Saturday, March 30, 2013

90 degrees and in JEANS!

Culture shock comes in many forms. We expected their clothes would be different from ours. Roxie, Lizzie and I made sure not to bring shorts or sleeveless tops and we each had a least a couple of LONG skirts on hand. The guys also had to adjust - no shorts. Did I mention it was at least 90 degree's every day, with humidity often in the the high 90's? Hot, steamy, and in jeans...yeah. But we didn't want to offend anyone, so of course we happily adjusted our attire as best we could.

Ulysses Danial & Kelly
Our group included some friends for the Region who are currently stationed at the local seminary in  Guatemala City. Ulysses Danial and his wife Kelly, and Roger joined us on our adventure. Ulysses Danial and Kelly oversee Discipleship, Evangelism  Sunday School Ministry and Women's Ministry for their region which includes Guatemala and 3 other countries. Roger, as best I can describe him, is a technological "Macgyver". If it has a cord and is broke, he can probably fix it. Roger spent
most of his days repairing the equipment from the district office and area churches - re-sauteing  re-connecting, re-wiring...he told us "when your stuff breaks, don't throw it away, bring it to me and we'll use it here." Simone was our interpreter and Ruthie also jointed us while in Guatemala City. Amazing sisters in Christ! I am so blessed to call them friends.

On the bus trip to Fray, we began to learn about the country, the culture and the people. This area has very strong gender rolls. Women did the cooking, cleaning and most child care. The men worked, HARD. All the pastors are bi-vocational, preaching and shepherding while also working another full time job to pay the bills and keep the family clothed and fed. The women of our group would not be doing ANY of the physical labor, EVER; a man would not be seen in the kitchen. There are no women pastors here. It's just not done.

There was one "grocery store" in Fray, but it was very small. It is comparable in size to ...well it was larger than a Circle K or 7/11 but smaller than an Old Navy. Not nearly as big as a Walmart, or Fry's or Kroger or Hyvee. The markets were AMAZING. So many colors, smells and sights. A trip was made to the Church of Fray. What a special treat. The local church women were preparing the afternoon meal. The food was fresh, and completely organic. I wish time could have allowed for me to stay and learn a few things from these amazing chefs! I was reminded of home when we noticed that many of the "things" in the kitchen were labeled with the churches name and seal.  I guess people "borrow" stuff from church kitchens all over the world :-)

We visited the district office compound; it was square with open area in the middle and the entrance gate off to one side. All the doors were steal construction, and all of the windows had strong (yet decorative) iron bars. At the front was the living quarters of the district first family, and in the back were the "dorm style rooms" for pastors (or pastors in training) who would come to the
compound to take course of study classes. Along the sides were class rooms and meeting rooms and the district offices. There was even a district bus!  There is lots of teaching, training and straight up New Testament discipleship going on. Many new Christians are responding to the call of God on their life. Praise God! Praise God! We began to hear about the extensive efforts to raise up
missionaries and pastors in this area - for this area. Culture is everything.  In presenting the life saving news of Jesus, we must be mindful of the audience. Paul was a master at this. He knew how to clue in on who he was speaking to and what they were about. Paul, and the people of Northern Guatemala gave me a good reminder about reaching people where they are. I am a messenger. I need to not distract people from what God is about and who God is. I need to do His work, but not get in His way. This week, that includes not wearing shorts, or helping carry boards. It means loving on the children and offering a smile where I can. It means slowing down to see who's near the path. It means moving to the back of the bus, so there are seats in the front for the stragglers we pick up along the way. I was a straggler once. Thankfully someone, noticed where I was and made room for me.

Friday, March 29, 2013

The Great Escape...

Smoke rises outside the hotel compound
There was little sleep on that Thursday night - at least for me. But I was in Matt's arms and we were in Gods hands, so as the sun rose on Friday morning there was peace in our tiny hotel room. A cold shower woke me up nicely, and some black coffee with a good bit of sugar would fill in the gaps. Things had not resolved over night. There was concern that the protest had spread to other communities along our path back to Guatemala City. Word had spread back home too, and legions of prayer warriors had taken post. We ate breakfast at the hotel restaurant  and waited for reliable information from our local church family. We were asked to go pack our bags. IF we left today, it would be through the jungle on foot. We were told to take only what we could carry. A bag with wheels is good. A bag you can lift over your head is best. We will have to cross a river. Be back here, in one hour, ready to leave. Clothes of all types, the heating pad, extra sun block and bug spray, various tools and work supplies, shoes, the bladders for our camel packs, snacks we'd not yet eaten - all packed in the suitcase we'd replace once we got back to the States, and placed in the district superintendents car for distribution at a later date.

