ASELSI

LEAVING FOR CHICHICASTENANGO

My class last year at ASESLI’s Bible Institute

Today, I am traveling to Chichicastenango, Guatemala, to be with our mission partners at ASELSI.

Our church has partnered with ASELSI (“Equipping the Saints International”), in Chichicastenango, Guatemala for a dozen years.

ASELSI has an impressive ministry among the Mayan people. Their medical clinic has been a wonderful means of outreach to Mayans who normally would keep their distance from outsiders. And their Bible training schools have spread to many parts of the country and beyond. More recently, ASELSI has added a therapy clinic and a school for children with special needs.

ASELSI is careful to keep the message and deeds of the gospel central to all that they do! You can learn more at their website.

ASELSI is headquartered in Chichicastenango, which is located in the mountains of Guatemala.  For centuries Chichicastenango has been a center of Mayan worship. This has put ASELSI in the middle of pervasive spiritual darkness. The spiritual warfare they encounter is distinctly visible.

Chichicastenango is at a key passage between the north and south, and boasts the largest outdoor market in all Latin America. On Thursdays and Sundays, thousands of Mayans take over the streets with booths selling all manner of goods. This in turn now brings tourists from around the world, which adds to the fun. It is colorful, noisy, at times overwhelming, and always fascinating to set out in exploration on Market Day.

One of the benefits of long term commitment with a mission partner is the opportunities it provides for growing relationships with people who are faithfully serving Christ. Each trip I give significant time to cultivating these relationships.

Another enjoyable part of these trips is sharing meals with God’s people, both Guatemalans and missionaries. It is meaningful to build upon existing relationships year after year and start new ones.

Most of my time will be given to these main activities:

(1)  Teaching the book of Romans at EBA (ASELSI’s training institute for pastors and church leaders)

(2)  Presenting Family Life seminars at ASELSI and in Churches

(3)  Spending time with pastors and preaching in their churches

(4)  Meeting with Eman Perez (the Executive Director of ASELSI) and the missionary staff at ASELSI

 Would you pray for this time in Guatemala?

 Ask God to fill me with . . .

wisdom,

humility

health,

energy,

and the power of God’s Spirit.

 Please follow my time in Guatemala via Facebook or Twitter (@pastorkylehuber), to read updates and prayer requests

I hope you will prayerfully taking this journey with me

GOING TO GUATEMALA

Pointing to Chichicastenango on a map of Guatemala

As you read this, Debbie and I are traveling to be with our mission partners in Guatemala. That is unless you sleep in really late, in that case we may already be there.

Our church has partnered with ASELSI (“Equipping the Saints International”), in Chichicastenango, Guatemala for several years. I will be teaching at ASELSI’s Bible Institute and in churches. I also will spend time with a number of pastors with whom I have been building relationships.

Debbie who is a pediatric occupational therapist, is excited to be using her training at ASELSI’s therapy clinic and their Little Lambs School, which is for children with disabilities.

I hope you will follow our time in Guatemala via Twitter or Facebook. You are welcome to friend me or the church on Facebook, and you can find me on Twitter under pastorkylehuber

We appreciate your prayerfully taking this journey with us

IN CHICHICASTENANGO

 

Pointing to the town of Chichicastenango on a map of Guatemala

This week I am in Chichicastenango, Guatemala working with our mission partners at ASELSI (Equipping the Saints International). I am here along with an outstanding team from our church who will be serving in a variety of ways to help ASELSI, and reach to Guatemalans who don’t know Christ.

Chichicastenango is in the mountains of Guatemala, and for centuries has been a center of Mayan worship. Because the town is at a key passage between the north and south, Chichi has one of the biggest outdoor markets in the world. On Thursdays and Sundays, thousands of Mayans crowd the streets with booths selling all manner of goods.  This in turn now brings tourists from around the world, which adds to the fun. It is a colorful, noisy, at times overwhelming and always fascinating to set out in exploration on Market Day.

My week will be occupied by three areas:

(1)  Teaching and preaching (this includes two days of seminars on Family Life)

(2)  Counseling with students, pastors and staff

(3)  Meeting with pastors and ASELSI staff

Would you pray for our time in Guatemala?

