Posted by Rick - Final Thoughts
I am once again humbled as I reflect on this year’s mission trip to Guatemala.
My 6th trip to Serve alongside Bethel Ministries. 6, REALLY? I chuckle when I realize that prior to 2011 I would have been hard pressed to tell you exactly where Guatemala was on a map. Now, returning to the mountainous Tecpan area, and to the Don Pablo hotel, and visiting Iglesia Fuente de Vida (Juan’s church), it strangely feels like I am returning home, to family.
It seems cliché’ to say it, and most mission trip veterans would agree, we go down with the initial thought that we are just going to be a huge blessing to the people in Guatemala by building a home, a stove, providing shoes, clothes, or a wheelchair. This does happen. But most of us would agree that many blessings are heaped upon US. We see people who struggle to survive, who we might think have no hope. On the contrary, they SURVIVE on HOPE! They have JOY. Most we encounter have a deep FAITH. It is their core. What a lesson we need to learn!
God works in wonderful ways. He has a way of taking trips like this and changing a person. We are all changed in different ways. Some in inward ways, some in very outward ways. When talking to Mission: Mobility volunteers across the country who are leading teams to Guatemala, a question I like to ask the leaders is “how many 1st timers do you have on your team?” I ask because, it is always exciting to know that their eyes will be opened. They will somehow be changed because SERVING does something wonderful to your HEART! On the January Men’s trip, Brad and I like to say we don’t do hard work, we do HEART work! It is more about touching the hearts of those we encounter! That is the point!
In returning to Tecpan, year after year, we have the opportunity to reconnect with many who we have worked with in the past. We are seeing many victories. One special one is Etelvina…(Where's the bathroom past link) (Gifts take time past link) (Scott post link) …when we first met, she was a broken woman with a troubling past. Three years later, we see a strong, resilient woman who has gained self esteem, and is now an active leader in the church! But not all are victories…our hearts break when we learn that others have not done so well. However, we must be content knowing that our primary focus was to share the Gospel with those we help. In the end, that is the best assistance we can offer.
Wheelchair day always holds a special place in my heart. Not because I am a physical therapist who fits people in wheelchairs….I’m not…..I’m a farmer. But God tweaked my heart a few years back that now has blossomed into my joining with the wonderful group of volunteers across the country who collect wheelchairs in support of Bethel. It was especially exciting to see several of the 55 chairs we fitted last Wednesday had stickers that showed they were collected by our volunteers from Pennsylvania, Louisville and Florida!
It was a tangible confirmation that our volunteers from Mission: Mobility are making a difference! The wheelchair ministry is the cornerstone of Bethel. 1700 wheelchairs provided last year! Wow! 1700 opportunities to TRANSFORM lives through mobility and the opportunity to share the GOSPEL. Many have had their lives CHANGED through receiving the Gospel and receiving a wheelchair! Not just the recipients, but family members who brought them, as well!
It is always hard to leave Guatemala. We feel like we are leaving our 2nd home, our family. A family that has grown by many new members.… team members = Brothers, our Bethel Family, our Tecpan church family, Juan’s family!!!!! The new family we gained in the remote mountains of Xepac.
We will come home to our work, and return to our routine. We will reflect back and smile. Sometimes shed a tear. We will pray for our friends in the mountains who have so little. But we can have some comfort in knowing that they have what is most important……Faith!
I look forward to returning to the mountains of Xepac in the future to see our friends again!
Dios te Bendiga,