Guamiski, which means GUAtemalan MISsionary KIds” is, as one would expect, a camp for missionary kids that live in Guatemala. This camp has been a safe haven for many missionary kids, a place where we don't have to feel the pressure of being a missionary kid. As having aged out of camp I can say that this camp has and will continue to help ease the stress and pressure that comes with the life as a missionary kid. In my years at camp, I can tell you that it was always something to look forward too. It was also something that I could always count on to help me feel welcomed, safe and accepted. Which has always been hard to find. As we’re no longer yellow, as our birth-country is, neither are we green, as our now home-country is. We’re blue, a beautiful mixture of the two. Camp for me was always a place where I could find other kids who understood not really fitting in to our birth-county nor our new home-country.
Unfortunately, all great things have to come to an end. So as a missionary kid, I’ve had to say goodbye plenty of times, and I’ve had to say goodbye to camp Guamiski year after year for 6 years now. However this last one was different. It was different because it was the last time that I’d have to say goodbye to the camp for forever. As long as I’ve been there I’ve seen many people come and go, but this year, I was the one to go. However, I hope to go back next summer as a junior counselor helping out with the kids as well as lead the music as I did this year.
As a way to better express how much all of the people meant to me, here is a part of my instagram post after my very last year at camp:
“So this goes out to all the people I’ve met through the camp. I miss you all very much. I hope that you’ve all been able to have as amazing of lives as you’d all hoped when I met you. I truly wish you all the best. I hope you all have been able to grow into the amazing people that I always knew you all could be.
And as I said my last goodbye through my graduation speech, I realized that while I was hoping my legacy would be carried on by the new kids; I had a moment when I knew that I was a part of someone else’s legacy, which I hope will be carried on for many years to come.
I love you all and I wish you all the best.”
Events at the prison have continued to change and there has been more national police involvement. Changes from simple things like the family that holds my car keys while I am in prison no longer being allowed to stay on top of the hill where the prison actually is to national police exhaustively checking everything and everyone going into the prison. While this is a well intentioned process it affects those who travel from hours away to visit. Despite all that affects my entrance, the times I have been able to get in and visit are always a joy and an encouragement. About a month ago I saw a familiar face in the prison; a face that I spent countless hours with having weekly Bible studies. Our eyes met and he about jumped over the table to get to me, much to the surprise of his breakfast companion. It was Raul, my old friend and Bible study partner. It was a surprise and great reunion. He told me to sit with him and asked me what I wanted to eat for breakfast and that he was paying; I couldn’t resist this time with him. We chatted and picked up right where we left off. Despite our time being short (maybe 20 minutes) it was a great time and I was encouraged to hear that he was attending church.
Samuel is doing well and is really enjoying the Leadership classes he is attending. He has such a hunger to learn and I consider it a blessing to be a part of his life. My time with Samuel is always a joy regardless if we are having a Bible study or just catching up. Please pray for Samuel as he has been experiencing headaches and the Doctor said it is due to a lack of vitamins which is a regular problem in the prison. Sadly the Doctor does not have medicine and the prison does not provide any medicine.
Summit Camp is held the week after school ends on the school campus. The upperclassmen organize and lead camp. The school invites the students from the nearby low income public school to participate. It is a big deal and is looked forward to all year. We had lots of team games and competitions as well as activities such as archery, dance, cooking, ropes courses and crafts. We concluded each day with a chapel time including worship and a devotional. It is a wonderful time to encourage our students to invest in others. We were both able to serve this year as adult supervisors, Gerald in riflery and Sarah in archery, Maddy lead the dance classes and Coleman was junior helper at the rifle range. We have already been asked to lead the chapel times for next years camp.
These first pictures may confuse you because if you thought "hey, that looks like the shelter not school" you would be correct. We have been extremely encouraged to have connected our ministry with the shelter to our service at the school in a few ways this past semester. To begin, each year the Secondary students at school participate in Spiritual Emphasis Week. As part of the week this year we divided up in groups and went out into the city and served in different ministries. We were able to add the shelter into this group. It was so exciting to take a group of students to work along side us at the shelter for a couple days. The guys lead by Gerald did some needed maintenance work around the grounds.
We all played games with the girls and children and spent time listening to their stores and encouraging them. It was a special time for us to be able to have extra time with the ladies and children at the shelter hanging out and just being with them. It was very eye opening for our students to see those who live in such conditions and without hope. We had several opportunities to debrief with our group and discuss the joy and hope Jesus gives us that we are called to share with others.
Another really cool thing was that Maddy was able to visit an orphanage on one of the service days and was greeted by two little girls we had known a few years ago at the shelter. The older sister, Genesis, recognized Maddy! It was a surprise and a blessing to hear how well the sisters are doing since they were taken away from their mom a couple years back.
