My heart is full

Posted by Brad

I am finding it hard to know where to begin.  So many wonderful things happened today.  All I can say is, “My heart is full”.

It is always bittersweet on the next to last day in Guatemala.  You know that “this is it”.  The next day is all travel.  These would be the last projects, places and people.  We drove to Chimaltenango to host our wheelchair distribution.  Our plan was to give 30 wheelchairs.  Bethel had already selected the people.  We fundraised to supply a chair to each person.  For many, this was their first wheelchair.  For some, it may very well be their last.   Many were old and physically fragile.  I was excited to meet all of the people we had pictures of.  I recognized so many faces.  The distribution was about 100 feet from Bethel’s wheelchair shop.  We immediately began preparing the chairs for the people.  Many were there before us.  They were excited!

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As the four of us walked up, Chris Mooney was carrying a sweet woman in his arms.  He was carrying her because she literally had no legs.  She had the biggest smile on her face.  I hoped that I would get to be the one to fit her for her chair.  Chris opened the distribution with an explanation of the process and a prayer.  We then jumped right into fitting the people.  Each person is given a chair that fits their needs.  The right size chair is critical.  We would also put leg supports behind to make sure their legs were supported.  Also, we put seat belts on many to prevent them from falling out.  I can say one thing confidently, each person was grateful beyond imagination. Yes, grateful for us being there.  More importantly, grateful to God for His gift!  Without fail, all of the people I worked with praised God the entire time.

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Dan and I worked together at one station, while Gale and Rick worked at another.  My prayer was answered…Dan and I got to work with the woman who Chris was carrying up to the distribution.  She was sitting in a chair.  We pulled the chair right next to her.  I bent over to pick her up.  She was so light.  She was probably 30 years old.  Her young son was watching everything, taking it all in.  We found the perfect chair for her.  She had the best smile.  She was so excited!  We ended up giving 31 wheelchairs (Chris says that there is always someone extra that shows up).  I had the chance to visit with Tulio.  He is the young man the Henderson family is sponsoring in aircraft mechanic school.  He is doing very well and is learning English.  After we packed up and cleaned the church, we walked back to the wheelchair shop. I looked up the street and saw the most heartwarming sight.  The young son was pushing his mother with no legs up the street in her brand new wheelchair.  Wow!

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We then drove to see Juana.  For all of those who have been either able to meet Juana or hear her story, you will know that much prayer has been lifted over her situation.  Chris was able to contact her to make sure she was there.  As we pulled up, Jackie and RosaLi ran out to greet us.  They have grown up so much.  We went inside and shared the gifts that the Shutt family sent.  Chris read their letters and cards.  We were able to talk to Juana about her life situation.  It was a great conversation and there is much hope for her future.  It was so good to see her again.  I missed her so much.  Her 15 year old daughter Diana was there as well.  She got married many months ago.  She says that her husband is good to her.  He does have a job.  They are living with his family.  She is pregnant.  That’s right…she is two months pregnant.  Just as with Blanca’s girls, I am sad that a girl so young is in the position of having children at a time they should be enjoying her teenage years.  But, I hugged her a lot, and told her that we all love her.  She smiled a lot, and looked very good.  Juana’s eye was doing very well.  She had recently run out of drops, so there was discomfort and redness.  In addition, the sun is very bright.  But, the Shutt family sent more drops.  She said her vision is still very good in the eye she had the procedure done while in the USA.  It was difficult to leave.  I do miss Juana and her kids.  I know I will see them again.

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We then drove to Antigua.  I typically do not go to Antigua on my trips.  We are there to work, and I don’t really like to spend time shopping.  But, Antigua is a special town, and since we were so close, Chris and  I wanted them to see it.  We had a delicious lunch, and we finally had the chance to have wifi…praise God!  We walked around town and did some shopping.  We drank some delicious coffee (and purchased some to bring home…I got some for you Scott…HueHue).

