Thursday, August 30, 2012

Cheering for America: A small testament for a big country

Election day is closing in for 2012 and already it has been an eventful year for the red, white, and blue.  The olympics kicked up the dirt in patriotism and all Americans threw up those #1 foam fingers and unraveled their pom-poms.  Mitt Romney's slogan, whether you are with or against him, is something we should all have as bumper stickers: "Believe in America".

We are a people, a nation.  Shouldn't we essentially be on the same team?  Whether in swimming, racing, or dancing, aren't we all excited for America to be the best it can be?  Politics always has my head spinning.  Aside from the nominations, the beliefs, and disagreements, I can't wrap my mind around it.  Sometimes it seems so simple... can't we all just get a long?  

At the end of the day I'm cheering for America.  She is my team.  At this next event, I will not be wearing a bold red or a diligent blue but a combination of the three colors that resemble a strip and a star.

Let your inner cheerleader out by attending an event where you can cheer people on – a marathon, sports game, or a parade will do the trick.  Cheer with abandon and let yourself become a super fan!  Write about the experience in the comment box below. 

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

To burst my bubble

Do you know that saying, "to burst your bubble"?  It's something I use a lot.  I use it in reference to spoiling someones perfect moment (in a kind way of course) or in reference to their personal space.  Something I didn't realize until a few days ago was just how much God bursts our bubbles.  We live in a country and a generation where we bind ourselves within a comfort zone, aka the bubble.

I was invited to join a team of 18 vibrant people to walk through the dust to the poverty side of Guatemala.  Our mission as Christians is to minister to those around us, even to those we cannot see.  So the Lord made way for me to be apart of this Vision Trip.
Before I explain to you the events that took place, it's important that you get a feel for those that were with me for 9 days.  God strategically chose this group for the said bubble bursting.
Gerson Cerritos - He was meant to be our chauffeur and translator, although he became much more than that.  He became a friend who holds a great passion for Christ in which he spoke about with much intensity.
Doug and Stephanie Charbonneau - A couple who has been apart of this ministry for years.  They have so much love and spirit.
Andrea Sosa Cuevas - She was also a translator.  She has an extreme knowledge both mentally and emotionally for God.  Her passion is breathtaking and genuine.  I am grateful to have found this new friend.
Pastor Jorge, Marlen, and Kayla Hernandez - This family showed us the streets of Guatemala.  They are the glue that holds this ministry together.  After we are gone, they remain.  They have so much strength and faith in the Lord.  An example, for sure.
Brain Keller - He has a way with the truth and a magical way with children.
Ashley Metz - I have had the very real pleasure of calling her a friend.  She is a true role model for the compassion and tender nature a child of God should have.  She speaks with soft words and a joyful heart.
Robert and Vicki Pait - This couple exalts a combination of grace and laughter.  Two people that make it so easy to confide.  Two people that remind you of the true fulfilling manner in which you can live as a person seeking the Lord.
Anita Pifer - With a beautiful smile, this translator kept us on our toes.  She has a passion for the Guatemalan people and was a great example of that.
Tony Price - He created a balance of love and crazy.  A heart longing to be in the right and a wonderful example of what it means to willingly step out of the bubble.
Paul and Laurie Romanstine - The couple that has held this trip on their shoulders for almost 8 years.  Without the heart and sacrifice, Guatemala would not have been laid on our minds.
Greg and Danya Rock - A couple that is the saying, 'live, laugh, love'.
Paige Starnes - Talented and enthusiastic. She always lifts the Lord on high.

