We are wrapping up the holiday season of 2017 more fulfilled and blessed than ever. We kicked the season off by celebrating Thanksgiving at home just the four of us, calm and quiet. Then Maddy headed off to church camp with the youth from Bethel followed immediately by the entire family heading to the coast for our Sunday School class weekend retreat. We came back to Xela to get ready for Maddy's Quince (15th birthday party) which turned out perfectly! She has been so blessed with amazing friends! It was great for our family to participate in this traditional aspect of our culture. The following week found us pulling together last minute details for our annual Christmas at the Shelter party.
Each year we add a little more to the program and this year was no different. We started with an interactive reading of Mary's story and Sarah talked about Mary's decision to place her life in the hands of God's plan for her. We focused on how that obedience brought us the most wonderful gift of Christmas - the miracle of Immanuel 'God with Us'. Gerald then read the Christmas Story from Luke 2 and had a special prayer over the ladies and children. While we all watched Home Alone II filling the house with laughter, Gerald hand-cranked over 50 granizados (snow cones). We ended the evening with gifts for everyone. It is always so much fun to see all the faces light up as everyone opens their gifts. We still can't believe we are the ones who get to be the hands and feet to carry these blessings of love. We returned to the shelter to take them Christmas dinner and several of the ladies were walking around wearing the purses we gave them. It was precious!
We rounded off the next week with two different Christmas Convivios (parties) with our church family...and funny enough, a few birthday parties for friends. We spent Christmas Eve Eve and Christmas Eve with our church family and traditional midnight fireworks with our missionary family.
We certainly hope and pray that your Christmas season was as filled with love and blessings as ours was.
We are eternally grateful for the privilege to live and serve in this precious country and to those of you who make our lives and ministry possible. Woodlawn Baptist Church who are so faithful to give each year so we can buy gifts and food for the shelter, each financial partner for your faithful giving which allows us to live and thrive in Guatemala and to each person who lovingly prays for us. We could not do this without each one of you reading this newsletter who give, love and pray for us. Your sacrifice is eternal. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts!
As I (Gerald) sit and write this end of the year blog post, it is hard to believe that an entire year has just about come and gone. I think back to where we were at this time last year, as we were able to see many of you in person and not via an email update, a facebook post or maybe even an instagram photo. So much happens in 12 months and yet finding the words to put it all down in is quite possibly the most difficult. In an attempt to summarize this years events I would like to begin with a verse as we have already entered this Christmas season.
The apostle Paul writes in Acts 20:35 "In all things I have shown youth by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'" We have not see the truth of this verse more clearly than we have in the past year. Being on both sides of this verse we have been the recipient of your sacrificial giving and with that we have been able to further minister to this wonderfully beautiful culture.
We would like to thank you all also for the consistent praying you have done on our behalf.
Coleman this year saw not one but two English speaking friends leave Guatemala to return to the States. We thank you for the prayers as he said goodbyes. It was a rough start but he has made many new friends in the condominium complex and at church. Almost daily our doorbell is rung by friends wanting Coleman to come out to ride bikes or play soccer at the park.
Maddy has always been our social butterfly but sometimes even a butterfly gets tired of fluttering. Maddy has struggled at times this year with being the person who always walks up and introduces herself but your prayers have helped her also establish and reinforce relationships through activities with the church youth group, including going away for 4 days to the church youth camp with all Spanish speakers.
Sarah as many of you know has dealt with health issues and actually spent some time in the States to visit her doctors. While she is on the road to recovery, this trial has also brought about opportunities for she and I to get to know other people in the congregation. One of the couples who is in our Sunday school class have a son who just so happens to be a gastroenterologist who has helped us incredibly since Sarah returned from the States. Last week Sarah was scheduled for an endoscopy which revealed some gastritis but more importantly, he only charged us a third of the normal cost...which we happened to have stashed away in an envelope. We would be satisfied if that is where the story ended but as God would have it, the doctors wife was acting as his nurse and invited Sarah to a women's discipleship class. The ladies were getting together to have a Christmas party and Sarah was more than welcome to attend. Soon the party snowballed and families and friends were invited. We are still reeling from the amazing time we had last night with ladies we know from church but with whom we were able to build deeper relationships.
I continue to hold his discipleship class every Wednesday at the prison. The group grows and shrinks but Samuel is faithful. I ask that you continue to pray for the discipleship ministry and for Raul. After months of seeking him out to continue our Bible study, I made the tough decision to put the ball in Raul's court, and have him seek me out. I have not seen Raul in quite a while, despite him knowing I am in the prison every Wednesday, but there is hope. Samuel told me that he saw him in church Sunday. I ask that you pray along with me for God to continue to work on his heart.
