Monday, June 27, 2011

He will wipe away tears

This week was eventful and full of God.... I will try to keep in short and paraphrase. :)

There is no greater joy than to dwell in the presence of the Lord. I am so thankful for all that God has done and continues to do in my life and my only desire is to serve Him.

This week, the mission team that I worked with was from Florida. It was a group of 6 adults and two teenagers... (I know I'm getting old when they call me "Ms.Sidney").

Construction Days
Monday and Tuesday were construction days. We began bright and early Monday morning carrying loads of materials and tools up a steep, muddy mountain to the building site. The square foundation of this house was literally on the side of a mountain, with steep drop offs from all sides but one. Because of a shortage of money, Iglesia del Camino has had to change the type of houses we build. This was difficult because they had mastered the construction of the other model and could built those houses in about 3 hours. Monday was the first time trying out the new model! We began building (with all elements against us). I literally had to serve as a support beam to hold up one of the guys as he drilled screws into the house while trying not to fall down the mountain. In the middle of the day, it began to rain heavily. We had to stop building until the rained passed which took a large chunck of time... At one point, the men were busy working on ladders and I found myself with nothing to do.
I decided to venture down to talk to the family whose house we were building. Their old "house" was one tiny 5x5 metal room, a "bathroom" which was made with 4 sheets and a tin roof, a stove sat outside with a piece of tin overtop, uneven dirt floors, steep stairs to the road, and chickens EVERYWHERE!

I found a grandmother who had two daughters. One of her daughters had one son and a husband who was a police officer. The other daughter was not there; she had 2 children, one whose name was Javier, and no husband. I spoke with the grandmother for a while and finally asked her how I could pray for her. She began to tell me a long story about her absent daughter. Her daughter was in the hospital and had been for about a month. She had a hole in her heart and was having great difficulty breathing. The children were staying with the grandmother while their mother was sick. The grandmother went each day to the hospital to visit her daughter and update her. Her daughter especially loved to hear about the construction of the new house. The grandmother informed me that her daughter was so excited to have somewhere to sleep comfortably and hoped that it would help her heal faster. Javier (the son of the sick woman) played as we talked. After I finished talking with the grandmother (about 30 minutes), she left and went to the hospital. I then began to talk with Javier (age 9) who has been learning English in school. He showed off his English skills by counting to 20. I told him that after 20, all of the numbers followed the same pattern. He was eager to learn so I worked with him for about 15 minutes. He continued to repeat what I told him until he was able to recite the numbers to 100 perfectly. Javier was so  diligent and truly desired to learn more. He was motivated by the promise of a better life for his family, not for extrinsic rewards or candy like so many of the other children I know. Javier followed me around the rest of the day, trying to help us build what would become his house.

It took us A LOT longer than anticipated to finish the house because of the new style and because of the monsoons of rain! (It was pretty entertaining watching us women trying to carry super heavy equipment down a muddy mountain side without falling while be chased by chickens). I continued to talk to the family on Tuesday as well. The rain halted our progress once more as we all squeezed under one 3x10 piece of metal to eat our lunches and "wait out" the storm. It was actually rather funny to watch us all try to throw pieces of tin over the support beams on the roof to provide some sort of shelter for our tools that would be ruined if rained on. Although it was extremely hot in this tin oven, I enjoyed doing physical work for the Lord.

The men put the finishing touches on the first house and built an entire second house on Wednesday.

We returned to the houses on Friday between other mission projects to bless the houses. We went to the first house and we passed Javier (the little boy whose mother was sick) as we walked up the huge hill towards the house. The "gate-thing" was closed and we knocked. We waited and knocked again. No one answered. 2 of the men went back down the hill to inquire about where the family was. Javier walked up to the rest of us after the 2 men went to get details. Javier gave us hugs and called us by name. He was holding a toy truck and had a small smile. Obed (the construction leader from IDC) came walked back somberly. He told us that we couldn't go into the house because there was a dead body in the house.... the woman had died.... in this culture, the bodies are brought to the house for 24 hours so that others can visit the body and mourn over the loss. We went back down the hill where the grandmother was now standing with her 2 orphaned grand-children; we laid hands on the family and prayed for them as the grandmother wept loudly. The children looked up at us confused, unable to fully comprehend what "death" means. The grandmother immediately began thanking God, between sobs, for blessing her family.... wow. In her mourning, she is praising God for all of his blessing. She told us that on her daughter's last day, she spoke of how she was so thankful to know that the family was going to have a house to live in. She was able to die knowing that her children had a house.
-This situation hit me really hard; I had developed a relationship with this grandmother and her grandchildren (now orphans) over the past few days. My heart broke for the children. I know that God will take care of them and watch over them. My heart just breaks knowing the pain that they will have to endure as they seek to fill that hole and that longing..... I pray that they do ultimately discover what I discovered when my father left my life; God is the only worthy father and more than any person on this Earth could offer. But, I do know the heart ache and suffering that these children will have to endure as they seek their own understanding. My heart breaks for them. I cried with them, wishing I could help carry their burden of pain.