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The time was getting late, but we did have one more stop to make, and that was to see Luki and Johanna. We have been supporting Luki and her family for many years.  Chris has known the kids since they were very little children.  When we arrived, only Johanna was home.  She was so happy to see us.  Her mom Luki was run over many years ago.  The thought she was dead.  In fact, they had a sheet over her waiting for the coroner to come.  Before he arrived, they saw her fingers moving.  They said, “Look, she’s alive”.  That should tell you something of how tough Luki is.  She has been having problems again with her leg for the last eight months.  Her 19 year old daughter Johanna has been carrying all of the burden of caring for her mom.  Luki has not been able to work.  Johanna has been going to school, cooking for her mom, caring for her brother.  It was a huge burden.  In fact, she failed last year in school.  But, to show how determined she is, she went to summer school.  Not only did she pass, she did it with flying colors.  She is now in her last year of High School. She plans to go on to college to become a lawyer.  As her education sponsor, I am so proud to hear her dream of great things.  She is truly excited about her future.  Now that Luki’s leg is doing better and she is working part time again, Johanna can put all her focus on school.

We then headed back to Tecpan to have our final night at Juan’s church. It is always a very special night.  It is a regular church service, with music and a sermon.  But, they always have a celebration at the end for our team.  When we arrived, my heart was completely overwhelmed with joy.  Our prayer is always to not just meet people’s physical needs, but also their spiritual needs.  We want to show them God’s love and encourage them in life.  We always invite them to Juan’s church.  Some of them have no relationship with God.  Others have drifted very far away due to various circumstances.  Some attend other churches.  I was not prepared for what we saw.  With the exception of one family (who lives very far away), all of the people we worked with this week came to church.  They, and their extended families, were all sitting in the church waiting…everyone from Etelvina and her two kids, to Reina and her mute sisters.  My heart was overwhelmed.  It still is.  Thank you God!!!  This is why we come to Guatemala. This is the most encouraging thing to my heart, and the hearts of all the men on the team.  After a great service, Juan and his wife Anna presented us with gifts.  We each had the chance to speak.  Gale read Revelation 7 to the church.  He said that while he does not know if he will ever see them in Guatemala again, he looks forward to seeing them in Heaven, where there will be people from every tribe and tongue.

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We then took a group photo.  I wanted to make sure we captured the moment we were cherishing.  All four of us were overwhelmed with the hugs we received.  These were not light hugs.  These were hugs of love.  These people were now family to us.  It was an incredible moment, and I did not want it to end. I was also able to get a picture of the children with the origami that Andrew sent from Kentucky.  We were able to share that with many children over the week.  Thank you Andrew!!!

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It is around midnight, and we are waking up at 2:45 to drive to Guatemala City.  God willing, we will be home tomorrow night with our families.  Everyone is healthy.  We are thankful for a week of praising God, and bringing glory to His Name.  What a trip.  My heart is truly full!!!

Dios te Bendiga,

Brad

A family of amazing women

Posted by Brad

There are those times you come across a group of people you know are amazing.  There is something about them that just tells you they are special.  We met one such group of women today.

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We went to install a stove at the home of a woman whose husband had passed away many years ago from drinking himself to death.  When the husband was alive, he pulled her away from her Christian faith.   They had a couple of daughters with special needs.  He was not supportive.  His death brought even more pain as she was now the sole provider for her children.  In spite of all the struggles, she did an amazing job of raising her daughters.

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The two oldest daughters are mute.  They can hear, but cannot speak.  Finding a job is hard enough when you are fully physically capable.  But, having a disability like this in Guatemala is not good.  These two daughters are so sweet, and they have incredible drive.  They sew traditional Guatemalan dresses for a living.  A woman comes to their home, gives them a picture and some thread and then hires them to sew.  There is no pattern, just looking at the picture.  I am amazed.  The project takes two months, and they get paid 150 Quetzales ($19) each month.  They do incredible work.  As we were standing there, we decided to hire the girls to make table runners.  We wanted to pay to have them buy the thread, and make the runners for Bethel.  Chris would then offer them to teams when they come from the USA.  As Chris was working out the details, a young girl walked up that changed the entire morning.

