Thursday, November 30, 2006

Baby Weighing, Park Ministry, Dump Ministry

This morning we divided up and did separate ministries in Tierra Nueva. John was involved with a baby weighing ministry. There isn’t a lot of pediatric care…especially in the poorer neighborhoods. The YWAM Guatemala base helps make up for the lack of baby care by providing a monthly weight and basic baby checkup. In addition, the mothers receive a small portion of baby formula to help their baby’s development. Because of the cost, many mothers don’t provide adequate food for their babies. It’s not uncommon to find malnourished babies that are given mainly coffee in their bottles. This ministry helps identify these cases and others and helps educate mothers in the proper care of their babies. Around 100 women come once a month to this location to have their babies weighed. The base also conducts baby weighing in 3 other locations at other times during the month. John was really moved by this ministry and is thinking about starting something similar in Mali.

While John was at the baby weighing, Julie and Cole were involved in ministry just up the street in a local park. We were originally expecting mainly children, but found there were many mothers in the park signing up for a health program. The team performed skits, gave testimonies, made balloon animals, and played soccer and other games with the kids. It was hot today and the play time proved to be exhausting.

In the afternoon, we headed out to minister to a village located in the city dump. We were surprised how developed the village was. It included many shacks, some small stores, and lots of people. They live and work in the dump, selling what they can scavenge. There are also a few mission and aid agencies that have built community center buildings to help feed and care for these families.

We started our ministry by splitting up and walking through the village calling out and gathering kids to come to our event at the meeting building. We had about 50 kids show up. We did some puppet shows (Cole is on the puppet team), sang some songs, and shared a Bible story. After the program, we played outside with the kids giving them stickers and making balloon animals and paper airplanes.

Tonight, back at the base, some of the YWAM Guatemala team taught us a couple of new skits and dramas that we’re anxious to add into our programs.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Work Duties & Breakdancing

This morning we started the day by leading worship for our team. We brought John’s keyboard with us and that has really added to the worship experience. Later in the day, we had work duties here at the Guatemala City base. John and Cole were assigned gardening duty and hit the ground running with weed wackers, machetes, rakes, and a leaf blower. John found it ironic that in California, Latinos do the landscaping for the Gringos, and in Guatemala, the Gringos do the landscaping for the Latinos. Julie was assigned housekeeping duty…just like in Chico.

In the evening, we went out to a park in Tierra Nueva to encourage a team of kids that meet at the park for breakdancing. Most of them are Christians who are shunned by the Guatemalan church that tends to be pretty conservative. We brought a sound system and some Christian hip-hop music for them to dance to. During a short break, we did a couple of skits for them and someone from our group gave a testimony. We then had a chance to spend time praying with them and encouraging them in their faith. We will be back here to share with them again next week.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Preschool & Soup Kitchen

Today was the start of our children’s ministry. We went to a government run preschool in a neighborhood called Tierra Nueva. It had about 25 kids ages 3-6. We did a puppet show, told a Bible story, sang some songs, and did face painting. Afterward, we went outside and played with them for over an hour. They really enjoyed the time we shared together. We left very exhausted.

This evening, Julie went to a soup kitchen, something she's always wanted to do. The Lord's Kitchen is run by an American missionary. Monday thru Friday nights they serve around 500 people. Tonight they served a meal of black beans, scrambled eggs, tortillas, and coffee. Julie’s job was to welcome each person with a smile and serve the beans. There was a large variety of people including alcoholics, old men, teenage age boys addicted to glue sniffing, prostitutes, transvestites, and mothers with large families from 4-10 children. It was a very rewarding ministry. Hopefully they’ll be a chance to return and John & Cole can participate too.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Ministry Begins

We’ve been in Guatemala almost a week now and tonight we started our first ministry. We were excited, and apprehensive at the same time, to get started. We began with a street ministry to homeless people in downtown Guatemala City. We traveled down to a tough section of the city and set up on a street corner frequented by the homeless. We played some Spanish Christian music on our portable sound system to draw attention, and before long, we had a small crowd gathered and began our program. We started by singing a couple of Spanish worship songs then did a couple of skits. James, one of our team members who’s a recovered drug addict gave a testimony (thru a translator). We then closed with another song and invited people to come to us if they wanted us to pray for them. At this point, we thought we’d just stand back and watch the Lord work through other people on our team. Little did we know He was about to work through us in some big ways.

A man named Edgar came forward asking to be prayed for his release from his drug habit and addiction to sniffing glue (a big problem in Guatemala). Julie and James (from our team) began intently praying for him. Julie was amazed at how easily Spanish began to come to her during this time. After prayer, Edgar walked away a changed man.