VBS & "The Club"
On Wednesday, the women and I went to lead a bible study and do the feeding program again; followed by a VBS for the kids. This was great once more! Hundreds of poor, malnourished kids walked alone to the church to eat and learn about God. I loved watching the children come and drink in God's word as well as a hot meal! I sat with the children on the floor while we listened to the lesson; they rubbed my white legs with their tan hands. Their big eyes smiled at me and without words spoke volumes.

On Friday, (after we went to the house blessing), we went to help at "The Club". This is a program for rural, poor children after school each day. A man runs "The Club" and provides them with a snack, a safe place to stay after school, and activities to teach them. There is also a feeding program through this organization. Hundreds of kids came on Friday. They came in and did our activities that we had planned. The thing that shocked me was how quickly and attentively they sat and listened to the sharing of the gospel and the bible stories. Children ages 3-14 all sat quietly and listened for at least 30 minutes as one of the ladies from our team told stories of Jesus.
I fell in love with a sweet little boy who had special needs. He could not talk and had difficulty walking; his legs were deformed. He was so joyful when I put my arms under his to hold him up while we sang the "jumping" song. He jumped up and down just like the other kids... smiling from ear to ear. Children like him would receive help in the United States. In this part of Guatemala, he is left unattended and in the eyes of those in his neighborhood, his disabilities are accepted and he is made un-able to overcome. There is no money nor support to help him. He will grow up and be limited not by his disability but by a lack of education and resources for the adults in his life. A sweet child of God.

When it was time for the kids to go home at the end of "Club", they all gathered together to pray for us... they prayed aloud for us. Wow. They thanked God that we were there and they begged God to bless us... how humbling... these small children all raised their hands in prayer for us. They really "get it".

Weekend In Guat. City with Pastor Saul's Family
On Saturday, Pastor Saul's daughters came from Guatemala city to pick up Grace and I. We spent the weekend with their family. Saturday night we went to a worship service (all in Spanish) at their church. It was just what I needed! It is funny how all language barriers are broken when the Holy Spirit moves amongst his ONE united body of believers. The service lasted for 3 hours (from 5:30-8:30); I can only imagine what some Christians I know would do if church lasted this long. The service consisted of some preaching but was mostly a time of prayer and worship. It was beautiful. I loved listening to the sounds of hundreds of voices raising their individual prayers to God, making a incompressible but holy roar. We sang in Spanish, all hands raised high; songs of thanksgiving (many of these people who are homeless or live in the trash dump), songs of praise and adoration, and songs praising God for his wonderful presence.
We ate dinner, slept, and ate breakfast at Pastor Saul's church. We had fried platanos (plantains) and black beans for breakfast which were delicious!!!
The Sunday festivities began at 8:30 with the feeding of the children. The church takes a van and picks up about 100 children. The children are fed a hot, large Sunday breakfast. Almost all of the children who go to this church (Jesus es el Camino) come alone without parents. They love to be there; there are willing to come as young as 3 years old without any adults. They are desperate to dwell in this place where they fill loved; the love given to them is from God alone and through men and women whose hearts have been transformed by this same love from God.
The church service lasts from 9:30-1:00ish. It is wonderful and none is looking at their watch wondering when they will be able to leave for lunch! The children (without their parents present) sit in the front few rows for the first bit of the service (worship) and sing songs to God with arms raised high.

Home Visits- Trash Dump 
Sunday after church we went to visit 2 homes in the trash dump. I was shocked at how many children recognized me (from weeks ago when I came with the Lakewood women's team) and the little voices that called out "Cindy" as they ran to give me a hug.