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Reina is a truly special girl.  She is the granddaughter of the mom.  She is 14 years old, and wise beyond her years.  She confidently jumped in and began negotiating.  She was ensuring her cousins were getting paid fairly, and that the thread cost was accounted for.  We all just looked at each other and smiled.  Dan said it made him think of the woman in Proverbs 31.  I will let you read that for yourselves, but Reina is a great business woman, is a blessing to her family, and will one day be a blessing to her husband (which hopefully will be a very long time from now).  For all of her confidence, Reina does have some difficulties.  She had been attending school.  But, because she was born with a cleft lip (now repaired), she has difficulty with certain kinds of speech.  She decided to drop out of school to learn to speak better.  The problem is, that will never happen.  We discovered she also sewed.  So, we hired her as well.  This is the point where Chris was able to pour into her life.  He asked her about her relationship with Christ.  You could tell there was so much pain in her life.  She seemed very interested in giving her life to Christ.  But, she was not as interested in school because of her speech difficulty.  She had a sister named Maria who was very interested in education, but seemed much more distant on making a decision for Christ.  On top of everything, Reina has a boyfriend.  We all made certain that these girls saw their true value should be seen in God’s eyes, not a teenage boy.  Chris spoke much wisdom in their lives.  We prayed with the girls, and their eyes seemed to be opening spiritually.  They will both be able to go to school for free at a local church school program.  Next year, they will enroll in public school.

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There was also a wonderful older woman standing there who occasionally lives with them.  She has the sweetest face, and precious way about her.  I found myself taking a million pictures of her.  Her face shows the years of difficulty.  Her children are not interested in her living with them.  She ends up having to bounce from place to place in order not to be a burden.  She is 77 years old.  Her husband drank himself to death as well about 4 years ago.

I truly loved spending time with this family.  The women have so much going for them.  They are hard workers and have great hearts.  I pray that Chris will be able to purchase many table runners from them over time.  I also pray that Reina goes back to school and stays away from those pesky boys for many years.

We then visited a woman who lives in a flood zone.  Her house is about 30 feet from a creek bed that always has water running through it.  She said the government officially condemned this land many years ago.  But, she chose to stay.  She has three young children.  Sadly, her husband’s life ended abruptly as well due to poor choices he was making.  Life is so difficult!

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We had the most delicious lunch at Pastor Juan’s house.  His wife Anna makes the best Chow Mein.  We all felt like we needed a nap afterwards.  But, we knew we had much to do.

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Our next stop was in some ways the most heart breaking of all; yet, had a happy ending.  Maria’s parents were very physically abusive.  They were alcoholics.  They died when Maria was 11 years old.  She and her sisters were scattered apart from each other.  She was pregnant by age 12.  Twelve years old!  Can you imagine that?  Children should never have to think about something like that at that age.  The man she was with had the exact same family background.  His family was abusive and died.  He was 16 at the time he got Maria pregnant.  They had another child together.  Then, their relationship took a difficult turn for some time.  Her husband (Odilio) left.  In his absence, she had a son with another man.  Odilio later returned and their relationship was restored.  Odilio forgave Maria.  He has accepted and loves the son as his own.  They had one more child together.  She is now 26 years old.  While they have made some poor choices in life, Odilio is now a very fine man.  He loves Jesus, is a loving husband and father.  Sadly, these are rare qualities in a man here in Guatemala.  It makes Odilio shine!  We encouraged him to come to our men’s Bible study tonight.  Amazingly, he did come.  It was so exciting to see him.

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We then had our men’s Bible study at night.  Rick led this year.  We discussed spiritual growth.  Picture a tree, where there are branches above the ground, but the real growth happens below the surface.  It was a great discussion and time of fellowship.  There were 5 Americans and 8 Guatemalans.  A picture of what Heaven will be like.  People of different nations, tribes and tongues worshiping and glorifying God together.  The music leader in the church is Misraim.  He has a daughter who is having seizures.  It is a difficult time for them.  They think it is treatable.  But, he will need to go back and forth to the City every 15 days.  It is a huge financial burden.  We gave some money to help offset the costs.  Please help us in praying for their family.

Tomorrow is another busy day.  We will host a 30 wheelchair distribution in Chimaltenango, see Juana and Luki, visit Antigua and then come back to Tecpan for church.  Time for sleep!!!

