Friday, May 22, 2015

Emotionally, from the beginning to the end!

I can't believe that today is already Friday! The week is over and we only have 8 hours before we have to be ready to leave the house, crazy! I knew from the beginning that today was going to be a roller coaster  ride, with it being our last day here. First, we had devotions lead by Carlos. He talked about having God in our lives everyday and how God works through us. We then had the choice to go to the coffee roasting place or the Mayan Runis. I chose to go to the Mayan Runis. We went with Sandra and Carlos, they taught us a lot about the different things that I didn't know about the Mayans. One interesting thing was that there were people having fires for sacrifices. It was really cool to see how other people worship. We came back and had lunch made by the wonderful Ginny. She has made lots of wonderful food for us all week, she is such a blessing. After lunch, we had faith lessons here at the house. It was not that many kids, but had such a wonderful time with all of them. All week being able to share the word of Christ with kids and explain it in a way that they could relate was such an amazing thing for me.  I can't speak much Spanish, so the fact that I could relate to them in other ways that I didn't know at first, was so amazing. I was able to interact with them though hand motions and using the very little Spanish I know. After we had faith lessons, we had to say good bye to the Guatemalan Missionaries. It was so hard to say good bye to them because I feel that I know them better than someone that I have know for years. I started crying at one point because they are such an amazing group of people that love God so much. They also know so much about God and the Bible that it blows me away. After saying bye, we had the surprise of having pizza for dinner. At dinner we were talking about the week and how it has changed our lives. I really didn't even know why I chose to go on this trip at first, all I knew is that God was calling me to go. I know now that dthere are several reasons that I came on this trip. One was that to see a different experience of life that I have never known and that I know will change my life forever. I now don't want to leave and wish I could stay here and be with the kids forever, but I know that this is not possible. I know though that I will be putting more effort into changing some habits when I return back to the states. One of them being, to read my Bible more. Being in the word is something that I can't get enough of and would love to do that more. I know that most of us are excited, but sad to be going home, but are excited to reunite with our loved ones. Many of us said that we will just stay up since we have to be up and ready at 3:15 a.m.  Can't wait to see everyone tomorrow (or later today).


Thursday, May 21, 2015

Wait... So is there Snow at the Top of a Volcano?

Yep, you read that right. That was a question someone asked at dinner tonight. That just might show you how tired we are and how much fun we are having this week. In my opinion, the trip has been life changing and fantastic, and today was no different.

We started today off with breakfast 'just the way you like it' and with a devotion by Aracely. She brought up some Bible verses such as Isaiah 41:10 that talked about not having fear. Her message was that we should not have any fear because God has our backs. It was very comforting to hear.

After the devotion, we went to Gonzalez Park. It took us about an hour to get there with traffic. I was surprised to see that the place we were going to have our faith lessons was somewhat small for the amount of people we had to fit in it. We also had toilets that flushed, which was fun! After we arrived, we went on house visits. I went with Melissa V. to visit her sponsor child's home. The house was very interesting. The walls were made up of cement, and it had two rooms. The ceiling was made of tin roofs. The first thing I noticed when I walked into the house was that there were many pictures of Jesus and there were many prayers on the walls. It really cool to see. We talked with the mother for about an hour, and we prayed for her. It was so amazing to see her faith because she fully trusts in God, and one can tell that she has a huge heart for people.

After lunch, we started the faith lessons. I worked with the youth during the week. When they started arriving, I started to talk to one girl who was in school. She was learning English, and it was pretty cool to help her pronounce some words like 'secretary' or 'officer.' I also enjoyed it because she would ask me about the colors in Spanish, and I would give her the English word. It was a pretty cool experience because I was able to talk to her in Spanish, and we were both able to help each other pronounce words.

During the faith lesson, we played a fun ice breaker, and then we read the Bible story about Barnabas encouraging the Christians (Acts 11:19-26). We had discussion questions for the youth, and we related the game we played to encouraging others. We finished each lesson with an activity. The youth would get a piece of paper, and they would draw their prayers requests instead of writing them out. For instance, many teens drew pictures of their family, school, a house, etc. They really seemed to enjoy the activity. After they finished drawing, they talked to a partner about their requests, and each person prayed for their partner. It was really sweet!

When we left Gonzalez Park, we went to another 'Punto de Misterioso,' and it was really cool to see! I don't want to spoil it for future travelers, but all I can say is that it was beautiful to see. After that, we went back to the house and enjoyed some dinner cooked by Ginny.

