Friday, November 29, 2013

Thankful for the "Thanksgiving Team"

Blog post written by Jenni Ramsey

"God is not unjust, He will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them" - Hebrews 6:10

It is 11 pm in Guatemala.  We just arrived home from a very full and unforgettable day of serving, touring, shopping, laughing and eating together.  Our team members are packing their bags as I type and preparing for an early morning departure.   This morning we gathered together for a final team meeting to process all that the Lord has done in our midst.  We addressed the "re-entry" challenges that we will face as we return home and talked about how our lives will be different.

After our gathering we visited a number of families from Art and Lisa's ministry.  We shared many emotional moments as we talked and prayed with these remarkable families, who have been so deeply impacted by Art and Lisa's work.   It was truly a privilege to see the joy on the faces and hear the gratefulness in their hearts as we brought gifts, heard stories and blessed their homes in prayer.

This afternoon we drove into the picturesque city of Antigua, which is lined with cobblestone streets and brightly colored buildings.  The unbelievable mountain views of the city with the ominous volcanoes in the background took our breaths away.

We enjoyed shopping for gifts in a local "mercado" (market), where the bright colors of Guatemala are undeniable.

Our "Thanksgiving Team" finished the evening celebrating a delicious meal while watching an indigenous Guatemalan musical performance at a quaint restaurant, nestled in the ruins of a 500 year old presidio.   Jackson May will turn 16 tomorrow and it was a joy to celebrate his birthday with him.

We are so thankful for all that God has done among us this week.  As the "Thanksgiving Team" leader, I am overwhelmingly grateful that God has allowed me to serve alongside such a wonderful team this week.  This is my thirteenth trip to Central America and I will never forget this Thanksgiving week in Guatemala.  Thank you for your support, prayers and eternal investment into the lives of the Guatemalan people!

"And do not forget to do good, and to share with others.  For with such sacrifices, God is pleased" - Hebrews 13:16

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thanksgiving Guatemalan Style

Blog post written by Jenni Ramsey

This morning our team worked diligently to prepare to welcome over one-hundred people at Art and Lisa's home. All of the families from Lisa's weekly Bible study were invited to join us for a memorial service to honor Lisa's mom, a pizza lunch, a sweet time of fellowship, worship and prayer and party for the children.   The event was hosted on their property and it was a unique Thanksgiving day that none of us will forget.  While most of the team prepared for the celebration, Roberta and Marlene worked in the kitchen to prepare a traditional Thanksgiving dinner.

The kids had fun creating a balloon arch and welcoming the guests with warm "abrazos" (hugs) under the arch. 

Art and Lisa Camarena moved to Guatemala seventeen years ago through a series of supernatural events that confirmed their calling to Central America.  They left successful careers, a large home, luxury cars and the "American dream" to follow God's call to Guatemala.  Last night they shared their missions journey with our team. It was nothing less than inspirational, even though I've heard their story many times before.  After a few months of language school in Guatemala, Lisa was approached by some local women in their community.  To her surprise, they told her that they would be coming to her house every week to learn the Bible.  Lisa has been meeting with the women in their community  weekly for almost seventeen years and today we observed the fruit of this life-impacting work. 

The event started with an emotional tree planting ceremony, honoring the life of Lisa's mother,  LJ Stalcup.   LJ was a woman who lived out "Proverbs 31".  She also spent time serving in Guatemala and touched many lives.  In 2011 our team planted a tree in memory of Ben Keenan, who led many teams to Guatemala.   Our team was privileged to honor LJ's life alongside Lisa and Art today. 

After the memorial the women from the Bible study joined the adults from our team for a pizza lunch.  Many of the Guatemalan and North American women expressed their love and gratefulness for one another during this time.  There were many tears as the Guatemalan women communicated how Art and Lisa's ministry has impacted their lives and thanked our team over and over again for our love and support.  The faith of these women is overwhelming, convicting and contagious.

We were also overwhelmed to have "Hermano Victor" join us for lunch.  Victor's sister is part of the Bible study and our team has been praying for him over the past month.  According to doctors, he shouldn't be alive.  However, the Lord miraculously spared his life last week (after doctors sent him home to die).  We spent time with his sister in her home last night and heard the incredible details of his healing.  His sister told us that he hoped to join us today but would have to travel in a taxi.  The team offered to pay for his taxi if he was able to make the journey. We were thrilled when he arrived today and were moved deeply by his testimony.  As we listened to his intense story, we were once again challenged by his sincere faith, gratitude and joy.

After lunch we enjoyed our time with the children on the soccer field.  I loved watching the kids from our team interacting with the Guatemalan kids.  


