Nineteen LPC folks were in the highlands of Guatemala February 2-9 engaged in a “short term mission with a long term commitment” along side our Guatemalan brothers and sisters from Promised Land Ministries. They were the “Away Team” for LPC’s mission work in Guatemala/ These daily reflections were sent to the “Home Team,” those at LPC and elsewhere who guarded and encouraged us with their prayers.
Friends on the Home Team,
The away team has arrived safely in Guatemala City and are at the Mennonite Seminary where we will spend the night. Tomorrow morning we will rise early and head to San Lucas Toliman which will be our headquarters town for the work around the Lake. We will install stoves in homes tomorrow afternoon and worship with Pastor Genero’s congregation in the evening.
Our trip and arrival was as smooth as any we have had. We are thanking God for this provision for us and for your prayers that are sustaining the trip. We will be in prayer for all of you ts evening and throughout tomorrow.
Home Tesm Members,
We thank our God in all our remembrance of you. Indeed, this is a day we wish we could share with all of you and one we will find hard to describe when we are back with you.
We arrived in San Lucas Toliman late morning and went about the expected chores of unloading and settling into our Hotel Toliman lodgings. But for all of us the afternoon was filled with the unexpected joy of visiting in the homes of some of the townspeople. You may remember that one of our hopes for the week, a hope supported by so many of you, was the distribution of high-efficiency, vented wood stoves into homes where cooking has been done by a fire on the floor or maybe in half a steel drum. With thanks to Home Tesm support, we will be able to see 25 or so stoves installed, mostly by the construction team or PLM staff after we leave.
What a joy, then, for every team member to be able to be a part of the delivery and set up of at least one of the stoves. We divided ourselves into six teams of three or four North Americans and one Guatemalan and spread out to literally every corner of town. Lee Thomas, Kay Brown and I were privileged to go to the small home of a young couple, Nasario and Sandra, and their two your children. Their kitchen is a three-sided outbuilding of corrugated metal attached to wooden posts. Their old stove sits in one corner, a stone platform with a steel ring in which a cooking fire was built – no ventilation and a simple grate on which to cook. The new stove, now installed by our expert crew, will use just a fraction of the wood, get all the smoke out of the kitchen and provide even heat on the iron cooking surface. Nasario, a field worker, and Sandra, who cares for the children, were so gracious to us and thankful for this tangible expression of God’s love for them through his church. We prayed with them as we left and asked God to bless them, their family and the food that will be prepared on their new stove.
Our experience with Nasario and Sandra was repeated in different ways with each of the teams, and each team returned to dinner at Spring of Hope humbled by the privilege of service and sobered by simplicity of the lives of the good people who were kind enough to allow us into their homes.
Our evening continued with worship at Pastor Genero’s church. Brian Jennings gave testimony to some of the story of his faith journey; it was a very powerful service, and God used it to touch both North Ameircan and Guatemalans.
Tomorrow the clinic and children’s teams will cross the Lake for the first of the two day clinic in Santa Catarina. The construction team will stay in San Lucas to begin work on house construction.
Breakfast is early, 6:30, so bedtime beckons.
Keep us in your prayers as we keep you in ours.
For the Away Team,
Today was a long day and as good as it was long. We began with 6:30 breakfast at Spring of Hope followed by devotions and a then three teams heading into three very different days.
Our smallest team, Bill Brown and LaMont Noble, stayed at Spring of Hope to provide eye exams for the student body. Assisted by LaMont, Dr. Bill taught the teachers of the school to do the initial screenings with the eye chart which freed him up for a more thorough exam of the children who needed one. Out of the 120 children seen today, only three need corrective lenses – good news. Bill was also able to see a person with a more vexing case and God just may use Bill’s skill to bring relief from chronic pain and perhaps even healing. We will keep you posted.
The construction Team, Lee Thomas, Lynn Likens, Bill Ferguson, Jr., Bill Ferguson III, Tom Garlick, Dave Noonan and their Guatemalan partners stayed in San Lucas Toliman and worked on the first of three simple wood-construction houses they hope to finish this week. They worked until dusk and all but finished the three-bedroom house, now habitable including one of the new high- efficiency stoves. Dirty and tired, they came to dinner with broad smiles and good stories from their long day,
The rest of us crossed the lake to Santa Catarina and a clinic at the same church where the team worked last February. The clinic team is subdivided into the doctors themselves – Joe Franzi and Dave Schaebler along with their Guatemalan colleague Dr. Anabelly and Brian Jennings as medical translator. Eva Jennings is the one-person fluoride and dental hygiene team, Doris Lynn, Chet Marshall, Greg Greene plus Guatemalans are the pharmacy team. Earle Hanna stays in the pharmacy making balloon animals for the children and Kay Brown, Cathy Reese and I worked the children’s ministry of games, songs, Bible stories and crafts.
I know most about the children’s ministry, but am amazed by the healing work God does through the doctors and the persistent diligence of the pharmacy team in getting needed medicines to the patients following examination.