The first house we visited was a home that the men from Lakewood built. It was a one room house filled with children and 3 women. One of the women inside (the mother of 5 children) told a sad story when I asked her what I could pray for. Her husband died a year ago from alcoholism. She was left alone with the 5 kids. The family of her late husband is convinced that she killed him. They kicked her out of the "house" that they were living in; another woman from the church (who also lives in the dump) has invited this woman and her children to stay with her. (All of the people now living in this house; 5 children, 3 women, one bed, one room, dirt floor, one light, no bathroom, no locks on the doors, no safety other than shelter from the rain). The family of her late-husband come to this house and torment the widow telling her that her deceased husband is going to come from the dead and kill all of her children. The woman is scared when she leaves each day for work; leaving her 5 children (all under 7 years old) alone in the house. My heart was burdened knowing that if these people were threatening this such as this; it could be a ploy to kill the children and have an excuse to cover up the deeds. Can you imagine raising your children, knowing that you have to work each day in order to simply feed them. But when you leave for work you are haunted by the idea of your children being left alone, unattended, in danger of death. You daily have to weigh your options; will you work and leave your children at risk for because of lies you believe to be true; or stay at home with them and let them die of starvation?
Pastor Saul, Layla, and I all offered her words of encouragement taken from God's word and we prayed. Layla, a servant of God who works according to His leading, decided that starting Monday Layla would have someone from the church pick up the children and take them to a "day care" type place where the mother could pick them up after work.

The second house we visited was the house of the 2 deaf children that I spent so much time with two weeks ago. A woman and her 5 children (in total) live in this house. There is no father; he was shot while he was working a few years ago. The woman told us about the hardships of life that she was currently facing. The government now wants her to pay Q2,000 to re-rent the shack that she is living in in the trash dump or else they will sale it (prime real-estate I guess?). She also told us that she was worried about her 2 children who could not hear (Elisabeth is also bilingual and I asked her for clarification on something the woman said.... Elisabeth said, "The 2 children who don't listen". I thought that was hilarious! Luckily that wasn't the part of the story that I didn't understand). Last night, a boy was killed in the trashdump and the boys who killed him threw his body in a sink hole that was later filled with water because of the rain. The mother at this house was worried that her 2 deaf children would go over to that spot which is located right beside their house, and see the dead body and blood. Because they can not hear, she did not know how to tell them no to go to this place; and if they did see the dead body, she could not comfort them with words. At first we were terrified that a small child was murdered last night. We later found out that there were drugs involved of some sort.
-Can you imagine raising your children in a place where you can offer them no safety, death and murder fill the air, cries of pain and hunger ring loudly........ you have no way of protecting or caring for your children. A small light shines in the darkness; a light shines in the midst of this hell. There is a light of hope that radiates from those who possess the Holy Spirit in this place. This is literally their only hope.

So, what then will it take for those who do have the comfort of their lives to fully understand this "only thing worth living for"? Hopefully, it won't have to come down to that for most of us. I pray that God can be our only thing worth living for in any and all circumstances.

“God himself will be with them. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes’” (Revelation 21:3-4)

Sunday, June 19, 2011

First week in Antigua Complete!

What a week! I have officially finished my first week of the internship at Iglesia del Camino! It's been crazy! Grace (the other intern) and I have to walk to the church each morning at 7:15. We then work hard all day with the teams on various projects. When we return back to the church after the days projects are through, Grace & I (while the team rests) begin to cook dinner for everyone. We serve dinner and clean up. We are usually not back home until 8:00ish. It's a long day, made even longer by the rude awakening from Mr. Rooster at 4:00a.m. EVERY SINGLE MORNING.... it's like clockwork! I can't figure that guy out!  But even with the long day, nothing compares to the joy of knowing that we are working in God's will.

On Wednesday and Friday of this week, we took the teams to 4 different public schools that were in the "country side" of Guatemala. On Wednesday we also helped with a feeding program in a small town.
This feeding program is for children who live nearby that are extremely poor.... the lunch that this program provides to the children is (in most cases) the only "healthy and complete" meal that these children receive all week. Over 200 children come (by themselves without parents). There are a few mothers who volunteer to help cook and to help serve the food. The team and us leaders came to relieve the women and to love on the kids.

