Google+ Followers

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Ministry with Machetes and Mouths

LIFT 37 Ecuador Mission Blog Post #2
By Seth Brown

Have you ever seen Tarzan, or Swiss Family Robinson? Picture hacking vines and branches apart to clear your path. Each swing slices clean through your target, yet the overgrowth of vegetation bears down upon you, until your workmanship has crafted a tunnel of dark green through which you may pass. As you complete your latest swipe, your machete reveals a stunning sight- nestled within the valley, a tiered wooden structure of ropes and ladders, bridges and platforms- an actual treehouse!

The treehouse is but one of the many incredible features found on El Refugio’s expansive grounds. Over the years, their mission to “facilitate a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ through nature and outdoor adventure” has led to the creation of campsites, a high ropes course, fire pits, an outdoor climbing wall, and several buildings, including a newly enclosed dining hall that previous LIFTers have assisted in building. The names of the campsites in particular help convey the intention of the organization- Shechem, Kadesh, and Gilead are all cities of refuge spoken of in the Old Testament, and each campsite, and indeed all of El Refugio, aims to be a sanctuary with purpose.

We have started each day hiking with headlamps on the trails to acclimatize to the altitude here.  This morning we all reached the 11,000 foot summit of the property to have a spectacular view of all the surrounding mountains including the giant, glacier-covered Cayambe glowing with sunrise climbing its ridge.  We recited Sermon-on-the-Mount and prayed over the ministry and people here then headed back down for another great breakfast with freshly baked pancitos (small bread rolls), a choice of delicious fruit juices and baked oatmeal.

It has been an incredible blessing to spend the first few days serving here at El Refugio. During the day we split into different groups to serve with the staff on various projects throughout the camp. Although some of the staff members here speak English as their native tongue or have learned it well, others speak mostly Spanish. In the same way, our group encompasses a variety of Spanish-speaking ability. On Tuesday night I joined several LIFTers to assist the kitchen staff in finishing the dishes. It was an excellent chance to practice our Spanish vocabulary, and amusingly we ended up trading with the kitchen staff- we all went over both the Spanish and English words for the different kinds of silverware!

As we prepare to travel to work with the church in El Chaco for the next several days, old fears and doubts assail me. Will I be able to communicate clearly when I need to? Will I remember the Spanish I learned several years ago now, or will I fail? Will I be an effective light to the people I meet, to further God’s kingdom? Two passages of Scripture have been on my mind lately that clearly show God’s purpose and answer to these questions. After Moses’ encounter with God at the burning bush, instead of jumping to follow God’s commission, he declares himself unfit in speech to communicate what God has given him to say. And the LORD responds with “Who gave man his mouth? Is it not I, the LORD? Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say” (Ex. 4:11-12). In contrast, when Isaiah was called, he heard a voice asking who would go as God’s prophet. And he immediately replied, “Here am I. Send me!”(Isa. 6:8). Pray that each member of LIFT 37 would look to God for his guidance and strength, and that we would be as receptive to the Spirit’s leading as Isaiah. Here is LIFT God. Send us! 

Check out our Facebook page: LIFT Discipleship Program.  We will be posting pictures in the LIFT 37 photo album.  

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Rice and Beans

LIFT 37 Ecuador Mission Blog Post #1
by Elizabeth Flannery

We as a community spent Monday through Friday of last week at CAMP-of-the-WOODS practicing a fast of rice and beans (1 serving 3 meals a day) to prepare ourselves spiritually and physically for the adventure God is bringing us on and to get a taste of how the other half of the world has survived most of their lives. This was a really special time for us and God spoke and moved in our hearts in amazing ways. There were stories of healing and breaking and remolding and just awesome, sweet time with God.

During my fast, I was brought to Proverbs 2:2-6:
“Tune your ears to wisdom, and concentrate on understanding.
Search for them as you would for silver; seek them like hidden treasures.
Then you will understand what it means to fear the Lord, and you will gain knowledge from God.
For the Lord grants wisdom!”

