A Day of Rest then Back Home

Day 7 and 8 – Visiting communities on Lake Atitlan

By Gladden Lawrence

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The plan all along for the Stove Builders was building the last stove on day 6, have a day of rest (touring) on Day 7, then fly back to Houston early on day 8.

The day of touring was anything but rest. We had a local guide (Miguel) who chartered a boat for the day that to take us (along with Miguel) to 3 communities rich with Mayan history;

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We visited 2 Catholic churches dating back to the 14th and 15th centuries respectively. We visited galleries and watched how the Mayan women make and dye thread used to make such colorful dresses, wraps, and scarfs. We even watched a young 21 year old girl whose hands had been lost due to an electrical accident paint a beautiful painting with her teeth holding the brush.

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Lunch was highlighted by dividing up the team into 4-person teams, each to be hosted by locals preparing an authentic Mayan lunch consisting of meatless tamales steamed in banana leaves, chicken breast, rice, and vegetables with fresh fruit for dessert. Such a treat to be off the tourist path and joining a local family for a meal. Pictured below are (l to r)  Debbie Faulkner, from Ulysses, Kansas; Lisa Guinn, Team Leader, from Ulysses, Kansas; and Rick Smith, my travelling missionary buddy from KUMC.

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Community was the way this mission trip began, and community is how it ended. Miles apart in history, language, and culture didn’t distract from focusing on simple truths that bound us together; we’re children of the same God who love Jesus, love each other, and all in community with one another.

The picture below will forever be in my mind as the reason why the Stove Builders do what they do. This young woman will  get help the help she needs; hopefully soon so she doesn’t have to cook on the floor with an open fire.

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To God be the glory for sending me to Guatemala and bringing me back home…

Amen

We can become so overcome by tunnel-vision in our day to day and sometimes the experience of going to Guatemala is not possible–so how can embrace the diversity of the body of Christ that is all around us? How can we continue to step out of our comfort zone and trust in God?

Final Day of Serving in Guatemala

Day 6 – Stove Builder Missionaries serve last day in the Maria Tecun Colonia

By Gladden Lawrence

Near Panajachel, Guatemala — What a wonderful spirit-filled week of service to the Guatemalan people, serving alongside a dedicated community of Stove Builder missionaries mostly headquartered from First Wichita United Methodist Church in Kansas, but also coming from Nebraska and Indiana.

gladden-outsideThe entire team spent our last day in the Maria Tecun Colonia; a short bus ride from the city of Panajachel near Lake Attalan in Southern Guatemala. As with all the other areas where we built stoves this week, Maria Tecun had its share of very poor people needing a change from cooking on an open fire on the floor to a safe method of cooking their meals with0ut the danger of breathing smoke or burned by fire.

Our daily devotion for today focused on a favorite passage from Romans 12:22. It says, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–His good, pleasing, and perfect will”.

I really needed to be in God’s will today to find the courage to be brave and face each new thing he was showing me. We faced a busy last day as a community of believers and servants. The roller coaster of emotions went from spending the last day together working together, to praying how in the world will we get everything (2 stoves to build, plus begin a new kitchen for an 85 year old couple) completed in a shortened morning and afternoon.gladden-people

It was a day of contrasts. The beautiful drive around the lake, to the poor colonia of Maria Tecun. The struggle to unload a flatbed of cinder blocks, steel bars, concrete and sand, to 2 families in desperate need of a stove, to our teams pulling together to ‘git er done’ on the last day.

Then came an unplanned visit to a one-room house and a mother holding an infant preparing their dinner for her 7 children on an open fire. I didn’t even get her name. I couldn’t believe what my tired, smoke-irrated eyes were seeing. This is why we were here! The day is gone, we’re leaving, and this family will spend another night sleeping on one bed in a house full of smoke.gladden-inside

God give me courage to be brave and face these types of challenges by your power and not mine. Help me tell the story of the Stove Builders of Guatemala, help me get this mother a stove or a better, safer house for her children. Oh, and thank you God for clearing a path so I could come to build stoves with my missionary buddy Rick Smith.

The day of contrasts ended by being asked to bless the stove with our team and a single occupant of the house. I am so blessed to have had that privilege!

Lord her my prayer, and get me back to Kingwood safely.

We know walking with God is the best way, and yet we continue to try and do it all on our own….what is getting in the way of you walking in his power and will?

Next Post — Day 7 and 8 Getting back to Kingwood

Friends For Always

Friends For Always

Day 5 –  in ChiChi — We got off to a slow start this morning due to some logistical issues the leaders had to work out before we boarded the bus back to Paquixit to finish stoves left unfinished. Nothing critical, just the typical interruptions in life we all face whether we’re on a mission trip in Guatemala or living our lives in Kingwood.

gladden-initials3After every stove is built, it is branded with the letters AXS. A three-letter acronym  the Guatemalans came up with that stands for Amigos Por Siempre (Friends for Always). My traveling mission buddy Rick and I quizzed the team leader on how the A and the S stand for Amigos and Siempre, so how does the X represent the Spanish word Por? The answer is, it doesn’t. It was just picked to represent the Spanish word Por (For).

