As I sit here New Year’s Day morning, the house still quiet, the kids enjoying sleeping late for a few more days and Gerald having left early to go visit the prison, I am reflecting on our year as so many are today. God sure did shake things up for us this year!
As we talked about what God had taught us during our advent study this year two different stories came up. One was of the angel coming to the shepherds, the lowest of society, the humble and outcast. God made sure they knew and saw with their own eyes the Messiah. How they went out and told their friends, those who were like them, what they saw and heard. God showed himself to the lowly and forgotten. We talked about the shelter and the prison ministries and how God has called us to love those that seem hard to love because they are so different from us. How God has given us a love for them that we cannot explain. How still today God reaches out to the lowly and forgotten.
Then we thought about the angel appearing to the three Wise men. How God also showed himself to the professionals of that day, the educated; that God made special effort to give them a star to follow. He spoke to them in their “language” to show them who He was. We were amazed to see how God has brought us into a season of ministering to these same people as well, those who sometimes are also forgotten when it comes to missions. The ones who have the means to get the education but are also the ones still searching for truth. We have been humbled and blessed by working at the InterAmerican School. These families who need Jesus’ love just as much as the poor. The ones who have everything but are just as empty as the single mom with no job or home. The ones who need a hug and hope because their parents work so much they are alone most of the time. The ones who struggle with philosophical questions and are looking for answers to life. Our future professionals. It is not always an easy place to work or build friendships as we see the world so differently but it is a mission field to which all four of us have been called. Each one of us has our own individual struggles in our new world. So we talked about how God has called us to be a light at IAS.
That is our goal this new year. To continue to be a light in the darkness to the needy and hopeless, whether they come in the form of the poor and lowly or the wealthy and forgotten (searching).
Prison ministry has been slow going as there has been a substantial increase in the number of people visiting the prison, which leads to more “search and seizures” when visitors enter the prison and during the visiting time. As Sarah stated above I visited the prison on New Year’s Day, and am very thankful that I was able to enter quickly and spend a few hours visiting. Samuel and I had a wonderful time together catching up and picking each others brains about church issues, our faith, personal opinions about things pastors say, recipes (Samuel more so than me) and a host of other conversations. I am truly blessed to call him friend and brother and was pleased to find out that he had completed the first three year program of the Bible institute classes.
Hearing this wonderful news also made me pause to think that Samuel and I have been meeting together for the past three and a half years. It was only after Samuel was released to general population that I was able to encourage him to attend the classes. For these three and a half years his hunger to learn and study the Scriptures has lead he and I to study the Bible together, encourage each other, and experience the joy of him having family visit him. My time with Samuel has passed so quickly. There are so many memories, from our first meetings with him in isolation and standing at an iron gate, to now, the two of us sitting in his own bodega (workshop) studying the Bible. I cannot thank you all enough for the opportunities your sacrificial giving has provided in seeking and serving the least of these.
The Shelter is going thru some serious financial issues once again. As is a common occurrence, the government has not provided as was promised. Several workers have resigned effective today since they have only been paid three months wages out of the past twelve. About half have stayed despite not having been paid. There is also a lack of funds for household basics and food. Please continue to pray with us for wisdom on the part of the organization directors as they look for other avenues to raise funds. Thanks to many of you we were able to help tremendously with some basic needs for the girls and children this Christmas. They know this help comes from you all because God has given you a love for them. It brings me to tears each year as we explain where the gifts and things we share with them come from. I wish we could accurately describe the looks of thankfulness and amazement on the ladies faces as they realize they are loved and thought about by people that do not even know them. God has some amazing ways of allowing us to be a part of sharing his love and hope with the world. We are so blessed to be a small part. Our hope is that by reading some of these stories you catch a tiny glimpse of the role God is allowing you to play in his eternal plan.
The School Christmas program went extremely well for Sarah’s first ever attempt at leading 147 students in a performance. It was a great joy to present the real meaning of Christmas to all the parents and families. She is really enjoying getting to know her students better and have some of them who live in our condominium complex visit our home.
Despite being his first year at IAS, Gerald has the opportunity to teach two Senior level courses, the first is Bible and the second is Community Service. This second class allows time during a class period to talk about ways the school and Senior class can serve the community, the nearby neighborhood and public school. For Christmas, this class implemented a program similar to Angel Tree Project where each person who took an angel off the tree also purchased a Christmas gift based on the gender and age of a child from the local community. Together with parents and other family members of the school we were able to give out over 100 gifts to children living immediately in the neighborhood of the school. As part of the program a local pastor affiliated with the school shared a Christmas message with the families who were receiving gifts. It is encouraging to be a part of the school being a light to the community.
This update is long, our Christmas season was long. However, we are encouraged as we reflect over the past couple of months. We have enjoyed a nice break from school and ministry these past two weeks and are gearing up to start up again on Monday. Please pray with us as we begin this New Year eagerly anticipating all God will do in and through us here in Guatemala. We are beyond blessed to have you all, our faithful supporters, along on this journey. To each we hope you enjoyed a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Peace of Christ to You,
Gerald and Sarah Lastrapes
Along with their two children are missionaries in Guatemala. They will be sharing stories of discipleship through prison and shelter ministries.