This is a passionate and reckless pursuit of the satisfaction of God. I can (we can) not settle for being empty or downcast. Because discouragement is never from God, we will never be disheartened in our “passionate pursuit of true, deep, and lasting satisfaction” in Jesus. This transforms every single facet of Christian Life: that if we desire God more than we desire anything else in this world, we will find true joy and peace and he will use us in that space. So if we live this time we have in Ecuador focused on God’s constant presence and the reckless pursuit of him and not what we can do for him, He will make the rest fall into place. This is my prayer for my friends and myself these next 16 days.
We had a full 20-hour day of travel yesterday (Monday, March 20th), and arrived here safely at El Refugio late last night. After an orientation session this morning with Rick Borman and Jim Olsen, we spent the better part of today working in different teams on projects around this beautiful property and learning about what we’re going to be doing and how God might be using  us while we’re here. Llamas graze up and down the soft green mountains that surround us and the fields and forests are covered in little patches of tropical flowers and fruit trees. We ate papaya for breakfast and pineapple for lunch.  We are happy to be here and anxious to get into what Jesus has for us! Thank you for all the prayers and support! Gloria A Dios!!

Jeremiah 1:7-8 MSG
“God told me, “Don’t say, ‘I am only a boy.’
            I’ll tell you where to go and you’ll go there.
I’’ll tell you what to say and you’ll say it.
            Don’t be afraid of a soul.
I’ll be right there, looking after you.”

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

God Showing Off!

Every once in a while we get the opportunity to see God pull out all the stops and show his majestic power and beauty.  LIFT was able to experience jaw-dropping display of His creation at full radiance as we had the a serene evening with the Super Moon (a full moon with the closest it has been to the earth in many years) back lighting what seemed to be the entire country of Guatemala with all the cities and villages twinkling far far below in the valleys - all the way to the Pacific Ocean.  Then to top that, Volcan de Feugo was erupting 2-3 times per hour, with loud explosive blasts and lava spewing far in the air and down the mountain.

We value having "Wow Moments" in all of our adventures and experiences to give us times to see a glimpse of God's greatness.  This overnight hike, although difficult with climbing 5,000' in 5 miles with full packs was one of LIFT's greatest moments in the "Wow Factor" being off the scale.

We are all back in Magdalena.  We are tired, need a shower and a nap, but very satisfied and content with feeling accomplished with all we have seen God do on this mission trip and in the last few days. Many will fall asleep quickly with big smiles and excitement to return home yet sadness to leave.

We return to CAMP-of-the-WOODS early Thursday morning.  Please continue to pray for us as we have a very long day of traveling starting tomorrow @ 7:30.  Pray for alertness and safety on the road Wednesday night/Thursday morning.

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


Sunday, November 13, 2016

Old City, Rich Culture, Great Friends

LIFT 36 has finished working with the missionaries from Students International and celebrated our time together with a banquet and comments from our students to encourage the SI staff of all that was learned and experienced with our time together.

Saturday and Sunday were spent in the quaint old village of Antigua (meaning old-historic). What an amazing city overflowing with culture and beauty!  We met up with Megan Tusing, who attended LIFT 20 & 21 and has been serving as a missionary teacher in Guatemala ever since.  It was great to see her, catch up and hear her story shared to the current students.

Two of our students were sick over the weekend but are recovering very well.  Please pray for continued good health for the group as we venture off at 5 am Monday morning to climb the 3rd largest volcano in Central America - Volcan Acetenango.  It will be a physical challenge getting to base camp which is around 12,000' then waking up early on Tuesday to summit before sunrise.  We hope for amazing views from over 13,000' and the possibility of seeing Volcan Fuego erupting close by (but not too much of an eruption)  :)  This is the first time for most students to climb at high altitude so also pray for everyone to keep from getting altitude sickness.  

We return Tuesday afternoon to Magdalena to pack up and head back home on Wednesday - arriving at COTW around 6-7 a.m. on Thursday. This has been a fantastic trip.  God has been moving in many ways and is teaching the students a lot.

Please consider coming to the Guatemala Forum the students will be hosting after returning from Thanksgiving break.  It will be a time for them to share and present on their missions experience on Wednesday, November 30th at 7 p.m. at the Buirkle Center at CAMP-of-the-WOODS.