Everyone is healthy and happy.  It is a great team of men and God is really opening great opportunities for us.  Thank you for your continued prayers.

Dios te Bendiga,

Brad

Some gifts take time

Posted by Brad

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I am like so many other people in America…I find it hard to wait when there is something I need.  We gather our list of “really need” items to God, and wait impatiently to receive them.  The truth is, some things take time to happen.  There are many prayers that may take years, if not decades to be answered.  Today, we built and finished the home for Etelvina.  We knew this was an answer to a prayer that she had been lifting to God for a very long time.  I must admit they were extremely patient, as the house and bathroom took much longer today than expected.  Just for the record, Chris Mooney thought we would be done by 12:00-1:00.  Hah!  I think we finished around 4:30.

We got to the work site and everything got going very quickly.  We had our first walls build in no time.  Everyone worked so hard today.  Gale, Dan and Rick really did a fantastic job.  Everyone floated around and helped where needed.  Sometimes putting screws in the metal, sometimes cutting metal for the walls; other times running to get tools for other people.  We all worked well as a team!

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We were also finishing the bathroom at the same time.  As I wrote yesterday, this bathroom is a huge blessing.  They can now have privacy when going to the bathroom or taking a shower.  The toilet is not a flushable toilet.  There is no running water.  You use a bucket and pour water in it to “flush”.  The shower is an area where they will be able to pour buckets of water over their head and the water will go down the drain in the floor.  Privacy is so rare!  Also, we painted the house this year.  I say “we”.  That was actually Chris and Saul.  I told Chris that he resembled Papa Smurf afterwards.

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We had Pollo Campero for lunch.  Juan’s family brought it to us.  We made sure to have them buy enough that everyone would have the chance to eat.  There were some happy kids there.  They were all so polite and well behaved.  It was a great first lunch in their house.

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The best part is always the dedication to the family.  It is a time where we get to hear more of their personal story.  Rick was in charge of decorating the home this year.  He did a great job.  It looked so festive.  He had balloons, streamers, soccer balls and other great items.  We put the sheets and blankets on the beds.  Some of our friends in Louisville donated backpacks and a purse.  Also, we purchased a dresser for them to put their clothes in.  Wow, was that a hit.  Not only do they have a very nice place to store clothes, the mirror front adds so much light to the room.  They were shown how to use the ONIL stove.

This dedication took a wonderful turn that was much different than many past years.  Etelvina was literally speechless at first. She was crying so much.  One of her sisters was there with her.  She explained how Etelvina never gave up hope.  She always told her children to dream (way to go Etelvina!)  While her children had gone without good shelter for so long, she knew that she had to keep praying.  Etelvina finally gathered herself enough to talk.  She said how thankful she was for her sister.  That she never gave up on her, even when the times were tough.  Then she did the coolest thing.  She sings a hymn to her children at night.  She opened her book and her entire family began to sing for us.  That was so awesome.  They sang, “Jesus is my Pilot” in Spanish.  Her nephew stood up and read Psalm 23.  Then, they presented us with gifts.  The sister gave each of us a cool bag that goes over the shoulder.  They are NOT purses…they are MAN BAGS.  This was a huge financial sacrifice.  They do not make much money.

She thanked everyone in the States for their prayers.  She asked that you continue to pray for them.  She knows her family is in desperate need of God’s mercy every day.  Actually, so are we!

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We took a million pictures and gathered our tools to leave.  Etelvina and her daughter gave us amazing hugs.  They kept crying, hugging and thanking us.  God is the Giver of all good gifts.  We just got to deliver them!

We ended the night by going to church at Pastor Juan’s church.  It was the prayer night, so a little singing…and a lot of prayer.  Man, do they know how to pray!!!  It is an encouraging, yet humbling experience.  I envy how purely that pray and worship.  I always look forward to this night.

I took many things away from today.  One was that we must be patient and faithful in our prayer life.  God does work all things together for our good.  Sometimes that may be the way we were hoping, often times, it is completely different.  In all cases, it is in His timing, which is the very best timing possible.

Well, tomorrow is a busy day as well.  We will install three stoves and visit many families to talk and pray with.  We will then have the men’s Bible study at the church.  Pastor Juan invited 20 men to attend.  Rick is leading it.  It ought to be really good.