I found a spot next to a little girl name Jessica and began to talk with her. She was busy coloring a page from a coloring book.... using only the yellow crayon and not staying in the lines at all. She informed me that she was 10 years old and pointed to her other siblings. She was the oldest. Her clothes had holes in them and were noticeably old and dirty. I continued to make "small talk" and reminded her (the teacher in me) to write her name at the top of her paper. She returned a stare that spoke novels. Not only did she not know what I meant by that statement, she had no idea how to do what I had asked. Jessica, at 10 years old, has never been to school. The school in her area is free, but Jessica's parents cannot afford the $8 for uniforms and books. This is the sad reality for hundreds of children in Guatemala. I guess when you are worried about survival, "education" is not the highest thing on your list.
I wrote Jessica's name on the back of her coloring page and explained to her what it was. She grabbed a new crayon and wrote over my letters. She continued to re-write her name (forming many of the letters wrong and inconsistently) until she filled the whole page. She did not stop continually to show me and gain my verbal praise. She wasn't working for any type of reward or affirmation. She was just desperate to know....
**Here is a picture of the feeding program!

On Friday, we went to 2 public schools in the country. Neither of these schools have ever had a missions team visit. They both go unnoticed for the most part.... no one care to deliver the gospel of salvation to these people who are so desperate for a savior. The families of the students at these schools live on less that $2 a day, on a good day..... for the entire family. Keep in mind, these families usually consist of at least 7 people. Can you imagine supporting your entire family on $2 a day? I guess that "2:30 Diet Dr.Pepper" would have to be cut! The students at these  schools wanted to be there. There "school building" was just a square, one story building in the middle of farmland. There are only about 6 classrooms that are empty except for the desks.
We had an event at the second of the two schools about drug awareness.... almost everyone of these children are affected by drug and alcohol abuse in someway; either they are directly involved, have a parent who is involved, or someone in their family. It is so sad to watch people try and find meaning in things that will never satisfy; deal with guilt that has already been paid for, numb pain that someone is begging to take away....
A HUGE man gave his testimony followed by a few others from our team.  A lot of us who were there have either been involved with drugs or have been affected by someone else's drug or alcohol abuse. It was moving and powerful. As anyone who is affected by drugs knows, this is a hard group of people to reach.... and I know that God was present in this place working in the hearts of these teenagers. I pray that these kids allow God to come fill that void... He filled mine!
**Here are a few pictures! The first is of a child washing clothes directly outside of the school yard. The second is a picture of the basketball court/classroom at the school.... please notice the cows! The third is a picture of the students standing to hear the speakers.... yup, they are standing outside in the Guatemalan heat for 2 hours... no complaints!

On Saturday, Grace and I went to the market with our Guatemalan family! We bought fruit and vegetables! When we got home from the market, Grace and I decided to go for a walk! It was literally pouring down rain, maybe a monsoon ;), the entire time! It sounded lovely! Rain is just so cleansing! We then had a bar-b-que with out Guatemalan family for Father's Day!

Sunday, I was SO blessed to have the chance to spend the afternoon with Layla, Olivia, and Elisabeth! Layla is a doctor and is Pastor Saul's husband; this is the family that Lakewood works with and the people that I served with the first week I was here. It was SO wonderful to see them.... I have missed them! Layla gave me some great advise and God's calling.... and she prayed with me. Spending the day with them was just what I needed and God used them to put a peace in my heart. What a beautiful and Godly family....

John 17:18 "As you have sent me into the world, I have sent then into the world." -Jesus

Church today was about darkness and how darkness strengthens us and teaches us to walk by faith. Perhaps this is why the people of Guatemala, those who do know Jesus, have such strong faith... they walk through a lot of darkness. They are desperate for God and not ashamed to scream out to Him. They are able to persevere through hard times because they have had faith in darkness and have been mad strong... Guatemala is not their home anymore that Georgia is mine; this is not our home. :) What a joyful thought in the midst of poverty.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Malnutrition Center

A team from Florida came this weekend; they will be here for a week. On Monday and Tuesday, we went with the team to the malnutrition center in San Jose.
Guatemala has some of the highest malnutrition rates in the world. The average 9 year old here is at least 2 inches shorter than nine year olds everywhere else in the world because of malnutrition. 

