Monthly Archives: August 2011
This blog is going to be a bit different…. We have been asked lots of questions in the past while and Geoff & I thought it would be a good idea to answer some… Please, if you ever have any questions please don’t ever hesitate to ask and we shall do our best to answer. Firstly let me say that all these answers are my (and Geoff’s) humble opinion based on our lives…. I cannot answer based on generalities or what is right and wrong… I can only answer based on our personal experiences, thoughts and feelings….
Question: If the people of Guatemala are going to die at a young age & the harsh government won’t change, why do you help them? And if there may be no hope for their life to be long, and they cannot impact the world, why do it at all? Tell me specifically why you do it?
For us, helping the people of Guatemala is much more than just helping. We know and understand that there are many people locally that need help. We have chosen to help locally through youth and young adult ministry. We are both youth leaders and also spend a vast amount of time with young adults in our community. For me personally it is something that I take very seriously and encourage all ages to serve whether it be local or global. I hesitate to use the word ‘mentor’… It is a word I dislike very much…. it eludes to the fact that I know more than those that are younger… I can assure you I do not. I am a friend… someone to walk alongside and share in the triumphs and tragedies of life with. I learn as much from those younger as they learn from me. They are not jaded and they are idealistic and hopeful and bright and young…. Keeps me grounded and young at heart! Being able to include youth and young adults into our Guatemala ministry is something that I feel is priceless. There are lessons that can only be learned by seeing first hand the conditions some people that share our planet live in. Its humbling and it helps us, born into a prosperous society, learn to appreciate what we have and hopefully gain the desire to ‘share the wealth’ through love.
When it comes to Guatemala… our work & family ties here in Canada are such that we can go global where many cannot. We are in a position to ‘GO’. There are millions around the world that need help and if everyone in prosperous nations stayed local nothing would ever change. Perhaps the people of Guatemala and countries like it may die young…. and the government may always remain corrupt… but does that mean that we should just walk away and do nothing? Should we let those that have no voice starve to death without a chance? Are they not human beings created in God’s image just like us? Are their lives worth any less than those in Canada or the USA, or Europe? Here there are advocacy groups for everything…. if you have a problem in Canada there is a government that is there to help. Local ministries are everywhere and for many people that is their ministry. Our system may not be perfect, but I can guarantee you that its leaps and bounds better than in the developing world. As I said, there are so many people that want to help others but cannot go global… we can, so we do. We are trying to give a voice to a small portion of the world that has none.
Who says there is no hope for anyone’s life? As a passionate believer in Christ I believe that everyone matters…. everyone has a purpose… and if hope feels lost to some it is our commissioning by Jesus to bring hope to the hopeless. As far as I am concerned Jesus commanded us to love one another as He loves us. Basically thats why we do what we do… we love people… all people… regardless of where they live on this planet. I know if I need help, I want people to come love me… and I am no different from anyone else… no more special… and quite frankly if I was in need I would be begging for help from anyone who would listen, no matter where they live.
Which brings me to the next part of the above question…. people all over the world die young… as a matter of fact my last blog about Arlynne celebrated a young life that was lost to an accident just days past her 16th birthday. Did she not matter because she was young? Did she not impact the world? I would say based on the things I’ve read in our little community lately, her impact was HUGE! I think people get very lost and over think the whole world impact thing… To me if you make a difference in the life of one person on this planet you have greatly impacted the world. Its a ripple effect. You may never see or understand how you impacted that life, nor how that person will go on to fulfill their purpose… but I guarantee you its there. Sometimes it may be that by the mere act of serving someone in Guatemala, their impact might be right back on the life of the person who did the serving. A while ago I blogged about a precious young Guatemalan boy Estuardo who at age 17 lay in a crib, unable to move, speak or communicate in any way. By serving the Hospital Infantil I served him… and that boy that some would call hopeless and without ability to impact the world, rocked the world of my whole family… me especially. He changed my life, my outlook, strengthened my faith and made me change to love people better and solidified my belief that God was calling me into Guatemala to serve. I’d say he had a huge impact on my life… and thus through the ripple effect, the world. Who knows if he impacted others that I have told, strangers that read my blog… etc… Estuardo died young just as Arlynne did… but both of those beautiful young people had a profound effect on my world. See where Im going here? Basically, I can sum it up in Paul’s words to Timothy….
1Timothy 4:12 “ Do not let anyone treat you as if you are unimportant because you are young. Instead be an example to the believers with your words, your actions, your love, your faith, and your purity.”.… Young or old, we can all make a difference, bring hope, healing, love and hope through Christ who is our strength.
