Friday, September 17, 2010

September Newsletter

Guatemala is right in the middle of the rainy season and although we are thankful for the rain as it cools everything off wonderfully, it also brings hardship even devastation for poorer families who live in way of the mountains and whose houses are not sturdy enough to withstand all the rains and even worse, mudslides. All of the locals are saying that it is the hardest rainy season they have seen in a very long time. Just last weekend on the highway from Guatemala City to Chichi, a drive we make every week at least once, a bus full of people was hit by a mudslide killing 19 people. These tragedies are very near to us and cause us as a ministry to stand up, asking God to bring clear direction to us as to how we need to step in and help, in hands on ways. An exciting way that we have been able to step in and help is, YOU. I know that sounds funny, but it is our teams that have come to the aid of many of these families, raising the funds to build homes for families who have been devastated by the torrential rains and mudslides, these teams have literally brought hope are encouragement where before devastation prevailed. It has been a tremendous blessing to get to know the teams that we have had back to back, coming to serve from the states and in turn to be apart of their outreach and heart for the people in our community. If you have never had the opportunity to visit us, please come, it is a life giving blessing for those who serve and those who receive. We pick up a team from the airport next week who will actually be building our 500th house, and in our hearts this is only the beginning!

We are so excited at all of the movement towards our vision to help young girls who have been abused and molested; and staying in contact with Bethany Christian Services who, along with other organizations, are also on fire about this need and ministry. They are walking beside us, bringing training and consultations on how best to be meet the needs of these hurting girls. Our desire is not simply to meet needs, but to be His hands of complete healing, restoration and equip these girls to live fulfilled, healed and productive lives and leave powerful women of God. Already construction has begun on the second level of our first girls home, so this is coming and coming soon! We are praying for God to prepare us for this battle field. yet so overflowing with excitement to already see His heart in action for these girls!

Andrew had a small victory in a project he was working on within our Widow Bible Studies. To recap, our Widow Bible Studies are comprised of widows who have received homes built by our teams and ministry who are hungry to know more about this Jesus Who loved them so much He sent people to build a house for them. With the help of our amazing local Guatemalan pastor who has been apart of many of the formative outreaches of our ministry, Andrew was able to find some phenomenal men and women of God who couldn't wait to serve their own people. These pastors are here to love these widows and to introduce them and disciple them in Christ and already we have seen the numbers double in these Bible Studies.

On the home front, we have moved in and are loving our new cozy little home! It still feels a little like a construction zone...okay, a lot like a construction zone, but there are no words to describe the amazing feeling of someplace to call our own!! So, if you are ever in the neighborhood, drop by for some amazing Guatemalan coffee, that if you know my husband is always brewing, and we would love to share it with you! Thank you for sharing in our lives and making it possible for us to serve in Guatemala!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