We cannot thank you enough for the prayers that you pray for the ministry in the prison, women and children in the Shelter and even people here in our condominium complex.
This year the Shelter received a huge gift to help provide the annual Christmas party at the Shelter. Over the past few months we have been making purchases for over 50 people and working on getting things ready for the party. Receiving this gift is such a blessing for us to receive so that we can give. We wish that for each of you who give you could see the faces of the kids and ladies as they open their gifts. For us it has clearly revealed to us the truth of Acts 20:35.
Because of you we have been able to work hard to help the weak. We are so blessed and happy to be the hands and feet of such a sacrificial team. We look forward to sharing with you videos or photos from Christmas at the Shelter. While I am unable to share a photo of Samuel and I together, know your giving is precious to him as I minister to him.
1)Prison ministry as it shrinks and grows; and for Samuel during the holiday season without family to visit
2)For future donations to come in as we pursue purchasing medical insurance
3)Shelter ministry as the ladies and children who will not be in their own home this Crhistmas season.
Sarah and Maddy are finally heading home! Thank you all for your prayers for Sarah's health. She is feeling much better and feels confident in the care she has been given in the states. Praise the Lord with us that no surgery was required. She has been put on a couple different medications and all is going well.
Please pray for them as they travel back to Guatemala. There is a lot of political unrest in our country right now as protests are scheduled for the next two days country wide causing all major roadways to be blocked. Their flight arrives this evening so we will all be staying put in the Guatemala City for a few days til the protests end and we are able to travel out to Xela. Please pray the protest do not extend thru Thursday.
We love you all and thank you for always keeping us in your prayers!
Also, we would like to update on our need for health insurance. We have received $50 committed monthly to help toward this $500 a month expense. Please be in prayer for the remaining $450 needed to allow us to obtain medical insurance.
Jerry, Sarah, Maddy and Coleman
So much of our time is spent in the mundane. The weekly schedule. The striving to be faithful. And every once in awhile we catch a glimpse of the bigger picture. We have experienced two such times recently.
We have been in a good flow of Bible Studies at the shelter. A time of peace after a little rough patch at the shelter. The girls have been truly hearing and interacting. And as we talked with them one day during study we realized over 2/3 of the group had accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior for the first time all in the past month! Some in our bible study and some when a small group came to visit with a special activity one week. We had each lady write her "new birth" date in the front of her bible and we took a picture. It was one of those times when you see the fruit of your labor. The real need for the ongoing Discipleship. The small part God is allowing us to play in his eternal kingdom. God giving us a peace to continue on.
And then, a routine visit to the Dr that ended in concerning ultrasound results and cancer marker tests. God is my Peace! After a second opinion, a last minute flight to the states and follow up testing and ultrasound, all is calm. Nothing has ever caused anxiety like that week of waiting on test results. We were blessed to be surrounded by some in our Sunday School class praying for us and encouraging us, reminding us that God is our peace. Sarah and Maddy flew to the states thinking Sarah was having surgery and Maddy volunteered to help her recover. Instead they have both had a chance to relax and enjoy family and recover from the stress of all the drama. Please pray for us as our family is separated for a couple more weeks and also for the follow up ultrasound Sarah will have before returning to Guatemala.
This whole ordeal has made us painfully aware of our need for some sort of major medical insurance. We have chosen a good fit for our family and the monthly cost will be just under $500 a month. We do not have this in our budget at this time. We are looking for a few families or groups to partner with us. Please pray with us and consider how you can partner with us for this need.
Thank you all for your continued love and support.
This past Tuesday Gerald was told that his permission to get into the prison needed to be renewed because a few people who signed off on the permission are no longer working in the penal system. This is not just with Gerald's permission but for the Bible institute teachers as well. We know God has a plan in all of this and we seek his guidance in the meantime.
1) Pray for Sarah's health and healing while she is in the States and for Maddy as she spends time in the States with friends and family.
2) Pray that Sarah will not be anxious and trust God is her peace.
3) Pray for upcoming ultrasound results to show no new growth.
4) Pray for us all as we are apart for a couple more weeks.
5) Pray for God to provide partners to be able to begin having insurance.
6) Pray that Gerald and the other prison teacher can receive their new permissions.
