Saturday, January 20, 2007

Details, Details

Our trip back to SoCal was very nice. We were happy that our car ran perfectly! We spent Saturday in Sacramento and visited the California Railroad Museum. Cole has always liked trains and he really enjoyed the museum. On Sunday, we traveled to San Simeon and visited Hearst Castle. What a contrast this was to the lifestyle we’ve been living.

On Monday, we made the final leg of our trip and arrived in Santa Ana around 4pm. We’re staying at one of our church’s mission homes. It’s the same one we lived in before we left, so it was like coming back home. It’s such a blessing to have a fully equipped house…complete with food in the cupboards and refrigerator. We will be here until we leave on February 6th.

It’s been nice to visit with family and friends. We still have so many more people to see in the short time we’re here. We’ve also been able to start taking care of a few details as we prepare for our departure. Sorting through two months of mail and catching up on correspondence has been a full-time job in itself. But we’re making headway. Coming up this week is fun stuff like travel immunizations, dentist, and doctor visits.

Before we leave, we need to sell our car. Please be in prayer that we will find the right buyer before we leave. If you know anyone interested, it’s a 1997 Ford Contour.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Land of the Free, Home of the Brave

We arrived safely back in the States on January 11th. Our travel went very well and had no complications. Unfortunately, none of our seats were together on either flight…but we were tired and slept most of the trip anyway. All of our luggage (including John’s keyboard) made it through without a hitch. We stayed in the hotel at the YWAM base in Richardson Springs, California on Thursday and Friday nights. Before we went to Guatemala, we thought the hotel was old and quaint. Now after living amongst 400 year old buildings in Antigua, the hotel didn’t seem quite so old. And was it ever nice to be able to brush our teeth and drink water from the tap again! It was especially nice to take a shower without the fear of being shocked by the showerhead. Sometimes it’s the little things that bring us the most comfort.

On Friday, we had a short debriefing with our team leaders and received our certificates of completion. Yeah!! We are now officially full-fledged members of YWAM. Today, we said our good-byes to many good friends and loaded up our car with all (literally) of our belongings. Believe it or not, we still feel like we overpacked and need to thin out our things before we leave for Mali.

We were happy that our car started after sitting for 2 months and we were soon on the road for Southern California. We decided to break the trip into a couple of days so we don’t overextend ourselves…especially considering the 2200 miles we’ve just traveled and the culture shock of being back in the States. It’s good to be back…it’s different, but good.

Because we won’t be having the rigorous ministry schedule and not as much to communicate in the next few weeks, we won’t be updating this blog daily. We’ll probably be changing to weekly updates for awhile. But if you’d like to know more, or would like to get together with us before we leave for Africa in 3 weeks, please don’t hesitate to email or call us.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Signing Off From Guatemala

Today we spent one final day in Antigua doing some last minute shopping and sightseeing. This is a very beautiful city with buildings and streets several hundreds of years old. And the people are even more beautiful. The Guatemalans have been very open and friendly and easy to love. We are sure going to miss them. Hopefully our time here has helped some of them discover a life of eternity awaiting them. It has been a pleasure serving God in Guatemala. We feel very blessed having served here.

We will be leaving for the airport at 3am in the morning, returning to Chico via LAX and Sacramento airports. We will be staying in Chico thru Friday. We’re going to take Saturday and Sunday to drive back to SoCal and see a couple of sites along the way. We will be returning to Santa Ana on Monday afternoon where we will be staying until our departure for Africa on February 6th. We will continue to update this blog. While we’re in the States, please don’t hesitate to contact us. We’d love to get together with you before we leave for Mali. Please email us at: jclark@ywammali.org or call our cell phone – 714-618-1184.

Until our next entry…This is the Clark Family signing off from Guatemala.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Prepare for Departure

It’s hard to believe that our time in Guatemala is drawing to a close. There is still so much ministry to be done…but that will have to be left for the YWAM teams that will be following us.

