Adios! Thursday AM

As we are heading to the airport in a few, we just wanted to THANK YOU for your prayers this week. We had an amazing evening last night, praising God for a wonderful week, and discussing the story of Jesus returning after his crucifixion.  Dan Smith took the story and emphasized the personal identity of Jesus HIMSELF returning, and the excitement and desire people had to KNOW Him.  Dan challenged us with this question: “Do you desire and want Jesus like these people did?”  After a challenging discussion, Dan again challenged us to give up anything that is in the way of this personal relationship with Christ.  After nailing these issues to a giant cross, we spent an hour and a half moving around the room praying for each other. It was SUCH a BEAUTIFUL sight to see – students praying over each other, students praying over adults, tears and painful memories resurfacing, honesty coming forward in painful prayer… God is at work in this place!!!

Thank you for your prayers – your students will have SOOOO much to share tonight!

Thanks for sharing your lovely students with us. Every single one is so precious to us.

Love,

Cindy and Steph

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Wednesday-early evening

We just finished eating our final supper together here at the base camp.  We spent the afternoon in Antigua where we first bombarded the most beautiful McDonalds that I have ever visited.  After that we ventured through the markets of Antigua where these guys got to try their hand at bardering.  Antigua is a great city filled with ruins, narrow streets with colorful buildings, and many more “gringos”- some who seem as if they have been backpacking around Central America for months with their tan leathery skin, scruffy beards, and dreadlocks.  

It’s always a great day though.  Some kids are doing the dishes right now while singing and harmonizing a rendition of one of Mumford and Son’s songs, others are packing their bags for our travels tomorrow, a group is playing “Would You Rather”, and others are blogging or just quietly catching up with each other. 

I know that I never wrote about dedication day and this morning before we left we had a short time of devotions where we shared our God sitings from this day- It was incredible!  These are special, special kids and they have developed a bond that won’t unglue.  Last night and the days prior I saw smiles (and I am not talking about those kind of smiles that are forced…I am talking genuine-from-the-soul smiles) from some kids that I have not seen smile at school.  I saw a group of girls having “girl talk” in a circle late at  night and they didn’t care if they were juniors or seniors or if they never talked before at school- they were a genuine community. 

Again, I haven’t mentioned dedication day.  I think this experience was personal for each kid and I think they have to at some point attempt to put words around it.  Warning- it will be hard for many of them because sometimes words aren’t enough; they can’t fully capture the emotions, the sounds, the cries, and the passionate prayers of the families and Hermano Jesus as these precious families decided to rededicate their lives to a relationship with Jesus Christ rather than a religion full of rules or as they decided for the very first time to embrace Jesus Christ.  

We will have our last devotional time together in a few minutes.  Please pray for us!!!!

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Tuesday evening

Hello again.  It’s Cindy typing.  Thanks to Anna Lindholm who wrote the last team entry.  First of all, for all the fellow moms out there who left me a concerned blog entry that I must have got sick from carrying all the bowls of “ya know what” to the “ya know what”…no, I did not get sick.  It really is a miracle and just evidence that prayer is powerful!  As a matter of fact I have never felt better!  It is such a joy to work side by side with 25 high schoolers and my sweet daughter who know what love is.   I have never both laughed and cried so hard in just the few days that we have been together. 

Today was one of those days  that it is difficult to sit down and know where to begin as the little black line on the computer screen keeps blinking and begging me for words.  But I will attempt to capture some of what we have been experiencing while it is important for you to realize that what I am about to write doesn’t even skim the surface of the personal and eternal transformation that is occurring within the lives of literally dozens of precious Guatemalans and dozens of American kids from Grand Rapids.  

Let me back up to Sunday morning devotions at base camp.  As always we started out devotions with some great singing and that lead into Dan leading us through a Bible Study of Mark 10:46.  There is a lot that we talked about with this familiar story but what stood out to me was that here was a blind man named “Bartimaeus” which really means that he was nameless.  He is begging on the side of the road and begging to the “Son of David.”  He knew that Jesus just wasn’t a Nazarene but the Savior-the Son of David.  So many told this man to be quiet…but Jesus said, “Call him.”  We looked at the context and discussed together that the crowd was large and probably noisy.  It probably would have been very difficult for the blind man to find his way to Jesus…but yet, Jesus wanted the blind man to move towards Jesus.  The blind man being called by the disciples to get up, threw his cloak off, jumped up and came to Jesus.  We looked deep into the text- ok…this was a beggar, probably didn’t have a lot of clothing, yet threw off probably what was his only real piece of clothing knowing full well that he wouldn’t find it back again.  We were challenged to think- who are we in this story? Are we willing to accept his call?  Are we buried by the crowd and the noise?  Are we tied to our possesions? Then, the next line in the text is Jesus asking him, “What do you want me to do for you?”  We were challenged to ask ourselves these questions. 