July Newsletter

Devastation in Guatemala
We stepped off the plane in Houston Texas and discovered that all the flights had been canceled for our return trip to Guatemala. We had been in the states visiting family and Andrew had been trying to work to make a little extra money to put into our new home. It didn't take us long to figure out that flights wouldn't be getting though for a while. Volcano Pacaya had erupted and the airport in Guatemala had been closed. We had to fly back to Dallas and wait it out, and while we were waiting for the ash to settle, effects from Hurricane Agatha hit causing even more delays. We didn't mind too much, we were able to spend more time with our family and Andrew worked as hard as he could, not wanting to miss an opportunity that God was using to provide. After a week went by, we landed in Guatemala not prepared for what was about to greet us. Parts of the Panamerican highway were gone, the land beneath completely washed away, parts of mountains were torn off in mudslides. However, we didn't see the worst of it until we got to Chichi, schools and hospitals had been turned into refugee camps because so many families had lost their homes. We immediately set to work handing out food, and the greatest need, clean water. We were not untouched, because as well as most people in Chichi and surrounding villages the mudslides wiped out pipes that were bringing our water in. We have been working on our well nonstop to get water, which is on and off and still dirty. We have also worked on getting a big water filter up and running that will supply our community with clean water. Just today we were able to distribute 80 more small filters to a community that has struggled greatly since the hurricane (the picture is of a widow and her child receiving one of our filters). We've been able to talk to many of the families who were at the refugee camps, it's been so hard to hear the stories of children being buried alive in mudslides and homes being washed away. The harsh reality is that mothers lost children, wives lost husbands, children lost parents and looking into the faces of the people that have had their hearts broken, has broken our hearts. Over 150 people died and this is just the beginning of the rainy season. Please pray that God has mercy on us and the people here, giving us a mild rainy season.
A Picture of Hope
It was a mission team who had never experienced the beauty and harsh reality of life in rural Guatemala and Andrew and I, who were able to accompany them that day, were excited to be a part of their first full day here in Guatemala. We were building the first widow house of the week, and as I glance around at the concrete floor that was just days before dirt, and the structure which was only a 12x12 shell with wood siding, a tin roof, and only one room, so simple, and yet such a gift. Basically just a one room shed to us, such an unacceptable way for any family of six to live, but as one of the team members began the dedication that we share in for every widow's house we build, he began to talk about how this new house was not from us, not from the ministry, but a gift, a sign of the deep love of God for this family. How like the gift of salvation, it wasn't a gift that would or could ever be "paid back" but it was given freely with love. I looked around at the faces of team members, they were moved, standing there, being apart of the tangible love of God and we all watched the face of the widow as the dedication was first translated into Spanish and then Quiche, the Mayan dialect that is spoken in our village. This widow listened intently, nodding as she watched the translator and then this little woman such a beautiful picture of strength fashioned from years of raising her children alone in poverty after her husband passed away, began to speak. She was eager to share her heart, in this new home, with a team of friends whose language she could not speak. She shared of the desire to see her children educated and the grief she walked in as their mother because she could not afford to send all of them to school, she wept as she graciously thanked us for blessing their family, acknowledging that no matter how hard she worked, she would never have been able to afford such a home for her children. I saw this widow searching each face in the team, looking for understanding, for us to hear her heart, that today she had been blessed, today she was surprised by hope. I don't think I could ever grow weary of joining the teams as they go to build homes for widows during their stay with us, always a reminder why we are here, always a reminder of the deep love God has for these people we are now apart of.
Being used by God
As Andrew's wife, there is honestly nothing more amazing to me, than to see his passion being lived out as he continues to gain the trust of the young men on our staff and through these deepening relationships and purposeful daily interaction I have watched Andrew, maybe without him even fully realizing it, powerfully impact these guys with what it looks like to love Jesus and to walk before Him with humility and honor. We are continuing to see the huge need for real men, with real passion for Jesus in this country... husbands, fathers, brothers, sons who will not take on the cultural norm which has caused so much pain, but stepping into the roles created by God that would complete change this country from the inside out. Even though the young men on our staff may be small in number, we believe we are seeing the Lord raise up an army in Guatemala.
We are at the beginning of the busiest season of the year for us, as more and more mission teams are coming from the states. We have so enjoyed having our family and friends, David and Maggie Brown as our new group coordinators and they have handled in stride all the many life changes for them personally in moving to a third world country, and with leading our many teams. We have been amazed watching them grow and succeed in the task that has been set before them. And they have been a blessing to our amazing groups.
Health Projects with Dr. Mary
Another visit from Dr Mary!!!! As always her coming brings productivity and amazing interaction and feedback from the people of Chichi and surrounding communities. When she was here we were able to distribute water filters to around 75 more families (bringing the total number up to around 200) and along with this, we invited these families to come join us for instructions on not only how to properly care for and install these water filters, but we also took this opportunity to begin charting how pure water will effect the growth and development of the people. The purpose of these charts is to follow the growth development of head circumference of small children and the height and weight of the entire family in hopes that with these findings we can pursue grant opportunities to supply even more water filters to families in need, as well as the information being invaluable to Dr Mary and to us as a ministry in all of our future ministry endeavors.
Progress on Our New Home
We are so excited that God has absolutely provided for us once again! When finances were a little tight and continuing the renovations on our little house seemed almost impossible at least for the time being, we received a call from Andrew's dad saying that if Andrew could fly home, he could use some help on one of his jobs. We began to pray towards this, knowing that He would provide and sure enough, dear friends gave the exact amount needed for Andrew's plane ticket home to Texas, where he was able to work for a week. We were than able to return several weeks later (when we got stuck because of the natural disasters!) so he could finish the job. We were also able to visit both our families, which was a very much needed blessing. With the money he made we've been able to plaster the adobe walls, get electric and plumbing in, windows and doors, and we're hoping to have enough to lay the flooring and possibly paint the walls, anything above that would be icing on the cake! In this scenario "icing" looks like toilet, sink, tile for the shower, a bed, a little bit of furniture and in the near future we hope to have enough for a kitchenette and to have a couch for the living room where we can spend a cozy evening and have friends over. We are getting closer and closer to being able to have a place to go and be a family! Thank you to everyone who has helped us get this far, your help is so greatly appreciated!!