Today we spent the day preparing for our departure. We cleaned our room and bathroom, helped clean the base, sorted through our stuff, and began packing for our return to California. We will miss Guatemala very much. But there are some things we will not miss: Being shocked by the showerhead, not being able to rinse our toothbrush in the sink, waking up to firecrackers every morning, not hearing the clock chimes every hour…especially in the middle of the night, and of course, not being able to flush our TP. Of course, Mali will have its share of cultural differences and things to get used to. We’ll just take it one step at a time.

Tonight our YWAM team enjoyed a wonderful dinner in town to celebrate the completion of our Discipleship Training School. The food was excellent and the atmosphere was alive as we reached this important milestone. It has been a lot of work getting to this point, but we've learned some valuable things in the process and drawn closer to God along the way.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Fire and Brimstone

Today was sightseeing day. With a whole country at our disposal, it was hard to choose what to see. Our main choices were the Tikal Mayan ruins (a 2 day trip out to the jungle), Copan Mayan ruins in Honduras, black sand beaches, or climbing to the top of an active volcano. We opted for the volcano…after all, we’ve been surrounded by them for the past few months and have been watching them spew steam and feeling their earthquakes. We wanted to see the source of the activity.

We booked a trip with a local tour company that drove us an hour and a half to the base of Pacaya, one of the more active volcanoes in the area. We arrived at the entrance to the Volcan Pacaya national park where we were met by a tour guide who escorted us through the forest to the top of the volcano. We had almost a 2 mile hike. It was a long, sometimes difficult uphill walk. About half way up, we entered cloud cover and our visibility went down to just a hundred feet or so. So much for a majestic view from the volcano! After about 2 hours, we reached a lava area. Because of the volcano’s recent activity, we weren’t able to climb all the way to the cone, but we came fairly close. In the lava field area, there was steam and gases rising all around us. We didn’t see lava flows per se, but the ground was cracked in several places and we could see lava down inside the cracks. We really had to watch our step so as not to step in any lava. We also had to make sure we didn’t stand in one place for too long because the ground was hot under our feet.

We had walking sticks with us, and when we would place them down inside a lava crack, they would instantly burst into flame. Cole thought this was one of the neatest things he’s seen. After about a half hour of looking at the lava and poking at Satan with our sticks, it began to get dark and it was time to head back down to civilization. Just as we started to leave, we were hit by a rainstorm. There was a fierce wind blowing and driving rain soaked us. Fortunately, there is a lot of vegetation on the volcano and within 15 minutes, we were under the tree canopy. It was nice to be out of the rain. Now we had about a 90 minute walk in the dark (the cloud cover blocked out the moonlight) to the base of the volcano. We were very tired when we reached the bottom. It was a long and strenuous trip. But it was exciting to see an aspect of God’s creation that we don’t usually get to see.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Smelling the Roses

Today we returned to Templo de su Gloria for church. We were disappointed they were closed for Sunday services the past two weeks, and it was nice to have a chance to return before leaving Guatemala. As before, the worship was incredible. The pastor spoke in Spanish, and we didn’t have a translator, so we picked up just a little of the message. But we were blessed nonetheless.

After church we went into the city for lunch and a little sightseeing. Although we’ve been here for several weeks, we really haven’t taken the opportunity to look around and enjoy where we are. We passed through the streets of Antigua daily, but have really only been focused on getting from point A to point B without taking the time to “stop and smell the roses.” We had lunch at Burger King (okay…not really a Guatemalan experience!) then started exploring some of the shops, businesses, and other buildings we’ve been passing on a daily basis. We took some time to explore the old national cathedral that was built in the late 1600s. Later in the day, we went to the central cathedral in Antigua and took some time enjoying the artwork and statues on display. This church was started in the late 1500s and is still in daily operation. We also stopped in a local tour company (reminiscent of the Anaheim Visitor Center!) to look into various sightseeing options for our last few days here.

