Siloam Springs, Ark. (April 4, 2001) - Incredible – Awesome – Heart Wrenching – Life-Changing – Eye Opening – Challenging
These are all words that are helpful when trying to put our trip into words. Our ministry did impact many Guatemalans, but we were definitely impacted individually, and as a team. For many it was the first time to experience another culture; and what an experience it was! We were all reminded of how much we have in the United States and how much we take for granted every day.
Our time in Guatemala was a mixture of sport and ministry. Jaime, our chaperone from Sports Ambassadors, traveled with us at all times. He was quickly “adopted” into our group and did an incredible job organizing our entire time in Guatemala. We began our time there with volleyball games against the Guatemalan National Team and the National Youth Team. They play tremendous defense, which makes up for their lack of size. The experience we gained in those games will help as we prepare for our Fall 2001 season. (We lost to the National Team and beat the National Youth Team.) After each of these games, we were able to share with them our reason for being there. We handed out New Testaments and the “wordless book” bracelets, which explain the plan of salvation. These bracelets were key in our ministry throughout the week. With the language barrier affecting most of our team, these bracelets provided an easy way to share.
We were able to share in children’s church at El Shaddai in Guatemala City. There were over 175 children that we worked. These children had been studying about missionaries and we were able to teach them how to use the bracelets to lead their friends to Christ. We attended an adult worship service that morning and were fortunate to have one of our recent JBU graduates translate for us. (We all wore headsets during the service as he translated for us.)
Monday was full, with three school clinics. We spent the day teaching the students volleyball skills, as well as sharing the gospel with them. Each student received a New Testament and a bracelet. On Monday evening we met all the SEPAL missionaries for dinner at one of their homes. It was interesting to hear about all of the mission work that their organization is involved in. (Sports Ambassadors is one of the SEPAL organizations.)
Tuesday was the “heart wrenching” day. We began at the juvenile girl’s prison with approximately 25 girls ranging in age from 13-18. Luis, a Guatemalan Christian clown, accompanied us the entire day. What a blessing it was to have him along. He and Jaime began by “breaking the ice” with fun stories and silly songs. It was interesting to see their sad, “tough guy” faces change to smiles. Luis then spoke to the girls about why we were there and one of our players gave her testimony. We then broke into small groups and shared the bracelets and handed out New Testaments. By then, the rain had stopped and we were able to go outside and teach them some volleyball skills. By the end of our time there, most of the girls were laughing and enjoying the attention that we were able to give to them. This was the first time Jaime had taken a group to this prison. He assured us he would take future groups there – the openness of the girls was very encouraging.
We played a five game match, and won against the University team and then had lunch with them. After lunch we made time to visit a hospital for children, which was next door to the mission house where we were staying. The hospital was clean, but there was not enough help to keep the children clean. As we picked up the babies, we instantly noticed the urine soaked clothing. They didn’t have diapers – just additional clothing wrapped around them to soak up the waste. The babies needed some human interaction and we were able to just spend time holding them and playing with some of the toddlers. The children were sick at one time, but now just abandoned and left to be cared for.
That same evening we brought pizza in for an orphanage for boys. We spent time playing soccer and volleyball with them, as well as singing and sharing bracelets and bibles. Several of the boys accepted Christ that evening. The orphanage was like a dungeon, with no toys and little furnishings. We spent our time in a big empty, dimly lit room. We were able to leave shampoo, toothpaste, toothbrushes, crayons and other toys to be used for rewards.
As we talked in our evening team meeting, many tears were shed for these lost, abandoned children and the girls in the prison. So many needs and yet so little time for us to try to help. We had no idea how much these places would affect us – all we could do was pray and ask for God’s help with these children.
We departed on a four-hour van ride to Quetzaltenango on Wednesday morning. We played against an all star team and a men’s team in Salcaja and against a boy’s team in Xela. We went 2-1 against these teams and once again had the opportunity to share with each of them after our match. On Thursday we spent the morning at another orphanage, full of babies and toddlers. There were over twenty little babies and many toddlers. What a blessing it was to help change and clean these little ones. We picked up a Tigger piñata on our way and watched as the toddlers enjoyed taking their turns with the stick. Lunchtime was interesting, as we all had at least one baby with a bottle! This orphanage was well stocked with diapers, clean clothing and many toys. As our time to leave came closer, a piece of our hearts was once again removed. We prayed for the children and the workers. The people at this orphanage were doing a great job in taking care of the children, but it still broke our hearts to realize how many children are abandoned and left for someone else to take care of.
We spent our last two days touring the country, visiting Panajachel and Antigua. Although our scheduled ministry times were over, our minds and hearts were still with the children. As we “debriefed” about our trip, volleyball was not even brought up. At this point, I knew that each one of us had been significantly impacted and the Lord was working in each heart. It was interesting and amazing to hear the different ways each had been affected during our time in Guatemala.
Please continue to pray that we would be reminded of the things we experienced in Guatemala. It is so easy to lose sight of those things as we get back into our daily routine of life.