Exciting report of my trip to Guatemala and update from our African partners
This newsletter is later than usual because I wanted to wait and include some exciting news about my recent trip to Guatemala. Since our focus moved to be principally on helping with Lily and the family here in Maryland, I put mission trips on the “back burner”. Also, after being asked 4 years ago to be the missions coordinator at our church here (Real Life Wesleyan) it seems my efforts have been thwarted at almost every opportunity! But “the calling of God is without repentance” and I believe God hasn’t finished with me yet in that regard! Of course there were several hindrances (as with every mission trip!) but I finally flew to Guatemala on October 17th with our pastor and 7 other local pastors and church leaders. Being used to traveling in the past by myself and for the purpose of doing children’s ministry, this was quite different for me. My purpose was to learn about the various ministries operated out of the “Impacto” ministry we were visiting, and see if our church should and could get involved.
Despite not being in a Spanish-speaking environment for some 18 years, I was pleasantly surprised at how my Spanish came back immediately! It was helped by the fact that we stayed in the spectacular Lake Atitlan area where predominantly Mayan communities live, and so I immediately felt that I had stepped back into the very similar culture of the Nahuatl Indians we worked with in Veracruz, Mexico. Our pastor was one of 3 invited speakers (see him in action below) at an annual pastors’ conference that was attended by 175 native pastors who had traveled from all over the country. We helped serve meals during the 3-day event, and I also had time to talk with many of the staff there at the Impacto compound which is still under construction on the piece of barren land acquired only 4 years ago.
Impacto ministry first developed feeding programs to help children, and elderly women (many of whom were left as widows after the 36 year long civil war which ended in 1996). The children’s program “Happy Tummies” feeds them a nutritious lunch every day after school ends at noon, and then helps them with homework and teaches the Bible through games and activities. The “Abuelitas” program provides breakfast, ministry and craft activities to elderly women. Next to the site is a garden where staples such as corn, beans, squash, carrots and coffee are grown to help the programs. There is an 8-month sewing class taught to young women who receive a sewing machine after completing their training and often then start their own business. An on-site pharmacy dispenses medicines prescribed by local doctors, and occasionally medical teams make short-term mission trips to hold clinics.
The goal of course is evangelism and so various conferences are held throughout the year to train pastors and leaders, some of whom only are very poorly educated. Pastors receive teaching and encouragement via online sessions, and last April a new church (called How Great He is) started up in the compound as the buildings there are designed to be used for multi-purposes. It already has over 40 in attendance, over half of which are youth and children.
The two days after the conference we spent traveling to various small towns in the mountains to meet with pastors and see the “Happy Tummies” programs in action – as each church is encouraged to develop its own program to help the children of the community.
The scenery was spectacular, but the testimonies of how the work proceeded despite Covid were amazing! Our pastor could see a number of ways in which our church could get involved – and when the Impacto leaders learned of my experience and many children’s ministry resources, they implored me to return next year to train children’s ministers! I still have about 200 sets of my printed materials in Spanish, which we dutifully hauled to Mexico and back, and then to Maryland, so it just proves that there IS a “time for everything”!! You can be sure I will keep you updated as things progress! I felt so blessed to experience this mission trip and couldn’t stop praising the Lord. As we move into the coming festive season I pray that you will all also be able to give God thanks for the things He continues to do in your life – He is not through with us yet! Blessings, Shirley.
Pastor Sika in Togo reports that after the very successful leadership conference that he held there recently, there is a lot of excitement for a second upcoming conference that will be held by Zoom in November. The contributing ministry from the US will also send two key speakers in person to a third conference planned in January, so we pray the Lord will do great things through these meetings, and provide all that is needed. Pastor Sika gives thanks and much appreciation for the funds that were donated by a faithful supporter, which enabled the remaining tuition costs to be paid for the Joseph Project students to attend school this year. Truly God is faithful, and we continue to pray that He will send in all that is necessary for the day-to-day running of the Joseph Project Orphanage!
Pastor Honore in Central African Republic recently sent us several photo showing the ongoing ministry and the many happy school children who attend school at the CEERCA compound. We thank God for all He has done and pray He continues to bless Pastor Honore and the ministry there.