Guatemala Mission Trip {June 2016}

For many years now, I have longed to go on a foreign mission trip.  I have heard and read from some how going to a different country has changed their life.  It gives such a different perspective on life, and even reading about it or seeing videos doesn't quite capture the full picture of it all.  I have had this desire in my heart for many years, but with my children being younger, it just was't the right time until recently. A dear sister in our church, Tamara Holland, felt led by the Lord to have our church partner with a church in a foreign country that we could visit and minister on a continual basis.  A few from our church took a first trip to scope it out and have a vision trip to see how our church could be involved in this partnership last November.  Plans soon went underway to plan our first trip from our church in June.  Landon and I immediately signed up, and we were so excited to get to experience this first foreign mission trip together.

We flew to Dallas, then to Guatemala City.  It was a long day of traveling.  Once we landed and left the airport, it was culture shock for me.  The missionaries picked us up at the airport and took us to Wendy's to eat.  There were policemen with guns guarding the parking lot.  At this point, I was a little frightened and questioned what I had signed up for.  :)
We spent the night at a former missionaries' home.  She offers her home to groups like ours when needed.  

This is the church we were based out of.  
The ladies from the church prepared meals for us.

We walked around the neighborhood from the church and witnessed to people outside.  We each took turns sharing our testimonies and handed out gospel tracks.  We were also able to see how money that we give to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering is used first hand.  We were able to see chicken and fish farm projects in place to provide a sustainable income.  We also got to see a major water project that was done in their neighborhood to provide them with a much more useful supply of water.  They were only getting water about two hours, two days per week because of a broken cistern.  Baptist Global Relief (BGR) worked together with the nationals to get this project completed and they now have water eight hours per day every day.  This made a huge impact on the community and allowed the pastor and his church to share the gospel.  This was all very eye opening for me to see.  Needs must be met first, then you can share the gospel.  It was very effective and every where we went, everyone knew who Pastor Rene was because of all the work like this he was doing all around.  

This is the new water source for the community. 
We went to Pastor Rene's house to eat lunch and he shared an incredible story about a miracle that took place with him right before we came.  He has a fish farm at his home and one day as he was in it cleaning it out he stepped on something accidentally.  He got a major infection and became very ill.  He had lost weight, couldn't get out of bed, and couldn't preach and do ministry work in his church.  He went to the doctor, and their solution was to amputate his foot.  He was disheartened about the doctor's prognosis, and sought the Lord in prayer about healing.  His wife is a known prayer warrior in the area and she began praying and fasting for her husband.  One night, she had a dream/vision and she saw there was something in his foot and that it could be removed.  They contacted a different doctor that came to their home and they ended up finding the root of the problem.  There was a thorn embedded in his foot that was causing the infection.  

Our hotel
We were all mesmerized by the active volcanos and took lots of pictures.
They have church every single night and worship for at least two hours.

We had the opportunity to go to several schools in the area and play games, sing songs, and share the gospel through a Bible story.  Tamara taught about Creation and I taught about Noah.  For me, it was an experience to teach with an interpreter.  

They were mesmerized by their blond hair.  

We got to go to Pastor Eddy's church to pray with him and hear what his story, his needs, and his struggles.  We were there to encourage him as he is dealing with witchcraft all around his church.  

More prayer walking and witnessing.

We got to witness a great celebration this evening at worship.  This was the first time Pastor Rene had been back to church after his illness.  They cooked food to celebrate, share testimonies, and sang praise and worship to the Lord for his healing. 

Fish farms and chicken projects in place.
We had lots of black beans for every meal.  It took months before I could eat them again.  haha.

We were preparing meals to take to the hospital.  This was by far the most powerful thing that I got to experience while on this trip.  A team from the church goes to the hospital each week to deliver food to the families that have a family member in the hospital.  Family members have no food source of any kind in the hospital so the church provides meals for them.  They were just rolls with a black bean soup on top of them, but they were much appreciated. 

