Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Hola from Guatemala!

Curtis and I live about 30 minutes from our church, so we have a lot of time to discuss our Sunday school lesson and sermon notes as we drive home. There is a certain point on the Katy Freeway feeder road that always reminds me to encourage my husband about the lesson he taught. Last Sunday we were rapidly approaching it and I had nothing. Stink! It wasn't because his lesson wasn't great. I honestly did not hear a word he said. Neither did I have any idea what our pastor's sermon was about.

I flashed back to February 1, 2009, which was the Sunday before Annabeth was born. I remember wondering why I bothered coming to church because all I could think, talk, or pray about was giving birth. Last Sunday I was completely consumed with thinking about my upcoming trip to Guatemala and I was literally good for nothing else. I realized it had been almost exactly nine months since I had been invited to join a group of bloggers on a trip to see Compassion International at work in Guatemala. And it was finally my due date! I was not getting a baby out of this experience, but I hoped I would be born new.

Curtis and I picked up our first Compassion sponsorship packet after a By the Tree concert when we were newlyweds. We have been blessed to partner with them in serving Marlon Alexander in Honduras for about seven years. Through his letters, we have been able to see him develop into a thoughtful and faith-filled young man. We were already fans of Compassion before I was approached about this trip, but I knew from my sister's experience with them in India that I would be blown away by how truly excellent it is.

In a nutshell, Compassion International is a child development organization that serves over one million children worldwide. Six hundred thousand sponsors are currently partnering with this organization to rescue children from poverty in Jesus' name. Compassion's aim is to be an advocate for children, to release them from their spiritual, economic, social and physical poverty, and enable them to become responsible and fulfilled Christian adults. This is largely achieved through monthly financial support from one sponsor to one child.

Our team arrived in Guatemala City last night. I'd never met any of the other travelers in person, but after only 36 hours, I already think the world of them. The bloggers are Lindsey Nobles, Ann Voskamp, Lisa-Jo from The Gypsy Mama, and myself. The Compassion staffers are Shaun Groves, Dustin Hardage, amazing photographer Keely Scott, and my lovely roommate, Mrs. Patricia Jones! My sister called me right before I got to the airport to tell me how much she had loved Patricia on her Compassion trip to India in April of 2009. She is a wonderful lady with an amazing family. I'm hoping some of her mothering skills will absorb into my being while I sleep six feet away from her.

Our day started off with a trip to Compassion's office here in Guatemala City. We got to see the various departments and meet the ladies and gentlemen who run the hub of Compassion's activity in this country. There are 142 child development centers here that serve a total of 35,000 children.



One of the most striking things about the office was that many of the desks were empty. The workers were busy out in the field! They did not have time to sit at those desks. I loved that. If you already sponsor a Compassion child, you can probably appreciate that my favorite part was meeting the correspondence staff. They were working hard at translating stacks and stacks of letters.


An hour later, we arrived at the Dios Habla Hoy (God Speaks Today) Student Center. All of Compassion's student centers are hosted in churches. Curtis and I are passionate about the local church and this aspect really appeals to me. More on that to come.

As we started filing into the church, the deafening cheers of one hundred and fifty kids filled the air. There was a sea of beautiful smiling faces, wide eyes and waving hands. It was very humbling to be shown such love. The children performed songs and recited memory verses they had learned. One by one, all the adult church members who volunteered in the program were introduced on stage. There were twenty of them.


The presentation ended with a rousing rendition of a song you and I know as Lord You Are Good by Israel Houghton. Oh my word, I was doing everything humanly possible not to fall in a heap on the floor in full-on ugly cry. The kids were dancing their hearts out and singing these words in Spanish: Lord you are good and your mercy endureth forever...People from every nation and tongue, from generation to generation...We worship you for who you are...And you are good! Mom, I know you are reading this and I need you to know this was possibly the highlight of my life. Aside from the births of my children. But it was high up there.


We enjoyed getting to serve Pollo Campero to the children for lunch. It's like the Chick-fil-a of Latin America. I finally got brave enough to try out my rusty Spanish on some of the kids while they were eating their chicken sandwiches. They just grin at you whether you say something right or not. After lunch the children went to their classrooms and we went around visiting each one. The kids seemed very happy to be there.



Soon the children went home and we gathered with the project coordinator, the pastor of the church, and all the volunteer workers. The pastor spoke of how much the children meant to the church. The program is relatively new at only 16 months old. The church has eleven new families that became members after their children entered the program. A man who I believe worked as a tutor stood up and spoke with tears in his eyes. His older children serve there with him. A precious woman who is in charge of serving the food also spoke through tears about how much the children meant to her. She, too, serves there with her older children.

I think the most profound thing I saw today was the beautiful relationship between Compassion and the local church. I expected to see the benefits the child development program on the children. I did not, however, expect to see the children having such an amazing effect on the church members. The children are served there twice a week and the volunteers admitted it was hard work. But the joy, fulfillment and energy that their presence brings to the church was palpable. It was clear that the children were highly valued. I was so moved that families were serving God there together.

