Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Many Thanks...

Here is a copy of my Thank You letter to those who sponsored me to go on my mission trip... a lot of people donated to make this possible and I am so thankful!


I just wanted to send you a message letting you know that we had a safe and blessed trip to Guatemala. Thank you again for  your financial support to make this trip possible. It was an amazing experience. I wanted to highlight a few  of my favorite moments, but I am not sure I can narrow it down to just a few… from serving and loving, to zip lining and hiking; everything was memorable :)

We planted a total of 60 gardens in Cruz Blanca. We played with the children of the village. We saw women weaving blouses. We got to experience the Learning Center and the goodness they are bringing to the lives of those who are in the village.

To highlight a couple of my favorite memories:

* Planting a garden for the village witch doctor. I envisioned someone with voodoo dolls, a bone through her nose, etc. You know, whatever Hollywood dreams up. Instead, I found a beautiful lady who was probably in her 30's who had a contagious laugh and beautiful smile. She harvests coffee beans to sell in the market and weaves for about 11 hours a day.  She allowed us to pray for her and her family. As we were leaving she wrapped me up in her arms and gave me a kiss to thank me for the work on the garden. Wow!

* We met a boy named Daniel, who is 14 years old. He dreams of being a doctor, but due to his family situation, he has to work full time as a farmer during the day and take classes at night. Whenever VisionTrust has a construction/gardening type of team come in, Daniel takes time off work to help serve this community. He spoke a couple of words of English, but we were able to communicate through the translator. At the end of the time in the village, he broke down in tears when we said goodbye, which of course caused me to bawl!!!  He was such a hard worker and had such a sweet spirit. I pray that he continues with his dreams… I'd love to hear that years from now he has become a physician.

* Lorenzo… what a funny kid. He is 8 years old and just a sweetie. Every time he saw me, he ran up and gave me a hug. It didn't matter that we couldn't understand each other, the smiles and loves got our point across. For about a year now, my daughter has been asking me about sponsoring a child in a 3rd world country. I never felt it was the time to do so… but now after spending a week with the kids of Cruz Blanca, God has put it on my heart to support someone. To send them to school, feed them, and allow them to learn about Jesus. When I got on the VisionTrust website, I found that Lorenzo was available to sponsor. Praise God! My kids say they can't wait to get to know their "Guatemalan brother".

The time I spent in the village was such a blessing. These people touched my heart. I loved serving them, learning about them, and spending time in prayer with them. Thank you for allowing me this opportunity to go on this mission. I am going to be forever changed by the experience. I had a hard time leaving these people; however I know its just a matter of time before I go back, I love these Mayan people :)

Be blessed by being a blessing,
Lisa Williams

Day 7: Lake Atitlan and Zip Treking

Day 7… Lake Atitlan and ZipTreking

After the market on Thursday we went to Lake Atitlan to stay the night so we could zip line (or Zip Trek, as they called it) the next morning. This place was amazing. It had a Swiss Family Robinson feel to it. I felt like we were staying in a treehouse. It was beautiful.
That night we ate dinner in their visitor center and it was magical. There was a deck area that went over a stream that came down from a waterfall. It had these yellow and red plants hanging from the ceiling. There was a mist off the water as well. The best thing though was the fireflies! We don’t have them in Utah, but I grew up with them in Indiana and I love them!

The next morning we got up, ate breakfast, and then signed up for the Zip Line Tour. I was sooo nervous! Why was I going to throw myself off a platform to be hundreds of feet above the ground?! Didn’t sound sane to me, however I knew if I didn’t do it I’d regret it. I sucked it up… got my harnesses on and off we went. We had to hike to the top of the trail and then there were 8 different lines that we went on. It took someone giving me a shove the first time, but after that, I was fine. It was amazing… it was so out of my comfort zone but I loved it! We went over coffee groves, around waterfalls, there were monkeys in the trees. You could see the lake and volcanoes next to us. It was breath taking.

After that, we hiked around a little the rest of the day and then headed back to the bible seminary. We went to dinner at an authentic Guatemalan restaurant. I had grilled chicken with coconut and mango. Yum! We went back to the room and packed, because our adventure was over… Saturday morning we made the trek home. Praise God for all these awesome experiences!

The Book of Ezekiel

The Life Project: Ezekiel
Candice Roberts

I am thankful to be living as a New Testament Christian. I am thankful for the grace I
have received through Jesus Christ. I am thankful for the unmerited mercy that God
has lavished upon me. But sometimes, as a recipient of grace, I forget about the
unrelenting standards of God’s law. I forget that the penalty for breaking this law is
ultimately death. Jesus paid my penalty, so sometimes I forget that there is a penalty
at all to my sins. Ezekiel is a reminder that God has a standard and when we fail to
live up to this standard, there is judgment. Ezekiel is chock full of God’s anger at
Israel’s disobedience and promises of the discipline they would receive. Just take
these two passages for example.

