Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Just Another Day at HGCH

I'm sitting here at the coffee house, preparing to return home next week. Many of our regulars are leaving in the next day or two in order to be home for Thanksgiving. It feels peaceful here right now.

At the table next to me, Diana is working on her paperwork for her mission. She has been here a year and a half and comes in often for a medium latte and to chat and catch up on her work.

Next to her is Scott - he is checking his email and missing his grandchildren. He and his wife Linda have been here with their daughter Tracey and her boyfriend Matt for about a month now. They come in most mornings and order waffles, pancakes and an egg sandwich. Scott and Linda are coming back in 6-9 months to do missions work permanently and have been looking at the different possibilities available - of which there are many! This family has become very dear to us. A few weeks ago, Matt proposed to Tracey, and it has been so much fun to be a part of all the wedding plans and ideas!

Another table over Linda is teaching Sierra how to knit. This will be a great thing for Sierra as she needs something to do with her hands to keep herself out of trouble! I wish I had a camera because it would be so cute. Edilma is sitting at the table with them, watching carefully.

Over in the corner Elizabeth is reading "Blue Like Jazz" - you might remember that I wrote about that book a while back and have been raving about how awesome it is. She decided she would read it and I can hear giggles erupting from the corner occasionally, and then she scoots over to share with me a particularly funny part. We started out having a women's group to go over the book, but several of the ladies weren't able to follow through for one reason or another, so Elizabeth and I discuss it informally.

In the other room (the one I affectionately call the Garden Room...such that I would like it to BE a garden room...) Pablo is napping on the couch. Yes - Pablo is out of the hospital! He is walking around - rather slowly - with the help of some arm-brace canes. Luis was here with him for awhile, and had his shoe shine chair and kit in the corner while he sat with Pablo. However, the sun is shining and there might be some work at the park, so he left a few minutes ago.

The lady from the restaraunt across the street - Cherisimos - is coming through the door with our lunch. They have a lunch special every day for 20 Quetzales (20 Q), which is about $2.75. For this you get meat, rice, salad, tortillas and fresh juice. The special is different every day - today it is orange chicken and looks very good! We get lunch here several days a week, and now many of our customers do, too! They bring it over to us and I joke that this is their second restaraunt now.

Florecita is cooking in the back - she is one of my dear friends here. Edilma is her daughter. We laugh and talk and work together every day and I will miss her so much. Right now she is cooking lemon pound cake, and after that gets out I will need to put in a turkey to start getting ready for Thursday, when we will have about 50 people for Thanksgiving.

Last week a guy named Alex asked if he could hang some art on our walls and sell them on consignment. The art is very "Catholic" in nature, particularly what is called "mystical Catholic" and has caused some bit of controversy, but it does add some color! It waits to be seen what will come of it. Alex is an interesting guy in that he has loads of weapons that he offers to sell - mace, pepper spray, a tazer and one of those police batons. I don't know if he's just really paranoid or well prepared. Some of the ladies have been interested in these things after all of the violence that has been happening.

Crazy Dave is hanging around, looking to see where he can jump into a conversation and begin telling us how every version of the Bible is incorrect and has been translated wrong and that we are only (sick, tired, diseased, in pain, etc) because we believe it and if we simply didn't believe we had (illness, disease, etc), we wouldn't have it anymore. He always adds some life to the party.

So, it's just another day here at the coffee house. It's quiet for now, because most students are in class. I'm going to miss this place.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

A day in the life at HGCH

HGCH is Higher Grounds Coffee House, the coffee shop I'm working at in Antigua, Guatemala. Most days it is pretty mellow around here, but today we had some happenings! Haha...

Well, first of all, we had a customer come in who was concerned about a dog that was sitting outside the door. The dog had a deep gash in it's front leg and was obviously not doing well. She is a dog lover, and wanted to help. We weren't quite sure what to do as there are a lot of stray dogs running all over the place. We found a vet, but no one could really take responsibility for the dog long term, to care for the stitches and whatnot. Someone thought to call the tourist police, so one of the guys took off to find them. Then we found a number for an animal shelter and called them to see if they could help.

The poor dog was terrified and shaking. Someone had hacked at her with a machete, and that is how she got cut up. About the time the vet, the tourist police and a good crowd had gathered around, she figured she'd had enough and took off running down the street. So much for everyone trying to help!

Later a few of the guys who hang out here, Alex and Jhonatan, decided they'd have some fun making music videos in the back. Abner is the one videotaping. I love it when these guys come into the coffee shop and play guitar - it's my favorite part of the day! I would put up the video, but for some reason it is not uploading (wahhh).


On All Saints Day, many people in Latin America flock out to the cemetaries to visit the graves of their loved ones. They spend the day there, thinking of those who have passed on, having a picnic with the family. They decorate the grave sites with marigolds, candles and pine needles. I had learned in Mexico that the marigolds are thought to have some sort of mystical power that attracts the soul of the deceased.

Another thing they do here in Guatemala is celebrate the day with barriletes, which are kites. They believe that as they fly the kite high overhead, the spirit of the dead person is reached and comes down the string to visit the family. If you go out to the graveyard, you will see hundreds of kites flying overhead.

We figured this was a good opportunity to pray for people and to try to get some conversations going, so we headed out to Santiago, one of the biggest places where this goes on.

There were thousands and thousands of people! We took the bus into Santiago, and had to walk a little over a mile to the cemetary. The streets were packed with people making their way, with all sorts of stalls selling everything you can imagine to people. It was like a street fair. I had expected a sense of spirituality or solemnity, but there was none of this. Instead, it was more like going to the fair to see what was happening. I learned that while some people do still believe the things about the spirits, most go out to honor their loved ones and to celebrate a memorial day.

The kites were fantastic!! They were every size you can imagine, from tiny little ones only a few inches wide up to some that were over 60 feet across!! They are handmade with bamboo supports and tissue paper. I looked up close and saw that each peice of tissue paper is painstakingly cut out and glued together by hand - hundreds of hours of work! The designs are breathtaking and so very intricate.

As they would fly (or try to fly) them, kids would run through the crowds, trying to get up enough momentum to get the kite up into the air. It seemed strange to see people running and walking over grave sites! We eventually got over it and sat on some raised concrete sites ourselves, but it did feel very strange!

Sometimes the kites would go up, up, up and then just as quickly come down, down, down - right into the crowd! Then people would scream and run and babies would cry and everyone would laugh and whoop and holler. It was crazy!

In the end, we weren't able to get any conversations going with anyone, but we were able to have some good ones amongst ourselves about all of these traditions and how tradition can sometimes blind us to the lies that we are embracing. It was a good opportunity to pray for people and for this culture, where so many are decieved by their traditions.


When I was younger, I definitely was one of those people who thought they were invincible. I always figured I was strong enough to save myself from just about any scrap I got into. Because of this mindset, I did a whole lot of things that were pretty stupid! I do not suffer from that delusion any longer.

