Becoming: A Final Thought

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Dear Seniors,

As shocking as it seems, the trip you planned and prepared for since last year is now over. Yet now is when the work begins. Now is when you start to digest the feast of experience that Guatemala offered.

Do not be quick or thoughtless about this process. It is work, and it should be intentional.

First, allow yourself to rest.

Enjoy sleeping in your own bed, eating familiar food, spending time with family, even flushing toilet paper down your toilet. Even while resting, your mind is mulling on your experience.

Second, allow yourself to feel.

Memory is rarely 100% accurate, so take some time to look back on the pictures, read your journal entries, scroll through the blog posts. Be reminded of the various moments that you experienced, then ask yourself, “How did this moment affect me?” Identify your feelings – perhaps fear or frustration or joy or confusion. (There’s no wrong answer.)

Once you’ve identified how you felt, ask yourself, “Why?”

Why were you nervous the first day we knocked on the blue gate of the school? Why were you sad as we drove over the bridge across el barranco (the ravine)? Why were you afraid when you walked down the steep stairs into the homes of the ravine? Why did you feel such joy singing “Oceans” together in the evening on the porch?

Believe it or not, how you answer these “why” questions matters. It reveals who you are. It reveals what motivates you. It reveals strengths and weaknesses.

As an added bonus, connecting feelings to memories cements those memories more securely in your mind. And these memories are not ones you want to forget.

Third, allow yourself to change.

You cannot see what you have seen and remain the same person. You know more. You understand more. And you are now accountable for more. The world isn’t composed of farmland and Wilbur chocolate and the halls of Lititz Christian. There’s a world that is dark and scary and hungry and hopeless.

You now need to grapple with difficult questions. Where do you go from here? How can you live a life of such wealth, when others suffer in the world? How do you keep from slipping back into your old way of thinking and living and moving through the world? What’s your role in all of this?

These are big questions and not ones to answer tritely. And no one can answer those questions but you. It is, of course, no coincidence that this trip comes at a time when you are looking out at a vast horizon of “the rest of your life” (so to speak). You’re planning your future. You’re making decisions that determine the initial trajectory of your adult life. So isn’t now the opportune moment to think about the person you are and the person you will become?

If you are waltzing down a road that isn’t God-glorifying, it’s not too late to change directions.

If you find yourself getting distracted from a goal that the Lord has set before you, fix your eyes determinedly on Jesus. Don’t get distracted by things that don’t matter in light of eternity.

If you aren’t sure of your next turn, turn to the Word and be still.

If you feel that all you have are questions with no answers, don’t give up. Keep asking your questions; the answers will come.

If you are discouraged that you are the only person making godly decisions in a sin-seeking world, don’t grow weary. His strength is made perfect in weakness, and His grace is sufficient.

We are always ever changing. So, with your mind deeply rooted in the Truth of the God’s word, allow yourself to change, to grow, to become.

My prayer for you is Psalm 91—the same as I prayed over Maria and her family while standing in her home in the ravine. I pray the Lord will shelter you and be your fortress, that you will not fear the terror of the night, and that you will make the Lord your dwelling place.

I am so proud of you, dear seniors. Thank you for allowing me and the other chaperones to travel and serve alongside you this past week.

With heaps of love,

Mrs. Urquhart

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Headed Home!

We are headed home. Please continue to pray for safety and no issues going through check-in and security. Thank you for all your support! See you soon in the US!

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Build Your Kingdom Here 3/15/19

As our final day in Guatemala comes to an end, we are all heartbroken, but at the same time uplifted. Going into this trip, we all had different thoughts and expectataions of the experiences we would have. The overall idea that we had was that we’d be serving children in an impoverished area. What we didn’t expect was the impacts, relationships, and the hearts of the kids and familys that we met.

The first day begins, we begin to prepare for the tidal wave of kids running out to meet us. Before they even entered the cortyard, we could hear their high pitched yell. GRINGOOOOOOOOOSSSSSSSSSS!!!! There were so many kids that just wanted to hang on our arms and be tossed into the air. At the same time though, there was a deeper emotional level that was being touched. Over the next few days, we each began to build deeper connections with the kids in the school and in the Clubhouse program. As we began to learn their names and more about them, we also began learning about their families and their home situations.

Another way that we were able to serve was by delivering food packs to families with children inrolled in the Clubhouse program. This was not only something we experienced physically, but even more so spiritually. As we talked with the mothers and grandmothers of the children, we found things out about their spiritual lives and how they get through everyday life. It isnt an easy task for them, and any one of us would be praying to be in a better position. As we asked them how we could pray for them, we were suprised when every single one asked for prayer for their family. Prayers of love, faithfullness, unity, and good health were all requests from these families living in less than ideal situations.

