"More Than Just a Mountaintop Experience"

It is hard to believe that departure day is finally here! A group of 19 met at Bridgeway Church to begin our journey together on a mission to Chimaltenango, Guatemala. We are all so grateful for the opportunity and excited to see the ways God chooses to use each and every one of us to glorify His Kingdom. After dinner at Essenhaus and driving about an hour and a half, we arrived at our hotel for the night in order to make things a little more simple when getting up in the morning to depart for Atlanta as our flight is to leave at 6:15 am. In preparation for this mission I wanted to choose a bible verse that captured my hope for this mission, the joy in my heart for Jesus and one that is encouraging to fulfill God's calling to Guatemala. The verses chosen for this mission | Psalm 5:11-12 But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them ever sing for joy, and spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may exult in you. For you bless the righteous, O Lord; you cover him with favor as with a shield.

Travel day! Waking up "bright" and early at 3:30 am or so, we got around for the day. Doing a 5 minute ab challenge with my aunt and cousin to start the journey. What better way to start our adventure of a lifetime? :) We made our very short road trip to the airport and made our way to our gate for departure. The flight was smooth and I got to know one of the team members really well. I absolutely LOVE flying, every single part of it, so the fact that we had a total of about 5-6 hours of flight was perfectly okay with me. Once we landed in Guatemala City we gathered our bags and safely made it out to the vans that were there to pick us up. All team members from both Indiana and Michigan, except for one, loaded our bags in the vans. One team member from Michigan was detained for about an hour and a half to two hours due to carrying meds for our med clinics we were going to be holding while in the villages. Eventually they let him go and all was well but it got quite interesting there for a while. We were a large group of gringos standing around large vans, in the capital of Guatemala, we definitely turned a few heads. We also learned about Guatemalan style praying just before we loaded into the vans to head toward the base. This style of praying makes you really work to focus in even more on your prayer and conversation with God. Everyone stands huddled together laying your hand on one other and praying aloud all at the same time. It is so powerful to hear the amount of prayers being sent all at once and the passion behind them.

Upon arrival at the base which stands tall up in the mountain and is pretty much a very large pole barn with the most incredible views of Guatemala, we unloaded all of our bags and made our way into our two separate rooms: the girls and the boys. This is how we stayed, bunk style on twin beds. That night was our first night of devotions which typically lasted about an hour or usually longer. I knew as soon as we were given the song list that this was going to be a very fulfilled week. At home I have my local Christian radio station and worship songs on constantly so seeing these songs made me feel a little more at home. It helps me stay rooted in my faith and remember how precious children of God we all are. Devotions led with a few worship songs and then we dove into Scripture with Dan, the founder of Paradise Bound, and all 38 team members sat in a large circle. Dan continued to say throughout devotions that night and throughout the week that we have been called by God to be there, in that present moment. It was not by accident, it was by the grace of God that we were all there together serving Him. Dan told us numerous times that we would be called to go outside of our comfort zone, something that a lot of us struggle with. We all know that once we feel brave enough to enter that area outside of our comfort zone that great things happen. We are strengthened in so many ways. Dan also expressed that this will happen in various ways as we are each in very different depths of our faith and walk with Christ. But I can wholeheartedly say that each and every team member not only went outside of their comfort zone, but continued to go deeper and deeper into their faith and relationship with God. But we will save that conversation for our last night in Guatemala...

Our first building day began about 5:15 am. We always had delicious meals waiting for us usually by 7:00 am and had as much time as we allowed to spend time in Scripture and pour our hearts out in our own personal devotions before the tasks for the day began. We had been split up and mixed between Indiana/Michigan, forming six new teams to build six one room homes for one of the villages. The village we were building in was geographically one mile away from our base; however, we had to drive around twists, turns and what felt like at times, off roading in order to get to our destination which ultimately took about 55 minutes to an hour. My team was led by Anya, one of the staff members of Paradise Bound, who impacted so many of us by sharing her story of how God is using her for the greater good and how she has overcome so much adversity in her life. 

Something that a lot of team members were quickly realizing was how much we had to let go of what we think we have so much control over: our daily routines, to do lists, etc. No matter how hard we try to let ourselves believe that we are in control of our daily plans and the future, we simply are not. It is all in God's hands and He proved that to be true multiple times throughout the week. Things do not always go as planned. We hardly knew any details prior to leaving for this mission. I am usually pretty laid back and take whatever comes as it is without getting too stressed out; however, in preparation for this mission and not knowing many details was slightly more difficult. And we only knew of the next days "plans" late the night before. This was a struggle for some of us planners out there but ultimately transformed us by the end of the week to be more open to change and letting God have control because His plans are always greater than our own anyway.

The actual building aspect of each home already had the foundation laid. Our job as a team was to put together the frame, dry wall, mudding, painting, the roof and patio roof. I thoroughly enjoyed constructing each part of the home and learning about what goes into building a small home, Guatemalan style. We built for a family of 8:

Pedro - Dad
Maria - Mom
Isirdo - Son
Angel - Son
Verhililo - Son
Flora - Daughter
Marcela - Daughter
Francisca - Daughter

Please keep the families in your prayers as they make their houses into homes and pray that they are filled with the power of the Holy Spirit. We love each and every one of these families as if they are our own.

Going out of my comfort zone this week meant I would have to focus on a few things:

I have a very hard time opening up to people right away, so God put me into a group of 38+ people in which I only knew a handful prior to leaving. -- While I still have much more work to do to open up more and be more vulnerable, I definitely grew so much in the short week that we were serving. I opened up to more people than I would have back home in a week's time and ultimately opened my heart even more for Jesus.

I am a planner and depend on my daily to do list to get through some days, so we were given few details prior to leaving for the mission. -- I still carry a to do list because life does get a little busy sometimes, but I am trying to simplify tasks at home. Instead of procrastinating and letting my list grow, be intentional about accomplishing the biggest tasks for the day. And make time for prayer and Scripture.

Sometimes if I feel outside of my comfort zone I sort of stand back, so God asked me to dive in wholeheartedly and connect with as many children and families as possible. -- This is where I felt the Holy Spirit more than I ever have before. When we were in the first med clinic village when I felt God was calling me to pray with one of the young ladies during the altar call in which we bowed down on hands and knees, weeping, praying in english/spanish. It was so powerful!

I mention these things because I truly believe that there is power in prayer and that God provides to those who seek Him and want to strengthen their relationship with Christ; however, I also believe that it takes intention on our part as God's people to not only be His hands and feet here on earth but to do our own part in transforming our hearts. Intentionally choosing to overcome adversities, study the Bible, pray for His guidance, serve with purpose. Because I choose to believe that there is so much more than this life on earth and I have so much hope and trust in His promises.

During one of our devotions Dan talked about how we can find so many different answers by asking ourselves the same question, but with emphasis on HOW the question is asked. I loved this because it can be applied in any situation whether it is a time of joy or if you find yourself asking God why you are going through a difficult time.

WHY are you here?
Why ARE you here?
Why are YOU here?
Why are you HERE?

He also dove into Matthew 14, asking us to put ourselves INTO the Word and to remember that God is in control always, for you do not know the end of your story. To seek God over doubt and come as you are. To dive into faith and your relationship with Christ with ALL that you are.

You can visit Paradise Bound Ministry's website here and the team blogs here.
To sponsor a child in Open Doors Orphanage click here.


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