Is a Short Term Trip Worth It?

My first trip to Guatemala was in 2010 with a large group of primarily women. For many of us, it was our first missions trip. Nervous, awkward, and terrified pretty much sums up how I felt.  After that initial trip I really started praying about the value of spending that much money for a week versus using that money to invest in the people. After reading many blogs and articles, I can say that people are all over the spectrum when it comes to this topic. I feel led to share my thoughts on this, seven years later, having lived the last two years as full time missionaries. This week, our good friends Tony and Brenda are here at Esperanza de Vida with their church team. They were with us on that first trip. They have lived out the Gospel in so many ways that it’s too hard to write them all. Lives have been changed….Chris and Paula just moved down here this week to serve full time….they were also on that first trip. Their small church has helped build and establish a village for impoverished families. Many more of the ladies on that trip have been investing in the lives of the children of Guatemala as a result of that adventure into the world of missions. Just today, we joined Brenda’s ladies as they shared Jesus with the moms that are at the hospital. My friend Lisa, that led that first trip, has gone on to lead many more and helped to build homes, a playground, provide food and clothing in the name of Jesus to many. People have come to Christ as a result! Our children have served in many different countries as a result of short term trips…our son teaches in Brazil…our niece serves with us full time having taken her first trip as a high schooler. This is my view of short term missions….relationships being built…hearts being changed…lives being restored….hope in Jesus being found! Short term has led many to full time commitments. I was forever changed as a result of that first trek in to the unknown. Investing in people with the love of Jesus is never a mistake…short term or long term…God can and will use both experiences for His glory!



Living Out The Gospel

I watched four faces peeking through the glass doors of the preschool….grinning from ear to ear. Four children who have recently moved to Hope of Life for various reasons….sad reasons. They were getting to start school today, one of them for the very first time. We started a class for these four promises so they could be learning during this transition time. God heals the broken. If there is anything I have seen everyday on this journey of ours, its that God indeed heals the broken. I have also realized that we are all broken in our own ways. Only God can use the broken to help the broken. Then, He somehow manages to make all things new. We are quickly approaching our two year anniversary in Guatemala. We are asking God to help us live out the Gospel daily. God is opening new doors and we are honored to be here at Hope of Life. Pastor Vincente is doing an incredible work with the church in Pueblo Del Rio. In June, our team went house to house sharing the Gospel and praying with each family. Our other team built a green house at HOL. We want to teach the preschoolers how to grow the food they need.  The upstairs of the preschool is now finished and is used as a classroom in the morning and a tutoring area in the afternoons. Mark is working all over the ministry, sharing Gods love daily in a very practical way. He has also had the opportunity to get out to some of the villages. We moved the girls back to Virginia for them to attend Liberty. That has not been an easy transition but we know God is preparing them for their futures.  Time has flown by….it always does. We treasure each moment that God has for us on this journey. We cannot thank you enough for your prayers, support and encouragement. This journey is possible because you have given to the Lord on our behalf. Dios te bendiga…God bless you!






















 

Never Enough Time

The title of this blog sums up our lives. There’s just never enough time. So many things we want to do but not enough hours in the day. Hours slip in to days…days in to weeks…and then a new month is here. I am daily striving to make a difference in a child’s life by sharing the love of the difference maker, Jesus! Jesus is the only answer for all of our lives. Life has a way of getting us so caught up in the moment that we miss the sweetness of the ordinary. Today, as I was working with one of our classes, I was thinking about how much growth has happened in four months. But January was just yesterday, right?One of my little fellas started this year by reeking total havoc in the classroom. If a child was building, he knocked it over. If another child was coloring, he would grab a crayon and color their page. If I said yes, he said no. I watched him today building in the block center and I saw the beauty of time. God redeems our time. That little fella is no longer negative all the time….and….wait for it…he is actually sharing! God has a way of taking that speeding train we call time and using it to and for His glory. I saw His glory in the face of a preschooler quietly building a house….I was reminded to slow down and not take these passing days for granted…God is working…everyday….He never stops!

 Ecclesiastes 3:11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.





