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.
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.