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Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Volcano

LIFT just returned from the final event of their time in Guatemala - the hike up to the summit of Volcan Acetenago (13,044').  It was a 5-hour hike with full packs to the 12,000' base camp, which ended up being in the clouds and pretty windy and cold.  By 9 PM last night the clouds blew off and everyone was treated to a beautiful starry night and the twinkling stars lights of distant cities and villages throughout southern Guatemala.  Volcan Fuego (the active volcano a mile away from the campsite) erupted multiple times throughout the night, with spectacular displays of magma and molten rocks flying from the summit and lava flowing down its flanks.  God was demonstrating his power and beauty in all they have seen in the last two days in addition to the many, many ways they have seen God work throughout the last two weeks at their different ministry sites.

LIFT rose early to start hiking for and hour and a half in the dark with headlamps to make it to the cone to take in the sunrise.  After an hour on the summit they descended and broke camp and returned to the Students International community center for a spaghetti lunch.  They are now debriefing and will be heading to their "homes" to have their final meal with their families then pack.

They depart @ 3:45 AM to head to the airport and should return to CAMP-of-the-WOODS by midnight.

Check out the new photos posted on the LIFT Discipleship Program Facebook page.

Thank you very much for your prayer support - we know God was working through the many prayers offered up these last two weeks.

Tim

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Prayer Support

11/9/2017

Hi everyone - this is just a quick post to ask for prayer for some of our students who have been struggling with stomach issues - vomiting and diarrhea.  It has been affecting about a quarter of our students.  Some have had to stay back from participating in the ministry sites and rest at their homes.  This is not abnormal for the second week of being in a different culture and adjusting to the different diet and exposure to different things.  The missionary doctor and nurse have been seeing each of the students not feeling well and monitoring their status.  Because of how this has manifested itself, the doctor believes these physical problems could be a spiritual offensive on our group as well.  We are praying that these cases of illness heal up quickly and not pass to other team members.

The team here is 34 people, but the rest of our team is all of you (several hundred) who are part of our prayer infrastructure that is giving strength to the work of the Holy Spirit here.  Thank you for being an active part of our team and what God is doing here through intercession.

We have two days left at the site serving with the missionaries then the weekend visiting Antigua and attending church there, then on Monday and Tuesday we embark upon the two day excursion climbing Volcan Acetenango.

Tim


Wednesday, November 8, 2017

God is Faithful

11/8/17 

As mentioned earlier of our time here, this is a trip filled with many firsts. We are all experiencing and seeing things that we are not used to. I myself am not used to living in the midst of poverty. I have seen quite a bit of what we often only hear, and somewhat feel bad about at home. On a visit to a family in Magdalena we met a woman who is raising her two grandchildren. She is very poor, living in a cement/steel roofing type of house with no windows. She asked us to pray for her because she has no work right now, and is not sure how she will take care of her grandchildren. Excavation is also happening directly next to her house and it is damaging the foundation. In the art school where I have been each day with Alvero, I meet children that do not have enough food. I hear stories of children that used to come to the school, but they cannot anymore because they have to work.

There are so many stories of poverty, and I have seen so much of it around me, that at first it was simply confusing and discouraging to me. I thought to myself, “How much can I really do being here?” There seems to be so much going wrong in the world. What does our small gesture do? Well, in the evening just the other day I was walking alongside a few other LIFT students, and saw some trash. I picked it up and continued to walk. Not thirty seconds and I saw more trash. After picking up a handful of trash I realized that there was far too much trash for me to keep picking up the trash. My first thought was that I might as well not pick up any more trash here. However, that is when something came to mind. 

A former LIFT student, Megan Tusing (LIFT 20 & 21), who now works as a teacher here in Guatemala, had the opportunity to visit us and share her testimony. She shared about her love for the people of Guatemala, and also about the struggle of seeing so much need and feeling stuck. She shared that God had to give her a new mindset on this. He taught her to love the person in front of her, and do what he had set in front of her. He taught her not to become stuck or calloused because of the amount of wrong in the world, but to just listen to what He had called her to do. Each little act of obedience to Christ makes a difference. A handful of trash was no longer on the trail where I was walking. 

