When I got home from Israel, it was difficult to plug back into life as usual. My mind and heart were still connected to the Land. I closed my eyes and heard the sounds of Jewish singing. I could almost smell the garlic and olive oil that permeated every street on Shabbat. I longed to return but needed to refocus on our upcoming mission trip to Guatemala.
While I was still in Israel, my right leg got sore behind my knee and into my calf. If you’ve never been to Israel, let me share something with you. There is little flat ground. You are forever walking up or down hills of pavement or cobblestones or rock ground. Somewhere along my travels, I pulled the muscles and ligaments. My right knee swelled up on the inside of my leg and was quite painful.
Mike and I made a trip to California for a family reunion in the first part of July. While we were there, our second grandson, Duncan Elias, Eli for short, was born. We were so excited to welcome another redhead into our family. Brett and Spring now had three beautiful redheads. We were having a full summer of activity and blessing.
But, on that trip to California, my knee and leg continued to hurt. I decided to see the doctor when I got home. Guatemala was not going to be a flat land experience either, and I needed to get some help.
My visit to the doctor won me the grand opportunity of wearing a leg brace for the first time in my life. It was a wrap around one but not what I’d planned. “You can go to Guatemala,” said the doctor, “as long as you keep the brace on at all times. Take it off when you go to bed, but if you put your feet on the floor, make sure this brace is on your leg.”
As much as I’d wanted to go to Guatemala, the umbilical cord connection with Israel pulled on my heart. On August fifth, only nine days from leaving for Guatemala, I wrote in my journal:
“Israel, Israel, always Israel. My heart walks her streets. My mouth cries out for her protection and provision. Lord, fulfill Your Word. Reveal Yourself to the people of Israel. Reveal Yourself to the people of Israel. Reveal to the nations that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is the Sovereign ruler of Israel. Lord, forgive the nations of the earth for turning their backs on Your people. Turn us again to support and defend them.” (While we were in Israel, the tension was rising and would soon flare into the second Intifada in October of 2000.)
I was ‘homesick’ for Israel and not as excited as I had been to go to Guatemala. With the addition of this brace, I was even more drawn to stay home. Still, when I prayed, God reminded me that He’d told me years before, “I’ve called you to the nations.” Guatemala was one of those nations. I couldn’t say no.
On the tenth of August, I finally got the custom fitted brace. The doctor also prescribed anti-inflammation meds. My knee did feel a bit better. That morning as I prayed, God spoke to my heart once again.
“Fear not little one. This is My trip for you, and you will lack for nothing you need. My hand is on you and My hand uphold you. All you need to do is to walk with Me and talk along the way. I will teach you and bring to mind My word which will guide you. Ears are waiting to hear what you speak, and lives are waiting for your touch. Rest in Me and know that all is well. Even the weather. I am the Maker of the clouds and the God of the wind and rain. All things will work together for your good. It will be a test, but you will pass because your eyes are on Me. I will give you the answer you need.”
We arrived in Guatemala on August fourteenth. Piling in the back of pickup trucks and vans, we made our way to Zacapa. Almost as soon as we got to the base, the dormitory where we would stay part of the time, a monsoon hit. The rain was a normal part of life in this equatorial region.
We found ourselves wading through ankle deep water as we made our way across the red tile floor to supper. We were grateful that the bunk area for sleeping was on the second floor. Still, the bathrooms were all on the first floor. So, after supper, we ‘swabbed the decks.’
We heard things fall and hit the water outside the building. Later when we asked the leader what the noise was, he said, “It was a couple of rats that fell from their nests in the trees. That’s why we have screens on the second story. The rats would get in otherwise.” I cringed inside at the thought. More than once, I watched rats at night parade around the wood railing below the screening of our half wall. I’d roll over and try to forget about them. We were not in Missouri anymore.
While I’d love to log our entire experience here, it would take several chapters. Instead, I am going to give you some bullet point highlights. Then I will tell you about one low drama incident that reaped great rewards.
- Casa De Esperanza Orphanage. A place of beauty. White stucco buildings with red tile roofs, nestled in the greenest hills. Children everywhere full of joy.
- Cold showers with water piped in from the river.
- Grueling trips up the mountain in pickup trucks. We traveled switchbacks on unpaved roads of deep ruts, mud holes and boulders. All the while peering into deep ravines only feet from the side of the road.
- Small barefoot children carried their baby sisters and brothers. They walked along the road next to burros loaded with bags of corn.
- Big lumbering black sows with droopy ears rooting by the side of the road
- Worshiping in the middle of a village road at night with one generated light bulb over the meeting. Chickens and dogs, Brahmas and donkeys wandering in and out and no way to see past the faces near us.
- Children fascinated with Polaroid’s we took of them. They’d never seen their pictures before.
- No running water. No electricity. Children everywhere carrying firewood.
- I helped grind corn and make tortillas over a stove made of mud with a metal plate over the top. The firewood was a log, stuck in the end and pushed in as needed.