To get to the bottom of why we do it…. that is a bit tougher to explain… For me its like the song “Awakening”… My soul was awakened in Guatemala. My family has served in many different places…. We have served as close to home as the Southridge shelter and as far away as Alaska & New Orleans. But no where captured us like Guatemala… We all felt it instantly there. My entire family is on the same page with this… and trust me that is rare in any family…. In Guatemala, something deep within all of us just felt, right. That sounds lame but its true. Our eldest son Zack said it best…. “I really feel God here”. I don’t know if any of that makes sense… its hard to explain a ‘calling’ unless you’ve found yours… Its a totally personal thing… a feeling… a peace with your decision that normally is elusive.
Question: If I decide to support your ministry in Guatemala, where does my money go?
If God puts it upon your heart to partner with us financially either through a one time special gift, or a monthly partnership, first of all thank you from the bottom of our hearts and from the people we serve in Guatemala. 100% of your special gift or monthly partnership goes to the people of Guatemala. All of our personal expenses are paid by us at this time. Your money goes toward food, supplies, medicine, medical care/operations & construction materials for the Hospital Infantil Padre Pedro malnutrition centre in El Progreso & the Mayan people of the mountains in the surrounding area of Jutiapa/Jalapa. If you would like your money to go to something specific all you have to do is drop us a note and we will see that its taken care of. We send money every month to Fernando & Sister Mercedes with specific instructions of where to apply some of it and the rest where she deems the most urgent need.
Question: I want to come and serve with you, how much would it cost and what will I be doing?
If you feel the pull to come and serve alongside us, all we can say again is thank you and drop us a note so we can talk further. We love having people of all ages share this experience with us! The cost will vary depending on the length of stay, whether 1 or 2 weeks. Therefore I can’t really answer that in specifics. Basically, you are responsible for your own flight so the money you pay to us will cover food and accommodations & money for a project. Included in the money you would pay is money to fund a project of your choice… something that you can decide once you get there. We have found that everyone reacts differently to what they see in Guatemala. Perhaps you will meet a family in need and God will put it on your heart to help them specifically or perhaps one of the children in the hospital will touch you and you would like to fund medicines for them. The possibilities are endless and the choice will be yours once you are there!
We have found, in our experience that there are 2 types of short term mission trips. One kind is geared toward spreading the Gospel to the unbelieving nations, planting Churches etc and another is geared toward helping those in need and living out the Gospel in a believing nation. Since Guatemala is a very Christian nation our trip is geared toward help. Expect to work, and work hard. Painting, minor construction, cleaning, helping carry adobe bricks, cooking, loving, feeding and playing with kids are all on the agenda daily. We typically take 1 day a week for sightseeing so visitors can see some of the area (and perhaps go zip-lining if you are brave), 1 day a week to visit mountain villages to hand out toys, supplies and love some people and play with some kids (this is my favorite part… those villages are my Disneyland). We spend time at Church on Sunday, and visiting Fernando’s family for a genuine Guatemalan lunch. All evenings are spent however you wish… together talking about the day together or alone to journal and rest, it is up to you. Guatemala is the land of “Eterna Primavera” (Eternal Spring), meaning the weather is some of the best I’ve ever experienced… Warm & sunny (but not too hot) during the day and very cool at night. If you are expecting a vacation, go to Mexico and lay in the sun. We share everything on the trip… and that includes work, cooking, cleaning, triumphs and tragedies… I mean everything! This is not going to be a vacation but I can tell you it will be hard work, fun and an experience you will never forget.
So, to wrap this up, basically all I can say is to love people… local, global, near, far, friend, enemy… just simply love them. Go serve or if you cannot go, partner with those that can … serve along side them, however that looks, and wherever that may be. Bring hope… bring comfort, bring food, bring shelter, bring money, bring prayer… just bring it in His name….
Sometimes I am shocked at how difficult life can be…. I am writing this blog with a heavy heart, from my car… traveling home through the Canadian Prairies… while at home a funeral is going on… a funeral I should be at but cannot make… My family & I left home just over a week ago on our way to Western Canada for a couple of weeks to visit some friends throughout Alberta & then off to Northwest Territories to see a young adult from Southridge in Yellowknife. About 1/2 way through our drive we couldn’t find a room… severe flooding in the mid-west had all the hotels full… the night got later and later.. at 2am my phone rang. No call at 2am is good news…. Actually Im not sure if there is anything more dreaded than a 2am phone call…. Before you even answer your heart begins to beat fast… its just the knowledge that something very, very bad is about to be known…. One of our best friends Dave was on the other line when Geoff answered… then bam… the news… one of my youth girls, Arlynne Holyer, who had just turned 16 a few days before, had been killed in an ATV accident. She was in the far north of Ontario on a ministry trip for the summer. Earlier that day she had been out on an ATV delivering flyers to people inviting them to attend a bible study. Details are not needed… bottom line, she was out serving God and she died. Sounds harsh, but that is the bottom line. I will say, the news struck me speechless. I had just emailed her… for her recent birthday… telling her how proud I was of her… Now she was gone? I thought instantly of her family… as a mom, my heart broke instantly… We continued to drive…. I cried quietly, I prayed, Geoff prayed…. what do we do, do we turn around and go home? Do we carry on? My boys were quiet… very quiet…. all the youth at Southridge take a very active part in the life of my boys… All part of the “It takes a village to raise a child” ideal… they all are so great with my boys and they know most of the youth very well… tragedy hits them too… very hard… At 4am we finally found a room… Out of sheer exhaustion we all slept. In the morning Geoff and I talked and both felt that we should carry on. There were people counting on us out West too, and somehow we just felt deep down that we were supposed to carry on.