The gate was the unknown
At last the word came. After negotiating with the protesters, our church friends were told we would be allowed to cross the protest line. Then after about 30 minutes of heartfelt pleading, the hotel owner agreed to open up the back entrance of the hotel, which lead thru the jungle on the back side of town. It was an Old Testament moment. The word came, and we fled. NOW! WE LEAVE NOW! They did not give us silver. But, the church men were there again - so that did mean no carrying a suitcase for me! We even talked about the OT story where God led His people with a pillar of fire and a pillar of cloud. We had pillars of smoke, and God's men to lead us :-) In the light of day, for me there was no fear. No panic. A well maintained bridge provided safe and easy passage over the river, so no swimming was needed and the Pastor did not need to pray for the waters to part. The pace was quick. Once or twice we had to stop to let others catch up and to take a drink of water. It was a lot like walking in a mix between hilly tree line and corn fields. We were always on a path, so it wasn't like we were cutting our way out of the jungle. We met up with the road fairly close to where the protest line had been. It was moved further out, and now all that remained were the smoldering tires. When we got close enough to see the line of protesters, we were also close enough to see the federal police. The police saw us too, and we passed without hindrance. There was the potential for harm. The potential for greater complication. Things could have got very sticky very fast. God was there the whole time and so was the peace that only he can provide. He knew the whole story. He saw the whole plan.

There is song I heard by Chris Tomlin shortly after we returned home. It says in part:  Whom shall I fear? Whom shall I fear? I know Who goes before me, I know Who stands behind. The God of Angel armies, is always by my side.
Yeah - it was like that.

Two days later the dispute was over. That district, those churches, those people were AMAZING! There was such care for us. Our local team was so smart in the way the advocated for us, protected us, and wrapped us up into their local church family and just straight up loved us.   I would go back tomorrow, with my children and I'd suggest you pray hard about going too :-)

Thursday, March 28, 2013

The Nameless Woman

Thursday Night ~   Service was done and we were on the bus before 9pm.  "Wow, looks like everyone might get showers tonight before the water gets turned off!" It's dark in the mountains on the drive back into town. Really dark. For the first time all week there is no moon or stars. Instead we've been praying God's hand to hold back the rain. I'm passing out waters and snacks. We talk of how we'll miss this place, and try to mentally capture the final memories of our last trip down this road. Out of the darkness we see a headlight and soon find our bus nose to nose with a motorcycle headed back to the village. Several men enter the bus. We recognize them as the Pastor of the Fray Church, the local District Superintendent and a few others. The tone quickly changes. No smiles, No laughs. We can't understand a word, but we understand enough. Something is wrong.

I ask Simone - she says she doesn't want to tell us now, no need to worry.
Guess what? We're already there.
There's a problem.

There is a dispute between the local taxi owners and the town mayor. The road has been closed to traffic. There are roadblocks, and fires and protesters. The word they use is "riot", but there is not violence. We cannot stay on this road. Time for a group vote. Stay on the bus as a group for the night in a nearby field and try and get back to the hotel (and our passports) in the morning OR leave the bus and walk in the last 30 minutes of the trip - through the protesters - and back to the safety of our hotel compound.  It's unanimous. We walk. Pastor, Matt and Jacob divide up the cash. And I pray and I pray and I pray. We get as close as we can to town in the bus, then we roll to a stop the engine goes still. We have flashlights but are asked not to use them. We are asked to walk quietly. As we got off the bus I watched our sons, now both nearly grown men, step out into the darkness that awaited us all. I am completely powerless, yet I know we are in the care of the Almighty God. Matt is there, and he takes hold of my hand as my foot touches the path. We'll face this together hand in hand. That's just how we roll.

My Kingdom Sister
I have never experienced the love of the church as I did in this moment. The Pastors, their wives and their children along with church families from Fray and Miguela surrounded us. Literally. In Front. Behind. On the side. As we walked it was clear we were not locals. Some in the crowds shouted and scoffed in our direction, but the church people would speak back, explaining that we were Christian missionaries. Several times taxi's and motorcycles sped past. No street lights. No moon. Simone and Lizzy near the front. Seth, then Roxie and Jim who held hands and walked, Jay, Matt and I (also holding hands) Pastor and Lee. Others from the district were with us, my guess would be there were 30 or so in our group. We came to a spot where we'd have to step around a burning roadblock. Matt let go of my hand and went ahead to shine his light for all to see where it would be safe to step. As he held my hand and helped me step over, he said "it'll be ok, keep going, I'll be close."