Age has a way of humbling you and helping you to realize that, in fact, you can and will die. So, despite these misgivings, I agreed to take 3 teenage girls up a live volcano to look at hot lava and roast some marshmallows. That's right - we roasted marshmallows in the lava!

We thought this was Pacaya, but it wasn't....

What was I thinking?? Wow - it was hard! And we took horses most of the way! I remember horseback riding as something fun and comfortable - I remember wrong. My rear end and thighs were hurting! We climbed up most of the way, but had to walk once we got to the lava rock. It was really steep and unsteady and I stumbled and bumbled my way up, thinking the whole time "why am I doing this??"

Sierra, Alicia, Destiny and Dayna on our horses

Me wondering why on EARTH did I agree to this madness?

The view was incredible, and while we were up there, another volcano (Fuego) erupted and we were able to see it. The lava rock is fascinating - it is so light and yet very strong. As the lava flows down and cools, it breaks into smaller pieces, so the walking is extremely unstable. This was hard for me because I have a lot of problems with my ankles anyway, so I was holding on a lot. The rock is really, really sharp. As you get closer, the rocks get warmer and warmer and even get hot enough to melt your shoes.

We finally made it up and got up close the the lava, which was burning hot. We roasted some marshmallows and reveled in the beautiful day and the awesome view. Sierra stuck her stick into the lava and pulled a chunk of burning lava out, then poured water on it to cool it so she could bring it home. She was surprised that she had to actually push her stick into it pretty hard and that it wasn't smooshy, like she figured it would be.

Roasting marshmallows and relaxing

hot lava - don't touch!

We climbed back down, and got our horses for the ride down the volcano. The girls' were way ahead of me and were racing their horses when Destiny's horse bucked her off and dragged her a bit, stepping on her leg. She was a litle shook up, but none the worse for the wear. See what I mean about thinking you're invincible? Ah!!

We had a great time, although I don't know that I'll be doing it again any time soon!! I might have to practice a little more first! =D


The Coffee Shop set up for the Halloween outreach

On Halloween night, we had a pretty cool outreach. We invited people to come to their own funeral. We began handing out flyers and invitations a few weeks before the big event, and then on Halloween night we "ran the devils" - you might wonder (as I did) what this means!!

Bailey, Sierra, Destiny and Alicia dressed up and ready to "run the devils"

Well, Sierra and the other kids dressed up as devils and demons and went out around the community to invite people to their own funeral. Sierra did so great - she pranced and jumped and snuck up on people, putting the invitation into their hands with a snear. Many people screamed and several ran away! One girl burst out crying at Bailey dressed as a demon.
Sierra handing out invitations to people
Bailey handing out invites

The idea behind the funeral was that people would hear the gospel message and die to their sin and be born again into new life.

At the coffee shop we had a fog machine making everything thick and smoky, with creepy music playing. All the lights were off and there were just a few candles sitting around. At the front we had an open coffin and candelabras on each side. If people looked into the coffin, they would look into a mirror and see themselves. Once the devils came back from handing out invites, we locked them into a cage, where they grabbed at people - symbolic of the enemy wanting to pull us down with him.
The devils in their cage

We started off by me giving my testimony. I spoke about how I had struggled with fear for so many years and how God rescued me from that. After, Mark shared with the people there about being dead in our sins, but the opportunity for new life. He did such a great job! He really comes alive when he shares God's truth.
Me sharing my testimony
We had about 30 people show up, and of those 14 people raised their hand at the end to receive salvation. It was awesome!! After, we prayed with people and got them information on how to connect into a church and then we had worship for the rest of the night.

It was definitely a different way to do things! However, the glory goes to God because people were drawn in to hear about Him and as a result, people were saved. The kids had fun, but more importantly they understood the gravity of what they were doing, and did it for God's glory and not their own excitement. Overall, I'd say it was pretty successful!

Friday, October 31, 2008

Update on Padre Pablo

As you recall, a few weeks ago I asked everyone to pray for Padre Pablo after he had fallen and broken his femur and his hip. Pablo is 60 years old or so, although I thought he was a lot older than that.

Well, the good news is that he was able to get surgery and he is in recovery back here in Antigua and has started physical therapy. It was quite a ride, though!!

First of all, you will recall that he fell off his bike and originally went to the public hospital where he was not helped. He checked himself out and went home, where he was in immense pain for 3 days. Finally, one of his room mates, Miguel, helped him to return to another hospital - a private one called Hermano Pedro. This hospital was not really set up to help him much, but because he had spent so much time volunteering there, they agreed to help him until he could get home for the surgery he needed.

Well, that was quite an ordeal! Being a British citizen, he could have free healthcare back in England, but he didn't have the money to get there. Plus, due to his injuries (remember - we're dealing with a broken hip and a broken femur here!!), he would need an attendant to accompany him and take care of him. There is a guy here, Chaz, who was able to do so - but that is another whole long side story.

Basically, it boiled down to this...Pablo did not want to return to England - he wanted to stay here. The people in England did not want to help him financially, so he was going to have to put everything on his credit card, which would have been several thousand dollars. The public hospital here wouldn't take him back after they realized the extent of his injuries and Hermano Pedro was not equipped to handle his care.

Finally we decided to try to take him to a hospital in Guatemala City, which we were able to do. They did not have the surgical equipment there that was necessary, so we had to go to another hospital and pick it up for them (I know - crazy, huh?? This only happens in Guatemala!! Haha). We dropped him off there and there was no room available for 2-3 days, so we was on a gurney in the hallway!

He was finally given a room with about 20 other people, all very sick and in pain. A huge ministry opportunity!! People were bleeding, urinating and defecating and the smell was horrible. His heart was not strong enough to withstand the surgery, so he just lay there for days waiting. No tv, no books, no curtains over the windows. I cannot imagine how demoralizing it would be. Finally, a heart specialist happened to be in the hospital, so they went ahead with the surgery, with the heart surgeon on standby in case he was needed.

The surgery went really well. A few days later one of the pastors here, Jeff Mills, went to visit him and the hospital told him he would need to take Pablo back to Hermano Pedro!! In his tiny little car!! Just after his major surgery!! Again...it happens here!

So, Pedro was taken back to Hermano Pedro here in Antigua and has started physical therapy. I understand it is going well and he is starting to get up and around. All in all, I think it worked out well for him - despite the insane conditions and length of time - because his heart is really here in Guatemala and with his *adopted* son Luis. Sometimes we don't know why God is allowing these kinds of things, but in His good plan and timing we will find out.

Thanks for your prayers for Pablo!! I know he appreciates it!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


Sometimes we can get to a place where we feel lulled into a sense of well-being and safety, and we believe that everything is sunshine and daisies.

