Wednesday, August 15, 2012

What's your story?

To paint an image of Guatemala City, you could start with the vibrancy of its lush green mountains and colorful flowers and fabrics, the bustle of cars and “chicken” buses packed on its streets, or the rampant neediness evidenced by armed guards and barbed wire on buildings everywhere—but at the heart of the city is its people, ever hospitable and full of joy in the humblest circumstances. Indeed, those who are poor in the eyes of the world have been chosen to be rich in faith (James 2:5) as we saw in so many faces and heard in so many stories. Alejandra came to believe in Christ at her junior high school, Kevin played with us at the day care, Berta came running to meet us on the street before we visited her home, 12 siblings sang and danced for us in their home, Alma beamed with joy as we lifted her from her wheelchair to play in the carnival.

Even in the darkness of poverty and of Mayan religion marked by creepy masks, we saw a light shining ever so brightly in New Jerusalen church. There, the church ladies welcomed us with hugs and kisses and invited us into Sunday worship. They cried out in prayer, all at once, with a desperation for the Lord we Americans don’t have, and sang passionately no matter what their voices sounded like. Through the week, we saw the church we read about in Acts alive in 2012. They built relationships with their neighbors and shared the gospel with them persistently. They provided for the needs around them, hosting a neighborhood daycare for kids that almost closed. Pastor Morales and his wife opened wide their loving arms of hospitality to welcome our whole team of around 25 to their home for a sit-down lunch twice, treating us lavishly from silky homemade soup to the frozen choco banana delight to our post-meal naps.

And the church gave us the blessing of fellowshipping with them and, in a very small way, serving with them. We sang and danced with school children from their neighborhood, their faces bright with smiles, before praying over them and teaching them God’s Word. Our team, including our own David Beckham as some kids called Matt Shell, played soccer with Guatemalan kids and youth. We watched as school children in rural Sajcavill√° delighted to see a 60-foot slide inflate for the carnival we hosted for them. We walked down city streets and up vertical mountain paths, led by Mayan women from the church wearing sandals who were not huffing and puffing like we were, to share with and pray over new friends. We were bold to share the gospel that has changed our lives when we visited the homes of nonbelievers. We rejoiced when God moved in hearts to believe in Christ for their salvation. Wherever we went, the Lord was faithful to teach us to love those around us.

When we weren’t out serving, our team was together, eating and sleeping, piling into vans Guatemalan style and voluntarily moving to the back seat to be catapulted at every bump in the road, sitting down to three meals a day together, talking about the Word and also talking about zippers to the point of birthing a business venture, eating and sleeping, playing cards, sitting on our roof and watching the sun rise and set in the mountains around us, eating and sleeping, learning to speak Spanish un poco. The Lord removed our daily distractions of schedules and to-do lists, cell phones and internet, to allow us to be fully be present for our mission and with our community, and He gifted us with 70-degree sunshine with zero humidity and almost no rain in rainy season in which to relish it. Time slowed down. All that mattered was relationship, with the Lord and with those with us. Life was simple. Life was full.

But a large part of the purpose in leaving our everyday context is to come back. We have returned to the mission field around us, to be neighbors to our neighbors, to love on our community’s children, to speak boldly the gospel with those around us, and to share with you, our church, how the Lord is at work in the church in Guatemala.  Ask us our stories. Have us tell you what the Lord has put on our heart to live out his gospel at home, and help keep our team, and our church, accountable to the calling that the Lord has for all us, to make his ways known on all the earth and His salvation among all the nations (Psalm 67:1). Pray for New Jerusalen, for Sajcavill√°, for Guatemala City, for Pastor Morales, for One Way Ministries’ continued work, and for their missionaries, the Brown family, in Guatemala City. And pray for the church, the Guatemalan church, Christ Church, First Baptist of Gulfport (who sent a team with whom we served), the Birmingham church, the American church, that it might be filled with the Spirit of the Lord, for His glory.

This post was written by several members of Christ Church in Birmingham, Alabama who recently participated in a mission trip to Guatemala.

