guat's up?

Hola! Como estas? Su nombre? Cuantos anos tienes? That's the extent of my Spanish and every conversation I had last week. I had the pleasure of going on a week long mission trip with FBC Allen in beautiful Guatemala. It was a great trip filled with humbling experiences, gracious people and thousands of fresh, homemade tortillas!

{the group on our first day}

{mi familia en Guatemala} 

A few people on the trip had been before, but it was my first experience. We worked with a small {very small, 5 people to be exact} organization based out of Guatemala City called Church on the March. COTHM works with local Baptist pastors and churches in Guatemala. Through this organization, we met Carlos, Jaime and Jennifer {our bus...all the buses have names} who took us a few hours to work with Pastor Benedicto, the pastor of a church in Santa Barbara.

{playing games at one of the schools}

{Jennifer and me...we spent a LOT of time together}

This church and it's outreach was absolutely inspiring. Although it's congregation consisted of only 80 members, they fully supported a handful of missions, pastor's family, and the school ministry, which is where we spent most of our time. The school ministry aims to change it's neighborhood from the inside out by teaching Godly values and Jesus' teachings to school aged kids. This team is lead by Pastor Benedicto, the composed pastor, Jaime, the young mentee/translator, and dear Ernesto {or Neto}, the most energetic, animated man I have ever met. In the words of Carlos, "he can move 200 kids like they are 1." The school program goes something like this: enter {or sometimes hike to} the school, high-five every kid in sight, sing/dance to songs like "The Lord's Army" and "If You're Happy And You Know It" in espanol, do a brief Bible story or devotional, play games and make a craft. Basically, its VBS...condensed into a hour...in Spanish...with kids who have never been to church. Mind you these are Baptist leaders going into very Catholic "public" schools so it could present a challenge. Despite the challenge, God is faithful to provide more and more schools each week. It has taken a big investment of both time and work on Pastor Benedicto and Neto's part to get their foot in the door, and after they are in, they are able to share with these kids on a weekly basis. Although some teachers are very hesitant about the message being shard, they are desperate to receive help with their students. Many schools struggle with the same things we do here- bullying, teen pregnancy, and violence. Unfortunately, the difference is in Guatemala they are allowed to share God's word in the schools to provide guidance in these situations.

{Pastor Benedicto sharing and keeping it weird}

{Ernesto and friends singing and dancing}

One of the schools we visited originally said "no" to the program, but after they saw kids' attitudes changing at another school that Benedicto and Neto go to, they called back and asked for them to come. To be completely honest, the first day or two into the trip I thought, "It sounds like they have it covered, why are we here?" I soon learned the main three reasons were: #1. Support: The local pastors in their work. Most of the time these men are doing this work alone, which I am sure can be discouraging. Teams like us bring a fresh of breath air and encouragement in their ministry. #2. Resources: We have far more resources in the U.S. than these little towns do and many of the things we offer are an answer to months and of prayer. On this trip in particular we were able to bring New Testaments to hand out to kids and make salvation bookmarks which were much appreciated. And lastly #3. Attraction: People in these little towns, especially the remote ones, will line up to get a peek at the crazy Americans. And hey- the more people that come to see the entertainment {or us with our thick accents and mysterious backpacks packed down with sunscreen, bug spray and snacks}, the more people that get a chance to hear God's word. As strange as it was, we drew people to the program...or maybe we were the program?

{pumped up about singing at the all girls school}

{finished bookmarks in one of the classrooms}

Every school we went to, parents and small children lined up around the school yard or poked their heads over the fence to see what was going on. At the end of the week we saw anywhere from 2,000-3,000 kids. Seeds were planted. That is 2,000 families that received Spanish Bibles maybe for the first time ever. One of the things I learned while in Guatemala- Americans love to plan and love to follow schedules. Carlos continually told us, "flexible" or in his Spanish accent it was more like "flex-ee-ball." This became a running joke all week and was a tough lesson for some of us.

{hiking to one of the more remote schools}

{chicas with their New Testaments we provided}

The one day our "plans" were completely thrown off was the day more kids than ever were reached. We woke up on day with news of a bus driver strike taking place on our route to the school. Plan B consisted of us going to a different school, one that had never been seen by the ministry team while Pastor Benedicto and Neto saw the school that was on our original schedule. It was one of the best programs we had that week, visiting with the kids and hanging out. All in all, we ended up seeing around 500 extra kids! Good things come to those who are "flex-ee-ball."

{playing a game with Amanda}

{ladies cooking mosh at the school}

So many inspiring things happened over the week we were in Guatemala. I relearned the power of prayer. My dad planned on going on the trip, then had to cancel. Pastor Benedicto told us when they found out Brother Bill {or "Brother Beell"}couldn't come, they began praying everyday that we would make it to Guatemala. Some very unfortunate events occurred in order for that to be the case, but he ended up leading the trip. These men not only asked, but asked and expected God to do great things. I also learned  what it looked like to take delight in spiritual responsibility. Carlos referred to working in the schools as "a privilege to be doing the work of angels." A church of merely 80 members outreaches to over 3,000 kids weekly! In the states a church of 1,000 outreaches to 1,000 kids in a summer. Not only is it my responsibility as a believer to share the Good News, it is a privilege.

{Guatemalan women know how to mulitask} 

{missionary Ted at one of the new churches}

And lastly I learned to be "flex-ee-ball."  It is evident God is working in Guatemala and in the heart of us Americans as well. As we left, Carlos told us now that we have seen the work with our own eyes and directly taken part in the ministry there, it was now our responsibility to pray daily for Guatemala. I will continue to pray for the work of Church on the March, Pastor Benedicto and Ernesto, and I hope you will too. Adios mi amigo! Thanks for stopping by.