Other times, the evil around us rears its ugly head and we begin to feel that darkness lurks at every turn.

Lately we've been inundated with stories of rapes, attacks and robberies. I can feel the enemy of fear crouching at my door, wanting to engulf me in terror. Fear is an old enemy, and one I know well. It was my constant companion from my late teens until my mid-30's. I am so thankful that the Lord has delivered me from this overwhelming, all-consuming fear!

In the past two weeks there has been a rise of violent attacks, particularly against women. Almost daily we are hearing about something that has happened to people we know. This past Friday night, one of the girls here on the base was taking a tuk-tuk home at about 7 pm when the driver pulled a gun on her. She began screaming and then jumped out of the tuk-tuk and ran into traffic waving her arms. As the tuk-tuk turned around she fled into the bushes and hid, calling some friends from her cell. Thank you Jesus that she had the wherewithal to do what she did and that God was with her and helped her get away safely!

As you can imagine, this has caused us all to have our guard up, and even to be jumpy and suspicious. We don't want fear to rule us, yet we want to be safe and use wisdom.

I don't want to spawn fear, but I do want you to be aware of what has been going on so you can be praying for us and for the people here...

- in the past month another coffee shop has been robbed 3 times by gunmen who come in and steal the customers computers, purses and backpacks. No one has been hurt, thankfully.

- 10 days ago two girls were accosted by 3 men and raped.

- another girl was attacked from behind, but was able to fend off her attacker by screaming and using pepper spray; however, her keys (which were in her other hand) were stolen.

- yesterday a couple was walking down a street in the morning when a man stepped in front of them and blocked their path, while another man came up behind them. They stood up to the men and were able to get past safely.

These are some of the stories from just recently - as I said, there seems to be a spike in this kind of activity, at least from my perspective. Of course, one story seems to beget other stories until that is all people are talking about, so it is important not to let it get too big in our minds. As one woman reminded me today - we serve a Big God!

Please pray for us that God will give us wisdom and discernment. Please pray for our safety, and the safety of the other women and staff here. Please pray that the coffee shop would be invisible to those who might want to cause harm. Please pray for the safety of our belongings that they would not be stolen. Please pray that if violence does rise up against us that God would show us the way out and give us the strength to act. Please pray for us to be in the peace of God and that fear would not overtake us.

Thank you for your prayers - they are powerful weapons against the schemes of the enemy!!! This is the time of year that the enemy wants to come out and cause chaos and confusion...but we can stand against this in the powerful name of Jesus under whom all demons must flee! We must remember that our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms (Eph. 6:12).

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Profound Love

I just finished reading "Blue Like Jazz" by Donald Miller. Wow. It's a great book and I highly recommend it, especially for those who are part of the Post-Modern generation or who are interested in trying to understand what this generation is all about.

The book is an easy read, very conversational. It is basically like the guy's testimony and different things he learns about all the aspects of his Christian spirituality. You will relate to it, and even more so, will be caused to think through things and consider your own perspectives. It's great!!

In one chapter, he is discussing love and what it really is. He is talking about a short play he was writing at the time about the life of a man, and the man is married. In the play, the man and his wife lose a child to a car accident and they are really struggling in their marriage as a result. One night the man kneels down by his wife and whispers the following to her....(I hope I'm not plagiarizing!! I give all credit for the following excerpt to Donald Miller and his book, Blue Like Jazz...)...so, okay, here it is....

What great gravity is this that drew my soul toward yours? What great force, that though I went falsely, went kicking, went disguising myself to earn your love, also disguised, to earn your keeping, your resting, your staying, your will fleshed into mine, rasped by a slowly revealed truth, the barter of my soul, the sould that I fear, the soul that I loathe, the soul that: if you will love, I will love. I will redeem you, if you will redeem me? Is this our purpose, you and I together to pacify each other, to lead each other toward the lie that we are good, that we are noble, that we need not redemption, save the one that you and I invented of our own clay?

I am not scared of you, my love, I am scared of me.

I went looking, I wrote out a list, I drew an image, I bled a poem of you. You were pretty, and my friends believed I was worthy of you. You were clever, but I was smarter, perhaps the only one smarter, the only one able to lead you. You see, love, I did not love you, I loved me. And you were only a tool that I used to fix myself, to fool myself, to redeem myself. And though I have taught you to lay your lily hand in mine, I walk alone, for I cannot talk to you, lest you talk it back to me, lest I believe that I am not wothy, not deserving, not redeemed.

I want desperately for you to be my friend. But you are not my friend; you have slid up warmly to the man I wanted to be, the man I pretended to be, and I was your Jesus and, you were mine. Should I show you who I am, we may crumble. I am not scared of you, my love, I am scared of me.

I want to be known and loved anyway. Can you do this? I trust by your easy breathing that you are human like me, that you are fallen like me, that you are lonely, like me. My love, do I know you? What is this great gravity that pulls us so painfully toward each other? Why do we not connect? Will we be forever in fleshing this out? And how will we with words, narrow words, come into the knowing of each other? Is this God's way of meriting grace, of teaching us of the labyrinth of His love for us, teaching us, in degrees, that which He is sacrificing to join ourselves to Him? Or better yet, has He formed our being fractional so that we might conclude one great hope, plodding and sighing and breathing into one another in such a great push that we might break through into the known and being loved, only to cave into a greater perdition and fall down at His throne still begging for our acceptance? Begging for our completion?

We were fools to believe that we would redeem each other.

Were I some sleeping Adam, to wake and find you resting at my rib, to share these things that God has done, to walk you through the garden, to counsel your timid steps, your bewildered eye, your heart so slow to love, so careful to love, so sheepish that I stepped up my aim and became a man. Is this what God intended? That though He made you from my rib, it is you who is making me, humbling me, destroying me, and in so doing revealing Him.

Will we be in ashes before we are one?

What great gravity is this that drew my heart toward yours? What great force collapsed my orbit, my lonesome state? What is this that wants in me the want in you? Don't we go at eacher with yielded eyes, with cumbered hands and feet, with clunky tongues? This deed is unattainable! We cannot know each other!

I am quitting this thing, but not what you think. I am not going away.

I will give you this, my love, and I will not bargain or barter any longer. I will love you, as sure as He has loved me. I will discover what I can discover and though you remain a mystery, save God's own knowledge, what I disclose of you I will keep in the warmest chamber of my heart, the very chamber where God has stowed Himself in me. And I will do this to my death, and to death it may bring me.

I will love you like God, because of God, mighted by the power of God. I will stop expecting your love, demanding your love, trading for your love, gaming for your love. I will simply love. I am giving myself to you, and tomorrow I will do it again. I suppose the clock itself will wear thin its time before I am ended at this altar of dying and dying again.

God risked Himself on me. I will risk myself on you. And together, we will learn to love, and perhaps then, and only then, understand this gravity that drew Him, unto us.
- Blue Like Jazz, Donald Miller. pgs. 148-150.