Ask God to fill us with . . .

health,

energy,

wisdom,

humility

AND the power of God’s Spirit.

This week, my blog will be a mixture of “regular” posts and if internet availability cooperates – a few updates from Chichicastenango

GUATEMALA JOURNAL 6.02.12

I am sorry this post is late, we did not have internet in Chichicastenango on Friday or Saturday

The children’s feeding program

My day began with the children at ASELSI’s Little Lambs School which is led by Eman’s wife Jessica. Jessica’s father BJ and Eman’s mother Irma work with her. These are special needs children who are excluded from any opportunity to attend public schools. I observed the class and helped a little with one of the girls named Gladys. All the teachers exercise patience, gentleness and enthusiasm for the children. It is easy to see how these children respond to this love for them.

Afterward I called Debbie and told her about my experience in the class. She was interested in who was there because she has worked with many of the children when she comes to work at ASELSI’s therapy clinic. When I listed the names, Debbie wished she could have been there, so I walked outside where the kids were on break at let Debbie talk with Evelyn. A couple years ago Debbie taught Evelyn to write her name, which at the time, was something they did not think was possible. I was happy to give them that little connection.

Mid-morning I had an unexpected visit from Bill Vasey. Bill is a missionary who first came to Guatemala in 1968! I think roads are bad now, when Bill first arrived in this part of Guatemala the roads were mostly dirt. The civil war was raging at that time and this was not a safe place. Bill translated the Bible into the local Quiche dialect. Currently he is transitioning to Peru and the headwaters of the Amazon River. He told me an astounding fact, that a previously unknown tribe was recently discovered in that region.

On this trip I was surprised to learn that in 1922 the idea for Wycliffe Bible Translators founded by Cameron Townsend, occurred at a mission conference in Chichicastenango. Wycliffe is probably the world’s foremost Bible translators. They have accomplished a staggering and wondrous task of translating God’s Word into over 2500 languages!

I enjoyed conversations with both Carlos and Eman today, discussing ministry as well as talking through some of the experiences I have had during this trip. Late afternoon Eman brought over Pastor Cristobal. The first thing he said was that he had been in my Romans class years ago when I smack Eman with a fly swatter. We laughed at that since Eman and I had been talking about that incident a few days ago.

This week has been filled with seeing people who were in the first course I taught at ILIO. I certainly never knew at that time how many friendships God was preparing for me. But this is how God is continually working when we faithfully serve Him. He is always at work, and He is preparing wonderful things beyond what we can see and beyond what our efforts could ever accomplish.

Pastor Cristobal has planted eight churches; his heart is in this work of initiating new things. He is currently leading a church near ASELSI. A major outreach they have is a feeding program for neighborhood kids on Friday nights. They are trying to reach families through reaching children. This is the emphasis of our sister church in Gatovo, Belarus. Children are far more willing to be reached than adults.

I asked Pastor Cristobal many questions about the Mayan church in Guatemala. He shared about challenges the church faces in theology, family life and pastoral leadership. A sad fact for him is the increasingly competitiveness between churches. He feels this is harming the witness of the church among unbelievers. The Bible certainly agrees when it says our testimony to the world involves how we love one another in the church.

What I had not known until Pastor Cristobal came by is that the program I am scheduled to visit tonight is this feeding program at his church. At 5:00 Michael and Chrisi who are missionaries at ASELSI picked me up for dinner at their house and afterward we attended the feeding program

While at their home, Michael and Chrisi who have a one year son named Hudson were interested in my thoughts on raising children while in ministry. They wanted my perspective having been raised in a pastor’s home and then raising my own children while in fulltime ministry. I can see they are deeply committed to applying what it means to serve Christ in daily life.

When we arrived at Pastor Cristobal and Maria’s home the yard was full of children playing. These are children from poor homes who generally have a neglectful or absent father. I would expect them to either be standoffish with strangers or simply preoccupied with their own activities. Instead many immediately ran up with beaming faces and hugged us. The pre-teen boys reached out to shake hands.

The meal is served at a half-dozen tables set up under the porch which runs the length of their home. Dinner was a bowl of beans and rice with a little squash mixed in. Two large fresh rolls and a cup of juice came with it. When I walked around taking pictures the children were far from shy – many leaned into the photos.

