Amidst the Pandemic

Our Dear Seniors,

Well, you’ve been home for a whole week (from Guatemala) and literally been home for a whole week (from school). And what a week it’s been. I know in my home it’s been a bit of bedlam getting all of my classes online, all my students connected, and my own kids focused on school work (instead of Netflix). Amidst all of that . . .

You, Seniors, have been on my mind. Alot.

This is your senior year. Traditionally the year of celebration. Of relaxing spring breaks. Of memorable proms. Of commencement ceremonies. Of graduation parties. Yet you sit at home, being told by parents, teachers, and now the government to stay home.

Perhaps you’re frustrated. Or angry. Or sad. Or scared. Or lonely. Or delighted that you can sleep in and do school in your jammies. Or maybe you’re feeling all of these things at once – because we’re complex human beings. (Just ask Mr. Swift, your psych teacher. He’ll tell you.)

Amidst all of those feelings, I wanted to offer you, dear seniors, a reminder:

You have been chosen.

Before the beginning of time, you were chosen by God to:

  1. Be created (Psalm 139: 15-16)
  2. Belong to Him (Romans 8:29)

These 2 points of “chosen-ness” are HUGE. Transformational. However, you were also chosen:

3. To be in Guatemala at the exact moment that you were.

The miracle that our group got to and from Guatemala without delays or cancellations or closed borders or quarantines hopefully is not lost on you. God wanted us to go on the senior trip because He had work He wanted us to do before we holed up in our homes. Maybe He knew we’d be vigilant in getting the word out to help support Clubhouse Guatemala through the pandemic. Maybe He wanted our prayers to be added to the chorus being raised for those kids and those workers. Maybe He knew we needed to see beyond our small little Lititz world during this time and realize that there are so many more in need. Maybe . . . who knows. The mind of God is beyond us, but I do know He chose us to go to Guate last week for a purpose.

My prayer, as I said in my last blog post, is that you love and feel heartbreak. Not just for Guatemala anymore, but also for those surrounding us living in fear. Now is the time to look up, see others as God sees them, and love them through the fear and uncertainty. Even when you’re watching your senior year slip past without all the hoopla you anticipated, keep your eyes fixed on Jesus, because:

4. You were chosen to be a senior amidst Covid-19.

In September, 2001, I was a senior in college. And then September 11th (also, ironically, my birthday) came. The twin towers came thundering down, and I watched my senior year, and the world, change.

Your world is changing. As humans we often resist change. I would urge you not to resist. Be willing to adjust. Be willing to shift. Be willing to move in whatever direction the Lord is asking you to move, even if it means leaving behind all you had envisioned for the end of this year. Because, as Mrs. Chaboya so often stated in SenPro Class, it’s not about you.

Jeremiah 29:11 is so often touted as a scriptural promise of prosperity; however, as Mr. Lewis often reminds you, it’s important to understand the context in which scripture was written.

Jeremiah 29 is a message the Lord is sending to His people in exile – people He sent into exile out of Jerusalem into Babylon. God knew His people were suffering, and in addition to promising to bring them home (after 70 years), he also told them to: “seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare” (29:7).

If, as seniors, you can shift your mindset away from what isn’t happening, and recognize what is. Like Esther, you were chosen. Like the Israelites, you were sent. So, amidst the pandemic, look for God moving. Look for what He wants you to see, where He wants you to serve, and who He wants you to love.

Doing that, your senior year may become the best year of your life after all.

Continuing to send love and prayers to you all, dear Seniors.

Mrs. Urquhart

GoodbyeGuate

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Spreading Light: a final thought

My dear Seniors,

This week you experienced both the best and the worst of the world – sometimes at the very same time. Like clouds dueling with sunlight above the school play area in Bethania, darkness and Light battled it out right in front of us.

  • Little hungry bellies rumbled at recess. And those same little bodies laughed and danced and played.
  • Foul smells and fear permeated homes in the ravine. And those living in them welcomed us and prayed for us.
  • Fernando asked for the life of our dear 14-year-old friend sentenced to die. And that life was rescued.

What do you do when you return from such a war zone? How do you go back to normal life?

In short, you don’t.

Now that you have seen what it is to live hungry and helpless, you cannot unsee it. You cannot ignore it. You cannot forget it. You are now accountable for the knowledge you have. And you are now responsible to respond.

