What a week!!!
J127 January Men’s mission trip. It’s like oxygen. It is a breath of life to me! A week of deep immersion in total focus on God! A week like this is exhilarating, yet TOTALLY exhausting! Quite possibly more mentally exhausting than physically!
This my 8th time to SERVE with Bethel Ministries. My 5th with Brad. I look back and laugh, to imagine 10 years ago that I would have been to Guatemala, not once, but 8 times! I am so thankful for Brad’s first invitation in 2013, and subsequent trips!
It’s nearly impossible to choose a favorite part of the week! It was so jam packed with amazing experiences! To return to the IMMENSE beauty of the mountains of Tecpan is always a highlight. We sat on a mountaintop one day eating lunch. (Elevation 8,000 ft). We looked across the mountains and marveled at the beauty God had created. Quite the divergence from the flatlands of Iowa! (Elevation 770 ft)
Starting the week working in the wheelchair shop was something I had wanted to do for many years. To work alongside the wheelchair technicians at Bethel was a true BLESSING! It was awesome to observe “a day in the life” of Bethel Ministries headquarters. We saw folks coming and going to talk with the social workers for assistance. We saw people come to get their wheelchairs repaired. We experienced the buzzing beehive of this multifaceted ministry! I have an even deeper appreciation for all they do after experiencing it!
One favorite, humbling memory from the week was prior to the official start of the trip. Tom and I arrived on Thursday (Brad and the rest on Saturday). So Saturday morning when Ben and Emily went to Guatemala City to pick up the guys, we went up to Tecpan, checked in the hotel, then Chris took us to “Maria’s village”. This is a favorite place of many Bethel trip veterans! We visited a widow, Maria and her kids. Chris decided we should treat them to lunch. So, we loaded Maria and her 4 kids up in the van and bounced down the mountain to Tecpan.
I am confident they had NEVER been to Kape Paulinos. We have eaten here almost every time I’ve been in Tecpan. I love this place. But I will never look at it the same again! When the food came, the 14 year old son William saw the basket of toasted French bread. He looked at Chris and asked “What is this?” We all were humbled and stunned and our hearts were warmed when we saw the delight in his eyes when he bit into the crunchy treat!
Following dinner I had Chris take the long way home. By way of the ice cream store! Again, sheer delight in the eyes of these precious kids! Juana CRUSHED that banana split! PURE JOY!
Stove installs are always a favorite of mine. As always, our initial focus is to replace a makeshift stove with a highly efficient Onil stove. The builds are fun! Generally a couple guys do the build, while the others spend time with the family, Digging into their lives. Every time, God has more in store for us than the stove. Education needs, need for a new home, medical needs, prayer needs. We get a snapshot into the lives of these STRONG, RESILIENT Mayan people! When I say strong, I mean STRONG! Living high in these mountains it gets down in the low 40s at night. And the wind Is powerful! The day we installed the stove for Marta and her family, I was affected more than I have ever been on any of my trips! We saw the 10 ft x 10 ft cornstalk home that Marta, her two sisters and mother lived in.
Look at the walls…..cornstalks that were more of a privacy screen than a wall! Look at the gaps.
That night, it rained much of the night. And we experienced 30-40 mph winds. We were in the comfort of our stone walled hotel, in a nice comfy bed, with 3 blankets on it. I barely slept that night. All I could think of was little Marta.
How cold she and her family must be, with that wind howling between the cornstalks of their makeshift house. And here I am in a cozy bed with a mountain of blankets. All I could think of was “How do they physically survive this?” Being a parent, I remember bundling our daughter up like Randy in the movie classic “A Christmas Story”. And if our kiddos don’t have a hat on when it is chilly out, “they might catch a cold”. Then there was little Martha……and so many many like her! Sure, they are acclimated to the conditions, but how?
When morning came I was an emotional wreck! I shared with the team my struggle. And I knew in the night what I needed to tell the team how God had worked on my heart. Prior to my coming I had received a very generous donation. The donor wanted one thing…..to build houses. So, when initially going to install a stove, God showed us the need for a home. Although we didn’t have the time in our schedule to build it. A team in the months ahead will be building them a new home! I just wish we could have done it right then and there! My friend will help Marta get a new home.
Side note: I mentioned the bumpy back roads….. one day Jeff shouted out as we rolled down the road in the van….”wow, my fit bit just hit 10,000 steps!” (We had basically WALKED 100 yards up till then!)
On my many trips, I have had several ladies from home generously hand make stocking hats. Wow! What a popular item these are! The bright colors are fun, but the knit warmth is a welcomed hug to them all! Young and old. Over the years I think I have brought and distributed over 800 hats! This year, I was thrilled to see my little friend “Carmelina”. January of 2016, I gave she and her sister Marguritta hats. This week we saw them on a cold rainy day……..Carmelina was wearing her hat I had given her 2 years ago! What an awesome ministry ladies! Keep the hats coming!
One highlight was to experience the next generation of the Mooneys. Ben and his wife Emily joined the ministry in April. I look forward to working with them in the future! What an AWESOME couple! They love the Lord and they love the people of Guatemala! What an honor to serve with them!
Wheelchair day is always special to me because of the connection with Mission: Mobility!
I am so encouraged when I see the Decals our teams from across the country put on the chairs they collected! This week we were working on many of the container load of chairs that were collected by our awesome team in Jacksonville Florida! It is such an encouragement to see the Mission: Mobility decals. It reminds me of all the hard work of our volunteers across the country, who collect wheelchairs and equipment to be distributed to Bethel! Thank you everyone!
Again, I continue to count my blessings as I experience mommas carrying their children to get their new wheelchair. We saw one family bring their son in a wheelbarrow!
My heart broke at the sight, but it soared knowing that God had a new, free wheelchair for him!
One theme that developed for me was a result of returning to Tecpan year after year. Watching the kiddos grow! That is one thing I especially appreciate about the J127 trip…..revisiting our friends each year! There is just something about these kids! They are so innocent. Too many of them have to grow up too fast! Many areas working in the fields at a very young age, just to keep food on the table for the family. It always warms my heart to see their gratitude and joy when we give them a soccer ball or a hot wheel car, or a stocking hat!
Kevin 2013, 2018
Anderson and Wilson 2016, 2018
Daniella. 2013, 2015, 2018
Carmelina 2015, 2017,2018
Walter 2011,2013, 2018
Back home now, reflecting on yet another trip. What an honor and blessing to serve alongside the men from the states! Thank you Brad for your great leadership, and friendship! What a joy to reunite with our dear friends…no our family, Juanito Macario and his family! I am very thankful to have been blessed with the repeated opportunity to return to Guatemala to experience God’s hand in so many ways!
I am extremely thankful for the Blessing for God to put Bethel Ministries in my life back in 2011! My life is so much more enriched to know and Serve with the folks at Bethel! What an honor to serve for the first time with Ben and Emily Mooney! It is comforting to know that the next generation will very capably carry on the Mission of Bethel in the years to come! And Chris. Thank you for your selfless leadership! Each time, I love to observe his deep love for the beautiful Guatemalan people. I marvel at how God fuels Chris’ energy to day in and day out simply spread HIS love!
I am thankful for another awesome trip!
My heart is FULL!