Our Guatemala Mission Away Team leaves for leaves for the “land of eternal spring” tomorrow afternoon. It will be my twelfth and certainly my last trip to Guatemala with good friends from LPC. That’s another story for another time.
As with last year, our North American team members will join a contingent of South American team members as we respond to God’s call to serve in Central America. That’s a story for now.
Ademar, Michael, Raissa, and Juninho form the Brazilian contingent of our team. Each of them is a returning veteran of Guatemala mission. I have known Ademar for nearly twenty years – he was a young university student when we met. Raissa was one of the kids in a VBS program our church in Western PA helped run when I first met her over 15 years ago, and I’ve known Juninho about as long. Pastor Michael has been at IPJA for seven years and I liked him the minute we met.
All friendships are a gift from God, but these four seem especially so.
Becky and I sat with Ademar’s parents at his graduation from the University, and wept with him when his dear mother was near the end of her battle with cancer. I baptized one of his children. Ademar is our team dentist.
We have visited the favela home where Juninho grew up; I baptized Juninho and Juliane’s son, and we rejoice in the faith and joy and love of his young family. Techie and musical, Juninho knows God and it shows.
Michael could have failed when he was called to IPJA fresh out of seminary. The congregation had been through more than any congregation should go through and its future was anything but certain. It has not been easy for Michael, but God has strengthened him for the work to be done and the church is growing in numbers and in health. Thanks be to God.
Raissa. A quiet little girl somewhat intimidated by the North Americans who came to her church year after year. After last year’s trip, Raissa gave me one of the most precious letters I have ever received. She wrote in part:
I am one of the children who was very excited about the arrival of the Americans each year. I wondered why they came from so far away and so far from the comfort of their homes to be with other people they may not even know. …I was always very shy and quiet, so I stayed away. But a look, a gesture, a hug, or a handshake made me feel special. I knew there was so much love in everything they did, that they were here because we serve the same God.
This early contact with people from another country made me understand that there is a reality beyond my own, that I can love someone besides myself, that the world is bigger than my street, that family are those who serve the same God.
As a young girl I made a commitment to serve God. I wanted to be useful and used by God; to live purposefully. …I did not understand at the time, but God began to work in my life so that I would be able to work for him. …He taught be to obey him and to love his work.
I grew up in the favela watching my friends becoming mothers out of wedlock, dying from street violence, leaving the church and living for what the world offers. …That is why we began our ministry to the children of the favela, Heirs of the Kingdom. Some of these children will be the next pastors, missionaries, and leaders in the church.
I am the fruit of the labors of those like you who loved me. Now I am able to serve with you and share Christ with children in a distant place. I am very happy to have been invited to such a noble work!
North Americans, South Americans, Central Americans – called together for a noble work. Pray for our week. Who knows, Christ may use us to call one of the children at the clinic or in the children’s program or whose family has a new house into his great love.