We’re on our way!

June 16, 2008

Yesterday was Shopping Day!  We first drove up to the location of the new mission base which is currently under construction.  The base is located on land donated by one of the villages Dan & Heidi have built houses for in the past, on a breathtakingly beautiful mountain top.  God has provided in so many ways for Dan & Heidi to eventually have a base built specifically for the teams that come down here to work.  It will also give them much needed private family space.

Then we headed to Antigua for some major power shopping!  Most of the team had lunch at McDonalds before shopping, although some had lunch at an authentic Guatemalan restaurant.  We had lots of fun making our way through the colorful markets and learning how to barter.  Bags were quite full by the end of the day.

On our way back to the base, we stopped to visit Estuardo (the man who was shot during the robbery a few weeks ago).  The whole team piled into his living room, sitting on arms of chairs, the floor, anywhere we could find to sit.  Dan spoke with him and translated for us as he talked to us and we asked questions of him.  He is still in incredible pain, although it is slowly improving.  He is still unable to move his legs on his own, but is getting more involuntary foot spasms.  It sounds like surgery is the next step to remove the hematoma in the spinal column, allowing the nerves to reconnect.  Before we left, we all laid our hands on Estuardo and held him up in prayer to the Great Physician who has performed so many miracles already with Estuardo and we pray will perform one more by allowing him to walk again.  Please pray as he goes to the doctor again today for more tests.  Pray for wisdom on the part of the doctors and accurate tests so they can make the right decision as to what the next step should be.  Also, pray for his family.  His wife who tears up regularly.  His son who saw the whole thing happen.  His daughter who is too young to really understand it all.  And Estuardo himself, that he remain positive and not waver in his faith.

We had our final devotions last night.  One of the things Dan asked us to do was to tell of  our individual God sightings this past week.  We listened as one by one the team shared their individual experiences with answers to prayer and sightings of our amazing and ever-present God.  Much was learned this week about how to look for God in our every day life when it is so easy to overlook Him, get caught up in our busy-ness and try to control everything in our own power.

And finally, we want to thank all of you for your prayers.  They have carried us safely to and through Guatemala.  Most amazingly, your prayers have kept us all healthy.  Other than a few small stomach problems, we had NOBODY with the sicknesses we have encountered in the past.  So THANK YOU for holding us up in prayer that we might focus on showing the Love of Jesus to the people of Guatemala.  We leave this morning at 9:30 Guat time for the airport and should arrive tonight in GR at approximately 10:30.  We can’t wait to see you all and share our experiences. 

Second clinic

June 15, 2008

We knew as soon as we pulled into the small mountain village that something was very different.  Usually when we arrive in villages, the children come running alongside the vans and swarm us as we disembark, all shouting “Gringos! Gringos!”  But yesterday as we pulled into the village schoolyard, there was only silence.  As we piled out of the vans and stood around, a few curious faces peered around corners and down from their mountain fields.  Finally, two of the men from the village arrived to speak with Dan, one of whom was the mayor.  They really didn’t want us there.  The mayor had been disappointed in the past with another group who had come through and given them all expired meds.  This gentleman had gone so far as to phone Heidi and try to cancel, as he feared that, if the experience turned out the same, he would lose the confidence of the villagers he led.

Dan prepared us to let the people approach us, or to approach them S-L-O-W-L-Y.  The village square, consisting mostly of a tidy co-ed school,  after a bit had a few women and kids hanging toward one edge, while the mayor and councilmen conferred with Dan.  We had to wait(!) to ask permission to use the “sanitarios”(restrooms) which turned out to live up to their name better than most previously encountered.

Vic got things going by tossing a ball to a line of boys under the school’s arcade.  After a short time, most of the kids were engaged in games or “beauty parlor”—nail polish and hair braiding for the girls—and a LOT of the little boys!

After the clinic was set up, the women and kids lined up, while the menfolk hung back in a kind of “ladies first” way.  In a reverse of what one would expect, the adults were bi-lingual, and the kids spoke mostly Cak’chiquel, the language of instruction in the school.  The men were very curious and eager to talk about where we came from and what organization we represented.  A beach ball in a globe design helped us illustrate how far away our home is from them, and when we told them about Paradise Bound, several were quick to reveal that they, too, were Christians.

We wish we could show you how beautiful this place was!  The women wore the colorful native costume of the Mayans, with intricate weaving and embroidery.  The surrounding hills were a patchwork of cropland, and there were many tall and beautiful pine trees.  Even the dogs and chickens appeared healthier and friendlier than those we had seen before.  However, between Dan’s warning that photography was not well accepted in their culture and simple busyness, not one picture was taken!

Nevertheless, in spite of the relative prosperity, medical help was warmly welcomed.  The nearest doctor is probably at least 25 miles away over bad roads, and costs money people don’t have.   And the Great Physican of souls was there as well!  People were very attentive to the Jesus film, even the little kids who didn’t understand a word of the Spanish!  Several of the team members offered personal testimonies, which were well received, as were our three songs in Spanish: Dios de Maravillas (God of Wonders), Tú eres mi respirar (Breathe), Vine a adorarte (Here I am to Worship).  \

Pastor Noé preached in Cak’chiquel, which incorporates about one Spanish word out of 15, so that it was possible to know the theme: Salvation through Jesus alone, our only and sufficient Redeemer.  Though few came forward, a lot raised their hands when asked whether they were already believers.  This, too, is gratifying and praise-generating, as the team would really like to see these people again, either in Guatemala or in Heaven!

