Thursday, March 21, 2019

Let Us Adore!


Let Us Adore!

“Let us adore the ever-living God and render praise unto Him!” Our voices ring from the cloud-covered mountaintop as we sing the iconic LIFT song, “Let Us Adore.”  This is our third day at El Refugio, the camp ministry where we are helping with daily work projects.  My lungs are still screaming from the steep incline of this morning’s “perimeter hike”, but this view—the sun peeping over the horizon, the clouds streaming along distant mountain ranges, Ecuador’s lush jungles stretched out before us—makes the hike more than worth it.
For me, this view provided a vivid glimpse of the glory of the Christian God.  After all, if creation awes us so deeply, then what of the Creator? Indeed, I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say that this entire missions trip revolves around God’s glory—the exaltation of His name and character. 

In these first few days at El Refugio, I have already witnessed the Lord’s beauty in many ways.   One example is my work project, which involves clearing heavily overgrown trails using hoes and machetes.  The Ecuadorean jungle points to an awesome Creator—from the intricacy of a bring pink flower to the majesty of the thundering rain.  Besides hacking through the many species of plants, bushes and trees, I’ve also learned to focus on God’s glory through a devotional packet given to us by the El Refugio staff.  The packet’s theme focuses on people as the “clay” and God as the “Potter,” reminding us that He created us for a specific purpose, namely to glorify Him in all that we do.  As 1 Corinthians 10:31 says, “And whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all to the glory of God.”  

Delighting in God’s glory involves so much more than just personal learning; it also means proclaiming His excellencies to those have not yet heard.  As our LIFT team eventually heads to El Chaco (on Friday) and then to Oyacachi (next Wednesday), our focus will be on exalting Christ as we share our messages and testimonies, as we dance, act out dramas, and lead worship in church, and even as we play soccer and group games with the youth.  The Apostle Paul said it best: “But far be it from me to boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me and I to the world.”  Indeed, what power do we have apart from the cross of Christ? If we share a message other than this, our efforts will be futile.  But if we proclaim only Christ and Him crucified, I am confident that the word of God will not return void.  I love how one of my LIFT friends, Noah Henkel, prays: “Lord, hide your servant behind the cross of Christ so that only He may be glorified.”  This is also our prayer as we head to El Chaco this weekend.  

Before El Chaco, however, we still have another full day here at El Refugio.  Yesterday morning, after the perimeter hike, we gathered in a semicircle in the dining hall.  Sunlight filtered through the large rectangular windows, and the smell of baked oatmeal wafted from the kitchen.  We opened our Bibles to Isaiah 40, where the prophet describes the majesty of God: “To whom then will you compare me, that I should be like him?” says the Holy One.  Lift up your eyes on high and see: who created these? He who brings out their host by number, calling them all by name; by the greatness of his might and because he is strong in power, not one is missing” (Isaiah 40:26). 

As we read this passage, I realized that we so often try compartmentalize God in an attempt to reduce Him to our level.  We get so lost in our postmodern world that we forget how great He is: He roars and the mountains quake (literally – we had three small earthquake tremors shake our beds around 11 pm last night); He knows every star by name and every hair on our heads; and, perhaps most miraculous of all, as He speaks, dead hearts come alive. 
I believe that this is the essence of why we are here in Ecuador: both to deeply experience His glory in our own lives and to declare His glory to others.  But I know that both of these lessons need to remain with us as we eventually return to the U.S.  Whether we are in an Ecuadoran jungle or an urban, American one, we need to live solely for Him, because it’s not about us—it never was.  Life is too short to be lived half-heartedly, twiddling our thumbs, while millions continue to perish without knowing Him.  

God, give us a passion for your Name until your glory fills the earth as water covers the sea.  Make us radical for you! So then, let us choose today to die to ourselves.  Let us seek until we find.  Let us surrender.  Let us worship.  And above all, let us adore. 

Christopher Kuo

Pray for us that God may open the door for our message and that we may proclaim it clearly as we should.  (Colossians 4: 3 & 4)

Please visit our LIFT Discipleship Program Facebook page to check out our pictures in the LIFT 41 Photo Album.  You can also follow us on Instagram.