Sunday, August 5, 2012


I have not been as active with my sharing about this incredible journey we have been on as Sheryl has been.  However, today I wanted to celebrate a major marker in my life with you all.  I have been on this journey now for eight months and it has been a tough road.  The Lord has been the only one to sustain me many days.  I have wrestled through many issues in my life during these months.  I have seen the Lord's hand guide me through pain and struggle over and over.

Today I can celebrate officially 100 pounds of sin has left my body!  Yes, you read that right...sin.  My extra weight represented poor decisions and disobedience of many years.  The regular habit of not doing the right things and doing the wrong things had taken its toll on my body and the athlete I once was was covered by all kinds of stuff that had been added out of selfishness.  Today I have been set free from that and that sin no longer entangles me.  Praise be to God the Lord and Redeemer, who has redeemed my life and has given me another chance to live obedience out before my family.

If I am willing to allow the Lord to capture my thoughts and my desires enough to drop 100 pounds from my physical body, imagine what He can do if I will allow Him to capture my every thought and develop my spiritual being into the effective, obedient servant He has called me to be?  Oh how He desires for me to desire Him!  When we allow Him to do His work in us He does amazing things through us.

Today I ran, in Guatemala, one kilometer for every ten pounds He has enabled me to lose.  As I was running I had an awesome opportunity to listen to His voice and speak to Him in prayer about the struggles I am facing, the people He lays on my heart and the issues He is teaching me about.  Today I want to celebrate the joy of freedom from sin and death!

Freedom will come when we allow the truth to settle into our hearts.  His Word is the only thing that has the power to overwhelm our sin and remain in control over it all.  Today, will you join me in celebrating His goodness and His awesome power over the sins that so easily entangle us.  He is victorious over them all!  He will win every time.  He will do a work in us if we will submit to His leadership and call out to the Holy Spirit to teach us, mold us, shape us, make us, develop us and cleanse us from all unrighteousness!  Today stand firm in His ability to overcome every thing that tries to discourage and hold you back.  Fight free in His power and know the freedom to walk in His light full of power and strength for the tasks He sets before you!  You can win this battle, because He has already won the war! Run hard, press on and strive to reach the goal set before you....come on celebrate Him today with joy and thanksgiving!

In His Grip,
JT Turner

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Back In Guatemala

Back in Guatemala and eager to see what the Lord has for the team.  This summer we have seen some great ministry take place with teams on the ground along side the Browns serving in Guatemala.  The Lord has been gracious to us this summer and allowed us to see many come to faith in Christ.  It is very encouraging to see the hand of the Lord moving in Sajcavilla especially.

The adjustments to home visits in Sajcavilla have been very good.  With so many visits to make, we often do not get to all of them in the afternoon.  So, Pastor Juan has begun to gather the families from one area into a home for one visit with several families.  This is a great move that has proven to be beneficial for the beginning of home Bible studies all over the community.  Juan has become very busy and is traveling a good bit out to Sajcavilla and investing in the lives of so many.

As we prepare for another week, I am reminded of the tremendous opportunity we have to see the Lord move in this Mayan community.  The doors to so many homes and the schools have been opened by His divine power.  We have the privilege of leading a medical clinic in November to meet physical needs that have been seen over and over again.

We need your help with this trip.  We are in need of at least two more doctors and a couple of dentists would be best!  The need is so great and the opportunity is such a God thing, I really want to make sure we do all we can to meet the need.  If you are a medical professional or know of someone who could consider this trip, please connect them with us.  We are in the process now of finalizing the team and working on details for all of the plans.  We do have a great support team forming around the medical professionals.  In addition we have an awesome couple to lead our pharmacy team with experience on the field.  We simply are asking for the Lord to connect a few more doctors to help meet the need.  Please pray with us for the team to be completed soon and the plans to all come together for a successful medical clinic and children's Bible festival during the week of November 3-10!

In His Grip,
JT Turner

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Guatemala Mission Outpost

Kevin's Transformation!
A couple of years ago our team met Kevin at Iglesia Jerusalen in Guatemala.  He had just arrived at the church's daycare and could not walk or communicate at all.  He simply lay on the floor trying to survive.  The church had opened the daycare to help struggling mothers with child care so they could work to provide for their families.  Many of our supporters, especially our "31 Ladies" have stepped up big time to support this amazing ministry in Guatemala.