Most Christians know the story of George Mueller and the faith he had in his prayers to provide daily sustenance for the children in his orphanage. We are often told of the orphanage housemother telling Mueller “The children are dressed and ready for school. But there is no food for them to eat.” Mueller then instructing her to bring the children to the dining room and wait; he then prayed and waited for the food he knew God would provide. As the story goes, not much later there was a knock at the door of a local baker who knew of the orphanage and at God’s prodding baked enough bread for the children followed by another knock at the door from a milkman whose delivery cart had broken down in front of the orphanage with milk that would spoil in the time it took to fix the cart. There are countless other stories of Mueller’s faith in prayer from the orphanage and during his time as a pastor in a small English church.
Often times we read of these stories or others much like them and think of the faith of the person praying and wonder if we would have the same measure of faith. One of our ministries here in Guatemala is to the Women’s Shelter where we teach the ladies and children a Bible story, build relationships with them, do special events like Mothers Day, Kids Day, Christmas or the yearly shoe distribution. But one of the ministries we have with the Shelter is providing necessary cleaning supplies. While we do pray the Shelter becomes fully self sufficient in its needs we are blessed to be able to help them in simple yet practical ways.
About two weeks ago we returned from Guatemala City with cleaning supplies as well as personal hygiene items for the ladies. As you can see from the photo there is a random assortment of different types of soap and two boxes of bleach containing 6 gallons and a couple bag of dry milk. When I (Gerald) showed up to deliver these supplies one of nannies could not thank me enough for the bleach. She made sure I knew that she had prayed specifically that someone would bring them bleach! The flies that were becoming a problem were exacerbated by the lack of proper cleaning supplies. She was so thankful that God had heard her prayer and put it on someones heart to purchase bleach for them. She thanked me numerous times for the bleach and let the other workers know as well.
We are thankful that God has called us not only to the spiritual health of these ladies but called to their physical health as well. I want to return to the story of George Mueller because we are often told of the faith in his prayers that God would provide but I also want to point out that we may never know the name of that baker or that milkman but they are just as important to the story because whether they heard God speaking directly to them to make bread for the orphanage or are dealing with a broken down cart loaded down with fresh milk they responded to a need. We share with you the encouragement to continue to hear God calling you to send people into the world to share the Blessed Hope that we have as we are sent into the world and listen for the voice of God in providing simple yet necessary needs to those God has put in our lives.
We cannot do what we do in the lives of these ladies without your generous donations. We cannot thank you enough for being the senders to those of us who are goers. Thank you for your love for people you may never meet or see in person. Your kindness is a direct result of God working in your life so far reaching you may never know the eternal impact you have on a single mother leaving behind a life of abuse. We know you don't do what you do for the applause or the gratitude but it must be given.
¡Paz de Cristo a Usted!
Peace of Christ to You!
Please pray with us in the following areas of ministry and life:
-Having experienced a rather strong earthquake last night please pray for those whose homes were damaged and for the families who lost loved ones
-With new arrivals at the Shelter there is going to be some adjustments and the Shelter has had their fair share in the past month
-Maddy and Coleman are headed to Camp Guamiski (camp for English speaking missionary kids) this coming week
-Continued opportunities to share the Word of God in the prison
This past weekend I (Gerald) traveled to the city with six other prison ministry veterans to be trained as facilitators and to receive certification as trainers in a new Prison Fellowship International project called The Prisoner's Journey. This project is specifically designed as an evangelistic outreach that leads to 8 weeks of small group discipleship. Our training was provided by Stephen James who is the creator of The Prisoner's Journey. There is no better training than to learn directly from the person who came up with the idea. We had some great training! To be a part of this project in our own prison system is such a great opportunity for us to share the light of Jesus in such a dark place. Along with being trained to lead small discipleship groups that will come out of the initial meeting, I am also certified to train others to lead small groups. I know it is cheesy but it is true, "Mathematics is part of the Christian life". Multiplying yourself (what God has and is doing in your life) into the lives of others so that they may do the same in the lives of others. This is discipleship! It is exactly what Paul was writing in his second letter to Timothy: "...and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also." I am so excited to see what God will be doing through this project in the prison and in our lives.
We have been overwhelmed with concern for the Shelter by the gifts we have received to help them out at this time. Your sacrificial and extra giving allows us to purchase items that they cannot purchase at this time. There is always a fine line between swooping in and fixing things and allowing the Shelter to be self-sufficient; and we covet your prayers as we walk that line. Your gifts allow us to see needs being met and we thank you! We will be posting pictures over the months of the purchases we make as we are able to bless them. It is an honor to be used by God in this way, as the conduit for these blessings from you to the girls at the Shelter. Thank you again for your giving and your love of the least of these.
Please pray with us in the following areas of ministry and life:
- Pray for us as we seek to help provide for the shelter while not causing dependence.