Got to cut this short and listen in as the students are now debriefing their time here.

Be sure to check out the recently updated photos on the LIFT 36 Guatemala Mission Trip photo album - more to come after our big climb.


Thursday, November 10, 2016

Faith in a Foreign Land

Hello all from Guatemala! We’ve already been here for a week and time has surely flown by! This is my second cross-cultural missions experience and it has really opened up my eyes to the fact that there are spiritual needs wherever we may go. It has been fulfilling to see my fellow LIFT brothers and sisters, as well as the Students International staff show the love of Christ to the people that they are serving. I pray that God will continue to allow us to display His love to all we encounter after this trip.

There are four of us (Tim, Matt W., Marcos and me) staying at the home of Augustine and Maria here in Magdalena, and they have been amazing hosts so far. Augustine and Maria run a bakery out of their home, which helps provide their income. Staying with them are their daughter, son-in-law, and grandchildren. Their beautiful home is like no place I have stayed at before. Most of the interior of the house is an open area with no roof. On the perimeter of the house, there are rooms for the kitchen and the living room. Upstairs are a few bedrooms as well as the bathroom and shower.

On the weekdays, we have worked at ministry sites throughout the community. I have been lucky enough to be a part of the tutoring site, where I help out with a vacation bible school program, since this is summer vacation time for school children. This consists of songs, bible lessons, crafts, and snacks. My group consists of the 3rd and 4th graders, who have a good amount of energy! Though I speak little Spanish, I have gotten plenty of hugs and high-fives. We also get to take part in home visits, where we visit the homes of our students to see how their families are doing, as well as getting the chance to pray for them. Our site leader, Raquel, really has a servant’s heart full of love for her students as well as the Lord. I am so blessed to have worked with her and I know she will continue to do great things.

Since we’ve been here, we’ve been going through a study on Daniel and his life in a foreign land. His example inspires us to remember that while we are miles from home, we still have a duty to serve and glorify God and that our sovereign Lord is in total control. I pray that the Lord would continue to open our hearts and lead us to be who He has called us to be. Please continue to keep us in your thoughts and prayers!

-Luke Warner

Everyone Needs the Gospel

Everyone Needs the Gospel

When we first got here we were all humbled by the joy the people here have despite how little they have. But, the more the locals open up and share about their lives, the more we realize the intricacies of the needs that still need to be met. God wants to take care of all of his children. He never wants his children to be lacking, and that is why he talks about his heart for the poor and generosity so often in His word. Poverty can be described in many different ways; spiritually, mentally, economically, bodily, politically or societally.

 After last night’s dinner with Students International of beans, rice and tortillas to simulate a common meal of the people here who have less, we had a discussion about the absolute poverty that we have been witnessing, and living in here in Magdalena. Many men, women, and children here are malnourished due to the lack of food- and nutritious food at that. If the children acquire 1 or 2 Quetzals, they can buy a bag of tortilla chips as a cheap snack. An Avocado or a banana costs the same amount, but all opt for un-nutritious snacks. I realize that this is also a problem close to home as well, so we can all be praying for an increase in awareness of nutrition, and an increase in resources for those in need.

It is easy to say that when we go back to the United States, that we will see poverty in a different way, because “the people here are poor economically but rich in the things that matter”. It IS true that in many other parts of the world, we tend to put our hope and comfort in materials rather than God, resulting in spiritual poverty. But, I want to be careful to NOT glorify poverty. Poverty breeds immorality everywhere, due to many factors such as lack of education, nutrition, relationship with God, and community support. It is survival mode, to say the least, and so many people are simply fending for themselves. For example, some children get handed over for marriage at a young age and by the time they are 13 years old have 7-10 children in places like El Tablon. Here in Magdalena, the average age is 15 with 3 children.