The malnutrition center that we went to has children ranging from birth to 11 years old. The majority of the kids are babies. There used to be 200 children served there but because of lack of funding and various problems, the number dropped drastically. Currently, Pastor Mike's home church is supporting the center and has provided for the center to take care of 73 kids (I think that's the number)! There is one doctor who sees the children. There are various women who live and work there to take care of these children's needs and to "re-feed" them. the children are divided by age into separate rooms. Some children are sent there after doctors have told their parents that the child is going to die. Others are dropped of by their mothers who simply can't take care of them. One set of siblings were recently dropped off by their father because their mother had died during child birth and he could not afford to properly feed them.... he does hope to come back and get them when they regain health.

The first room I went into was the "Canaries", the infant room. There are 2 women who take care of the 20 infants.... If you've ever had children, you can imagine what these women must do and just how huge of a task this is. The children are all on doctor prescribed diets. They have to have specific formulas and bottles 4 times a day. This does not include breakfast, lunch, and dinner. These 2 women have to keep 20 childrens' diapers changed. They have to get the children up, bathed each morning, dressed, beds stripped and thoroughly cleaned, fed, bottles washed, diapers changed.... As you can imagine, they literally NEVER stop. It is literally all they can do to keep up with the basic things. They do a wonderful job at it. However, with that many children, they do not actually have time or the ability to hold the babies. 
Studies after studies have shown just how detrimental it is to infant growth and development to not encounter human contact. When it is feeding time on an average day, over half of the kids are laid on the floor and hold their own bottles.... some only a few months old. When someone begins to cry, there is no one who is able to pick them up. It would be impossible for these women to rock each baby to sleep and to read them a bed time story. There is no time to stop and play or talk to the babies. Some of the babies are so sick that they have infant sized bodies and regular sized heads. Last year, a women volunteering with a missions team held a baby as it closed it's tiny eyes for the last time... 

We took the team there for 2 days to simply help. We helped feed, rock, change, wash, hold, and care for the babies. The most important thing we did was just love on these kids. There was one little girl that  I was immediately drawn to. Her name was written on the white board above her crib, Sandra. Her date of birth as well as date of arrival to the center was also written. Sandra was 2 years old and had only been at the center for 4 days. Her mother had dropped her off because doctors had said that she basically had no hope. She was in the infant wing because she was SO tiny and so, so sick. Her eyes told an deep story of fear, sorrow, and suffering. At 2 years old, Sandra could not hold herself up to sit; she could not talk; she could not crawl, she did not play at all; she couldn't even eat much because the act of eating made her sick. Sandra was so sad..... On Monday, I held her all day. She just laid in my arms and looked up at me. Whenever I tried to lay her down, she would scream. Mothers know about the different cries a baby has... this cry was so unique and just screamed "help me". 

Monday & Tuesday afternoon, I tried to put Sandra down for a nap with the other children (when it was time for the team to leave). She grabbed my hair with both hands, clinching onto me, and wrapped her legs around me. She screamed so loudly and would not let go.... Her eyes begged me to stay. She screamed and cried.... as I had to leave her. This child has nothing constant in her life. Her mother has left her, the nurses must quickly come and go, and now I have to leave her. She has nothing to hold onto or depend on. She is scared and looking at me, an adult, to help her. That was the worst feeling in the world. I cried having to walk out of the room, leaving a helpless child scared and alone. 

I know that all of these children are at the center to regain their health so that they can actually survive. It is just so sad to watch and worry. I know that God is working in this place, it is so evident. These women who work for barely nothing are gifts directly from God. The doctors who volunteer to save lives here are sent directly from God. I pray that by just holding these babies, we may be able to show them some sort of love as the arms of Jesus. 

One little boy was sent home Tuesday. He had been at the center for 9 months. He had finally gotten healthy enough that he was released back to his parents. His parents cried as the doctors completed the final check-up. There was so much joy in that moment. I looked back through the glass at crying little Sandra and knew that at least she had hope....

Saturday, June 11, 2011

My New Family! :)

I feel much better than I did last week! I have been so tired from the medicine! I have been so busy and have crashed as soon as I get home!

On Thursday the Lakewood women's team and I went to an orphanage called "Casa Shalom". This was the first day that I got out of bed and was okay... (on Wednesday the group went to the HIV Hospice and I was not able to go because I was too sick to move... additionally, I had the potential of getting the children sick). But I woke up on Thursday and felt much better! I absolutely LOVED "Casa Shalom"!!!! There are 60 orphans who live. They live in "families" with a set of house parents with a group of children divided by age. This place was so peaceful... a place created by God.
When we asked Erica (she is running the place while her brother is in the States), what we could specifically pray for, she told us of one little boy.. I think his name was Antonio. We were only told part of his story but he had been hit by a car at a young age and was partially paralyzed. His parents had also forced him to work at a VERY young age. His parents would abuse him if he did not earn enough money. Because of the combination of these things, his right arm has been paralyzed and is deformed. However, doctors from the United States have been coming to do surgery on him. He has had about 3 surgeries and is having one more. At this point, he can actually use this arm and will hopefully gain more function after the next surgery!