 For the first time I felt panic. I felt alone. I am a big girl. I clearly remember thinking...breath and walk, breath and walk. It couldn't have been more than 10 seconds. She took my hand.  I'd seen her around the village all week. She was quiet, yet kind. We never spoke. Not even once.This sweet Guatemalan Christian sister, old enough to be my mom, took my hand and smiled. I will never know her name, at least not this side of heaven. But her face will be forever imprinted on my heart. I learned so much from her. About life, about Christian love, and about the benefits of being a member of the family of God.  A few seconds later another woman, probably about my age took my other hand. They did not let go until I was safely at the hotel. Once in the compound our group held hands and praised God (any several languages) for his protection in all things. Matt and I walked the boys to their room, and hugged on them for just a bit. Then we went back to our room, held each other and wept.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

We aren't in Kansas (or the Quad Cities) any more

I am a planner. For me there is comfort in order.  I realized that I had forgotten my watch at home shortly after we reach the airport in Chicago. We considered buying one, but at 2am most airport shops are not open (go figure), so we agreed God would just have to do His God thing. Turns out that His 'God thing' was Guatemala Time. Now for a little cross cultural education. If you've never been far from the North American boarders, then you don't know that time is relevant to your current location. I am not talking about time zones. You see there is North American time, and since you most likely are a North American you are probably accustomed to fashioning your schedule around a clock. In my culture, if the the group leader says to be at the bus at 6:30 a.m. and be packed and ready to go, then there is a high probability that 9 North Americans will be packed at the bus and ready to go at that time.  But as you may recall, Miguela is not in North America, instead it's in beautiful and breathtaking Guatemala.

"Guatemala Time" as we came to appreciate means...'we'd like to starting thinking about doing this around this time, so show up as close to that as you can.' - that's a rough translation, but it's actually pretty accurate. It was explained to us later that Church should not be a source of stress. Church should not be rushed, or feel rushed. The people have so many stresses already. Why make church stressful too? When they are all there, then they will start. No worries. It will be fine. Just in case you are wondering, this did take some getting use to. The perception is that Americans are always in a hurry, because we are always on time and in a rush to start. I've always thought that being on time was both expected and polite. It's easy to see how something as simple as time could have such broad implications. Now we understand one another a bit better. Eventually we would just ask, "American or Guatemala Time?" and the answer was always Guatemalan. So we'd show up 15 minutes late but actually be just on time, and it was fine.

The Service on Wednesday night was unlike anything we've experienced before. Scheduled to start at 6:30, actually meant a start time of about 7:15pm. Classified as a praise and testimony service, it actually felt a little bit like "open mic night at Miguela First Church of the Nazarene." The local church in Fray brought in the praise band, complete with drums and electric guitar.  There were numerous musical specials and congregational singing, several Pastors and other leaders spoke. At one point in the service everybody stopped, turned and started smiling at the Americans. That's when the interpreter came over, huddled down by our pew and said, "Hey guess what? They are so happy that you're here, they would just love for your group to sing a song." Did I mention that we are not in fact a traveling singing group? So I stood up, motioned to the others in our group (with some waving hands and the biggest smile you have ever seen) and as we walked down the aisle to the front of the church we picked a song that we all knew most of the words to. One song turned into three. It was magical. Note to self ~ next time come with songs to sing on the fly.

It was about this point that the verse in Hebrews 10 that says "don't give up meeting together as some are in the habit of (not) doing.. popped into my head. When these people meet they mean it! Nobody in this crowd worried about mowing the grass or beating the Baptists to the restaurant for a good table at lunch.

At 9:15 Simone came to me and said "They are going to sing two more songs." I smiled, "ok". Then she smiled and said "and then they will start the preaching." Then she smiled even bigger. It was one of those, 'everybody is looking at me' moments. I smiled with all of the sincerity I could muster, took a deep breath and relayed the message. First to Matt, the the Seth and Jay ~ their faces were priceless.  Yep we are not in the Quad Cities any more. How long has it been since you were in a 3 1/2 hour service? The children came and went. There was a vendor who was selling chocolate dipped bananas just outside the church door ~ so people would get up, get a snack and bring it right in to munch on.  Occasionally one of the community dogs would wonder in, only to be shooed off by an usher or greeter.  They even have counters in Guatemala, who tirelessly keep track of how many people where there.

And then it happened. We saw the nursery. The women carried the babies and small children in blankets on their backs. We'd often see them walking along the road, with the baby blanket rope balanced on their heads. But tonight, tonight was special. As the little ones would fall asleep, the mommas would hang them from the walls. Seriously. At one point there were at least 3 sleeping babies hanging from the walls.

I felt inspired. We have walls at our church. We have Menards. Menards has hooks. 'BOOM! I had a great new idea of how to address our staffing issues in the early childhood department. My inspiration was not embraced by my home church mamma's...but that's ok. They still love me, and I love them. But seriously, I am inspired. These people on this night were not concerned about the time, the traffic, or the children's sleep schedules. For this moment, on this night they knew where they needed to be and what they needed to do. They were together. In God's house. For God's glory. AMEN

Monday, March 25, 2013

The Place I fell in Love...

Guatemala 2013
I fell in love on the Mission Field. It stuck. Matt and I started dating on a Youth Group mission trip to Mexico while we where in high school.  I was young and impulsive, and a tad bit thinner. I didn't always think things through. My mouth sometimes got the better of me. Matt was able to see beyond my faults to the woman I could become ~ and he still does. I cannot imagine any other life. It's not perfect. It's real and sometimes it's messy. Love and grace go a long way tho, and I know I am blessed to be married to my best friend. Praise God for His blessings that are greater that we could ever imagine.