The woman that we visited made some baskets to sell in order to try and make some money for her family, and Alvero brought some of them to the store day that we had at the S.I. Community Center. I then was able to witness that woman earning some money from her baskets. God also listened to our prayers from the day that we visited, and a retaining wall is being built to hold back the loose earth that’s crumbling away from her house’s foundation. I’ve gotten to be a part of activities that keep children off the streets. Today in the Art School, some of the children received their money for paintings they had sold. One of the LIFT students from another site shared about a woman that accepted Christ today.

God is doing a work here is Guatemala and around the world. He is actively involved in our lives. When He calls us to do something, it is because He is planning to work. So we should care about the poverty we see around us, but we should not become hopeless. We do not see all the ways that God is working. He is doing things beyond what we are able to comprehend in people’s lives. Our part is to listen to His call, and seek to obey Him. We should not become weary in doing well. This is what God has been showing me and probably many more of us while we have been here. 

On another note, we made kites with the children at the Art School today. They are little engineers. I was put on a team with three little maybe nine year olds, and they taught me how to make a kite from tissue paper, little poles from a plant I don’t know, and glue. We then all piled into a van and took our kites to a soccer field to fly them. They are also genius at flying them. I loved to see them all work together to make the kites and to fly them. When it was time to leave, my three little friends gave me the kite. They were completely unselfish about it. It made me realize, in that moment that people are far more important than any things we might want or even need. 

I pray that what we see and learn here not only stays in our minds, but actually change us a spurs us on to action. We have been reminded this week as we study the book of James, that God has called us to have a faith accompanied by actions, and that is what we need to do. Praise God for everything He is teaching us and doing in the people while we are here.

Blessings,

Alina Grace Whitmore    

For pictures please go to the LIFT 38 in Guatemala photo album on our Facebook page.
https://www.facebook.com/liftdiscipleshipprogram/
     

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Retreat & Engage

This past weekend LIFT took a Sabbath rest with the 8 Global Bridge students from the busy and full days of ministry and retreated to Panajachel, a resort town on Lake Atitlan, a large aqua blue crater lake flanked with large volcanoes (said to be one of the most beautiful lakes in the world).  Breathtaking, majestic and stunning just begin to describe the beauty of this work of art. 

A common experience in LIFT is to have "WOW moments" that humble us and magnify God's glory.  Almost every outdoor excursion turns into a experiential lesson of God's greatness and love for us - a time of the learning and discovery which turns into wonder and worship.  It doesn't matter where you go in the world, God's art gallery of creation is on display clearly showing his invisible attributes, his eternal power, and divine nature so that we can all better understand him if we take the time to enjoy his art and take it in.  (Romans 1:20)

Ashely Denton reminds us in his book, "Christian Outdoor Leadership" (our text for the LIFT Leadership Training class), how important it was for Jesus to spend time in spiritual rest and retreat in order to be refreshed and strengthened to go back and engage the world and its broken people with love that comes from the father.  Many times Jesus went to a place of solitude on a mountain, at the side of a lake or in a garden to spend time with his father.  This is the healthy rhythm of life prescribed for we who follow Jesus so that we don't charge into our work and ministry by our own strength and insight but with what our Lord provides from time spent with him. 

Lake Atitlan was another great WOW moment for our students as they reflected on God's supremacy and glory and what God has been teaching them at their different ministry sites with the missionaries.  The are now back in Magdalena joyfully engaged in showing the love of Jesus with the missionaries from Students International to the people here through medical clinics, education, social work, sports outreach, agricultural help, art lessons, financial assistance and counseling and child sponsorship.