The best of the children’s ministry is four adults (Sidia, our Guatemalan friend helps in all thing Spanish) and 25 or so two to twelve year old Guatemalan children crammed into a 12×12 room. Craft time is my favorite as these little ones, beloved by God, have a few moments different from so much of the rest of their lives, to create something beautiful and even lasting. Today’s crafts included a stained glass window done in self-sticking foam and a beaded necklace the kids strung themselves, each bearing the unique creativity of the child who made it.
We get to know the names of a few of the children and if only for an hour or so, there is a spark of understanding, love and joy between some of the children and these North American visitors. That spark may come as we help the children with their creation or in a smile exchanged or a twinkle in the eye. A few of the children remembered us and we them from a ear ago, and there is a sense that this small piece of the mission, too, bears Kingdom fruit today and maybe for eternity.
Tomorrow’s schedule looks much the same as today’s; construction, clinic and the rest of the eye exams at Spring of Hope. But we know that tomorrow will be as unique as today. God will work his wonders in brand new ways. We are eager to watch.
Our prayers for the home team continues, as we literally rejoice at the news of a baby’s birth and grieve with a family mourning death.
Thank you for your response. I am sure to let the team know that you have written.
Dear Home Team,
First, a thank you for your steadfastness in prayer. Your responses to these emails, your Facebook posts and messages relayed through various team members encourage us all. Once more, we want you to know that you are in our prayers – many of us are praying the LPC directory this week and thanking God for you and asking his blessing on you as we read your names.
Today has been another good day. Our three teams dispersed again to house construction (Bill Brown and LaMont Noble joining the construction team for the afternoon). Patients were seen, medications dispensed and children nurtured. And we all count it all joy – this is no hardship; only privilege.
While service is a key component of our trip, so is spiritual growth and fellowship. We created a daily devotional guide for the eight days of the trip and are encouraged to read the scripture passage and reflection in the morning and then ponder a set of questions throughout the day.
This morning’s text was John 12:25-26. One of the questions asked in the meditation was, “why do you think God chose you to come on this trip?” In some ways that sounds like a generic sort of question, but as three of us sat around our veranda this evening with the bubbling of the hotel fountain gurgling behind us and the cool night air touching our faces, we answered that question for ourselves and especially for one of us who has seen God at work in mighty ways in his life through the trip and the call to it.
This morning’s devotional also challenged us to take note those God put in our paths. I think of a fellow team member who shared deeply with us tonight and also of our host pastor and his wife in Santa Catarina. Patient with my very limited Spanish, they told me the story of their time in Santa Catarina. For all the challenges they face – and they are many – they know joy and peace. What a privilege to spend this short time with this brother and sister in Christ.
Tomorrow is a change day as we move our clinic down into the coffee growing region a few miles out of San Lucas Toliman. I will be sharing with a group of pastors and Dr. Bill Brown will join the clinic team to do some special work with diabetics. Our construction crew moves on to house number three – remind us to tell you about how we met the residents of the first two houses and the stories of God’s grace they tell.
Your prayers are powerful and effective and we thank you for them.
Jorge has posted a some trip photos at the PLM Facebook page. You may follow his link:
Here is the link to the Facebook page for PLM
All they have to do is click LIKE and they will be able to see the pictures
What a joy to hear from you. Your prayers and messages are a great encouragement.
A reminder that Jorge has posted a large album of photos on the PLM Facebook page. More photos are added each day, so return to see new sights. You need to have a Facebook account, then click “like” and go to “Langhorne Team 2013.”
Today we moved our clinic to Teirra Santa a small settlement down the hill from San Lucas Toliman. Santa Tierra is a poor town made up of villagers resettled there a number of years ago after a mudslide wiped out their previous homes. Most the families depend on the coffee crop for their cash income for the year. This year’s crop has been devastated by blight so income from picking coffee will be far less than normal. These poor people are even poorer this year than last.
Our clinic is held in a large cinder block building designed as a community center but long since fallen into disrepair. It works well for us. The doctors saw 150 patients, most with treatable conditions and illnesses, but as with every trip, by this third day they have seen cases which will need further treatment in the capital. By the end of the day tomorrow they will decide which patient or patients the team will try to send for that further treatment. Our resources are limited and the decision can be difficult. Pray for the doctors.
The clinic building is across the street from Pastor Edgar’s wood frame church and next to the elementary school and a dusty soccer field. I met with a group of pastors and church leaders at Pastor’s Edgar’s church and we talked about the basics of church administration. These are faithful men and women who love Christ and his church; they want the best for their people many of whom, like some of them, cannot read and write.
The children of Tierra Santa are less contained and, frankly, not as well behaved as the children of Santa Catarina. At times it seemed that most of what we were doing in the children’s program was crowd control. Our simple coloring sheets and creative crafts are treasures, and for some of the children treasures worth fighting for. So we come and we go, does it make any difference, these craft projects and balloons we give the children? There is no sure answer to that question.
