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!!