Check out the pictures posted in the LIFT 38 Gautemela photo album on the LIFT Discipleship Program Facebook page.  We will be updating them as our time here progresses.

https://www.facebook.com/pg/liftdiscipleshipprogram/photos

Please pray that the Holy Spirit works powerfully in the lives of our students, the missionaries and the people we engage with. 

Tim Trezise

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Overwhelming Joy

11/5/17

I’ve heard many sayings about how our faith is not linked to what we have or where we are – that our faith is not dependent on our circumstances. Living here with exactly what we need we’re caught in awe of how there are people with less than what they need but are FULLY reliant of God to meet their needs. Their joy, their trust, and their worship call us into deeper worship of our great King.

The joy exuding from the people is endless. Our early morning walks to the Students International Community Center is filled with echoes of “Buenas Dias”, “Buenas”, and smiles. Coming into the Community Center the joy and enthusiasm continues. Each of the SI staff greet us and invite us into their lives for these two weeks. The felt presence of Jesus is in the SI staff – their excitement at having our hodgepodge team of 34. They’ve welcomed us with open arms, smiling faces, and inexpressible joy and how Christ is moving in the people of Magdalena and how Christ has, is, and will be moving in us.

It is here in Guatemala that they’ve committed to sharing the source of their joy. Each of the missionaries of SI uses their skills, their training and their jobs to share the Gospel. SI operates through occupational missions – it is through a job or meeting a need in the community that the missionaries start relationships. Once relationships of trust and friendship have been cemented, Christ can be revealed. Sharing the Gospel with the people looks like a conversation over a meal, walking together to the market, or while sewing bags together. It’s relational, it’s sharing the joy that has transformed their life in order to transform other’s lives. Jesus Christ, the source of all joy, is transforming lives. Their focus is on the spiritual growth of the people they interact with. It’s a people-focused, relational sharing of the love of Christ.

In the Special Education site, we’ve gotten another glimpse of the joy of Christ in each of these students and their families. When we arrive at our small house turned into a school in the mornings, we are greeted with hugs and kisses on the cheeks and laughter. Even the parents, who’ve only met us days before, are greeting us with a kiss, huge smiles, and words of thanks. I fully believe that their children, these students, reflect the face of Christ. I fully believe these students are living and breathing the most genuine joy and love that flows from Christ.

One student in particular, Danny, has an exuding joy that’s caught me and brought me back into the presence of God. He has cerebal palsy and is unable to speak, walk, or feed himself. He communicates only with his eyes. The second morning Danny came to class, his excitement at seeing us was uncontainable. He threw his head back with the biggest smile I’ve ever seen and threw his arms and legs in the air in joy. We could do nothing but smile and laugh with him and welcome him in. His joy at playing “futbol” with his class is more than tangible to everyone around him. When we play, I have the honor of playing with him, of pushing his wheelchair around the courtyard and helping him hold the ball. His laughter invites us to laugh with him.

He’s asked me (by signaling with his eyes – looking up means yes and looking away means no) to eat snack with him each day. Feeding him by hand calls me deeper into the awareness of our dependence on Christ for all sustenance; for all we need.  Danny fully trusts me to meet his physical need of food. His vulnerability rests in my acceptance of his dignity as a human being, and child of God, just like me. What an honor to have Danny draw me and the other students and SI staff at our site back to Christ.

The people of Guatemala are transforming me, and I cannot wait to see what our next week and a half will bring. It’s all from Christ and an honor to glorify Christ!


Emily Caren

Unspoken Words

11/5/17

                Not having the ability to speak their language fluently is the toughest challenge so far. It reminds me of our day of solitude except this time we’re in a Guatemalan suburb. By suburb I mean that no space is wasted as tiendas (small shops) like bakeries and general stores abound and every square of a house is functional, including the roof. There are no street signs, but dogs roam freely, kids play happily in the streets, motocicletas (motorcycles) and carros (cars) and autobuses (buses) squeeze by people on the narrow streets. And so these people are used to this kind of life and my team and I are outsiders.

