Hi friends and family!
I hope that you are all doing WONDERFULLY!
I have no idea how to begin to thank you, or explain how much I appreciate ALL that you have done to join with me in response to God's call.
I arrived here in Guatemala safely last Saturday!
I am staying with a Guatemalan family. The family consists of a husband and wife, 2 kids, and the wife's parents. There are 3 female students staying there as well. It has been amazing to see how God has provided me with opportunities to share his love and the gospel just in this past week. In this household, the wife (Claudia) is the only Christian. She and I have had some very deep conversations about God, grace, the gospel; etc. I have really enjoyed encouraging her as she strives to be walk with God while she is facing some very difficult challenges in her life right now. She is super excited to have a missionary in the house! She knocks on my door to inform me of every time the other students are in the "living/dining/kitchen/center room" because she wants to make sure I am able to talk to them and build a relationship with them (they are not Christians). They have been very inquisitive about what I'm doing and have agreed to come with me on a few of my outreaches.... one girl is here studying medicine (she is a doctor and wanted to see how different the problems are here than in Australia), and she has agreed to go with me to some of the medical clinics; great opportunity for her to hear the gospel at these clinics! Another girl is here as a teacher and is interested in going with me to work with the homeless children (where once again we share the gospel). :) The third girl is having a lot of problems being away from her family for the first time and speaks no Spanish whatsoever, so she has agreed to basically just hang out with me and we are planning to go to the special needs hospital next week! It's been amazing to see God answer my prayers for opportunities to share his love and his word. I've had some great conversations with the grandparents at the house who asked me what I was doing in my room for 3 hours... (they then told me that Claudia told them she was sure that I was praying). I do think that God strategically placed me in this house even with some of the challenges that I’ve had to face there.
I’ve now been in Spanish classes for a week... again, AMAZED at how God works! I have 2 different Spanish teachers. Sandra for 2 hours and Margareta for 1 hour. We are currently working on how to "tell stories" in the past! The goal of this Spanish program is that it caters to the student, so I get to decide what we talk about... they basically correct my Spanish as we go! Monday started with them asking me to tell me a story that took place in the past (to analyze my ability to speak in past tense)... so that presented me with an easy way to share my testimony and story of the great things that God has done in my life! How crazy is it that both of my teachers were raised in a VERY "twisted" Catholic church, had terrible experiences there, left the church, and are now trying to 'figure things out'. YAY God! So, they have been extremely inquisitive.... we haven't even began to work in the Spanish Book because all we have done is talked about Jesus... they have MILLIONS of questions which is awesome! When I first came here, I was a little bit sad to have to spend part of my morning in a classroom when all I want to do is be out serving God... and I prayed about this, and God answered my prayer in a HUGE and obvious way! I'm really excited about this opportunity to make the most of every minute here and to have the “missionary” mindset in every environment, circumstance, and conversation!
Other ministries this week have just appeared also...
Each night God has literally just presented me with opportunities to serve the people of Guatemala.
Last Sunday night (and I will be going again this afternoon), I went with a few missionaries here to have a church service in the trash dump. A lady told her testimony, we sang praise songs, played with the kids, and helped encourage and guide the people there. Most of them were high off of glue or drunk... sad to witness children living in this environment. We prayed over and then took one lady to a refuge place to sleep; she was hysterical because her husband had died the night before and they had been fighting; confusing story but I know that Jesus’ love was poured into here at the service. I was thankful that she knew that she could come there to get help, confident that we would listen and then help in any way that we could. One man did tell me that when he sees Americans here in Guatemala in a trash dump, he thinks of Christ in an entire new way... he then explained how some people think of "you Americans" as higher than themselves; and that he can't believe that an American would want to come and serve people here, in a dump, in a 3rd world country. All I could think about was how Jesus, the son of God, came to serve me.... I don't think that thought will ever cease to overwhelm me.
On Monday and Tuesday nights I was able to participate in discipleship with 2 different groups of people. It was pretty tiring thinking, speaking, and listening to Spanish all day; especially about such deep and difficult topics.
On Wednesday we did a “soup run”. This is basically just taking soup and tortillas (in the back of a truck) around town to homeless people. The soup is really a way to just meet their needs, open up an opportunity to talk with these people and develop an ongoing relationship, pray with them, share the love of Christ, and share the gospel. This is an ongoing ministry that I am really excited to participate in. The children at the refuge (one of the places that we stopped) were so excited to have someone pay attention to them. It is so humbling to have children run to you as soon as you enter a room... it brings tears to my ears every time.
Thursday night I was walking with my friend Carlos when I heard a lady call out his name. I immediately recognized her as a woman from the dump who I had talked with on Sunday. She was high (and dirty) but knew that Carlos would respect and love her. He walked over to her and talked with her for a few minutes (even though we had somewhere to be; this was more important to him that what HIS agenda was). Then, he told her that he was hungry and asked if she would walk with us to the gas station. At the gas station, he used the only money that he had to buy her some food and drinks. He didn’t make her feel the least bit ashamed or uncomfortable, and treated her with so much respect. It was everything I could do not to cry while watching and participating in this small, but huge encounter. All I could see at this moment was Christ in action.
Friday was a crazy day.... a woman came running up to me, crying and screaming for me to call the police. It was hard to understand her through her sobs. I followed her outside to see a man lying in the street covered (I don’t even want to begin to list what ran through my mind). This man had hit a hole in the road while on his “moto” (motorcycle) and had flown over the moto and landed in the street. We checked on him, called the police, and then prayed over him... the ambulance finally arrived as we were praying. At this point there were at least 100 people standing around staring. It was nuts!
I have been going non-stop but have felt the power of God even in the smallest of situations. I am excited to be building relationships with different types of people; homeless, addicts, children, American students, etc. I am humbled to see how huge and AWESOME God is. I am excited to continue to build these relationships in love; and just to learn more and more how to love people as Christ did.
"The positive characterization of the kingdom attitude is agape love...Jesus calls us to Him to impart Himself to us. He does not call us to do what He did, but to be who He was, permeated with love. Then doing of what He said and did becomes the natural expression of who we are in Him." Dallas Willard