Finding HOPE. Showing LOVE. That is what I named the Guatemala picture album on Facebook. I felt as though those 4 simple words summed up the theme of my week there.
When we go and follow God's heart for the unsaved, the needy, the widow, and the orphan we are fulfilling His call on our lives. James 1:27a says, "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress...." Our pastor did a sermon about this verse and he described religion as "the outward expression of what is in our hearts." Does our brokeness over the orphan and widow move us to GO and SERVE and LOVE??
It is hard to hold these precious children in your arms and know what their circumstances are. It is hard for me to smile and laugh with them when my heart is breaking in two. Yet everytime I find HOPE. Through the injustice, the tears, the pain, our God is a God of HOPE. I have to trust in His plan for each precious child and search for the glimmers of hope in each one. This is a lesson that has been really hard for me to learn, but one that God really impressed on me this trip. TRUSTING HIM for HOPE for these kids.
On Sunday, we went to a fantastic church up at Eagle's Nest. The pastor spoke straight out of the Bible, and it was evident that He had spent much time preparing for the message. They welcomed us with OPEN arms and could not have been more hospitable and inviting to our group. We felt bad seating 27 people down around their small group of 20!! We more than doubled their church service! He spoke from Acts 1:8, "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." He talked about how we should ALWAYS be witnesses to what God has done in our lives. We should constantly be proclaiming His faithfulness to us. This was a fabulous way to start out our week, being reminded that we are here to proclaim the Gospel there in Guatemala, and then to go home and share with our families.
We did some reallly hard work while we were there!! Real manual labor- lugging buckets and buckets and buckets and buckets and buckets (you get the idea) of gravel and dirt down this slippery hill. Despite our sore muscles and aching feet, most of us actually enjoyed it! It felt good to do hard work, and serve the orphanage. When we thought we couldn't lift another bucket or wheelbarrow, we would encourage eachother with the verse from Hebrews 12, "let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us." God had called us to do this work and we would persevere until it was done!!
I had to look for HOPE again when we left the orphanage Friday morning. I had already said goodbye to Claudia Thursday night, and purposely avoided the orphanage doors and windows, thinking that maybe I could climb into the bus without seeing her again. I had taken her outside that night and talked with her, but I don't think either of us really "got it" emotionally. Well... we walked up the steps to wait for the bus and out of the doors of the orphanage come the big girls. My sweet Claudia came running into my arms and I completely lost it. In front of the entire team I cried for my girl. My heart was absolutely breaking at the thought of saying good-bye to this precious child. As usual, it takes awhile to get everyone loaded up, and one of my roomates ran to grab her camara (she is an excellent photographer) and took some awesome pics of Claudia and I. We had about 20 minutes together and she only left my arms once to go and get the sweets the mamas were handing out. Those 20 minutes were a gift from God. I am so thankful I had that. As we traveled back to Guatemala City I had lots of time to think, and I kept quoting to myself my life verse, Jeremiah 29:11, "For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper and not to harm you, to give you a future and a hope." I BELIEVE this to be true for Claudia. I do not know what is in store for her little life. I do not know if I will ever kiss her cheeks again or hear her precious giggle. But I KNOW that my God has a plan for her life and I KNOW that He has already used her to change my heart!!
All in all, it was an incredible week. Unforgettable memories, lessons, and stories. Thank you Jesus for helping me find HOPE when I was there. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to show Your LOVE to these people.