Also random fact, I learned how to plunge a toilet this evening. Woo hoo!

I wanted to finish the night with three random facts I have observed in Guatemala that I think an American would find interesting:

1. When I first arrived, I immediately noticed that gas prices were 24.89! The thing is that Guatemala currency is in Quetzals, and it takes about 7.5 Q's to make 1 US Dollar. So gas is really around 3 dollars per gallon.

2. Even though the election for president is not until next year, almost every single sign on the highway is some political campaign. Guatemala does not have two main political parties like we do, but they have multiple ones. I've seen at least six or seven canidates running for the next election.

3. Even though some of the people here do not have the same luxuries that we do in America (ex. running water and electricity in their homes), they have such a faith that I cannot describe. The people here experience God in a more emotional way, and they run to him because they are not distracted by things like technology, school, or the latest gossip. Instead, they are filled with God's true love and anyone can see how much they trust in God. It's so inspiring!

God's Blessing to all who read this!

Melissa Dailey

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Beautiful Buena Vista!

Hola friends!!
Today we began very bright and very early with a continental-style breakfast that lasted from six to six-thirty. At seven, the team embarked on a two-hour journey through beautiful Guatemalan countryside towards Buena Vista, which is located in a very rural área near the Pacific Ocean. I think the first thing we noticed after exiting the vans was the intense heat and humidity of the day, even at nine o' clock in the morning!

While our Guatemalan friends began the faith lessons for adults, Kevin took us Gringos to a school in Buena Vista. The school was rather small, but the children were really sweet. Then, we piled back into the van and drove through sugar cane fields to a village called Xaya (pronounced Shiyah). Only two other teams have had an opportunity to visit this village! There, we saw another school, which was larger and had plenty of children playing soccer/basketball on a court. Not surprisingly, Andrew jumped into the game right away, while the rest of us saw the classrooms and introduced ourselves to some of the children.

We then went on two house visits! The first was at the home of a very beautiful woman named Anna Maria (whom I especially loved because my momma's name is Ann Marie), and the second was at the home of a lady named Hilda. Both women were very sweet, and invited us into their homes to pray. I must also take this time to say that it's very inspiring to go on house visits with people like Oscar and Odie, because their faith and love for Christ and for others is so inspiring. It's also amazing to see all of the growth (or "Guatemala Growth," as we call it) that is happening within the team as we minister to others and step out of our comfort zones.

After house visits, we needed to head back to Buena Vista to teach faith lessons to the children. BUT FIRST! Oscar led us to a long, old bridge that was suspended high over a river. Almost all of us braved the tight-rope like bridge, though Kevin often tested us by jumping on the bridge while we crossed. It was great to go on our mini-adventure, and the fun successfully distracted us from the heat.

Once we arrived back in Buena Vista, we ate our sándwiches, refilled our wáter bottles, and began preparing for faith lessons. There were around ninety children today. The kids were slightly less energetic than yesterday, but every bit as adorable! Like Tuesday, we sang, taught our memory verse (Hebrews 3:13), performed our skit, and ended with a craft. The kids are the highlight of my day, because while we may feel tired, sick, or overheated, the smiles on their faces and the excitement in their eyes are all we really need to reenergize. There is something truly incredible about getting the chance to love these kids and feel their love in return.

After faith lessons, we loaded up the vans and began the beautiful drive back to our home. BUT FIRST! We took yet another surprise detour to the "'Pointe de Mysterioso!" I'm not actually sure if I'm allowed to reveal what happens at the Point of Mystery, but let me just say that it definitely tested my understanding of gravity, and reinforced Kevin's teaching that "everything is not what it seems." I also had the opportunity to learn some Spanish with Carlos while he practiced his English. Hopefully by next year, I'll have a better grasp on this beautiful language, and be able to talk with my missionary friends and the children!

Back at home, Ginny had prepared an awesome burrito-bar, and set up the store! The store is full of beautiful, handcrafted purses, blankets, Bible covers, toys, and many other things. I'm sure all of us will have a tough time deciding how much we can take home without going bank-rupt.
I think we're all pretty exhausted, but today was absolutely wonderful. Overall, I love the beauty of Guatemala, the wonderful, loving people we've bonded with, and being able to witness all the ways God is working in others and in myself. He is so gracious and faithful to us, and here in Guatemala, His glory and love is so clear to me.