Michael and I sat at a table with six children who looked to be from 4-8 years old. We had fun asking questions and joking with them. I had them guess my age and what language my wife knows (sign language), then I taught them “I love you” in sign. Michael asked why they come and immediately one boy called out “to learn God’s word”.

Near the end I leaned back and part of my plastic chair snapped off with a loud crack. The girl next to me called out a phrase which another child repeated and soon the whole table was chanting it. Michael looked across the table and said they were chanting “You broke it, you broke it”. They all thought it was great fun – and it was!

I was thoroughly impressed with what this couple and the volunteers from their church are doing with these children. I told Maria it is obvious the children know they are loved and feel safe here. I have to bring Debbie here next year, she would love it!

Once again I had a good day flowing with God’s evidences of grace. Please pray for Cristobal and Maria; they need energy and more space. But most of all they asked that children and families would come to know Christ. I think we can all support them in that prayer.


GUATEMALA JOURNAL 6.01.12

Funeral procession in the center of Chichicastenango

Deprivation is not part of my experience while I am here in Guatemala. Oh there are a couple absent comforts that I have grown used to at home. But I am luxuriating in blessings not difficulties.

Some of these are simple like the gracious way in which Micaela cleans the place where I am staying like I’ve never seen anything cleaned before. I had to press her to take money after she did my laundry.

Every day several people come to me to ask what they can do to help or make my life here more comfortable. Jess brought me homemade apple crisp because she thought I might enjoy it. Jorge brought by a cheese knife after he saw me struggle to cut cheese with an improper instrument. Really, when people are supplying cheese knives, you are not making sacrifices.

The Hospitality House where I am staying is a beautiful apartment with a big open area containing a kitchen, a large dining table and a beautifully furnished and comfortable living room where I have hosted my meetings with students and pastors. Sabastian came by to show me how to operate the gas fireplace in case I get chilly – there is no suffering for Jesus going on for me in Chichicastenango.

Yet all of these physical comforts pale in comparison to the love and care from the ASELSI staff. I have missed not being able to sit over coffee and talk with John and Sharon Harvey. But that has provided more opportunities to do the same with other staff whom I am getting to know better. Discussions with Carlos, Jorge and Eman have enabled me to know them and what is in their hearts.

This morning Eman stopped by for awhile to talk. We had a wonderful conversation. It began of course with him asking how they could make my life more pleasant. Then he asked about SEE Global and Sergei Lukyanov (who he met at our church last year). John Harvey started ASELSI’s deep interest in what we are doing in Belarus. He frequently had me describe our ministry to the ILIO students. Eman and Sergei have developed a friendship which has led to Bible students in both countries praying for each other; that has thrilled my heart!

We also talked about Eman’s leadership and how he cares for the staff, which led to similar discussion about what we do at Greentree. Eman expressed deep gratitude for my time with them in a way that lifted my heart.

Ministry is connecting with people for the purpose of serving God’s desire to save and restore. We make it more complicated than the simple caring for the people right in front of us. I have been reminded of this over the past week. God has shown that He is more than just aware of me and my needs; He has repeatedly inserted His grace into my life each day.

Today Carlos took me with Miguel Angel to the town of Lacama III where I spoke to a discipleship group Miguel has led there for the past four years. Miguel has discipleship groups in 14 churches. He was trained in this program and has diligently worked to help churches learn how to disciple their leaders and then their people.

I visited Lacama III in my early visits to Guatemala. The drive involves a long rough unpaved road the winds its way up into the mountains. My topic was “Fighting the Good Fight of Faith” from 1 Timothy 6. I laid out what we are fight, who we are fighting and how faith which acts on God’s truth, is our weapon.

Afterward I asked Miguel what he thought was most helpful from today’s teaching as well as from my teaching on worship yesterday in his church. Miguel felt my emphasis on how Satan deceives us was most valuable along with pointing out that we all have idols in our heart that need to be identified and removed.

One of my biggest concerns in teaching in other countries is how my content is working in that culture. The more I understand how a local culture is struggling to see biblical truths, the more effective I can be in my teaching. Miguel suggested that next year we add a Question and Answer format when I am at his church. I think that is a great idea, I would love to do this more often. The challenge will be getting Mayan people to ask questions.

