Okay, it's NOT an emergency, but there is a great need for a medical clinic again this November in Guatemala.  Last year's trip was the first of its kind in Sacjavilla, and it was a huge blessing to people in the community as well as those who participated in the trip.

Make no mistake...this trip is centered around a medical clinic...but the TRUE core of the time is sharing the Gospel!  People have to sit and wait to go into the triage area...sit and wait for the assigned doctor...and sit and wait for the pharmacy.  Who wants to wait alone...NO ONE!  Enter those people who will pour out their lives for the sake of the Gospel.  From holding a baby so a mom can hear a clear presentation of the Word to playing a Scripture memory game with kids...taking temperatures of family members, dispensing medicine in the pharmacy, checking vision, showing people how to brush teeth...it's all a vital part of the outreach to the community.

But, this is not done in isolation apart from the church.  In fact, New Jerusalen Church (in Guatemala City) planted the mission church in Sacjavilla over three years ago.  And, that mission church has started Bible studies not only in their community but now also in the town of De Zet.  It is a community of believers reaching out to share the Gospel.  And, we get to be a part of that.

November 2-9 of this year will be the official dates of this clinic.  And, we are seeking God's plan for the following:

Doctors (preferably 4-5)
Nurses (4)
EMTs/Physician's Assistants (2-3)
Dentists (2)
Dental Hygienists (4)
Optometrists (2)
Pharmacists (2)
Pharmacy Technicians (2-4)
Physical Therapists (2)
Administrative Team (8-10)
Evangelism Team (6-8)
Children's Ministry Team (12-15)
Construction Team (6)
Community Outreach Team (6)

Can you help?  Do you know of someone who can?  We are asking you to pray and seek God's great wisdom as to what He would have you do.  For more information contact Sheryl at sheryl@1wayministries.org!

This post was penned by Marina Provenzano, our semester intern from Samford University.  She accompanied us on the trip to Guatemala in March and is a pure delight!  

One of my favorite snapshots of the trip was during a home visit. Prior to entering this particular home, the ladies of the church told our group we were going to pray for a woman who had a brain stroke and was in a coma for a while. The ladies of the church have been visiting her often and praying for her. LIke many other visits, I was expecting to walk into a home and step into an environment that is in desperate need of Jesus.

However, it was just like God to far exceed my expectations of His power. As my group walked through the door, we saw the sick woman sitting up in her bed, fully aware that we had come to visit. Not only did the Lord heal her, but the reaction from the ladies was none like I have ever seen.  The ladies were smiling, clapping, crying, and singing. They immediately turned to Psalm 145, praising God for what He had done. 

At that moment, I saw the body of Christ at work and the glory of God being revealed. I saw how these women intentionally cared for those within the community by visiting them, praying for them, and sharing the Gospel. The ladies truly live out Matthew 28. Despite the weather conditions, the long walks, or the reactions they receive from the people, they are persistent with these visits. Their lives reveal who Jesus is -  God who continually pursues his people. 

As much as I thought I would help change lives in Guatemala, I am the one who came back changed. 

Humbly and patiently, she introduced herself. She was from Xela and would be our translator.  I had never used a translator before, so this would be a first.  She seemed genuine and compassionate. Her name...Patty.
We weren’t expecting a translator, but God arranged our schedule in such a way that we arrived at the orphanage at the same time as a team from our home church.  We adopted our Jett there.  She quickly became our friend.  Family, in fact.
Trip after trip to Guatemala, she has been by our side.  Patty has walked with us through the dump, into rat infested homes, along winding paths in Sacjavilla, in the mountains of Solola, and through the sewage of life. She has stood by my side listening with compassion to stories of abuse, neglect, brokenness, and shattered lives.  We have seen the enemy at work.  We have journeyed today in watching God’s glory made known.  There have been many tears shed, hugs given, and lives changed.  
It has been good.  Very good.  And we are sisters in Christ.  Family forever.

