I rubbed my eyes after jumping to the floor from the top bunk. Today, there was already a scurry of activity happening in the hall and I had to hurry so I wouldn't be left behind. Within a few minutes, we had loaded our mission van and headed off into the darkness. As we crested the first hill heading east, our team was greeted with the most spectacular sunrise I had seen all year. I was excited for the day, for meeting people, and for making a tangible difference for our new friends.
When we finally arrived at the mud brick house, we were greeted by several heads and many smiles. Word had gone before us that we were coming. The sun was just coming above the trees and it cast a warm golden light onto the house and made it glow in the morning stillness. Just at that instant, a rooster crowed to announce our arrival.
We had a busy day ahead of us, so my team and I conducted the normal greetings in my slowly growing Spanish vocabulary. This family we were visiting had been living in the same mud brick house for several generations -- for over 150 years, and even presently, the smoke from cooking breakfast came wafting through the cracks in the walls and under the roof through the eves.
As I peered around in the dark interior of the house, I was amazed by how unusually dark the inside of the house was. As my eyes adjusted I realized the walls were covered in black creosote from a fire that was smoldering in the corner of the room. The low rafters were also black, and in fact, creosote was hanging from the rafters. I was shocked! Most of the rafters were covered in several inches of thick, hanging, black creosote. I had never seen so much before!
During the past few months of waiting to join the MiracleAir team in Nicaragua, I have had a number of really neat opportunities to learn new skills to better prepare for mission service. In addition to continuing building flight time and working on a couple of new aviation certificates, I have been able to share in various churches and camp-meetings about the vision and excitement for missions that God has put on my heart. Another wonderful opportunity to grow as a team was the opportunity to be a part of a month-long mission training program with Adventist Frontier Missions.
Since I had never been to a Central American country before, I took the opportunity to join a short mission trip down in Guatemala in June to do some construction and do some language learning while working with the Mayan people down there. As I packed my suitcase, I couldn’t help but try and imagine what it would be like. I was excited to meet new people, practice Spanish, enjoy new flavors and try new food. In addition, a close family friend, Ariel Solis was planning to help do some remodeling at a clinic in Momostenango, Guatemala and was willing to share some tips and tricks with me to increase my skill set. The more I prayed about it, the more I became excited because in the few weeks preceding, I had been praying that God would reveal a ministry opportunity that I could get involved with in addition to my preparation to launch with MiracleAir.
It was dark when we landed in Guatemala City, and even though I tried to imagine my surroundings I couldn’t make out what Guatemala was like. The next morning, I was awakened to unfamiliar bird calls. When I looked out the window, the trees looked more tropical in some ways than I had expected. The weather was mild and I had an urge to explore.
After breakfast, my traveling companions and I set out driving to Momostenango. It was a very curvy road and several of our team felt motion sick when we finally pulled in to our new home for the next week and a half. The subsequent days were packed with preparing and tiling a bathroom in the small dorm we were staying in.
We prepared bricks for a new cistern and spent time getting to know the neighbors. Two days of our stay were used to build stoves and we worshiped with two church communities. One congregation only had a tree to meet under. The other congregation came from a slightly more "wealthy" community and had the privilege of having a corrugated tin roof over their heads to keep the sun and rain off of their heads. I had a hard time understanding how these people could have such a vibrant and beautiful connection to Jesus when they had so little. They were content. They faithfully came together each sabbath to sing, pray, and open the word of God. What an inspiration! Too often, we get so comfortable in our own beautiful churches that we forget what is really important. Unfortunately sometimes we even forget why we come to church.
One bright morning, our mission team was off to build a wood-burning cook stove for a Mayan family. As the remainder of the tools were brought in, I couldn't get my mind off noticing how different these people lived. They lived for generations in the same house with a dirt floor, and for every meal, collecting firewood and cooking over an open fire inside the house was normal. They were used to breathing all this smoke day after day after day and it was taking a dramatic toll on their health and life expectancy. Here in North America, most of us have no idea what it is really like for over a third of the world's population. With each brick we put in place, I began to realize how much of a difference we were making. Brick after brick, and mortar scoop after scoop, my joy grew, knowing that something as simple as building an enclosed stove, had the potential of changing lives dramatically. They no longer had to constantly be breathing smoke, and had the potential of future generations living a better life.
Some three billion people around the world cook their food and heat their homes with open or barely contained fires, and while the smoke dissipates quickly, its accumulated costs are steep. The typical cooking fire produces about 400 cigarettes’ worth of smoke an hour, and prolonged exposure is associated with respiratory infections, eye damage, heart and lung disease, and lung cancer. In the developing world, health problems from smoke inhalation are a significant cause of death in both children under five and women.
The volunteer team I had come with was a group of my cousins and a few friends that had been organized to come to Guatemala on a mission trip for 2 weeks. We came armed with materials for 8 stoves and were able to complete 6 during our time there. For the last two, we left the materials with a couple of the local men which had helped us and had learned the techniques for how to assemble the stoves. Even though this Guatemalan family was blessed with the stove, I found myself being blessed through the act of service. My team and I had come to serve and bless, and I felt blessed by the smiles and gratefulness of those we served.
When it comes to sharing the gospel with people of un-evangelized tribes around the world, one problem keeps coming to my mind. A surprising number of people groups rely on a language that is completely auditory, meaning they don't have a written language for reading and writing. Some statistics reveal that nearly 60% of the world’s population are oral learners.
How can you share the Good News of the Gospel with a people group who can speak their language, but have no way to read the word of God for themselves? Until a Bible translator comes and lives among these people, recorded audio is the only way they can learn of scripture topics without the help and supervision of missionaries.
I was introduced to a possible solution during the mission trip to Guatemala that I'm excited to share with you. On our trip we took 20 MegaVoice devices with a complete Bible recorded in Quiche within each handheld unit. It has a lanyard so it can hang around the neck when the wearer is working their fields or going about their daily tasks. It's a self-contained unit that has a solar cell on the back where the unit can be recharged by the sun, or a USB connection.
The villagers who had gathered for Sabbath School were allowed to hear the Bible being read from the MegaVoice audio player, and they said “this is our language! I understand the words perfectly!”
God has called each of us to a life of service. Whether that be within our homes, churches, communities, or a foreign country, my prayer is each of us will remember the call God has placed on our life and do our humble part to fulfill the great commission. As always, your prayers and support are much appreciated as I continue to step forward in faith towards the life of mission service God is calling me to.
Things to keep in prayer:
- I have about half of my monthly support that is going for my personal living expenses! This is a huge milestone and it wouldn't have been possible without each of you getting involved and giving back to the Lord. Thank you!
- I'm in the final few months before launching to Nicaragua, and there is a lot still to be done. I'm planning to go to Costa Rica to do a multi-week language learning intensive in just a few short weeks.
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