Wow. Isn't that amazing? This book really had me thinking and this particular section just pierced my heart. Even though I am not married, it caused me to think of how I love those around me - particularly those closest to me, like Sierra.

I found that I fall so short and that I want to love like this talks about - to truly love selflessly instead of loving to fulfill my own needs. It is a daily - hourly - journey, and against the very grain of who I am.

I know this is long, but I do hope you received as much out of this passage as I did. Let's work together and encourage one another toward this profound, God-breathed love!!

Deep Thoughts

The other day Sierra and I were riding into town on a Chicken Bus (you'll recall those from a previous post - always a fun adventure!!). The bus was crowded, so we weren't able to sit next to each other...in fact, we were both the 3rd person to sit down in the seat built for two...nothing to make feel a little awkward like only having one cheek on the seat!! Ha!! Okay, well I guess that falls under TMI - sorry! I regress!

So, back to the subject...well, I was a few seats behind Sierra and took note of her hair-do, which was basically just up in a half-bun. You know what that is...right?? So I was looking at her half-bun and her red hair and it sort of struck me how different she looked from the Guatemalans sitting all around her. They all have very dark brown to black hair, and they LOVE gel here!! Their hair is always slicked back and very put-together looking. She looked like a regular, casual teen dressed in a t-shirt and jeans with her casual hair do. The people around her were more formal looking, not to mention darker-skinned and haired.

Suddenly the thought occured to me that although we are here in Guatemala, we could never pass for Guatemalan. Now, I know that sounds basic and obvious, but hear me out...

The Bible tells us that we should be IN the world, but not OF the world. I've always wondered what the meant, exactly, and how we live that out day-to-day. I've kind of struggled with being judgmental of the world, or overly sympathetic with the world or isolated from the world...but haven't quite figured out how to be IN it, but not OF it. Y'know?

So, I don't quite understand all the ramifications of my little epiphany, but I kinda started to think how we're here and we clearly are different (aha point # 1), and yet we try hard to respect and honor the people here (aha point # 2). No matter how long we were to stay here or how well we were to learn the language and the culture, we still would not completely understand every nuance, and therefore could never actually *be* Guatemalan (aha point # 3).

I dunno...maybe I'm just philosophizing, but the whole interaction struck a chord in me that there is some deeper truth working itself out in me regarding this whole idea. I guess only time will tell!! Let me know if you have any insight!


Well, it's a cold and rainy day here in Antigua. I like the sound of the rain pounding down on the roofs here. I think it's relaxing, and it makes me feel all domestic for some reason.

Across the street is a little restaraunt called Cherisimos - the lady who runs it is from El Salvador and is as cute as can be. I often go there for the "almuerzo del dia" - the lunch of the day. It is 20 Q (quetzales is the money here), which is a bit under $3.00. For this I get whatever the daily special is. Usually there is some kind of meat, rice, salad, tortillas and juice. Not bad, huh? Well, today the special was this delicious tomato soup with shredded beef and potatoes in it, along with rice, tortillas and a yummy juice that I think was pineapple and jamaica mixed together or something. The soup was so great, that I think I am going to try to make it at home!

So with all of these domestic feelings going on, I've been looking up recipes on-line. I want to try to make homemade pesto and homemade tomato-basil soup and apple bread. Yumm!!! It sounds so fall-ish and mom-ish, doesn't it??

Speaking of tomato-basil soup!! If you ever happen to be in Santa Rosa, CA and are on 4th St., you have GOT to check out Checkers Restaraunt...it's across from the Cantina, about 1/2 block from the mall. They have the MOST amazing tomato-basil soup!! And their garlic mashed potatoes are sooo yummy, too!! So, there ya have it - my recommendation!

Enjoy your beautiful fall days - it's my favorite time of year!!

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Movie Night!

Dayna with Gladys and her baby sisters at Kids Club...

Last Saturday at Kids Club we told all the kids that we would be having a movie night for them and their families. All of the kids were really excited. We handed out flyers to advertise that we would be watching "The Cross & The Switchblade" in Spanish and there would be popcorn and refreshments.

Alicia, Sierra and Bailey doing puppets at Kids Club...

An hour before the movie was scheduled to start, we had over 25 people waiting outside. Sierra went out and played soccer with the kids while a few of us were inside popping up bag after bag of popcorn. We popped it up the old fashioned way - in a big pot with oil. I forgot how GOOD that was!! We filled up 100 bags of popcorn to hand out, and made 5 gallons of juice.

By the time we started the movie, we had over 100 people crowding into our small carport and patio area to find a seat for the movie. We had a few ice-breaker activities and then got started.

"The Cross & The Switchblade" is a movie from the 1970's - remember Pat Boone and Eric Estrada? They are the (very young looking) stars of the movie. Pat plays a pastor who is trying to reach out to the notorious NY gangs and Eric is a lead gang member who hates the pastor. There are many fight scenes (the teen boys seemed most drawn to those...go figure!) and in the end Nicky Cruz (Estrada) realizes the vanity of all he's done and turns to the Lord.

People seemed to really enjoy it - even the kids, of which there were about 80 of them!! We had to stop the movie 1/2 way through for some stretching and moving activities because the kids got a little restless, but they settled down again after we gave them an opportunity to move around.

After the movie we explained the gospel message to everyone using the "evangi-cube", which is this box thing that folds different ways to expose different pictures that explain the complete gospel message. People seemed to respond well, and we all prayed together at the end. Finally, everyone lined up for their popcorn and juice before leaving. We ran out of popcorn!

There was one little boy of about 6 or so who was being a real stinker. He was sitting in the back by me and just wouldn't listen. He continually talked and played and when I would tell him to be quiet he would just look at me and then turn around and disobey. I told him he would have to sit by his mother if he didn't listen. He didn't, so I told him to go to his mom. He said "no!" - all the other boys started laughing. I took his hand to take him and he braced himself against the wall and refused to come, so I picked him up and made him come with me up to the front by the mom's. After the movie when we were giving the gospel message, he was running and yelling and again wouldn't listen to us. I took him firmly by the hand and told him he would sit by the wall quietly until I said or he would receive no popcorn. Finally he obeyed and stood quietly, even though the other boys were making fun of him for getting in trouble.

After he had stood there for about 10 minutes quietly (while we were explaining the evangi-cube), I went over and brought him to the line for popcorn. I was able to explain to him that when we are obedient and do what is asked of us, that we receive blessings and rewards. With that I was able to reward him by letting him be first in line for popcorn. I think he really got the message and seemed genuinel proud of himself that he had done something good.

Some might say I was too easy on him, but I think he probably doesn't get much reinforcement to have good behavior. And besides, how often does God give us blessing when what we deserve is punishment? For me, it was the connection that made my night!