My 3 days on the mountain taught me a lot about relationships and commitment between North Americans and Mayan people living on the side of a mountain in Guatemala. Who cares if the X doesn’t fit the mold. The meaning is still there. The Stove Builders will always be friends with the Guatemalan people. Their lives are forever changed.

As I knelt before today’s stove, laying on hands and listening to Pastor Tomas bless another stove, I felt as if this was holy ground that God had brought me here in the moment to draw closer to him. The gift of the stove was life changing, the gift of unconditional service is also life changing. Galatians 2:20 reminds us we are crucified with Christ and no I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live by faith in the Son of God who lives in me and gave himself for me.

Today was my small attempt to make honor Christ’s sacrifice.

When have you stood on “Holy Ground?”

Next post – Day 6, half day of work in Paquixit before heading south to Panajachel near a lake surrounded by volcanos.

Working and Worshiping in‘Paquixit’ (pack-a-sheet) Village

Day 3- Teams form, assignments given, time to build our first stove

By Gladden Lawrence

 

Day 3 in Paquixit — Today was not unlike the first day of work at Joy in the Harvest in Kigoma, Tanzania in 2009, when a team of us were going to help some locals erect a roof on a 2-story community building.. I had no idea how it was going to be done, who I would be working with, or even if I could measure up to the team’s needs along with adding value to the overall project.

Today, as it was 8 years ago, I fell back on Philippians 4:6 where Paul so appropriately instructed; ‘Do not be anxious about anything but in everything by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your request to God.’ I’ve never built one of these stoves, nor have I ever worked with this team of experienced stove building missionaries. Dependence on the provisions of God where going to get me through this first day.

The schedule included a short 45 min drive by bus up the side of a mountain to a small Guatemalan village named Paquixit. After a brief meeting to assign homes to each of 4 teams, we were off down the mountain on foot. My team had the home the farthest to walk so we filled our water bottles and followed our stove builders with no expectations of who or what we would find as the location of our very first stove,

gladden-building-stoveWe were not disappointed. The 6 of us met Mikelia and her family with smiles and handshakes. Her home was small one room home with the fire from the morning meal still smoldering on the floor. The roof on the inside of her glistened with black soot and tar resins from years of cooking in an enclosed area with little or no ventilation. Her white walls had blackened from too much smoke filling her home and no where to go.

The good news for Mikelia is today would be the last day she would have to cook her family’s meals over an open fire on the floor inside her home. She would have a new stove to vent toxic smoke from her wood fire outside her house.

So with cinder blocks, fire bricks, mortar, concert stove pipes, 4 willing volunteer servants, and 2 master stove builders, the new addition to Mikelia’s home was built. We left the house to have lunch and attend a church service for the villagers anxious to know who the group was who invaded their village building stoves and showing the love of Christ.gladden-complete-stove

Anxiety prayers answered. The team spent the better part of the morning in somewhat of a spiritual silence, focused on the work of the Holy Spirit. It was a great day of service in the name of Christ.

What experiences have caused you anxiety recently?

How did you overcome the anxiety?

Next Issue – Day 4 – Building Stoves and Finding Jesus

Day 2 -Three Stove Builders Arrive; Our Community is Complete

By Gladden Lawrence

 

gladden-market-ladyDay 2 in ChiChi — Today was scheduled as a time to reflect and prepare for what lies ahead next week as we travel into the mountain villages of central Guatemala to begin building stoves. This day of worship and reflection (along with the rest of the ChiChi community) consisted of walking down narrow, crammed rows of booths looking for local works of art to be future memories of our trip to the region.

Our free day also gave us a chance to explore the streets of ChiChi together to learn about the local culture (a cemetery walk) and learn more about each other. These trips always seem to beg the question of how would such a diverse group learn to work together in ‘community’. Galatians 5:13 gave me the answer; “For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters only not to use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love, serve one another.”gladden-cemetary

Today we were building relationships before building stoves. We prayed each of us would grab hold of the moments God chooses to reveal himself to us through the lives of others. We prayed together that in whatever way Jesus decides to shine his light in our lives that we would be a reflection of that source of light.

Tonight’s share time was marked by the arrival of our 3 trained stove builders who would be working with us this week. Pedro, Angel, and Diego each shared (In Spanish with accompanying translation) what stove building means to them. One was thankful to God for giving him the ability to build stoves; another shared the joy to build a stove for a family he didn’t know; another was happy to take part in this project; considering each us all part of something special.

