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.