We have three more days to experience the Lord's work through Compassion here in Guatemala City. Please pray for our team to be a blessing to the children, to the workers, and to the families. Pray that we will allow God to have His way with our hearts. Pray that hope and new life will be born in the poor and the rich. Gracias, hermanas!

Con amor,
Amanda

44 comments:

Laura said...

Such amazing words....life changing days for so many. I will be there with my 11 year old son in 5 weeks to work at a school in Antigua. Thank-you for giving us a glimpse into the eyes of the children our hearts are already breaking for. My prayer is that my sons heart is broken and ruined for the ordinary.

Praying for you this week.

debra said...

loving everything about this post. my heart is full for you. and all of us who will journey with you.

love.

Missy @ It's Almost Naptime said...

Love this Amanda! You look so happy :) Can't wait to hear more about it.

praying praying!!

Alicia said...

This reminds me of our time together in Honduras. Your spanish rocks. I hope it is coming in handy.

Praying for you and the fam! Love ya.

jennyhope said...

So thankful for the update. Jesus just loves all of those babies! I sure would have lost it with you during that time of worship...no doubt.

As I prayed tonight I sort of echoed this to God over the people you are with:
1 Timothy 2:3-5 (New International Version)

3This is good, and pleases God our Savior, 4who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. 5For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,

<3 and prayers!

Tara G. said...

After living in a foreign country whose independence and ability to share the gospel freely are fairly new and being part of a local, non-English speaking church (not as missionaries), I totally appreciate your observations about the nationals' involvement in their local church as they serve their own. I understand that to be such a weighty milestone/mark of maturity for ANY group of believers- it's so beautiful to see those we think are poor by our standards living out their faith, filled to the brim with Jesus. Blessings, Amanda!

Bethany at 3SonsPlus1 said...

Praying for you all! The children and people of Guatemala have a very special place in my heart- blessings to you all! Love on them all for those of us who cannot be there right now! :)

lavonda said...

I don’t know how you kept from the ugly cry right there on the floor while the children sang that song! Just reading your words describing it I had tears falling off my cheeks. Can’t wait to hear more about the trip and the children there. Praying for each of you, and your families while you’re away…

Heather said...

What amazes me most is that the less people have, the more grateful they are to God... thanks for going, thanks for sharing. Look forward to seeing more of your trip and I am praying for you, sweet sister in Christ!

heather

Beth said...

Thank you for sharing! I went to Haiti this summer, and had a similar experience during the worship service. A man whose wife used to be involved in voodoo had turned to God. He learned the song "He Touched Me" in English and sang it for us. Our God is amazing.

God bless you on the rest of your journey!

Michelle said...

Amanda, I am starting my morning in tears reading through the blog posts from this trip. Thank you taking part and sharing your experiences. I pray that this is able to touch hearts. Praying for travel mercies for the whole group!

Kelli said...

This post brought me such joy! What a wonderful part of God's glory you are experiencing. Send those kids some love from all of us! Continuing to pray for your time there!

Lauren said...

Oh, Amanda!!!! Can’t wait to hear more! Thinking of you!!!!

Jess :) said...

What a beautiful post. It makes my heart so FULL to hear the wonderful stories. I can only imagine how hearing those kids sing about our Lord, in Spanish, could bring on the "ugly cry." :)

What a BLESSING your entire team is to everyone in Guatemala. Thank you for sharing your journey. My prayers will continue for each one of you...

R said...

and with that, i will now go write to my sponsor daughter in kenya! :0) thank you for the unintentional reminder!

wandatland said...

Thank you for such beautiful and encouraging words. Our sponsored child is in Guatemala City. You have definitely confirmed to us that we did the right thing by sponsoring a child through Compassion. May God bless you. I am so thrilled that His church is such a part of this ministry.

Angela said...

My eyes are filled with tears! Can't wait to hear more about your trip!!

Janelle and Ella said...

Great job, friend, portraying your day to us! As a member of a local church, this was very inspiring! Glad you made it safely and that it's been an AMAZING time already. Love you!

Dedra@dfw said...

Amanda, you are an amazing person! My hat is off to you for taking this time out of your life to go and serve. Thank you. I know this is life changing for you!
Dedra@dfw

Kelly @ Love Well said...

I echo Missy. That smile on your face, Amanda, reflects the glory of God you see around you.

Praying and praying and praying some more.

Ashley McWhorter said...

What an awesome experience, Amanda! I can't wait to hear about the rest of your experiences. Praying for you, sweet friend. :)

Doris said...

Thank you so much for sharing. I am so grateful to you and the orginaztion Compassion that you are with.