Thank you for all of your prayers and emails.  We miss you all very much.

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Dios te Bendiga,

Brad

Where's the bathroom?

Where’s the bathroom?

OK, you are really excited.  Your family has been invited to dinner at your friend’s house.  In your rush to be on time, your daughter left the house without going to the bathroom.  As embarrassed as you are, the first thing you do when you arrive is ask, “Where’s the bathroom?”  Simple question…right?  You would expect something like this, “Go down the hallway, when you get to the end, it’s on your right.”  Instead, you hear, “go outside, walk until you find a bush high enough to stand behind, then use the ground right below you.”  What would you do?  Tell your daughter to “go find that bush”?  The truth is, as Americans, we would be shocked.  Unfortunately, that is the everyday reality of life here. Every time they go to the bathroom, they have to find a place outside.  The fortunate ones have put a few pieces of metal around a hole behind their house.  But, not for the family we are building a house for.  When we showed up on Monday to pour the base of her new bathroom, one of the guys on the team asked the mom, “Where does your family go to the bathroom right now?”  Her response?  She looked out to the field in front of her shack and just nodded in that direction with her head.  In other words, “wherever I can find a place.”  Well, we were about to change that.

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When we found out we were building a house for Etelvina and her children, we were excited.   The personal story we were told pulled at our hearts.  Until you actually get to Guatemala and meet them, you really don’t know the full story.  It’s impossible to find out everything.  There is so much pain here.  There are so many tragic stories.  Despite that, they smile so much.  They laugh, sing and praise God for the few things they do have.  I did not know what to expect with Etelvina.  I knew she had at least two children, Rosemary (15 years old), and Antony (12 years).  I wondered, “What would they be like in person?  Would they stay at a distance while we were there?  Would they talk to us when we asked questions?”  When we pulled up to the house, I had all those questions answered immediately.

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As we walked up to their house, Etylvina walked right up to all of us and began to give us hugs.  She immediately began to praise God for the fact we were there to help her family.  She welcomed us as if we were family.  At that moment, I felt they were family as well.  Rick had purchased some fresh tortillas to give to the family.  We also bought some drinks as well.  After giving us the tour and us realizing they did not have a decent place to go to the bathroom, we were motivated to get to work.  Pastor Juan showed us where Bethel had paid to have the toilet hole dug next to the old house.  It is a very deep hole.  Our job was to construct the footing which the bathroom and toilet would sit.

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Every year, it is so cool to see how each man on the team has different skills to offer.  This year, one of the men is Dan from Iowa.  Dan is in the landscaping business.  We have been impressed with his knowledge of the local trees and flowers here.  He is our resident arborist.  What I did not realize was how skilled he is at taking what supplies lay before him and turning it into a work of art.  He and Pastor Juan jumped right in and stared building the footing.  The hard part was, the bathroom was on the side of a hill.  They had to build up the entire bathroom using blocks.  They were a great team.  Rick began cutting the block and rebar that they needed for the footing.  Gale and I worked with Chris doing what I love best…mixing concrete!  It’s hard for you to hear my sarcasm.  For some reason, I always end up with a shovel in my hand.  It’s actually rewarding…just tiring.  The cool part was, all of the family helped us…the entire day.  Etelvina has a sister who lives close.  She showed up with her children.  So, two women and four children grabbed shovels and moved dirt.  They also carried very heavy supplies.  They smiled the whole time.  Give them a task, the kids ran with purpose.  They also had a dog.  Not very helpful, but very cute!  Many of you will remember that several years ago we built for a family who had a dog named Rambo.  Rambo was not so nice.  He had to be chained. Every time I would walk by, Rambo would try to take a bite out of me.  Fortunately, this dog likes people and does not want to eat them.  Good boy!!!

I brought an external speaker to play music.  I played Christian music in Spanish for quite a while.  I then played it in English.  All of the sudden I heard a woman’s voice singing in Spanish.  I looked over and saw Etelvina singing along with “Come Thou Fount” in Spanish.  What a sweet voice.  I filmed her singing.  There we were, two followers of Christ standing on a hill in Guatemala enjoying the praises of God in two different languages.  Does it get any better than that?