From these interactions, we learned so much about being content and trusting that God will provide. These families who had nothing still had an undying love and faith in the Lord. We saw the true presence of God in the communities we walked through. In both small and large ways, these towns and vilages were being changed in supernatural ways.

Durring one of our group powwows, we sang the song “build your kingdom here” by Rend Collective (hense the title). This song is one that we have sung more times than we can count. in the context of our location though, the song seemed to take on a whole new meaning. Gods kingdom was being built and shown right here in Guatemala.

-Nate Yager & Logan Coolbeth

 

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“Life Changing”

IMG_0241Looking back on this week, it’s hard to break this trip down into a small simple story. The best way I can describe it is in two words, life changing. Everyone has their own version on what poverty, starvation, and real need looks like. The internet and the television loves to paint perfect pictures of it. But it isn’t until you witness it with your own eyes, interact with kids who don’t have guaranteed food on the table, and stand in “walk in closet” sized homes, that you fully understand. I was hit hard with all of these in the mere expansion of a week. It is a lot to take in honestly. And although this trip has left me feeling somber more times than I can count, I feel as though I’m coming out of it with an overall positive feeling. We were able to bless so many families with either food or water filters. We were able to provide a new garden at the public school for the kids to use as a place of relaxation and a place to read. We were able to show the love of God in all these things, making sure the recipiants knew it was a gift from God, not from us. We were able to provide joy in kids lives, where otherwise, they might not have much joy. I connected with a boy named Esteban. He has the most contagious of laughs. Seeing his face light up everytime the school bell rang to dismiss to recess was worth all the sweat from the overbearing sun or the exhaustion that ensued by continually spinning in circles with Esteban in my arms or helping him across the money bars or playing tag for what seemed like hours. It was even worth the tears that were shed as I watched him walk down the street to his home after I had to tell him I won’t be back tomorrow. I hope I had somewhat of an impact on him because when he left that day, he took a piece of my heart with him. I’ve been able to see God move this week and I pray I continue to open my eyes to the way he is moving at home. This trip will resonate with me for a long time and has really opened my heart to the beauty of missions.

-Katie Borg

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Wednesday’s Belated Post

By: Blake Herr

Today was a pretty good day. It started out with being a little bit late for breakfast. After that we went to the school. Like usual we waited for the kids to be released for their recess. I went over to a somewhat shady area so I wouldn’t get too sunburned. Their recess started and a few kids ran over to me. I started throwing them up in the air. I realized that was going to get tiring. So I started spinning them around or flipping them in the air. The kids loved it.

So as the kids were walking up to me they would motion what they wanted me to do to them. So about 15 minutes into their recess I looked up and saw they were all in a single file line. And there were about 20 kids in the line waiting their turn. It was pretty exhausting. (Also one of the kids looks a lot like my brother.)

After that we worked on the school garden. We got a lot of stuff done and it looks pretty nice compared to how it looked on Monday. At twelve we then ate. I was given a sleeve of rice cakes. (I ate the entire sleeve.) We then went and played with the clubhouse kids at the park, and I found out that I was actually decent at kicking a soccer ball.

After this we delivered food to some families. And while we were in their homes I realized how little they had but how content they were. So that was eye opening. Then we went home, showered, ate, and then went to an ice cream shop called Pops.

It was a pretty good experience. I learned a bit today. Also our wi-fi was down so thats why this blog was posted later than usual. Not because of me slacking off.

This is Blake signing off.

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A Snapshot

The last 2 days we have continued to spend the morning playing with the kids at the Bethania elementary school, building a garden for the students to read in, and feeding the Clubhouse kids lunch at the Bethania church.

In the afternoon we played with the Clubhouse and neighborhood kids in the park, and delivered food packs to the homes of church members in Zone 7. With each food pack we deliver, we pray with the family.

Today was our final day in Zone 7, so it was quite difficult to say good-bye to the kids. Tomorrow we will be in Zone 6, visiting the Sepradores church and community center.

We will again spend time with families from the church, praying with them and delivering food.

The wifi has been down since yesterday morning, and only moments ago was restored. So we will have a blog post from the students shortly.

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There isn’t just one story – Nichole & Amy

By: Nichole Stanley

We arrived in Guatemala 4 days ago. Since then we have visited Antigua and the coffee plantation there, as well as the market. Since those days we have progressively been diving deeper into the beautiful and at times dangerous culture here. My very first thought of Guatemala included the words, “poor” and “pity,” but throughout this experience I have come to realize that these people don’t have just one story or just one thing to be told, but a whole world of experiences and dreams and endeavors they want to share with you.