She has always been the translator, as if that title defines her.  It does not.  She is more.  She is a woman of God.
The church asked for two women from our group to give their testimonies at a women’s conference.  Wow, I could use so and so, or I bet that lady will do it...those were my first thoughts.  Then, God spoke sweetly to my soul.  Ask Nellie...and Patty.  Lord, I don’t think Patty wants to do this.  Don’t make her.  Yes, Lord, I will.
I called to her and she came to sit on the end of my bed.  I had her name written on a sheet of paper.  I slid it to her and said that God gave me these names.  I was hoping she would just agree without seeing her name written there....she got wide-eyed and asked me to verify.  I did.  She quietly said yes.  I could see the hesitation, and I worried.  
Then, I sat in the room and heard her begin.  Trembling and nervous, she began relating her journey.  Her mom was 16 when she had her....no place to go...no where to belong.  Tears streamed down her face like a waterfall, and I found myself thinking of the day I walked into the orphanage to see my son’s face for the first time....WANTED, PURSUED, LOVED....Patty is all those things though she never thought it.
Stuck between two worlds...American and Guatemalan...never fully fitting in with either one.  Always desiring to belong but not finding a place. Then, God brought her to translating where the two worlds are NECESSARY for her to interpret well.  It was all God’s plan...all along, it was His design.
As I wept for my friend and sister, I heard God’s goodness and graciousness in her life.  He had woven her story in such a way that only He could get the praise.  Today, I sit in awe knowing that Patty Ajanel is a gift from God to the world. And I just get to unwrap it every now and then.

Sewage...um, yuck, uuggh....I can't even think of proper words to describe it, but it kinda makes my skin crawl.  I like to think that sewage goes out of the house and disappears.  It helps me to process it better that way...out of sight, out of mind, you know?

But, sewage is a part of life, and it is necessary.  Getting it out of my house is mandatory...for my sanity and health too.  We all have it...we just don't like to talk about it, do we?

In a community outside of Guatemala City, Sacjavailla, there lived a single mom whose life involved sewage daily...and not the way you and I deal with it.  She had to work daily since her husband was long gone.  Her three kids stayed home without her and played and worked.  They lived IN sewage.  IN it, people.

They lived at the bottom of a dirt path on the bottom side of a hill.  All of the sewage from the homes above them flowed down to their tin shack.  It was in their yard much like a stream.  It made its way into their water supply and they drank it, cooked with it, and bathed in it.  It was their life.

Grateful for your clean water yet?

Then along came a team of men last November who tore down their old house and built them a new one.  The kids even got bunk beds, which they proudly showed off to me yesterday.  More importantly, they have a concrete path to their house so they are not stepping in sewage daily.  And, they have a clean water supply...no more poop in the dinner.

My struggles seem to disappear quickly in light of what Josephina and her family face daily.  How about yours?

PS  This family is generously sponsored by one of the guys who met them in November.  Look for opportunities in the coming weeks to help other families in desperate need!

A new day...A new area...a new challenge.  That pretty much summarizes our day.  The afternoon was spent in sector 5 of Sacjavilla where the mission church has just started to build new relationships.  

You see, that’s the key.  The local body of believers MUST be the ones who initiate the new work.  We just get to be a part of what God is already doing in this area.  And, that’s what we are doing...walking alongside the church to begin a new work.
Today, we venture into the community and are greeted by large pigs on one side of the ravine, construction in the middle of the road, and smoke pouring out of a tin shack across the way.  “Let’s do this Lord.  Show me Your ways that I may walk in them.”  Okay, walk up the mountain.  Yeah..a real mountain.  We were huffing and puffing and every time we rounded a corner, more of the mountain was revealed....Lord, is this really what You want.
Keep walking.  Will this mountain ever end?  Wait. Call one of the other teams.  What?  We need to come DOWN the mountain?  You better be kidding.  Nope.  Okay, Lord, what is Your purpose?  To teach you My ways...to become patient...learning forbearance.  
Got it, Lord.  That lesson was for me.
As it turns out there was another home visit at a home at the bottom of the hill.  A recent believer needed the encouragement of fellow Christ followers.  This sister needed surgery because of some female issues, and who did God send her way?  Another woman who had a similar situation.  Praise God for His ways!
Let that be a lesson to me...God’s ways are higher than my ways ALWAYS.  And His plan is great.  I just get to be a part of it, and for that, I am grateful tonight.

We arrive at the mission church in Lantana to lead a women's afternoon Bible study, but God orchestrated another meeting first.  A weary and frantic mom, Lily, relayed an urgent prayer request for her son.

Antonio is a six year old adorable young boy who cannot hear.  He had hearing aids that were provided by a local charity that lasted three years.  The aids must have worked somehow as he can make a few sounds and mimic sounds.  However, his hearing improved dramatically with the hearing aids.  Plus, his mother could actually understand him.  They could communicate.  What a precious gift for a mother!  (Side note....isn't that something we all take advantage of daily????)

Hearing aids are expensive especially here in Guatemala...$900 for a pair.  How is a family with no father and little income supposed to pay for that?

God's plan is for the body of Christ to provide for one another.  So, a need was presented.  And, a member of the body stepped up.  Hannah.  She heard the need and God prompted her heart to provide. God is good.

That's good stuff people.  Really good.