I want to leave you with Psalm 105:1-4, which says, "Oh give thanks to the Lord; call upon His name; make known His deeds among the peoples! Sing to him, sing praises to Him; tell of all His wondrous Works! Glory in His holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice! Seek the Lord and His strength; seek His presence continually!"
As we say here in Guatemala,
Dios le Bendiga!
Zara Kasey

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Faith Lessons and House VIsits

The team is completely tired out tonight because we had our first day of teaching faith lessons. We travelled about 45 minutes to El Rincón, a village at the base of two volcanoes. The mountainous view was truly beautiful! Before the families arrived, though, we did some house visits. The majority of places we visited were the homes of children that our team members are going to sponsor. We were split into groups, and my group visitted the house of, Jose, one of the kids Andy has been sponsoring for a while. While Jose was at school, Andy did get to meet his mom, sister, and niece.  We had some great conversation and read the Bible with them. The rest of the sponsor children were at school as well, but they were all able to meet them later at the faith lessons.
Returning to the central spot, we had a little over an hour for our gourmet lunch of PB&]. Then people started streaming in. Adults met in the main space where Ana and Julian also had a medical clinic. Children were across the road, and the youth (about 12-18) were at a covered end of the building. Most of our group worked with the children, but Andy, Melissa D., and I stayed with the youth. The Bible story for both the youth and the children is Acts 11:19-26: Barnabas encouraging Christians in Antioch. We started with a fun activity where people were gradually eliminated. This led into a discussion about what it felt like to  be left out. They were reluctant to talk, but Cesar was great with them! They were asked to think of someone in their own lives that supports and encourages them, and then they brainstormed with a partner ways that they can encourage others. We had written questions out beforehand, and I was able to ask them directly, without someone translating. I enjoyed using my Spanish and felt like a real teacher, especially when Sandra, one of the Guatemalan missionaries gave me a reassuring smile and thumbs up! We reminded them that a great way of encouragement is to pray with others, and that God always hears our prayers. Then they used their artistic skills to draw their prayers, and share those prayer requests with a partner. Even though they talked to their friends more than they discussed the material, it was obvious that some of them enjoyed the activities and truly prayed for their partner.
From what I've heard the children's lesson went equally well. These kids were so enthusiastic and swarmed around us "gringos" (White people).
The ride home was just as fun as we continued getting to know the Guatemalan missionaries. We compared musical preferences and what movies we had seen. The times that are the most fun are when trying to figure out translations. It took us several minutes to figure out that Carlos was trying to talk about a quarter-pounder, and even longer to explain what 'powder' means. Sometimes my attempts at Spanish also bring lots of laughter! Dinner and a shower were wonderful after the busy, sweaty day, and we'll be heading to bed early because tomorrow we leave the house at 7 am!
All of us have stories we look forward to sharing with our friends and families! Thanks for following our activites and praying for us! God bless!

Monday, May 18, 2015

Monday Fun Day!

Hola Family & Friends!
Today was full of many eye opening and beautiful moments that we were able to share with the families and missionaries here in Guatemala! 
We were able to do so much today from meeting the wonderful members of Groundwork Guatemala that live here, visiting another missionary team dedicated to helping young men who have been homeless and at a disadvantage for being involved in the tough streets of the town, visiting downtown and then being able to visit families in their homes sharing the word of the Lord and their blessings/struggles.
It is a true joy to be able to meet individuals such as the young men that we were able to speak with today and learn where they came from and how much they have grown into the men they are today. Completely turning their lives around some of these boys come from abusive households, gangs, disadvantaged families and little to no support system. Being able to hear their happiness being apart of the missionary continuing their schooling and lives devoted to learning more about what they can in return do to change the lives around them and help others find God as well. Something special that I remember George saying today was, "The blind lead the blind." This is important in remembering that not everyone is fortunate enough in being able to live blessed lives as many of us do in the US. Having been able to be live in such fortunate living conditions we can tend to be blind to what is really important and we teach others to follow those thoughts. When we are able to learn what is important and what we need to value in our lives as I have here so far my second day in Guatemala, we can open the eyes of others and begin to share the knowledge, experiences and love that others can be lacking.
Remembering that God is always with us and that he has the power to change things we are able to begin to show that love through our emotions, actions, attitudes and our everyday habits.
With this I want to share with you all one of my favorite verses, "

                                                                    1 Corinthians 13:2-3
If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Going to our home visits today was also one of the many experiences that I hope we will all keep with us when we leave this trip. Seeing the love that the families had for one another, their devotated faith in God through their stuggles and the desire to keep learning more about their faith and education was such an inspiration and encouragement in moving forward with our misión and our own relationships with God. The living situations of these families were just as you could imagine and the support that we can bring to them only brings more light and joy to the little that they have. I am sure that today gave everyone who is experiencing Guatemala for the first time a new look on life and the the strong faith that God's people can have when they have very little. The imporantance of family was something I hope we all take away from today as well and that we learned to encourage one another everyday, thank our guardians for what they do, appreciate our blessings and learn on how we can continue to spread the word, teach and love all.