Much of our time in Guatemala was spent together.  But that's how we do life. Whether it's Kid's Camp or the Wild Game Dinner, hiking the trail or searching for treasures in the antique shop, we like doing life together. We have discovered a few central truths: We are better together, We are stronger together, We are happier together.

We spent time in the school, worked the Church's Vacation Bible School program, ate, sang and worshiped hand in hand. We are a team. I always felt safe. I always knew he was near by. There were a few bad hair moments I am sure. We got tired, there was stress. We are human. Love and grace, forgiveness and hugs ~ it's all good.

And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father. Colossians 3:17

When Matt says he'll do anything you need he means it. Mission trips (like life in general) are fluid experiences. It's always a good thing to have a plan, but then life happens and flexibility and adaption are necessary. Matt helped set the tone. Never a complaint, just a smile and a warm helping hand. "Hey we are gonna tell a Bible Story, in three languages, and act it out for the children, right now. We need you to play the part of .... Go!" Day one was David and Goliath. Day two was the Good Samaritan. "Hey we need someone to dress up as a clown and word is you're the only guy that can juggle, Go!" Well we had the clown stuff, and had thrown in some hacky sacks for 'just in case' so no worries, we gotcha covered. "Hey there is some down time, how do you feel about pushing large wheel barrels of sand from here to there? Go."  "We are gonna do a spur of the moment craft with 300 people. Watcha got? Some notebooks full of paper. Cool. It's origami. Everybody take a piece of paper and demonstrate how to do this, Go!"  "Hey we need to show the locals how to set up and use all of the equipment. Go!" And who could forget, "Hey, we need to evacuate, can you tape some of this money onto your body and help us get out safely. Go" (More on that later).

God is working in Matt, God is working in me. 
God is working in us.
Do we do it perfect? No
Do we make mistakes, stumble, struggle and sometimes fall? Yep.
But God is Good. He is patient and loving.
And I am happy, lucky and blessed.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

The Hitch Hiker and the Machete

So here we are, a group of North Americans in a giant yellow school bus from Pennsylvania. Easy to see from a long way off. We spent several days in the village of Miguela. Each one special in it's own way. We'd go back to Frey to clean up, eat dinner and prep for the evening service. Then we'd load up the bus and take the 4 mile (30 minute) drive back into the jungle, up the mountain road.  It's a narrow road, with no guard rails. Really only wide enough most places for one school bus. No sidewalks, in some places not even a foot path.

To be honest I don't remember which day it was that we met the man with the machete. It was probably Wednesday evening. It was just another slow and dusty journey back to the village for evening services when we came across a man walking in the road toward the village. Carlos, our bus driver, opened the door and said a few words. Laughs. Smiles. Boom. The next thing we knew, we were plus one as the man hopped right in. He was in the normal attire: jeans and cowboy boots, with a thin long sleeve button up shirt. He had dark hair, dark skin and a smile.  That's when I saw it. Our new passenger had brought with him the biggest machete I had ever seen in MY LIFE! Casually our interpreter began a polite conversation. He was a member of the Frey church on this way to Miguela to lend moral support to the baby church. He'd been working in the fields all day, and went on to tell us that harvest was every other day and twice a week there was market. He smiled and showed us some large root that he'd been harvesting - it looked like a carrot shaped potato. "So the giant knife is for the harvest?" we inquired. "Yes", he said and then he chuckled and grinned as he added "and the snakes".

Now he had my attention.

Our new friend then explained (through our interpreter) that there are snakes, lots of snakes in this area. "But not in the village right? The village is safe? We don't have to worry if we are in the village, right?" was my fervent question. Simone smiled and repeated my inquiry. The man looked at me, shot me a pursed lip grin and then said "no, no, no." Then they spoke in Spanish. I didn't get the actual translation, but the general conversation on our end was that snakes in the village would not be cool, and God would divinely remove them for the rest of our visit. Now, it's not like I was skipping through the tall grass before, but from that moment on I walked on the path. More specifically I walked in the center of the path. I wanted to see that snake from a long way off. I wanted to avoid any of that type of Guatemalan company.

Of course God loves to show up in ways we're not expecting and on that day it was Collisions that spoke. There are SNAKES in my everyday life that want to bite me.

 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming.You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived.  But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices  and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.  Collisions 3:5-10

These things are as much a danger to me as any snake. Truthfully, the danger may be even greater. These things can and sometimes do slip easily into my life. These are things I can justify from time to time. I can give them new names, tie them up with cute little bows and be surrounded by a culture that says these thing are ok. "The TV show isn't that bad, I can watch it and not think about it later. I deserve the cute outfit, new purse or new electronic toy. She said something nasty about me first. I have been hurt, disappointed or let down, so it's ok that I am choosing to stay seated in my anger. I am only speaking the truth." This is justification. This is me trying to make me feel better about the ugliness of sin that I have slipped, stepped or stumbled into. Sexual immorality, impurity, greed. The things that pollute my heart and mind; the things that fight for first place in my life. Anger, rage, malice, slander and words - the outpourings of the condition of my heart. These are my spiritual snakes and they are poison to my soul.

