Thursday, August 30, 2012

This is not our Home!

One of the struggles that I have is that I feel I often live my life like there is no other life after this.  Sure I know that there is an eternal destiny for every person, but I find myself often not living that way. I often live for this life and not for the life to come. At times when life becomes a struggle or when facing difficulties I get angry or frustrated with God.  I some times wonder why God does not make my life a little easier. I wonder why mission work can not be a little easier. While we do see blessing on the work, it is often overshadowed by pain, heart-ache, frustration and difficulty.  I do not understand God in so many ways especially when difficulties arise. Although I do not hold to the wealth and prosperity gospel which is so prevalent these days, as I find it unbiblical and damaging, I do find myself at times living like it is true. I wrongly assume that because I am a missionary and making sacrifices by being here and serving the Lord, that He will make other parts of my life easier. This of course is not the case and I need to be reminded of that.  Earlier this year, or perhaps it was even at the end of last year, I heard a song that really brought these things in perspective and has been a huge blessing for Lia and myself. This song helped us to focus on the fact that God's "love is way too much to give us lesser things, that this world is not our home, and that the trials of this life are God's mercies in disguise"!  What God has in store for us is so much greater and better than what this life and this world have to offer us. The song is called "Blessings" and I highlighted the parts that have really impacted me. I hope it does the same for you and that we can remind each other that when struggles and difficulties arise God is allowing these things to happen in order to mold us more and more into His image and to make us yearn for our heavenly home. 


We pray for blessings
We pray for peace
Comfort for family, protection while we sleep
We pray for healing, for prosperity
We pray for Your mighty hand to ease our suffering
All the while, You hear each spoken need
Yet love is way too much to give us lesser things

'Cause what if your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You're near
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise

We pray for wisdom
Your voice to hear
We cry in anger when we cannot feel You near
We doubt your goodness, we doubt your love
As if every promise from Your Word is not enough
All the while, You hear each desperate plea
And long that we'd have faith to believe

When friends betray us
When darkness seems to win
We know that pain reminds this heart
That this is not our home

What if my greatest disappointments
Or the aching of this life
Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can't satisfy
What if trials of this life
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
Are your mercies in disguise

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

A Day at the Office

Some of you might wonder what a "typical" day at the office looks like for those of us missionaries that work at the AMG head office.  After dropping the kids off at school at around 7:45 we drive from San Cristobal (a suburb) to Verbena which is in Zone 7 of Guatemala City (considered one of the more dangerous zones of the city).  The distance from the school to the office is perhaps only some 13 km or 8 miles, but it can take up to an hour/hour and a half to get there although most mornings it takes around 30-45 minutes. The biggest problem with traffic is getting out of San Cristobal.  Once you get closer to the city traffic thins out a little as people go in different directions.  
We arrived at the office around 8:30 and spent the next hour or so answering emails before running off to a special event in the chapel of the school. August is the "month of the Bible" here in Guatemala and so AMG had set up a special event celebrating the Bible through presentations and Bible memory recitals by students from the various AMG city projects.  This was neat to see.  A little 3 years old girl started off the program by reciting a whole Psalm.  It was very impressive! Each city project participated through drama and dance and there were also awards given to those students who excelled in Bible memory.
We could not stay for the whole program due to a meeting we had to attend and a skype call to do with one of our donors. Today's conference call was with Rick Postma and John Otten from Word and Deed Canada to talk about the hospital and the education program in Cubulco. The call was very positive and hope will lead to a fruitful outcome.
As the morning and the afternoon wore on the skies darkened with ominous looking thunder clouds.  During our skype call with Word and Deed Canada it started to pour and it became hard to continue on with the call as the rain drowned out our voices. It continued to pour for several hours and soon the streets turned into rivers as the storm sewers were overcome by the deluge.  Needless to say the drive home was interesting and fun (when in a 4x4).  