The quiet time devotional was written by one of our staff members, Joseph Duckett, many weeks ago.  God had a plan for those thoughts that were penned to paper.

Just this morning I read Ephesians 1:1-3 and studied the material provided.  God used those words that Joseph had written to draw me to Himself.  He reminded me that patience, gentleness and humility come from Him alone...and that I do NOT possess them.  So I prayed that God would give me a heart like His... a compassion for His people.  Always be careful what you pray....'cause those thoughts originate with God and that means He has a plan for using the prayers He gives you anyway that become your prayers...clear enough?

After lunch I found myself standing in the mission church in Lantana waiting to share the Gospel with women in the community.  I was prayed up and prepared to share the Word.  But, then the pastor asked me to go to a home in the area for a special home visit.  I was confused.  "God, I'm about to share the Gospel in its entirety to all of these women...why are You sending me elsewhere?"  Why do I EVER doubt His sovereignty?????

Megan, Patty and I made our way through the community with Pastor Juan to the home of a mom and her girls.  You see, we had met this young lady back in November when she came to the medical clinic in Sacjavilla.  A fourteen year old with unexplained stomach pains.  Please stop reading now if you are under the age of 18 or do not have the stomach for the ways of the enemy.

An ultrasound revealed a baby.  Conflict.  She had not been with anyone.  Surely this wasn't another immaculate conception?  Clearly NOT!  Talk to the local pastor.  Talk to our pastor (Morales).  Talk to the translator (and my adopted sister, Patty).  Walk away.  Come back.  Talk some more.  Truth revealed.  Attacked and violated by father.  Mother knew.

Whew...I am still in tears over all of it and have a very difficult time articulating this situation adequately.  Trust me...it's more than I can bear.  Dad left.  Mom left to raise three girls (14, 11 and 3).  Teenage daughter trusts in God's sovereignty and wants to keep the baby who is due in May.

Mom makes 15 Qs a day by washing and ironing clothes.  That's LESS than $2 a day.  Her family is pressuring her to give the baby away because it will be too hard to love it.  Um, "God, WHY DID YOU BRING US HERE?"

To have a heart like mine.

I can NOT do this.

I can.

What am I suppose to say?

Read my Word.

And so we dive into His Word and share from Ephesians and Psalms and Romans and James.  He gives us His great Word to share, and it is GOOD.  It is ENOUGH.  I just get to be a mouthpiece for the great I AM, and He does the work.

I am grateful for a Father who loves us in spite of who we are.  He is more than enough, and I have no more words.  Praise His Holy Name!

In an effort to continue this discussion of short-term mission teams here is discussion number four!  I have seen over the past several years such a decline in focus on short-term mission experiences, that the topic seems to come up everywhere I go.  I guess the key word there is "I" as I bring it up.  My desire in writing these posts is to stir the thoughts and ideas about why we need short-term mission experiences to help fuel passion to go and experience  cross-cultural short-term missional experiences.

For a number of years now, we have been leading short-term mission trips with a passion for Gospel focused and Gospel driven ministry alongside local church partners who are actively involved in reaching their communities.  These years of walking with the churches and with individuals through this process of missional experience has taught us some valuable lessons.  My desire is to pass on some of what we have learned in these years of ministry and mission in order to motivate the body to get involved.

The primary place we find our motivation is the Gospel itself!  One of the major issues we face in the "church world" we all live in today is the concept of false conversion.  The simplicity of a sinner's prayer in the past has led to many false converts because the response to God's offer of grace has been the primary issue discussed.  The issue really is, no understanding of the Gospel is complete without a clear picture of our sin and separation from God due to our sinful state.  No understanding of this can come to the mind and heart of anyone without a clear understanding of the Law of God given to expose our sin.

Again today, reading one of my favorite authors, Ray Comfort, I was reminded that the reason we discuss the law in our homes is to help our children gain a clear understanding of the need we all have for a savior!  Without first understanding my own need, I can never really understand how desperate I am for a Savior to redeem me from this fallen world I am doomed to follow!  I am under the wrath of Almighty God and have no hope until my heart is convicted of my sin debt that only a perfect Savior can redeem!  This reality in my own life must become the motivation to GO!

Short-term mission teams are critical to the spread of the Gospel because it is through these teams that Gospel focused and Gospel driven work is accomplished within the local communities where the church has been planted.  The drive of the short-term team is to help the local church carry the Gospel into its community with boldness and passion.  We often need the local church to stir our hearts with compassion for the lost around them in order to see the lost around us!  You see it is through the willingness I experience on the field to assist in the sharing and showing of the Gospel message that I gain an understanding of the need in my own community to share and show the Gospel.  It is often times on the field in the midst of a cross-cultural experience where the Gospel is being shared that the Lord speaks to you and to me about our willingness to speak the Gospel in our own community without any language or cultural barriers.  It is in walking alongside the local church in another context that I gain insight into the working of the Holy Spirit in this great transformational work of conviction and conversion.