Dinner was a treat at the home of Carol who is one of the ASELSI nurses. Carol is originally from Millville, NJ. She has lived in Smithville and Ocean City, so we have a lot of common ground with people and places. Jennifer who started the physical therapy program at the ASELSI clinic was with us along with Lisa who is finishing up as a physical therapy student and is in a six week internship at ASELSI.

We had a Guatemalan version of empanadas which were delicious, along with fresh tomato and cucumber salad, and gingerbread bars with ice cream for dessert. We had a relaxing evening talking about whatever came up. Carol is in charge of the Hospitality House, so she has been attentive to make sure that I have everything I need.

Another day is done. A scheduled event at a radio station did not work out so today was not as busy as previous days.  I had a few welcome hours to read and think about my role in God’s plan rather than His role in my plans.

I am glad that you are willing to be on this trip with me, I hope there have been a few thoughts which have encouraged you along the way. Until tomorrow

GUATEMALA JOURNAL 5.30.12

Our view during the drive to EL Pinal

Angel picked me up at 5:50 a.m. and then we rounded up Michael, Jorge and Chepy for our drive to El Pinal. My job was to teach a group of pastors and church leaders with Jorge translating, while Michael and Chepy were scouting out arrangements for a U.S. team which is going to come up here in a few weeks.

Here is our drive by the numbers:

2 washed out roads were traversed

7 hours total hours of driving

50 meters was the longest stretch of straight road

7000 feet was the highest elevation

22,000 scrawny dogs were seen trotting along the road

635,000 speed bumps were navigated

1,289,000 rocks were passed with political symbols painted on them

El Pinal is a rustic place and the place we met was the epicenter of rusticality. The church is a metal roof over dirt in the midst of coffee trees and corn plants. The homes of attending families are close by tucked away under the foliage. The nearest outhouse consisted of four branches embedded in the ground with pieces of old plastic tarps strung between them; a metal roof covers a rectangular wooden box inside which has a lid with a handle in the middle.

The people were welcoming and introduced themselves one by one giving a little information about themselves. The first person to speak was 87 year old Buenaventura.  He was energetic and got around quite well. He said he became a believer at 12 and started evangelizing this area in 1945, a work he continued for 55 years. Buenaventura is married to his third wife who is 23 years old.

In a situation like this I am a little unsure what to teach, but people generally struggle with the same core issues and they are in need of the same God-centered answers. So I worked from that premise. They listened well and expressed their thankfulness afterward. I told the group I could tell they were good listeners because no one coughed while I taught. However I let them know I did see my translator yawn twice.

This small gathering of believers included people from Guatemala, the United States, Argentina, Nicaragua, Mexico and one man’s grandfather came here from Germany. I told the group we were experiencing a foretaste of heaven. We were people from many nations and tongues gathered to glorify Christ. They enjoyed the thought.

Pastor Juan took us for a walk before lunch. There are beautiful views nearby looking over a valley. Some cattle were scattered over the fields and in the nearest edge of the valley women were grouped under a covered area washing clothes over a line of sinks. I think this could be a great way for the women of our church to build community and get their work done – or maybe not.

Eman told me ahead of time that it was advisable for me to take my own food with me, since this was the type of setting that sent me to a Guatemalan hospital four years ago. I thought this made sense considering I no longer need to add Guatemala to my list of countries whose hospitals have treated me.

As I watched the plates set with freshly made tortillas, soup and whole fish, part of me was glad for my sandwich and part of me wanted to dig in with everyone else. But some forms of bravery buy shallow victories and this would have been one of those times if I got sick.

Between arriving back at the Hospitality House and leaving again to meet with another church, Carlos called to ask if I could say hello to a pastor from Chichicastenango who wanted to meet me. Carlos and Dina Aganel are a delightful couple. I enjoyed our conversation. Dina has been taking course at ASELSI and is excited about what she is learning.

Their church has struggled and Carlos cannot leave his job as a bank manager. He wants to give more time to his church but his job limits him. Pray that God will provide Carlos the ability to serve his church well and that he and Dina will be encouraged as they serve God. I spoke to them about God’s greatest desire for their ministry, which is how they give God all their heart each day. In God’s eyes that is a faithful servant.