Melissa Villarreal
[Jeremiah 29:11

For I know the plans I have for you, "Declares the Lord," plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Coming from Honduras to Guatemala, from one misión to another is an interesting experience. I love what Groundwork Guatemala does, how they spread Christ's Love to all those they come into contact with. It is much different than the misión work that I do in Honduras, but it is almost easier to see the work of Christ here than as a teacher. Hearing, seeing, and being the hands and feet of  Christ is always a life changing experience. Even after spending the last 5 months as a missionary spreading the Gospel, no matter how or where, is something that we as Christians are forever called to do. My short two days with the group has been a relaxing change from my daily life in Honduras, and as always, I have seen God work miracles through the team here, as well as the Guatemalan Missionaries. Although I go back tomorrow to my own mission with a heavy heart, saying goodbye to old friends, I am returning to a calling that God has placed on my heart, the same calling that He used to sent the team here, and the same calling that He uses in all of our lives to further His Kingdom.

"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."  Romans 8:28
Brian Muldowney

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Take Me to Church

Buenos Dias!

...were the words we were greeted with as we started the day off with church. After a wonderful breakfast with Ginny, Kevin and the team, we were driven to the Guatemalan church that some of the missionaries here attend. We were greeted with open arms, literally people were hugging us, coming up to us and speaking with us. It is so nice to see that the people here were so comfortable (even though some of the team may not have been) and welcoming to us.

The church service was an experience. The service was long and seemingly out of order. But that is not what we all took away from it. This church service was one of the most incredible experiences I have ever had. The service included singing songs, praying, and listening to the message. Actually, singing is an understatement. The people were doing everything from singing, clapping, dancing, and smiling to crying, hugging and shaking. I was completely in awe because the faith of these people is just that, it is awesome. It is nothing less than complete and wholehearted love for God. The people worshiped with every part of their being. I think I am speaking for everyone when I say that the people, the church and the ministry is amazing and I am so excited to be here and to have this opportunity.

The sermon that was spoken was based off of Psalm 119:33-36, which states

"Teach me, O Lord, the way of your statutes; and I will keep it to the end. Give me understanding, that I may keep your law and observe it with my whole heart. Lead me in the path of your commandments, for I delight in it. Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain."

The leader of this message made it clear the verbs used are all action words; they are a parallel for God. God is not static, He is not still. God is in action, working through us. What an applicable message for us all this week as we work and serve the people of Guatemala. I look forward to seeing God and the team in action this week.

Sonja Sorensen

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Welcome to Guatemala!

Greetings family and friends!
We have arrived! The 2015 Concordia University Chicago Guatemala Mission trip is officially under way.
Travel day is always exciting. Our team met this afternoon at Concordia to pack donations, check paperwork, weigh luggage, count heads, and be sent on our way by Pastor Jeff and President Gard. The energy at this time is always contagious. Nine people ready to leave, ready to visit a new world, ready to see what the Lord has in store for them, ready to serve.
Sometimes when I lead groups of students on trips, I tell people it's a bit like herding cats, because it's hard to keep track of everyone. It's not the case with this team this year! Our whole trip was smooth and we kept together without any issues.
Spending days counting people does make one feel a bit like a cat herder at times still. Nine people in the van. Nine people checked-in. Nine people through security. Nine people on the plane/off the plane/on a new plane/off the new plane. Nine people through Passport control and customs declarations.

Nine people safe and sound in Guatemala.

Kevin, Ginny, Manuel and our friend Brian met us outside the Guatemala City airport and brought us back to the Groundwork Mission house. It is such a joy to see your friends. In a way, being here and seeing them is like coming home to see your family. Nine people whos' family is about to get a whole lot bigger.

Everyone received two essential rules for the week to get them through the night; don't flush the toilet paper, and don't drink the tap wáter or use it to brush your teeth.

With that we look forward to an exciting day tomorrow starting off with church. Please pray for us this week as we share Christ with our brothers and sisters in Guatemala, and are blessed in return with the gifts of love Christ has given to them!

In Christ's Name,

Buenas noches!

~Deaconess Betsy Karkan