Guatemala Mission – Monday April 29th, 2013

Monday, April 29th, 2013

Today started off early as I said goodbye to Sarah my wife, our daughter Hollyn, and our now 38 day old baby Emelyn Faith. Excitement was in the air as I joined the other Missionaries from our church and we traveled from Northwest Arkansas to Guatemala City. As this is my first mission trip, I really have no idea what to expect, other than to see God do some amazing things as He transforms lives. I know that this is not like the mission trips I had heard my Grandma talk about. You know, the youth group on a mission to help out by painting houses etc….No, this is very different as our mission is to save hundreds, if not thousands of souls by bringing them to know the love of God. To know what He did for them and the price He paid through His son Jesus Christ.  To give them hope, love, and faith. To preach the Gospel of Truth and minister to the people of Guatemala.

Guatemala Flight

When  arriving in Guatemala, Pastor David and his wife picked us up from the airport and drove us to our hotel in Zona ViVa.  Pastor David is a local Pastor who has worked very hard to set up the events our team will be holding this week. We took a couple of hours to get settled in and rest before go to the evening services. Pastor David drove us to his church, where we split up into three groups, and went to three different churches around the city.Kenny, Kit, Brother Justo and I all went to a church in one of the worst neighborhoods surrounding Guatemala City. A neighborhood known for its cartel activity, where businesses are expected to pay the cartel $200-$500 a week. Keep in mind that in this neighborhood, most people are paying $100-200 a month for the houses they live in.  Failure to pay will result in the business owner’s family members being killed. There are times when entire families are killed. Our driver a local Pastor in that neighborhood told us of mass shootings, and how not long before we arrived the cartel had killed 15 people at once in a local drug/convenience store.

It is hard to imagine that in the small area of maybe 2 miles there are over 200 churches. Within 6 city blocks there were nearly 60 churches according to the pastor that was driving us. The average church has about 100-200 people with a few having 500 member congregations. When I saw the small area that all these churches were contained in, I instantly questioned where do all the people live? I mean take 6 city blocks in a US neighborhood. Most neighborhood contain between 30-40 houses per square city block, multiply that by 6 and you get between 180-240 houses. If the average house has 3-4 people, that leaves you with 960 people, on the high side, in neighborhood of 6 square blocks in the US.  60 churches with each containing 100-200 people equals 6,000-12,000 people attending church in this 6 block area. Now add in the room required for the 60 churches which are much bigger than a house, and logic shows us that the people must be traveling from a long ways to get these churches full.

So of course, I questioned the Pastor about this and asked him where all the people came from? His reply was the same 6 block area. Holy Cow!!! How on earth do you fit 6,000-12,000 people in a 6 block area with 60 churches(granted most of them are just one really large room to our US standards), and stores to supply the needs of those people. The answer seems relatively simple, build skyscrapers right? Wrong! The tallest building I saw in this area was two stories. Hard to imagine how packed and crowded the people’s living quarters really are. I can tell you on one corner I saw a small house, what we in American real estate would consider the size of a small 8×10 storage shed, or a child’s bedroom many would consider too small to house a child’s twin bed and their toys. In the open doorway of that house stood a man, woman and their 3 small children.

Upon arriving at the church, we were warmly welcomed by a couple of members of the congregation and taken to our seats on the front row. The worship part of the service had already began, so we quickly took our places and began worshiping and preparing for what God had called us here to do. Their worship was amazing, the people seemed so hungry for God’s presence, and God wasn’t disappointing those that were desperately seeking Him!

After worship the local Pastor introduced Brother Justo to the church. Brother Justo was going to deliver the message that evening. Each of us said a few words, before he began, thanking the church for allowing us to come. I wish I could tell you more about the service itself, but Brother Justo delivered the message in Spanish, so there was no interpreter for just the three of us. I always knew I needed Rosetta Stone! What I can say is it was a great time with God on a personal basis, and I could tell the congregation was really getting a lot out of the messages being delivered.

The Pastor asked brother Justo to have me come up and say the closing prayer. This is something that would normally terrify me. Not the thought of talking in front of large groups of people, I’ve done that for years, but praying for people and in front of people is something that a year ago would have shut me down. The thought of it still scares me just because it’s one of the ways the devil try’s to hold me back. But the honor God blessed me with by having the Pastor share his podium with me and closing out the service overcame any fear.

After the service the Pastor said they had prepared us a traditional Guatemalan meal, and that we could not leave without eating and sharing a meal with them.  Keep in mind the water in Guatemala is not safe for us to drink, so food outside of a large franchise type restaurant is very risky. Something most the people on our trip seem very worried about. I figure God sent us to this land to serve His people, and in return they have honored us to eat among them. That is a direct reward from God, and He will nourish it to our bodies.  1 Timothy 4:4 For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving

IMG_1908So we walked out into the street and greeted people. We watched in amazement as the kids crowded around Brother Justo and his impossible to catch American dollar bill. The joy and laughter it brought to not just the kids playing, but to the parents and other adults was amazing.

Soon we were asked to come back into the church room, where to my surprise all the chairs had been stacked and removed, in the center of this Guatemalan church sat  just one table with 6 chairs. Enough for the Pastor of the church, brother Justo, the Pastor that had driven us, Kit, Kenny and myself. I can’t explain the overwhelming feeling of realizing what Honor these people had given to us. God’s love was pouring into me and I was treasuring ever moment. One second I would be thinking how honored I was to be sitting around this table with the Pastor of the church. The next moment I was thinking why would these people give us such honor, we are just three everyday Americans from Arkansas that love God. The next moment my heart would be breaking thinking about how much food was there available for us to eat, more than we could eat if we stayed all week. Why wasn’t the rest of the church eating with us. Why were these people who had so little, giving us so much?  Soon the Pastors wife and son pulled up chairs to the table to fellowship with us…keep in mind, the whole time brother Justo is talking to them in Spanish, I had no clue what was being said. But regardless of the language barrier the universal language of God’s Love was shared and evident among all of us at that table.

As we drove back to the hotel, I couldn’t help but think how blessed we all are. What a blessing it is to allow God to use us to show His love to others.  How blessed I am that God was using these people to bless me with love in return. What an awesome Living God I get the honor to serve!

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