Tonight Carlos and Eman took me to visit the leadership team from the Admirable Prince of Peace Church. This is Colleen’s church and she arranged the evening. Eliseo who was my student at ILIO several years ago, is pastor over the main discipleship and outreach focus of the church. Eliseo introduced a small group program to the church which is proving very fruitful. Most of his leadership team who I met with tonight consists of young people who he and his wife are mentoring. A few of them live in their home.

Each of the leaders gave a presentation about their area of small group ministry (to youth, single women, young couples etc). I was impressed with the group; they have a lot of energy and commitment to this small group program. Eliseo asked me to share whatever I wanted with them. I went right to my theme for many of this week’s conversations, which is to focus on our own heart above all else. I added to that an encouragement for them to preach the gospel to themselves as a habit of life.

We had dinner together and had a chance to talk more to Eliseo and a couple of his young leaders. I was a joyful time for me. How can you spend time with young people excited about serving Christ and not be energized?!  Ask God to fill these young leaders with wisdom and help them to remain faithful.

I am fading fast; it was a long and good day. I am thankful for God’s flow of graces. What a privilege it has been to sit down and talk with His faithful servants about their blessings and burdens. My heart has been touched repeatedly.

Are you bringing your life to God daily so he will use you to honor him and encourage others? It will be a better use than anything else you are now doing

GUATEMALA JOURNAL 5.29.12

The air was colder this morning, but it was nice not to have the rain that has been my greeting the past few mornings. My schedule today was made up of individual meetings with students from ILIO.

Sadly, Colleen will not be part of these meetings. Colleen McLaughlin who is from our church has been working at ASELSI for two years. Her major responsibility is to oversee the teams that come to ASELSI. Colleen arranged my trip schedule and my appointments for today. On the day I arrived in Guatemala Colleen was stuck along the road with car trouble. She ended up having to go to Guatemala City for the weekend to get it fixed. Then last night she received word that her aunt had died. So today she flew home to be with her family. I did not see her at all and our travel plans will cause us to miss each other as she returns and I leave. Please pray for Colleen and her family.

Mt first appointment was with Pastor Lucas who pastors a church in Chichi and his son Mario who works with him and is an ILIO student. Last year I preached at their church, so I was familiar with their situation. As a church they have faced challenges completing their church building and the congregation is becoming weary.

Pastor Lucas is a good example of not judging people by how they look. He is a small man with sleepy eyes that can give the impression that he is detached from what is happening. But that is far from true. We should consider people by the commands of God’s Word and the character of their heart.

I focused most of our conversation on heart issues. As pastors our highest ministry priority is the condition of our own heart. Then as we seek to lead our congregations we should focus on growing them and the church from the inside out. A church is healthiest when members see that every issue of life starts with God and his role in it. Love for God is the highest motivation for obedience and service. Mario and his father asked that we pray for encouragement in their congregation to serve God with fresh enthusiasm.

This meeting was immediately followed by one with Miguel Simaj who had many questions in class and came with more today. He first shared his conversion through reading the Bible and seeing that we can only come to God through Christ. His family had still been bound in Mayan worship and trust in witch doctors. Eventually these things failed his family and they were willing to turn to the Bible. A big grin then broke across Miguel’s face as he exclaimed, “Now I can say I come from a Christian family”!

Eman who translated was as impressed as I was with Miguel’s questions. He focused on justification and asked various questions about how it relates to the law and to prayer etc. Without any knowledge of the Protestant Reformation, he asked if I thought that justification by faith in Christ might be the reason for the conflict between the Protestant and Catholic churches. I told that was the very heart of it.

Miguel wants to keep learning so he can teach these truths in his church. Pray that God will help him in this godly desire.

Jorge came by the Hospitality House after Miguel left so I made lunch. I enjoyed being the host for a change instead of having everyone at ASELSI always serve me. However, Eman only had a packet of snacks instead of the lunch I made – I wonder if he has heard something about my culinary skills?