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



Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Ministry Begins


Hello all! Thank you for your continued prayers for our group. It has been a crazy past 36 hours, but two flights and a long bus ride later we made it to El Refugio! We got our things settled in, had some time to enjoy the beautiful weather, followed by orientation and then a mini hike. As I am writing this tonight, the Lord brought to my mind a few things.

We are serving in a place where people come and experience God’s provision and love. It is called “El Refugio” or “The Refuge.” Today as I had my quiet time, I looked up; it was 70 degrees, trees surrounding everywhere, and I’m in the middle of the Andes Mountains. God’s creation was all around. What more could I ask for? I am blessed so far beyond what I deserve. It is easy to feel this way when the conditions were like that. But what about every day life back in the States? What about the times when it is easy to feel alone? What about when all I can do doesn’t seem to measure up? The easy answer – turn to God. But…how? The harder answer – having a mission, then being missionally minded. So what is our mission while we are down here in Ecuador? As I prayed that the Lord would open my eyes to his mission, he reminded me of some of the things we have learned this semester in our Holistic Ministry Practicum class.

It is important to remember that God does not need us. Instead he CHOOSES us. That should get us excited! He doesn’t want us sitting the bench and being passive; instead, he wants us out on the playing field “scoring goals” for the kingdom. What does that look like while we are here in Ecuador? It starts with us aligning our will with his and becoming one with the Spirit daily. Only then will he use us to our full potential, whether it be in the work projects, drama teams, teaching kids, playing games, or anything that we do. Please pray that we will all have this mindset and that we will seek him and his kingdom daily.

Another thing that we have been learning is what it truly means for our ministry to be holistic. Holistic ministry involves ministering to people completely, not just in one aspect. In the same way that God himself is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, so are we three parts: body, soul, and spirit. The cool thing about El Refugio is that their goal is life transformation and that comes through serving the people here holistically. As previously mentioned, we will be working on a few work projects to reach people’s physical needs. We have different outreach groups to build them up in the Spirit. We also are here to love them, as Christ loves the church, and through these things we pray that God will do a mighty thing in their lives. Please be in prayer that the Lord will use our efforts for his glory and to see lives changed forever.

We are also here to learn from the Ecuadorian people and their culture. When we have a willingness to learn - a heart for the Lord that goes beyond a heart for self - we can connect with them and build lasting, meaningful relationships. Every story they have to tell can be an opportunity to share the gospel. We then can share our story and use it as a testament of what God has shown and taught us.

No matter if we are in Ecuador or anywhere else, God will bless our faith when we simply say, “Here am I, send me” and then act on it. It is easy to have an emotional experience with God, to feel his presence and see his handiwork. But sometimes, when we don’t feel like we’re experiencing him, we tend to fall back. It is in those moments where we must remember that love is not a feeling, it is an action. We love God by following him wherever he takes us; to go when he says to go. Catch flights, not feelings. God is on the move, and he invites us all to be a part of his mission wherever we are!

“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all we ask or think, according to his power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” -Ephesians 3:20-21

Please continue praying for us. God Bless!

Noah Henkel

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Countdown to Launch


Greetings brothers and sisters in our Lord Jesus Christ.

On behalf of the whole of LIFT 41 I would like to thank you for your prayers and support for our upcoming time of ministry in Ecuador from March 18th  - April 3rd.  All of us are eagerly awaiting our departure from JFK on Sunday; although some are more anxious than others at the thought of packing all they need between supplies for lessons and adventure gear. I would urge you all to continue praying, specifically for Christ to prepare our hearts and give us right motive and discernment in the Spirit, that we bond with our brothers and sisters in Ecuador and encourage them in their faith, and that we also show Christ to those who don’t yet know Him.
          
This past week was the traditional LIFT "rice and beans fast" where the intention is to fast from variety and quantity of food in hopes that we can arrive in Ecuador with a focused dependence on Christ. I spoke with a few LIFTers about what God has been able to demonstrate to them via the fast. Lynette Estola, said that God really opened up her eyes to the confession and repentance aspect which is also another specific discipline were focusing on this week. She speaks on how holding onto any type of sin is, for all intense and purposes, is a wall between you and God and can corrupt your personal relationship with him and become a door to darkness. Fasting for her has helped her recognize this and take a more focused stance spiritually, being ready to repent and to confess that sin, so as to fully open her heart for the Spirit to be present with her in Ecuador.
          