On this Sunday, our share time revealed to me this newly formed community of believers and volunteers have come together to serve the people of Guatemala in love.

When have you been a part of a group where you felt like God was doing something special?

How can we continue to experience God building us together at home everyday?

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Next Issue – Day 3 – Working and worshiping in village named ‘Paquixit’

 

Day 1 – A Stove Building Community Comes Together

 

By Gladden Lawrence

stovebuildersday1The notion of being led or dependent on the Holy Spirit to do one thing or another was always confused. Was I actually being led, or did I convince myself that it was my idea; the Holy Spirit was just there to consult on what I wanted to do anyway. I never stopped to listen. Self always seemed to get in the way of what God wanted to show me about myself.

God put participation in the Stove Builders ministry on my heart over a year ago. I wanted to go, but was it me or was I being led by the Holy Spirit.

I got my answer Saturday morning as my long time missionary buddy Rick Smith and I waited for 16 other members traveling from 4 states to meet up near Gate 17 Terminal E at Bush Intercontinental airport. Some were farmers from Kansas, some retired or about to retire from Indiana, and a majority of first, second, and third timers from Kansas. We were all from different backgrounds, but we joined together as one with a shared mission on this day.

Other missionaries were on the same flight. Some were drilling water wells, some were headed to other parts of Guatemala to work in a medical clinic, but all were temporarily gathering together under one banner of serving our Lord in whatever capacity needed.

We had a great day getting to know each other; traveling from Guatemala City to a place in the Western Highlands known as ‘ChiChi’. The bus ride was long and bumpy, with many hairpin turns and unending traffic. We fellowshipped at dinner, met to review the week’s schedule, and shared the first day’s devotional from John 14:26; dependence on the Holy Sprit and committing to acknowledge God’s presence in our daily lives; especially during this week of working with the people of Guatemala.

I’m all in….

Next Issue – Day 2 – At the Sunday Market in ChiChi

 

Life Fulfilled on an Empty Stomach

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“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” Philippians 4:12 (NIV)
By Lauri Brunner, Mission of Hope Haiti, Food Packing Event at KUMC

Last August I participated in an incredible food-packing assembly line for Mission of Hope Haiti. Stations with plastic tubs of rice, soy, vitamins & minerals and dried vegetables were set up. Every ingredient was measured exactly, weighed, sealed, flattened, counted, placed in boxes and loaded on a truck. Members from our church, including families and youth gathered to make more than 55,000 meals for the people of Haiti.

Witnessing this monumental effort gave me pause. I have been blessed to have gone to Haiti twice. It was life changing. The first time I saw a baby with a distended stomach, orange tipped hair and the vacant stare…I cried. Our team had children and adults come up to us begging for food. When we spoke with our Mission of Hope intern, we were told not to share our food because it could make them very ill. I felt overwhelmed. It was also a harsh reality to witness coming from a world of so much.

I’m reminded of God’s word in Matthew 25:35, “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in.” It’s not about me. It’s about my relationship with Christ and how His Glory can be revealed. Christ tells us to feed the hungry, both their physical and the spiritual needs. Jesus is the Bread of Life (John 6:35). I need to do nothing more than open my heart, my mind and my eyes. God will provide the “food”.  All I have to do is be willing.

That August day of joy in the newly constructed KUMC Commons, we exceeded our goal of 55,000 meals. In November, when I returned to Haiti, we gave those meals to families. I witnessed the hope of Haitians. They are a beautiful people with beautiful smiles and a beauty that radiates from within. Christ is alive in Haiti and He is feeding them one meal at a time.

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“And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” 2 Corinthians 9:8

 

Over the last weeks, KUMC members have given testimonies of their mission experiences our church supports. As a family of believers, we are given an extraordinary opportunity to be the hands and feet of Jesus. Just as He walked and shared the Good News, we are able to do the same by donating our time and service, financial support, and continued prayer for the so many people who do this daily. Christ wants us to be bold. He will prepare the road ahead. All He asks of us is to trust and follow.

For me, the Lenten season is a time to renew my spirit, reflect on God’s promises and deepen my relationship with Jesus Christ.

Pray for:

  • God’s presence would continue to grow and strengthen in Haiti 
  • The people of Haiti and the continued recovery from the earthquake for both their spiritual and physical needs
  • The many missionaries and volunteers who give so much to the Haitians

Did you know:

  • August 2016, KUMC assembled 56,900 meals
  • KUMC used more than 160 volunteers working 2 shifts in teams of 12 persons

Contacts:

See previous posts of the Mission’s Lenten Journey:

Week 1: Feed My Lambs

Week 2: Joy in the Harvest

Week 3: Society of St. Stephen

Week 4: UM ARMY

Week 5: Living Water International

Week 6: Helping Hands

Week 7: Aleluya Mission of Hope