Monday, March 25, 2013

A True Gift

Humbly and patiently, she introduced herself. She was from Xela and would be our translator.  I had never used a translator before, so this would be a first.  She seemed genuine and compassionate. Her name...Patty.

We weren’t expecting a translator, but God arranged our schedule in such a way that we arrived at the orphanage at the same time as a team from our home church.  We adopted our Jett there.  She quickly became our friend.  Family, in fact.

Trip after trip to Guatemala, she has been by our side.  Patty has walked with us through the dump, into rat infested homes, along winding paths in Sacjavilla, in the mountains of Solola, and through the sewage of life. She has stood by my side listening with compassion to stories of abuse, neglect, brokenness, and shattered lives.  We have seen the enemy at work.  We have journeyed today in watching God’s glory made known.  There have been many tears shed, hugs given, and lives changed.  

It has been good.  Very good.  And we are sisters in Christ.  Family forever.

She has always been the translator, as if that title defines her.  It does not.  She is more.  She is a woman of God.

The church asked for two women from our group to give their testimonies at a women’s conference.  Wow, I could use so and so, or I bet that lady will do it...those were my first thoughts.  Then, God spoke sweetly to my soul.  Ask Nellie...and Patty.  Lord, I don’t think Patty wants to do this.  Don’t make her.  Yes, Lord, I will.

I called to her and she came to sit on the end of my bed.  I had her name written on a sheet of paper.  I slid it to her and said that God gave me these names.  I was hoping she would just agree without seeing her name written there....she got wide-eyed and asked me to verify.  I did.  She quietly said yes.  I could see the hesitation, and I worried.  

Then, I sat in the room and heard her begin.  Trembling and nervous, she began relating her journey.  Her mom was 16 when she had place to where to belong.  Tears streamed down her face like a waterfall, and I found myself thinking of the day I walked into the orphanage to see my son’s face for the first time....WANTED, PURSUED, LOVED....Patty is all those things though she never thought it.

Stuck between two worlds...American and Guatemalan...never fully fitting in with either one.  Always desiring to belong but not finding a place. Then, God brought her to translating where the two worlds are NECESSARY for her to interpret well.  It was all God’s plan...all along, it was His design.

As I wept for my friend and sister, I heard God’s goodness and graciousness in her life.  He had woven her story in such a way that only He could get the praise.  Today, I sit in awe knowing that Patty Ajanel is a gift from God to the world. And I just get to unwrap it every now and then.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Sewage is not my favorite word, yuck, uuggh....I can't even think of proper words to describe it, but it kinda makes my skin crawl.  I like to think that sewage goes out of the house and disappears.  It helps me to process it better that way...out of sight, out of mind, you know?

But, sewage is a part of life, and it is necessary.  Getting it out of my house is mandatory...for my sanity and health too.  We all have it...we just don't like to talk about it, do we?

In a community outside of Guatemala City, Sacjavailla, there lived a single mom whose life involved sewage daily...and not the way you and I deal with it.  She had to work daily since her husband was long gone.  Her three kids stayed home without her and played and worked.  They lived IN sewage.  IN it, people.

They lived at the bottom of a dirt path on the bottom side of a hill.  All of the sewage from the homes above them flowed down to their tin shack.  It was in their yard much like a stream.  It made its way into their water supply and they drank it, cooked with it, and bathed in it.  It was their life.

Grateful for your clean water yet?

Then along came a team of men last November who tore down their old house and built them a new one.  The kids even got bunk beds, which they proudly showed off to me yesterday.  More importantly, they have a concrete path to their house so they are not stepping in sewage daily.  And, they have a clean water more poop in the dinner.

My struggles seem to disappear quickly in light of what Josephina and her family face daily.  How about yours?

PS  This family is generously sponsored by one of the guys who met them in November.  Look for opportunities in the coming weeks to help other families in desperate need!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Climb that mountain

A new day...A new area...a new challenge.  That pretty much summarizes our day.  The afternoon was spent in sector 5 of Sacjavilla where the mission church has just started to build new relationships.  

