Nothing is random. I know it is hard for some people to believe that there is an all-knowing, all-powerful, loving God who is in control of all events in human history. But, if you come to Guatemala and see what has happened over the past few days, you will change your opinion. Today only confirmed that for all of us.
We started the morning with Tom leading us in a Bible study from John Piper over Jesus as the “Great I AM”. He was claiming to be God. If you have any doubt, read John 8:58. And if you wonder what the religious leaders of the day understood from His claim, just read verse 59, “they picked up stones to stone Him…” They understood perfectly well what he was claiming. The reality of that claim has HUGE implications for our lives today in America, and in Tecpan, Guatemala.
During our first morning study (on prayer), I had to admit to the guys that I sometimes feel I have a weak prayer life. I know God answers prayers. I know He already knows what I need, even before I ask. But, He wants us to ask. He wants us to be in fellowship with Him. It’s just like with our relationship with our own children. We find joy in our children asking for good things from us. Giving is good! How much more with God! When we pour our hearts out to Him, He listens. When those requests are pleasing to Him and bring Him glory, He answers. That may not happen right away. It may not even happen the way we expect. It will actually be even better. In our morning conversation, I committed to be more faithful in my prayer life. I have gone through each day praying, and asking in genuine faith, with the expectation that God will answer. He can do what He needs to in His own timing. I am just happy to be able to ask. Today blew me away.
Our first stop was to an area where seven families live in close proximity. Imagine Grand Central Station, but filled with little kids under the age of 12. Chaos would be close! We were there to install stoves for two of the families. I think you can imagine what occurred. Everyone was on top of us, wanting to be a part of it all, and vying to get anything we could give. That is one of the difficult aspects of working this way. You can’t help everyone. They were all sweet. They all needed help. We can only do so much.
My daughter Sarah had given me a t-shirt from her school (Meredith-Dunn). She asked if I could give it to a little girl for her. As we were walking up, a young girl was helping us with our supplies and was carrying a cinder block on her head. Her name was Belky. I asked her if she wanted a t-shirt. She happily said yes. She put it over her clothes and I took a picture. Remember her face. You will meet her again soon.
Scott, Rick, Tom and Juan all got started on the first stove. We had two Guatemalan teachers working with us today. They were there to help get the children into school. They both know the family situations, and gave us great insight. One of the teachers was a woman, and she had a very firm, but loving personality. We took one of the families into their home and began to talk in private. The mom’s name was Norma, and the dad (not husband) was Victoriano. I liked them both very much. Victoriano cuts wood for a living. You can tell he is a hard worker, and cares for his family and is trying to provide. They have three children who they registered for school, but desperately need help. They could not afford the school supplies, required uniforms and shoes. We helped them purchase those items.
Norma is a Christian, but Victoriano is not. Chris began to ask him about his life, and why he was not a follower of Jesus. Victoriano really did not have a reason. He was kind, loved his family but really just didn’t know anything about Jesus, and why that had any bearing on his life. Chris looked down at the floor and noticed they did not have a concrete floor. He commented to me about that. It immediately popped into my head about Matthew 7:13-27. It is the story of the 2 houses, one built on sand, and the other on rock. I had been studying it, as I was going to preach tonight on evangelism and why Jesus even matters to every man and woman. I leaned over to tell Chris about that. I immediately began to pray for Victoriano. I prayed that God would open his heart and eyes. That God would move his heart to accept God’s love and mercy and forgiveness. Chris then asked Victoriano a very important question, “Victoriano, your house is on sand. If you ever get a very hard rain, your house could be washed away (Victoriano nodded). If you ever had the opportunity to pour a concrete floor under it to make it strong, would you do it? (he said yes) Then, Victoriano, if you have the opportunity to build your life on the solid rock of Jesus Christ, where the storms of life will never be able to destroy your soul, and will give you the opportunity to be in Heaven one day with God, wouldn’t you want to do that? (Victoriano looked at Chris and say yes) Victoriano now clearly understood why Jesus matters. Victoriano acknowledged the sin in his life. All the times he chose to live his way, instead of God’s way. He saw that Jesus is the answer to the problem in our soul…we are cut off from God spiritually and need a way to be made right with God again. Chris asked him if he wanted to accept Jesus Christ to be his Lord and Savior. He said yes. Chris led him in a prayer to do that very thing. It was an awesome and powerful moment. I will never forget it. I have a brand new brother in Christ. You can imagine how happy his wife was at his decision. Salvation has come to that home. Chris told him that it was the most important decision of his life. I told him that every decision he will ever make from this day forward will be affected (for the better).
We had one more thing to discuss about his life. While he is a loving dad, he and Norma are not married. They have several children together, but have never gotten married. Her father was sick 15 years ago. He asked that they wait until he got better. He never did. He died some time later. They cannot afford the wedding or required license. We took that off the table, and paid for it. We are hoping that they will get married in Pastor Juan’s church within the next two months.