Our Journey Continues…

It is officially the middle of Febrero and I realize this post is long overdue. Here is just a quick overview of what’s been happening with our family. We ended the year with a Christmas celebration in our village, Pueblo Del Rio. It was an amazing time of fellowship and we were so blessed to share the birth of Christ with them. We also ended our first year of preschool in December. We celebrated with a party and I was overwhelmed when I reflected on everything God had accomplished in the lives of the children. We saw anger replaced with joy. We heard laughter that replaced tears. We witnessed the uniqueness of each child come alive in the classroom

1 Corinthians 2:9 But as it is written: What eye did not see and ear did not hear, and what never entered the human mind —God prepared this for those who love Him.

This verse has never been truer in our lives than it is right now. This is how it should be in every believers life. God keeps showing us…wowing us…through His mighty works! We went home for Christmas this year and we were beyond blessed by our family and friends. It was a wonderful time of celebration and so many cherished memories were made. We hit the ground running when we returned in January. The preschool started back and we have 40 children this year. The daycare in HOL village is open and doing great. What a blessing for the moms in this village to have the opportunity to work and know their children are in a safe and loving environment. Also, the preschool in HOL village has started up again and they are off to an amazing beginning! I am in awe of God and all He is doing! Mark is working on projects all over the ministry. The girls are working on their senior year of high school. They also help me in the preschool and daycare. Please continue to pray for us as we seek to be bold in sharing the Gospel. We are honored to be serving here in Guatemala as our journey continues…God bless each of you!



One year down and going strong…

It’s so hard to put in to words what this past year has meant to Mark and I and our family. When we started praying about coming to Guatemala we had no idea what God had in store for us. 1 Corinthians 2:9 But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”— God has far exceeded what we ever could have imagined! Our hearts are woven together with the people of this beautiful country that we feel is our second home.  Here are ten of my favorite memories from this past year…in no order except how my brain remembers them…some of these were mentioned in my previous blog so bear with me…

1. Starting our first preschool class in January was huge, but with tons of prayer God made it happen. Then in April, the official opening of the preschool was beyond amazing! So thankful for the Larose Family and their vision to see this dream project become a reality! Everyday we see growth in these precious children. The LCA ELC preschool partnership is a wonderful resource and a huge answer to prayer.

2. In the past year we have had three TRBC teams come down and serve with us. There is something very special about serving with your church family. They are such a huge blessing and support to our family. Mark, Emma, Kate and I cannot thank them enough for all that they have done for us…and also our niece Lauren who has moved down here to serve. We love having them in our home to share devotions and pray together. Also, having my precious parents come down was beyond amazing….

3. Scorpions, spiders, snakes, mosquitos and cockroaches are a true highlight…said no one ever! God has grown me in many areas and this is a huge one!

4. Sharing missionary life with the Luke Family was a huge blessing! God knew we needed them here for our first year. We laughed, cried, prayed, and had all around great fellowship with this amazing family.

5. Watching the Jerry Falwell Training Center become a reality holds a special place in our hearts. We were so honored to be a part of the dedication with Pastor Jonathan and part of the TRBC Pastoral staff. We have seen many people being trained and have heard stories of many people coming to Christ as a result.

6. One hot night, my dear friend Sarah had me drive her to a family that was living in an ice cream container. She was taking them food because they did not have any and my heart was changed forever. I am always asking the Lord to help me see people through His eyes. Through many events and lots of prayer, our church was able to build a home for this precious family. A single father and his seven children now have a safe place with beds to sleep in every night. God you are amazing!

7. We love our church here and all the wonderful believers we worship with each week. Watching our daughter Emma being baptized in the river was so sweet and moving. Our hearts are endeared to our church family.

8. The Women’s Conference was a dream that became reality. God worked and moved in so many ways. We are already praying about the next one. I loved having Lisa Bryant and some of our TRBC past and present women with us to share Gods Word.

9. We have amazing neighbors! This has been a huge blessing! It has been so much fun living here!

10. When the TRBC team came down in February, my preschool mentor was able to come and train our teachers. Patsy Cawthorne did an amazing job but that is not a surprise to anyone who knows her!