Jonathan came by the Hospitality House at 2:00. He is a sincere 20 year old who along with several questions from Romans wanted my advice on having the Holy Spirit’s direction in teaching and preaching. I told him to focus on knowing the truth of the Bible because we know that is the Spirit’s voice to us. As he keeps his heart pure and studies faithfully, the Holy Spirit will direct and use his teaching. Jonathan asked if we could pray for his family because they have drifted away from the church. Also pray for his ministry of visitation to a hospital where he weekly shares the gospel with patients.

Before Jonathan had left, Claudia arrived. Claudia owns a restaurant, so of naturally we had to talk about food for awhile. She already heard about Debbie’s wonderful cooking skills. Claudia promised to bring me a special dish Saturday that her grandmother taught her. I may have missed something in translation, but I think it has something to do with a pig’s head. I am in gleeful anticipation

Claudia had two areas to discuss. The first was how to determine what an unhealthy or unbiblical emphasis on the Holy Spirit is in a church. The second was about the doctrine of predestination. We spent time establishing a biblical foundation for each area. Claudia seemed relieved when we were done. She had a biblical framework she could trust and that gave her confidence.

I thoroughly enjoyed today’s schedule! I hope it was valuable for the students and it gave me the opportunity to know them better. I told Eman I would like to do this during future trips

Jorge translated the final appointment. He stayed afterward and we talked about books, which are important for both of us. We have been enjoying our conversations. Jorge made sure he left in time for the staff soccer game. This is a cherished part of the day for many of the ASELSI staff. They play on a field in the back of the compound. Earlier in the week when Eman walked me through the new physical developments at ASELSI, with a smile he described this field as a “sacred” place.

Dinner was at the home of Carlos and Emily Romero. I have grown in my love and appreciation for them, and I respect the manner in which they live out serving Christ as a family. After we ate David, Jonathan and Annalyn initiated some cards games and Carlos made delicious Mexican hot chocolate. It was a fun time with family.

Before bed they pray together. Carlos asks the children what they want to pray for or assigns a request to them. Their voices were probably extra soft because of my presence, but their prayers were more than a simple God bless so and so. Afterward the adults talked about family life and challenges to raising our children to love God.

Tomorrow is a long day. We leave before 6:00 a.m. for a town to the north where we will meet with a group of pastors. So it is early to bed tonight.

Keep praying for God to speak clearly in and through me.

GUATEMALA JOURNAL 5.28.12

Benjamin and Manuella’s son Andy

The night before I left home I had an impulse to bring along “The Returning King” by Vern Poythress, which is an outstanding and readable guide to the book of Revelation. I decided to slowly work through Revelation during my time in Chichicastenango.

Reading chapter one of Revelation my first day felt as if I had never read those words before. It was fresh, piercing and quite encouraging. Our Lord is the great and eternal King whose kingdom cannot be vanquished and will not be diminished. If we will be obedient to follow him closely, we will have victory – even when we have difficulty and pain. The whole point of our life is to be who he wants for what he wants. Part of our problem is that we keep trying to make life work according to our measurements

In the morning I read chapters 4 and 5 which describe the worship surrounding the throne of God. Afterward I listened to worship music on You Tube which fit that theme. I was not surprised when the song selection at the Missionary Church also reflected that theme. Don’s sermon was excellent. It built on some of the things we talked about at his home Friday night. God’s timing for this trip has been a wonderful reminder of His grace to me.

Attendance was so high this morning the service was moved to the big conference room at Casa del Ray Hotel. There were a couple ministry teams in attendance including over 40 people from Roswell Presbyterian Church outside of Atlanta. I both enjoyed being at the Missionary Church and missed being with the people of Greentree. It would have been perfect to combine the two.

For lunch Benjamin met me at ASELSI in a Tuk Tuk. These are three wheeled taxis that are common transportation in Chichicastenango. Like taxis everywhere, Tuk Tuk drivers think all road surfaces belong to them, especially the tight shifting spaces between large trucks.

I have known Benjamin since my first trip to Guatemala. His father pastors a church in Chichi where I have preached a few times. For the past six years, Benjamin has worked in the ASELSI office. He has had a heart for youth all the years I have known him. Over a year ago Benjamin and Manuella’s little boy Christian, fell and hurt his head. He died a couple days later. Obviously this was a terrible blow to them. But I have been proud of the way Benjamin and Manuella have sought to honor God. Last year I met with them to talk through their grief and I keep up with how they are doing in my monthly Skype conversations with Eman.