4:16-17 He then said to me: “Son of man, I am about to cut off the food supply in
Jerusalem. The people will eat rationed food in anxiety and drink rationed water in
despair, for food and water will be scarce. They will be appalled at the sight of each
other and will waste away because of their sin.

5: 8-12 Therefore this is what the Sovereign LORD says: I myself am against you,
Jerusalem, and I will inflict punishment on you in the sight of the nations. Because of
all your detestable idols, I will do to you what I have never done before and will never
do again. Therefore in your midst parents will eat their children, and children will eat
their parents. I will inflict punishment on you and will scatter all your survivors to the
winds. Therefore as surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, because you have
defiled my sanctuary with all your vile images and detestable practices, I myself will
shave you; I will not look on you with pity or spare you. A third of your people will die
of the plague or perish by famine inside you; a third will fall by the sword outside your
walls; and a third I will scatter to the winds and pursue with drawn sword.

Despite the chastisement they recieved, even in the Old Testament, God’s mercy was
available to those who had a heart of true repentance. Ezekiel 33:14-16 states, “And if
I say to a wicked person ‘you will surely die’ but they then turn away from their sin and
do what is just and right- if they give back what they took in pledge for a loan, return
what they have stolen, follow the decrees that give life and do no evil- that person will
surely live; they will not die. None of the sins the person has committed will be
remembered against them. They have done what is just and right; they will surely
live.” In other words, though the people were evil, if they would truly repent, they
would be forgiven.

In our age of grace, I think we often forget that God still expects repentance from
those that follow Him. We believe that mere confession of sin is enough. We think,
“Well, I confessed my sins. I haven’t really changed my ways but God will forgive me.”
We are forgetting what Paul said in Romans 6:1-2 “What shall we say, then? Shall we go
on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live
in it any longer?” God does forgive us, because Jesus has paid the penalty for our sin,
but that doesn’t give us a free license to keep on sinning. God does expect repentance
from us. 2nd Peter 3:9 says, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some
understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but
everyone to come to repentance.”

So if God expects repentance from us, we should probably understand what it is. First
what it is not. It is not, as referenced earlier, merely confessing our sins. Confessing
our sins is important but it is not complete. I think of my 2 year old who draws all over
my wall with a Sharpee. He does it and when I catch him, I say “what did you do?”
“Marker” he says, “sorry, mommy.”. But then he continues to draw on the wall. My son
is not repentant. He confesses to the wrong that he did, but he has no desire to
change his ways.

Repentance is not feeling guilty. Surely when do wrong, we should feel remorse. We
should feel sorrowful over our sin, but again this is not a complete picture. You can
feel sorry that you have done something, truly sorry, and then go out and do it again.
Check this scripture out! “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and
leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death” 2 Corinthians 7:10. Godly sorrow
results in repentance.

Repentance is not the desire to do the right thing. How many New Year’s resolutions
have you made? How many have you kept? We, as human beings, are nearly incapable
of doing the right thing. We desire to do it. But we fail miserably. Even the Apostle
Paul tells us that when he wants to do the right thing, he can’t do it, and when he
doesn’t want to sin, he finds himself sinning.

Repentance is not confession; it is not remorse; it is not desire. Repentance is a
turning. It is a turning away from sin and a turning towards God. It is putting forth
our best effort to quit the sin that we have been entangled with. It is a resolution that
with everything in us, we will run from that sin. But turning from sin is incomplete
also. We must also turn towards God. We have to turn to God. Without Him and His
grace, repentance will be impossible for us. It is by His power that we are able to
overcome. Romans 7:24-25, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this
body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ
our Lord!”

Ezekiel Suggested Reading:
Monday- Ezekiel 1-8
Tuesday- Ezekiel 9-16
Wednesday- Ezekiel 17-24
Thursday- Ezekiel 25-32
Friday- Ezekiel 33-40
Saturday- Ezekiel 41-48

Friday, May 25, 2012

Friday Confessions

I confess... That I had an amazing time on my mission to Guatemala. I confess... I fell in love with the kids and ended up sponsoring one of them to get schooling, food, etc. I confess... I got really sick when I got home. Over half our team did. Got a round of antibiotics in and I'm on the mend. I confess... It was nice to come home to my kids hugs. Drew really missed me. I confess... I'm looking forward to a weekend with my hubby. I confess... My daughter graduates from 6th grade today. In a few hours I'll be the mom to a jr high student. I'm not sure I'm ready for this!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Day 6: Chichicastenango

Day 6: Chichicastenango

On Thursday we packed up our bags and went on a 4 hour ride to the town of Chichicastenango. We did the touristy thing for the day… we went on tours of their churches and cemetery as well as went to the market. This is the biggest market place in Guatemala and on Thursdays and Sundays people from all over come to sell their products.

