Guatemala 2011

Friday was a great day in Panajachel, Guatemala!  We awoke early, had breakfast, and headed out for a day of ministry.  For the morning, we headed to the town of Ojo de Agua, a rural farming community where we were to minister in a church.  This was not our original itinerary for today.  However, due to the threat of rain, many of the schools remain closed.  Alfredo, a leader with our partner ministry here in Guatemala, made a call and got us booked into the church. The pastor of the church was not optimistic about the outcome of our program.  They have tried a few children’s programs in the past, but children in the village were not permitted to attend.  The religious establishments in this area dominate their adherents with fear.  Catholicism and syncretism are predominant forms of religious practice.  Most of us are at least mildly familiar with Catholicism, as it is a widely recognized form of Christianity.  However, as is frequent in underdeveloped countries, the Catholic Church operates with an extremely heavy hand.  Adherents are kept entrenched in traditions with fear, rather than engaged in the Word of God with the freedom of the Spirit.  Syncretism, also a dominant form of religious practice, is a melding of Mayan paganism with (generally) Catholic tradition.  The ultimate result is a neo-paganism that results in idolatry. As a result of the dark religious strongholds in these communities, children are frequently not permitted to attend events at churches outside of Catholicism.  In the past, when the church in Ojo de Agua held children’s programs, children in the community were told, by their parents, they could not attend.  We proceeded to Ojo de Agua with faith, acknowledging that our God is bigger than religious barriers and believing that God would work through these difficulties.  We arrived around 9am and proceed to unpack our equipment.  The church was located up an impassable dirt road, so we carried all of the equipment in by hand.  We began to play some music, makes balloon animals, and play with the few children who were around. Little by little, children made their way out of the crops and up the dirt road to see what was going on.  At first, there were only about 10.  The children were very shy, not used to seeing “gringos” in their community.  There was also fear in their eyes, a result of the dark religious traditions in practice.  They would peek around the corners of the building, or approach the church making certain there was a wide distance between them and us.  Ultimately, the love of God won the day!  As we began the program, there were approximately 100 in attendance.  But the time we were finished, over 160 had come into the small church.  We didn’t think there were that many children in the community!  There were not enough seats, and many mothers who had never dared set foot in the church, brought their children and laughed and enjoyed the program with them. The pastor and his family were encouraged!  They have been struggling through the difficulties of their calling.  They moved to this area, feeling God’s call on their lives, with no prior connection, leaving family and comforts of home behind.  This is something that is simply not done here.  Family is of prime importance in Latin American culture, with several generations of one family usually living under the same roof.  To leave extended family behind is a sacrifice of greatest price.  In addition to these difficulties, there is a language barrier.  The primary language in this area is Kaqchikel, a Mayan language.  Spanish is only a secondary language.  They were amazed at what God did, and encouraged in a time of difficulty. In the evening we gathered for a time of reflection and prayer.  God spoke mightily to our students about the importance of sacrificial giving.  It has been an awesome experience to see Speed-the-Light equipment in use each day in Guatemala.  This equipment is the result of sacrificial student giving.  While our presence here is helpful, our missions dollars, through Speed-the-Light, are exponentially more powerful!  We will be on the ground in Guatemala for about eight days.  The equipment that Speed-the-Light provides will be in Guatemala, in use for the spread of the gospel, for thousands of days!  We closed with a powerful time of prayer for our national friends who are laboring as missionaries in their own land. The weekend holds a full slate of services and outreaches in churches, and we look forward to what God will do.