Our team has been preparing for many months to bring backpacks and school supplies for the children and gifts for the women in the Bible study.  This week we created an assembly line, stuffing each backpack prayerfully for the designated age and gender.  It was so heart warming to watch the children's faces as they received their backpacks.  Sadly, many children in Guatemala are unable to attend school due to the costs of school supplies and school fees.  It's difficult to describe how it felt to be the hands and feet of Jesus to these families today.

The women were also presented with gift bags and this was an emotional  moment.  Each woman expressed tearful words of gratitude, smothered with kisses and long embraces.  We are truly "hermanos en Cristo" (brothers and sisters in Christ) and our hearts have been united through our deep love for one another.

All of our team members have read David Platt's book, "Radical" in preparation for the trip.  On page 136, Platt challenges the American church over the war we battle with materialism:

"It is a constant battle to resist the temptation to have more luxuries, to acquire more stuff, and to live more comfortably.  It requires strong and steady resolve to live out the gospel in the middle of an American dream that identifies success as moving up the ladder, getting the bigger house, purchasing the nicer car, buying the better clothes, eating the finer food, and acquiring more things".

One page 138, he continues:

"I don't want to be blind to these things in my life.  And I don't want to leave Christ behind.  I don't want to pursue stuff and in the process miss Christ and the pleasures he alone gives in a life free from bondage to the possessions of this world.  'Where your treasure is', Jesus says, 'there your heart will be also'.  The way we use our money is a barometer of our present spiritual condition.  Our neglect of the poor illustrates much about where our hearts lie.  But even more than that, the way we use our money is an indicator of our eternal destination.  The mark of Christ followers is that their hearts are in heaven and their treasures are spent there." 

This week we have served alongside North Americans and Guatemalans who give their lives away daily for eternal treasures.   We have been challenged, inspired and transformed.  Tomorrow we will visit a few families in the morning before spending the afternoon in Antigua.  We will be processing all that we have experienced and preparing for "re-entry" as we travel home on Saturday.  Please pray for our team as we travel home.  Pray that our lives will be radically changed by what we have experienced this week.   Ask questions.  Take time to listen.  There are many stories that haven't been shared on this blog as we have seen the powerful hand of God at work in this beautiful land.  Thank you for your support and prayers.  Please continue to follow our blog as we post updates and needs.  

Our delicious Thanksgiving meal

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Visiting Orphans and Ministering to Moms

Blog post written by Lori West


On Sunday night my kids, Ryan (15) and Wendy (9) and I were able to travel to Casa Bernabe and spend the night and most of the next day there.  Wendy lived at Casa Bernabe for over 2 years, from age 15 months till she was adopted by us and brought to Virginia at 3 ½ years old. 

This is Wendy’s (and Ryan’s) first missions trip, and her first time back in Guatemala since she left 6 years ago.  She has been so excited to return, to “finally” be a missionary, and to be able to bless the people and kids of her home country.  She is so proud to be Guatemalan and has commented on how beautiful her country is.  It truly is beautiful – the landscape and the people!

We spent Monday hanging out at Casa Bernabe, having a Divinely appointed encounter with the director, Donie Hernandez (who had prayed for over 5 months over Wendy’s placement with us), and seeing one of Wendy’s former caretakers – who remembered her well and said it was such a blessing to see Wendy again and know that she is doing so well.  Wendy was also able to meet several of the kids that she had lived with for 2 years in the “baby house” (Casa de los Angelitos) – though, none of them remembered each other, as they were very young at that time.

I was able to show Wendy around Casa Bernabe and share information about where she lived, which room she slept in, what her routine was like, as well as see all the changes that have taken place in the last 6 years (a new greenhouse and fabulous garden, etc).

We spent most of our time in the baby and toddler house – helping to feed babies (Ryan’s 1st experience feeding a baby), change diapers (Wendy did one on her own!), and just playing, holding and loving on them.  Wendy said she didn’t want to leave the baby house – because “I love the babies!”  Even when she lived there, at 2 and 3 years old, she would rather help take care of the babies, fold laundry and just love and mother the other kids.  We all enjoyed our visit and were so thankful for the opportunity to be there!


On Tuesday morning our team headed to San Rafael to work at a clinic.  I stayed behind and, with the help of my fabulous translator, Lisa Camarena, was able to speak to a group of around 25-30 ladies from the community and teach them about parenting, using tools and information from the books Parenting with Love and Logic, and Loving our Kids on Purpose.  About half of the ladies were grandmothers, and many of the ladies were blessed with 5-8 kids each!  I was a bit nervous at how this information would translate and if it would be accepted in this culture (I didn’t know what to expect), but during and after the 2 hour talk, many of the women expressed their gratefulness at having heard this information and message –and many were filled with hope for the future in raising their kids and grandkids.  Several expressed regret at not knowing this information before – but one of the first things I stressed was that there was “no condemnation” . . . and that we can start now to do things differently and better.  One mom was on the verge of tears as she shared with me the hope she now had to be able to deal with some difficulties she had been having with one of her teens as well as her other 6 children.