Thursday afternoon I left the Lakewood women and came to my new house to live with my new family! They are AMAZING!!! The father, Antonio, works at the church where I am interning. Sonja, his wife, is a teacher. They have 3 children who are 2, 6, and 9. Late that night the other intern arrived, Grace. Grace is awesome and I know that God is going to teach us both so much.

We both went to the church on Friday. Iglesia del Camino is phenominal! We had a tour and met everyone. We also went to the youth group service that night. Every service is in English and Spanish. Because I do speak some Spanish, I am very entertained to hear the difference in the the sermons and the translations. The "main speaker" pauses after every few sentences and the other person repeats the sentences in the other language. However, a LOT of personality shines through..... it's absolutely hilarious to hear/watch the English and Spanish version and charades of a story. The best is when the pastor will make up a word in English and the Spanish translator not only doesn't know the word but has no way to translate it! I love it when they say, "I will splain you..... I will fill you with the tales (details)".

Today we went to the market.... it was huge and beautiful.... there were so many colors!!! There were fruits, vegetables, fish, pig hearts, clothes, any and everything! Very fun!

I am so excited about this coming week! We have a team coming from Winter Haven Florida! We are going to be working at the malnutrition center and doing various VBS's!

The thing God has been teaching me these past two weeks is personal applications of a bible story from Mark. This story is well known.... it is this story of the friends carrying the paralyzed man to Jesus.
Each time I think about this story I find something new.
-How can I carry other people's mat? I think one of the most important ways to carry someone's mat to Jesus is through prayer.
-What are the roofs that we have to break in order to carry someone directly to the foot of Jesus. Unbelief, pride, needs, fear,.....
-The friends who broke through the roof knew exactly where to make a hole so that there friend would land directly in front of Jesus.... It is so important to be sensitive to where Jesus is and listen for His voice.
-God made us for community. He also wants us to help those who cannot help themselves.

Monday, June 6, 2011

"Nothing to live for on this Earth"

On Sunday we went to Iglesia del Camino. It was amazing and wonderful. I can't wait to spend my summer working there. After we left church we made "home" visits to families in the trash dump.
Pastor Saul had orchestrated which houses we would visit and we took them bags of food and prayers. Our women's team was divided into 3 groups to do home visits.

The "homes" that we visited consisted of tin walls and a tin roof. They had dirt floors. An entire family of 11 would live in a "house" smaller than most people's bathrooms. The room was just large enough for one bed. There were no windows or closets or spaces for storage. Storage isn't necessary when you have nothing. Everything in the dump is grey, brown, and black. Volcanic ash covers most of the land. Children run around filthy and hungry. When we entered into the houses we were welcomed with smiles and grateful hearts. My group visited the 4 planned houses and still had an extra bag left over. We decided to take the extra food bag to the family of the little girl who had been following us around with her 2 younger siblings. I was lucky enough to snatch the smallest of the siblings and carry him around with me in the dump for the day.... even though his "diaper" was leaking all over me. He was an angle child and was content just being held... a luxury which is hard to come by. When he did cry his sister of only 8 years old took him and had him asleep within 3 minutes.... children raising children. When we took the food to this family, we realized that God had intervened and led. Out of the hundreds of families in the dump, we took that bag to the family that God led us to. This was the family that both parents had received Christ the day before at our medical clinic.

The other two groups visited homes as well. One group prayed with a man as he received Christ.... while his young, young children wept with joy around him. These young children knew the joy. Another group prayed over a women in pain. They laid hands on her and cried out to God and begged for His presence. He led these women who were obedient. None of them knew what they were doing but they yielded to the Holy Spirit. They moved their hands up this lady's stomach as they all prayed loudly in unison. When they finally got to her face, she began to cough and throw up green. Her pain was then gone.... in the name of God.

Today we visited Lakewood's preschool which is on the border of the dump. The children sang and danced for us and they were marvelous. God's fingerprints were all over them. 60 kids in a tiny small cement square school.