Friday, October 03, 2008

Club de Niños

Two weeks ago we started a Kids Club for the children in the neighborhood. We're doing it on Saturday mornings and we have about 60-80 kids show up for songs, Bible stories and verse memorization, art, soccer, movies and sometimes we even have a little snack.

The kids love it and it's been a lot of fun. This last weekend, about 7 of the kids stayed after and hung out with me and Sierra. We picked green oranges off the tree - which they ate readily - and swung on the swingset and rode their bikes around the courtyard. Sierra played soccer with them outside in the street and after awhile we all went for a walk through the town to see all the goings-on from the big celebration of Saint Michael (more on that later).

As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words - so without any further ado, here you go!

Dayle, Marianne and I praying before we start the Club de Niños

Jonatan and several other kids waiting to enter for Club de Niños.

Sitting patiently and waiting for the story to start.

Art time - the kids LOVE coloring pages!

Showing off their coloring.

We learned about how Mary poured out her perfume on Jesus - after the kids colored their pages, we sprayed them with perfume.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Counting Our Blessings

The smell can be overwhelming - the odor of humanity, unbathed and dirty. Babies wearing diapers that are too full. Clothes that are tattered and unwashed. Shoes that barely cover the feet with holes exposing blackened, dirty toes.

Such is the norm when dealing with those who know nothing beyond the extreme poverty into which they've been born.

It takes only the slightest of efforts to see behind the dirty faces and runny noses - to glimpse the humanity hiding behind giant smiles full of rotting teeth. The hearts that long to be loved, the spirits that long to laugh.

How is it that God has blessed us to be born into a country where even the poor have access to adequate health care, the food they need, financial and housing programs? We have so much, and yet we live blissfully unaware of the suffering of our brothers and sisters throughout the world. Some even think they deserve all they have, more so than others - that somehow it is their right to be so blessed.

I challenge you today to consider all that the Lord has done for you! For He is good and His mercies endure forever...let's remember to focus on those things as we lift up others throughout the world.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Call to Prayer

I told you about Luis in my last blog...well, Luis comes from a single-parent home. His father left when he was young because of Luis's illness. However, there is an English man who has come to Antigua for many years who has taken Luis and his family under his wing. He has helped them financially over the years, although by all accounts he had no right to as he had no money himself.

Paul - known affectionately in these parts as Padre Pablo - is 79 years old. Over the years, he has taken Luis in as the son he never had, teaching him about the Lord and helping out however he was able.

Padre Pablo was not in best of health and was sent back to England last year for medical help (they have socialized medicine there). He returned to Antigua some time ago and has been back at work - not only with Luis, but also with some other ministries as well. Truthfully, I don't know how he did it! Every time I saw him he was falling asleep on the couch or in church!

About 10 days ago he was riding his bike and fell. He broke his hip and his femur. He went to the National Hospital, which is free (or almost free) - but then checked himself out and went home when they didn't do anything for him (he didn't know what the problem was at that point). After two days at home his room mate took him back to the hospital in a taxi - it took him 40 minutes to get him into it and another 40 to get him out!

They found out about the broken hip & femur and advised him he needed surgery. Well, he doesn't have any money for surgery. His blood pressure was too low and he went into cardiac arrest. We really didn't think he'd make it, but he has. We've been in contact with England and the English embassy and trying to figure out what to do. As it turns out, he is going to have to return home to England for surgery and then for post surgery rehab. This will be a long, painful process. There was some question if he would be able to make the trip and live, but his doctors seem to think he will be able to. The airline is requiring he upgrade to 1st class and have someone with him for the flight - there will be three separate planes he must take. The cost is exorbitant and no one knows where the money is going to come from at this point.

Luis is just beside himself with everything that is happening and the possibility that he might lose his Padre Pablo.

Please pray for Pablo - for his healing, for his comfort as he travels (with broken hip & femur!) back to England, for his finances and for those he is leaving behind.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Shoe Shine Boys

If you've ever spent any time in Latin America, you know that Latinos love to dress up and look nice. No matter how hot and muggy, they always look clean and fresh.

As part of that culture, there are myriad shoe shine boys always around who will shine up your shoes and make you look real spiffy, all for about US $0.50 cents.

In general, the boys shining shoes work all day for about $3 dollars or so. Generally, they are not in school because they are trying to help earn money for their families, who are very poor. One of the ministries we have in the coffee shop is to offer these boys a nutritious meal when they come into the coffee shop.

When the boys come in, we give them a bowl of black beans and an egg, and sometimes we also have a little cheese. While they are eating we have an opportunity to visit with them and spend time getting to know them, while also sharing the love of God with them.

Some of the boys are pretty "rough around the edges" - they've basically been living on the street and have poor (or no) manners and pretty rough language. They are not always easy to love! But Christ calls us to love them anyway - which sometimes means being tough with them and setting boundaries and following through on rules. For the most part though, one of the highlights of my day is when the boys come in for some food. I love hanging out with them and just engaging in their lives.

Last Friday, one of my guys - Martin - turned 12. His family didn't celebrate his birthday, so I made a big deal of buying him a piece of cake and putting a candle in it and singing "Feliz Cumpleanos" really loud for him. It was fun for me, but for him, it was speaking value into who he is and showing him that he is something special.

One of our regulars is Luis. He is about 22 years old and is mentally disabled. He has gran mal seizures, which have caused brain damage. He has the mental capacity of an 8-10 year old. He is very sweet and also very demanding! He loves to say "hey! hey!" all the time to get our attention and to practice his English on us. He tells me every day that his cat is hungry as he rubs his stomach. He repeats the same things over and over every day - "hellohowareyou? berryfinethankyou" "moon-dai,too-dai,three-dai,free-dai,sat-dai,soon-dai". He also loves to pat us on the arm while he giggles. Another thing he loves to do is show us how big his muscles are! The chair he carries, along with all the shoeshine supplies are about 40-50 pounds, so he has big arm muscles (and he's quite proud of them!)

One of the things he loves best to do is to recite Genesis 1:1-4 to us from memory. I don't know if he doesn't remember that he's done it 38 times previously or if he really just likes us telling him how impressed we are! I tried to help him memorize Jeremiah 29:11 (For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to give you a hope and a future. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you." However, he would rather recite Gen. 1:1-4 again. Haha!

Widow Maker

Ok, so here in Guatemala, the showers are rigged up a little different than they are back in the States. Here, we call them "Widow Makers"...of course, not being married, I call them "Orphan Makers"...just kidding!

Instead of having a water heater that heats up a certain amount of water and holds it until it is used, the shower head heats up the water as it goes through it - using an electrical current. Yes, that's right - everything your momma told you about not mixing water and electricity is thrown out the window here!