I don't want to get bitten. God, help me to put on my "new self" daily.
Renew me daily with Your knowledge, continue to transform me. Amen

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Wilson Man Land...and what comes next

Most of my time in Guatemala was spent around children, well actually it was mostly in the close company of boys. Word on the street, or in this case the dirt road, was that the three tall white men were my family. Matt, Jacob and Seth were pretty easy to pick out when we were at the village, or anyplace else for that matter. And the word "mama" is understood in every language.

The village boys and I laughed together and walked together. They would shake my hand, hold my hand and in general be right next to me. Which was a bit unusual in light of the fact that the other three women in our group were almost constantly surrounded by girls. They would hold hands, laugh, and in general communicate.  But I live in a special little place that I call "Wilson Man Land" so for me this was just "same song, second verse, but not sung in English".

If you know me at all, you know how much I love being a mom. Can't imagine life without the Wilson Men.  Life with daughters would have been different, but this life I have is GREAT. Please don't misunderstand, I do not lack the experience of life with estrogen. There are some amazing girls and young women in my life. I love them. I treasure them. I learn from them every day. Being "Aunt Trisha" is great ~ and I am thankful that God has brought these ladies into this season of my life. Girls are fun, but boy land is where I have lived for almost 20 years. It is comfortable. It is familiar. I like it.

There were many occasions I watched as my young men were the active hands and fee of Jesus. They are not afraid of hard work, or getting their hands dirty. They understand that some things just need to get done and there will never be a "thank you." I know that God used international missions to shape my heart and life view, and it is cool to see my sons begin to view their world and the world in general from a different perspective. Some of my biggest smiles came from "non ministry" moments ~ not moving dirt or tamping floors, just in the moment life stuff.  One of my favorite memories was watching my son's "teach" the village boys to randomly move their Adams Apple as we waited for service to start one evening. There was a good bit of soccer, and some tossing around of the hacky sacks. During the middle of the praise and testimony service on Wednesday night, a few of the younger boys (probably 7 or 8 years old) tried to scare the teenagers with the timely introduction of a HUGE bug. The teens didn't scream and I didn't laugh ~ at least not on the outside ~ and the service was not interrupted. Praise God!

But then something unexpected happened. Her name is Addiella. She is cute. She is small. Small like dynamite. This special girl decided we would be friends; no stinky boy would come between us, and she quickly handled any that would try. Addiella has a great family, brothers and sisters that drive her crazy, and the chance to go to school every day and now church every week. Addiella has a mom that loves her, and her mom loves Jesus too. Yet she determined that for this week, her life and mine would be joined. Not to meet any specific need, but purely for the enrichment of each others company.

And thus began the next lesson.
It started with some advice from Peter;

         "love one another deeply".

Someday Wilson Land will become Wilson World.
My sons will get married and start families of their own. I will meet and begin to do life with the daughters I have prayed over without ceasing since they day each of my sons were born.  God's plan in God's time will be revealed. My world will change. It might be scary and it may even hurt. But God will be there, just like He is here. As God stretches my world, He is stretching my capacity to love. It'll be good. I'm gonna listen to my friend Paul and remember what I learned from Addiella.

Friday, March 22, 2013

From Darkness to LIGHT

It is hard to imagine the darkness of a village in the mountainous jungle with no electricity.
I was able to peer into the opening of our Milky Way Galaxy .
I have never seen a sky like that before. How could I see that, and not see God's hand, His imagination and His beauty?

The Jesus film is shown at night, and by 6:30 it was DARK in our little village.
The Church was easy to see and hear  ~ from a long ways off. You didn't have to work to see what a difference light made. The chance for light in the middle of darkness changed everything.

It was a packed house. Boards were eventually removed from the entrance of the church so that those who could not fit inside would still be able to see and hear God's love story spoken especially for them. Most of our group had started with seats inside, but quickly moved to the edges and then the outside to make room for the people who just seemed to keep coming. Eventually we were by the road at the front of the church. The service started at 6:30pm, which by Guatemala time meant that things got rolling about 7:15 in the evening. People walked in and drove in ~ every car and truck filled well beyond what we were accustomed to witnessing.  Few were early, and as the time approached 8:30 they still came.

From darkness to light.

Just when you thought there would be no more, a figure would emerge from the darkness, and make their way ever closer to the light of Jesus - or in this case the light of the Jesus film. Sometimes they would come alone, others came in groups. Now and again we could see a small flicker of light in the distance ~ someone had a flashlight or lantern. They would use their small light to lead others with them toward the church. Some walked right in and claimed their seat, others hung out around the edges for awhile before taking the next step. There was a third group I called the shadow huggers. Close enough to see some of what the light offered, but not willing to leave the familiar comfort of the darkness.

