At the airport on July 8, ready to embark on an 18 day journey together.
Leaving Mike and David behind filled me with more anxiety than I ever expected. Definitely one of the hardest parts of this trip for me.
Enjoying his first ever, Auntie Annie's soft pretzel while waiting on our airplane.
Lucky us! Our team ended up all over the airplane, but Juan and I got seats right next to our fearless leader, Shane Boswell (our former student ministries Pastor from the Firewheel campus at church), the only person we really knew on this trip.
Landing in Guatemala City.
Getting trained on Sunday on how to build the stoves we'd be installing all week in the homes we'd visit. Our goal was to install 50 kits throughout the week. Every penny for the kits (and many more kits to come) was raised by our youth at all the Lake Pointe Church campuses through offerings taken at all the VBS and camps.
Iglesia Vida Real, the church in Guatemala City that we partnered with, the church that I58 Ministries came out of, the ministry that goes into the community to install home kits that literally change the entire life of those who live in the homes.
My son, stepping into a new role of leadership, using his bilingual skills so naturally and confidently to train the leaders of Vida Real on all the why's and strategies of how to effectively lead a VBS program in a local community.
Day #1, Taking God's LIGHT into our first home. We broke up into teams of four from our church, along with a leader or two from I58 Ministries and a volunteer from the local community to guide us. These pictures will only reflect my own team that I had the privilege to work with--Bailee, Ryan, and Cade. They were truly amazing. Ryan and Cade did the heavy work with the stoves, Bailee and I worked on installing the electricity and water filters. As the week went on, Bailee jumped in with the stoves, while I worked with whatever volunteers we had to help with the electricity, the water filters, translation, and sharing the message of the Gospel with each family we visited. Some homes were easier than others, but each had its own set of challenges. Some homes put us in some very dangerous and unhealthy conditions. I never once heard my team complain or gripe about anything. I think we all realized very quickly just how spoiled we really are in the United States and how much we have to be thankful for. In all of the homes we visited, I only saw one with a bathroom of any kind, if that says anything. We left each morning knowing that we wouldn't have access to a bathroom at all during the day until we returned to the hotel at dinnertime.
Bailee installing lights in the first home.
Ryan and Cade installing their first stove, which they actually ended up having to build twice, after frst leveling out the very uneven ground.
Ryan putting his 3 years of high school Spanish into practice right away, letting him see how God can multiply whatever we give of ourselves to Him.
My new friend, Maylee (not sure how to spell it). She finished sixth grade and had to sit out the last year because it's too dangerous for her to go to school on her own. She is waiting on her younger brother to finish sixth grade so they can go to seventh grade together, but they don't know yet if they will be able to economically afford for them to take the bus to even get to school.
Our bus that we rode together all week, which didn't always get around very easily through the narrow mountain roads. Our kids named it Azul (Blue), just cause they were silly like that.
Our morning meeting place, right in front of the local school in San Cristobal, where we taught VBS in the afternoons. We all met up here each morning to gather our supplies and break up into our teams before heading out into the community.
The roof of the home of one of the local volunteers/guides. What a breath-taking view to begin and end each day. We later installed a kit into this home, as well.
My amazing teammates. Ryan, Bailee, and Cade.
Our guide, Josselyn's home. Her mom and sister worked with the other teams as guides, as well.
Their kitchen area, where we installed a stove.
Mission accomplished--to build a stove that would take the smoke out of the home, giving them a safer and healthier alternative to cooking rather than just making a fire on the ground or floor to cook over.
Josselyn's view out of her bedroom window. I let her know over and over how much I would love to wake up to that every morning. She and I became good friends by the end of the week, and now she sends me pictures of the view. She wrote to me, "My house is your house, so now you do have this view out of your bedroom window." I love knowing that I now have a new sweet friend (19 years old) living in the mountains of Guatemala. One of the many God-ordained miracles of this trip that I can only breathe in and thank God for over and over.
Josselyn and I together. After I left, I wrote to her on social media and told her how thankful I am that we met. She wrote me back and told me how blessed she was to have met me. She said I really helped her find herself during the course of our week together. She also sent me pictures of the tortillas she was making on her new stove, letting me know that their life is now so different since we came.
Josselyn and her mom
Josselyn and her sister, Lourdes. Only one of them was able to continue school past the fourth grade because their dad had an accident that left him jobless and they couldn't afford to pay for the books for both girls to go to school. Lourdes continued, Josselyn was not able to.
Dani, a volunteer from I58 Ministries, helping to install light into another home.
We walked up and down a lot of hills in those mountains to get to the homes. Uphill was even harder because we had all of our supplies with us. Downhill was such a relief as we'd already used all of the supplies before going back.
We started each morning with three of these electricity kits which basically provided each family with solar powered electricity.
A typical view of our morning meet up to get our supplies divided up for the day.
Going through the toolbox to make sure it had all we needed.
Of course, I made friends with all the kittens, too!
Another home with a beautiful view.
If you see the lighter area to the left of the dirt road, that's where we started our day to get our supplies and where we returned to eat lunch and then teach VBS to the children whose home we just worked in.
My sweet friend, Damarus. I met her the first day at VBS, not knowing I would later visit her home that week. I formed a very special bond with this little girl. When I walked into her home, she handed me a long, two page letter that she'd written, already thanking us for the stove, the lights, and the water filter. Her mom could not stop crying tears of gratitude the whole time we were there.
This is their bedroom, where she, her mom, and her little brother sleep on two mattresses shoved together, and a dresser crammed against the wall with all of their clothes. They had no walking room at all.
Their kitchen was the most dangerous of all of them to install a stove because of how old and dilapidated the aluminum ceiling was.
Ryan showing us where he literally almost lost his life by almost falling off this very unstable roof. He ended that day very thankful for God's obvious protection.
Damarus' uncle, the first time we turned on the light in his once very dark room.
Juan enjoying the ride on the last day that we worked in a community too far to walk to.
One of the last homes we went to.
Love walking into this room of a sweet little widow lady and seeing her Bible open.
This was one of the nicest bedrooms we put electricity in.
Bailee helping her get the fire going in her new stove.
Maria. She was so grateful. Already cooking tortillas on her new stove.
Some of the conditions we had to maneuver, the mud steps that my guys had to carry huge blocks of cement down in order to install the stoves.
Our last home for the day/week. The only bathroom I ever saw out of all the homes we went to. I was told that for most of them, they just have a hole in the ground.
Our fearless leader, Shane, on his last day. Definitely the hardest, most complicated day for all of us.
Due to many challenges in some of the homes, each team only installed two or three kits a day. So, with the help of an extra team from I58 on the last day, we met our goal of 50 home kits for the week. 50 families lives changed.
Every time they turn on their lights, they can remember the light that only God can shine into their lives. Every time they drink clean water, they are reminder of Christ's cleansing power in our lives. Every time they cook in a healthy atmosphere, they are reminded that God clears the "smoke" from our lives so we can live and breathe purely through Him.
Such a humbling experience.
Next blog post: Teaching VBS at the local school where the children of these families attended.