Another man stepped forward and wanted someone to pray for him. John stepped up. He didn’t know what to pray for so he just said a general prayer for the man in English knowing that God was aware of what the man needed. After John was finished praying, The man said “Thank you” and began to ask a couple of questions in English. John was very surprised to find the man spoke English and he began to talk with him. He asked his name and found out it was Irwin. It turns out Irwin used to live in Corona…just 30 minutes from our home in California! His family is still there and he misses them very much. As the story unwound, John learned that Irwin was in prison for 3 years in California for murder and was recently deported back to Guatemala. John began to share the Lord with him. Irwin was soon in tears. He has been searching and calling out for God for the last few years and felt that God wasn’t listening. John started sharing with him in a very unique way and helping Irwin understand that God has been listening and loving him all along. After about 45 minutes of conversation, John and Irwin were locked in huge and long lasting embrace. Irwin was sobbing as he’d come to the realization that God does love him and he accepted the love of Jesus and the gift of salvation. John and Irwin continued to hug each other and share the love of Christ.

In all, this first day of ministry turned out to be much more than either of us expected. We thought we’d participate in a few activities and then fade into the background as God used others on our team. How exciting it is that He chose to use us in such a direct fashion. We are now really looking forward to what the rest of this Guatemala ministry has in store.

Move to the YWAM Guatemala City Base

Today we moved from Antigua to Guatemala City…the capital of Guatemala. We loaded up into 2 vans and after about an hour of travel arrived at the YWAM Guatemala City base. We’re actually located just outside of Guatemala City in a town called Mixco. The base is a former home of a Guatemalan general. The main house has been torn down and most of the base operation and housing are in the former servants’ quarters. In addition to the office/housing building, there is a dining hall and meeting room housed in what used to be stables. There is a small soccer field and a swimming pool.

We had been told the Guatemala City base was bigger and better than the Antigua base. With the Antigua base being so nice, we had high expectations for this base. Unfortunately, we set our expectations too high and were soon disappointed by our living conditions. Our family was escorted to our room on the roof of the main building. It is simple, but comfortable. Cole has his own room attached to ours. Unfortunately, we’re back to sharing a bathroom. And this time, we have to venture outside and cross to the other side of the roof. This will not be pleasant in the middle of the night…especially if it’s raining! Unfortunately, we found the toilet didn’t flush either. John was able to do a missionary fix with some baling wire to get it working. We also found the “widowmaker” showerhead doesn’t work and we’ll be taking cold showers every day. Oh joy! Also, there’s no washing machine for us to use so we’ll be doing all of our laundry by hand. And no internet access either so we’ll have to do all of our email from a cyber café in town. Then there's the mold and poisonous bugs in our room too. Oh yes…and due to safety (living in a violent neighborhood) we’re not supposed to leave the base. Looks like we’ve graduated to missionary living conditions. We just didn’t expect it in the capital city of Guatemala. Our stay here is going to be a real growing process for us. We know there are some amazing ministries waiting for us here, but it’s going to be a struggle getting there.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Church in Antigua

Being Sunday, we visited a local Guatemalan church in our neighborhood. Most of the churches in Guatemala are Catholic, but we found Iglesia Cristiana Templo de su Gloria - a local Evangelical Christian church just up our street thanks to a recommendation from the YWAM base leader.

The church was much bigger and more modern than we were expecting. Many of the congregation were on a retreat this weekend, but there were still over 100 people in attendance with room for a lot more. The worship music was stunning! They played many of the songs we’re familiar with from our church…but in Spanish. The band was very talented and included a keyboard, guitar, bass, drums, and several singers. The worship leader himself was amazing. Our worship time lasted about an hour…but it seemed way too short. Then the pastor came up and gave his message. He was a very dynamic speaker and we would have really enjoyed being able to understand what he was saying. Hopefully in a few weeks, we’ll be able to understand more Spanish. In all, the service was about 2 hours long…longer than the U.S., but shorter than Mali. It’s nice to go to church not concerned with how long it is…just to enjoy the worship and teaching.

The pastor is an American who was raised in Guatemala by his missionary parents. We enjoyed a chance to meet with him and talk with him after the service. We’re looking forward to returning in a few weeks and visiting again.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Venturing Out Into the Neighborhood

Today was a quiet day. We had a chance to relax and continue our transition to being in Guatemala. We decided to leave the base on our own and explore the neighborhood a little. It was a great chance to practice our Spanish (what little we have) and begin meeting some of the people around us.

Guatemalans are wonderful and friendly people. We find them similar to Malians in their openness and friendliness. The greeting structure is a lot less complicated here with a simple “Buenos dias” or “Buenas tardes” sufficing.