The journey of the villagers is the journey of us all.
From Darkness to LIGHT.

But you are God’s chosen and special people. You are a group of royal priests and a holy nation. God has brought you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Now you must tell all the wonderful things that he has done. 1 Peter 2:9

In Your Light everything is different.
God help me to use my lantern for You.
Use me in the lives of those who are leaving darkness.
Soften my heart for the shadow huggers.
Let me see people where they are and not where I want them to be.
Help me to love like You love.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Building...

When God speaks it's usually not to just one person.

 In 2001,Matt and I came up with a list of about half a dozen things we wanted to do with our kids before the oldest two headed off to college. High on the list was a desire to do an international missions trip. But how would that ever happen ~ it'd been more than a decade since our church had "missioned" anywhere outside of our county. By the fall of 2010 we began to look into other options. But then in 2011 we began to hear about this "new" type of missions that the general church had begun to develop.  I am pretty sure there was some Divine handy work, and not much later a special speaker came to our speak with our church. By early 2012 God was planting a passion in the heart of some people in Northwestern Illinois ~ and the vision of a Jesus Film trip was cast. A time was set, Spring 2013 (a great time to not be in Illinois). Three Zones were contacted, but for our group, only Northern Guatemala seemed to be a good fit. Fundraising began and in Sept 2012 the plane tickets were purchased. It's official ~ we were on our way!

Being a God that is not confined by time or space, God did His AMAZING God thing. HE began to work in ways that we could not even imagine in the hearts and lives of people we would only later come to know and treasure in the town of Fray.  There is a Nazarene Church in Fray, and a man that loves God named Roberto. Roberto began to have a heart ache for his unsaved friends in the village of Miguela. Miguela doesn't show up on any map; just a small village with about 135 homes outside of a tiny town in Central America. No running water, no electricity, no churches, no market ~ but it did have 1500 people that God had given as a special burden to a special man. So Roberto began to obey. He would meet and teach and shepherd a small flock; a few men he knew, and a handful of children.  By the Spring of 2012 God began to whisper to Roberto that "great things" would arrive in Miguela in  2013. He passionately instructed his people to began  to pray and prepare.

Six months later they got the news: a group of North American Christian brothers and sisters would arrive in early February with the Jesus Film. They rejoiced! They praised God! Then they got down to work. These locals understood in ways we could not that  in order for the people of Miguela to have long term spiritual success they would need a local church ~ in their home village, not 4 miles by foot down the mountain. The new Christians would need a building to meet and grow and spread God's good news. Others had come and gone before, but with no roots and support the seeds of faith had withered and died. This would not happen this time. Not on their watch.  A people who have little by our standards began to give. Not easy giving. Not "I won't go out to eat this week" giving. They gave in their surplus and they gave in their need. They gave in the same way that we read in Luke 21.

By the time we arrived, the land had be bought, the walls and roof where on and the floor was being prepared for cement. They wanted to surprise us. But really for me it was more of a lesson. Obedience and Stewardship. Would I have made those kinds life changes? Would I have acted so quickly on faith alone? How much clutter is in my life, and how much does it trip me up as I pursue what God has next? I didn't come home and sell all of my stuff and send the cash to Miguela ~ thou the thought did cross my mind. However, I am looking with fresh eyes at my blessings, and my responsibility.

God is not a socialist. His blessings vary. I may be simple, but I am not a one talent girl (see Matthew 25). Someday I will bow before my Lord and give an account. Thanks to a few of my Northern Guatemalan siblings, I can look at what I've got with better eyes ~ and behavior like a faithful servant.

Friday, March 15, 2013

My week as a tall girl...

I try not to judge people. God determines the color of our eyes, our skin and our hair. The sound of our voice, our physical and intellectual abilities ~ all in His amazing hands. God doesn't make junk and He never makes mistakes. I guess that means that He knew what He was doing when He created me. But me and God still talk about it sometimes.

I can relate to how Goldilocks must have felt every time she tried to use Papa Bears stuff in that familiar children's fairy tale. I live in a world designed for people that are not my size. I come from a tall people ~ mostly. I am  the shortest of my siblings. My family often says I am the mini version of my little sister. She's amazing so I will take that as a compliment. I am now the shortest person in my house ~ but I am still the mamma. Now some of my best girlfriends, my husband and all three of my sons are tall, and I still love them. But I'll be honest, sometimes TALL people annoy me. They can always reach the stuff on the top shelf. They can see over the displays in stores. They can reach the gas pedal ~ yeah I drive with my toes, don't judge. Capri's don't fit my tall girlfriends like high water pants, and they never have to alter their skirts or dresses. I was in a school last week and needed to set up the room for class. The white screen was up, so I went over (in my boots with 3 inch heels) to pull the hook and set the screen in place. I could not reach ~ even in heels. Sensing my distress, the class full of 7th graders responded with all the compassion and tenderness that one would expect: They laughed at me. It made me human and regular and it set the tone for a great class! 