But there are answers for some of the children here in the highlands. This evening we shared dinner with some of the children of Plan Padrino, the school sponsorship program. LPC sponsors 132 children through its mission budget, groups and generous individuals. Lives are changed through Plan Padrino. Following dinner we heard from three young men, ages 17 to 20, who are “graduates” of the program. For eight years they were assured of their education through Plan Padrino, and now each holds a good job with dreams of a university education. Not only will their lives be better than their parents’ lives, their parents’ lives will be better because their sons now help provide for their whole families.
Jorge has challenged us, Home Team and Away Team, to consider joining PLM in an evolving vision for the ministry which now seeks not just to alleviate poverty, but to eliminate poverty. This is not some utopian dream. It is a one-life-at-a-time reality that is proven through programs like Plan Padrino. It is proven when God’s people obey the command to love through word and deed.
I have no idea how you might design a program to eliminate poverty in even one village like Tierra Santa. I don’t think it can be done this side of eternity. But I do think it can be done in individual lives where the grace of God is made real through the love of God’s people. We saw the evidence tonight.
It’s been a good day. And I didn’t even tell you about the baptism of Brian Jennings. Maybe we will save the best stories for when we get home.
It’s time for bed.
Blessings on all of you,
Dear Home Team,
Last night was a late night for us with communion shared with the Guatemalan half of the team, including many of the teachers at Promised Land School. We also enjoyed one of the great traditions of these mission trips which is a secret friend, amigo secreto, gift exchange.
Now our last day in San Lucas Toliman dawns. In some ways the week seems very short, but, in fact, so full that slow and long hardly make sense as ways to describe it. We will leave behind us nearly 700 patients seen at the clinics, over 2,000 prescriptions filled. We interacted with hundreds of children, some who became our young friends even if only for a few hours, others difficult to enjoy because they are already so tainted by deep poverty – materially, spiritually, relationally and in terms of their sense of self. We leave three new houses completed and 25 or so high efficiency stoves installed to the amazing joy of those who received the.
We will take with us a thousand memories apiece – remind us not to bore you with the details. We will also take with us changed hearts, every one of us. Brian Jennings returns baptized into his already growing faith. Others of us find our hearts stretched just a little bit wider and others will return home with hearts bursting with new experiences of the grace of God, experiences which may change their lives forever.
Okay, we will try not to bore you with the stories, but we have so much to tell you when we return. We will try to describe how poverty and joy coexist in so many lives here, but also how poverty has robbed some lives of all joy. We will tell of brief moments of connection across divides of language and culture, but also of how long obedience to God’s call to love those once considered the least of our brothers and sisters bears such rich fruit. we will tell you why our Plan Padrino sponsorships matter so much. We will tell you about the tough decision the doctors made as to which patient for whom the team will rally some resources for further care and treatment.
And we have so much to thank you for. Your prayer support has been wonderful.
Depending on schedule and wifi, I may be able to get one more update to you from Antigua where we will spend tonight.
For those of you unable to access the PLM Facebook page, we have posted a selection of trip photos on LPC’s website.
Pray for a safe and timely trip home according to God’s will. (For those of you who like to know or follow the progress of a flight, we are on United flight 1429, Guatemala City to Newark). We’ll assume that all the snow will be neatly shoveled by the time we get home late Saturday evening.
Again, I hope to send one more update, but if not, we “thank our God in all our remembrance of you.”
See you Sunday,
Dear Home Team Members,
The team is up and about in Antigua Guatemala, the old colonial capital and just an hour from the airport. Right now it looks as if we will about five hours late arriving due o Nemo, but all is well. As I write I am looking out over the ruins of a church destroyed in the 1763 earthquake that devastated all of Spanish Central America. Beyond it looms a towering volcano, this one dormant, but not far from a still active peak.
Yes, our thoughts are homeward directed and the delay is a mild frustration. We are ready to see you all again after this very good week. But God holds all things, including United Flight 1429, in his hands.
Our prayers, home team and away team, for the week have been answered in ways we already know and may not know. We will tell you more, and some of this is the doctors’ story, but as we leave we leave some funds collected from the team that may, by God’s grace, save a 28 year-old husband and father from a life of blindness. Why was Bill Brown called to serve on this year’s team? God knows. The other patient we will help is a 3 year-old whose seizures have caused significant harm; our help may stabilize his situation and bring some degree of routine to his family’s life.
We will likely never know exactly how a new house, an efficient stove, a kind smile or a caring touch may change things. We may not know how a child educated at Promised Land School changes his or her world for the better. But we know a God who is in the business of renewing and redeeming.
So we will wait for the plans from Newark to arrive and turn around for the return trip. And we will continue to pray that God will use our efforts for his good.
See you in the morning, Lord willing.
Dear Home Team,
The Away Team is once again a part of the Home Team – a little bit late in arriving thanks to Nemo, but doing well and thanking God for his providential care throughout.
Thanks again for all your prayers!