Serving at Esperanza de Vida can be exhausting but it is an honor and we consider it one of the biggest blessings God has given to us. What an honor it has been to serve with Carlos and Cheryl Vargas and the Hope of Life team. They have become family and we have fallen in love with everyone here!

Here are some pictures from the past year….







Nuestro Primer Ano….Our First Year

“God is pursuing with omnipotent passion a worldwide purpose of gathering joyful worshipers for Himself from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. He has an inexhaustible enthusiasm for the supremacy of His name among the nations. Therefore, let us bring our affections into line with His, and, for the sake of His name, let us renounce the quest for worldly comforts and join His global purpose.” 

― John Piper

God pursued us…but why? We are quickly approaching our one year anniversary in Guatemala. Mark and I both remember the months leading up to our surrender to go and the months of preparation that followed. We were both amazed that God wanted to use this ordinary family to go live out the Gospel in Guatemala. It has been an incredibly fast and exciting journey. God has met all of our needs. He blessed us with an amazing family named the Luke’s that have served here at Esperanza De Vida for the past two years. They have prayed with us, encouraged our hearts, laughed and shared many life moments with us. God knew we needed this precious family to start our journey in to mission work! Our God is always faithful and has blessed us beyond measure! We have seen God work and move in so many ways…here are a few….

-the preschool was built, started and now has four classes! Daily, young children are being taught many things but most importantly, the Word of God! 

-the Jerry Falwell Leadership Training Center was completed and hundreds of Pastors are being trained to share the Gospel. As a result, many have become Christ followers. So grateful for Pastor Jonathan’s vision to train Godly men and women!

-we have watched our two youngest children, Emma and Kate, minister in many different ways. They are daily building relationships and love being a part of this ministry. Our niece Lauren has moved down here and is working at the preschool. 

-our family is learning more Spanish daily which is a huge answer to prayer! I am pretty sure I have inadvertently said some crazy things in my attempt to master the Spanish language!

-Lisa Bryant and our TRBC teams came down and helped us build a house for a family that was living in an ice cream container. A father and his seven children now have a home! A home was built in our village in February for a family with an elderly grandfather who has been ill this year. The last time we were down there, he opened his Bible and shared some verses with me. We are so thankful for our TRBC groups that come down and serve alongside us! 

-we held a women’s conference here at Hope of Life. We are already praying about the next one. My brother John and his buddy Mike Bryant helped us put together a soccer tournament for the local villages. 

-my parents came down and were able to witness the ministry here and even take part in some of our daily activities. What an amazing blessing!

God pursued us…so thankful He never gave up on us! Thank you for praying with us and being a part of this journey where we daily strive to live out and share the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In some ways it feels like we are just beginning! Thank you Carlos and Cheryl Vargas for allowing us to be a small part of this incredible journey! We are excitedly anticipating what the Lord has in store for us this next year…


John 3:16-17

“For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world that He might condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.



Our Amazing God

The past three weeks have been a whirlwind of ministry for us. We had two weeks with our church groups here serving in many capacities. We built a home for a family that was living in an ice cream container. We served a meal in Pueblo Del Rio and at our church in Pata Galana. Our preschool classes took our first field trip and our trikes arrived from the LCA ELC.  We hosted a conference for women and a soccer tournament in Llano Verde. We were able to fill food bags and pass them out in the name of Jesus to hungry families. Last week, our twins Emma and Kate turned seventeen. Emma was baptized on Sunday. We had a party for them at the Rancho with a piñata…super fun! As I think back on all that happened, I realize that it is only God who could have orchestrated every detail  of everyday. Yesterday, we were having our church service at the river. One of the women of our church was asking families to come up front and just share. Several families went up front and led all of us in songs. When they asked our family to come up, Mark and I both felt as though we were catching a glimpse of what an early New Testament church looked like. There was such a sincere atmosphere of praise and thankfulness and we were humbled and so thankful to be a part of this body of believers. So thankful for an amazing God who brought us here and gave us a new church family to share fellowship. My heart is full…and I know God has many new things to come….Psalm 47:2 For the LORD Most High is awesome, the great King over all the earth.





























