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Fall 2012 - News from Guatemala
"There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under heaven."
I am sure that the time has flown for everyone as it has for us since the first day of school. We are already at Halloween and the Christmas decorations are in the stores. It is that time of year again for us where we have to decide if we continue on here in Guatemala or strike out for a new adventure. God says to put the worry and burden on him for our lives and we are counting on Him to reveal His will to us. It always seems to be in a direction we never thought we would head so being open-minded is definitely a necessity in following God! The country has been nice to travel around and the students and school good, but it still doesn't feel like a place for more than a little while.
These crazy Orioles must have found us on their migration route because
for several months, they were pretending to be hummingbirds at our feeder. They were fun to watch and you knew the.y were there by their "Quank!" sound
Sometimes there are things that you think you want badly in your life to work out, but your dreams and desires aren't always what God has in mind or even what is best for you. We often get frustrated and disappointed because we are thinking in a worldly way and I think that is how Satan gets a foothold in our lives and tries to drag us down. When you are looking for options in your life, the focus needs to be off of you - though we all know how difficult that can be - and on what will give the most glory to God.
If we use that as our guide, our lives will surely be blessed beyond measure. I may not end up in Italy, but it will be okay wherever we are!
One of the projects we have been able to get involved in this year is working with a girls' orphanage in Jalapa, a city about two hours east of Guatemala City. It is an orphanage where girls can go who have been abandoned, sexually assaulted or molested, or have no other family to care for them. Several of the girls have children themselves because of those situations, the youngest I saw being an 11 year old mother. The girls themselves are so polite and cheerful with really positive attitudes in spite of their situation. There is a group of nuns who are in charge of this project and they get support from some of the churches in the country and any sponsors they can find.
This is their living/dining quarters. Close to 100 girls live and eat in this building. They go to school in the local town. Our middle school team is working to raise money to help them finish building a storage facility in the back so they have a place to put the food and materials they need. Right now, it is in the corners of the living quarters.
It is quite the challenge though. Economically and emotionally, there are a lot of needs. Here is the link to their website if you want to read more.
Our students collected food to donate and several of the teachers took it out to the project where we also had a day of fun activities planned that we did with the girls. We are hoping some of our students can go with us in November or December to do a Christmas cookie and craft workshop with the girls. It is definitely a rewarding project and the girls are very grateful for us coming to share our time with them. You don't often get a group of kids singing you a welcome song and lining the driveway singing, "Come back soon!" when you leave and it really pulls at your heart.
It isn't enough to just love God because I think most believers would say that they do, but we have to be willing to do His will as well. I know I, personally, am easily distracted and thrown off course when I don't keep my focus on God and will find myself thinking that I haven't spent anything with God this week because of the busyiness of life. I know I love God but I don't often reflect it in my life so that others see Him in me. When I stay in the presence of God, all the other trials and problems in my life seem insignificant and I can get closer to God and worship Him as He deserves.
I don't know about you, but I often forget that prayer isn't really about who is praying but about who is listening and that connection between God and me. Our lives shouldn't be a religion anymore than the United States should be two political parties who are constantly fighting against one another and never resolving anything for the good of Americans. (My one sentence political commentary) Our lives should be about a relationship with God not what man has set up on earth. With that relationship, we are never alone even when our situation makes us feel that way.
I was struck by this idea while we were in Antigua over the weekend and saw a giant rosary on the front of the Catholic church. Having been raised Catholic, I understand the role the virgin Mary plays for Catholics, but it seemed to be diminishing the role of God and Jesus as the head and body of the church when the entrance to the church is through a giant rosary. Religion has put so many obstacles to faith that I think it discourages people, instead of just showing people that a personal relationship with Christ is all you need and is available to everyone regardless of their station in life. We are all sinners and will be until the day we die but we are all worthy of God's love and salvation through the death of Jesus Christ. My desire is for everyone to have that comfort and support and unconditional love of God in their lives and not feel that religion is what is keeping them from that.
It is always interesting to visit towns (Antigua, above) that have grown out of Spanish influence over the centuries because you can be in one town and feel like you have seen this before. Each place is a little unique as the local culture has its traditions and styles, but you definitely know you are in South and Central America. We are looking forward to our parents visiting so we can take the horse-drawn carriage through the cobblestone streets of Antigua.
Our favorite place to revisit is the mangroves in Monterrico. You get up early in the morning and see the world come alive as the sun comes up and the birds awaken. There are all kinds of hidden treasures and surprises that you might come across and each trip is a little different. We saw nests and baby birds, as well as God starting the day in a blaze of glory.
We saw several nests among the reeds or just floating in the middle of the marsh. It is amazing that life continues when it seems so fragile but that is why God is in control. As we gear up for the holiday season, I know I am going to try and focus more outside of myself and my world and see where God takes me. Have a great fall! Happy Halloween and an early Happy Thanksgiving!
Cathy and Steve Carpenter
The sunsets from our apartment are like beautiful paintings across the sky
"Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs." Ephesians 4:29
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