As we ate, their 6 year old son Andy would shyly answer my questions with a quiet “yes” in English. He did a good job learning new words I taught him – much better than my attempt to learn new Spanish words. What I appreciated most about our meal was the simple fact of our relationship. A foundational part of Greentree’s approach to missions is that we are building relationships with partners in the gospel.

At 4:00 Carlos brought me to a newer church called Bethesda Church in the nearby city of Santa Cruz. Claudia who was one of my students at ILIO was sitting near the front. The worship which lasted an hour was vibrant. Six people who had been baptized during the day came up to be recognized by the congregation. When Pastor Byron called the name of a young woman who turned out to be his niece, he was overcome by emotion.

The congregation was encouraged me throughout my preaching by the responsiveness that shone in their eyes and came from their mouths. I enjoy preaching with Carlos as my translator. With an excellent translator, you almost forget about them. Carlos preaches the sermon with me in word, tone and actions. Afterward Byron brought me up again and had church leaders lay hands on me as the congregation prayed for me (and Debbie) and the ministry of our church. He asked me to send their greetings to the people of Greentree.

Carlos and I and dinner at nearby Pollo Campero which is like a KFC that is based in Guatemala, but now has locations in different parts of the world. We talked about ASELSI, Carlos is happy with the people on staff and the working relationships they have with each other. He spoke highly of how Eman has matured into his role as administrator.

Tomorrow will be a new experience. I have individual appointments set with several ILIO students and some pastors. These are informal meetings to answer theological questions from the students and to discuss church life with pastors. I am looking forward to it and am curious about what these discussions will be. Please pray that I have discernment, wisdom and grace to share in each appointment.

Also pray for a young couple that came up after tonight’s service. It was their first time at the church and they were committing themselves to Christ in response to my message. Her name is Claudia – I forget his name. Ask God to confirm himself and the gospel to their hearts.

Do not tire in your praying for me and this trip. I need your prayers throughout the day!

GUATEMALA JOURNAL 2.26.12

My view from the Hospitality House

Mountain air must be good for sleeping. I woke up refreshed, anticipating the day. One of the joys of traveling with a mission team is the close interaction with people you did not know well. Staying alone at the Hospitality House is providing a quiet and reflective environment that I plan to take advantage of throughout this trip.

As I sit reading, with a large mug of Guatemalan coffee, I can hear a variety of sounds in the background: hammers are pounding and men are talking as they work, someone is running water and I hear the sounds of scrubbing, the dogs now in their pen occasionally whine, feet scuff along the ground as people walk across the compact earth of the compound, and tropical birds in one of the gardens squawk indignantly.

Lord, help me to listen well during these days you have provided for me. I want to listen more than talk and to hear with my heart as much as with my ears. My natural inclination is to focus on myself. Give me grace to love and serve the people of Guatemala as I love and serve you.

This is a busy place. ASELSI has a staff of 40-45 people who are involved in a wide range of tasks; this includes a dozen “missionaries” such as Colleen, who have raised their own support to work here. Among the ministries of ASELSI:

The Father’s Heart Clinic treats 60-80 patients weekly

The Milk Program provides much needed nutrition and health care for 275 babies

Approximately 70 pregnant women are given prenatal care

The Therapy Clinic is meeting a need for special needs children who are generally ignored in Guatemala

The Little Lambs School for special needs children is the only opportunity they have for education

ILIO is a Bible institute is two year program that will expand to a second level next year

IBEX is the extension program where Bible courses are taught in 30 locations throughout Guatemala and now has locations in Ecuador, Venezuela, Mexico and Texas!

This year 36 short term teams will visit ASELSI to participate in their ministry (under the outstanding care and planning of our own Colleen McLaughlin)

These are just the major ministries that take place here!  God has led John and Sharon Harvey in extraordinary ways as they have accomplished beyond what anyone would have thought possible.

Through all of these activities, the gospel is proclaimed and expressed. ASELSI is an impressive ministry. But it is getting to know the staff that makes the greatest impression. This is a collection of highly committed and caring servants of God. Each year I am freshly impacted by the affection and care they express to me and to our church.