My prayer, and the prayer of your parents and teachers, is this:

  1. Continue to love. The abandon with which you loved on those school kids and Clubhouse kids was breathtaking. No amount of dirt or lice, blazing sun or fatigue, kept you from playing and running and laughing and hugging. Your focus was love. May your focus always be love. People will be messy and conditions will never be optimal. But as Christ first loved us, let’s love anyway.
  2. Embrace heart break. I hope you left a piece of your heart in Guatemala – not because you left behind the children you had grown attached to, but because you now understand the full-blown effects of sin in the world and the abject need of a Savior. The abuse, the fear, the betrayal – these things are not specific to Guatemala (though perhaps they are more obvious). They are specific to our fallen world, and our hearts should shatter at the thought of souls enslaved to sin. If we continue to love, we should also expect to feel pain and heartbreak – that’s part of loving. It’s not something to resist or hide from. Heartbreak will not end us – it will soften us, it will teach us, it will enable empathy to grow, and it will allow Christ to shine out far more brightly than if we stayed safe and intact in our own isolated worlds.
  3. Fix your eyes on Jesus. The world is going to do its best to lull you back into the life you lived prior to the trip – prior to the awareness of all the work there is still to do. It’s also going to do its best to distract you – sucking you into pandemics and school work and post-graduation plans. Just remember that amidst the whorl of life, there is one constant: Jesus. Stay in his word, speak to him, listen for his still, small voice, follow his example (Philippians 2), and remind yourself daily of Isaiah 26: 3-4 “You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock.”

As I said in our team meeting, as teachers, you are our “Clubhouse” kids. We have loved playing with you, teaching you, loving on you. We know that very soon our time with you will come to an end, and we’ll watch you walk out into the world. Our prayer is that you will lead with love and let your heart be broken, all while keeping your eyes fixed on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith.

It was my honor to work alongside each of you this week. I have loved watching you serve Jesus and serve others in Jesus’s name. May this, for all of you, be the beginning of a life spent spreading light in the darkness.

With abounding love,

Mrs. Urquhart

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Headed Home

We are boarding the bus and headed to the airport. Thank you all for praying and please continue to cover our team in prayer as we travel. Adios for now!

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To Not Merely Say…

“Dear Children, let’s not merely say that we love each other, let us show the truth by our actions.” – 1 John 3:18 (NLT)

Standing on our balcony this evening, overlooking the city at night, my heart is full.  These seniors have been amazing.  God has been even greater!  We have had the privilege of working at a public school and sharing the Gospel with over 200 children this week.  In addition, our seniors had multiple conversations with individual children about God, salvation and faith in Christ.  The Lord was honored and His Word was made known in a clear fashion.

Today is usually a day of difficult emotions.  We have to say “good-bye” and not make promises about returning.  These kids will take every promise seriously, so we cannot speak empty words.  We cannot cry in their presence when we leave, because they have already experienced enough heartache, enough pain.  We tried to smile and show our love, so the last sight they have of us is one of joy.  We have shown love to these beautiful children through play, hugs and being present.  It’s a hard reality to know that we’re leaving.  One of the seniors even admitted that “I can’t believe how quickly I became attached to these kids.”  Today was a hard day.  We’re exhausted and sunburned, but the joy God allowed us to experience this week in serving Him FAR outweighs the temporary discomfort.

The believers we met here do not merely say they love, they love with action.  Our seniors got a glimpse of God’s love in full radiance this week.  It was more than just words.

– Mr. Lewis

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Last Day in Guate

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Ministry Day 4: Thoughts from Ethan

How are we to justify a missions trip that leaves us the same when we get home? This week has been an incredible experience that has displayed the power of God at work in Guatemala, but there will be no lasting change among my classmates, our chaperones, or myself if we are not intentionally pursuing a relationship with Christ this week and the weeks to come. In many ways, one week mission trips are characterized as a spiritual high. The focus of a trip like this, and nature of certain experiences draw us closer to God. All the while, we may not have even opened his Word, and listened to what He has to say so that we can truly be changed when we are brought back to our own reality. This gives us a false sense of growth and leaves us wondering, “What happened?” when we are kicked off our mountaintop.

While we sit on a mountaintop this week, both literally and figuratively, the team is working through a devotional that is aimed at drawing each one of us closer to God. Each night, we have taken a few passages and discussed their implications for us this week in Guatemala, and at home in Pennsylvania. It has been a great blessing to see how God is working through my class and teaching them more about Himself. My desire is that all of us would take this attitude of service home with us. Just tonight, we discussed what is means to walk humbly with God (Micah 6:8). The conversation quickly turned to the intimate nature of the relationship that God desires with us. The passage states that we are called to “walk humbly with our God”, rather then walking “toward” God. Many eastern religions preach a pursuit towards a cold, distant god. The God that we pursue desires an intimate relationship with us, and walks along with us as we humbly pursue him. We have seen our intimate Father work through us, both as we love on the kids here and pursue him through this devotional study. For most of us, this trip has had a tremendous impact and has had an entirely life changing experience. As we leave prepare to leave the question will be, “What are you going to do about it?” How are we going to pray fervently for God’s power to be more evident in His world through the Gospel?  How are we going to be more intentional in our engagement with reaching others?  What do we need to do to walk more humbly with our God?