Day 1 - Travel to Guatemala
Day 2 - Feeding the Children of Sakerti and the Homeless/Home Visits
The first day was an overwhelming day.  The kids would bring anyone to tears.  Their innocence and high spirit would warm your heart.  We fed them breakfast and played with them for half the day.  We did face painting and gave away stickers...we jumped rope and watched everyone play soccer.  After lunch, we did home visits.  We saw a man with no legs, a child with an extra thumb, and a man addicted to alcohol.  Even amongst all of that, these people are so faithful.  We prayed and encouraged them.  Later that evening, we walked the streets and invited the homeless to have coffee and bread.  Before we passed everything out, one of our team members, Tony Price, gave an incredible testimony.  A few people responded and wanted Paul Romanstine to pray for them.  One man in particular, Antonio, is who I'll remember.  Paul placed a hand on his heart after talking with him for a minute (all of this being translated, by the way), started to tremble.  It was a severe sort of shaking...and he eventually collapsed to his knees in prayer.  It is an amazing thing to see first hand what God can do to people. 
Day 3 - Church in Guatemala
Worship in Guatemala is not like worship in the states (at least in SC).  I don't believe there is anything wrong in the way we worship, as long as your heart is in the right place.  Needless to say, it was different.  Folks were consumed by the holy spirit and they danced with their whole bodies.  The first service was in the street where everybody could see.  Brain Keller gave his testimony and mentioned the importance of those walking past us, seeing and hearing what was going on.  The second service was at the rehab center or the half-way house. I gave my testimony there, read part of chapter 3 from Ecclesiastes, and sang 'Amazing Love' with Paige Starnes.  It was an exhausting, yet uplifting day.
Day 4 - Pastor Juan and his ministry
On our third day, we drove to Patzun.  It was roughly two hours away from where we were staying.  Pastor Juan works with ministering to children.  We were able to visit one of the schools and we played with the children there.  After that we visited Pastor Juan's house and ate lunch with him.  This man played the accordion and sang 'I've got the joy' both in Spanish and in English.  What a blessing!  That night we got to go to Casa Chapina.  It was a nice way to break up the week.
Day 5 - It's all about the children
We went to Kayla's school and played with the children there and later on that afternoon we played with some kids in the park. Throughout the day with did home visits. We had a church service that evening.
Day 6 - Home Visits/Wednesday Church service
We did home visits and a church service. They don't normally do as many services, but since we were there, they did them for us. I was moved. They dance around a lot, so I danced with them. More like you would at a concert, hopping around and clapping. Then I prayed for a man, George. I also prayed for him the night before. I don't know him, but I feel so weighed down by his burdens. Then I sang with Pastor G again. We did 'Amazing Love' and 'Open my eyes'.  I was able to completely let go.
Day 7 - Pastor Avalino and his ministry/Street Kids
We fed children with Pastor Avalino. There was a woman the end of the line...that had four children. She had been raped twice by gang members. I felt so much compassion for her. After that we spent time with the Street Kids.  Not all of them are actually children, although some are.  These kids are drug addicts.  We just did crafts with them. They have this program that tries to get them off the streets.
Day 8 - Antigua
After a week of bubble bursting, we were able to visit the market place in Antigua.  There we experienced the swindling of Guatemala and had some much needed downtown and fellowship with our team.  That evening we had our last service. 
I feel so strongly about what God has shown me here. He's opened me up. I knew that's what I needed and why I needed to come. Of course, after bonding with these people and their children, I have to return. One of the little girls the other day asked how long it was going to be until I returned. I can't lie to her.  I want to be able to communicate with them better and to watch them grow physically and spiritually. It may seem odd, Paul coming here for 7-8 years. But seeing him here...he's a part of their ministry just as if he were a member of their church. It's completely understandable. He has a loyalty to them and it's amazing what they have been able to do with our help. They are building an army of God. 
Day 9 - Travel home
I couldn't wait to get home. There are so many things I have missed...coke. Their coke here is different. The sugar is different somehow...or maybe its the type of syrup they use. I missed's the same way. Not as sweet or something. I missed having loads of ice in my drinks. The water isn't safe here. I missed brushing my teeth without a water bottle. I missed the comfort and security in eating whatever I want. The food here is filled with bacteria. (Although we did eat a ton at the fast food restaurant...) I missed my bed and my dog and cat. I wanted to hug them because there were TONS of homeless animals. But most of all I missed talking to and seeing my family.

 I know I'll miss Guatemala and it will be hard being home because I will remember the smell and the dirt. Everything is dirty....the people, the animals, the streets. The children's hair and clothes and finger nails. There hearts are pure though. I am filled with so much compassion for these people. With all the diseases, poverty, and insecure streets, they still have so much faith in God. And so much passion. It has taught me so much. I'm going to miss giving them joy. Playing with them. Putting stickers all over there innocent faces. I will miss praying for them and comforting them. But I did miss home. That's why I know two things...I had to go home but I also have to go back there.

God bursted my bubble on several occasions while in Guatemala but can I blame him?  Is that not the reason I needed to go?  It's interesting, since I've been home, many have asked me if the trip was life changing.  I tell them, rather it was eye opening.

I think the life changing part has to be up to me and you. 
Will you love your neighbor now that you have loved the neighbors of Guatemala?
Will you be filled with joy as you were in seeing the passion of Christ through his people?
Will you be at peace in trusting our Lord and savior?
Will you show kindness to those you meet?  Say hello and tangle a child's hair. 
Will you not be filled with goodness, ready and willing to spread the Good News?
Will you not have the faith of those you prayed with?
Will you have the same gentleness you shared with those homeless children or the spaced out street kids?
Will you have self-control in knowing what's good for you and what is not?
Or will you leave the lessons behind in a separate country?  The life changing part is up to you. 

In a year from now, how will you be able to answer that question about the Guatemala Vision Trip of 2012?

How has God burst your bubble?  Leave a comment in the box below.
Visit for information on Guatemala Vision Trip planning.