Manuel and his family's (the other family that lives in the other part of the house) church, for what would turn out to be one of the most Beautiful contemporary services rooted in Christ's love that we could only have imagined.  It was incredibly touching time to experience the Guatemalan culture and the love and the "Amens!" of God's people in his church...from the outpour of excitement during our "Hi-Lows" during dinner, each of us seemed to have a most wonderful take-away from service that touched on Matthew 25:14-30...the elder (The Elders preach more than the Pastors here) mentioned that we all have different talents that help bring unity and functionality to the church body...that "Tu responsibilidad es delante del Dios"...our responsibility is before Christ Jesus our Savior who so willingly gives us his gift of GRACE & LOVE.

This relaxing Sunday together ended with us spending time in a local park with Manuel and his kids  playing soccer in the pouring rain of Guatemala's VERY rainy season that we've just embarked was AWESOME!!!  We returned home soaked with joy in time for a sweet pasta dinner and a debriefing on the cool things to come in our day tomorrow when we first get to meet the Guatemalan interns and the poeple we will be serving and praying for through the week.  Amongst rehearsing our Faith lessons (for both kids & adults) and goofing off getting to know each other more closely, we are still learning that M&M's and our fave junk food are not readily available and more about the precious resource called WATER that we so conveniently take for granted...but this culture all in time!!

Mucho Amor,

Saturday, May 25, 2013

And so it begins!

Hello all! We arrived safely in Guatemala at about 5 o'clock this evening after a full day of travel. We started out this morning at 6:15 and headed for O'Hare. Our first flight of the day was to Panama City. It was my first flight ever! Flying was such a neat experience, and it was really cool that my first flight and first time out of the country occurred together. Double excitement! We flew over the gulf, and when we came down out of the clouds, we saw the city. There were a lot of big skyscrapers, and it looked a lot like any metropolis in America from the sky (aside from the very different landscape, of course). We got to see the Panama canal, too. My seatmates and I were talking about how awesome it was to see this waterway we had learned about back in elementary school in real life. We had a short layover in Panama before getting on another plane to take us to Guatemala. The flight to Guatemala was much shorter. When we landed in Guatemala City, it was quite different from landing in Panama. This city looked much less like an American metropolis.  We were met at the airport by Ginny, Kevin, and Manuel, who helped us load our bags and ourselves into a truck and a van to drive to the house.

The drive to the Groundwork Guatemala house was quite an experience. I just kept thinking, "It's like being in another country." It hadn't yet sunk in that I was actually not in America.  My brain is still trying to process everything I saw, and I'm rather tired, so it's hard to explain just how different and new everything was.  There were brightly colored buses and billboards, and huge amounts of cars and people. One thing that's sticking out in my mind right now from the drive is seeing the stop signs. I didn't know that other nations used the red octagon like we do in America. Kind of silly to notice, but I thought it was neat.

Once we got to the house, we got a tour of the house (which is really neato--we can see volcanoes from the roof!), ate some taco soup and nachos, and sat around the dining room table talking. We did a short devotion and played a game, and now we're all getting ready for bed--something I'm extremely excited for!

I'm so thankful that God has given me the opportunity to go on this trip. It's great to be here with my brothers and sisters, serving God and serving our neighbors. I feel truly blessed that God is working through us to provide for his people in Guatemala, and that he's working through his people here in Guatemala to provide for us, too. I can't wait to see what's in store for the rest of the week. But it's been a busy day; and a tiring day, at that! Travel sure does take a lot out of you. And I'm still recovering from the excitement of my first plane rides and the first stamp in my passport.  I think if I don't go to bed right away, I will simply fall asleep right here at the computer! So blessings on the rest of this week, and thanks for the support!

God's peace,