In the afternoon we had a women's worship service for the mothers of the children from the preschool. Over 40 women attended. Phyllis had planned to give her testimony and had been preparing for days. We were all eating lunch before this women's meeting and Phyllis shared her heart with us. She said that she would be fine giving her testimony but that she knew in her heart that God was telling her there was something else He wanted to do. She said that God told her that I was supposed to give my testimony. As outgoing and bold as I am, I was terrified by the idea of speaking (through a translator) in front of these women who live in what most would consider hell. But God told me to come to Him... so I slipped away for a few minutes and talked to God. And I prayed... and prayed.... and cried for the first time in a long time. I knew that God wanted me to tell HIS story, not mine. And I begged God to make me small and Him large. I had never given my testimony in front of a group of strangers this large. I didn't know what I was going to say but I knew that I didn't want to have ANY of myself in my words but ALL of God.
It was healing and humbling.

God did speak through me these words at the end of my story:
"If you think you have nothing to live for in the world.... you are exactly right. There is NOTHING to live for here.... the only thing worth living for is not of this world."

Here are a few verses that God also placed on my heart:

Hosea 11- the entire chapter. God talks about how much he loves Israel even how diligently He called out to His people; just as God continued to seek after me.

James 1:2-18
James 5: 7-11

Perseveren in God.... just as I have learned through my life and these women who live in Guatemala trash dump have learned and show through theirs.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

"To love is to serve"

The past two days have been both amazing and tiring....

Yesterday we had the medical clinic. It was the coolest thing.... With four nurses in a tiny "room" (wooden planks formed the walls and ceiling, cement floor) in the middle of a trash dump saw over 200 families.... God was at work. It reminded me of Jesus feeding 5,000 people with only 2 fish and 5 loaves. God was at work in me specifically with one family.... a mother of 5 sat waiting with her 5 children. The two oldest of the five were both deaf and mute. They were gorgeous children and I was immediately drawn to them. Whenever I began to communicate with them someone would immediately tell me that they couldn't talk. No one had ever worked with these children or given them the opportunity to learn to communicate. I ignored the words of the others and felt led to be with these 2 kids. This is the same little girl from the first day who prayed in her heart while the other children bowed their heads.

One amazing and different thing about this medical clinic is that is was advertised in the dump (by word of mouth) mainly for women to attend with their children; most of the men are never with their families. However, we were shocked to see how many children came alone. There were many instances where a young child of only 7 or 8 years old would bring their younger siblings to be seen by the nurses. There were little girls who were babies themselves carrying younger siblings strapped to their backs. The children listened very closely as I translated the directions for the medication. The power of the Spirit filled the room and equipped us all with "spiritual" gift; gifts which we personally can not claim but that were given to us at that time by the Holy Spirit in order to do God's work and for His glory alone.... I assumed that I would be working with the children while the medical clinic took place. However, as I sat handing out dresses I felt led by the Spirit to help the girls at the "medicine" table who were giving the prescriptions. I know nothing about medicine... but God led me there. To my surprise they desperately needed someone who spoke Spanish who could explain to the people how to use the medicine. It worked like clock work and it was ONLY by the enabling and equipping power of God. I love how he uses us for His glory by giving us gifts at the time they are needed to do his work; gifts that we can claim no credit of.

People accepted Christ in that medical clinic as we prayed with each one after they saw the nurses.... it was beautiful and words are far from sufficient to describe this experience....

Today we took 200 children to the zoo... whew! None of them had ever been to a zoo before.
We gave the girls the dresses that I talked about earlier. They LOVED them!!!!!!!! They were SO thankful to have a dress made out of a pillow case.... I wonder what some of the children I know would say if I gave them a dress made out of a pillow case, AND didn't let them pick their favorite color!

One lady who was helping at the zoo told me a story that I feel compelled to tell. We hear stories that shock us and break our hearts all day. This was one of the many from today. This lady has 3 children who are beautiful that she is raising alone. Her husband was killed a year ago in a drive by shooting while he was at work.... trying to earn money to feed his family. He was a hard worker and a good husband. He was killed while working.... he wasn't at the bar when he was shot, he wasn't out playing tennis and enjoying himself, he was working. He was killed by a 10 year old boy.
In the afternoon we had a women's clinic. We pampered the women for hours; washing feet, painting nails, giving massages, and giving goody bags. We prayed with them individually after a worship service. The Lakewood women's team crouched on the floor for at least 5 hours washing and rubbing dirty feet.