There are 220 volts of electricity pulsating through the water as it flows through the head, effectively heating it. Sometimes the water gets a little "zingy"!! And God help you if you touch the shower head while you're in the shower - it gives quite a jolt! The more water pressure, the colder the water - so if you want to have a hot shower, you have to minimize the amount of water coming out so it can be heated.
Below is a picture of our sink...it's pretty small!!!

Friday, September 19, 2008

When it rains, it pours

It was raining all night last night - the kind of rain that makes you say "it's raining cats and dogs!" Why we say that, who could know? Lightening came down to the top of the volcano, and thunder rolled in the distance.

We awoke this morning to the sound of rain pinging on the metal roofs. From the base to the bus stop is about 6 blocks - and after a night of rain it's about 6 blocks of river! The water was 4-6 inches deep across the entire road - we tried to stay up on the narrow walkways as best we could (when there WAS a walkway!). The sidewalks here are more like wide curbs - about 8 inches wide. At times we were forced to cross the street because the sidewalk would end into a tangle of overgrown bushes and weeds. Sierra and I were laughing as we slipped off the curbs and soaked our feet or as we hopped across the street trying our best to jump to the low spots in order to not completely soak ourselves.

When cars would pass, they wouldn't slow down. As they passed, a wall of water would shoot up at us and we'd quickly bring our umbrella down to block the barrage of dirty rainwater. Needless to say, we showed up at the coffee shop fairly soaked!

Unfortunately, water isn't the only thing raining down this week! It's been a week of mishaps - our computer isn't working right (all Sierra's school work is on it), so we took it to the shop. A minimum of 1 week and $50. Our camera isn't working, either. Then I misplaced the memory card with all of our photos, plus Sierra's pics from China this summer (thank God - we found that one!!). Finally, my ATM card was stolen and some unauthorized charges have been made on my card. It was a hassle, but it's been cancelled now. They are sending me a new card, but it could be a few weeks before I get it so in the meantime it will be tough to get cash.

Please pray for us!! I am feeling frustrated and discouraged...however, I am determined that I am FINE...Faith-filled, In Christ, Not married to my feelings and Eternally Minded!! (Thanks to my sis for that little acronym!). Now I'm just waiting for my EMOTIONS to catch up to my HEAD!!

Sorry no pics this time...hopefully we'll be able to do that soon! In the meantime - be blessed!

Monday, September 08, 2008

A little idea of what we've been up to!

We left Sacramento last Thursday and headed to Guatemala, where we will be for 3 months. We had a red-eye and it was exhausting! Our first flight left at 12:30 am and landed in Houston, TX at 4 am where we had a 4 hour layover - then we hopped on another flight to Guatemala city. All I can say about Continental is this...NO LEG ROOM!!! Oh my goodness! My knees were totally up into the back of the woman in front of me. Ugh. But it was a good indication of things to come for the next 3 months - because let me tell you - there is no leg room on the Chicken buses, either!

So, we landed in Guatemala City and were picked up by Bruce and Marianne, who work at the Antigua base. Bruce is the director here. We grabbed some lunch and went to the base to get settled in. Later that evening we went to worship night at the coffee house - it's really cool there and we think we're going to really like it!

So far we've settled in and found our way around a bit...Guatemala is beautiful and green and the people are very friendly. They remind me a lot of the Mexican people, although they would probably not like that as Mexicans and Guatemalans have a bit of attitude about each other!
In order to work at the coffee shop I have to get a health card that indicates I am healthy and do not have TB. I got a chest x-ray last week and then I had to give a blood, urine & fecal sample. Ewww!! I was handed a plastic OJ single serve bottle to go pee-pee in a Gerber baby food jar for my poo! I was pretty grossed out!! The things I do! I was gagging and coughing and Sierra was worried I was sick...ugh!
Tomorrow I need to get to the health department by 6:30 am to stand in line (reportedly a fairly long one) and get my card. That entails catching a bus at 6 am and walking about 1/2 - 3/4 mile through town - hope I find it alright!
Here is a video that gives you an idea of where we're living...as you can see, there are mountains and volcanoes all around! Only one of them is active - it is called Fuego (Fire) and reportedly you can see it having "mini" eruptions on occasion. I'll try to get a video of that when it happens!!

Most of the time we'll get around on "Chicken Buses"...these are old US school buses that somehow make their way down here, then they are painted wild colors and outfitted with ginormous speaker systems that blare latin music and have icons of Mother Mary and Jesus all over. They are called "Chicken Buses" because you will often see baskets full of chickens sitting on top, along with all manner of other things - fruits & vegetables, bikes, blankets, etc. Inside it can get very, very crowded, with 6-8 people sitting across the 2 bench seats that are intended for 4. The two who sit on the aisle part of the seat prop each other up with their shoulders to make a complete row across. Add a few kids on laps and you've got the idea! If I didn't feel big before...Haha! Sierra says I constantly smack people in the head with my backpack. Here is a picture of one, but there are not chickens on top - alas, we'll have to get that another day!

Sometimes we'll ride a "tuk tuk" - they are 3-wheeled vehicles similar to a golf cart. The steering is done with handles, like a bike. You can see a tuk tuk in the picture above, at the lower left hand corner, next to the motorcycle. Tuk tuks are a bit more expensive, but they get you right where you need to go and are a life saver if you are carrying a lot of groceries! Below is a little video to give you an idea of what it's like to ride in one! Caution - ride is bumpy!

Well, that's all for now - I'll put more in soon! Be blessed!

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Me Siento Diferente

The man came out, weeping.

"Why are you doing this? Why are you here? Why would you do this for me? I have done nothing to deserve this!"

This was our first encounter with the family we were to build a house for. The father went on to tell us how his daughter was sleeping in the car because there was no room for her in the small house they lived in. He was very fearful for her safety and couldn't comprehend why we had come to help him.

"We are here because God has loved us, and He has asked us to love others."

Throughout the week, the man worked as hard as anyone else on the site, a growing curiosity in his eyes. Then, on Friday, he approached the site supervisor - "I've been having dreams. In my dreams, I see heaven and I see hell. Someone is telling me I have to choose. The Jehovah's Witnesses came to my house yesterday. I told them about my dreams. They say there is no hell. What do you say?"

The Supervisor told him, "There is a heaven and a hell. There is only one way to get to heaven, and that is by knowing Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour." The supervisor went on to tell the man that God was speaking to him through his dreams, and asking him to make a decision. The man responded, saying "I want to become a Christian today!"

As we gathered around the man and his family to pray over them and to dedicate their new home, he stepped forward and accepted Jesus as his saviour. Weeping, he repeated over and over "me siento diferente! me siento diferente!" - I feel different! I feel different!