Basically I cried quietly inside and out several times this trip…. I didn’t understand why I had to be so far from home when my other youth girls at home would need me and quite frankly I needed them just as much. After a short time in the Rockies it was clear why God wanted me to carry on. I needed the time to grieve.. my way…. to get myself in order before attempting to help anyone else. One afternoon we stopped at a very beautiful place on Medicine Lake. The boys wanted to hike and swim. I decided to stay behind and I just sat on a rock for 2 hours alone, staring at the mountains. I cried, I prayed, I reflected and I got angry…. I felt God there, holding me when I cried and listening when I was angry… I felt peace come over me finally. It was then that I felt it was time to cut the trip short and go home to my youth family. So with heavy heart but inner peace, we cancelled all the rest of our visits, postponed Yellowknife for a while and began our trek home.
I’ve had so much time to think on this trip it isn’t funny. Hours and hours in the car… hours of reflection on the mountains… its been an amazing journey. Arlynne’s death weighs heavy on my heart but I rest easy in the comfort of knowing she is with God. I sat one day in the car and re-read 2 years of text & facebook conversations between me and her… Our relationship was a complicated one. Arlynne of 2 years ago was nothing like Arlynne now. I have to admit, 2 years ago, she drove me crazy. She was kind, thoughtful and loving, but defiant, rebellious, strong willed, stubborn, and dramatic . But there was a beauty inside of her that kept me trying so hard with her. I was very drawn to her instantly. If I am to be truthful, I would say that she reminded me so much of myself at her age… Over the past year, Arlynne grew up… she found her faith and her passion for God.. She served and she worshipped with everything she had… She laughed, she smiled and she danced with a beauty that I will never forget. I will always picture her dancing her heart out to “Happy Day” at youth. I think it was after she left my group that our relationship blossomed into a mutual love and respect for each other. I think then she could stop seeing me as an authority figure of sorts and begin to see me as a friend who loved her. She began to talk with me differently, better… more real and honest. I will miss her… her huge smile bounding toward me every Sunday at Church… the huge hugs every time we saw each other… hearing her giggle during winter retreat… the random texts… the talks, the everything…. I have to say, watching her grow over the past 2 years has been a privilege I will cherish forever.
Watching the different youth communities, from afar, band together through this tragedy has been a thing of beauty. They have all been there for each other and have now committed to carrying on Arlynne’s passion to serve others in the name of God. I am so truly proud of all of you… loving one another through this! I personally do not believe God caused Arlynne’s death… I don’t believe God is there with his cosmic lightning bolt picking and choosing who dies… but I do believe that God knew it was going to happen, and wrapped us all in that ‘blanket of grace’ that Bob spoke to me about a few weeks ago (see previous blog) and fills us with His presence so we can feel peace. His ways are beyond our understanding and that is so hard sometimes but He is there to help us through times like these! He is ever faithful!
One major thing Arlynne’s life and death has taught me is that these young people are such an integral part of my life. I love them… fiercely! I would fight for any of them with every fibre of my being…. I need them, just as much as they need me… They are a huge part of my family, and I feel so honoured to have the privilege of watching them grow up and walk beside them through their tragedies and triumphs! There is no question that youth is my ministry… and I love how God has partnered that into our vision for Guatemala. My life is so amazing that I get to serve both youth and the people of Guatemala together and intertwined at times. My one regret is that Arlynne will not be joining us in Guatemala this year as she had hoped to… but she will be there in my heart and the hearts of the other youth that will be joining us there to serve.
One of my favorite songs is … I can only imagine….
“I can only imagine what it will be like, when I walk by Your side… what my eyes will see, when Your Face is before me!…. Surrounded by Your Glory, what will my heart feel? Will I dance for you Jesus? Or in awe of You, be still? Will I stand in Your presence, or to my knees will I fall? Will I sing “Hallelujah”? Will I be able to speak at all? I can only imagine….. I can only imagine….”
…. and I imagine Arlynne dancing…. dancing like she did every youth service!!! Godspeed Arlynne… my newest twinkling star in the sky… thank you for all that you did for me and others…. dance on in paradise beautiful… for you it really is a “Happy Day”…. I love you … xoxo