I also spoke with Christine Miserendino, one our Spanish speakers who will be aiding our group as a translator in addition to a few other ministries. Out of LIFT 41’s twenty-seven disciples, we are blessed to have 6 that are fluent in Spanish. Christine is so excited to be able to serve in this capacity but she asks for prayers that she would be able to speak smoothly and clearly. Let’s pray these blessings for Christine along with the other translators.
          
With the translation ministry there are ten total ministry groups: Testimonies, Preaching, Worship, Children’s Praise, High-Energy Games, Sunday School Lessons, Drama Team, Dance Team, English Education, Bloggers, and Photography. Most LIFTer’s have had to join three ministry teams and we’ve been really busy in preparation. We would greatly appreciate prayers for each of these groups specifically.

On top of all these focuses, we also ask for prayer for a safe flight, guidance for our selfless leaders, and prayer for the people in Ecuador. Our prayer verse for this first entry is 1 Peter 1:39 “Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed.” 

Amen and thanks for reading, Christ be with you.

Jason Bryce

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Ebenezer


I am currently on a hammock listening to the music from a wedding reception that is happening just a few feet away. LIFT 40 got up early this morning, November 12th, to head to Panajachel. After arriving to our hotel, we took a large boat to the other side of Lake Atitlan to the quaint village of San Juan. Some of the group hiked up a very steep mountain called, The Nose of the Indian,  while others stayed back and explored the town. On our way back to our hotel, the boat stopped so we could swim in the 1000 foot deep volcanic crater lake. The scenery is incredible; the lake stretches over 10 miles and is surrounded by mountains and 3 large volcanoes.
        
Yesterday was our last day at our various ministry sites in Magdalena. Noah and Scott, fellow LIFTers, and I worked and served in the Sponsorship Site alongside our leader Steven. In the morning, we played soccer with people from the other sites and kids from Magdalena. After lunch we visited some people in the community to say our goodbyes. While walking around El Gorrion, I realized that there are a lot of people I am going to miss and a lot who had impacted my life. In less than two weeks I formed relationships with people who speak a different language than me and that have a different culture.  
       
Later that day we all gathered at the community center for a banquet. After dinner, we split up into our different ministry sites for a few last words and goodbyes. For almost two weeks the four of us worked together, learned from each other, and served together. It was very clear throughout that time that Steven was making a huge impact on us; from the Bible study he led for the LIFTers, to the words he exchanged with people on the street. After we shared a few words about the influence he had on us, he said there were three things he needed to say before we left. Sharing all three would be a little extensive for this blog post so I am just going to highlight his last point.     
      
He started off the third point by asking us if we knew what an Ebenezer was. I timidly replied with something along the lines of that in the Old Testament, when God provided, people would set up an Ebenezer to remember what He had done. Steven shared the story about how the Lord parted the Jordan for the Israelites to cross from Joshua 3-4. After crossing, “The Lord said to Joshua, ‘Choose twelve men from among the people, one from each tribe, and tell them to take up twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan from right where the priests stood to carry them over with you and put them down at the place where you stay tonight.’” Joshua did as the Lord said and he told the people that “These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever.” These days, Ebenezers are used to remind people of a spiritual truth, especially of Gods faithfulness and goodness. He encouraged us to take a rock from outside of the community center, as a stone of remembrance. He suggested that we put it by our bedside so that when we saw it we would remember the things that God taught us. As he was talking, I thought about all the incredible ways that His goodness and faithfulness were displayed for me to see on the trip.
    
I thought about the time we went to a woman’s home to do a house evaluation to see if her son could be considered for sponsorship. After the paperwork was completed, we began asking her about the culture. Eventually she started talking about her faith and it was so clear that she trusted in the Lord and found peace in Him. She told us that one time, her husband was on the bus home from the grocery store with a bag of their food for the week and it got stolen. Her husband was nervous to go home and tell her what had happened because they didn’t have enough money for any more food. When he got home and told her, she replied with grace and just said that she trusted that the Lord would provide. There wasn’t one day that entire week that the family didn’t go without food on the table. His faithfulness to keep His promise to provide was very evident in that story.  
      