Friday, February 19, 2010

February Newsletter

After the most amazing, busy, stressful, relaxing, productive, refreshing and fun time over the holidays in the states, we are back in Chichicastengo and feeling more excited than ever to see God at work, and to see His hand outstretched to these people we are falling more and more in love with. We loved seeing so many of you during our time in the states, drove hundred of miles across country, visited at least six states, laughed with and hugged our families, Andrew worked for his dad, I enjoyed every second of time I could get with all the sweet little ones in our families....nights of sleep overs, baking parties and getting to particpaote in the precious every day activities we miss with our families. Andrew and I were deeply refreshed and encouraged in the Lord and are now ready to step back into the battle that is continuisly warring in Guatemala, as redemption becomes the cry of the land!

English class continues and one of the little girls I teach hasn't been able to continue because again poverty's voice is lounder than education as is so often the case in Guatemala. With the help of sweet friends in the states we are going to be able to sponsor her to be able to continue to go to school and receive an education, giving her once again, hope for her future. We've been able to get her books, shoes, back pack, uniform and all her necessary school supplies. Even one of these items would be an impossibility and therefore school would not be an option otherwise, and she has also been helping to support her family by working. Through our dear friends generosity a forever difference is being made in this little girl's life.

On the "home front" adobe bricks are being made for the new add on for our little house. We have just enough funds for this beginning step and we are so excited to see God bring the provision to us to be able to make the house livable. We often walk through the house, over dirt floors, falling down crumbling dirt walls and dream of our own space and place to call home! We feel so incredibly blessed to be able to work towards this as a couple.

The shoe factory is up and running, this is a huge VICTORY for the community as it is bringing needed jobs and soon will be providing shoes for those in need. We can't walk through the village without being approached by children who ask for shoes for school (especially now since the school year here has just begun), or to work in...the terain is rough so shoes are not a nicety but a nessesity. As a ministry we have so many hopes and dreams for this shoe factory that we see this small beginning as only scratching the surface of what God has in the future for this endevor.

Because the water program which consists of giving individual water filters made of clay and clodial silver is expanding, this simple but highly effective system has made such a name for itself that neighbors of those families within the pilot program have now approached the community health workers and us as a ministry to ask if they too could benift from these amazing filters that they see as making such a difference in the health of their neighbors. We just recived an order of a 100 new filters that we will be distributing them to these families in need. Speaking of water.... ask anyone in the minsitry about the well and you are going to hear that amazingly we have now reached 485 feet and water has finally been reached, not enough water to sustain the present or future ministriy at Pray America, but prayerfully that is right around the corner.

We are writing this from beautiful Antigua as we are picking up our first mission team for this year and bringing back Scott, Melissa and their two babies back home after spending ten wonderful days together in Chichi. I loved seeing how as only children can, bridges were made and crossed, crossing the gap of culture, laungage and other barriars. We pray daily that these gaps will be crossed and walls will come down, and as we walked the streets with Scott and Mel's kids I was amazed to witness this happening. Neighbors that I have desired to meet and befriend, beyond just casual greetings, would come pouring out of their houses to hold, touch and play with the babies. We laughed, talked, compared baby stories and felt like we became such a part of the community in a deeper way than we had until now. It makes me so eager to see God bring orphans and children at risk into the ministry of Pray America and in very tangible begnning, the foundation to our first orphan care center is being laid, covered by the prayers of many, and clearly directed from the heart of God. We stand back in awe as we have the privelege of being apart of such redemption.

