Love one another, share hospitality

The hardest part of the journey is saying good bye to our old and new friends.  We have been welcomed with open arms, treated with patience, love and understanding.  Warm smiles have been abundant as we have worked together, broken bread together and shared conversation about being one big family of God.  

Hebrews 13:1-2

Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters.  Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.

Farewell my friends until we see you again!

Beyond Faith

“What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you say to him, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” – James 2: 14-17

We leave Guatemala fulfilled and exhausted, gratified and sunburned, joyful and committed. We built confidence, skills, relationships and memories. Yet there is  so much still to be done. Always. 

With mission as a way of life, our work is continuous, our words a promise:

Do all the good you can,

By all the means you can,

In all the ways you can,

In all the places you can,

At all the times you can,

To all the people you can,

As long as ever you can.

From Guatemala and the hearts of St. Mark’s Mission Guatemala team, thank you for your prayers and support. Good night and God bless.

Living Proof

Yesterday marked the end of our work at the San Andres site. The collective team – St. Mark’s and Advent UMC- joined forces to lay block, build concrete forms, split and trim concrete blocks and clean up and organize the site for next week’s volunteers.

During our morning break, the crew and younger members of our teams hit the soccer field for a match, while the rest of us cheered and, frankly, marveled at where they found the energy! Ah, youth!

In a touching closing ceremony, each member of our Guatemalan crew offered words of thanks, along with blessings on our work, our families and our safe travels home. Our emotional response allowed representatives from both teams the opportunity to echo their sentiments. Tears were shed, in gratitude, in joy, in sadness at having to say not goodbye, but until next time.

When we arrived at River House, we were greeted by a tapestry in the dining hall with a prayer from our former Bishop Mike Coyner:

Lord, make me an instrument of your love. In every little and large thought and action this week, let my interactions with others on my team and those I meet be living proof of my love for God and God’s love for them.

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

We have worked together and independently to honor this call. While our job here is done, our work continues. To do all the good you can. Today, and every day.

The Son Rises

This morning’s sunrise is a perfect way to cap off an amazing 24 hours.

We bypassed the worksite yesterday and headed up the mountain to the community of Choquec where preparations were already well underway for a special ribbon cutting. School leadership, community dignitaries, the local pastor and families all turned out for a day of speeches, presentations, entertainment and fun…culminating with the ribbon cutting on Mission Guatemala’s new lunch program. Starting yesterday, the children at the local school will have a hearty, healthy lunch, provided thru Mission Guatemala and prepared by the local mothers.

The children treated us to a presentation of colors as they brought in the Guatemalan flag, sang the national anthem and recited the pledge. The pastor gave a blessing and then the children took the stage for songs and dancing.

After, the courtyard queued for lunch, moving into the kitchen where our cooks sat and served from enormous pans on the floor. We fueled up and rounded up the kids for games, dancing and -of course – futbol, before saying adios and making our way to the worksite.

Back in San Andres, the bucket brigade was back in action, pouring concrete while basking in the memory of the morning’s festivities. It was another beautiful day, thanks to the beautiful people of Guatemala.

As our week too quickly comes to a close, we spent the evening sharing our experiences -why we came, what we learned, and what we hope to take home with us. A strengthening faith, a closer walk  with God, the commitment to continue our relationship with the people we have served through not only our prayers, but through our actions.

Each day dawns, laying opportunity at our feet. May the sacrifice of Jesus made for each of us inspire response: to give and forgive, to accept and embrace, to live wholly, completely and authentically.

We. Are. Blessed.  Beyond words.

Service in action

Yesterday was a day of action.  The majority of the group began work at the site of the future administration building for the school. The bucket brigade was in action making the workload of concrete manageable.  The walls are getting a little taller thanks to the combined effort.  

Mission Guatemala became aware of two children in Panimatzalam that had been burned by hot water.  The group from Advent UMC has a physical therapist and we have a nurse, so coupled with multiple translators we were welcomed to provide care.

 The children had initially been without treatment for nine days prior to the principal of the school contacting Mission Guatemala.  They were able to arrange care for the children at the hospital and were released over the weekend. We had the children do range of motion exercises, cleaned the wounds and applied moisturizing agents followed by gauze to protect the delicate skin.  What a blessing to be able to provide care to these happy, smiling children using our God given professional skills. 

The afternoon consisted of another trip to the school filled with the children’s smiling faces and giggles. We had stations for jumping rope, sack races, soccer and art.  We jointly sang Jesus loves me in our native languages before our “adios.”

Meanwhile…. the heavy lifters of the group stayed back at the clinic to unload twenty-five stoves that weigh two hundred pounds each! The stoves were ordered to provide a safer, efficient way to cook using a wood burning method in homes that have no stove. 

We were pleasantly surprised to be included in a Mayan prayer ceremony that evening prior to dinner. It was truly an evening of blessing, prayer, dance and celebration.  The ceremony was followed by the traditional dinner served for special events such as weddings and birthdays.  

We can’t wait to see, hear and feel what tomorrow brings!

