Final Night

Cindy has normally wrote these which has been great with me as she is far better at it. Tonight however I am the last one up. Just finished our final night of devotions together and all I can say is that I am blown away with your kids and what God has done with them while here. I know it is hard to let your kids go for a week and hard to miss an experience like this one we had tonight, but believe me it has all been worth it and these kids of yours have impressed me beyond what I could have imagined. God has done amazing things in them and through them in ways I can begin to write about now.

This final night of devotions is one that I have done before with other groups….but it has never gone like this! God was alive in this room tonight and these young adults (cant call them kids anymore) felt it and responded to it in a way I expect they may never have before in their lives.

Give them some time to tell you about it when they can figure out a way to even to do so! That came up tonight after our last a most amazing night together. How do you even explain this to someone else?! They will of course try and i am sure will be excited to share what God has done over this past week. This is a special place, God showed up in special ways, and you clearly have very special young adults on your hands. You should be proud indeed!

Brian

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Hasta Luego Guatemala

We had a wonderful day in Antigua! Everyone had a wonderful day shopping in the historic markets and getting the feel of not only a very historically rich city but also Guatemala’s most touristy city. It was a perfect way to spend an afternoon.

Tonight we have our last group worship. We all look so forward to these times. Then it’s lights out right after that because we have to leave for the airport at 4:30 am. We all have very mixed emotions because this was such a special week that we will never forget. What an amazing group of kids you all have! They worked hard, laughed hysterically at times, cried tender tears, and worshipped passionately. You should all be proud of these kids you are raising. Well done!! Thanks for letting us be a part of their lives for this week. (we already are making plans to get together later this summer:)

Details: If all is on schedule, we should be flying into Detroit at 7:35pm. Parents who are driving you should know who you are and what to do. We will definately call you from Dallas if there is a delay. Parents who are not driving, please plan on being at GRCHS (Plymouth side) around 11:00pm. We will call from the road with a more exact arrival time. Make sense?

Be prepared for your child to have mixed emotions coming home. I remember coming home from trips like this when I was in college and in one breath you are excited to share yet tired from the trip but also at a loss for words in how to explain all that happened. 🙂

Blessings!

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Grace Like Rain

Our mission trip is over. Really? “Or is it just beginning?” (asked Dan)

Lives have been transformed in these few short days: Lives of some beautiful Guatemalan people living in remote villages high in the mountains and lives down in the coastal area have been eternally alterted. However, so have ours too. Here are some sound bites from last night’s worship time: “I feel now that I can say I truly have a personal relationship with Christ.” “I am born again.” “I have never felt such a deep longing for a person to come to Christ and when Gloria (one of the women who was presented the gospel during her house dedication) just couldn’t accept His invitation yet…I just can’t take it.” “I just feel like even though they may be poor physically they are so much richer in so many other ways…they get it (how to live together in community).”

Dan asked a couple of questions last night for us to ponder. 1) So what is going to change after you leave here in a few short days? 2) What would be one word to sum up this week? I will not share the responses from question #1 because our hope is that our lives will show you our answers. Some of the words thrown out for question #2 (and these are just a few) “transformed” “renewed” “refreshed”
“focused” “joy” “relationships” “trust” and the one mentioned earlier “born-again” (okay, so this is hyphenated)

He challenged us and helped bring some perspective to this week. One of the things that helped me was when he said…”really it isn’t too hard to minister here in Guatemala. (There is such a thirst here). Your mission field can be much harder.”

So…is our mission trip really over? “Or is it just beginning?” We are all heading back to our mission fields where God has put us. When I leave these villages my heart is cut to the core. I have to admit: I don’t want to leave. I want to stay and help build a school or something. But is that because I am afraid of the mission field where God has placed my family right now? I know it is. So many of the kids expressed this same fear.

Our discussions have been open and honest. We are not the same group that left Grand Rapids at 1:15 last Friday morning. We have been “transformed.” We worship freely: Some simply close their eyes during our singing time and quietly ponder the words of the song. Some sing out loud and some lift up one or two hands to physically show their surrender to the words being sung. It is beautiful and real. When we all (including me…Cindy) think of returning back to our homes where for some reason this freedom can feel squelched, ridiculed, and even mocked we know that for right now- USA is our mission field. The Guatemalans may feel in bondage because of the daily fight they have for their physical needs. We feel in bondage for very differnt reasons but yet if we feel in bondage for these reasons so must so many other people in our community, right?