We have been challenged beyond words on this trip and I can tell you that we wouldn’t be where we are now as a group if we didn’t have these.  We have endured rough nights of sleep at the beginning of the week and bumpy roads (literally) but through all of this I have seen God through all of these kids: whether it was Sydney and Anna singing quite a peppy song on their mandolins (sorry Sydney- couldn’t resist calling it a mandolin instead of a yukelele) in the van while Sydney was in the midst of feeling quite sick, Parker being prayed over by the guys in the group as struggled with his own physical weakness, Julia standing up and throwing back her blanket as we sang (it was such a beautiful moment because Julia was not able to attend our Sunday night devotion on Mark 10) and she reminded me of what it means to accept Jesus’ calling admist physical hurdles, the guys teaching the Guatemalan boys how to play Jackpot in a field on top of a mountain while cows literally grazed next to them, girls joyfully painting nails, brushing and braiding hair, a few of us teaching a table full of kids how to play uno (Emily C. and I both won one  game… maybe we should have thrown the games but we got a bit competitive), kids giving their testimonies of faith in front of an entire village and them being able to witness first hand the impact of their words as people came forward to accept Jesus as their Savior.  These are just a few of the God sitings from Monday and I haven’t even talked about today’s experience. 

I have to leave for now.  It is just after 1:00 am and the electricity turns off from 1-4 am which you can imagine provides for some interesting trips to the bathroom 🙂  but that also means that the computer is going to shut off pretty quick.  We are all feeling healthy (PLEASE continue praying…IT IS WORKING!!!) and the laughter and friendships that have formed are from God.  Kids who hardly said a word in class last Monday are now belly laughing and leading napkin award ceremonies tonight.  God is here and he has been faithful!  We’ll talk more tomorrow.

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Monday

Well, this has been a busy day and we’re all headed off to bed, but we thought we would give you a brief summary of the day.

Saltwater Salmon pink- all the rage in Paris, now the color of everybody’s hair, clothes and shoes. After “stuck-o”ing all the houses, a quick war broke out, covering everyone from head to toe in the wonderfully sticky material. Yum.

Lunch consisted of delicious tostadas and rice. The afternoon was spent playing with the kids of the village, setting up the porches, and roofing.

It was a huge blessing to see the majority of us healthy and having a great time. The children in the village were definitely a blessing today, for everyone. Their smiles and countless echos of “Dulces? Si? Dulces?” brightened everyone last one of us- especially those still a little sick.

Finally, to end our day, we “stuck-o”ed off, ate some much needed dinner, and went to devotions.

The God glimpses shared were amazing, but even more so was the sight, of every person, healthy and happily worshiping our Lord.

Thanks be to God.

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Saturday evening

It has been a very quiet day here at base camp.  Trevor, Max, Sable, Julia, and Kate have all been able to get plenty of good, healing rest.  All were able to make an appearance in the gathering area and sit on some couches for while or take a deep, cleansing breath outside on the patio.  They were all able to either drink a bit of tea, juice, or water with ice chips and hold it down.  Some were able to even eat some saltines.  Why all these details?  Well…that’s how I roll (just ask my husband…what should be a two minute response to a question he has for me can often turn into a 10 minute one)  But also…I wanted to write about God’s grace throughout the day here.  Sometimes we take these little grace points for granted, don’t we? 

His grace IS sufficient and this morning when we had the early morning impromptu Bible study the 5-6 girls who were there sounded like angels singing.  After reading through the first part of James 1 and parts of Philippians 1 we began singing Open the Eyes of my Heart Lord.  They harmonized in their singing so beautifully it literally sounded like angels surrounding us.  I wish you all could have been here to experience that.

Well…like I said, I stayed all day and the rest of the team should be arriving back to basecamp in the next couple of hours.  I can’t wait to hear how God used them today to shed light to a remote, indigenous village. 

One last thing.  One of our past Christian high students who graduated last year and went with Brian and me a couple of summers ago to Guatemala with our first GRCH team (Kelly Doles) took the time to write a letter to this year’s team.  We handed out her letter on the airplane along with all the precious letters and cards from the elementary school kids.  Here is a part of her letter that has really hit home for many of us today.  It reads:  “One day when we were building houses, Dan asked us to pray for God to stop it from raining.  Now, it was in the rainy season at that time, and the sky was swelling with dark clouds.  I couldn’t believe he actually wanted us to pray to stop the rain, so I went into it kind of half heartedly, when a team member, Mario, told us ‘It’s amazing how powerful your prayers are when you believe the results are actually possible.’  So we began to pray, believing that God would hold off the rain so we could finish up the houses.  When we finished the houses, as Dan went inside with one of the families to dedicate the home to their family, we gathered around the house to sing and pray while Dan spoke to the family about Jesus Christ’s great love.  Little children from the village climbed onto our laps and began to hum along with us and wrap their little arms around us as we sat in prayer and song…We decided to sing the song ‘Grace like Rain’  When we got to the chorus, it just started pouring.  All of the rain that God held off the whole day just began to pour down as Dan spoke with that family.”

