Bright and early Thursday morning, Antonio drove Grace and I to Guatemala City. Grace left for Florida.... .... Pastor Saul and his children met Antonio and I am took me with his family.
Although I was heartbroken to be leaving the family I had grown to love, I was immediately embraced and regarded as a part of Saul's family.
Saul's Family- Thursday
Pastor Saul, Layla (his wife), Olivia (his oldest daughter), Little Saul and Elizabeth, are one of a kind... Whenever I spend time with them, I feel closer to Jesus. His love is beautifully portrayed in their nonselective love... his passion is portrayed through their ministry in the trash dump..... this family devotes their entire lives to Christ. Their identity is in him alone. When they picked me up from the airport, I felt humbled to be in their presence, even more so that they were so thankful to have me with them.
My verse that immediately comes to my head when I think of Saul's family:
We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.- 1 Thess. 1:3
We dropped the kids off at school (at 6:30 in the morning). I then was able to spend the day helping Saul do various chores... such as buying aluminum sheets for the new houses the church is building for a few families in the landfill. We delivered the aluminum sheets to the dump; where women came to help carry the sheets to the building site. Blancita- one of my favorite little girls, ran to meet me and accompanied us for the rest of the day in the dump, trying to help whenever she was able.
(Part of the family we built a stove for on Friday)We then went to one of the houses where a stove was being constructed. The stoves, which cost about $125 (United States Dollars) each are a HUGE deal for these families. These stoves are a source of life. These stoves give the ability for families to not only cook (since they can not build a fire during the constant rain and have no supply of wood; and the fires in the dump smoke out the entire house, robbing it of oxygen) quickly for the 15 people living in one house; but also the ability to heat food that they collect in the dump in order to kill germs. These stoves also provide these people with hope; a hope that they can learn a skill, such as cooking, and then have a way to sale some kind of "good" in order to earn money... Lakewood Baptist Church's family team will be installing 20 stoves this coming week. We are continuing to try and raise money for more stoves.
Friday- Feeding in the Dump
Friday night I went with the church to help with the feeding program in the dump. The church prepared one tub of beans, one tub of frijoles (beans), and 2 bags of bread. We backed the church van into the dump to serve the food. When we got there, there was a line of at least 200 people waiting for food. The church (whose mission is to reach children) had the children come to the front of the line. Each person brought their own "bowl" (some of which were lids off of containers they found while sorting through trash) & cups (ice cream containers from the trash). Blancita was there of course, caring for her 6 younger siblings.... she is only 8 years old assuming all responsibility of an adult mother. Before we served the food, one of the church pastor's led the group in a praise song and prayer. These starving people gladly praised God in priority to eating.
The food was served, children gladly receiving their food, walking back to their "house" barefoot through filth and garbage. 10 year olds helping their younger siblings, protecting them... if not for their size, you would believe they were their parents. Each child was wearing the same thing they had on the day prior when I came to the dump. I was once again humbled to walk into this place and have children run to hug me screaming, "Sipney".... so endearing.
As we served the food, I kept a watchful eye on the two pots of food. Anyone would agree that there was a visible discrepancy between the number of people and the amount of food; not to mention we were serving HUGE portions. The food containers dwindled down to about 1/4 of the way full.... the line continued to grow as more people filed in. The other "gringo" with us was extremely nervous. Pastor Saul never blinked or stopped to think once about worrying. We continued to scoop. The amount of food in containers stayed at "1/4" full... the food literally lasted until the last person.... there was actually 2 scoops left.... amazingly, 2 little boys ran up at the last minute who had been working (sorting trash) who had been late to the feeding; they receiving the last 2 portions. It was a modern day "feeding of the 5,000".
On Saturday morning, the Compassion Program in conjunction with Cristo es el Camino (Saul's church) had a children's fun day. Over 150 children, all sponsored by individuals through the Compassion Program, met at the church for a day of ministry and fun! I went with Layla and about 40 of the kids to a seminary down the road. There were games, relay races, swimming, lunch, and all kids of fun "kid things" planned for them. The morning started with preaching... Saul and Layla had asked me on Friday if I would preach to the children about "How to be a better person spiritually". I shared with the children what God had laid on my heart the night before about this topic. We discussed the difference between a religion and a relationship with Christ... the kids offered some great input on this topic, many of them being raised Catholic. I was surprised by their attentiveness and their desire to learn more about Christ. When I finished preaching, Layla asked them some questions... they remembered the verses I spoke about... wow!
Olivia and I then returned back to the church where I preached to the other group of children. Pastor Saul led them in praise songs, standing in front of them singing with his guitar. The most adorable part about this service was the invitation afterwards delivered by Saul. The sweet little children coming forward to pray their hearts out to Jesus. This was not an "invite christ into your hearts" invitation; but a prayer of thanksgiving and repentance.
What a wonderful Sunday... even though I spent the entire night on Saturday throwing up (from eating the street food with the kids at the park), my spirit was restored on Sunday morning. Layla took great care of me and treated me like one of her own. Sunday was the 15th anniversary of Jesus es el Camino Iglesia!!!! It was a WONDERFUL day!!!! The service was about giving (preached by Devin, a man who works with carious missions throughout Guatemala and LOVES Saul and his ministry). They also showed a moving and powerful video about the church, it's history, and what it has been doing and continues to do in the neglected community of the Guatemala trash dump. I will upload it soon! It's AWESOME and inspiring!!! After the sermon, we had a huge lunch at the church for all of the children and anyone who was at church that day! We ate chicken, rice, tortillas, and a salad-like thing! I had so much fun in the back with the women helping them make plates and serve the food. We laughed and they worked with such joyful spirits! It was not work at all, but fun to serve God and serve others!
That afternoon, we had a HUGE fiesta in the dump at the "activity center" built by the church. We had 2 HUGE pinatas, 2 HUGE cakes, juice, loud music, dancing, laughing, and a lot of thanksgiving. The children were so happy and for a brief moment in their lives they were able to take a break from their constant state of "adult like worry and fear" and actually enjoy being children. Pastor Saul prayed a beautiful prayer of thanks for blessing to be able to serve God. It brought tears to everyones eyes. After the AWESOME party, we took Saul and his family out to eat at IHOP.... haha, of course! It was so great and a nice "See you later" as I moved from Saul's house to the Seteca Seminary to stay the rest of the time with Allie and Anna. It was sad to leave Saul's house knowing that I wouldn't be sleeping there any longer. I can not put into words how highly I think of their family and how HUGE God is in their lives and their ministry... wow!
Here is a picture of the "boys pinata" and another picture of Saul and I with a few of the kids!
Saul's family, Allie, and Anna have been an answer to my prayers this past weekend. My spirit is so joyful! Allie brought down letters for me from various people.... so far I have read one from Phyllis, Beth, and Lynn.... I know that God spoke directly to them... their words of encouragement and the verses they shared with me, in letters that they wrote weeks before, were EXACTLY what I needed to read on the very day that I opened each letter.... crazy cool! Thank you women! I can't imagine my walk or life right now without your discipleship, love, and guidance. I am so humbled that you call me your friends and that you are thinking of and praying for me.
"He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young." -Isaiah 40:11
Dios te bendiga!