I purposely haven’t gone into many details about our dedication day or the building days because these are much better explained by each individual and their pictures that go with it. Each kid has their own story and built their own relationships with the Guatemalan villagers. I can’t begin to explain all of these. This is the responsibility of each of us returning in a few days.

Thanks for reading. Today we are having a more relaxed morning. We were able to sleep in until 8:00. We are helping re-pack the building boxes for the next team and then we will have a time for personal devotions. After this, we will leave for our shopping day in Antigua.

Quick Food Network update: Dominos Pizza a couple of nights ago, the best fried chicken in the whole world made by the grateful villagers yesterday (this cost three families a 3 day wage), and the most amazing Alfredo Pasta last night with a side of garlic bread, broccoli and cauliflower and garlic bread finished with the most moist chocolate brownies.

🙂

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I love the Guatemalan coffee here…

Yes, it is 1:44 in the morning here and I made a stupid mistake by drinking a nice big cup of Guatemalan Joe tonight during our group worship. I have since cleaned out the refrigerators, done all the laundry, built the rest of the second floor in the base camp, and rounded up all the stray dogs in a 10 mile radius. Part of it too, is that I am so excited to experience our personal, living Savior tomorrow with these kids…I can hardly contain it. 🙂

Dan told us that there was so much fear from people of this village the first time he came to it to scout it out about a year ago. So much that when they saw him driving down the dirt path they all took their children and ran into their houses and did not come out. He said that he knew immediately that God was laying this village on his heart because of thisfear and darkness. Paradise Bound has been building there for over a year now and you can see the change in hearts. When we first arrived the kids greeted us with such open arms and there is always a time when at least one of us is holding a child or trying to beat them in a “carrera” (race). These kids like to run. I think we have run at least 10 races with them. They beat us practically everytime (even without shoes on). For a town that was filled with darkness only about a year ago…there is so much light starting to pour in. As we waited for the rains to stop we could hear Hermano Jesus holding a “Discipleship” session with several people from the village. Dan told us tonight that they typically take a break from these sessions during the summer months but the people in this village who have already heard the Good News are so hungry for the Gospel that they wanted Dan and his staff to figure out a way to continue the sessions. Please pray though as tomorrow we dedicate the homes to the 4 different families. Here are there names and a couple of dynamics that we know of:

Edgar, Fernanda and their sons Leonil and Kenny. (Fernanda has watched us build her house from day one. She has watched us carefully. She has not let little Kenny far from her side. But today Kenny played with us and let us hold him. His mom watched from a distance. There is this deep sadness with her.)

Mario, Laugra, Casti, Mario, Ricardo, Willie, Laugrita, Leslie. (These kids are precious and so outgoing. The Discipleship sessions take place in their house right now. Their 15 year old son Mario is very special and was such a hardworker today with our gringo “set” crew. Casti is precious and everybody loves Willie. However, this is their father’s second family (He has two wives at the same time). Yes, you heard me correctly. There is obvious darkness and confusion here. They are the sweetest family but they need our fervent prayers.)

Gloria and Sandrita (Gloria is a single mom. It is impossible to do life here in Guatemala as a single mom. Her days consist of trying to survive. Pray that she encounters Jesus tomorrow….an eternal companion who will bring her this deep inexplicable joy even though her circumstance is so difficult)

Mario, Carolina, Marito, Suli (This is one of the hardest working women that I have met. Her house is her pride and joy. She has the coolest set up and keeps such good care of what she has already. She has a little table for her plants to grow, a patio, a nice sink area. She takes such good care of her land. I saw her sweeping her patio area clean (when I say patio, I mean a dirt area cleared out a little bit). When I came bombarding through with all my running Guatemalan kids behind me she welcomed us through with a big smile. She is not only hardworking but hospitable. God can’t wait to bless her with a house that doesn’t leak when you get these crazy rains. Her family too will hear the Good News tomorrow. We don’t know where she is in her faith journey but I can tell you that if she accepts (or has accepted) the gift of Salvation she will have one of the biggest and cleanest mansions in Heaven!!!!

Thanks for praying! I am going to try to get some sleep now. I was thinking about paving a couple of roads around here tonight yet..but I think the caffeine is finally starting to wear off.