We all woke up this morning very excited about what today has in store!  We headed out to the school in Agua Escondida which means “Hidden Waters.”  On our way we received news that the government asked all schools to close in this area as a result of a storm that was going to make its way through. The government was concerned about more mudslides.  After this disappointing news we headed back to the hotel.  One of the members of One Way Guatemala, Alfredo, contacted the local church to let them know about the change of plans and that Assembly of God church still wanted us to come so they traveled around town and called in the kids to an assembly that we held at the church instead of at the school.  As we traveled up the beautiful mountains to about 8,000 feet above sea level (which is about 3,000 feet higher then Panajachel) we prayed that the Lord would hold off the rain and we did not experience any rain until about 7pm.  Praise God!  God held off the rain and redirected our paths again today. At this first assembly we ministered to about 160 children and over 80 responded to the Lord.  The ladies from that church said they have never seen that many kids come into their church before.  We pray that this is a launching point to an incredible harvest of souls in that area. In the afternoon we were scheduled to go to a High School in the same town.  The principal is a Christian and when the call came in from the government to cancel school he decided to keep school in session because we were coming and He wanted the teens to hear about God’s love.  In that service to 150 teens about 125 accepted Christ into their lives.  During this service, one of our students, Christian Parr, was able to give his personal testimony.  Although he said it was difficult talking with an interpreter, he did a great job telling his story.  There was an incredible presence of God in that service and many were crying and seeking the hope and salvation from the Lord. Over these past few days it has been incredible seeing our teens praying and weeping with these Guatemalan kids.  God is definitely doing a work in our lives as we minister here in Guatemala.  We have all been challenged by another team member from One Way Guatemala, Jose Luis.  At the altar time in each of the schools he has said these words to the students in the different services, “It is your life, what are you going to do with it.”  We spent some time reflecting on that last night in our debriefing time together.  What are we going to do different in our lives when the time comes to return home?  What will we all do with the blessings that God has given us in our lives? We finished the day with prayer and then went out to a local restaurant to have some time in the community.  Most of us experienced a great meal.  Thank you for you continuing prayers for this team.  Please pray that the rain will continue to hold off as we minister into these communities tomorrow. -Pastor Jim Galbraith

Today started out with a bit of uncertainty of where we were going to minister.  We have experienced a lot of rain since we have arrived and as a result there has been a mudslide that covered the road that we were supposed to travel...

Everything is going well here in Guatemala!  Our travel to Guatemala was seamless, and we thank God for a safe and expeditious journey.  We arrived on Monday around lunchtime and ate at a Pizza Hut in Guatemala City.  From there we headed on a three-hour journey through the mountains to the village of Panajachel.  This area is where we will be ministering throughout the week.  Panajachel is a mountain town that sits on a lake, ringed by three large volcanoes.  It really is a beautiful area.  We are staying at the Grand Hotel in Panajachel, a safe and comfortable accommodation just off the main tourist market.  The hotel is also providing the majority of our meals.  The rest of Monday was filled with an orientation and dinner. Tuesday was day of training.  Of course, we had quite a bit of training at youth camp, but we continued that on our first full day in the country.  We are working with “One Way Guatemala,” a missional organization founded by Assembly of God Missionaries Dave & Debbie Amsler.  Dave & Debbie have been laboring on behalf of the gospel, particularly with children and youth, in Guatemala for several years.  It is our honor to join them in God’s calling and work here in Latin America. We learned several songs in Spanish, and motions to go along with them.  Our ministry is almost entirely school-based.  We will conduct school assemblies in primary and secondary schools and share the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  We will do 3-4 assemblies each day, presenting salvation according to the “Gospel of Grace” (Acts 20:24) through Jesus Christ.  The ministry elements we learned prior to coming, as well the training we received on Tuesday, will be powerful tools to communicate the gospel. In the afternoon, following our training, we left the hotel compound for ice cream and a brief stroll through the market!  Our students, many of whom are experiencing their first cross-cultural experience, received a crash course in bartering and purchasing.  After dinner, we continued the orientation time that began on Monday evening, and concluded with a powerful time of prayer and intercession. It is currently Wednesday morning.  We are to depart this morning for a full day of school assemblies.  However, we are currently in a holding pattern.  There has been a lot of rain overnight here in Panajachel.  It is a mountainous region, and when it rains a lot, the area is subjected to mudslides.  Overnight a mudslide closed the road we need to use to get to our first school this morning.  We are praying that the road will open quickly, or that we can rearrange our assemblies for today so that we may still have the opportunity to minister in each location.  Whatever happens, we recognize that life’s delays are God’s opportunities, and we pray that opportunity will present itself soon!  Forecasters are calling for quite a bit more of rain, as a major storm approaches Guatemala.  We are praying that the rains will stop, and that there will be no more delays to the work of the ministry.