We divided into different teams at the hospital.  Some delivered food and some women went to the children and women's floor, while some men went to the men's floor.  We were told not to take any pictures while inside the hospital, but I can't even describe the sight.  There was no air conditioning, the rooms were dingy and very dirty.  The first room we went to in my group was the room with the babies.  Their bandages were diapers wrapped around their hands and the mother sat beside their beds.  The walls were lined with beds all around with about ten babies in the hospital.  It took all I had to keep myself together when I felt like breaking down into a puddle of tears.   In our group (Tamara, Trisha, Katy, and myself), we each took turns sharing our testimony from room to room while the missionary translated.  Once we were finished, the national from the church went around the room and asked each person if they wanted to receive Christ for salvation.  There was one lady in the last room that said she did.  It was a glorious moment for us all.  I do not know whether this was a genuine decision, and that's not my call anyway, but we rejoice to be able to be there in that moment. 

This school was lined with barbed fence.
They have an awesome view from their school!
We went from room to room playing games, which was a bit of a challenge given the room.  We sang songs and shared a story with the gospel in each room.
My Spanish is T-E-R-R-I-B-L-E.  I had a paper with several phrases and they surrounded me and we tried to communicate.  Thanks peeps at the tower of Babel for making this so difficult!

Tamara got Pastor Rene a UT hat which he wore proudly.

This was the final school we visited. 

Landon had gotten some kind of bacteria and was very sick.  He was miserable for this day. 

David and Jo led us on an adventure that was very much outside of my comfort zone.  I'm not very adventurous or a hiker, well maybe on a easy trail.  This was a rainy day and I was in my Chaco's.  We first had to cross a wooden planked bridge with no railing over a raging river.  I thought I was going to have a panic attack.  I really considered staying by myself while the rest of the group went ahead, but there was a witch doctor right next to the entrance and I was scared to stay by myself.  I was scared either way...crossing the bridge or staying by myself.  I had to pray the entire way across the bridge.  I said over and over the whole way across, "Lord, keep my feet from slipping."  


This was near the end of our trip, when I wish it had been at the beginning.  David told us how many people in this culture believe in gods and make sacrifices here in the mountains for different things that they need such as romance, fertility, wealth...etc.  I was shocked that people still do this in the world today.  I realize that I'm sheltered, but this sounds like what I read in the Old Testament.  He explained how this thinking and belief system is deeply rooted in their culture.  Even those who have converted to Christianity still fall back into this and some continue to practice it.  It was just all very eye-opening, shocking, and the presence of demonic forces were felt in those caves.  It also gave me a better understanding of the people and what the missionaries and Christians were dealing with.  

Then we had to go back and cross the bridge again.  I almost crawled across on the way back but I thought I would look like an idiot.  

Our trip back to Guatemala City.

Our day in Antigua

We not only learned about the witch craft that is practiced in the caves and elsewhere, but we learned about another teaching that is even stronger.  We toured the Catholic church and learned about the practices and beliefs in this belief system.  Like I said, I wish we could have learned about these at the beginning of the trip so we could better understand what the majority of the people believe.  

This truly was a beautiful city that I recommend visiting!

Heading home...

Rebecca totally surprised us!  I was missing my kids terribly and she brought Logan and Lucas to the airport to meet us there.  I had no clue and was SO SHOCKED to see them.  We got home and she had the boys decorate our house.  She is the best ever!

All the good photos in this post are Taylor McCulley's.  Hers were way better than ours.  I only used my cell phone for all pics because I was encouraged not to take my camera.  

Before I went on this trip, I read a few articles here and there that were basically saying how short term mission trips were a waste of time and money.  I thought it was a little silly and hypercritical, but how could I possibly know if I had never even experienced it?  I wanted to go on a foreign mission trip to be obedient to the Lord in the Great Commission to go into the world to share the gospel.  I didn't go with a savior complex thinking I was going to save the country.  I was actually hoping it would change me.  

"Some think they are a waste of money, gobbling up resources that could just be given to missionaries on the field or put to other uses like church planting.  Other negatives are because of a view point that some church people use mission trips to scratch their "foreign travel itch."  Some say that short-term trips are unhelpful to the work on the field and force church planters to take time from real ministry to serve as tour guides and babysitters for curious Christians.  Also, why go overseas when our communities are in such need here."

Here are a few summarized answers to these questions by J.D. Greear in Gaining by Losing.