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Our God is an Awesome God

The lyrics of this song as you probably know go, “Our God is an awesome God He reigns in heaven above…” We know God reigns in heaven but it is amazing when we have our eyes open to the God that reigns in our heart, to that God who reigns in the person working right next to us, to that God who reigns in the mountains and volcanoes, to that God who reigns in the most amazing rain storms, to that God who reigns in the shoeless, deaf Guatemalan boy named Henry. As I sit here right now some kids are getting ready for bed and some are sitting here in the great room talking with each other and the mentors about their relationship with God. Our group worship time tonight was powerful and life-altering. Today was amazing. I am torn because I know that I could write so much about our experiences today but I really want to go and spend time with the girls right now. So, that is what I am going to do. Sorry for the lack of details but this is where my heart is right now. Please, Please, Please pray for us tomorrow as we present all the gifts to these families and then we present the gospel to them. This will be a draining day for us. We know that God can work through our physical weakness. He has done that already this week. But please pray that we will all get and stay healthy for tomorrow. We will need every bit of physical strength for this spiritual battle. 2 are still not feeling well. One came down with the flu late this afternoon and the other is coming out of it. Please pray that these beautiful kids stay strong!!!! Thanks for all you are doing!!! 🙂

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Quick update

It is 6:09 am Tuesday and everyone is up and getting ready for the day. Some are finishing breakfast: homemade French Toast with fresh watermelon. (Last night btw…homemade ham and potatoe soup with a surprise homemade anniversary cake for Brian and me….we celebrated our 15th anniversary here! It was one of the best anniversaries ever!!!) I feel like I am writing for the Food Network when I write about the food in our blogs. Again, they take such good care of us here. We will head out for our second day in the same village today. It is nice to be planted at the same village for 3 days straight because these kids absolutely love having us there and it is a gift to be able to say to them, “We will see you tomorrow (Nos vemos manana). I will check in tonight with a more complete entry about our village building days. Continue to pray!!! Your prayers are working people!! It is a miracle. We only had one that came down with it yesterday and one more that may be feeling something this morning. Please pray for their strength. We are encouraging them to stay back and rest but these Guatemalan angels and this village is too much of a draw I guess. Continue to pray that we stay healthy! We do not want this flu to define the trip but the strength that has come through our weakness!!!
Blessings! Talk to you tonight!

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What a day Part 2

Ok…they are all to bed and so far no one has thrown up in the last hour. I can’t tell you how much we need your prayers for physical strength. These kids have sooooooooo much character, integrity, and perseverance. It has been such a joy to be experiencing these highs and lows with them. (If you are a little confused about this entry so far…it would be best if you read the entry before this first.) I have to share with you how God showed up today in so many miraculous ways…

1) His Holy Spirit was so palpable this morning at our group devotions. Our time of singing was powerful and moving as we sang “The Revelation Song” and “In Christ Alone.”

2) The views from this village were like no other: Beautiful, lush fields draping the mountainsides with pockets of villages tucked in between.

3) Lots of laughing.

4) Lots of friendships being strengthened, renewed, and formed.

5) The sun glistened over the mountains in the distance as we sang for the villagers..”Savior…He can move the mountains…Our God is mighty to Save.”

6) The testimonies of the 4 kids tonight were honest, real, and life-changing for not only the villagers but for our entire group.

7) The Villagers listened intently to not only the testimonies but the words preached by Hermano Jesus.

8) One young father was especially drawn by the words of our students and of Hermano Jesus and we got to talk to him for a bit. This young man is going to be a leader someday and we were able to give him encouragement that we saw this ability in him. He shared that he already has a personal relationship with Jesus but that he is fearful of the leadership in his town. (I will mention this man again in a bit…cause God is sooo cool and already starting to put him in a leadership role)

9) Many publicly accepted Christ tonight even though there is a certain level of fear that exists.

10) The van got stuck twice on our way out of the village. The first time, the back end of the van had to be picked up by a team of strong American men and strong Guatemalan men. Who was one of the leaders in orchestrating this rescue? Yes, the young father that I mentioned earlier. It truly was a miracle that the van got out of this crevice without any damage. And it was amazing to sit back and see this young father organize a group of men who didn’t all speak the same language.

11) We arrived safely back to the base camp and shortly after arriving back…the rains came

12) They are all sleeping soundly. I even hear some snores coming from the guys wing. 🙂

Our God is so good and so faithful. Our faith and trust in Him is being tested right now. Do we really trust that God will be able to work through us even though we physically may not be our strongest? I know that I am not used to this dependence on him on a daily basis…I will subconsciously think: I got it all handled. I can do it on my own. What a faith lesson we are having.

Thanks for reading!!! Keep praying!!!

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