We have new staff who will be joining us in March to come along side us and help with leading our mission team groups. Not only is this a gap that we have prayed that God would fill in the ministry, but He also blessed Andrew and I espeically with this couple, being our dear friends and family, David and Maggie Brown! Please pray with us and for them as they make the sacrificial transition and join our team and our hearts in ministry.

December Newsletter

A day in our lives……

Waking up at the mission house in Chichi, I step outside and see the midst covering the tops of the beautiful mountains surrounding us, and once again my heart is struck with both the beauty and tragedy held in these mountains…the need of the people, yet their beauty and great strength. It is a humbling thing for Andrew and I to become apart of the community of Chichicastengo and the longer we live here, the more we fall in love with the people, the country and see God’s obvious hand in bringing us here to Guatemala! This particular morning after a quick breakfast and a cup of rich Guatemalan coffee, Andrew is headed back into town to take our current mission team up into the mountains to build another widow house, we'll be building our 400th house this week! Knowing that Andrew wouldn’t be back with the team until early afternoon, it will take around 4-5 hours to build, and after the team builds the widow house, they have a “handing over ceremony” explaining to the widow and her family that this house is from Jesus, evidence of His love for her and opening it up for a time of sharing and praying over the family, I've decided to make the menu for dinner and take care of some laundry. My own afternoon is also going to be full, with Spanish lessons (which I am taking four days a week) and teaching English to some precious neighbor children who first approached me and asked me to teach them. These children’s bright little faces light up to learn, you would never guess the poverty they live in, except the trademark dirty little faces and ragged clothes. What a joy it is to be apart of their lives in this very tangible way!

Our lives are full to the brim and we are loving and adjusting to life here in Guatemala !

Our back to back mission teams from the states have slowed down considerably for the year, but not ministry and life for us in Chichi. The director of the ministry, Ron Morin has traveled back and forth to the states quite a bit over the past few months, to be with his son who had been struggling with cancer, and who just recently went to be with the Lord, leaving Andrew and I, along with the amazing staff of Manos de Jesus in charge in his absence. Some of our ministry projects include the overseeing of a well being dug on our property ( we are past 300 feet deep at this point) BY HAND by four guys, it is AMAZING to watch and exciting to know we are close to having clean water on our property and not only that but in the future to provide clean water, for the orphan homes, school and medical clinic we plan to build on our property to expand the ministry. Speaking of expanding the ministry, we have been excited about the changes made in our feeding programs in the three villages in which we work, Xepocal, Saquilla, Patzibal. Because of the huge growth we have been reevaluating the daily workings of the feeding programs, looking closely for way to bring change and improvements so we are able to better serve the people. Because of these positive changes the children are much more attentive in the discipleship classes and overall they have been running more smoothly. It's so rewarding to to see so many children receiving healthy, protein filled meals at all three feeding programs!

We also have a shoe factory being built on our property, and while we're still waiting for the funds to be able to complete the construction of the inside of the building, we have great plans for the future. We hope to someday be able to run it similar to how the widow program is run, having churches and mission teams buy as many pairs of shoes as they can, and then come here to give them to school children and others who need a good sturdy pair of shoes. Meanwhile, providing jobs and income for families here in Chichi through making the shoes. And ultimately, to have a place to teach the trade of making shoes to the children who come to live here with us. So there is no way to overestimate it’s value!

Andrew continues to disciple the guys on staff, which is his passion and it has been beautiful to see relationships deepen and develop as these guys push each other towards Christ! We also had Dr. Mary here, to continue working on our clean water pilot program we're getting started in the villages. We now have water filters in around 60 different homes in the surrounding communities. A very exciting aspect of Dr Mary’s time in Chichi was helping us train “Community Helpers” eleven people selected from the three villages we have feeding programs in, she brought a microscope with her to show them the difference between dirty and clean water. We also had fun with felt cut outs of our digestive system to show how and where amebas and worms affect us. It was an exciting time together of further education and enabling these precious people to serve their own people in such a needed way!

Something else we would very much appreciate your prayers about is we're hoping to be moving into a place of our own, we currently have a private room but live in community with some of the other staff and often groups. Our new little home is very small and unfinished, adobe with dirt floors, but we're so excited about having a little place of our own. I included a picture of Andrew standing in what I hope will soon be our new kitchen/living room! Please pray that we'll be able to raise enough funds to fix it up and move in quickly!