I was reminded of God’s faithfulness and goodness in answering prayer. Thursday night, during dinner with our host family, we found out it was our “mom” Esther’s birthday. My roommates and I had mentioned that it would be nice if we bought flowers for her but by the time we had finished celebrating and cleaning dishes, it was well after 8:00pm and most stores close at 9:00pm. We decided go out to try to find flowers. As we walked down the hill towards the stores I prayed that we would find flowers. After walking for a few minutes I mentioned that we should try to ask the man at the bakery who hosted a few LIFTers if he knew where we could get flowers from. I was able to get out “where” and “flowers” in Spanish. He said something to his wife who was in the house and quickly moved aside the table and chair that blocked him from getting out from behind the counter. I thought he was going to point us in the direction that we might find some, but instead he motioned for us to go into his house. We walked in and immediately saw tons of plants and bouquets of flowers along the wall. At that moment Lynette, one of my roommates, remembered that she had found out this woman, Maria, was a florist a few days before from the LIFTers staying with them.
     
After the banquet I took Stevens advice and grabbed a stone from outside. I am so grateful and thankful for the time I spent in Magdalena and the ways that God revealed His goodness to me. My prayer is that when I get back to the states, I wouldn’t forget all that God has done these past two weeks. He is so good and so faithful.
     
As we head to the airport tomorrow, I ask that you pray for safety for us while we travel. Pray that we will take what we learned here and apply it when we get home. Pray that we won’t forget that serving and missions isn’t a calling, it’s a command. Thank you again for all your prayers and support.

Christy White


LIFT has been on the shores of Lake Atitlan enjoying two days of rest, recreation, debriefing the last two-week experience,and worshiping our Lord.   Please pray for LIFT as they will be flying from Guatemala to Houston then to NYC then drive 4 and 1/2 hours to the snowy CAMP-of-the-WOODS. They plan to arrive around 6 PM, Monday. 

See photos in the LIFT 40 photo album on Facebook at the LIFT Discipleship Program page:



Thursday, November 8, 2018

Behind a Smile


The days are winding down for us here in Guatemala but even so there is so much that we can still do and learn. Every day God speaks to us through the missionary staff sharing a message, personal quiet time, and through our ministry sites. We are also shown amazing love through our host families. Mom (Veronica) and Dad (Juan) always greet us with a smile and don’t stop telling us how much of a blessing Amit, Gabe and I are to be in their home. It was odd to me at first. All we did was sleep in their home and eat the food they made for us. But as we got to know them and became more comfortable with them, their love for Christ and others was so apparent that they have become a high point to all of our days.

I’ve been given the privilege to work with such a fun group with sports: Alyssa, Elias, Jasmine, and our awesome leaders Danny and Joseph. The sports group goes to different locations every day to play soccer and hang out with kids from Magdalena and neighboring towns. It’s been wild seeing the relationships between our leaders and the kids that have been built week after week of getting together. You may think all we do is play soccer. Nope! Bible study is a major focus and our leaders make sure to point everything back to God. Since we’ve been here the focus for Bible study has been on the future, goals and putting our trust in God. We have been sharing that no matter what we do or are worried about. We can put our full reliance on the God who created the universe and who only has the best of intentions for us, so we don’t have to be worried about our futures because he is always working for us and with us.

I’ve played soccer since I was little, so I know what is needed to play . . . at least I thought I did. After the first couple days I was very convicted about my first thoughts on the locations we played at. A soccer field has grass, lines, poles and nets. I mean, that’s what I had growing up. But the kids don’t see the same things that I did. They don’t see the hard ground with more rocks, holes, divots and trash than grass. They don’t see the bulls, horses and dogs that walk through the field and poop everywhere. They don’t see the goals that have no nets or a field that kicks up more dust than an exploding vacuum. What they see is a place where they can come and play a game they love with friends that share that same feeling. They see adults that love them and want to spend time with them, that show they care for them beyond just the game.