            Money does not fix poverty; it helps, but not holistically. As Christians, we cannot downplay the importance of being present. So, while at our ministry sites, simply being present with the adults and children, or a home visit, makes all the difference. We can pour out Christ's love onto others and pray for them. Yesterday, with the Creative Arts site, we went to a home visit in a town called El Gorrion. As we walked down the dirt road, we arrived at their humble “home” of wood, sheet metal and plastic thrown together in a rectangular fashion. The host taught us how to make tortillas and after she re-heated the chicken she had prepared on the wood-fire “stove”. We felt honored to be eating meat, because meat is definitely a delicacy here. We prayed for the meal and feasted, and at the end she asked for prayer for her and her family’s spiritual life. It was so amazing that this was the only thing she asked for prayer for! We prayed for her with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in us, and then parted ways. I am still filled with awe and thanksgiving at her graciousness toward us.

During the last week, we have all heard many stories of brokenness being restored because of Christ. It is so encouraging that God is working everywhere, all the time and the fruits of his labor is joy. Yes, this joy I speak of comes from the Lord. I know this is a bold statement but it is true. Chains are broken and people are set free spiritually. Families are restored and lives are transformed. Joy is a deep, soul expression that God gives us. Yes, we can feel many emotions such as happiness, sadness, anger, etc., but joy is form the Lord! As previously stated, the people we encounter here at the ministry sites have little to nothing, but they still emit a joy that is unmistakable. It has been incredible to hear the many stories of “Machismo” men who “used to drink all the time, spend all of their wife’s money, and beat their wives” be transformed by Christ. They give all the glory to God for this defining moment in their life and how Christ gives them a hope and a joy that is unchangeable. It is also encouraging to hear and see children and wives who have discovered and are deepening a relationship with Christ. And if they still live in broken homes, they now have a heavenly father to put their faith and hope in.

            Basically, everyone needs the gospel, no matter the circumstances. Think about how consistent God has been in your life. God is SO big. The freedom, peace and joy he brings spring from the hope stored up for us in heaven. It is a never ending spring of life, and the people here in Guatemala are discovering it. Hearts are being set on fire for Christ and people are rejoicing in WHO he is. There is still a huge need of resources though, so continue to pray for Guatemala and for an increase in resources for the people here - and all over the world! Just because a family discovers the hope found in Christ, does not mean they need to continue to live in difficult circumstances with an immense lack of hygiene and other resources.


            Eva Porter


Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Beautiful in His Sight

Relationship is the biggest way God reaches the hearts of people. And just as Jesus did, we in LIFT, through Students International and the amazing staff we work under, are making it our number one priority in our daily routines. One of the amazing opportunities some of the ministry teams have gotten to take part in to build relationships is when we visit people in their homes. I am in the Women’s Social Work mission working under the beautiful and selfless social worker, Shenny, and getting to visit the homes of the women we are working with every day so closely with her is an unreal experience.

These women and these families are more beautiful, more humble, and more resilient than anything I have ever seen. Some days it’s hard—the days when we have to sit in a room of nothing but sagging mattresses and a little gas stove. Wet clothes covering the window and door and streams of dirty water running across the dirt floor. Listening to a desperate mother explain how her husband can’t find work and her kids don’t have uniforms for school and she has an illness she can’t cure. But some days it’s so good—the days when we hold tiny kids in our laps and play games on the floor and learn new Spanish words through giggling toothless grins, and hear from a mother of six how Jesus has saved her from the despair of the loss of a husband to alcoholism. And at the end of every day, good or bad, easy or hard, God is always the center and He is slowly and radically working in the lives of all these families here in the villages of Magdalena and San Miguel. We get to pray together and sing together and share our testimonies, and lay hands on the sick and broken and share the gospel in the most unlikely circumstances. The Holy Spirit is moving and working in ways we can’t imagine or describe, and we all come back full of stories of His goodness and mystery every day.

Today our outreach group is throwing a baby shower for a woman in the town of San Miguel named Ruth, and I expect it to be a time of great joy and peace and blessing. This is a very special opportunity for us and a beautiful reminder to me of how much life is in a place of so little and of how God can do something so big with something so small.  Please keep sending your prayers this way for both us and the beautiful people of Guatemala!


Elizabeth Flannery