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The most heart wrenching moment happened when Chris Mooney’s son-in-law “Saul” pulled up with all of our building supplies.  We began to unload all of the metal, food, stove, etc.  One of the last things to come off of the truck was the mattresses that will go in their bunk beds.  As the mattresses came out, one of the girls standing there began to cry.  She knew what the mattresses were going to mean to her family.  Three mattresses, three bunks, a soft, comfortable place to sleep, a pillow to lay her head on…  no more dirt!

While the project took a lot more time that Chris projected, the bathroom footing was complete.  We will put the walls, door and window on today when we build the house.  All of the kids had to go to school, so it was only Etelvina with us when we were leaving.  As we walked to the van to leave, she gave each person a hug.  I was the last one to pass by her.  As we began to hug, Etelvina began to cry.  She squeezed very tightly.  She began praising God.  She knew the gift was from the God who loves her.  These are the moments I love most.  Getting to be a part of God blessing people.  Getting to feel the hugs and share the joy.

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We then went to eat at my favorite restaurant in Guatemala.  Fresh tortillas and guacamole…delicious!  We then headed to install the stove at Iliana’s house.  I will let you read her story in the other blog post.  Please read it.  She really does need our help!

Thank you God for allowing us to be here.  I praise you, and give you all the glory.  It’s all for Your Name…it’s all for Your Glory!

Dios te Bendiga,

Brad

Iliana needs help!

Today we installed a stove for Matilda´s family.  She is a 63 years old mom.  She has had a very hard life.  In spite of that, she walked around praising God for His blessings in her life.  She has two daughters.  Her husband died in 2009.   At the time of his passing, he was paying for his daughters to go to school.  But, after his death, the mom could not afford to send them.  In addition, 13 years ago, a local family abandoned their son.  Matilda took him in, though I don´t think they adopted him.  They made a decision to have the girls work to pay for the young man´s education. So, both girls sacrificed their education to help their brother.

The oldest daughter is getting married, but the 24 year old desperately wants to continue in school.  She works 5 days a week cleaning homes.  She makes enough money to help her family, but cannot afford school.  This is where we desperately need your help.

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Iliana is 24 years old and has 3 years to finish high school.  She is in a trade school learning to become an accountant.  When we spoke to her, I asked her what she dreamed of doing in life.  I saw a look in her eyes that reminded me of Juana.  We often asked her what she dreamed of doing in Guatemala.  She had never been able to dream.  It´s just not something people in Guatemala can do.  They are told to put their dreams aside.  Life is so difficult.  They barely have enough money to eat.  Dreams are too much.

But, Chris Mooney persisted.  He told the story of a young pastor who had a difficult family life growing up.  He worked hard, and dreamed of finishing school.  That was pastor Juan.  The tears began to flow from Iliana´s eyes.  You can see what going to school means to her.  We discovered that she has gotten very good grades in her time in school.  She is so close.  I want her to get her diploma.

We need someone to help!  High School costs $50 a month to sponsor through Bethel.  We have given her shoes and a backpack, but she needs someone to come along side and make her dreams come true.  My heart breaks for her.  I hope someone reading this can commit to help her.  Only three years to go.  The reality is that if she does not get her diploma, her options in life are almost zero.  The cycle of poverty will continue.

Email me if you can help bradups0301@yahoo.com

Please open your heart to Iliana.

Brad

Day of surprises and challenges

Posted by Brad

I am so happy to be in Guatemala. What a day!

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We started with a devotion at breakfast. Gale had a great insight from a devotional book. We talked about Martha and Mary. How Martha was more concerned with service. Mary chose the fellowship with Jesus. We shared how we all need to be a combination of both.

We then went to visit Viviana. She was the first woman we built a chicken coup for last year. She started with 50 chickens and had a great business going. She sold each egg for $.12 she also found that people wanted other items. So, she started selling coffee and sugar. I am so proud of her initiative! Several months ago, her chickens began to die. Very quickly, she was down to 20. We discovered that she was not feeding them enough. Food is pretty expensive. So, we talked to her, and developed a plan. We are going to buy more chickens, ensure she has a continual source of food and give it another shot. She is super excited, and so are we!!!