It’s worth mentioning that the name of this settlement was “Via Nueva” (New Way) but the ONE WAY was heard and it’s our prayer that seeds planted might be watered by future teams and that good fruit will be the result. 

 

First Medical Clinic

June 14, 2008

Our journey to the small mountain village of Nueva Alianza (New Alliance) where we set up our medical clinic was an eventful one.  90% of the road was unpaved, extremely rocky and muddy with huge crevices the vans had to maneuver their way around.  At one point, on what is virtually a one lane road, we came nose to nose with a truck Clinic staffFuego erupted all evening\Doing the Hokey Pokeyloaded with boulders and rocks being unloaded onto the side of the road.  Our only option was to wait until they were finished.  Joe and Rick pitched in and helped toss the rocks out, while the two vans, a bus, two horses with riders loaded with cornstalks, and a motorcycle waited and watched.  Once the job was done, the most exciting part was backing up and jockeying for position to be able to pass each other on the narrow mountain road without sliding off!!!  It had just rained and all vehicles were sliding around in mud about 6 inches deep.  Just another day on Guatemalan roads!

We arrived in the small village of 25 families and immediately began to unload and set up the clinic.  Part of the team manned the clinic, while the rest remained outside and formed relationships with the children of the village.  It was not the best setting for playing any organized games such as baseball or soccer, so we tossed footballs, jumped rope, and polished nails.  Then we did our best with a capella Hokey Pokey and  Chicken Dance.  We didn’t sound very good, but we had fun.  The village children had much fun teaching us their version of London Bridges and Duck Duck Goose. 

In the medical clinic, there was the usual stream of malnourished mothers and children who badly need vitamins and anti-parasite medicine.  One man had an ulcer on his shin that he has been dealing with for five years which Rick thinks may be so bad it may have gone into his bone.  Dan will try to find a way to get him into a hospital today.  It’s so sad that these people just have to live for years with health problems that we can so readily fix in the United States.

Then came the Jesus Film, our group singing, and Hermano Jesus preaching.  Paradise Bound has visited this village once before, four years ago, and was met with much resistance toward the Gospel.  Last night was not much different.  Eventually perhaps 10 or 12 people came forward to receive the gift of salvation, although it appeared more wanted to but something held them back.  One woman so badly wanted to receive Christ, but was restrained by her husband.   We pray that she did accept Christ in her heart, though unable to physically show it.

It was an eventful and DRY evening, capped by the pyrotechnics of a nearby volcano visible in the darkness.  The distant light seemed like a celebration of new souls added to the Kingdom of God!

Thank you so much for your continued prayers; our team members have remained healthy and we have traveled in safety on precarious roads. 

 

June 13, 2008

First 3 Days

June 13, 2008

Despite starting out in misty rain very early Monday morning, God blessed us with safe and on-time travel, and no problems with customs in Guatemala.  We were very nearly arrested as a trail of some mysterious white, powdery substance appeared behind one of our suitcases.  Fortunately it was fairly easy to prove it was harmless as it smelled curiously of vanilla.  Thanks for the coffee creamer, Miriam.  It was enjoyed by all throughout the airport.  God does call us to leave a sweet fragrance wherever we go and we certainly did!

 

As most of you know, we spent our first three days in a remote, jungle village near the Pacific Coast of Guatemala.  Beautiful does not begin to describe the scenery, the people or our experience there.  Our task was to build three houses within an area the size of a city block.  This might sound convenient, but it was extremely steep, rocky and slippery terrain.  With rather heavy rains over the course of our building days, more than a few of us took a slider!  But our efforts were successful and today there stand three tiny salmon-colored houses as a monument to the love our Lord has for all people.  And as a testimony to the love and financial support of the people from Rockford Reformed Church.

 

It is difficult to describe the emotions we felt during the dedications of the houses.  It is best left for a personal conversation.  When Dan chooses who to build houses for, he has no idea who might be a Christian or not.  It is after we give the house to them that we enter their home and the conversation turns spiritual.  The team that built the house enters with the family, Dan and Hermano Jesus (our preacher) while the other two teams remain outside singing and praying.  During our dedications, two of the families rededicated their lives to Jesus Christ.  The third family was divided.  The father is a strong and committed Christian, his son and young wife are not.  As Hermano Jesus explained the choice they needed to make, the rain began to pound on the roof of the tiny house.  The other two teams stayed in the rain, singing and praying.  The young man inside the house gave his reasons for not accepting the gospel.  Each time he did, it began to rain harder.  By his third objection, the rain was pounding on the roof so hard we could barely hear each other shouting.  During his objections to and questions about the gospel our team was amazingly faithful and continued to pray and pray! We know that in time this family will make a commitment to the Lord. The Holy Spirit was so alive in the that house during this time. What an experience.

 

Today we bag beans and rice along with medicines and vitamins in preparation for our first medical clinic in a small mountain village.  Please pray our team bonds with the people and helps to open hearts and minds to God’s Word.  We love and miss you all!!!