We live in a world where people think their choices only effect themselves. We want to be left alone, and choose what makes us happy. “You do your thing, and I’ll do mine”. Sounds great, but it’s not true. Our choices always affect someone else. From politics, the way we drive our cars down the road, to the words we choose to communicate with those around us. Choices matter.
Our team went to the home of Francisco to install an ONIL Stove. Francisco is 89-years old and lives on the same piece of land where he has been for over 50 years. He married his wife when they were both 14-years old. She died several years ago. His daughter lives on his land, and has three daughters of her own; two are teenagers and one is little “Marta”. Francisco has had a hard life. His hands caught my eyes from the moment I met him. They are stained from a lifetime of picking coffee beans. They bear the scars of hard work and sacrifice. He is one of those amazing men who never left his family. As we began to talk, I told him his hands reminded me of another man who had scars on His hands. Those scars came from sacrifice as well. That sacrifice was to set men and women free from the bondage of sin and shame. Jesus sacrificed for His family…the family of those who call on His Name.
Rick, Scott, Jeff and Tom installed the stove with Juanito. Jeff did a great job working with his first stove. It’s dirty work removing the old stove and installing the new one, but the results are totally worth it. You never know what you’ll find when you remove the old stove. Besides a lot of dirt and rock, the guys found a lot of ants. The hazards of the job! Glad the guys were OK.
We asked Francisco if he believed in God. He said “yes”. Did he believe in Jesus? “Yes”, he knew Jesus came to the earth. Did he ever go to church? His answer…”no”. In his entire life, he has never been to church. He never saw a reason. We then asked his middle-aged daughter (ironically named Jesus, though I think it was Jesusa), the same questions. She too believed in God, knew about Jesus. We asked her if she went to church. Her answer, “I never had an example from someone to go. My father did not go. Why would I?” Now, we turned to little Marta. We asked her the same questions. We got the exact same answers. Francisco was a “good man”. He worked hard, provided for his family. But, he made a choice in his life. While he did have some knowledge of God, he chose not to go to church; to explore more about this God he said he believed in; this Jesus he knew came to earth; and why any of it mattered at all? His choice effected everyone in his home. Your children will most likely follow in your footsteps. His certainly did.
Francisco’s body is riddled with pain. His daughter and her children lead a difficult existence. His granddaughter Marta is on the same path as everyone else in her family. No education. No future prospects of employment. She will live and die on the same piece of land and never hear truth of the God who loves her, and the sacrifice He made to give her hope in this world, and the world to come. Paul talks about this same thing in the Book of Romans. We all know in our hearts that God is real. But, will we pursue this knowledge to truly discover who God actually is?
Ben and Emily Mooney graciously translated the Gospel to the local social worker who was with us, as this family did not speak Spanish, they spoke Ketchikan. It was a wonderful sight to see little Marta accept Jesus with a child-like faith. The idea of free salvation was a difficult concept for the mom to fully understand. She wanted to believe and accept, but what did that really mean to her life? Did she have to go to a certain church in town? How would this decision affect her life? We explained the Gospel to her. That just like all of us, she was separated from God by her sin and choices. That separation could only be fixed one way. Jesus provided that way of healing through His sacrifice. That she needed to say she was sorry to God for the choices she had made, and ask that He forgive her. That through this faith and trust in His sacrifice, she would become a child of God, and He would never leave her, and actually be with her every day of her life through the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Did she and little Marta truly accept this? Only the Lord knows. But, the seeds of faith are there. I hear people say all the time, “How can God hold someone responsible who lives in the middle of nowhere?” Well, this family lives just about in the absolute middle of nowhere. Today they heard. Today they chose. The choice they made has implications. Not just for themselves, but for those around them. I pray that three generations of unbelief were broken today. I pray that Marta lives a life of faith that is passed down to her children. The cycle can be broken. How about you? What choices have you made?
Little Marta wants to go to school. No one in her family has gone. We told her that if she wants to go, she can. Her eyes lit up. She was excited. We told her that school would be difficult. No one has taught her the alphabet. She isn’t fluent in Spanish. But, with hard work, and the help and support of her family, she can choose to try. We left her with a backpack and shoes. Pastor Juan’s wife is going to make sure she gets enrolled in school. We are praying for little Marta. This choice will have a ripple effect on her life as well. Do you see the pattern?
We then went to the home of Isaiah. If you remember from a previous trip of ours, Isaiah had a wife who hired two men to kill him. They succeeded. After killing him, they threw him in a shallow grave and threw some dirt over him to hide their deed. Someone found him and brought him back to life. He took his two daughters and got away. When we visited them, we shared the Gospel and prayed for them. Last June, another team built a home for them. While Chris and the team were there, both of the girls accepted Jesus into their lives. Chris had the honor of baptizing them some time later in Lake Atitlan. We came today to visit and bring food. They are doing very well. Isaiah is a wonderful dad who has chosen wisely. He has decided to provide for his girls and make sure they know the truth of Jesus. You can see the effects of that decision in their faces. The stability and love in that home is evident.
We stopped at the home of Anna. She was the one who had been raped many years ago and forced to have an abortion. The procedure scarred her inside and created a mass of tissue over the years that we paid to have removed at a hospital. It weighed several pounds and had been a physical burden to her for years. We did not get to see her today. She was busy picking coffee beans in the mountains. It was raining hard and it was very cold.
On the way back to the hotel, Rick saw two little stocking caps on the heads of kids running around that looked familiar. We got to see little Carmalina and her sister Margarita. We built a house for them last time we were in Guatemala. Carmalina had the biggest smile on her face. She could not see Rick’s face, but she heard him calling. She is such a sweet little girl.
A funny thing happened to Jeff while on our drive back. The roads were so bumpy driving home that Jeff yelled out he just met his goal of 10,000 steps for the day. His fit bit assumed that because of all the ups and downs with Jeff’s body from the bumps, he must have been walking! Thing is, we were driving down the road. Who knows how many steps he actually walked. Way to go Jeff. What a workout!!!
Finally, we stopped at the coffee shop where our friend Viviana works. Good coffee and good friendship. What a combination!!!
Installing stoves, visiting families and seeing old faces and friends is what makes this trip so special. It truly has been a blessing to be here. We all love it. We are scheduled to build the house for Filomena tomorrow. But, it is supposed to rain. We might change that to Wednesday and install more stoves tomorrow. Trying to carry the heavy materials and equipment up the steep hill to Filomena’s may be too difficult.
I will never forget Francisco’s hands. Every time I drink a cup of coffee, I will think of his scarred and stained hands from picking beans. I pray that when he looks at his own hands, he thinks of the scars on the hands of Jesus.
What will you choose to do? What will you be known for? Choices matter.