What a testimony - the only thing we did was show up. God had cultivated the seed, and brought it to bear. We were simply in the right place at the right time. We will continue to follow up with this family and to get them connected into the local Christian community and church. The amazing thing about this story is that Oaxacan men do not cry. They do not show emotion. They are stoic and reserved. But when God's spirit falls on us, we cannot help but to weep as we consider His great love for us.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Sentir & Sentar - worlds apart

I drove one team up on Saturday, spent the night in San Diego and drove another team down on Sunday. This is quite exhausting! The days can be long and the nights short, with hard work in between. It's fun and I love it, but I also get tired.

After driving the team back down on Sunday, we stopped at Papa Ruben's for an "all-you-can-eat" taco dinner. Everyone LOVES Papa Ruben, and his awesome food at Pollo Loco. I helped him with getting the orders and the food out for 60 people. Afterward, as people milled about visiting outside and looking at the little ladies' stuff, I sank down into a chair and said to Papa Ruben:

"Oh Papa Ruben, tengo mucho sueno - que bueno sentirme. Muy bien a sentir, no? Puedes sentir tambien."

On and on I rambled...all the while Papa Ruben looked at me quizzically. Finally, Mama Lupita leaned over and whispered "sentarse!" I saw the light of understanding go on in Papa Ruben's eyes.

Suddenly, it all became clear - while I thought I had been saying:

"Oh my Papa Ruben, I am so tired. It feels so good to sit down. You ought to sit down too, we've worked hard! Doesn't it feel good to sit down and rest?"

When in fact I had been saying:

"Oh my Papa Ruben, I am so tired. It feels so good to feel. You ought to feel, too. Doesn't it feel good to feel?"

Yes, I did. Sentir is to feel, while Sentar is to sit. So close - and yet so very far away. We all got a good laugh and I was humbled and reminded how much further I have yet to go with my Spanish...

Small Seeds, Sown in the Dust

A few weeks ago I was down in Mexico once again. Summertime is a busy time, and I've been running almost non-stop now since April. I have to admit that it is getting harder and harder to come back to the States! I love America, but I feel that my calling is outside of her borders...whether in Mexico, Guatemala, Fiji or elsewhere, there is something deep within me that comes alive when I am doing God's work amongst the nations.

As you may or may not know, Sierra had the opportunity to go to China for 3 weeks to minister and work there with a group through YWAM called King's Kids. While she was away in China, I was down in Mexico for a few weeks, leading home-building teams. Seven homes were built in the 2 weeks I was down.

At one of the houses, there were a multitude of kids...they were running all over the place causing general mayhem everywhere they went. I was doing my best to add to the mayhem by plying them with candy every time I came by. When I hand out anything in Mexico, I explain to the kids how important it is to receive well, and to maintain their God-given dignity by using their manners and not giving in to pushing, shoving, etc. I explain that they must say please at the beginning and thank you afterward. If they do not use their manners, they do not get a candy. If they start to push or shove, the candy is put away and everyone loses out. They're smart kids - they get it quickly. Well, one day I get to the house and about 25 kids surround me, hoping for a piece of candy. Soon, they are all chanting in unison - "dame un dulce, por favor! dame un dulce, por favor!" - "Give me a candy, please! Give me a candy, please!" It was pretty funny, all those little kids chanting this over and over! I felt like a mama bird with all her little birdies around chirping for some worm!! I took out my bag and said "una fila!" - a line! - and they all lined themselves up, smallest to biggest, to receive their candy. As they come up for their candy, I am able to speak value into them with the smallest of gestures - "What's your name? What pretty hair you have! I see you are a strong man! I like how gentle you are with your little sister!" Such little words, but they have a huge impact.

I was visiting with the family and several of the kids were inside. They have 6 people living in a block building about 10' x 8' square feet. Outside dust swirled around and got into every pore of our bodies. Inside there was a refrigerator, a table with a 2 burner cook stove and two wooden structures that we could sit on, that doubled as beds at night. This is the sum of all their earthly goods. As I visited with them, I asked the kids if they liked to sing songs. Boy! Did I ever hit on a goldmine! They LOVED singing songs. For the next hour I sang songs with them. Mind you - I only have two Spanish kids songs memorized. We sang those songs every which way you could imagine - loud, soft, silly, deep voice, baby voice. Those kids just couldn't get enough. I remember thinking somewhere in the midst of it, "this is what it's all about" - sitting there, singing my two silly little songs with these kids - somehow knowing I was right where God had me for that moment. It was a sweet feeling. Every time I saw them afterward, they wanted to sing more songs.

I'm proud to say that my repertoire has now grown to four songs - I've doubled it!

It's amazing to me that in those small moments, seemingly insignificant, that God's light shines the brightest. It is there that the smallest of seeds are sown, in the dust of a forsaken place, where ony He can cause them to burst forth into full bloom. What a privilege I have to take part in it!

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Come As You Are

Did you ever go to a "come as you are" party? Oh yeah - lots of fun!!

So, this past Saturday I kidnapped all of the teen girls on base by waking them up bright and early on a Saturday morning. I went in to each of their houses, woke them up and gave them 30 seconds to get up, get ready and get out the door.

I was met with a few cranky groans, but mostly everyone had a lot of fun after they woke up a bit. We went to IHOP for breakfast, and after we got home I went back to bed!!

We had a good time - with all the girls in their PJ's. I feel blessed that I get to hang out with these great young people. They are all such good kids and have great hearts for the Lord!!

Friday, February 29, 2008

Small Miracles

In January I was able to go down with a group from my church up here in Chico. This was really fun as I got to know people better and we had a great time. They built a “double” (20’ x 22’) for a family. The mom had 6 children – her oldest was 18 and she was (very) pregnant with her third – so, 10 people in all. This family really made it deep into our hearts.

The mom’s name was “Molesta”…in Spanish this means “bother” – can you imagine if your parents named you “bother” and that is what everyone called you for your whole life? I really believe in the prophetic power of our names, and how they help to shape us – there is biblical principle for this when we examine how God would change people’s names to give them a new destiny in their life (think of Jacob to Israel, or Saul to Paul). It really bothered me that this was her name, and I could hardly bring myself to believe it, let alone call her this name. What a cloak of shame to bear! We had the unique privilege of speaking into her life prophetically and changing her name to “Bendiga”, which means “bless”. It was so cute…the kids kept saying “you changed my mom’s name to Bendiga!” with these great big smiles and giggles.

This last week I was down again, and I went to visit Bendiga (more on that later) – her kids were still saying this! I talked with her and said if she wanted to make it more official, we could baptize her with this name. She is thinking about it, and we may baptize her next month with I’m down! Please keep her in your prayers that God would totally have His was with this wonderful family.