Something  totally unexpected happened to me while I was in Guatemala. I became tall. Seriously. If Roxie and Lizzie weren't there (the two other ladies from my Church), then I WAS THE TALLEST GIRL IN THE VILLAGE!  WHAT!!!!!!! I know, right :-)  The mirror was hung so I could see (everyone else had to slouch). My feet touched the floor when I sat down at the breakfast and dinner table. The shower head was at just the right height - all be it a "refreshingly cool" temperature. I could find people easily in a crowd. I was digging this place. Except for the fact that I was a white, English speaking girl, I fit right in. 

Then that verse in 1 Samuel began to ring in my ears. "Do not consider his appearance or his height...The LORD does not look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart."

Oh yeah ~ what matters to God is the stuff people don't always see.
These wonderful people are spiritual giants. 
There is no cheap grace here.
They do not wet their feet on the shores of a journey with Jesus. They jump in the river.

God, don't let me settle for wet feet. I want to jump all the way in. It's scary. But I know You've got me.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Hi ~ the lamest word ever!

To enter the village was an interesting experience.
On the first day we were greeted by about 50 children near the entrance of the village by the front of the church. These wonderful kids had heard we were coming, ditched school and waited to give us a proper Miguala welcome :-)  I'm sure the teachers were thrilled.

Just getting off the bus was a challenge. After meeting the Pastor and the all men work crew (who were busy hand tamping down the latest load of sand that had been delivered for the church floor), some of us were taken a bit down the road to the local public school. There are three full time teachers and a principal for about 400 students in first thru sixth grade. It's a basically free public school that meets daily from about 8am to noon.

They were very excited to see us. Our team was invited to take an hour and spend some time with the children at the school before classes dismissed for the day. We were encouraged to sing with them, tell a Bible Story and teach them a few English words. Very exciting! Did I mention that the children and the village people don't speak Spanish - they speak a Mayan dialect call KatChee. I actually have no idea how one would correctly spell this language name, but KatChee is how Americans say the name. Everything thus happened in three languages. English to Spanish (thank you  Simone), Spanish to Katchee (thank you Jeremiah), and then back again. We sang a couple of songs, reenacted the story of David and Goliath (with the help of some new Guatemalan friends and our teenagers), used the Evangicube to tell story of Jesus' love and present the Gospel (including a time for personal prayer and profession of faith) and then we taught the students and staff how to say "HI" and "BYE" ~  common American greetings and and parting phrases.  Well, the teaching worked! For the next week, every time we went anyplace our group was welcomed with choruses of HI HI HI.   It sounds like a normal enough word, but after you say the word HI 300 hundred times in about 4 minutes flat it starts to sound incredibly lame.

Their intent was to make us feel welcome; to make us feel more comfortable; they were reaching out to us in a way we could understand. It was almost like they have read the New Testament! You know all the Books that start out "Grace and Peace be with you"  or "Greetings to you my brothers". Weird!
These kids weren't trying to  be Jesus to me. They had know idea how foreign their normal felt to me. They could not understand the mix of excitement, anticipation, awe and fear that I felt as Matt and I and our two oldest son's stepped off the bus, and into a world that is different to us in every way imaginable.  They were just being kids. Happy, excited, kids.

And God said, "Buckle up sweat daughter, you have some learning to do this week. I will teach you, these people will show you. If you let Me, I am gonna rock your world."

As usual, God was faithful to keep his word.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Jesus and the Shower

I am a simple girl. A simple city girl. A simple city girl that lives a little bit in the country.
I have learned about unlimited water that comes from a community well and cost $100 a year.
I have learned about septic systems and maintaining them.
I have learned that some people loose water every time the power goes out, and a toilet will flush with about 1/2 a gallon of bottled water.
I have learned about water softeners and water filtration systems.

Water - I take it for granted.
Fray has water every other day for 4 hours.
Maguila has a river near by and a well at the school, a hand crank well.
No running water at the homes, and no electricity either.
No one has hot water.
No dish washers. No washing machines...just hands, soap and hard work.

This was our shower head at the hotel in Fray.
The water was never more than not freezing.
It is hard to keep water out of your mouth when the water is so cold it takes your breath away.
Matt did offer that first night at the hotel to try and adjust the "heater" so that I might not shake uncontrollably while trying to wash my hair, but he couldn't promise that we both wouldn't die in the process... Jesus and I talked a lot during those showers.

It was hot.
We got very thirsty and very dirty.
It is the dry season in Northern Guatemala.
For us it was a week or so of "lifestyle adjustment", but for my new friends this is just life.
Their water did not mix well with our stomachs, so we bought the bottled stuff or purified what was on hand. We looked out for each other. If you got one bottle out of the cooler, then you got 4 or 5 or 10.
Water is life, water is health. I can't make you drink, but I can make sure you have the choice.
Our bus driver often commented that we knew how to "share very well."