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IMPORTANT UPDATE: current team status

Greetings, SenGo Parents,

We wanted to keep you in the loop regarding what is happening down in Guatemala City. As you can see from our pictures, all has been going well on the ministry front. The kids are having an amazing experience.

Amidst the whorl of ministry, we have continued to monitor the most reliable sources of information available to us: CDC, WHO, US Embassy in Guatemala, US State Dept., & United Airlines. Mike Parker, the Executive Director of Clubhouse Guatemala, is also here and has been an amazing help as we consider the safety of our team and what our plan of return to the US should be.

After checking with United Airlines, we are unable to secure an earlier flight home for the size of our group. Therefore, we will continue as planned to return as scheduled to the US.

We have been dousing the kids in hand sanitizer and continuing to pray that our sovereign Lord will travel with us, carrying us through airports and airplanes and whatever else we may encounter.

Please pray with us for the following:
1.  That we would remain faithful in completing the work the Lord has here for us to do.
2. That everyone would continue in good health – we have been blessed with health so far!
3. That our travel plans will proceed as scheduled without any customs or border issues.
4. That the team and our families and friends would be at peace, keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith.

A post and pictures of today’s ministry will follow later tonight.

Trusting in Christ,

Eric Lewis
Anna Urquhart
Erin Chaboya
Dave Swift

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God’s Love, Crazy Heat, and Quetzal Ball

Thoughts by John & Jack.

From John:

The weather was beautiful today.  In the beginning it was so cool, and later on it became very hot.  One of the hottest days I think so far, but also the coolest.  Even though there was intense heat, the clubhouse children had so much energy.  We played soccer, frisbee, and “correras” or “races” with the children.  While we were playing frisbee with a few children I was observing the area of the playground.  It was pretty beat up, there was trash everywhere, and most of the swings and other structures were made out of metal reebar (even though they were put their by Guatemalan Government).  As I was looking around the whole playground, right in the middle of where we were playing I saw a small yellow flower.  Just one.  And wherever the kids ran past the flower, they never stamped it out.  Its color was striking on the dark background of the dry and parched dirt.  How could a flower grow in this hot, dry weather?  This put a thought in my mind.  It was a spiritual symbol of Christ’s love in the dry land of the spiritually, and physically, poor. 

God’s love is so powerful that sin and death can never dry it out, it is ever lasting and can never be stamped out by evil.  The color yellow was also fitting: happy, energetic, lively, and loyal.  God’s love stays with us, it does not leave, and it brings a smile to everyone’s face.   It is also the living water.  It is available in the most spiritually deprived areas, the dry and desolate lands.  It is our true nature, and we should believe it and spread it to others.

From Jack:

Saturday evening was a wonderful evening. The night was dropping to the 60’s and the boys in our group had a fabulous idea. We created a game on the first night in Guatemala called Quetzal Ball. Its a fabulous game that involves the speed and pace of basketball but with some odd twists. For example, in the middle of the courtyard, there is a well that used to hold water. One quetzal player may step into the well(aka: the Quetzal Hole) and attempt the difficult five point shot. This game has given us such joy and laughter by almost wrestling with the basketball in the Quetzal Hole, or by making the most whack shots that leave each other gwacking at what we just saw. If your wondering where I’m going with this, I’m getting there. This game is fast paced, time consuming, and thrilling. In fact, this game requires so much energy to play, we have not been able to play the past few days. We have had such a great time with Clubhouse and the school that by the end of the day, we are all so tired and just want to kick back and relax. I have lost almost all energy to play this game, but it was all worth it. At the end of the day, the laughter I hear from the children at Clubhouse and the school puts a smile on my face. So the energy I expend in Quetzal Ball can wait for another day, and I’ll spend the energy I still have left giving kids piggyback rides and playing the other fabulous game of soccer.

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Day 2 in Zone 7 in Fotos

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First Day in Zone 7: from Cassie, Kierra, and Alex

From Cassie:

Today we were at the public school playing with the children all morning, and then walked around the corner to the church to make and deliver some food packs. We then finished off our day by playing in the local park with the children from the Clubhouse program before heading back to the team house for an amazing Guatemalan meal. To say the least, it was an amazing day! It was so much fun playing with all of the kids and talking with those in the community, and even with a language barrier, communication was not as difficult as I had personally expected. It amazed me how gracious and generous the people of the Bethania community are! One little girl in the school who did not want to leave my back all day had been sucking on one small lollipop and in her generous manner, offered to share. Another small girl had only one small bag of chips for her lunch, yet still wanted to share them with me. I was slightly surprised that I was not heartbroken for all of the impoverished people we encountered, but as I continue to think about our day, I’m realizing that I don’t feel bad for them because even though they lack materially, they are still so thankful and happy for the lives God has given them. I strive to learn from these people as we continue to interact with them as the week continues. In our devotional for today, one of the passages was Zechariah 7. In the middle of the chapter, it talks about fasting, eating, and drinking not for ourselves but for the Lord. This was a good reminder for me personally that even though we are enjoying most of(if not all) of the things we are blessed enough to do during this trip, it is not about our personal gain, but all for God’s glory. The most impactful things I’ve learned so far on this trip are 1) it is not necessary to feel guilty for the material wealth God has blessed many of us with, but it is very important to be thankful for it and to use it for the glory of God, 2) we are no better than these impoverished people and need God’s love as much as they do, and 3) we need to hand these people over to God and trust that He will care for their spiritual and material needs because we cannot change all of their lives just in a week of serving them.

 From Kierra:

Community is defined as “a group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common.” After only three days in this beautiful country I’ve gained a whole new perspective on the idea of community. The people of Guatemala have redefined what it means to be a part of a community, and it extends far beyond geographical boundaries. As our team waited in local public school courtyard this morning, waiting for the children to arrive for recess, I never thought there was a place where you could walk into a completely foreign atmosphere and feel so at home. However, after only a few hours playing and getting to know complete strangers, their hearts of gold became abundantly apparent. The minute the doors opened and the kids came running out, they overwhelmed me with genuine joy as they embraced each and every one of us with hugs and kisses without even for one minute treating us like the outsiders we clearly were. I never could have imagined being surrounded by such love almost instantly regardless of language or cultural differences.

There were a couple experiences that really stood out to me from today. After playing with children for hours at the school we got the opportunity to deliver packs to local families through Clubhouse Guatemala. The first house my group visited was a humble little home in Bethania with a beautiful family of five. I was introduced to their young son, who was also a part of Clubhouse’s program. Experiencing the home and broken city they live in and then chasing him and his friends around for hours afterward through the streets and the park, I realized the joy these communities maintain is unmatched by anything I would have seen in the United States. This boy wasn’t being held back by his lack of material things, but instead indulged in the joys that come from something only God could provide through his infinite love. Not only did he show me he wasn’t ashamed of what he was missing in his life, but he showed me he was rich in many areas that I could only hope to obtain. The community I got to see was consumed in spiritual wealth and surrounded each other in accepting and loving on everyone, even strangers. God truly surrounds these people with something greater than money and wealth, He shows us what it really means for a community to be defined as a people of love and passion for the Lord.

From Alex:

After saying our “¡Hasta Manana! (see you tomorrow)” to the energetic and loving kids, we walked our way around the corner to the Sembradores Church, a local branch of the main campus located in Zone 6. Pastor Fernando Jr. delivered us the goods that would be needed to put into a bag. Soon after a quick replenish with coffee, we created a line to fill the bags with love and food. Although we were tired from playing with the kids in the school, we knew the delivery of a single food pack was more important than our fatigue. Therefore, we put the essential needs in a yellow grocery bag, such as spaghetti, rice, sugar, cooking oil, beans, toilet paper, toothpaste, and a nutrient drink that could replaced as a meal replacement. After packing 30 bags, we split into 4 groups with each having 2 packs and dispersed into the narrow streets of Zone 7.

My group, chaperoned by Mrs. Chaboya, visited 2 families, and one of the families lived in between two buildings. I was surprised that 4 family members consisting a mom with 3 sons, were living in a room size of a closet. They greeted us with big smiles as we filled their bedroom. We asked some questions about their daily lives, and the mother replied that everything is going well yet two of her sons were sick from cold. Therefore, I asked what we could pray for and she requested to pray for her kids and especially for her hands as well because she had to pay visits to the doctor’s due to her injury. So we talked to the Lord for healing and the continual love that the family have been receiving.

What jolted me the most was after our prayer when the mother spoke to us. Speaking from heart, she chatted that everything we need is provided by God and don’t ever worry about being empty-handed because God will fill us with more than we ever need. Moreover, she complimented us with joy that we are such blessings to her family and told us to continue the great work that God has assigned because we will be blessings wherever we go. I was truly astounded and moved. Being in a situation where the living is harsh in a compact area, they were so happy that we came and were content that God’s presence was in their hearts. I felt so convicted and guilty because I lived under many different roofs, all provided with warm food and high-quality goods, yet I have complained about many things in life. Not only was I greedy but I was starving of spiritual fruit of God and I craved for their joy with God. What an amazing day it was to not deliver the food and love of God but to receive the spiritual fruit and light of Him.

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