One of Bendiga’s children was 5 year old Esteban. He had been born with some sort of disability and was extremely small. His 6th birthday was February 6, yet he was only the size of a 5 or 6 month old infant. When he was born, the doctors told his mom that he hadn’t eaten well in the womb and his intestines were tied up, so he’d had surgery for that and had been in ICU in Tijuana for 3 months. The doctors told his mom he probably wouldn’t live. We had been told that he was paralyzed and blind. We asked if we could see him, and his sister reluctantly let us hold him. She initially told us he was allergic to the sun, be we took him outside and promised to keep him in the shade. We noticed he moved a bit, and he even seemed to be able to track us – although one eye was badly crossed. We cleaned him up and changed his diaper and clothes. We held him, rocked him, sang to him and basically fawned over this little guy.

In Mexico, there is still a lot of misunderstanding over children born with disabilities. People think it is a punishment for some sin, and it is shameful to have a disabled child. I learned that often the parent will simply smother an infant who is clearly disabled at birth and say the child died in childbirth. It is heartbreaking, and an area to pray into as the enemy uses this to deceive and bring people into bondage. It was a testament to Bendiga that she loved and cared for Esteban, despite the social condemnation. (It occurs to me just now that perhaps God allowed her to have that horrible name so she would know how to stand up under the pressure of social condemnation and be strong in raising her son…hmmm – something to think about). Although Bendiga did all she could, Esteban was clearly not doing well. He was dirty and malnourished. He was kept in a dark corner of the room under heavy blankets day in and day out while she went to work and his sister kept care of him.

We took him to the orphanage to have the doctor take a look at him and see what could be done. The doctor had great news!! A LOT could be done for Esteban…his quality of life could be greatly increased. He wasn’t paralyzed – he could learn to use his muscles with proper therapy. He wasn’t blind – we could arrange surgery for him over the summer when a team of eye surgeons came down. We were able to get medicine for his cough, fresh diapers, clean clothes. We spoke with a woman at the orphanage who works with disabled kids there and were able to get him into a day care program where they would pick him up at home, bring him there for the day – feed him, wash his dirty clothes, interact with him and work with him to begin using his muscles (under the direction to of the physical therapist who just “happened” to be there that week!). We scheduled a more thorough medical appointment for him the next month with a pediatrician to get a diagnosis on his condition and a better idea of his prognosis. We went to the wheelchair department of the orphanage and they had just “happened” to get in a new child-size chair that was the *perfect* fit and style for him. The PT said that he’d seen kids come from the wheelchair store with chairs that didn’t fit as well as this chair fit Esteban. There was some talk that our little guy could someday sit up, balance and possibly even walk with the help of a walker!! God was at work…everything was falling into place so perfectly. We were all very excited. Esteban was beginning to recognize me and would smile and laugh when I talked to him…it was amazing.

Then, a week and a half ago, I got an email. Esteban died. I couldn’t believe it. Why???!!?! Why did God allow all of those things to happen, and then take him home? I was so sad, yet I know that God is good. I know that He has a plan. I know that He has an ultimate purpose and that His will is perfect. I don’t know why little Esteban died, but I do know that he is in a place now where there are no limitations to his body. He can run and jump, laugh and play. He can talk and walk and see clearly. I know God had THIS team set aside for THIS family and that all that happened was not in vain. Maybe it’s like what occurred to me earlier – Bendiga bore that name to make her strong to raise Esteban…and then we were able to release her into a new destiny and that opened the door for the Lord to take Esteban home. Maybe it was simply for our team to show Bendiga and her family all that love for them and for Esteban, too…to be there to hold her up and to pour out God’s love on them, that he might be well-loved and cared for before he died. The truth is, God’s ways are not our ways – His thoughts are not our thoughts. We can never fully understand God – but we can know His character and we know that His character is loving and full of goodness and grace. What comfort we have in knowing that! So, while I don’t really understand all that happened, I know I can rely on God to make it all work out.

Please keep Bendiga and her family in your prayers during this difficult time. Pray that she would know how wide and how high and how far and how deep is the Father’s love for her and that He would reveal His good and perfect will in and through her…that her destiny would be released and that the Holy Spirit would be a balm of comfort during this time. I am praying that the curse of Molesta would be broken, and the blessing of Bendiga would be released in the heavenly realm. Thank you, Jesus!!

Thursday, February 28, 2008

New Directions

Alright, well, I’ve made this commitment to start writing in my blog again, so – here goes! A lot of things have changed lately, so I guess it’s as good a time as any to start back up.

Well, first off – as you may know, I’m no longer teaching at the base school (ICS). I was there for a year-and-a-half and it was both great and difficult – often at the same time! At the end of the 2006-2007 school year I was feeling pretty much “done” with it, but I continued on through the first semester of the 2007-2008 school year. I really had to press in and pray and God just totally met me – I had a great class and it was a phenomenal beginning. I felt like I was just hitting my stride and meeting with a lot of success and loving the classroom. Then, I was asked to move departments and join up with the Short Term Outreach department, which takes teams out for 1-2 weeks at a time. Isn’t it funny how God works…He didn’t rescue me when I was at the end of my rope, but instead took me to a place where I could leave the school feeling successful instead of defeated! He just always knows what He’s doing…I’m learning to depend on Him earlier and earlier in the process! =)

So, in January I moved over to the Short Term Outreach department…this is who I was helping out last summer when I was working with groups in Mexico. Now, I’ll be heading to Mexico for 1-2 weeks every month leading groups to do house builds or to work in an orphanage. It’s been a great transition and a lot of fun so far. Sierra is enjoying getting to come along with me and being part of the ministry. Sometimes she joins up with groups and helps to build, other times she runs around with me getting supplies and keeping everything running smoothly. She also spends time with the missionary’s kids down in Mexico, working on schoolwork or just hanging out with them.

So far, I’ve led teams in building 25 houses (this includes last summer, too). These homes are housing over 150 people! The great thing is that we’ve been able to witness to each of these families not only through our words, but also our actions and our love. I get the privilege of going back to visit some of the families, too.

Each week when we bring teams down, we go out into the community for an evening of outreach. Sometimes we visit a large drug rehab center and make a dinner of hot dogs for the guys, and share testimonies with them in their church service – this is a group of guys who have experienced the grace of God and are on fire with His Sprit!!! We also go to a smaller rehab sometimes and take a couple of pizzas, play a couple games of soccer on the beach and then have a big bonfire and fellowship and share the love of God with each other (you might imagine this is popular with our young men!). One of my favorite outreaches is taking groups to visit some friends of mine who live the “camps” – they are field workers and live in extreme poverty conditions. We go out to where they live and bring a simple dinner and spend time praying with people, playing with kids and encouraging the families. I’ve taught the kids how to play this game where you go “give me 5, give me 5 high, give me 5 low (and then you pull your hand away and say) oops! Too slow!” They think this game is the best and want to play it endlessly.

Well…that is a little glimpse of what I’m doing these days. Please, please, please…keep in touch!! It is such a great joy and a blessing to hear from my friends and family…it is the most wonderful thing ever! God created us for relationship, and I want to continue building those special God-ordained friendships – they are a true blessing to me. Until then – may God bless you richly!