I was personally struck this morning when we girls prayed together for healing of those who were sick and for sustenance for those who weren’t.  I really began thinking about Kelly’s letter…do I really believe that the results of our prayers are possible?  I have been challenged by this all day and I challenge you- the mother, the dad, the sibling, grandparent, friend, acquaintance to ask yourself that same question.  I don’t know that I pray like Mario challenged us to pray- to pray believing!  Please continue to pray for our team, believing that he will wipe away all the germs that may still persist in our group.  Pray that he will calm the souls of the few who are still struggling with a little bit of anxiety.  Pray that not only the Guatemalans will be opened to accept the freedom of having Jesus Christ but also that all of us Americans (and one Canadian…my shout out to JESSE!! 🙂  will surrender ourselves to him and that we will allow HIM to fill us! 

 

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Saturday afternoon

Well…the troops have left for the medical clinic.  I have stayed back to be with a few kids who are still not feeling 100%.  They are resting peacefully though and they will be better by later this afternoon I am sure.  I have hesitated to tell the names of those who are ill just to not make parents get worried because coming from the mother of 3 children I know how hard that would be.  But, I think there is power in praying for them by name:  Sable, Julia, Trevor, Max, and my Kate all decided to stay back.  Emily Van Dam was sick all last night but was feeling better by noon today and she decided to go with the rest of the group. 

I am going to get those rooms clean today and change the sheets and give as many hugs as I can.  The vans should be arriving in the village where they will be doing the medical clinic around 5:00 your time.  8 kids will help Dan and his nurse and the other Paradise Staff members in the medical clinic line and the rest of them will be playing with the kids.  Then, when the medical clinic finishes, the students will sing for the villagers and some students will share their testimony.  Then the village will see the Jesus film in Spanish and will hear the gospel preached by Hermano Jesus.  This will be a powerful day for everyone involved. 

This is probably pretty dangerous that I have an entire day to write on the blog…cause if you know me…I can start going on tangents.  So I shall stop now and step onto the patio to feel the warm Guatemalan sun and take a deep breath of the fresh mountain air. 

 

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Saturday morning

Good morning everyone!  It is another beautiful morning in the mountains of Guatemala.  The sunrise yesterday was amazing and the sunset last night was majestic.  We had a great time  singing powerful praise songs and reflecting on the God sitings, the many God sitings, that we had on our first work day.  

We do need your prayers.  Yesterday morning Darren contracted the stomach flu.  Please know that this was NOT due to water or food.  We only eat the food provided by Paradise Bound and  any water born illness does not manifest itself until 4 days later.  This is the good ole stomach flu brought over from the states.  (I know, I can’t believe it either)  Others contracted the stomach flu during the night last night…most are already coming out of it (Darren, for example, was up and at it this morning feeling almost 100%) We are being well taken care of here:  the PBM staff gave the ill students some fine herbal tea and the way these kids are taking care of each other is just beautiful.  For example, I saw one of the girls tending to one of the ill girls this morning- she was sitting at the edge of her bed tending to a little cut on her toe, wiping the small wound, putting ointment on the cleansed wound, and bandaging it up for her.) 

We need your prayers though:  Prayers that we all surrender our fear and anxiety to Christ and that we don’t cave to Satan’s desire to thwart the work that we are planning on doing today.  Prayers that NO MORE students get ill.  Prayers that today God will use us through our weakness. 

Don’t get me wrong…spirits are great here.  A bunch of us had an impromtu Bible study at 5:00 this  morning and read from James 1 and Philippians 1.  We sang praise songs quietly as the morning sun came up from behind the mountains.  Right now, as I write, most of the girls are outside on the patio singing praise songs to God.  God is present here in enormous ways right now.  As I sat in the bathroom with one of our dear girls early, early this morning (like 4AM early) who was in the midst of battling the stomach flu…I said to her, “I have been thinking about what God wants from us in the midst of all of this.”  She said to me, “Me too…I think God is wanting me to get rid of the old so that HE can fill me.”  I wanted to weep.  See what I mean? 

Just a few brief thoughts…We saw yesterday the daily suffering of the dear Guatemalan people:  their living conditions are nothing that any of us have experienced or will ever experience.  Yet…as many of us talked about last night during our group devotional, the joy that these kids have is something that can only be explained by the words in James 1.  Did God send us this stomach flu?  I don’t believe so.  Did he allow it?  Yes, he did.  Why God?  Don’t you know that we are going to an untouched village today to spread the word and show your light?  Why would you allow this?  Well, he may have allowed our group to be dealing with the flu right now so that we can experience Christ at such a deep, personal level.  We are all having to make a decision right now:  Do we surrender to the fear and anxiety that comes with watching some of our friends get sick or wondering if we will get sick?  Or do we surrender ALL to Christ?  These kids are blowing my mind away right now- they are choosing joy.  The girls just came from a meeting with each other to sing together and pray together.  The boys are getting the pills prepared for the medical clinic later today.  They are all working together now, getting ready for the medical clinic while listening to praise music.  God is winning this battle.  But, as I mentioned before at home, WE NEED the prayer warriors back at home too. 

I will be staying back today with some of the sick kids and my prayer is that today won’t be a disappointing for them but will be one of the best days of their life.  Not because of me…but because of what GOD WILL DO! 

Thanks for reading!

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