- A little boy showed up at our one room school house bedroom at dawn carrying a bucket of shucked corn. It was a sacrificial gift for our breakfast.
- Sleeping on cement floors with only a half inch foam pad for comfort
- The latrine consisting of a hole in the ground to squat over.
- Looking out over steep narrow terraced mountains. Watching farmers with feet firmly planted on one level reaching above their heads to pull weeds from the rows of corn on the next level. The workers were standing almost parallel to the ground. How they could farm this way was a wonder.
- About eighty men, women and children came in from the mountain villages. They gathered for worship in the one room roofed church. Women and children came in and took their seats. The men gathered around the outside perimeter of the sanctuary. They leaned on the half wall and listened to the music and message.
- Worship that went on with passion for hours with a continuous round of song.
- Meeting in another church that was half built but full of people dressed in their best clothes. Half walls of adobe brick and no roof, the congregation worshiped in utter joy into the night.
- One morning I got up early to go to the latrine. I heard cries of intercession coming from the pastor’s humble home. Later when we asked, his wife told us he prays every morning for several hours for Israel and the nations. (humbled)
That’s a taste of our experiences. All of our American mindsets were shaken. Whining and complaining diminished after seeing these precious people. They had so little by worldly standards, yet, they were living such generous lives.
On one of the trips to the mountains, we arrived in the afternoon. After feasting on our peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and fruit, most of the group went to visit homes. They prayed for people and invited them to come to the service that night.
Because of the brace on my leg, I couldn’t go hiking in the mountains. I was feeling sorry for myself, jealous of those who were free to go and minister. “God, You brought me here, but I am not sure why. I do not feel I am doing much for Your kingdom other than loving people. I know that’s important, but I’d love to do more.”
As I sat on the cement porch dangling my feet, a group of children from the school gathered round. Greg, the mission leader, joined us. “Let’s sing,” he said to the children.
In minutes the kids were singing, clapping and dancing to the upbeat songs. I couldn’t help but rejoice. Their love and joy spilled over on my discouraged heart.
When the singing ebbed, and the children needed to return to school, I had a chance to talk more to Greg.
“Greg, how do you minister in these mountains? Do you have a group of guys that go out or what?”
“We do travel the mountains as best we can. There aren’t roads to some of the villages, but we hike in. The one way we are reaching many of them is through a radio program I do once a week. While most of the villages do not have electricity for lights, they do have transistor radios. I can preach and invite people to Christ for one hour a week. It costs one hundred dollars a month,” he said. “The station approached me this last week and offered us two more hours a week. I don’t have the three hundred dollars a month to take the offer.”
He continued, “You may have noticed the huge loudspeakers we have on the top of the church. We broadcast the music and preaching over them to the outlying villages. Sound carries,” he said, pointing to the surrounding mountains. “God is using even these to bring people to the Kingdom.”
I filed this information away. Later that evening, when we got back to the dormitory I sat down and wrote out the details on a piece of notebook paper.
“Right now, Greg has one hour each week on the radio to share the gospel, costing him one hundred dollars per month. He has the opportunity for two more hours but doesn’t have the money. If each of us gave a little, our group could pledge three hundred dollars a month between us. We could send the money to the mission’s office, marked for Guatemala Radio. It will have to be at the mission office no later than the first of each month. If you want to pledge, please sign below and a monthly amount.”
Eighteen of us signed that paper. In the closing session of our mission trip, we presented the list and our commitment to Greg. He wept.
For the next twelve months or more, Guatemala radio heard the gospel. We will not know until the end of days the full impact. Sons and daughters came into the Kingdom and lives blessed.
Though I went to Guatemala with mixed feelings and weakness, God used it for His glory. All God requires is our ‘yes’ to His call. He does the rest, and He does it well.
My heart for missions continued. While I went to Israel twice as a volunteer in 2001 and 2002, God had another assignment closer to home. More to come in the next chapter.
~~ How About You? ~~
Weakness is often the condition that qualifies us for God’s purpose. Paul, one of the most learned of Bible book writers, said he celebrated his weaknesses. Here it is in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 in the Amplified Bible
He said to me, My grace (My favor and loving-kindness and mercy) is enough for you [sufficient against any danger and enables you to bear the trouble manfully]; for My strength and power are made perfect (fulfilled and completed) and show themselves most effective in [your] weakness. Therefore, I will all the more gladly glory in my weaknesses and infirmities, that the strength and power of Christ (the Messiah) may rest (yes, may pitch a tent over and dwell) upon me!
So for the sake of Christ, I am well pleased and take pleasure in infirmities, insults, hardships, persecutions, perplexities and distresses; for when I am weak [in human strength], then am I [truly] strong (able, powerful in divine strength).
Many times, it is in the laying down of our ideas of what we can do in our own power, we discover how powerless we are. His strength and expertise far outweigh all of our ability and good ideas. He brings success in the strangest of circumstances.
Let’s let go of our need or ability to perform and allow Him to lead in all we do.