Monday, July 18, 2011

Fiesta in the Dump!

   HOORAY 4 Cristo es el Camino

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 40:1

Dios te bendiga! 

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Everything will be alright.... :)

Guatemala City is one of the most dangerous cities in the entire world. Things have hard pressed me on every side as well.

In the midst of doing God's work, building houses, feeding programs, prayer meetings, children's ministry, working at the special needs hospital, medical clinics, homeless outreach..... God is Huge. and Satan is angry.
The past two weeks have been trying, challenging, tiring, stressful, full of pain, and spiritual warfare. The details of the past two weeks would take weeks to explain and would accomplish no good if I were to re-tell the story. I do not wish to retaliate through re-telling the wrongs done;
 "For it is commendable if someone bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because they are conscious of God... if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps..When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly."
1 Peter 19-23

This has been the most challenging week since I've been here in Guatemala. Satan has taken notice of what we are doing here, and he is angry; he has been attacking. I have been physically, mentally, and emotionally drained. I have cried more in two weeks than I have in years.

However, while I feel so empty on almost every level; my spirit is full and is praising the Lord. I am thankful to suffer for doing good; knowing that God is working in me to develop perseverance; and is refining me. As I watched the world fail me, I felt God holding me. As many people know, I no longer an earthly father other than my stepfather (who is wonderful). However, I know deeply rooted in the heart of every girl is the desire to run to her daddy when she falls down, when someone hurts her, when she is scared, when she is desperate for help. As I have been in this darkness and trial, the joy that has come from the comfort and love of my Father God has been a joy that has surpassed all understanding. Sitting on the kitchen floor on Saturday with Grace (the other intern), Sonia (the lady I live with), and Antonio (Sonia's husband who is a pastor); all of us crying and praying.... crying and praying.... for 7 hours we cried and prayed. In the midst of the sadness and turmoil, even though tears streamed downed my face, my soul was at peace for I knew that God was near. I was so upset but had joy deep in my heart because I knew God was working. He promised me that he was in control. He continually reminded me that he loved me; that I was only a child, a child of God, and that he would protect and defend me.

I can't imagine this world without that joy and hope. When everything in you wants to quit.... when you feel helpless and small..... when you literally have nothing left...... there are two options: to see the agony and depression of yourself in this situation; or to see the joy in knowing that in my weakness God is huge. When I was younger, I used to always carry around so much pressure and stress. When things like this happened to me; I felt like I couldn't take another breath. How sweet it is to have someone to carry this burden for me.... a father who loves me and carries me when I can't walk.

God is more than sufficient for me. As things have been crazy, I have had the blessing to sit back and watch God work. He is in control. And I am already smiling watching his plan unfold, his good and perfect plan. From the moment I raised my head from prayer, God answered in wonderful and unconceivable ways. He began to unfold a new plan that is even better than the first. For the next two weeks, I will be able to return back to the trash dump and work with the people there. God (not by coincidence) has allowed this all to happen in perfect timing; Allie is arriving on Saturday. God also put other people, members of the body, in my path to help me. the family that I am living with has provided me with the wisest council, with love, support, understanding, and has always been quick to defend me. Grace Hasha, the other intern here, is a gift from God and my spiritual soul mate; I thank God EVERY time I think of her and I can't imagine this experience without her in it. Carlos, one of the guys who has been working with us, has spent hours praying with us and for us; has defended us against anyone who opposes us, and has shown us a beautiful and wonderful example of what it means to give your entire life and heart to Christ. My friends and family in the States have allowed God to use them to speak to me across the miles; have fought for me in prayer and with words of encouragement; and have wrapped me in love even when I don't deserve it. Pastor Saul and Layla.... (the minister and his wife from the church that Lakewood supports) have given loved and supported me, believed in me, prayed for me, and never asked questions- when I called them to ask for help, them immediately dropped everything and said, "We are coming to get you. We know you heart, we know you, we believe in you, we love you. You don't have to explain anything. We want you here with us." Wow.... I can't wait to see what the next few weeks holds. I know God is working. I know God is calling.

 "For it is commendable if someone bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because they are conscious of God... if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps..When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly."
1 Peter 19-23

1 Peter 4: 12-19
12 Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. 15 If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. 16 However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. 17 For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? 18 And,
   “If it is hard for the righteous to be saved,
   what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?”[a]
 19 So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.

1 James 2-4
 2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,[a] whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

Dios Te Bendiga- God Bless you! 

p.s.- There are a LOT of huge updates that I need to share with everyone but I am still trying to work out the details! God has called me somewhere.... :)  God is good!