Not being able to speak gives me less power as a person since I am normally dependent on my own words to gain acceptance. In los Estados Unidos (United States), my words are what establish my identity, my role in a social group. Words are like tools for accomplishing a job. I think to myself, without all the Spanish words to communicate, my role as a person has changed in Guatemala. Then I ask, “Has it? Aren’t I supposed to be a missionary anywhere?” Yet here I am worrying about whether I will say the right words and whether I will make any difference at all. Being a task oriented person I am ashamed that I can’t do everything I can normally do in America.

I am reminded of Moses who needed someone to speak for him (Exod. 4:10-17) – as he protested to God about not having the ability to speak well. So I find this struggle in myself. Yet I know that my identity does not rely on whether I can speak well or not, but on who God has made me to be. My mind is constantly battling with this questioning whether to believe that I am useless/don’t belong here and whether I am worthy because God has commissioned me/blessed me with “every spiritual blessing” (Eph. 1:3). Therefore, my identity should not be in how well I speak or in how funny/how much of an impression I can make on people; it shouldn’t be in whether I am accepted or not – though giving into the temptation to always be seeking acceptance from others is a weakness of mine (James 1:14-15).

I am also reminded of the affliction Paul and his companions experienced in Asia when they were so burdened beyond their strength and were despairing their situation (2 Cor. 1:8-11).The lesson those early Christians learned was that they could not simply rely on their own abilities in ministry. Instead, they had to rely on God, “who raises the dead.” One might ask, “Is God more powerful than humanity?” (answer: Yes) – “Therefore we do not lose heart, though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For this light and momentary trouble is achieving for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (2 Cor. 4:16-18). So if God can empower Moses to speak and save Paul and early Christians from continual oppression, he can certainly deliver my team and me from any difficulty to relate with these people here in Magdalena.
Dios le Bendiga (Glory to God)!


Nathan Schaeffer

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Missional Lessons

11/4/17

                Guatemala is alive! The energy of this place strikes us in the staccato popping of birthday firecrackers at 4 AM, in the gonging of the bell sounding from the pinnacle of the Catholic Church, in the pumping music played in the busy afternoon market. Life is facilitated by the water that pulses audibly through the collection system at the top of the mountain north of Magdelana, appearing in form as well as function as some massive heart supplying the people below. Infectious joy is spread through the laughter of children amusing themselves with blown bubbles, through delicious homemade food generously prepared for us by our homestay families, through vibrantly hopeful testimonies of God’s provision in the lives His children here.


                It is too easy for missions to be defined by an egocentric paradigm, wherein Christian missionaries travel to a place that demonstrates a quality of life different than their own and so treat the local people with superiority, assuming that they can serve them and spread God’s word by “improving” the conditions they find. Duane Elmer combats this idea in his book Cross Cultural Servanthood through the concept of developed humility. Elmer maintains that we must learn about the culture we seek to minister to- through that culture- if we are to authentically serve them. Only once we understand can we avoid alienating or destroying the potential we have to serve. If we learn from and thus come to understand the culture we come to, we may see the needs they have and reach those needs in an effective way. But learning and understanding first requires relationship, which can only be formed through openness and trust.

                My favorite portion of this trip so far has been working at the Special Education Ministry site (I expect a majority of these blogs will feature each of our respective sites!). It has been a huge blessing to me and has been a fantastic example of Elmer’s take on genuine missions played out. In some ways I did come to my site with an expectation that the help I could offer would benefit the students. I am learning, however, that these students who come to the site with varying levels of disabilities and unique stories can and are impacting me more than I could ever hope to impact them. Their smiles, their love, and their contagious laughter bring me an unexplainable joy. I can only pray (and ask you to join me in praying for them!) that my presence in their educational environment brings them some joy as well and that God would work through me to demonstrate His fierce love for them.

Gloria a Dios!

Seth Brown