There was one day in particular where we only played soccer for about 30 minutes. It seemed like not all of the kids were motivated to play. So, Danny brought us all to a small hill right next to the field, and carried a large sack of corn that one of the kids had brought. They made a fire and cooked the corn on it. We sat in the shade of a tree, playing and laughing with the kids, just hanging out with them. All the while they are jumping all over us, asking for piggy back rides. That quickly turned into us swinging them around, pretending to throw them off the hill, and literally throwing a 5 year old boy named Dylan back and forth. For some reason they loved it and continued to ask us to do it. We were able to make these connections in such a short amount of time. Alyssa and Elias speak Spanish but Jasmine and I definitely don’t. But that didn’t matter, because when Dylan, Minor, Arturo and all the other kids smiled, I could see the absolute joy in them and it shattered all preconceived notions that may have existed in my mind about it. When someone whiffs a shot, trips and falls, or when I get a ball kicked between my legs multiple times, we are all able to laugh and cheer each other on. I had way better facilities growing up, but these kids have far more joy than I ever did. Creating these relationships and sharing God’s truth and love has been so inspiring to me and I pray that I become more intentional with building relationships as I move forward.

I ask for continued prayer for these last few days that we do not become complacent or ready to leave. The enemy hates that we are here and tries to thwart us in any way that he can. We have heard of a few of the Lifters’ struggles and I’ve had some of my own. There were a couple of days where I felt extremely low and focused on a the negative things rather than on all the good that had been done. I hid behind a smile for a while until I no longer could. Thankfully I find my solace in the unchanging, ever loving Creator of the universe, and am part of a family that encourages, loves and prays for one another so much that I was brought out of my rut. I saw that the enemy was trying to poison my experiences with things that I wanted, but I was helped into seeing the things I needed, God being my primary focus. I could not ask for a better group to be a part of and once again I ask for continued prayer for us, our leaders, and or ministry sites. I want my smiles to not hide pain or struggles, but to show the everlasting love and joy of Christ.

A big part of my story is overcoming depression.  By writing my thoughts out and seeing them helps me to better articulate what I want to say. When I am led, I write poetry to express how I feel, as in this moment…


Behind a Smile

A child’s eyes will always know                                                                                                                   
A wonder yours could also show                                                                                                                   
A child’s laugh will also bring                                                                                                                       
 A warmth that’s like the days of Spring

A child’s eyes could sing a verse                                                                                                                  
Of the God who made the universe                                                                                                               
So just like them, mouths stretched for miles                                                                                         
 Show only God behind a smile


Jacob Gerry

Monday, November 5, 2018

Listen


Today has almost come to a close here in Magdalena.  I just finished a delicious dinner with my host family and roommates.  I am now sitting on my bed as I write, surrounded by the sounds . . . culture shock just a week ago, but now I take comfort in.  I hear the dogs barking, children playing, and the occasional fireworks exploding in celebration of someone’s birthday.

It is Sunday.  The team and I had the opportunity to go to a bilingual church today in Antigua.  The team and I went to the Spanish service.  I’m glad we did as it was great to worship with our sisters and brothers in Christ in Spanish!

Today was a great time to rest as God has been preparing my heart for the week to come.  This next week, I will continue to serve, with two other LIFters, Aimee and Lynette, in the special education site alongside the missionaries from Students International.  I am excited to tell you a little bit about my site! At the school, the missionaries, Brenda and Shelly, serve and teach students with a variety of intellectual disabilities.  There is a morning and afternoon class that meets three times a week. During class the students practice their math skills, play games together, have a devotional, do a craft, and have time to socialize with each other as they enjoy a snack.  Brenda and Shelly are so loving and patience with the students as they demonstrate God’s love through their actions and kind words.
Also, two young boys with autism, come to the school three times a week.  Both of the boys are nonverbal but they clearly communicate with their smiles and laughs.  The boys love playing outside in the school’s small garden as they joyfully interact with whoever is kicking a ball to them or spinning them around in circles.  Also, a couple of days a week people within the community come to receive physical therapy at the school.