The guys were working hard, and were finishing up the second stove about the time we finished. Scott is our stove guy. He has built so many stoves over the years. The dust and ash has been so thick in the homes. They have had to dismantle two older fire pits (still burning with tortillas on them) before they could build the new one. This picture is of Scott looking somewhat like a bandit. Thanks for your hard work Scott!!!
We all then went into Marta’s home next. She has 8 children, and an alcoholic husband. He is not a good provider. She is so strong. I like her a lot. Guess who one of her children is? Belky, the girl carrying the block on her head. The girl who got Sarah’s shirt. We quickly discovered she needed sponsorship for education. My heart was so overwhelmed for her. She was intently listening to our conversation about her other siblings. Of the ones who are old enough to go to school, three need sponsorship. So does Belky. We committed that we would help them all with school registration fees and clothing. We also committed that we would help find sponsorship for all four of them. I am asking for your help. These kids are all so wonderful. Please help us. They need $25 a month to go to school. This covers all fees, projects, etc. Contact one of us if you can help make their dream come true.
Scott, Rick and Tom then fitted the children for shoes. This is where the chaos broke out. Every child from within 100 miles seemed to have poured into the house. Madness!!! After finally getting all the other children out, we were able to find shoes for all of the kids, except one. We are finding that the feet of the children are bigger and wider than we expected. Tom then handed Marta a blanket we were donating. The floodgates opened in her eyes. She grabbed onto Tom and would not let go. It was a very special moment for us to witness. Her husband is an alcoholic that is painfully missing in this family’s life (even though he does still live there). To see our group’s generosity was overwhelming. She praised God for all He is doing for her.
After lunch, we went to visit the house of Odilio. We installed a stove for him last year. He was such a special man, and we wanted to check on his family. Unfortunately, he is away working. While we were talking to his wife, Maria, a woman walked out of Odilio’s house. Her name was Marta. One look at her picture and you will see the sadness in her face. She was only visiting Maria for the day. Marta has been living for many years with a man she loves very much. They have a son together. Unfortunately, he is also sleeping with another woman, and has a child with that woman as well. Marta has tried to leave several times, but he pours on the charm and convinces her he will change. So, she stays, hoping he will change. He doesn’t. It is breaking her heart and spirit. Chris talked with her for a very long time. The despair in her face was crushing. As the day would unfold, it would get even worse. Marta needed to leave for another project, so we said goodbye. After talking to Maria for a while longer, we left and headed to Claudia’s house.
Claudia is the little girl who loved to call Chris “Michaelito”. We all fell in love with her. She lights up a room with her personality. She needs to have a dad in her life in the worst way. We talked to her for a long time waiting for her mom to return and talk with us. We met a dog today. His name was very Guatemalan. His name was “Michael Jackson”. We never figured out why. We finally had to leave as the church service started soon.
We ate dinner and walked over to the church. It has been a week-long celebration in the church. Tonight was the women’s service. They had a Mariachi band setting up when we arrived. They opened by reading Proverbs 31. That really clicked with me. Several of our friends have been a part of a girl’s study in the USA about daughters becoming Godly women, as described in that chapter in the Bible. This church is filled with Proverbs 31 women! Next, the Mariachi band began to play. I immediately got hungry. You know that feeling? Like you need to go find your favorite Mexican food restaurant when the music plays. Anyway, it was the longest song I have ever heard. Good music, and the Guatemalans loved it. Did I mention it was long? Then, it was my turn to teach on Evangelism. Chris is always a trooper when it comes to my teaching. There is a lot of translation. I spoke on what Evangelism is, why we share, and how to do it where we live. One of the first families we visited on the trip was Etelvena. She is the one who pulls teeth in her own dental chair. She is also the one who got her friend to finally go back to church. Right there in front of me was a Guatemalan example of Evangelism. I told the church that we needed to look no farther than her to see it in action. These people love Jesus, and are all sharing their faith and the love of Jesus with their neighbors. We could learn a lot from them!
Then, several women from the church stood up to sing. One of them was Marta, the one who we met earlier. She is the one with the boyfriend who was cheating. Guess, what…he was there tonight, sitting by her. She looked totally depressed. No joy. No life. She then got up with the other woman to sing. Her lips were moving, but she was miles away in her heart. I tried to take a picture to capture it, but it did not turn out. What if this was my daughter? What if it was yours?
It is very late here. We are up early in the morning for our last full day in Guatemala. We will drive to Chimaltenango to do our 50 wheelchair distribution. We will then drive to see Juana and Luki along with their kids. Finally, we will have the grand Fiesta at Juan’s church. It will be a great time of fellowship and food. I love it. It’s a perfect way to end the week.
Now it’s time for sleep. Quite honestly, I am still burdened about Marta. I am praying for her. I hope you will too.
Dios te Bendiga,