Thank you for praying for us and for your continued love and support, we could never be here without you!!!! We are excited to be going home to the States over the holidays, and can't wait to see many of you very soon!

Because of the cross that changed our lives and His love that reaches out in redemption!

July Newsletter

Well here we are, two months in, and loving it more every day! These have been some of the fullest months of our lives. Ron's (our director) son had a relapse of cancer; and coupled with many other health problems he has been very ill. Ron left to go be with him, in the states, for a little over a month, and left us in charge. It has been a very challenging but we've learned so much. We've just jumped in with both feet! There have been so many times that we've felt very ill equip and turned to the Lord, not sure how to handle a situation, (and there have been a few), but He has helped us through every one. Our days are very full and different, I would love to tell you what a normal day looks like but so far we haven't had one. Life stays exciting that way! But to give you a good idea of what we do, our main focus is the staff. We really want to pour into the people who are serving here, we have an awesome group of people working here with us. Also, Andrew oversees some of the projects going on, and helps with the groups. He works closely with Ron and Cristhian, who is Guatemalan and helps with a lot of different things in the ministry. I'm really focusing on learning Spanish, I have a great teacher, and am trying really hard to learn as much as I can, as quickly as I can. One thing that was a highlight for me this last month was getting to spend a week with Dr. Mary. Dr. Mary has been a part of Pray America for awhile now, she does clinics twice a year here and has such a heart to help the people here in Guatemala. She was
here this last month for just a few days to do some fact finding. She is overseeing a new water program that we're starting, and also wanted to discover what other health needs we can be meeting. I had the privilege of going with her around to all
three different feeding programs, meeting with the caretakers andpastors over each program. She asked each of them what they thought the biggest needs are. She was able to collect lots of information and data to know where to start. I'm so excited about all the things she wants to start, including charting child growth, and education of a small group of people from each area, that there's a feeding program, who can then go and train their people in health and nutrition, either through a class at the feeding program or in home training. There's such a need for nutrition and hygiene education and it's so encouraging to get to be a part of something that's meeting those needs. The neat thing about Dr. Mary is that she's very educated and has done many things like this before. She's so full of wisdom and is okay with a these programs taking some time. She's taking everything very slowly, not rushing into anything but making sure what we're starting will really work, and will be long lasting. She also wants to involve the Guatemalan people who are already here. I'm very much excited and looking forward to working on these projects with her. Something neat that happened while we were on one of our little fact finding outings was Dr. Mary had asked to see a finished widow house, and we happened to walk past one near the house where we were visiting, we had our translator ask if it would be okay for us to go in and look around. They were okay with this so we went in. We soon discovered that it was a God appointment when the brother of the widow, Tomas asked us to pray for him. He explained that he had been sick and unable to work and provide for his family for some time now. We of course gathered around him and prayed for his healing and then Dr. Mary was able to briefly examine him and discovered that he was very anemic, probably from worms. We left promising to return the following morning. The next morning we came with several different medicines, several bags of food and excitement to get to be used by the Lord in such a neat way. As soon as we arrived we were greeted with smiling faces and a different Tomas, he explained to us that when we were praying for him on the previous day he immediately felt a difference. He said that God had sent us to him to help him and he was giving God all the glory. We were so blessed by his heart and prayed once more for him, that God would continue to heal him and to help the medicine to work even if it wasn't the right kind. It is so awesome to see God work! We've also gotten to be apart of working with the groups. Right now is the very busy season of groups coming and serving. It's been fun getting to build widow houses and seeing the groups show the love of God and to see the widows and their families respond to that love. It's such a privilege and honor to see hope born in a widow as she's handed the keys to her new house, or in a small child as they're handed a bowl of food. Because in the Mayan culture there is no hope. Their religion teaches them that there's a limited amount of good and everything is subject to the whim of the gods. What an awesome thing to see lives changed, ours as well as theirs. The groups that we've had have been great, it's just been so incredible to see so many people just wanting to serve God and lay their lives down for the people here in Guatemala. We've been so blown away by people's hearts. Including all of your hearts to support and pray for us, it's so wonderful to have you a part of what we're doing here. Thank you for all you generosity we couldn't be here doing what we're doing without your help, you're all just as important of a part of what's going on here as we are, so thank you for serving with us.