1.  Short-term trips are a waste of money-- Dollars spent on short-term trips are not zero-sum-that is, every dollar spent on a mission trip is not one less dollar you can give to people serving permanently on the field.  Quite the opposite: people who see mission firsthand typically give more in missions offerings.  In other words, money spent on short term-trips multiplies itself by creating greater willingness to give in the future among those who go.  Short term trips create lifetime missionaries.  God sends His people to the nations, but so the nations can change them too.  Sometimes God has to send us over there to change how we live here.  I guarantee you that once your feet touch foreign soil, you will never be the same.

For me, going and seeing how money that I give to specifically is being used on the field motivates me to give more.  We got to see our missionaries' home which is fully supported by the IMB and that comes from the Lottie Moon Christmas offering.  We also rode around in a truck that was paid for by the same funds.  Neither of these items are extravagant and the top of the line, so the money is being used wisely and efficiently to further the gospel with those who are willing to go.  We also got to see first hand how water projects impact an entire community and make them open to hearing the gospel. Those things take money.  Also, we got to see chicken and fish farm projects which are created for the purpose of providing sustainable income for families.  

2.  Short term trips are really just exotic vacations for curious Christians: Vacationaries--Unfortunately, for some Christians this is true.  Greer says that even despite their best efforts they we have people who see short term mission trips as church sponsored vacations.  But all he and his staff can do is discourage this.  They make it clear as they recruit and advertise that the purpose of the trip is to serve those on the field, not to fill up a scrapbook.  They also use the lead-up to a mission trip as an intense discipleship experience.  In preparation for a short-term mission trip, members read books, memorize Scripture, keep a prayer journal, and share their faith.  Ironically enough, many who enter the process with a motivation of simply seeing the world have their hearts changed along the way.  He said he's seen it time and time again: potential "vacationaries" have their hearts touched by the global need for the gospel and return with new eyes and fresh vision.

3.  Short term trips don't make sense when there is so much need here--Did Paul go to the Gentiles because the Jews had all become Christians?  We don't go oversees because there is no work left to do here; we go because God gives to every believer the capacity and the responsibility to carry the gospel to the nations.  Overseas engagement should be in our portfolio of mission from the beginning, just as it is the call to discipleship from the very beginning.  Believers who want to possess the heart of God for the world have to create space in it-a large space- for the nations.  Churches that want to be filled with the Spirit of God must collectively join in His mission to witness to the gospel "in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth" Acts 1:8.

4.  Short term trips are more harmful to the field than helpful--Unfortunately, this is often accurate.  Well meaning mission trips can not only eat up valuable time of resident missionaries, who end up serving as babysitters and tour guides for traveling church groups, but can also set the work back through poorly administered aid or sloppy evangelism.  Much of the "helping" that we do actually ends up being harmful to those we intended to help when we do for people what they can (and should) do for themselves.  It may make us feel good, but it can hinder those groups from developing the leadership skills necessary to meet their own needs.  God has put as much leadership capacity in them as he has in us.  We don't serve them well by leading in their place.  Helping Without Hurting in Short-Term Missions, by Corbett and Fikkert is a great resource for this issue.  In the book, they explain that short term trips are effective when 1) the agenda is set by the local, indigenous leadership, 2) those coming from abroad have as their focus the empowerment and support of local leadership, and 3) the short term missionaries develop a long-term relationship with the people they are serving in which they give and pray faithfully for a lifetime.  Westerners who go in to "save the day" for poor, underprivileged people make a fatal philosophical mistake that undermines all their well-intentioned offers to help.  They assume they are somehow different from the people they are trying to save-as if there is something fundamentally different about them that makes them able to thrive in the world, whereas the people in these poor countries cannot.  Each person on the planet is made in the image of God, which means each has the potential to thrive.  Our task is not to do things for them so much as help the realize the potential God has given them to meet their own needs.

This is a topic that David, our missionary, discussed quite a bit.  Since this was my first trip, I was completely unaware of any of "hurting when helping."  It was very eye opening to hear his opinion from what he sees on a daily basis.   

This trip was outside of my comfort zone in a multitude of ways, but I am so glad we had the opportunity to go.  I felt peace when during times I was fearful or had anxious thoughts because I knew that we were in the center of the Lord's will.  I am thankful that Landon and I got to experience our first foreign mission trip together.  I look forward to more trips like this, and I especially am looking forward to doing mission with our children.  

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