When I look back at the past week, the first thing I can say is, “Thank you Lord, for the incredible way that you have kept this team unified, focused, safe, and the way that You have worked through us.” I am so proud of the OGES team.
Our week began last Sunday. We had an opportunity to spend some times in the beautiful Sepuc Champey falls area. It is one of those wonders of God´s creation. Located in the heart of the Guatemalan rainforest, the falls are a beautiful place to hike and swim. We can´t wait to show you the pictures when we get back. From the falls it was off to Campur. Our students fell instantly in love with this community. It was our second year serving in Campur, and I was again asked by several of our students how the people of Campur can be so happy when they have so little. Our students were awed by the simplicity with which the people of Campur live their lives.
While in Campur our students had the opportunity to build two homes. We finished one of the homes, with the exception of the roof, which a builder will put on this week. The second home was completed to within a couple rows of bricks. It will also be completed this week. Our service team, mime team, and basketball teams worked on these homes. One home required carrying heavy bricks up a muddy mountain path for about twenty minutes. God protected our students, and on our last day, we were a particular blessing to the family by carrying every brick up the mountain. Our children´s team had an opportunity to minister in several schools alongside our friend, Luis Gilbert, and his team of clowns. Hundreds of students prayed to receive Jesus Christ as thier Savior. Each time we went to a school, the team was greeted with songs and joyous welcome applause from the students and staff in the small rural schools. What a sight! Our medical team saw almost 200 patients in Campur. They gave away much needed medication, and worked much longer than the time that we allotted for them, without ever complaining. We had over $100,000 of medication donated for this team, and it´s been put to good use! I preached and spoke at a leadership training seminar for a number of church leaders and pastors from across the rainforest.
Leaving Campur was tough. The kids wanted to stay longer, but little did we know what we had in store for us that morning. We knew we had a long drive plus a border stop to get to Sonsonate, El Salvador, so we left at 7:00 a.m. We had planned a short one hour stop in Coban, the nearest city to Campur for a piece we needed to repair one of our buses. One hour turned into three, and we knew that we´d be later than our anticipated 5:00 arrival time in Sonsonate. A few hours later, a tire on our second bus blew out. It was a back tire, and this has happened every year that we´ve been here for the past three years. The back of the bus has two large tires on each side in case of a blowout. It´s a safety measure that we´ve been grateful for more than once. After another hour delay we were off again. By this time we knew that our planned service at the church we were serving would have to be canceled. By the time we reached the El Salvador border, our students were hungry, tired, and unbelievably their spirits were high! They had prayed, rejoiced over God´s goodness, and sung songs. They could see God at work. The border stop took hours. In past years we have had no problem bringing our medication across the border. A change in Central American policy towards goods brought across a border meant a couple hours of negotiating that in the end meant that our medication that we had planned to bring into El Salvador would have to remain behind in Guatemala. We made a quick decision that we would have the medical clinics anyway. We purchased the minimum amount of medication in El Salvador the next morning for our clinic. An additional $350 investment allowed us to see 100 patients in two medical clinics and meet their needs. By the time that we arrived in El Salvador we had been travelling for 16 hours. We ate dinner at 11:00, put all of our women in a hotel, and our guys in a camp that God just happened to provide at the last minute.
Despite the early trials, our time of ministry in El Salvador was extraordinary. We completed our third year in a row of ministry to the people of Sonsonate. They have become like an extended family to me. Every time we leave, we leave behind tears and hugs. Our service team layed a concrete floor for a pastor. Our medical team saw those 100 patients, and on the first day of their clinic, when they were a bit discouraged about what had happened the night before, the medical team had the ultimate privilege to pray with one of their patients to receive Christ. The Children´s team remained extremely busy with school programs, again seeing hundreds of students pray to receive Christ. And, the basketball and mime team finally got to experience the rigorous schedule that they had trained for, with three to four games and performances a day. Students experienced home stays for the first time while they were in Sonosonate. It was a great experience for all of them. Some of them struggling with a language barrier, but finding that the common bond that exists in the body of Christ is greater than any natural language barrier. They quickly fell in love with their families. We ended our time in Sonsonate with an incredible sharing time with 100 El Salvadorians, Guatemalans, and Americans gathered for a time of praising God for what he had done. Steve Healy, our basketball coach, after being woken up with a dream in which he felt God was urging him to share his faith story with the team, spoke powerfully. Many students from both Central America and our team sought out Steve to talk to him about his faith story.
We arrived in Jutiapa, Guatemala two days ago. We had a church service on Saturday night, in which I preached, two students shared faith stories and our mime performed. Following the serivce the we ate a meal that was prepared for us by the women of the church. It was a traditional Guatemalan feast! They have shown us incredible love since our arrival. On Sunday moring we arrived at the church for an early breakfast. We then particpated in church services again, with me preaching, our children´s team performing, and a sweet time of sharing. Our children´s team also taught Sunday School. The afternoon was spent with the children´s team ministering in a nearby church. It is a young church, with a new building, ministering in one of the poorest sections of Jutiapa. There were at least 100 children present. Our medical team will be there today to minister to the same community. Our basketball and mime team performed in a local park for about 200 spectators. I love watching our El Salvadorian evangelist William Anzora as he preaches the Gospel. God speaks powerfully through him. We ended the night with our third church service in 24 hours. I preached again, and our mime team performed again. God moved in powerful ways.
Today we will have all five ministry teams in action. Our service team builds bunkbeds for a camp, mime and basketball have three games, children´s team has three schools, and medical has a busy clinic. I´ll be training church leaders on the “Characteristics of Spiritual Leaders.” Keep us in your prayers as you celebrate the Fourth. We love you and miss you! Keep praying for our team health too. God has answered that prayer in marvelous ways. Apart from a few rounds of the normal traveller´s stomach issues, this team has been very healthy.
“I thank my God every time I remember you.”