My heart was happy!  My spirit was satisfied!  My prayers had been to release hope and love to these ladies – to encourage them as moms and as women, to give them hope for the future, tools to use now, and to help encourage and strengthen the bonds between parent and child – using Love as their main tool!  I think it worked!

Lisa and I worked very well as a team, even though we had very little time to talk and prepare beforehand– God was truly all over it, and we found our rhythm with speaking and translating, and she even added in some of her own stories that the women could relate to.  There was laughter, sighs, looks of understanding and excitement, and tons of gratitude expressed.  We finished off the talk with about 5-10 minutes of information about breastfeeding, and answered a few questions the ladies had (I work as a Lactation nurse, and was an L&D, Postpartum, Mother-Baby nurse and Childbirth Educator for years).  Most of the women were past breastfeeding age – but they stayed and listened just the same.

I left that morning, and joined up with the rest of my team to deliver beds.  It was a beautiful and blessed day!  Thank you God for answering prayers and for all you did.  Bless these families abundantly!

Bugs, Bands and Beds

Blog written by Amy May and Nicole Spining

Today we had the privilege of serving at the Hands of Hope Clinic in San Rafael.  We divided and conquered with several of us loving and playing with the kids, teaching them to make bracelets, treating hair for lice and styling these sweet little girls hair, and bed building for families. These beds become not only a place to rest ones' head but a couch and table as well!

BUGS - We had an amazing and blessed day to be able to serve these beautiful people. They will always have an imprint on my heart as I (Nicole) fell in love with several of the girls we were helping. These small children were the most patient little beings I have ever encountered while we spent over an hour just brushing through the nits in their hair.

BANDS - Our kids bonded with the village children through Rainbow Loom Rubber Bands.  Our kids also gave the village children temporary tattoos.  This little girl was very proud of hers.

Conner says that the village girls are very fast learners.  After showing them how to make the Rubber Band bracelets, the girls were off and running making them on their own.

BEDS - Our team built 4 beds today.  First, we had to learn how to do it.  The teenage boys (Ryan, Stephen and Jackson) jumped right in and pretty much ran the show.

We delivered the beds to the homes.  The bed recipients had to be approved, and do community service to qualify for the bed.  Two women worked at the clinic while we were there, partially earning their beds by washing windows.  We got to meet them and spend some time with them, which was very special.  Two of the bed recipients are single mothers, which is unbelievably difficult in the Guatemalan culture. They were all so grateful and we were so blessed to be able to help in this way.   
This experience was life-changing.  It makes you look at your own life and feel small and petty.
The beds, which only cost $50 each, make a huge impact on the lives of these villagers.  Think of all the ridiculous junk that we blow $50 on at home.  While here, that same $50 can get an entire family up off of a dirt floor, onto a bed.  It even helps prevent respiratory problems from sleeping on the ground.
The villagers wear the most beautiful clothing.  We saw young girls, as young as my (Amy) 6 year old daughter, carrying babies on their backs in a sling.  Two of them are pictured here.  

Monday, November 25, 2013

Painting, Pigs and the Power of Prayer!

Blog post written by Aidan Ramsey (age 10)

Today we all had a blast doing our assigned paint jobs, especially Danilo, because he even tried eating some paint. 

Me, Conner, MaKenna, Brendan, my mom and Bret all painted the wall that separates the soccer field from Eufy's house (Eufy's family lives on the property and they work with Art and Lisa).   That was a blessing for me because it helped Eufy and her fam.

This is my first time being a missionary to Guatemala (I've served in El Salvador once).  I'm having a really good time.  I really like Art and Lisa's grandson, Bret, and had fun teaching him the Rainbow Loom (making bracelets) today.

This afternoon we visited some families in the neighborhood.  Their houses were really poor but they were so happy.  I really liked visiting them and giving the kids some bracelets.  One family had a huge pig.  They don't have a lot of stuff but they are so thankful and have the biggest smiles.

God did something awesome yesterday.   I broke my thumb when all the kids 16 and under were playing soccer with a metal can.  It was me, Conner, MaKenna, Brendan, Ryan and DANILO. So as I was saying, one of the "kids" kicked the can so hard and it hit my thumb and broke it. I ran to my mom crying really hard and I couldn't move it. So Lisa called the doctor and my mom had Lori come in because she's a nurse. Lori prayed for it like 6 times and every time it got better and better.  On the 6th time it snapped back into place and then I ran back outside to play.   The blue swelling even disappeared.  So Lisa canceled the doctor appointment and everybody thanked God with joy and that's my story.