This past week I took this photo of Kevin as he tried to sing the songs and do the motions to songs with a room full of school children from a nearby school!  yes, this child who could barely survive is thriving in this environment of love and encouragement.  The ladies of the daycare offer such amazing love and support to the children every day that even Kevin, severely autistic and struggling with all motor skills, has improved beyond belief.  Later in the day after this photo, I watched as Kevin walked with his mother and brothers down the street toward their house!  Amazed at what God has done, I am reminded of the words of Paul in 2 Corinthians 5:17, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!"

Many of us walking this journey of faith have been made a new creation.  Yet, we have not realized the dramatic difference in our lives that Paul is talking about.  We have continued to live in a world trying to survive, just like Kevin.  We have struggled to communicate and to do the simple tasks of daily life.  yet all the while the potential for an amazing transformation lies at the root of our very lives as a new creation in Christ!  

As we walked the road and paths of Sajcavilla this summer I was reminded of the vision God has been developing for the church in that Mayan community.  Many people walking up and down those paths are in darkness simply because we have not shared the truth with them.  Every time a team visits a home and shares the truth of the Gospel for the first time in a home, the response is the same...salvation is released on a life and the truth comes to life in their hearts!  This is an amazing reality to watch right before your very eyes.  Those of you who have seen it know exactly what I am talking about.  The transformation of a life that takes place during the conversion of a soul is an awe inspiring event that forever changes us...or at least it should!

Guatemala has proven to be a place where we see God's hand at work every time we travel with a team.  The work of the mission church in Sajcavilla as well as the support ministries of Jerusalen Church and the leadership of Pastor Morales continues to bring about change in these communities.  The faithfulness of those who have been in the field working, like Pastor Juan of the mission church, is very easily seen with every moment we are serving along side our brothers and sisters in this remote village.  

God has given us a huge vision for this community.  The vision for this community is so big only God can bring it about.  Yet, the amazing thing is He is going to use some of you to be a part of making things a reality in Sajcavilla and San Pedro and San Juan.  You see the vision for Sajcavilla is a beginning point to reach the larger communities beyond them on the road.  Sajcavilla is far enough out of the city and away from Jerusalen Church that a mission base needs to be established in order to launch further out.  That is the vision for Sajcavilla.  

The vision is to establish a mission outpost in Sajcavilla that will include many aspects of community ministry.  Out of these ministries will grow evangelists, and teachers, and medical professionals who will carry the truth of the Gospel further out into the next village of San Pedro.  San Pedro is a community of over 25,000 where there is, according to several missionaries and church leaders, "no good church."  The goal is to establish a base of ministry and mission that could launch further into the Mayan community with members of the Mayan community!

To accomplish all that we see God leading us to do, we need your help.  There are so many aspects to establishing a base of ministry that we simply do not know or understand.  We need prayer warriors to begin now praying for land and open doors for the location of this base.  We need workers to go with us into the fields and continue the work of spreading the truth and sharing the love of Christ to assist the church in reaching its community.  We need teams to go and teach the Word to the children of the area so as to raise up a generation of leaders who know and live by the truth of God's Word.  We will need workers to go and help build and develop a ministry base that operates as a refuge of hope for the community to be fed, nourished and strengthened.  We need partners who will commit to long-term relationship with Sajcavilla and the church that God is raising up there as a light in the darkness of Mayan and Catholic confusion.  We need you to join the mission outpost team and carry the Gospel to the nations.

Join us as we pray for the Lord of the harvest to send workers into the field.  Pray with us for wisdom and strength  as we follow His hand of mercy into the communities in Guatemala.  Pray with us for His Word to reign supreme in a land with little to no nourishment from food nor from the church.  Pray with us as we learn from His Word, "If my people who are called by name will humble themselves and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land." 2 Chronicles 7:14  Pray with us for revival to break out among the Guatemalan church and spiritual awakening to spread across the region as the church follows His hand obediently into the community!