Jesus Loves Me, This I Know

Any day with Mission Guatemala is a good day, but today was a special blessing for the team. We were greeted by beautiful sunshine, despite a forecast of rain…and had delicious banana pancakes for breakfast to fortify us for the work ahead.

At the work site, cement block walls grew taller and stronger, thanks to many hands tying rebar, mixing concrete and meticulously placing blocks. A cool breeze offered relief from the heat, and many of us are sporting “worksite tans” – a sunburn that starts where the work gloves leave off.

After lunch, we headed a bit further up the road to a neighborhood built by refugees from the Guatemalan coast who had lost their homes in Hurricane Stan, 12 years ago. When the van doors opened, beaming faces were their to greet us, arms extended for hugs. The local elementary school children walked us up the path to to school where we organized our own summer Olympics: stations where the children ran an obstacle course, jumped roped, ran sack races and played soccer. I’m not sure which group laughed louder or had more fun. The whole schoolyard was squealing!

When it was time for goodbyes, the children self assembled and began singing to us. The words were unfamiliar, but the tune carried us all back to our own childhoods. We realized we were hearing the Spanish version of a song we all knew, with a message appropriate for children of any age:

Jesus loves me, this I know. For the bible tells me so. Little ones to him belong. They are weak but he is strong.

Yes, Jesus loves me. Yes, Jesus loves me. Yes, Jesus loves me. The bible tells me so.

We are blessed, everyday, in ways small, unexpected and lasting.

Excitement & Joy

I never thought I would be excited to see a concrete mixer.  It was challenging to contain my excitement and joy upon arrival at the work site,  when my eyes captured the site of an actual mechanical concrete mixer!

Each year that St. Mark’s has had a team come serve with Mission Guatemala the work has involved some aspect of concrete. We have worked on athletic courts, playgrounds, kitchens and building structures.  This year is no exception. We are involved in a large on-going project in San Andres.  Jointly paired with Advent UMC from South Carolina we will continue work on the structure to serve the teachers and administrators of the school in San Andres.

The excitement, joy and pure amazement continued  as the group learned of the many ways Mission Guatemala serves the people of this beautiful country.  Dave Burns shared the story of how Mission Guatemala began, the growth that has occurred, and desire to continue meeting the needs jointly with the communities in Guatemala.  From small beginning great things can happen! 

God is at work in big ways and we are thrilled to be a small part of that!  

“Haz todo el bien que puedas” 

“Do all the good you can”

A new day dawns

The group has been discussing anticipation, anxiety and the uneasiness that comes with the unknown.  We are many times faced with set backs and disappointments when we can not do, or have what we want. God provides us with new opportunities and blessings in theses times when things don’t go “our way” that we would not have otherwise experienced. 

As I saw the sun newly risen over the mountains and the river briskly flowing below I am reminded of the opportunities awaiting this week for our team.  We begin our work week with the team and face many unknowns and pray that new opportunities await!  

The words come to mind from the Matt Redmon song 10,0000 reasons. 

The sun comes up it’s a new day dawning, it’s time to sing your song again, whatever may pass and whatever lies before me, let me be singing when the evening comes.  

May we sing your song as we begin this day and our work in Guatemala!

Mountains to climb

Today, we had the opportunity to travel up the mountain to a beautiful municipal park just north of San Andres. There, we met a group of about 20 students, all receiving scholarship support thru Mission Guatemala. Here, students pay to attend grade 6 and higher….and the call of family responsibilities is many times too great to make continued education a possibility.

Together with the students, we left the cars on the roadside and hiked down thru a coffee grove , Across a dry stream bed and up to the picnic ground. But that was just the beginning of our climb. Led by Tomas, our Mayan guide, up the real mountain we hiked. And hiked. An hour later and nearly 1000 vertical feet higher, we reached the summit at 7,560 feet and were rewarded with a panoramic view of God’s handiwork, overlooking the volcanoes and mountains surrounding Lake Atitlan.

When our heartbeats had returned to normal, we headed back down the mountain to beautiful sunshine and kids for whom the hike appeared only a warm-up. Our younger team members obliged, leading games, playing soccer and volleyball and even teaching the bravest ones a few dance moves.

We had just queued for lunch when the rain began, with abandon. The soccer fields were quickly a swamp, and we had to simply find the patience to wait out the storm. We weren’t going anywhere.

When the storm finally subsided, we headed back up to the car, but not without another challenge. The dry stream was now a rushing river, and the only option for crossing was to walk across two parallel logs, holding onto a rope handrail hastily installed by our crew. Teamwork, encouragement, and more than a little bit of faith got us thru, and soon enough we were back up the path to to cars, ready to return to the RiverHouse

Today, we were reminded of the many blessings and the incredible abundance we enjoy in our lives. Even more, we were given the gift of time with new friends – ones who do not share our language, our culture or our lifestyle, but came to us with open hearts and broad smiles.

We faced challenges, and together conquered mountains.

We celebrated the universal experience we all share: we our His children, surrounded by our Father’s love.u