Aimee, Lynette, and I asked Shelly about how special needs is generally viewed in Guatemala.  She said that it is commonly looked down upon.  She told us that students have often told her stories of people calling them ugly and stupid on the streets.  Shelly also shared with us that some of the families of these children are often unkind to them as well.  She shared with us that when one student walks up to his cousins they run away from him.  They do this because he scares them as they do not understand his disability.  Hearing about how special needs is viewed here continues to break my heart.  I feel a heavy sadness for the students at this school.  Yet, I am happy and thankful for the privilege to serve these students with God’s love in me. Because they are discarded by society, the students believe that they are less important.  

Shelly and Brenda have been working on self-worth with the students to counteract these lies.  I created a sign that was hung in the classroom that says, translated in English, “I am intelligent. I am handsome/pretty.  I am invaluable”.  Brenda talked to the students about the truth of who they are. Also, with the students we made paper machete balloons and wrote Psalms 139:14 which reads, “I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”  I would encourage you to pray for these students as they begin to believe to the truth of who they are.  Also, pray that they would believe the truth that God created them with purpose.

Shelly told us that a mother shared with her that when she had her son, who has autism, she believed that it was a punishment from God because of the sins she had committed.  Shelly told us that this is a common belief within the culture as intellectual disabilities are misunderstood.  Yet, the mother of this boy has now come around to believe that her son is a blessing and has been given to her by God because God has entrusted her to take care of him.

Last Friday, the special education team went on a house visit to see Pablo, who has muscular dystrophy and intellectual disability.  When we got to the nearby town we sat and waited for Pablo’s father to find us so he could walk us to his house.  Pablo’s dad spotted us and led us to his home.  The path to where Pablo and his family lived looked over a big valley towards a mountain.   We walked awhile on the steep rough path, until we reached dozens of tin houses built with steal sheets.
We walked down makeshift concrete stairs, where many houses on both sides were.  Pablo’s dad then invited us into his home.  There we meet Pablo, who was being held by his mother.  We sat down in the small, well-kept room as we talked with the family.  Pablo’s mother looked into her son’s eyes with so much love.  She talked tenderly to him with gentle words as she held him securely.  Shelly asked Pablo’s mom, “What’s the best thing about being his mom?”  She smiled warmly and answered right away with, “The fact that he is my son and that I get to love him.”  Also, throughout our conversation the dad was lovingly trying to get Pablo’s attention as he smiled and gently waved across the room.  Yet, Pablo remained limp and verbally unresponsive.  I was so moved by the love Pablo’s parents clearly displayed. I also learned, from Shelly and Brenda, that Pablo’s mom carries him all the way up the steep and crooked path to get to the bus to take him to physical therapy.  I was amazed.  The walk to the house felt more like a hike and I was not carrying a six year old like she does!

During our visit Pablo’s father poured us each a glass of Pepsi.  This was a small, but telling gesture that revealed his hospitality and gratitude towards our visit.  Shelly told us that Pablo’s dad is the only father she has even seen at the school revealing his dedication and care for his child.  At the end of the visit, we gave the family fresh cut flowers from the garden at the school and a homemade card with a bible verse.  We prayed over the family and Pablo and thanked them for letting us visit them. Pablo’s mom gave each of us a hug and thanked us again for visiting.

The visit reminded me of the danger of the single story, as Christy mentioned in yesterday’s blog.  I do not want to tell Pablo’s story wrong.  Yes, his parents are financially poor.  But, more importantly, they are rich with love as I watched them care deeply for their son as they clearly reflected Christ’s love.  They choose to love their son as he is despite what society says about him.
I encourage you who are reading this and support us in prayer to take time to ask people their story and listen to what they have to say.  This is one of the most dignifying things you can do to another person. Instead of judging someone on the outside or by what they have, I encourage you to dig deeper and learn about the people around you.  When we are willing to be in relation with another person and listen to their story, it opens doors for us to share the hope and truth that is revealed in the gospel.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read the blog today. We are so thankful for all of your prayers this week. I ask that you pray for continued strength and reliance as we continue to serve. Please pray that we continue to not dwell on our needs but rely on Christ throughout the day. We are all so thankful for the privilege God has given us to serve here in Guatemala!