You see, that’s the key.  The local body of believers MUST be the ones who initiate the new work.  We just get to be a part of what God is already doing in this area.  And, that’s what we are doing...walking alongside the church to begin a new work.

Today, we venture into the community and are greeted by large pigs on one side of the ravine, construction in the middle of the road, and smoke pouring out of a tin shack across the way.  “Let’s do this Lord.  Show me Your ways that I may walk in them.”  Okay, walk up the mountain.  Yeah..a real mountain.  We were huffing and puffing and every time we rounded a corner, more of the mountain was revealed....Lord, is this really what You want.


Keep walking.  Will this mountain ever end?  Wait. Call one of the other teams.  What?  We need to come DOWN the mountain?  You better be kidding.  Nope.  Okay, Lord, what is Your purpose?  To teach you My become patient...learning forbearance.  

Got it, Lord.  That lesson was for me.

As it turns out there was another home visit at a home at the bottom of the hill.  A recent believer needed the encouragement of fellow Christ followers.  This sister needed surgery because of some female issues, and who did God send her way?  Another woman who had a similar situation.  Praise God for His ways!

Let that be a lesson to me...God’s ways are higher than my ways ALWAYS.  And His plan is great.  I just get to be a part of it, and for that, I am grateful tonight.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Hearing, anyone?

We arrive at the mission church in Lantana to lead a women's afternoon Bible study, but God orchestrated another meeting first.  A weary and frantic mom, Lily, relayed an urgent prayer request for her son.

Antonio is a six year old adorable young boy who cannot hear.  He had hearing aids that were provided by a local charity that lasted three years.  The aids must have worked somehow as he can make a few sounds and mimic sounds.  However, his hearing improved dramatically with the hearing aids.  Plus, his mother could actually understand him.  They could communicate.  What a precious gift for a mother!  (Side note....isn't that something we all take advantage of daily????)

Hearing aids are expensive especially here in Guatemala...$900 for a pair.  How is a family with no father and little income supposed to pay for that?

God's plan is for the body of Christ to provide for one another.  So, a need was presented.  And, a member of the body stepped up.  Hannah.  She heard the need and God prompted her heart to provide. God is good.

That's good stuff people.  Really good.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Be Careful What You Pray

The quiet time devotional was written by one of our staff members, Joseph Duckett, many weeks ago.  God had a plan for those thoughts that were penned to paper.

Just this morning I read Ephesians 1:1-3 and studied the material provided.  God used those words that Joseph had written to draw me to Himself.  He reminded me that patience, gentleness and humility come from Him alone...and that I do NOT possess them.  So I prayed that God would give me a heart like His... a compassion for His people.  Always be careful what you pray....'cause those thoughts originate with God and that means He has a plan for using the prayers He gives you anyway that become your prayers...clear enough?

After lunch I found myself standing in the mission church in Lantana waiting to share the Gospel with women in the community.  I was prayed up and prepared to share the Word.  But, then the pastor asked me to go to a home in the area for a special home visit.  I was confused.  "God, I'm about to share the Gospel in its entirety to all of these women...why are You sending me elsewhere?"  Why do I EVER doubt His sovereignty?????

Megan, Patty and I made our way through the community with Pastor Juan to the home of a mom and her girls.  You see, we had met this young lady back in November when she came to the medical clinic in Sacjavilla.  A fourteen year old with unexplained stomach pains.  Please stop reading now if you are under the age of 18 or do not have the stomach for the ways of the enemy.

An ultrasound revealed a baby.  Conflict.  She had not been with anyone.  Surely this wasn't another immaculate conception?  Clearly NOT!  Talk to the local pastor.  Talk to our pastor (Morales).  Talk to the translator (and my adopted sister, Patty).  Walk away.  Come back.  Talk some more.  Truth revealed.  Attacked and violated by father.  Mother knew.

Whew...I am still in tears over all of it and have a very difficult time articulating this situation adequately.  Trust's more than I can bear.  Dad left.  Mom left to raise three girls (14, 11 and 3).  Teenage daughter trusts in God's sovereignty and wants to keep the baby who is due in May.