Since we’ve been in Antigua, there have been daily parades and festivals relating to the religious holidays. Most of them seem to be centered around the Virgin Mary. We have seen several Mary statues being paraded through the streets complete with marching bands, candle-bearers, and people dressed in various costumes. Today was no different. We encountered today’s procession at several places in town during various parts of the day. One thing Cole really enjoyed was people in costumes marching in front of the Mary float sword fighting with real machetes. There were also several people wearing different kinds of masks going through the crowd begging for money…this was a little scary and disconcerting at times.

We also had time to do some souvenir shopping in various shops and the main artist marketplace. The selection of artwork and crafts is incredible. After shopping, we stopped for dinner at a nice Italian restaurant called Da Vinci. We had taken notice of this restaurant over the past few weeks because it looked so beautiful inside…especially their Christmas decorations. We had wonderful meal that was well worth the several weeks of waiting.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Finishing Well

Today marks our final day of ministry on this trip. We’ve so enjoyed sharing the Gospel with the people of Guatemala in a lot of unique ways and circumstances. It has been interesting working with translators and using our very limited Spanish when one wasn’t available. Julie has really risen to the top in this area.

Julie still isn’t feeling well today and chose to stay home at the base with a prayer team that prayed for our workshop and the people attending. This turned out to be an important role. At the beginning of the workshop, we called in the names of everyone attending to our prayer team by telephone so they could pray specifically for each individual.

John opened the workshop with worship. It was challenging not to have Julie available to help lead the singing in Spanish, but our translator filled in. After the music, John taught the first session. It was about the Ten Commandments and how they serve as the cornerstone for all types of relationships…both with God and other people. He also spoke about the relevance of the commandments even in today’s world.

Other team members followed with teaching on relationships, forgiveness, and relational problem resolution. Following the sessions, we closed by pairing off with each of us personally praying with one of the attendees. In all, it was a very successful workshop and an excellent way to end our ministry in Guatemala.

Of the ten people that attended, half were missionaries and half were national pastors. The pastors especially seemed to drink everything in and were furiously taking notes. Afterward, they shared how valuable the workshop was and how much they’d learned. They were disappointed that a lot more pastors didn’t come but are eager to go back and share with what they’d learned.

It’s hard to believe it’s time to begin winding down. Our time in Guatemala has gone quickly. We’ve learned a lot of valuable things that we’re eager to begin applying in Mali.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Final Preparations

Today was quiet. We are busy preparing for a workshop we’re giving on relationships tomorrow at the Higher Grounds coffee house. It is designed to help encourage missionaries, church leaders, and anyone else interested in attending. It will be a full day workshop. This is a ministry project we received just a few days ago. We haven’t had much of a chance to work on it yet, so many of our team members are spending all of today preparing.

We’d like to introduce you to Florecita. She works at the YWAM Antigua base as the cook and housekeeper. She has been making all of our meals and helping us learn Spanish and Guatemalan culture. School in Guatemala takes the equivalent of our summer break in November and December. This means all the kids have been out of school while we’ve been here. Florecita’s daughter Edilma has been with her every day at the base and we’ve enjoyed getting to know her.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Gifts To and From Prison

John is better today! He’s up and about and eager to jump back into ministry. Thank you for your prayers. Unfortunately, Julie’s beginning to feel a little under the weather now. It doesn’t seem to be the same thing John had, but it's equally debilitating. She struggled through ESL class this morning (thankfully Marianne was back to help), but after class decided to call it quits and hit the bed for some rest. Please redirect your sick prayers to her.

At noon today, we received a call from the prison inviting the men to come back and share with the inmates. They wanted us to be there by 2:00 pm. These spontaneous ministries can be interesting. John and the men left immediately after lunch. We were met at the prison by Pastor Vicente, a local Guatemalan minister. He joined us for our ministry. Getting into the jail is now becoming routine and the checks are going much quicker. Once inside and set up, John started out by leading worship. The men were eager to sing today. Then Pastor Vicente began to pray. It was very apparent that God entered the room and everything seemed to change. All the men fell to their knees as God’s presence was felt by everyone. It was amazing to see.