Several times I found my heart lingering on  the passage about the woman at the well - and the offer Jesus made. Living Water ~ you will never be thirsty again.

People are thirsty in Maguila. They are thirsty in my home town too.
Hearts dry and aching. Lives scorched by sin and the pain that it ultimately always will bring.

Fill my cup Lord, with your living water, and make me brave. I can share my water too, with Your help.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

"And God saw that it was GOOD"

Then God said "Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds." And it was so. The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that IT WAS GOOD.  Genesis 1:11 -12

Words cannot describe the beauty that I saw.
I am so glad I wasn't too busy to miss it!
How can a person see the beauty of all God made and not see God himself? His fingertips touch everything.

No cell phone ringing, no text messages buzzing.
No email to return and no missed calls. No meetings or reports or homework. No classrooms and no boardrooms.
No calls to Doctors.
No calendar to rule our life, no time clock to keep track of.
No TV. No Computer. No Internet. No CNN or FOX.
How long has it been since I noticed flowers? Well since there is a foot of snow in my front yard it's been awhile.

As my world gets quiet so do my heart.
I love my life, but my life comes with lots of noise.
Lets review The first 6 weeks of 2013.
     New Job - out of the blue and totally a God thing!
     Upward, Track and Concert Band begins.
     New work schedule for Matt.
     Mom's fire and the emergency trip to Arizona.
     The Flu takes out all the Wilson men.
     Back to the new job.
     Hey, lets get Kids Camp 2013 ready to go.
     Guatemala 2013 Jesus film trip.

As the bus rolled down the road, God's gentle voice began to speak. Actually, I think he'd been speaking all the time. It was me, my ears were so full of noise that I just rolled right over His calm call to my heart.

What are you doing? Who do you love? Where are you?
    What? ---- It's you God, don't you see where I work?
    What? ---- It's you God, don't you see all that I do at the church?
    What? ---- It's you God, haven't you read what I've been writing?
    What? ---- I am in Guatemala.

I'm sorry. It's not about where I work, or what I do.
It's not about what I give or what I have.
I want to snuggle up close to You.
Things are harder here in Northern Guatemala.
Things are simpler too.
Take me back to what is simple.
Stir my heart.
Make things clear.
Let me get lost in your creation. Use me this week. My hands, my feet, my heart.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Searching for the Jesus Bar

Every car we own has a Jesus Bar.  You know, it's that bar that's installed above all of the doors except for the drivers door (both of his hands should be on the wheel at ALL times).
A passenger can grab this bar at any moment during the drive. 
Usually when the passenger grabs this bar, she will also call out either silently in her heart or with great passion in her voice to the creator of the Universe. Typically this happens at nearly the same moment the driver of the vehicle creates the impression that this is the time when she (the passenger) and Jesus may in fact meet face to face. 
I'm not sure what the car manufacturer calls this bar, but in my house it is the Jesus bar.

  1.  Buses do not have Jesus bars, or seat belts.
  2.  In some places speed limits, stop signs, traffic lights and traffic lanes are only friendly suggestions and not actually guidelines or rules.
  3.  A horn can mean many things. It can mean "I am coming around this corner very fast in your lane" or "yes you can get in front of me" or "I see you and I will slow down". It can also mean "You are not a smart driver" or "I am bigger and I am not stopping so you should get out of my way right now."
  4.  Guatemala is one of these places.

The 200 mile road trip to Fray (said Fry) was amazing.  It was 10 1/2 hours in a school bus...thru the mountains and the jungles. Mostly paved, almost always one lane in each direction. It was curvy up and curvy down. Lots of blind turns. Lots of speed bumps - with only a few which were marked. Our bus driver, Carlos is the best driver and the bravest man I have ever met. He spoke no English. I speak no Spanish. We came to a mutual understanding early on that it would be better for me to face backwards in my seat, chit chat with my travel buddies and NOT under ANY circumstances look out the front windshield.  You see, I believe that people should not pass other vehicles on a mountain with deep drop offs while going around a large blind curve.  I believe that no passing actually means, take a deep breath and stay behind the slow guy in front of you.  I believe that a road that is not more than 20 feet wide can only safely fit 2 cars (one in each direction) and not 3. And don't even get me started on the taxi's and the motorcycles :-) Traffic was crazy of course - our biggest delay was a cattle herd. We didn't bother those cows at all.

There where times when I could only really do three things. Breath Deep. Bow my head. Pray. The lesson I learned on the first day of travel would be practiced over and over in the 9 days to come. So it was a blessing that me and God got this straight from the start. I would say to God "I am not comfortable with this" and God would say ITS OK.  I would say "This is making me stretch" and God would say ITS OK. I would say "I have never seen this before, I am overwhelmed" and God would say ITS OK.  I would say "I am scared, do you have this?" and God would say YEP, I GOT THIS AND ITS OK. 

And Psalms 91:1 would float to my mind.
He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
 I will say of the Lord, "He is my refuge and my God, in whom I trust."