Friday, November 18, 2011

A Celebration Designed by God

Blog post written by Marlene Eckert and Lisa Bussard

Today our team was deeply touched by the humble, simple and passionate faith of our dear Guatemalan brothers and sisters. Our hearts are so full as we write this blog that we're not sure that words can possibly capture the incredible experience God designed for us and the Guatemalan neighbors of our missionary hosts. We felt his presence throughout the day, which began with the best wake-up call ever--Guatemalan music--and sunny skies! Preparation for the day's events included assembling over sixty "goody bags" for each of the guests. As the sun peaked in the sky, the ladies who attend Lisa's weekly Bible Study and their children arrived with enthusiastic hugs and smiles for each of our team members.

The festivities commenced with planting a magnolia tree in the memory of Ben Keenan, who led previous teams to serve with Art and Lisa and had a tremendous heart for Guatemalan missions. We were moved to tears as the ladies from the Bible Study sang worship songs accapella to honor Ben's legacy. This was a special blessing to Roberta, Ben's wife and our team member, because hymns had to be omitted at Ben's service in California due to time constraints. Art gave the eulogy and several Guatemalans participated in scripture reading and tree planting. Roberta placed the first shovel of dirt around the tree, and a plaque stating Ben's favorite verse, 1 Corinthians 2:9, was added in front of the tree. It was evident throughout the ceremony that he deeply touched the heart of many Guatemalans.

After the ceremony we all went to the "Upper Room" to enjoy a Guatemalan lunch, sitting side-by-side with women who do not share our culture or language, but share our love for Jesus Christ. While the education of most of these ladies is extremely limited, we have much to learn from their spiritual knowledge and love of Christ in the face of tremendous adversity. Both the Guatemalan ladies as well as team members shared stories of painful loss as well as extraordinary faith. We were once again blessed with their hymns accompanied by Jenni on the keyboard.

While the ladies were in the Upper Room, the children enjoyed lunch and playing Guatemalan games on the soccer field. The 3 young people on our team, Jackson, Morgan, and Conner, jumped into participating although the rules were explained in Spanish. By the time the rest of us joined the children, they were enthusiastically playing on the bounce house slide and ball pit inflatables, as well as playing soccer, volleyball, and on the playground equipment. While bounce houses are common at American childrens' birthday celebrations, we were told these children (from impoverished homes) had never played in a bounce house before. Needless to say, it was an unforgettable celebration which brought smiles to the faces of over sixty children. Additional highlights included a "Cars" pinata, a birthday cake for the Camarenas' grandson Bret, and distribution of gifts to all of the Guatemalan guests. The ladies and children showed their appreciation to each of us with unending hugs and expressions of gratitude. A smile translates easily into all languages.

We had prayed that God would provide good weather for this primarily outdoor event. We are very grateful that God chose to wait to open the skies until shortly after the last guest had left.

We are thankful for the beautiful Guatemalan people and so grateful to be here today! We came to Guatemala to bless the people who live here, but even on our first full day we feel that we were more blessed by them.

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