The short-term mission team offers the local church an opportunity to spread more seed into more places as we walk into the fields that are white unto harvest with them.  At the same time the short-term missional experience stirs within the heart of the team a passion and desire to reach their own community back home, where they have been planted and need to grow.  See...this whole thing is designed to work together in unison as the Spirit moves in our lives as the body and knits us together as one Bride fit for her groom!

So, the bottom line here is the time we spend preparing our hearts and minds with the understanding of the whole truth of God's Word (Law and Grace), is time invested in Kingdom work that develops within us a compassionate heart for the lost and a passionate drive to see redemption come to those who are without a Savior!  This two-fold purpose of short-term teams will strengthen the body in both the cross-cultural context we serve short-term and the local home community in which we live.  Our goals must be to BE the church not to simply talk about it or even act like it...BE the church and reflect His glory to everyone we cross paths with along this journey of faith.

In His Grip,

As I began thinking through all that the Lord has been teaching me about short-term teams a few weeks ago, I had no idea He would have me blog this over the course of several weeks.  I am in the middle of nearly six weeks of reflection and writing about short-term mission teams.  The next few weeks will be focusing on aspects of the the team and short-term trips that are critical to mutually beneficial partnerships.

This week the thoughts are leaning in on the team itself.  Often times the group of people who come together for a short-term trip are not all on the same page when it comes to missions.  The range of perspectives is overwhelming.  The thoughts of many as to their role and why they are on the field vary with the same degree of diversity as body types and hair color.  Even to the level of some hair color is nowhere near the original color!

The diversity of the body of Christ is an exciting thing.  The differences in our personalities, abilities and preferences all can be used to strengthen the body.  We as the body of Christ have a unique opportunity to demonstrate to the world the transforming power of the Holy Spirit and His amazing work of grace in our lives.  The key to this diversity becoming a strength and not a liability is in team development.

Every group of people who gather for a specific task or event has active dynamics that drive the group.  The issue is how these dynamics drive the group toward or away from the Gospel centered task of sharing the Good News.    As the team develops it is crucial that an information gathering process takes place to equip the leadership in maximizing the team's strengths and weaknesses within the context of the trip.  This process will help determine the levels of understanding each team member has in regard to the purpose of the trip, the focus of the team and the impact the trip will have on their own lives.

Within the missional community most of the emphasis throughout the years has been on the work the team is going to do.  Again, as mentioned in a previous blog post, this is mostly due to the benevolent nature of most mission trips with the team bestowing upon the mission field blessings and resources.  I would propose that the focal point of a short-term mission team is as much, if not more focused on the team itself.

If we develop mutually beneficial partnerships on the field, then every time we journey to the field both the team and the partner church benefit.  The obvious benefit of the local church is the resources and opportunity for ministry events that come with the team's arrival.  However, the team itself is also a focal point of growth and benefit as the ministry of the field partner impacts and challenges the team.  One pastor shared prior to a trip to an international location, "My folks need to share the Gospel and see result...hear people pray and call on the Lord for salvation and forgiveness.  It is so hard here in the US because they hear no, or feel rejection so often when sharing the Gospel, my folks need to see God's hand at work in lives right in front of them."

The impact of a short-term mission experience can be life changing for the team.  The opportunity to walk along side people whose lives are tough and see the grace of God at work in their daily struggle of life can alter the future of one's life.  Spending time with people who survive off of less than two dollars a day and seem to have joy in their faith can teach some powerful lessons to a blessed mission team.  The journey along side a mission pastor making visits in a rural mountain community and watching him pastor people can stir within the heart of a team a desire to reach their neighbors with the Good News.

So much focus is on what we can do for others who are less fortunate, that we miss the plan of the Father to impact our lives with the work He is doing around the world.  The issue comes down to understanding that God is at work and has invited us to join Him in what He is already doing.  When we commit to step out of our normal daily context and see what God is doing around the world and in other contexts, the Holy Spirit is able to shake us loose from our agenda of life our way.   It is through the uncomfortable parts of a mission trip that the Lord often times shows us the areas of our own faith journey He is working on to change our perspective and focus.  He is using the circumstances around us, on a trip, to speak to our heart about the issues we are reading and praying about.