The people here have so little but want to give you so much, and it’s so refreshing to see that these days because people don’t seem to want to get to know you because they have better things to do or because they just don’t want to. It has been a true blessing for me getting to know these people and love on them because they want to do the exact same with you.

A perfect example of this is the kids in zone 7. As soon as we walked up to those metal doors at the school they attend, we could hear the kids chanting “los gringos aqui los gringos aqui” (the white people are here) and banging on the doors in anticipation. As soon as the doors opened all the kids started running to hug us despite the fact that we were total strangers.

The one little girl that stood out to me the most is named Muffin. The first day I met her she just clung to me and my friend Amy the entire time. Muffin is always smiling and laughing and wanting to be held just like a newborn baby. The one thing I struggle with the most when I see her and all the other kids is the fact that they grow up everyday with a fear of gangs and the possibility that some people including their parents could be hurting them or their siblings. I keep wondering how these people still show love and happiness to us despite everything they could be going through, but on the other hand it makes sense because they just want to be loved and embraced.

This entire trip has been a ride of emotions and new experiences, but most of all a change in perspective. My new words to describe the Guatemalan culture now are “content,“grateful” “strong” and “God-fearing.”

————–

By: Amy Zhou
A Smile, the universal language

Yesterday, we had the first encounter with the children in the Clubhouse Guatemala program. Once we stepped into the school, we were surrounded by the  enthusiasm and passion from these lovely children. The distance between me and the children was completely shattered by the warm hugs and the cute cries of “Hola.” With zero Spanish basics, I was worried and anxious about this first meeting with these children, however, their body language and the bright smiles on their faces are the best way of conversing between us.

Today, we had another fun time with these children together in the school. Again, they welcomed us with their endless energy and love. Two little girls named Muffin and Elisa, who are always the first two running up to me and hugging me with a smile, however, I was hit by a wall today. When I really wanted to get to know these two girls better, I realized that I don’t even know how to ask them questions. Unlike my past mindset of just relying on translators to communicate with these kids, this time I really wished that I could speak Spanish and really get connected with these children. I believe that a smile is the universal language. I feel I am loved by these children through their hugs and smiles, and I hope I will continue to show the love of Jesus by giving these kids my true heart.

When the visa situation became so desperate that I was sure I could not go on this trip, the Lord made a way for me. These little children are gifts from the Lord and the passion they have is a blessing for me. I will continue to bridge the relationship between me and the children with my true heart and the universal language, a smile.

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God. Is. Here. 3/11/19

Today was the first day of interacting with the children. As we walked into the school we were bombarded with children yelling “Gringos!!” and immediate hugs. As quickly as we can we threw our water bottles down and started playing. Through broken Spanish and energetic kids God’s presence became obvious.

God loves the broken. Through all of the hurt and poverty these children and families endure, their joy shines through. After running, jumping, and giving kids piggy back rides Katie, Nathan, Logan, Mr. Lyon, Mrs. Urquhart, and I went to the schools garden. The garden was overgrown and full of broken glass and trash. We started raking up the dead plants and putting them into bags. After all of our bags broke we decided that we needed some heavy duty lawn bags in order to accommodate the large amount of trash and plants.

As we were making piles of debris I happened to stumble across a nest of red wasps. At first we believed they were just cockroaches so Logan being the brave man he is almost put the stick inside of their nest to kill them. Thankfully Mr. Lyon detected what they actually were before he had the chance. When Logan and Nathan successfully moved an aloe plant we discovered Aloe is actually extremely sticky and it smells like the inside of a green-bean. From there we went to help serve the kids lunch.

The church their ministry takes place is no bigger than one classroom at LCS. This includes a kitchen, 2 small dining rooms, a small bathroom, and the sanctuary. We squeezed over 20 kids and approximately 6 adults. We made food packs for the families within the community. The food packs consisted of flour, sugar, pasta, black beans, and cookies. Once lunch was served we went down the street to the park where we played volleyball and soccer.

I got the opportunity to teach 3 little boys all under the age of 10 how to play volleyball and they loved it. They were so cute and loved passing a volleyball back and forth. Running around with kids is my favorite thing. I’m most comfortable playing with kids, even talking to them in broken Spanish.

