Moving in

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All Nations Church Omaha, Living Up to Their Name

Mike, Ben, Bailey, Dave, Ryan, Maddie, Mark and Sam
getting ready to leave Omaha.
On October 24, Causa de Esperanza welcomed our first large mission team.  This group of amazing folks traveled to Guatemala to help us move into our new home, as well as join us in different ministry activities with our various ministry partners.

Dave Penner visiting with Fidel and Osmi in front of our new house.
This team was led by Dave Penner, the founder and president of the Josiah Foundation.  The fact that he was with us for the momentous transition in our ministry was an added blessing.  I always enjoy time with Dave, and he was able to provide encouragement and wise counsel to me while he was here.

Bailey and Maddie took on the enormous task of packing up the kitchen.  The guys loaded the furniture onto pickup trucks.  There are cement posts on the street in front of our former house to prevent buses from entering the block.  They also effectively keep out any type of larger truck which would have made moving a bit less complicated!

You can see, Guatemalan style of packing a truck is a bit different from how we do it in the US.

I just stayed out of the way for the most part, and let Dick struggle to make sure nothing fell off as we traveled the cobble stone streets to our new location.

This move proved more personally challenging than I had expected, and I can't imagine what it would have been like without the help of the team.  Mark and Mike became my personal "handy-men" and did everything from hang curtain rods, to hook up the washer (which was no small feat!).  They were my personal heroes of the day, accomplishing many of the tasks I otherwise would have had to do myself. I can do it, but I hate "mechanicking."

The team had a time of prayer with us, praying for our new town and blessing our home.  This was very special.

With the mess we had to unpack, we needed all the prayer we could get!

The next team activity was to sponsor a wheelchair distribution with Hope Haven International.  While we had planned to give out 15 chairs, the generosity of this team enabled us to also provide mobility to five people who just so happened to walk in to the factory (which is located in a pretty isolated area) during the distribution.

Each team member was paired with either Dick or a Hope Haven staff member who oversaw the construction of each chair.  These are not "one size fits all" wheelchairs, but are specially designed and fitted to each individual.

We often say that the distributions are not really about the wheelchairs, no matter how much they improve the quality of life for these individuals.  We hope to impact the families that come for chairs by showing them the love of Jesus in action.  We want to honor them and value their children.  Ryan and Maddie really "got" this.

Ryan sat and held and talked to this young man for more than an hour while other team members worked on his chair.  He could easily have left him to lie on a mat, but understood that the time he spent with him would be remembered by him and his grateful mother long after this wheelchair wears out.

After the work was done, a few of the younger and more adventurous team members joined some of the workers at the factory in a game of pick-up wheelchair basketball.  It provided more challenging that the guys expected, and Sam walked away with blisters on his hands for the friction of the wheels.  Needless to say, the workers "skunked" our team members in the game.

The next day found us heading to the small village of Santa Cruz Balanya to work with our friend Pastor Reynaldo Raxjal.  Rey had served as the teacher for Fidel and Osmi during the last year and has become a part of our "family."

Wonder what the local folks thought of this group of gringos
invading their local supermarket!
We would be visiting five families and bringing them food supplies and encouragement.  The families had been selected by Rey as those most in need in his poor village.

I have been on any number of home visits with local pastors, but never experienced anything like our visits with Pastor Rey.  We began at the church, Vida en Libertad (Live in Freedom) with a time of worship with the team and the members of his church, many of whom we would be visiting.

Rey shared the gratitude of the congregation for our visit, as well as his dreams for the future of his church.  He has made the preliminary arrangements to begin working with Compassion International in his area.  To do this, the church must be recognized by the government of Guatemala, which costs about $1000 in legal fees.  This is far beyond the budget of this little congregation.

During this time together, Ben messaged the senior pastor of All Nations, and here was happy to announce that All Nations would be donating the funds to secure the government recognition and bring Compassion to this area.  The team itself raised an additional donation of $1000 more to enable Rey to form a non-profit association to carry out the humanitarian ministries of the church more effectively.  I stood amazed and was over-joyed to be part of this amazing day.

After seeing how far we would hike in to see some families,
the team now understood why I had insisted we pack the groceries
into two bags, when they could have fit into one!
Rey then took us into some of the poorest homes I have been in. I had been concerned about taking such a large group of  "gringos" into individual homes. Too often this can feel like "poverty tourism."  My fears were allayed when I discovered that the church members would be accompanying us to the each home we were to visit.  It was truly the Body of Christ ministering to its members in need.

 In one family, the father was dying of cirrhosis as a result of alcoholism.  He had recently come to Jesus, and shared with us his concern for the future of his family.

Rey has since told me that our friend has gone home to Jesus.

Some of the team also joined me in visiting three widows and their families in Santa Maria de Jesus.  Here we worked with Pastor Carlos, who visits our young men weekly for discipleship.

Once again, we were faced by poverty, but also confronted with the violence that is all too prevalent in this village where New Life School is located.

The first home we visited housed a widow and her son, daughter and grandchildren.  Her husband had been murdered only last April.  The son, 16 years old, had to quit work to support this family.  He earns about 150 quetzales a week ($20) working in a small textile factory weaving belts.  The groceries we brought were surely needed by this family.

It was obvious the love and affection these families have for Pastor Carlos, and he for them.  It was an honor to serve with him.

We ended the week full of hard work, unusual experiences, and new friends with at trip to Lake Atitlan where the team could de-brief and get ready for their return to the US.

This was an amazing week with an extraordinary group of people.  I would love to serve with them in the future.

Thanks, All Nations Church, for loving the people of Guatemala!