We also enjoyed participating in and leading small groups during the retreat part of Spiritual Emphasis week. All Secondary Students and many teachers loaded into two chicken buses (old decked out school busses from the states) and headed to the coast for a few days. And by coast I do not mean long stretches of beaches with waves crashing on the shore and ocean breezes. I mean a hotel off the highway near the coast but way to far away to feel any breeze. But it was warm, with a swimming pool and away from the busyness of school. It was a great time to get to know the students on a different level. And for them to slow down and listen to a great speaker who shared straight from the Bible. We heard many positive comments about the speaker and the small group sessions. We have been so amazed at how God is working in the lives of the students to draw many of them to himself.
(play "Find all four Lastrapes" in the photo below. This is the entire Secondary group from school who participated in Spiritual Emphasis Week.)
After we returned from retreat the Senior High girls decided they would like to have a drive to collect hygiene items for the shelter. It was made a school wide event and the class with the most donations earned a pizza party. The drive was a huge success and provided around 15 boxes filled with shampoo, soaps, lotion, toothbrushes and toothpaste, toilet paper and many other needed items for the ladies. Sarah and two other teachers from school were able to take all the Senior High girls one Monday morning to the shelter to play games, and have a spa day. It was adorable watching the girls from upper class families dote on these sweet girls who have literally nothing. A couple of the girls were stretched out like they were in a real spa with a student painting each hand and another painting her toes and still another behind her combing and braiding her hair. I tear up just remembering the love that was expressed that morning. God has truly done a great work in the lives of our students as well as the lives of so many at the shelter. Love truly is the greatest of them all!
As we look toward to next school year Sarah been given the job of school chaplain for the entire school from Pre-K through Seniors. It is a big task as she will be preparing four elementary chapels a week as well as a secondary chapel, which also includes coordinating monthly service projects all over Xela. She will also be leading an Advisory class, which functions as a Discipleship group. Her goal is to continue only part time at school so that she is able to continue to keep up with ministry at the shelter.
Gerald will continue as the High School Bible teacher, teaching Old and New Testament Survey, Systematic Theology, Church History, World Religions and Apologetics. As well as the Senior Community Service class which focuses on ministry projects and preparation for Summit Camp. As well as continuing with his Advisory class of 7&8th grade boys moving up from last year.
As you can see our plates are full to overflowing with ministry but our cups are also full to overflowing with blessings as we have had the tremendous opportunity to blend shelter ministry with school ministry!
Please pray for us as we both have been given heavy responsibilities for the spiritual growth of the our school. Sarah is feeling a heavy burden and truly covets your prayers as she embarks on the role of chaplain.
Pray for our health as we attempt to keep up with the fast pace, that we would also find some times of real rest and keep stress levels down.
Pray for both Maddy and Coleman as school merges with ministry. That both would be able to focus on their studies and have understanding especially in the area of Math.
As we mentioned before, the shelter has been through many changes with an almost complete turnover in staff as well as residents. It has been a bumpy transition at times but seems to have settled into a new “normal” for now. We have been encouraged as we have begun building a relationship with the new director. We have been allowed to carry on ministry as before which is wonderful. We continue coordinating dental appointments and have seen a major change in one girl in particular through this avenue. She began her dental visits so afraid and self conscious due to her dental issues. The dentist has helped her health greatly as well as fixed some cosmetic work that has brought a huge smile to Erika’s face. It is wonderful to see the joy and confidence she now possesses. She has been much more vocal during Bible study time as well. (Erika is on the right in the photo below)
We continue with Thursday Bible Studies and most recently walked through the story of redemption with the Woman Caught in Adultery. We currently have a very lively group and it was great to have discussion and lots of questions. The current feeling in the house is one of Peace which is a huge blessing as this is not always the case. When the transition period began there was a lot of fear among the girls and some were having nightmares and night terrors. Then rumors began about a certain room having a spirit living in the room The majority of the ladies come from rural areas where there is still much mysticism practiced. So we met for Bible Study in the dormitory area for a few weeks and prayed over each section of the home. It was wonderful to see a calm wash over the house as the girls began to realize God wasn’t just with them in our Bible Study room but also in every inch of that house.
(the picture below is of some new younger girls in Bible Study with Jerry and Coleman)
Please continue praying for the new director (Massiel), the workers, the residents and us as we continue in this time of transition. Specifically for Bella, Dora, Erika and Maria Alejandra as they are the residents who have lived through the "old" and the "new".
Pray that the Lord would continue to grant Peace to all who enter the home.
Pray that we will be faithful when there is little and when there is much. (resources and residents)
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.