Friday, August 24, 2012

A Great and Interesting Trip to Cubulco

I went to Cubulco this past week for several days together with Brian Dennett (director of AMG) and Alex Orellana (administrative director of AMG) to meet with the teachers and the church regarding takeover of the education project by AMG.  For those who do not know, FRMI (Free Reformed Missions) wants AMG to take over the administration of the education projects in Cubulco although they will continue to fund them.  The reason for this is that AMG has been involved with education in Guatemala for many years and have the resources to do a better job than we could do on our own. The meetings we had were very fruitful. On Monday afternoon we met with the teachers from the center and from the aldeas.  Brian Dennett explained to them some of the history of AMG and what AMG stands for.  He shared with the teachers the Theory of Change which basically explains how AMG would like to transform individuals, families, communities, and whole regions through its programs. This transformation is centered around the Word of God and Christ since no true transformation can be achieved apart from Christ. The teachers seemed to be excited about the possibility of working for AMG starting 2013.  On Tuesday we met with the steering committee of the church and Brian once again explained what AMG stands for.  Alex Orellana also briefly covered some administrative areas. The committee responded favorably and enthusiastically to what was presented to them. I see many possibilities and opportunities with AMG taking over the program and I think we will be able to accomplish much more in Cubulco than if we would do it on our own.  
On Wednesday I took Brian and Alex to visit Pichal and meet with our teacher there and the students from the school.  We drove 45 minutes to Chitomax which is where the road ends.  This is also the place where the bridge used to be. The government promised to rebuild the bridge and construction appears to be under way.  The bridge will be bigger than the previous one.  After a tranquil river crossing we hiked up to Pichal. On our way up to Pichal we veered off the main path to witness an exhumation of a man who had been murdered 31 years ago during the civil war.  The family has been looking for his body for many years and it appears that they finally have found him although DNA analysis will need to be done to confirm that. I knew some of the extended family of the victim as some of them are part of the church in Pichal.  We stayed for some time until the body was uncovered by the forensic anthropologists and then we left. It was obvious from the remains that the man had died a violent death. It was disturbing to think that several decades ago some one did an evil act in that place. It brought home again the fact that many people in Guatemala are still dealing with the aftermath of the civil war. Many families are still wondering what happened to their loved ones. Many are still searching for clues. Many are also still demanding justice. From what I have read, only 2 Guatemalans have been convicted of crimes against humanity stemming from the civil war.  None of the masterminds have ever been brought to justice. I ask that you pray for justice and healing in Guatemala.
The beginning of the construction of the new bridge
After the exhumation we hiked the rest of the way to Pichal to meet with our teacher Juan and the students of the school. Juan is the son of the obrero Santos from the church in Pichal. We spoke to them for a while explaining who we were and what we are doing in Guatemala and in Cubulco. We also spoke of some of the opportunities that these kids might have to be able to go to the AMG camp which would be very special for these children since none of them have ever been to Guatemala City.  We hope and pray that we will be able to work something out so that we can provide this service to the children in the aldeas.
Our trip to Cubulco was very fruitful. The highlight was going to aldea of Pichal. I think that through this trip to Cubulco and Pichal we clarified and shaped our vision for the future of the ongoing work there. Please pray with us that God will continue to shape that vision and that the people as well will capture the vision. One of the challenges I left with the teachers and with the church committee was to dream and be visionary. This is some times hard for the people to do since they often have daily struggles that keep them from dreaming. As I mentioned before, I see so many possibilities with the education project being in the hands of AMG, but as nice as that may be, I want the people to see that for themselves. I want them to dream and envision the future for Cubulco and be an active part in carrying out this vision!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Jesse's First Day of School

Eve is one of Jesse's best friends

Today was an exciting day for Jesse. Not only was it his 5th birthday, but it was also his first day of school. Jesse started kindergarten today and he was very excited. Although he went to bed quite late he was up early getting ready for class. That was very responsible of him. We took him and then twins to school at 7:40 and brought him to his classroom. He quickly fit in and left us to play with some of the other kids. He knows several of the other kids in the class which of course made it easy. At 10:00 Lia brought cupcakes to class to celebrate Jesse's birthday and at noon we picked him up again together with Nico and Ellen. Today was just a half a day of school, Tomorrow they will have their first full day of school from 8:00 till 3:15. We ask that you pray for our kids as they start another year as well as for the teachers.
Ellen and one of her classmates

Back In Guatemala

Chilliwack Lake
We are back safe and sound in Guatemala. We had a good time in Canada visiting with family and friends and being with our sending church. We greatly appreciate the support that the Chilliwack FRC gives us and we enjoyed sharing about what the Lord is doing in Guatemala. We also enjoyed the beauty of BC and the smooth, straight roads and being able to do some fishing. We fished the icy waters of Chilliwack Lake and although we did not catch too much we enjoyed the beautiful scenery. Other than going on some drives, day trips and fishing we did not do a whole lot. I spent a few days working with my brother in law putting trusses on a monster of a house. I enjoyed doing some physical labour and the weather was perfect for it. The rest of our time was spent shopping, visiting family and friends, and getting things arranged for another year away. We stayed with Lia's mom and the kids enjoyed riding their bikes and going on walks through the forest (where the bad wolf lives- according to Tristan).
Our flight to Guatemala from Seattle left at around 12:20 am Friday morning. The flight was more or less uneventful except for the lack sleep and the rough landing in Guatemala City. The airport here is considered one of the more difficult places to land because of the surrounding mountains and the fact that it is in the middle of the city. We arrived at 11:00 am and were picked up by Alex an AMG worker who brought us home. It was nice to come home to a spotless house thanks to our maid Maria.
We spent Saturday doing some grocery shopping and we were finally able to pick up the Nissan Patrol from the shop. The engine had finally arrived the middle of July and so it was finally ready for us to use.  The Patrol had been in shop since the beginning of March. Even though it took so long we are grateful that they gave us a new engine with another 3 year warranty. God has been good!

On Sunday we went to the Presbyterian Church and enjoyed the worship service there. On Monday I went to the office for a while to do some work.  On Tuesday I went to the office again for a meeting with some members of the medical faculty of the largest private university in Guatemala and other AMG workers. Several blocks from the office I saw my first murder since being back.  A man had been shot and was lying on the side of the road and people were milling around to get a look.  It brought home again the reality of living in Guatemala.  Having said that we had a great meeting with the university and we look forward to working with them in finding possible solutions to some of the problems children and young people face in Guatemala. The university is helping AMG do a study to better understand the context and barriers children and young people face as a result of living in the slums.
We ask that you continue to pray for Guatemala and also for the organizations like AMG and FRMI who are working hard to bring about lasting change through the sharing of the Gospel.