This entry brought tears to my eyes as Guatemala is near and dear to me. My whole family is from Guatemala and I have lots and lots of family still there. So it is so amazing and uplifting to see such a wonderful orginization working in Guatemala.

Thank you so much for what you are doing.

May the Lord Bless you and your family and works.

a la carte said...

Amanda,
thank you so much for sharing your experiences there, with all of us (wherever we are). You definitely brought tears to my eyes and I'm hoping the Lord impresses upon your heart this week all that HE has to teach you. Praying for you!

Lindsee said...

The detail, oh, the detail of this post delights me to no end. Remember how I was obsessed with Debra during her time of "waiting"? Well just know that I'm obsessed with all of y'alls blogs and twitters this week. Praying. Can't wait to read more. By reading all their blogs, y'all have some amazing folks on this team. Amazing.

Dionna said...

So good to hear from you, Amanda! I love that little girl's hand draped right by your neck --- such love!

Glad you all got there safely and look forward to more posts!

Marla Taviano said...

Tears in my eyes at the kiddos singing about every nation and God being good. I love this whole post.

The Johnsons said...

You, the team, and the kids have crosses my mind many times the last couple of days. I hope you are feeling as good as you look - beautiful, joyfilled, and at ease for God!

Jessica and Steve Otto said...

So beautiful! My husband, 3 kiddos & I are missionaries here in Guatemala! I am so thankful that you are here, and I'm praying for life-altering, amazing things to happen to all of our hearts because of your team sharing with all of us!

Lauren said...

Beautiful.

Helene Bergren said...

My God continue to bless all of you to be a blessing on your trip - and the work of Compassion. Great post!

Kristen said...

I am praying for you friend!!

Spicy Magnolia said...

2 Corinthians 9:8

And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.

Praying for you consistently and thankful you get to go love on those precious ones!

Michelle said...

What a wonderful post. Praying for you Amanda and all the other bloggers there. I have been reading your blog for about two years and have never commented. I am a high school English teacher and my students defined to me today what a "creeper" is! I so don't want to be that! I love your writings. Be sure to document every second of how you feel while there so you can remember every detail. Praying for your family not to miss you too much!

Beth.. One Blessed Nana said...

There is nothing like a mission trip to really get your heart full of love for those children less fortunate than we are! Those kids are just so precious and I pray that you have an amazing trip and God speaks to your heart anew my friend.

Teena said...

Thank you so much. I love love love that song!!! Your amazing words touch me deep.

I hope to meet our sponored child one day... I hope to sponsor many more....

following and reading.. praying

hugs,
Teena

Kari said...

Dear Amanda,

I tried to post this on the LPM Blog but I seem to have not yet mastered posting to that website for whatever reason! So, I apologize in advance if you get a duplicate message from me.

First of all, I am wondering how you could possibly think that your beautiful smile, faith and heart could do ANYTHING but bring blessings? However, since you asked, I will pray!

I am also praying for your darling family back home to remain safe until their Mama returns! I know that leaving your family was heavy on your heart before you left.

I know you already know this - but God has your back! - And with that knowledge I hope you enjoy every possible moment of your trip!

May the Lord use you in every way possible and bring you home a changed woman for the betterment of all!

Bendicines, (I think that means blessings!)

Kari

Hope365 said...

Amanda,

I will be praying for you while you are gone!! I read on the LPM blog that you gave the Esther Bible Study books in Spanish to the Compassion Ladies. It reminded me of when I was in the Dominican Republic last month, with my 15yr daughter, that I gave a Spanish Bible to a little girl named Esther.

So, there you are in Guatemala, "For such as time as this"

Love,
Stacie in Michigan

Love,Stacie

AKat said...

Beautiful, Amanda. Everything about it. I pray that your words will be able to keep pouring out, because I know God is using you (all of y'all) there this week to relay to us (eagerly) reading.

And I agree with Missy, you do look SO HAPPY!

Missy said...

Love love love this. Can't stop thinking about y'all!!

melanie said...

our little boy is in Guatamala... i have no idea if it's the same place where you are, but his name is Mynor, so if you happen to meet him, give him a big hug and tell him we love him!
i am so excited you are there and i will be praying for you each day while you're there!

Emily said...

Sounds like it's already turning out to be an incredibly life-changing trip...what a precious story about those children singing praises! Praying for you and the team and all those you will touch!

Suzi said...

Beautiful. Praying for you and the team.

Kendra said...

I was just reading in Ephesians in the MSG this morning and I came across this "At the center of all this, Christ rules the church. The church, you see, is not peripheral to the world; the world is peripheral to the church. The church is Christ's body, in which he speaks and acts, by which he fills everything with his presence." (Eph 1:22-23 or so) Sounds like you're seeing this in action in action. Hope you continue to have your socks both blessed and challenged off :)

katiegfromtennessee said...

Wow Amanda, your trip sounds completely amazing. Those kids are precious, and the people there serving them too:)