by Pastor Jim
Teaching at a Belize Pastor's Conference
Written by Pastor Jim
There are many ways to describe Guatemala. The travel guides say it this way.
“Guatemala, a Central American country south of Mexico, is home to volcanoes, rainforests and ancient Mayan sites. The capital, Guatemala City, features the stately National Palace of Culture and the National Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology. Antigua, west of the capital, contains preserved Spanish colonial buildings. Lake Atitlán, formed in a massive volcanic crater, is surrounded by coffee fields and villages.
That is all accurate and actually there is so much more in its rich heritage and culture. But there are other ways to describe it as well. It is still an emerging nation that is still dealing with old ways of doing things, trying to help a relatively poor population get ahead, struggling with illiteracy in some areas and knowing how to help many people who live by subsistence farming.
That is much more the Guatemala we serve in when we go there on our medical missions trips. We hold clinics in places where many people are poor, who live in houses that are far below the standard we are used to here in the United States and make a living by working hard in the fields or little shops for enough money to buy food for the day. They are very gracious people and are very grateful for the help they receive. They are extremely patient as they wait their turn to see the doctor or respiratory therapist or pharmacist. And when they are done, after expressing many, many thanks they go back to their small houses to continue on with their lives.
However, for some them, there is a huge difference.
As I walked into her little house in Taxisco, Guatemala I was immediately impressed with several things as I looked around. These are people of very humble means. The floor of the house was packed dirt and the walls of the house were made mostly of tin that looked like old roofing material. The house was pretty dark without much natural light or ventilation. It was smoky on the inside because of the open fire which was used for their heating and cooking. There was no electricity, I could see no evidence of running water and the bathroom facilities were an outhouse in their small backyard. I realized it does not get much more primitive than this.
The lady we were visiting had just been visited by Dr. O and RN T just a couple of hours before I arrived. They had come to see her because she was unable to walk to the place where we were holding the medical clinic. She had severe respiratory problems and needed help. Dr. O treated her as best he could for the respiratory problems and an infection as well. He was able to do a nebulizer treatment by plugging the machine into the electric of a nearby neighbor. Medicine was provided and encouragement was given before Dr. O and T went to another “house call”.
What is your most favorite form of travel? Some people just love road trips in their car, windows down, music playing and wind blowing through their hair. Others think that a plane is the way to go. Get on, sit back and read or listen to your music, maybe watch a movie and suddenly – you’re at your destination. Some folks love the adventure of a train and the gentle rocking motion, the restful pace and getting to watch the countryside as it rolls past. But very few of us would choose a noisy, dirty, hot, crowded and uncomfortable bus to do most of our travel for work or pleasure.
Marta Perez is one of our missionaries who serve in the small country of Belize. Belize is a small country with roots going back to the colonial era of Britain and is now a commonwealth of Great Britain. The official language is English but there are many Spanish speakers and also a local language that is a kind of English based Creole. Marta and the rest of her team work with children and teens throughout the country in teaching Bible clubs, hosting youth events, doing special programs in schools and having summer camp. It is a valuable ministry and has far reaching impact.
When we read the Scriptures it is easy to see that God has a great sense of justice (after all, He is absolutely Just) and has a desire for His people to also have a true heart of justice. Often in our world exhibit justice includes caring for the needs of those who are in hard circumstances of life. Either they have experienced loss of some kind; they are displaced or maybe have great needs in regards to health and care for their families. In Deuteronomy 10:18-19 God says, “He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt.” In Isaiah 58: 6-7; 10-11 He says “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen; to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke……. Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderers with shelter – when you see the naked to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?... and if you spend yourselves on behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame.”
We are all to have this sense of justice and care, I believe, but there are times that God puts this kind of heart and compassion on certain people to go and make a difference in certain places of the world that have great needs and who need to hear of the great love and compassion of God as well as to have their physical needs met.
Aubrey McQuade is one of these special servants of the Lord. Aubrey spent the first 13 years of her life here at FCC and then moved away with her family to the mid-west. While she was here she already felt like she had a strong calling from God to be involved in missions work and over the years the Lord has strengthened and confirmed that calling. She did her student reaching in Bangladesh at William Carey Academy and then taught missionary children at Memorial hospital in Bangladesh for a year. She returned home to finish her schooling and accreditation and is now ready to head to the next place God is calling her, the island of Lesvos Greece.
Moving hearts, changing lives
Nick and Anne Vanwingerden serve as missionaries in the country of France. They are involved in a vibrant student ministry in Grenoble and are seeking to begin a church on the east side of the city. There are permits and permissions and zoning issues to be resolved. The issue becomes even stickier because the mayor of the town is strongly communist and has actively opposed anything of a religious nature coming into town.
The group of believer’s who are starting the church found a property they could rent but needed to go before the mayor’s office with the proposal. Nick was worries about what might happen. You might remember this story from The Common Life Book, week 9, Five Faith Stories, Nov. 11-17.
The Continuing Story
People all over the world have been praying and God did some amazing things in the heart of the authorities there in Grenoble. Nick went with the president of their church association, Christian Lenne, to meet with the deputy mayor and the head of the urban planning service on October 9, 2018.
Here is what happened in Nick’s own words.