If short-term mission team leaders will focus their energies on assisting the team in experiencing a life-changing trip in their personal lives, the Lord will use the team to impact the nations through the partnership with the local church.  After all it is the local church the Lord has purposed to use in reaching their community with the Gospel and teaching them the Word.  If the short-term mission team will focus on the relationship it has with the local church and pour itself into the ministry of that local church, then the Lord will use both the team and the local church together to accomplish His work.

So, the challenge is to lead short-term mission teams in a way that promotes life-change in the team as a result of being on the field along side a local church family that is doing the work of reaching and teaching in their own community.  The team itself must be a primary focus of short-term mission team leaders  to maximize the long-term impact each trip has on the team members.  The hope is that each short-term experience develops a passion for the lost, a compassion for those in need and a commitment  to make disciples at every point along the way of this faith journey.  When the leaders of short-term teams focus on the team the team experiences growth over the the course of the trip in a way that brings about life-change and missional living.  These types of mission teams are vital to the long-term work of the Gospel around the world and in our own neighborhoods!

Over the course of the past fourteen months I have been on a journey toward a healthier lifestyle.  this journey has taught me many lessons.  As I ponder the future of the short-term mission team in our current Christian culture, I see many things the Father has been teaching me this past year.  As in the last post, I believe the short-term mission team is critical to the future of evangelism and discipleship among the nations.

In Mark 6 and Matthew 10 we read of Jesus sending out the twelve.  These twelve men represent a short-term experience that we all can learn from.  The primary objective of the twelve being sent out was the communication of the Gospel message concerning repentance.  It is clear that the message they were to share was about repenting of sin and the Kingdom of God being present to be dealt with by each person they met.

So many times the short-term mission team is built around a good work.  There are so many things that need to be done around the world to care for the needy.  Many of us have been a part of a team leading a VBS or a children's ministry program.  Some of us have been a part of a construction project to improve the living conditions of families in need.  Some have been with medical mission teams and orphan care teams.  Some have led Bible studies and some have taught life skills.  All of the teams I have been a part of have done good work.  All of the work was needed and helped improve life in some way for the people we were ministering to.  Most of the work being done is extremely important and needs to be done my the Body as we serve around the world.

However, as I have read more of His Word and listened more to His heart I have come to realize the value of a short-term mission team with only one primary focus...GOSPEL!  All of the things we do on the field are good.  All of the needs on the field need to be met.  All of the desires we have to help and improve the lives of those we are serving are good.  Yet, the vital element to our passion must be the Gospel message that has been shared since these first twelve men were sent out by Jesus!  We must lead short-term mission teams to make sharing the Gospel the most important element of every short-term missional experience.

One of the greatest barriers to the Gospel presentation being primary in every effort has come from the absence of one critical question in our partnerships on the field.  "How can we help you reach your community?"  This question must become a primary element to our develop of mutually beneficial partnerships.  Our heart's desire must be to join our brothers and sisters on the mission field in reaching their community with the hope of the Gospel.

For far too many years we, as the US church, have been the benevolent giver of all good things to the poor struggling third world church family.  As a result we have assisted in the development of a dependent relationship that is based on our resources and generosity with our money.  This has allowed a response from the field to always be a "yes" response to anything we ask of the mission partner in order to keep receiving the support, money and resources.  Often times this "yes" comes with a price after the team leaves!

The long-term ramifications of this have become detrimental to the mission field.  The dependent relationship is limiting, restrictive and eventually leads to no passion and no progress.  Without a clear commitment to the Gospel remaining primary in every aspect of the missional partnership, the relationship becomes a business agreement.  Eventually the bottom line will not allow the relationship to continue.  Only the Holy Spirit powered, Gospel driven partnership will remain through the persecution and trials that will come.

So, as we focus on the short-term mission team and its vital role in the reaching of the world, let us not lose sight of the primary commitment and motivation for going to the nations!  The whole truth of the Gospel is the primary focus of a short-term team.  As the mission team shares the Gospel, along side the local church, the opportunity to show the Gospel will present itself to the local church and they will seek assistance in meeting the needs of their community in order to share the Gospel more openly and with more passion.  This is where the partnership finds depth, strength and longevity.

As in the Gospel accounts of the twelve being sent out, today our short-term mission teams must be sent out with a clear, concise and compelling message of the Gospel that will transform lives and grow the Kingdom.  When we see the Gospel settle on the hearts of men and women of peace, the church takes root in a community through a single household.  It is at this point that we see the excitement of the church growing and the Gospel advancing.  This is the point that the short-term mission team can be most effective in assisting the planting of the Gospel where the church does not exist.  Seeing God at work around the globe is motivating us to go and join Him at reaching the world and teaching the Word!

In His Grip,