“My heart trusts in Him!”

It’s shortly after nine on a Friday evening and I am reflecting on the events of today. I’m exhausted that’s for sure…preschoolers have a way of doing that to you. I started the day with my usual run to the hospital to pick up kids for their class. I love hearing my name called when I walk by their window and they see me coming…it always brings joy to my heart. My little friend Oscar is always hollering my name but it comes out as “Gully.” In this day and age where things seem to be getting crazier by the moment, I thank God for that sweet little two year old hollering out his version of my name. It shows me that God  cares about each one of us and sends us daily reminders of His love. Psalm 28:7 says, “The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him, and I am helped. Therefore my heart rejoices, and I praise Him with my song.” Some days here are harder than others but that is true wherever you are. The key is remembering that the Lord is our strength and we can always trust in Him. As I was leaving the preschool this afternoon, I told my sweet friends that were waiting on me that I needed to sweep the floors really quick. One of those precious friends is Delmy who walks on her knees because her legs are malformed. When I came out of my classroom she was dragging the dustpan out of the other classroom to give to me. My heart was overwhelmingly filled with the goodness of the Lord….God knows just how to keep my perspective in the right place. One more reason I am so thankful He called us out of our comfort zone in to the center of His will!



Let the little children come to me…

As I was walking through the three year old class the other day, I heard one of the little boys say, “hallelujah!” When I turned around, I saw him using one of the pipes from the water table as a microphone. First, he was preaching. His name is Diego. He was rescued from a garbage dump as an infant. While he was “preaching” his friend Emilio was listening and encouraging him. Then, he started to sing and I realized I should be catching this on video. My heart was moved and I let those words wash over me. Si señor, si si senor….yes, Lord…that’s all it takes…a simple yes. I have watched that video several times and read these verses over and over…Mark 10:13-16

Blessing the Children

Some people were bringing little children to Him so He might touch them, but His disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw it, He was indignant and said to them, “Let the little children come to Me. Don’t stop them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I assure you: Whoever does not welcome the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” After taking them in His arms, He laid His hands on them and blessed them.

I was struck wih the realization that God just might call this young man to preach the Gospel. Already, he is hearing the truth that God loves him. He is hearing that Jesus died on the cross for him so that he can be a child of the King! God has a purpose and a plan for each one of the children in the preschool at Hope of Life. So blessed to be able to share the words of Christ with them, “let the children come.” God sure used that young man to speak to my heart this week. One day Diego may just share how God took him out of the ashes and grew him in to an oak of righteousness all because he was willing to say yes Lord…

Isaiah 61

3and provide for those who grieve in Zion—

to bestow on them a crown of beauty

instead of ashes,

the oil of joy

instead of mourning,

and a garment of praise

instead of a spirit of despair.

They will be called oaks of righteousness,

a planting of the Lord

for the display of his splendor.

Peace

Mark and I cannot get over how blessed we feel to be serving the Lord in Guatemala. I have never experienced the peace of God like I have since we moved here. I read an article today that was talking about how most missionaries are not preachers. We fit in that category….Mark and I even asked the Lord, ” are you calling two ordinary people to go on the mission field? Is there anything we can do?” The answer to both of those questions was yes…and here we are…full of the joy and peace that only comes from a relationship with Jesus Christ. Today, at preschool, we were able to let the children play on the new swings that were recently built. One of the little girls from the hospital was too afraid to ride. So her teacher sat with her and watched…and then they got on together…and then she rode with her friend! I was at once reminded of Gods grace and peace. That same peace that is flowing in our hearts is what we want to share in Guatemala. The peace that goes beyond our understanding from a Savior who calls ordinary people to share the Gospel around the globe…and let a precious little girl know that there is a Savior that died for her and plant the seeds of peace in her heart! 

Psalms 29:11

The Lord gives His people strength;

the Lord blesses His people with peace.