Carlos and I had a good conversation comparing notes from the Minsk Bible College and ILIO. Then Eman took me on a tour. Since my last visit the new health clinic is almost finished and a small school building for the Little Lambs program is also just about ready for use.

At noon, all the staff gathered to celebrate birthdays. They try to do this for each month’s birthdays, but they were behind a few months, so we had a large group being honored. Michael who among other tasks, works with Colleen taking care of teams, had a few games planned that involved each of us getting to know each other better.

It was fun watching the staff guess who matched the answers to a particular set of questions. Since one of my answers had “Belarus” in it, the guessing lasted under a second. Laughter and conversation over lunch and a big carrot cake kept everyone in a grand mood.

After lunch I read through my schedule which covers more than two pages. Why did I think I was going to work on other projects from home during this trip? Tomorrow is a big challenge as I teach half of the New Testament book of Romans in 6 hours. The second half is next Saturday. At the Minsk Bible College I would have 40 hours to do this. I have to decide where I will move fast and where I need to settle in and work out the details. I am eager to start, but I do have some trepidation. Please pray for wisdom as I teach and ask God to give the students clear understanding in their hearts and minds.

Jorgi came by at one point to talk. We met last year but have never had the opportunity to get to know one another. Jorgi is from Argentina. He spent 9 years in a Catholic seminary before his theology was changed. His wife Marieta is from Holland where she grew up in the Dutch Reformed Church. How they wound up together in Guatemala I am not sure.

They recently returned from a three month stay in Amsterdam so Marieta could have their first child with her family. Jorgi described the Muslim population from all over the world who live in Amsterdam and how some are coming to Christ. He left with an enlarged heart for reaching Muslim people for Christ. Jorgi is passionate as he speaks, I really enjoyed our conversation.

Dinner was at the home of Don and Heather Logan. Don is pastor of the Missionary Church, which is an English speaking church for missionaries in Chichicastenango. At first this sounds like an unusual congregation – one made up of people in full time ministry. But it really is not much different from any congregation. Although most of us are not in ministry as a career, every believer is meant to live in ministry. We all have similar burdens and we all need to hear the same truths.

Don is an excellent preacher, I was glad for the opportunity to get to know Don the man and pastor. We had one of those conversations where you realize at one point everyone else left the table, but you don’t remember when. My soul was fed, encouraged and challenged. Don is focused on as he calls it the “engine of good theology”. True gospel theology makes life work. When life breaks down, we are not seeing the gospel and its truths clearly.

During our conversation I was able to see this in ways about myself. I was convicted in ways that also encouraged my heart. What a great way to end the day! I left wanting to get quiet before the Lord so He could lead my thoughts and help them to sink into my living as well as my thinking.

Where is God leading how you think and live? Are you willing for God to truly have His way instead of wanting Him to make your way work better? I appreciate your prayers for God to help me see more clearly what it means to die to self so that He can reign more fully in me.

GUATEMALA JOURNAL 5.24.12 On My Way

A village church I visited last year sends warm greetings to my blog readers

Today I am traveling to Chichicastenango, Guatemala, to be with our mission partners at ASELSI (which in Spanish stands for “Equipping the Saints International”).

The main purpose of my trip is to teach the book of Romans at ILIO, which is their Bible Institute.  However, the team at ASELSI have a full schedule planned for me which includes teaching in various settings and spending time with the staff and leadership of ASELSI.

In recent years I have been seeking to build into the lives of some gifted and committed young Guatemalan men who are serving the Lord in powerful ways. I am excited to have significant time built into this trip with these men. I will also have some time with former ILIO students; it will be a lot of fun to hear what God is doing in their lives!

Another enjoyable part of the trip is sharing meals with God’s people here, both Guatemalans and missionaries. It is meaningful to build upon existing relationships year after year and start new ones.

As with my trips to Belarus. I will attempt to keep a daily journal on my blog. I hope you will join me and be part of this trip. Your daily prayers are part of how God will bring a fruitfulness to these two weeks that I could never accomplish by my efforts

So start praying now that I will maintain health & energy and that God will make my teaching and conversations effective for his kingdom’s sake