Psalm 57: 9-11 I will praise you, O Lord, among the nations; I will sing of you among the peoples. For great is your love, reaching to the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the skies. Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; let your glory be over all the earth.
The first day in the village we were greeted by the large brown eyes of many children looking at us eagerly, curiously, and some tentatively. Parents stood at the perimeter. Reaching into our backpacks we pulled out small pieces of candy, granola bars, match box cars and tennis balls. Passing out these items to the children quickly led to smiles, their hands in ours, games of catch and those on the fringes moving in to be a part of the activity. By the end of our day in the village, and on the next two days, the children rushed to meet us, greeted us with hugs, bathed us in their smiles, and helped with the daily tasks of carrying drills, buckets, and backpacks. The children also wanted to be a part of the building process—handing us screws and trying out the drills. We went through a lot of batteries as they thought it was great fun to push the button over and over, even when there was nothing to drill. Language didn’t matter as eager hands and friendly smiles crossed over the barrier.
Before we began, Dan told us “to leave our western thinking behind. The houses will get built on time and if anyone in the village wants to help you, let them; let them be involved. Make sure you take time to make relationships with these people.” Such a simple thing in so many ways, yet its truth was enormous! Through God’s grace and our striving to take on this attitude we were blessed to see God working over and over again. Countless gifts God gave us and reflections of Himself He revealed as we sat with mothers, held babies, showed father’s how to use the drills, developed new friendships among teammates, played games with the children, painted little fingernails, let the children show us where they lived and played, attempted to revive our high school Spanish, and took in the beauty of the hills, trees and valleys of the landscape.
On the third day the homes were finished (yes, in 3 days!) and the dedications began. Each group of five who built the house went in along with the family members, Dan, and Hermano Jesus, the Guatemalan pastor. Jesus and Dan’s words were not focused on a religion, but on a personal relationship with God. As the gospel was shared inside the house the rest of our group surrounded the house in prayer, song and scripture. By the dedication of third house we had a sense of what it must have been like to be the disciples in the garden with Jesus. We felt exhausted by the heat and long days, distracted by the clucking chickens, playing children, talking women, and our own wandering thoughts, finding it hard to stay focused in prayer. In those weary hours I learned who were the prayer warriors among us as they lifted up not only the family in the house, but rest of us gathered around it.
I wish I could think of words to accurately describe it. What it was like to feel the Spirit moving. All five families accepted Christ that day. The Discipleship ministry of PBM ensures that this village will have continued opportunity to grow in their faith and that Dan and his staff will continue to pour into their spiritual needs, as well as physical.
One family, a widower with six children, stands out in my mind. One of his teenage daughters, whom we met the very first day, had such sadness in her eyes, a heaviness on her heart that was visible. When the gospel was shared in this home she fell to her knees among her family and wept. It was as though God allowed us to watch Him wash years of pain and sorrow from her heart as she let go in tears and cries to God. Only God could fill her void and give her hope. Afterward, she looked visibly different. She had found in God what she had been longing for—to know she is His child, his beloved, His chosen and she is saved.
Day four and five were medical clinic days. When we arrived in the village half the team helped set up the medical clinic supplies while others played among the families. A rousing game of soccer soon ensued. Coloring books, nail polish, and beads were all around. Games of “Pato, Pato, Ganso” (Duck, Duck, Goose) could be heard. This scene went on for many hours as the villagers waited for their turn to be seen at the medical clinic. As evening approached the Jesus film was shown on a huge white sheet. For many this was the first movie they have ever seen. As the film played we sat among our new friends, many of us with children on our laps. When the film finished Hermano Jesus shared the gospel of salvation and invited those who wanted to accept Jesus as their Savior to come and pray with him. His voice rose and fell with passion, purpose and belief. Even though we didn’t understand all that he said we knew his message was powerful and true and the Spirit was moving through his words.
As people came forward we moved with them, to pray for them, to pray with them, to rededicate ourselves to our Savior. Coming from our often planned, controlled, careful world of worship it was a bit unnerving, and altogether inspiring, to see and hear the raw worship and repentance displayed in Guatemala.
At the first medical clinic day the entire village came forward and accepted Christ for the first time or reaffirmed their faith in Him. In the second village many seemed hesitant. Slowly one man stepped forward. It was amazing to see as one came forward, many followed. Later, when we were back at the mission base, Dan posed these questions to us: “Are you stepping out in Christ? Will you be that one who will simply go to Christ, mattering not the cost? Who will you follow?”
Each evening we gathered for group devotions. First in song, then sharing our experiences of the day, the ways we saw God working in the people we met, in ourselves, and in our physical surroundings and situations. Then Dan guided us through scripture and devotions. For many of us it was a time when scripture came alive. Again I was reminded of the disciples and how I felt like one of them. So close to God’s amazing work, marveling at His power, His beauty, His care, His salvation, and at the very same time caught up in my own thinking, my own purposes and trying to reason or plan how things should go. And in grace, feeling God was redirecting me to follow Him, trust in Him, wait on Him, and to rely on Him. Our God is ever present. We need to allow our eyes and hearts to be open to him.
Joyful, joyful we adore you, God of glory, Lord of love. Hearts unfold like flowers before you, opening to the sun above.