We started out with the tours…learned about the St. Thomas church and saw people worshipping and doing sacrifices on the stairs. We learned more about the Mayan calendar (the world isn’t ending this December, just the end of this calendar. A new 5000 year calendar will start on 12/22/12). We toured the cemetery that looked a little like “It’s a Small World” at Disneyland. We watched Mayan priests “call on spirits to answer prayers”. It was an interesting experience. A lot of culture. A lot of insight into what these people believe… it’s dark and sad. I think I was praying for them to know Jesus the entire time I was there.

After all the touring, we had lunch and went shopping in the market (in the monsoon!). There you can barter on prices… but you have to convert US money to Quetzals so you know to get a good price. It was $1 US for every 7.75Q’s. These little kids follow you around trying to get you to buy their things, trying to guilt you into it so they can eat the next day. I ended up getting some nice stuff… my family enjoyed what I brought back to them.

Chichi Hotel where we ate lunch. It had a beautiful garden area.

The hill to the cemetery.

The Chichi Cemetery

St. Thomas Church. The Mayan church was built underneath this one, but it was buried by a volcano eruption. This Catholic church was built on top of it, however the Mayans still worship their gods on the steps.

Festival/Ceremony Costume

Product section of the market

Food sacrifice, trying to summons dead ancestors to answer prayers

These are the taxis in the area.

*** I am missing some of the pictures I wanted to put... so check back, I may add more! ***

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Days 3-5: Gardening

Days 3-5: Gardening    

Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday we’d load up in the bus after breakfast and head to the village, about 1.5 hours away. I always thought about what we may see or experience for that day during our ride. One day we saw a house where the dad wasn’t around, the mom wasn’t really interested in us, but the kids were excited to help plant a garden. Another time we got to meet the village Witch Doctor. I envisioned a Hollywood-type of figure with voodoo dolls and a bone through her nose, only to find a beautiful lady who was probably around my age. After we planted her garden she wrapped me in her arms for a hug and kissed my neck. What an opportunity!

First garden... clay was so hard we had to bring in soil from another area

This cutie took my gloves to help plant the seeds

One of the very steep hills in the village

This home had lots of garbage and bugs... we had to clear out the bamboo to make room for the garden. We ended up having 2 teams work together to make this possible for the families.

Everyone had machetes. I tried and was scared to cut my leg off, so I left it to the natives instead.

They didnt have a lot of land, but wanted a garden. We did our best!

Some of the kids watching as we broke ground, as soon as it was time to plant the seeds they all rushed us to help.

We educated the people about how to care for their gardens. They don’t read for the most part, so it was illustrated and the translators told them what to do. We told them to make sure to keep the dogs and birds out of the gardens… at times when we were leaving the chickens were already in the newly planted gardens and other times you could see the mom already starting to build a fence around it to keep it safe. I am interested to see how many of these gardens survive. 60 gardens in 3 days was a big deal… Only with God was it possible!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Day 2: Community Day

Day 2: Community Day

We woke up bright and early on Sunday, got ready and went down for our first Guatemalan meal. We had black beans, tortillas, scrambled eggs, and plantations. Suprisingly good stuff J

We boarded our bus and drove for 1.5 hours from Guatemala City up a windy mountain way to the village of Cruz Blanca. It was a site-seeing adventure… we drove through other villages. We saw people with baskets on their heads and babies on their backs… we saw dogs just roaming the streets. There were chickens and ducks wandering around. We drove past houses, which consisted of cinderblocks, wood/bamboo planks, and tin sheets. A lot of barbed wire and ropes.

When we drove up the path to the Learning Center I started to get nervous. I wasn’t sure what to expect but I knew this was all God. How else would I get in the middle of nowhere unless He put me there?

The bus pulled up in front of the Learning Center and the kids were lined up waiting for us. Some jumped on the bus before it completely stopped, they were so excited to see us. We got some sporting equipment and headed down to the field. It was a walk through the village and down a hill. I noticed a little boy shyly smiling at me as we went and next thing I know, he was holding my hand. What a sweetie.

When we got down to the field… the guys got the soccer goals and balls out. The ladies got out the nail polish and started their manicures. I grabbed some bubbles and got swarmed by kids. We took turns blowing and popping bubbles. There were so many giggles. I had no idea what they were saying and they didn’t know what I was saying, but it didn’t matter. We were just smiling and laughing together. They are snuggly kids… lots of hugs were shared.

This time allowed for us to meet the village… play with them away from their homes, laugh together. I am thankful for this play day before we dove in to planting gardens because it allowed us to meet these people in a relaxed setting. It was a lot of fun J