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We then went to the local market. Sunday is a huge market day. We bought a wardrobe cabinet for our family we are building for. We also bought warm blankets and table and chairs.

After having some authentic pizza at our old standby restaurant, we went to church. It was awesome!!!

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As usual, the music was fantastic. They really know how to worship!!! I then had the chance to preach. It is always fun to share a message. Chris was gracious enough to translate. It was Pastor Juan’s church’s 21st Anniversary. I told them that not only was it an Anniversary, but also a family reunion. Juan and Blanca were our first friends in Tecpan 6 trips ago. Now, I stood on that stage and looked out into a church full of friends. Faces I am so happy to see. So many smiles and hugs!!!

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The most disheartening time was with Blanca’s daughters. We have poured our hearts into them. Prayed and encouraged to hold strong with dating and getting married. I looked out and saw 16-year old Sandra holding a baby. My heart sank. She is so young. She is so innocent. The only babies she should be holding is babysitting. Now, she is a mom. The second whammy was that Paula, who is 18 has a baby as well. She was not there tonight.

While I am disappointed, I am at the same time, happy for her. I hugged her just as hard…maybe even harder. I know life will be so much harder, but I pray God uses this to strengthen her. I got to hold her baby for a long time. Her son is 2-months old. She is no longer going to school. Please pray for Sandra!!!

We also had our annual dinner. I tried cutting the steak and went right through the plate to my leg. Fortunately it was a plastic knife. I never actually got to eat the steak. But, the rice and tortillas were delicious. We prayed over so many people who had health concerns. We took so many pictures. It was not goodbye. We will see them Tuesday night at worship. We will see the men at Bible study on Wednesday. We will then see the whole church again Thursday night.

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We finished the night with observations from each man. Gale’s first response was, “Love”. That is what he saw up close in the faces of the people at church. He said that he opened his Bible and began to read from Revelation. It was very timely:

Rev 7:9    After this I saw a vast crowd, too great to count, from every nation and tribe and people and language, standing in front of the throne and before the Lamb. They were clothed in white robes and held palm branches in their hands.

It’s time to get some sleep. We are installing stoves and visiting families tomorrow. We are also building the foundation for the bathroom we will build for the house on Tuesday.

Thank you for your prayers. Everyone is healthy and having a great time. We miss you all and can’t wait to share stories and pictures.

Dios Te Bendiga,

Brad

Settled in

Amazingly, all the men and the bags made it safely. We started with an authentic Guatemalan lunch at Burger King, and finished with a huge plate of spaghetti! Ahhh, the local cuisine!!!

Internet is not working right now. This post will probably cost more than I am worth. So, I will keep this first post brief.

Tomorrow we buy furniture and have a celebration at Pastor Juan’s church. We are hoping to have 80 people there.

On another note, we do have hot water…praise The Lord.

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We love you all!

Brad and Ricardo

On the way

Posted by Brad

Well, we are in Dallas and about to leave. Dan, Rick and I joined each other here. Gale will catch up in Guatemala.

Thank you for all of your notes and emails of encouragement.

I will try to post tonight from the hotel.

Brad

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We are the body!

Posted by Brad

Two days to go!  We are all excited that in two days we will be in Guatemala working with Bethel and the wonderful people of Tecpan.

I wanted to take a moment to thank all of the friends, family and co-workers who have helped us get ready for the trip.  I have been blown away by the outpouring of support.  I wanted to talk about how the Bible says that as believers, we are ALL the body of Christ.  God has gifted each of us with unique skills and talents that He uses for His purposes…and His glory.  No one’s gift is more special to God than another’s.  When used with pure motives from our heart to further the glory of His Name, it pleases the Father.  It all belongs to Him anyway.  We are simply giving it back to the Source from which we recognize it came.