This morning Janet gave me these bible verses that God had placed on her heart to share with me.....
Here are mine:

Psalm 37:3-6, 23
"Trust in the Lord and do good. Dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this:
He will make your righteous shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun. If the Lord delights in a man's way, he makes his steps firm."

Romans 15:13
"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit."

Philippians 2:13
"for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose."

** I'm putting up pictures on facebook of today and yesterday.... go look! :)

God bless!
Peace and love,

Thursday, June 2, 2011


What a crazy day..... Day 1 in Guatemala.

We were at the airport at 2:00a.m.... we have been traveling ever since which means literally everyone on the trip is running off of 2 hours of sleep and an unhealthy amount of caffeine!!! Needless to say we are exhausted.... it's now 9:00 in Guatemala (which means it is 11:00 in GA), the time difference does not help with the exhaustion.

On the plane today looking down at the city of Ft.Lauderdale, I couldn't help but laugh at how similar it looked to a little toy town (like the one on Mr.Roger's neighborhood or the doll houses we had as children). It was crazy to see the millions of buildings that looked so small.... so insignificant... just "another" building in a cookie cutter town... And the cars were moving around like little ants.... As I watched I thought how each of those millions of little cars could possibly be holding 5 people.
How humbling to think that there are all of these people, insignificant and unknown to us in this city. And then to imagine that there are cities with all of these "ants" running around all over the world... wow. Who am I?! I am one of those millions of little black ants.... unnoticed to man in the grand scheme of things. But to think.... that the God of this universe calls me his child and his friend. What a huge, powerful, unlimited God. Truly humbling.

Beth practices her Spanish at the airport and proceeds to tell one of the women working there that (translation): "The toilet is fractured". She is obviously a nurse!

We have a connection flight to Guatemala... spend a while in customs... :/  load and unload and reload huge crates....
stop to eat at "Pollo Ranchero"... and then the craziness has began. Running on 2 hours of sleep, God redefined "I am your strength when you are weak".

Group B went to shop for groceries and supplies while group A went to the small church outside of the dump. The children there were amazing..... huge brown eyes that served as windows into their beautiful souls.... smiles that reveal their joy. They sit in small square rooms with one teacher.... chairs lining the walls (no tables). Some students are working on "typing"... on a typewriter!!! (The typewriting handbook shows a lady in a dress with heels and a bun on the cover... haha)! The small children sing when Lynn and I enter the room. The immediately run to us and thank us... we haven't even done anything. The Air Head candy that we broke into pieces and handed out was a huge hit.... their giggles filled the room as I took pictures of their blue tongues... completely intrigued with the camera!!!!

After the brief church visit, we headed straight to the landfill. I'm not sure how to even begin to describe this landfill. Neither words nor pictures can express the shocking reality we faced there. (I'll write tomorrow about how the landfill actually looks).
The children and women flooded into a small little "room" to see us. The room had metal walls, dirt floor, wood panels (about a foot apart from one another) formed somewhat of a roof. Children were everywhere! We had to walk with caution, avoiding the little "rivers" which served as a sewage system. The children were filthy... covered with dirt... they have no way to bath and no water in the landfill. These people literally live in and live off of this trash.  We gather together with these women and children and have an unplanned service!
The service begins with singing and then prayer.... each women praying aloud at the same time, literally screaming out to Jesus. We are asked which one of us was going to give their testimony (we had not planned for this at all) and 2 women on our team spoke. Needless to say, both of them just opened their mouths and God took over from there (trust me, we had no brain power left at this point)! Their testimonies were powerful and God used them to touch hearts.... 4 women accepted Christ as their Lord and savior.... crying and praying and praising.... it's unbelievable...

The sweetest thing happened in my group of pray-ers... I had one little girl who could not speak and therefore had her sister tell me that she could not pray. I told her that everyone could pray in their hearts and that God knew what she was saying.... she smiled and put her arms around my neck. She then motioned for the 15 other children in my group to bow their heads. We sat in silence for a few minutes praying in our hearts until she sat back up and gave the "I'm finished nod". Faith like a child. EVERY single one of the other children bowed their heads and supported her in "Corazon" prayer.... some of them only 2 years old.