- For the start of The Prisoners Journey and the facilitators, and for the prisoners who will be reached.
- For permission to be approved by the Director of Prisons for Gerald to also enter the prison on Tuesday's to continue discipleship with Raul.
Prison ministry is always changing; from men being released, transferred or simply losing interest and yet the harvest is plenty. Since returning from our trip to the states a number of things have transpired. Beginning with Raul (Terror) being moved from where he had been for about a year in isolation into general population. While this is good and shows the confidence the Director-Warden has concerning his attitude and character it has opened up his work load making Mondays almost impossible for him to meet with me. He knows that he is welcome to study with Samuel and I on Wednesdays but has yet to show up. I still keep in touch with him and today showed him exactly where we have our Bible study. I pray and hope that he will join us for this weekly Bible study. I have seen the work of the Holy Spirit in him and can only provide opportunities for him to join. On much more positive news my Bible study with Samuel has grown from one on one to two and hopefully this Wednesday growing to four or five. Samuel is soaking up every bit of Bible study he can get and has begun inviting people to join us. At the start of this year it was only he and I in his work room, but then a friend of his began joining us and for the past month now it has been Samuel, Adan (Adam) and myself. Looking forward to Raul joining us, another friend of Samuel and a man I met today (his name is Rencon) we will be five! I am incredibly thankful for this answer to prayer. Even if Rencon nor Raul attend I am encouraged to continue going on Mondays and will seek out Rencon for studying the Bible. He is hungry and his hunger has encouraged me more than he knows. I will always pray for Raul and his desire to put Bible study first but like the saying goes "You can lead a horse to water but you cannot make him drink." Please pray for my friend.
A couple of weeks ago we shared with you all a horrific story of an orphanage outside of Guatemala City breaking out in fire as a result of the children speaking up for themselves agains the conditions they were living in. You can find the article we shared in our previous blog post. Since that fire the reality of how those girls were living was brought to light and the people who were charged with caring and loving these kids have been arrested for crimes against these children. As a result that government run orphanage was shut down and the surviving children were placed in other orphanages and shelters throughout the country. The Shelter where we minister has since received numerous girls from other shelters who took in children from the orphanage in Guatemala City. As a result of the fire and placement funds that previously were directed to private shelters have been redistributed to public shelters leaving Nuevos Horizontes (where we minister) in a tough spot. Currently in the Shelter they have the highest number of girls we have ever seen there and the effects have taken their toll on the already slim budget.
If you are interested in contributing to the Shelter in this time of need please consider writing a check out to us and send it to Sarah's mother at the address below. If you do this 100% of your money will go into an account specifically for the Shelter. Your money will go to help buy food, bath soap, clothes soap, toothpaste and toothbrushes, cleaning and disinfecting supplies.
The address is :
8049 Old Hecker Road
Iowa, LA 70647
We thank you for your love and support.
We offer up our lives as a sacrifice. It can be the tiniest thing that sets it off, the weighing of the sacrifice for the reality of the life we are living. Yesterday it happened to be a FaceTime home to wish my Dad a Happy Birthday when all of a sudden all of the faces of our family are popping up on the screen. It was a whirlwind of "hey, how's it going" and "Happy Birthday" over a ton of background noise. It was fun to see those precious faces. But, as soon as good byes and I love you's are said and the computer screen goes black you can hear a pin drop in our house. Each one of us lost in our own thoughts of all the fun and laughter going on across the blank computer screen. The snuggles of babies who will not recognize us next time we see them, the fun cousins are having on the 4-wheeler, and the stories and jokes we have heard hundreds of times but would give just about anything to be sitting in the heat on that back porch in Louisiana listening to at that moment. We all retreat to our own corner of the house to reflect on what we are missing. Then we all pile in the car to head to our friends house to play games. Friends who willingly let our kids in on the fun even though they have no kids of their own and a little of our life here is redeemed. Then we go to church this morning and participate in something way bigger than we are and we learn and we worship and we are reminded that our hearts burn at the feet of Jesus, that we bring all that we are to the feet of Jesus and our lives are redeemed at the feet of Jesus. We offer up once again the sacrifice of all we are missing out on living so far from family so that others can not miss out on the hope of eternity with their Savior.