Sarah Dietz


See photos in the LIFT 40 photo album on Facebook at the LIFT Discipleship Program page:


One Story


          
My friend Sarah, a fellow LIFTer, and I are currently sitting in a quaint little coffee shop in Antigua, Guatemala.  Today, November 3rd, is our rest day.  Everyone is currently shopping at the market, exploring the city, eating tons of food, and enjoying the culture.  It has been a great day to stop and reflect on this past week and all that has happened so far.

On Wednesday, Noah Nehls, the director of Students International in Guatemala, taught one of our “Missions Practicum” classes about solidarity.  He started the class off by showing a Ted Talk given by a Nigerian woman.  She spoke about literature and how much of it only portrayed one story about the place where she lived.  African’s were portrayed as poor and uneducated.  She said that the people in power, the Americans and British, were able to control when, where, how, and how often that one story was told.  She concluded by saying that one-sided stories create stereotypes, rob people of humanity, and are incomplete.  After the video he asked us one question, “What story are you telling wrong?”

We broke for dinner and had time to think about the video and to ponder the question.  When we resumed class, Noah went on to talk about poverty and how it too is portrayed as a single story; as a lack of material possessions.  This is only part of the story.  Poverty can also be physical, social, emotional, psychological, governmental, and spiritual.  Poverty is a manifestation of broken relationships in all these areas and we are all impoverished because of sin.

He talked about a survey called “Voices of the Poor” in which they asked the poor what they lacked. They said that they had no hope, no dignity, no voice, no worth, and no value.  Those things don’t take money to fix, but time and much more.  It is very evident how materially impoverished some of the people in Magdalena are, but fixing their material poverty won’t change the fact that they will always be in poverty while on earth because of sin.  Student’s International understands this and therefore focuses on relationships over tasks.  Spending time with people, investing in their lives, and sharing truth are the things that will make a change.  Ministries focus on relationships over tasks; it is definitely not the American way, but it is what makes a difference.  Pouring into people, being vulnerable with them, loving and serving them, and giving them our time, this is what we are called to.

Friday morning, I was reminded of Noah’s question. During my quiet time I was reading “Holiness” by J. C. Ryle. In the chapter called “The Cost”, he says,
“Do not speak only of the uniform, the pay and the glory; speak also of the enemies, the battle, the armor, the watching, the marching and the drill. Do not present only one side of Christianity. Do not keep back the cross of self-denial that must be carried, when you speak of the cross on which Christ died for our redemption. Explain fully what Christianity entails. Entreat men to repent and come to Christ, but bid them at the same time to count the cost!”
“Do not present only one side of Christianity.”  This statement got me thinking back to everything Noah had talked about on Wednesday.  Thoughts of one-sided stories and poverty flooded my mind yet again. I thought about if I presented Christianity as a single, one sided story.
   
I realized that too often I focus on the crown but not the cross.  The single story I tend to speak about is the crown.  But since I am a follower of Christ, I am told to pick up my cross and follow Him, to deny myself and serve Him.  There is a cost to follow Christ.  When I started thinking of the whole story, I realized that there is a poverty that I’m called to as a Christian.  I am called to become impoverished to the things of the flesh.  I must rid myself of earthly desires and things of this world.  I must focus on things above.  I must remind myself of the whole story of Christianity and proclaim it to others.

Each morning before our quiet time, LIFTers put on the armor of God together.  We put on the Helmet of Salvation, the Breastplate of Righteousness, the Sword of the Spirit, the Shield of Faith, the Belt of Truth, and the Shoes of Peace.  We prepare ourselves for battle.  This is one of my favorite things we do as a community because it reminds me that we must always be ready to fight.  It reminds me that I must be constantly denying my flesh and carrying the cross.  The cost is high, but Christ is worth it. 
                    
We are all so thankful to be in Guatemala and serving at all the various sites.   Pray that we are willing to lay our desires aside to serve as the Lord calls. We are one week in and are excited to see what God in the remaining week here. Thank you for all the prayers thus far.

“Pray for us that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ - Pray that we may proclaim it clearly as we should.”  Colossians 4: 3 & 4

Gloria a Dios!

Christy White