After prayer, Al from our team shared the story of how God called him to the mission field during WWII. It seemed to really touch the men. Then Bruce, our team leader gave a short message of encouragement. Following that we had time to pray with the men. We had about 15 men wanting prayer. It was a very moving time.

After our service, John had some time to personally share with Hector again. He has become a good friend and touched John’s heart in a special way. Today John brought him a gift of Nescafe, something he had requested at their last visit. He was so happy to receive it. Please continue keeping Hector in your prayers. He was due to be transferred to a larger prison in Guatemala City, but that has been postponed. He would much rather stay in Antigua close to family and friends. He was encouraged by some the things John passed onto him from you and he is longing for more prayer from you.

Several of the inmates make and sell small items to earn a little cash. There are a couple of men that make hammocks. Julie has wanted a hammock since using one back at the hotel in San Pedro, so John bought one from one of the prisoners and brought it home as a gift. (It felt a little weird to buy something from an inmate in the middle of a prison yard.) Julie thinks the hammock (especially its origin) is really cool and it looking forward to using it.

Tonight was Bible study and worship at the Higher Grounds Coffee House. John led worship without Julie who is home in bed. Instead, he was joined by a girl named Shelly who’s here on temporary assignment from the Chico, CA base. They had opportunity to be on the base worship team together a few times back in Chico. Worship went well and the teaching was excellent and relevant. We’re going to miss being a part of this ministry at the coffee house.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

How to Bring Down a Giant With a Marshmallow

John’s finally beginning to feel better. He’s out of bed, but not ready to venture out into the world yet. We’ll see what tomorrow brings. Please keep him in prayer.

This morning, Julie taught ESL again. Eight students came this time…a big increase from the 2-3 that have been coming. ESL is something Julie has wanted to learn to teach, but didn’t think this trip would have the opportunity. Next thing you know, she’s teaching! It’s fascinating the way God tosses us into situations we don’t think we’re capable of handling to teach us what we can do when we let go and let Him take control.

In the afternoon, we hosted another children’s ministry at the base. Twenty-five kids showed up this time. Unfortunately, we didn’t have a translator again, but Julie stepped up and did a banner job teaching in Spanish and translating. Like the ESL classes, God is really working through Julie in some neat ways.

We did more singing, performed some skits, and did a story on David and Goliath. The kids really enjoyed it….especially the reenactment complete with David striking down Goliath…this time with a marshmallow instead of a stone. After the story, each kid had a chance to pelt Goliath with a marshmallow. They got such a kick out this. We then did a craft making paper shields and balloon swords. In all, the kids seemed to enjoy themselves and learn a lot at the same time.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Is It Still New Year's Eve?

Wow…it just doesn’t stop! At 11:30 last night, the church bells started ringing, and there was a whole new barrage of fireworks noise. It continued on until about 2:00 in the morning. This has been a real test in patience for us. Thankfully, now all finally seems to be quiet on the western front. What a relief! Unfortunately, John’s still down for the count. Not having any peace and quite for 48 hours has exasperated the situation. Hopefully with some rest, he’ll begin to recover. Please keep him in prayer. He was hoping it would only be a 24 hour thing and he wouldn’t miss any ministry days. But he has been in bed all day today.

This morning, Julie taught ESL class again. Marianne has been sick and unable to assist, so Julie taught the class alone. Some new students showed up and she had the chance to teach some new items.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Próspero Año Nuevo!

Wow…what a night it’s been. We hope to never have to go through something like this again. There were fireworks non-stop from about 9:00 pm last night and they haven’t taken a break yet. We have a guy on our street that is firing off large and very loud aerial shells (like Disneyland) literally every 20 seconds. Together with the endless strings of firecrackers and other loud bangs, the novelty has long worn off and it’s getting very annoying. Things were even worse at noon today when the celebration rivaled midnight last night. Boy we can’t wait until today’s over. To make things worse, John has been sick in bed since late last night and very frustrated that he can’t get any rest. Not a real positive way to start the New Year. But we know things will change tomorrow.