1- A government orphanage, in Guatemala City caught fire Wednesday leaving 31 children dead and 40 more injured. The orphanage was meant to house 400 and was actually housing 750! There are many reports being posted locally and internationally and we have received information from the head social worker who works at Nuevos Horizantes where we minister. All reports describe the conditions as horrendous. Girls were being drugged and trafficked within the walls of the home. She tells us the girls decided to protest and apparently this fire was a repercussion. We are heartbroken to hear of such corruption still taking place in government facilities and also because two of our sweet girls at the shelter have siblings at this facility. There has been no personal information released yet so they do not know to what extent their siblings have been affected. Please pray with us for all the children and for the judicial proceedings coming up, for safe placements for all the children and specifically for Reina and Alma (pictured below) as they await information about their siblings. Also, for Nuevos Horizantes as there is anticipation of some of the abused girls from the city being placed here in Xela. This will be a blessing for them but a hardship for the shelter as they are currently struggling with the food and toiletries budget as it is.
*Click the grey button at the end of the blog for an article in English on the orphanage fire.
2 - This month Sarah is working on writing 3 new lessons for the Bible study at the shelter. Each lesson is written with these particular girls and their stories in mind and also includes a craft that helps reiterate the lesson for those who do not read or write. The first is on Daniel and the other two have to do with the Easter story. Please pray that God would speak to Sarah about what to prepare and speak through her as she teaches. For some reason she feels a heavy weight of responsibility with these three particular lessons.
3-Prison Ministry - As usual ministry is constantly changing its form. The one on one discipleship time on Wednesday has turned into more of a small group Bible study, this change has opened up free time for Gerald on Mondays at the prison. Please pray that God would lead him in what to do with this time. He has some ideas but is starting from scratch again. For someone who loves structure this is always challenging.
4- In the past two weeks Gerald and Sarah have both been down with an aomeba. We have both recovered but, as always after dealing with illness, there are lots of pieces to pick up. Please pray for us as we get back on track. It is easy to feel overwhelmed at times.
We covet your prayers!
"A tus pies arde mi corazón, A tus pies entrego lo que soy, Es el lugar de mi seguridad,
No hay lugar más alto, más grande, Que estar a tus pies" Miel San Marcos
"At your feet my heart burns, At your feet I bring all that I am, It is the place of my security,
There is no place higher, or greater, than to be at your feet"
We have felt so many of your prayers since we have returned to Guatemala after our time in the states. From ministry, to finances, to our Spiritual lives and marriage we have felt blessing upon blessing.
First thing when we returned to Guatemala we celebrated Christmas at the Shelter. As always it was a wonderful day! We very easily transitioned back to living life with these precious ladies and workers. We have seen our relationships with the workers at the shelter grow tremendously. This is a huge step in ministering well with them.
Jerry was able to meet Samuel's dad during one of the Bible Study days at the prison. This was a great encouragement to Samuel, for his dad to see him studying the Bible. And Raul was moved out of isolation and is doing very well in a net making business he has started there in the prison. What a testimony to the changes the Lord has made in his life.
Thanks to some end-of-the-year gifts we received from you all we were able to completely pay off our plane tickets for the trip we took to the states. Woohoo!
We talked to a few of you about us having recently changed churches here in Guatemala and asked for prayer for this transition and for each of us to make friends in our new church home. We are doing so well there. We are learning and growing. Maddy loves being involved in the youth group and has recently been asked to join the youth praise team. Jerry and I attended a Valentine's dinner with our Sunday School class where we were finally able to get to know several couples and those in our class realized that we actually do speak Spanish. And finally we were invited to coffee at someone's home and found out they have a son in Coleman's Sunday School class. He spent the afternoon playing soccer with him. So he finally has someone to relate to in his class.
And in all this, we KNOW the highest and greatest place we find ourselves is at the feet of Jesus. It is where our security is found, it is where our hearts learn to burn for more of Him.
Funny thing is, I started this blog post this past weekend, now we are mid-week and our only vehicle is in the shop, our bathroom sink broke, part of the ceiling is falling down in Maddy's room so we moved her out of it temporarily, and I broke a tooth last night. Isn't that how life works. But even in this I am amazed at the peace that is in our home this week. God is good! So know that when we say we feel your prayers We REALLY do! Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your prayers, love and financial support.
Current Prayer Requests
* It is tax time. We have had many complications in the past with our taxes. Please pray our taxes are
handled well this year.
* Time management and priorities as we get more involved in our church and begin forming friendships.
* That our marriage would continue to be strengthened, that we would pursue quality time together.
* Specifically for Coleman, that he would be able to overcome his timidness and speak in Sunday School.
*Maddy as she gets more involved in the youth group, that she would make good friends.
* These six ladies as they work at the Women's Shelter and make decisions for the girls and children living
there. (Brenda, Olivia, Deborah, Carlita, Aury, and Sylvia)