Financial – This is one of the smallest groups we have taken.  That means fewer people trying to raise money.  Yet, this is by far the most overwhelming year of financial blessing.  I am humbled beyond imagination at how many people have stepped up to help us meet our fundraising goals.  I have to admit that I was not quite sure how this was going to work.  I find it difficult to ask people for money.  Actually, it makes me uncomfortable.  But, as I was talking to a friend, I realized that the people in our lives actually do want to help.  But, how can they know we need help unless we tell them.  So, we sent out emails and texts to the people who have helped in the past.  Praise God, many of them gladly offered help.  Some have been faithful supporters from the past.  Some are new to helping with Guatemala.  I had one co-worker walk up at the airport and ask if it was too late to help.  It’s never too late!  She wrote a check which blessed me beyond the amount she donated.  It was a gift she didn’t have to give.  It came from her heart.  So many opened their hearts to our need.  Thank you!!!

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Items – Beyond financial needs, we always need items to take with us.  We needed school supplies, bedding material, backpacks, shoes and clothing.  For the second year in a row, one friend from our ABF group blew us away with backpacks.  She has made it her mission to cruise local Goodwill stores throughout the year to pick up what she can.  These make such a tremendous difference to the kids who must have them for school.  I also wanted to take a moment to thank Andrew Escamilla who donated origami. We will take this for the kids we meet in homes and at the church we will worship at.  This is the kind of gift that humbles my heart and helps me remember how God loves for us to give our talent and time.  This young man is taking something he enjoys doing, making the gifts himself and then sending them to kids who are just like him.  I am going to enjoy giving these gifts every day we are there.  What a blessing.  What a gift.  Thanks Andrew!

Prayers – Last, and certainly not least…prayer.  It sometimes sounds simple telling people we need them to pray for us.  Believe me, this is the most important thing you can do.  We have had friends lifting us up all the way.  Please don’t stop.  Pray that our hearts would be strengthened.  Pray for boldness.  Pray for our health.  Pray that God will bring the people into our paths who need to hear about Him.  That we would with joy share the Name that is above all names.  For as the Bible says, one day every knee will bow, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.  For what purpose?  The glory of God.

As believers, we are the body.  We are the church.  Nothing can overcome us.  Why?  We are empowered and preserved by the Holy Spirit. He is the One who has given us the talents.  He is the One who directs our steps.  He calls…we answer.  Obedience to the Father’s will.

Thank you Lord!  Thank you for your sacrifice!  Thank you for our friends. May they experience your love.   May they know your peace.

Dios te Bendiga!

Brad

Oh "well"

Posted by Rick

We prepare, we plan, we pray.   All of this to prepare for a successful mission trip serving with Bethel Ministries and specifically serving the Iglesia Fuente de Vida church with Pastor Juan Macario in Tecpan.

We have an idea what we will do, via an itinerary.  However, the Holy Spirit is truly our tour guide.  The trip often makes interesting shifts and changes that provide amazing opportunities to help the people of Tecpan, and share the gospel.

In our fundraising phase, we were truly blessed by overwhelming support to help fund the home build, stoves, and food and wheelchair distribution.  Praise God for these generous donations!

We have been blessed with the opportunity to provide clean water to the family we are building the home for.  We have been told they have begun the well this week.  The estimated well depth is 150 feet!  Yes, 50 yards!    Now, in Iowa, that’s no problem with the modern rigs.   But this 150 ft well will be dug with shovels and buckets!

Last year when visiting the Mayan Village, we saw two men digging a well (pictured).   It would be a tough way to make a living.

Thank you for the donations that made this well possible, as it will provide the family and neighborhood with clean water.    This reminds me of Jesus in John 4 at the well talking with the woman….

10 Jesus replied, “If you only knew the gift God has for you and who you are speaking to, you would ask me, and I would give you living water.”

11 “But sir, you don’t have a rope or a bucket,” she said, “and this well is very deep. Where would you get this living water? 12 And besides, do you think you’re greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us this well? How can you offer better water than he and his sons and his animals enjoyed?”

13 Jesus replied, “Anyone who drinks this water will soon become thirsty again. 14 But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.”

Amen!    Yes, a well will be dug to provide drinkable water for our new friends in Guatemala.   But it is our prayer that through our service and sharing the Gospel with them (and others) that hey will truly receive The Living Water!

Dios te Bendiga

Ricardo

Ps…stay tuned….we will have photos of the well’s progress next week……