We did a little shopping in a local tienda (store) and found some snacks and soda to tide us over for a few days. The stores here are much better equipped than Mali…but compared to the States, the selection is pretty limited. We also had a chance to buy some tortillas from a local street vendor. They were delicious! We’re looking forward to more as our trip progresses.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Praying for Antigua

Today, we had our Guatemala orientation by the YWAM base leader. We learned a lot of interesting things about the country and the people. We are looking forward to serving here.

In the afternoon, our team hiked up to a park called El Cerro de la Cruz which overlooks the city of Antigua. It was quite a climb…up 300 steps! But the view was worth it. We used the opportunity to pray as a team for the city of Antigua and the work we had ahead of us. It was a great way to get our ministry in Guatemala started.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving

Being an American holiday, Thanksgiving is not really celebrated here. But the YWAM base helped organize a Thanksgiving meal for the American community in Antigua. It was held in a local church behind a coffee house run by YWAM. We had a wonderful turkey dinner with all the trimmings finished off with traditional pumpkin pie. It was delicious. After the meal, John played in a worship band with some other YWAM people from our team. We also had a time of giving thanks and heard some wonderful stories of God’s provision from some of the people in attendance. In all, about 100 people came out to celebrate.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Hola from Guatemala!

We arrived safely in Guatemala City today. Our travel was very mild and uneventful. We flew United Airlines from Sacramento on Tuesday night at 6:00pm and arrived at LAX at 8:00pm. At 11:00pm we boarded our flight to Guatemala. Our baggage was checked all the way thru, so we didn’t have to worry about transferring it in LA. They did warn us at check-in that the plane would probably be overloaded from LA to Guatemala and not all of our luggage would make it on the flight with us. We were asked to prioritize what bags we needed first.

Our flights were comfortable, however a far cry from the wonderful service we’re accustomed to when flying Air France. We arrived in Guatemala at 5:30 in the morning. We were weary to say the least. But when we arrived at the baggage pickup, we were very surprised to find that all of our bags (both for our family and everyone on our team) arrived on our flight with us. We were overjoyed! We quickly sailed thru immigration and customs. In fact we didn’t even realize when we passed thru customs. It was simply a lady standing in the hallway that collected our customs declarations. She didn’t look at our paperwork or ask any questions. Again, very different from traveling into Africa.

Guatemala City is different than we were expecting. Guatemala is considered a developing nation, however it is more built up and commercialized then the conditions we’re used to in Mali. The road system is in good condition, there is electricity and running water, there are supermarkets, shopping malls, and American fast food galore including McDonalds, Burger King, Taco Bell, and Pizza Hut. In fact, there’s even a Chuck E. Cheese pizza restaurant! And believe it or not, there’s a Radio Disney radio station here too.

But now it’s time for us to leave the big city and head out to the YWAM base in Antigua. By the way, here YWAM is known as JUCUM – Juventud Con Una Misión (Youth With A Mission in Spanish.) Antigua is the former capital of Guatemala and holds a lot of the nation’s history. Today, it serves as the tourist hub for Guatemala. Most of the buildings are several hundred years old and the streets are paved in cobblestone. It’s a beautiful place. There are also the remains of many large old churches, some dating back to the 1500 and 1600’s that were destroyed by earthquakes over the years. They are reminiscent of Mission San Juan Capistrano. Most of the old historical buildings are now home to modern businesses, shops, and restaurants. Cole had an interesting observation. He said, "It feels like we're in Africa because everything is old on the outside...but it's different because everything is new on the inside."

Our team and luggage were loaded into 4 vans at the airport and after an hour long ride, we arrived at the YWAM base in Antigua. It is located outside the city in a small suburb surrounded by coffee plantations. Coffee is a chief export for Guatemala and there are coffee plantations and processing plants everywhere. We are also at the base of an active volcano. It’s been active for over 400 years and is continuously shooting out steam and ash.

The base is a large hacienda built around a central courtyard. Each family has their own room with a private bathroom. This is a first for us after having to share a bathroom for the past 12 weeks. We are so excited! But there are a couple of caveats. Because Guatemala is such an old city, its water and sewer systems are inadequate by US standards. We can’t drink or brush our teeth with the water. We must use bottled water. And we can’t flush any paper down the toilet…including toilet paper. We need to place used TP in the waste basket. Yuck! We do have hot water in the shower that’s heated on demand in the showerhead. The showerheads are known as “widowmakers” because if you touch them while they’re on, you’ll get an electric shock. Gosh…so many things to remember!

Our room is located on the second floor and we have a small balcony overlooking the volcano. It’s a beautiful sight. We’re also located just down the street from the neighborhood Catholic church with a bell tower that chimes every hour. It’s a pleasant sound (except at 2 in the morning!)

We’re looking forward to starting our ministry in a couple of days. We have a lot of places to serve over the next few weeks. The travel will probably get tiring, but I’m sure the rewards will be well worth it.