God took me out of my comfort zone a little bit when we handed out the food packs to the families. We went into their houses and prayed for them. This shook my world. The houses were at most 2 rooms and a bathroom. The one house we went into was a queen sized bed touching both sides of the wall with a television set above it, a bunk bed with only a mattress on the top bunk and underneath was used as storage. The door to the bathroom was simply a shower curtain. These people living with so little also ask for so little. When we asked how we can pray for them they simply said for health. They didn’t ask for food or stuff. How can people with what seems like nothing be so content and joyful? I suddenly got an overwhelming sense of guilt because I have so much in my own little corner of America, yet constantly want more. The feeling of discontentment within my own mind is one of greed and selfishness. I was challenged by God to just be okay where I’m at and with what I have.

God is moving within this community. The kids have such a hunger for genuine love. Pray for energy and strength as we head into the rest of this week.

 

Much love,

Nikki Schlegs 🙂

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“From Glory to Reality”

By Benuel Lapp

From the moment we set foot into Sembradores Church, I could feel a strong sense of unity and the overwhelming presence of the Holy Spirit. The worship was absolutely genuine, although a little hard to put into words (because, well, most of it was in Spanish). Pastor Fernando Sr. followed with a stirring message (which thankfully was translated) which he titled “From Glory to Reality.” Taking his text from Mark 9:14-29, he walked the congregation through the story of Jesus casting an evil spirit out of a boy whom his disciples had previously tried to heal and failed. Jesus had just come down off of Mount Transfiguration (Mark 9:2-13) and was now suddenly presented with a boy who was possessed with an evil spirit and had been brought by his father to be healed by Him. Jesus had come from a moment of “Glory” to an abrupt moment of “Reality.”  Based on this passage, Pastor Fernando proceeded to illustrate the responsibility of parenthood, the dangers of making technology our reality, and how like the disciples, we are weak and incapable and have fallen short of the glory of God. And while every point that was made hit home in some way, it was the simple concept of “From Glory to Reality” that stuck with me for rest of the day.

Although it was a more relaxed day, there was certainly an overload of emotions weighing heavy and fresh in my mind. And yet, at the same time, there seemed to be a sort of surreal daze surrounding the day’s events. There were the feelings of fellowship and community during the service and in the team lunch that followed. There were feelings of compassion and sorrow as we were shown around a new Community Center organized by Clubhouse to care for and educate kids and teens who either could not continue school or lived in abusive situations. There were feelings of astonishment and pity as we witness the many tin shacks built into the sides of a deep ravine where the poorest of the poor call home. There was more compassion, and even a little hope and expectation as we grouped for prayer in Bethania, taking in the surroundings that we will be working in during the next week. And finally, there were feelings of guilt and anger as we stopped to visit a massive, three-floor mall right outside of Bethania.

Walking through the doors of the mall, I began to see the phrase “From Glory to Reality” in an entirely new light and in the opposite order. We had just come from Bethania, literally a few miles away with its rundown homes and filthy streets, and were now standing in the epitome of American commercialism. The comparison was staggering. On one hand, there are thousands upon thousands of impoverished Guatemalans barely scraping by but making the best of what they do have. After all, its all they know. This is their reality. The poverty, the broken families, the gangs, the violence, the rape and abuse – All of it 100 percent real. It exists. We hear about it on the news or from others who have seen it, but its not the same. Until you see it with your own eyes, its impossible to understand completely. Because, on the other side, we come from our blissful state of economic “glory” in America, used to having whatever we need at our fingertips. We embrace materialism, often without realizing it, and thinking we deserve every bit of it. We are simply so used to our American standard of living that when we hear of poverty and pain in the world, it becomes difficult to identify with it, much less care about it.

The problem is, while we’re so infatuated with our material blessings, making unintended idols out of various “things,” we so easily loose sight of the big picture – the things that truly have meaning and value in life. We create our own world of technology, stuff, and progress. But the truth is, its all fake. Just like the massive posters and ads of seemingly content white people in the mall. Just like the many famous American brands (that you can find in Guatemala too). Just like the gazillion different items that line the shelves of our favorite stores. Its what I would like to call, a form of “pseudo-glory” that convinces us to overlook truth and distracts us from reality so that we miss what’s really important.

As we journeyed back to the mission house on the bus and I began to process all I had seen so far, reality slowly started to sink in. The fog lifted. It became real and hit me all at once. The emotions spilled out as I stood on the veranda, crying, asking God to forgive my pride. Now, as I sit on the same veranda processing these things, watching the many lights of the city at night and feeling the gentle breeze, I cannot thank God enough for bringing me here and opening my eyes.

COLOSSIANS 2:20-23 – “Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations—  “Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle,” which all concern things which perish with the using—according to the commandments and doctrines of men?  These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh.”

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A Few Sunday Pics

A day of worship and prayer, warm drinks and even warmer sunshine.

A post from Benuel will be coming momentarily – he’ll be talking about our day. Stay tuned!

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