Mom makes 15 Qs a day by washing and ironing clothes.  That's LESS than $2 a day.  Her family is pressuring her to give the baby away because it will be too hard to love it.  Um, "God, WHY DID YOU BRING US HERE?"

To have a heart like mine.

I can NOT do this.

I can.

What am I suppose to say?

Read my Word.

And so we dive into His Word and share from Ephesians and Psalms and Romans and James.  He gives us His great Word to share, and it is GOOD.  It is ENOUGH.  I just get to be a mouthpiece for the great I AM, and He does the work.

I am grateful for a Father who loves us in spite of who we are.  He is more than enough, and I have no more words.  Praise His Holy Name!

Monday, March 4, 2013

How Important is a Short-term Mission Team? Part 4

In an effort to continue this discussion of short-term mission teams here is discussion number four!  I have seen over the past several years such a decline in focus on short-term mission experiences, that the topic seems to come up everywhere I go.  I guess the key word there is "I" as I bring it up.  My desire in writing these posts is to stir the thoughts and ideas about why we need short-term mission experiences to help fuel passion to go and experience  cross-cultural short-term missional experiences.

For a number of years now, we have been leading short-term mission trips with a passion for Gospel focused and Gospel driven ministry alongside local church partners who are actively involved in reaching their communities.  These years of walking with the churches and with individuals through this process of missional experience has taught us some valuable lessons.  My desire is to pass on some of what we have learned in these years of ministry and mission in order to motivate the body to get involved.

The primary place we find our motivation is the Gospel itself!  One of the major issues we face in the "church world" we all live in today is the concept of false conversion.  The simplicity of a sinner's prayer in the past has led to many false converts because the response to God's offer of grace has been the primary issue discussed.  The issue really is, no understanding of the Gospel is complete without a clear picture of our sin and separation from God due to our sinful state.  No understanding of this can come to the mind and heart of anyone without a clear understanding of the Law of God given to expose our sin.

Again today, reading one of my favorite authors, Ray Comfort, I was reminded that the reason we discuss the law in our homes is to help our children gain a clear understanding of the need we all have for a savior!  Without first understanding my own need, I can never really understand how desperate I am for a Savior to redeem me from this fallen world I am doomed to follow!  I am under the wrath of Almighty God and have no hope until my heart is convicted of my sin debt that only a perfect Savior can redeem!  This reality in my own life must become the motivation to GO!

Short-term mission teams are critical to the spread of the Gospel because it is through these teams that Gospel focused and Gospel driven work is accomplished within the local communities where the church has been planted.  The drive of the short-term team is to help the local church carry the Gospel into its community with boldness and passion.  We often need the local church to stir our hearts with compassion for the lost around them in order to see the lost around us!  You see it is through the willingness I experience on the field to assist in the sharing and showing of the Gospel message that I gain an understanding of the need in my own community to share and show the Gospel.  It is often times on the field in the midst of a cross-cultural experience where the Gospel is being shared that the Lord speaks to you and to me about our willingness to speak the Gospel in our own community without any language or cultural barriers.  It is in walking alongside the local church in another context that I gain insight into the working of the Holy Spirit in this great transformational work of conviction and conversion.

The short-term mission team offers the local church an opportunity to spread more seed into more places as we walk into the fields that are white unto harvest with them.  At the same time the short-term missional experience stirs within the heart of the team a passion and desire to reach their own community back home, where they have been planted and need to grow.  See...this whole thing is designed to work together in unison as the Spirit moves in our lives as the body and knits us together as one Bride fit for her groom!

So, the bottom line here is the time we spend preparing our hearts and minds with the understanding of the whole truth of God's Word (Law and Grace), is time invested in Kingdom work that develops within us a compassionate heart for the lost and a passionate drive to see redemption come to those who are without a Savior!  This two-fold purpose of short-term teams will strengthen the body in both the cross-cultural context we serve short-term and the local home community in which we live.  Our goals must be to BE the church not to simply talk about it or even act like it...BE the church and reflect His glory to everyone we cross paths with along this journey of faith.

In His Grip,