Webster’s dictionary defines Cornucopia as “an abundance”.
I envision a cornucopia as a basket overflowing with fruit.
The 2015 J127 winter mission trip to Tecpan seemed like a cornucopia to me. We saw an ABUNDANCE of fruit.
Brad started this vision of revisiting and reinvesting in a community 7 years ago. This year was the 7th January trip. Brad being the common thread in them all. (I on the past 3). Because of the recurring visits, the people of Tecpan Guatemala, specifically in the community near Iglesia Fuente de Vida (Water of Life Church) have become our friends…..NO, our family!
The week started out with a home visit to the widow and children who we built the home for last year; Etelvena and her kids. As Brad alluded to in his blogpost from the week, it was a wonderful reunion with our friends. It was especially emotional as well, when Etelvena shared with us how she suffered through 18 years of a very abusive husband. She vowed that if she were ever delivered from her dire situation, she would SERVE the Lord as best she could. She told that after God provided her with a new home and a well, she has really started SERVING by evangelizing. (It is interesting that she said evangelizing, because Brad had prepared his message to the church about this very topic!) This visit was topped off by her two teen children accepting Christ after a heartfelt discussion with Pastor Juan (Juanito). Before leaving, we prayed with the family. Prayers for the kids to honor their new gift of salvation and prayers for healing of Etelvena’s lasting injuries from her dark past. It was great to see them.
Next day…we did a home visit to build a stove for Isabella and her 3 boys. A familiar story, an abusive husband, long gone. A struggling family. After the new stove installation, a gift of 2 warm new blankets, some special treats and a big bag of food necessities. As Chris was going through the bag of essentials that would sustain this family for 2 weeks, he handed her a Bible. Our hearts soared when she clutched it, smiled and said “this is the greatest gift you have given me today!” She then shared that she had waivered in her faith, but was back in her WALK. Why, because her friend has been EVANGELIZING to her. Who was her friend? ETELVENA! Fruit!
Men’s bible study was a blessing as usual. The familiar Guatemalan men and the Gringos, studying the WORD, as translated by Chris Mooney, our missionary. (Very exhausting for him!) As we wrapped up, a new young man stood up and shared a prayer request. His family had been experiencing a very dark presence in their home for several nights and it has been very unsettling. The group had an intense prayer session for Sebastian and his wife Wilma. We wondered how the night would be for them tonight.
The next morning, we went on a visit to build a stove for a family. We had no idea, but it was the home of Sebastian and Wilma! Our first question...”how did the night go?” Their faces both BEAMED with huge smiles! “Thank you for your prayers! No problems last night!” Wow!
This visit also had another very powerful moment. We had the INTENT to spend time talking with the family and praying mainly for the continued peace in their home. We did that. But then as Chris was counseling the family he was DRAWN to Sebastian’s brother, Elvin. He knew not why. Elvin had been struggling with many things and was far from the Lord. Chris counseled with a very receptive Elvin. The next thing we knew Chris was removing Elvin’s shoes and socks and washed his feet. This was a very powerful moment. Chris later told us he had never felt called to do a foot washing during a home visit. Elvin then accepted the Lord. What a day! We would then later see Elvin at church the next 3 nights!
One highlight of our Winter trip is to watch the kids grow. 3 years ago we met Claudia and Anhel.
We loved them from the start. Now we see our friends as teenagers, active in with the church youth. They performed in a drama for us at church. We stopped by to visit them at their home and take a bag of food essentials. Plus a special gift we provided this year. We bought 26 blankets to distribute throughout the week. At 6500 feet elevation, the nights are very cool. And, most of those we help have no heat in their homes and walls that are not much of a windbreak. A blanket is a HUGE blessing. We left 2 blankets when we visited Claudia (Anhel was at work). The last night at church Anhel gave Tom a Huge hug and thanked him for the blankets. But mom and sis got he blankets. He told Tom he was “muy frio”...“very cold”, would it be possible that we gave him a blanket. DONE! The little things in life! His needing a blanket reminded me of Matthew 25:35 “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in.
Wheelchair day is always a highlight for me. It is the cornerstone Bethel Ministries International. Annually, they provide over 1500 wheelchairs to the needy. It is always a very joyful day. Our wheelchair distribution provided mobility to 52 in dire need. Some were carried to the event in chairs, others using makeshift canes, often the recipients will crawl to the event. This is where the distribution portion of Mission: Mobility occurs. (www.missionmobility.org) We collect the equipment in the states and ship them down for event such as this. Mission trippers have the wonderful opportunity to experience the wheelchairs TRANSFORM the lives of the recipients!
A transformation both physically through mobility, and a possible transformation of their faith through God providing them with a wheelchair! It was fun for us to distribute equipment that we had shipped down in recent months, identifiable by the “Mission: Mobility” stickers that show where they were collected. (photo shows a chair that was collected by our volunteer crew in Murray Kentucky)
Throughout the week, we attended church every evening. It was so comforting to spend time in the church with this group. This family. Our family. We came to realize that each year Juanito’s church seats get filled more and more. A combination of his solid teaching, and the seats being filled with families that the J127 teams has served. Each night there were 75 – 100 people there. MOST we could call by name, because of the relationships we have established.
One very special relationship is with a widow Blanca and her family. Blanca lost her husband in an accident. She was the first family in Tecpan that Brad and Scott built a home for. They have a special place in all our hearts. Blanca’s 4 girls and 1 son are all like kids to the J127 team members, past and present. The last night at church, our hearts melted. Jayme, the 15-year-old daughter of Blanca, presented each of the team members a handmade card. It had a handwritten, ENGLISH message to us. Saying goodbye, she had Chris translate to all of us. As she made her goodbyes, crying, she told us….”thank you for all you have done for my family and me over the years. I do not have an earthly dad. But I look at you men and see you all as my dad. Thank you for caring for my family and I. Thank you for counseling us to do the right thing. I PROMISE to God and to you my Dads, that I will do my very best at school and everything. Thank you guys!” WOW! We were all a sobbing mess!
As I reflect on this year’s trip. I believe it was the most powerful one yet. Powerful because of all the obviously visible ways we saw GOD working while we were there. And also how we saw that God’s hand worked with the families we had helped in years past.
I told my wife, Annette, on the way to church this morning…I feel like I have been shown Matthew 28:19 in real application "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit." I feel that through the years of serving the people of Tecpan, we are truly seeing fruit in their lives through their SERVING in the church and in evangelizing with their neighbors.
At church in Iowa this morning, I got one of those God reminders. Pastor Brooks’ message was about Discipleship! Including Matthew 28:19. I loved his one quote….” Discipleship is the EVIDENCE of Salvation, not the basis for it! Etelvena is definitely SHOWING this evidence.
As always, it is bittersweet returning home. We are glad to return to our lives and our families and our comforts. But a HUGE chunk of our hearts will remain in Tecpan. My constant prayers are for the people we have served over the years.
Pastor Juan and his WONDERFUL family. I am blessed to call them my friends! Prayers for blessings on them all.
Prayers for Etelvena, Rosemary and Anthony. Prayers for blessings, good health and for her continued witnessing to her neighbors.
Prayers for Berta and her family. Her boys especially. Wilson, Nelson and Kevin. They are always on my heart. These boys became my buddies on my first J127 trip. They hang on me each night at church…..longing for the fatherly hugs. My CONSTANT prayer is for them to break the cycle of fatherless boys. For them, to look at Juanito and the men of the church as examples of how to be a good father and husband.
Prayers for so many others. Our friends. Our family. A cornucopia of Guatemalan friends and family!
Until next year.
Dios te Bendiga.