God called a group of seventeen students and seven adults to embark on a divine adventure to Guatemala. We served alongside Paradise Bound Ministries that served has been in Guatemala since 1997. Our team spent hours meeting together before the trip worshipping, learning, growing and serving alongside each other. These meetings helped prepare us for the journey ahead of us. Realizing that we won’t be able to serve a country we don’t know or serve alongside people we don’t care about. The team spent time learning each other’s talents and abilities. It brought us together so that we could do the work of the Lord even better. We did all the preparations and were now ready. Our flight was leaving very early morning from the Gerald R. Ford Airport. Parents arrived with students and their packed bags. We got our boarding passes from the flight attendants. This was really happening. All the planning for one week was finally coming to fruition.
The weather was impeccable for flying as we all sat together with excitement for the trip ahead of us.The first plane ride was perfect.We had a long lay over in Atlanta so students and adults went around the airport relaxing and eating a meal together. Some students shopped as others rode the tram back and forth to different concourses. We had just one more flight to go. We all knew something great was awaiting us when we landed in Guatemala but we could not imagine what God had in store for us.
We arrived in Guatemala late at night. It was dark and we couldn’t see a lot of Guatemala City as we drove. Some students were chattering about the flight and others where nodding off as we drove into the countryside. Some commented on the rolling landscape of country. The lights started getting dimmer as we drove into the country; we knew the adventure was finally here. We all arrived at our destination and threw our bags into our rooms and grabbed a bed for the night after a long day of traveling.
The mornings all started out with an amazing view of the rolling hills and the sun coming up. We were able to do devotions out on the large patio soaking in God’s beauty as we spent time with Him. It was quite incredible. Many students realized what God would do in their lives when they stopped and spent time with him regularly and consistently. This opened up our hearts before they went to serve in the villages.
During our time in the villages each team built a house. Each house started with just a cement floor and supplies to assemble the frame. We began by screwing together the frame. Within each team, we would pair up so one person could hold the framing and the other person could use the screw gun. Once we finished putting the frame together, we started putting the drywall up and the roof on. It did not take us that long to get the majority of the house built. The last day of building we all went to one house at the same time to spread the plaster over the outside of the home. It was dirty and red. It was a team effort to get all the homes finished the same day. We spent one more day in the villages after we built and it was a powerful time.
The last day was designed to dedicate each home to the families we built for. Each team spent time with the family and also the Gospel was presented to each of them. As each team spent time inside the home, the entire group was surrounding the house and praying over it. We prayed over each family that received this physical gift of a new home but we wanted them to receive the eternal gift of salvation. That was the main goal why we were there.
During the weekend we spent time at two different villages. We set up a medical clinic–giving proper vitamins and parasite pills to people in the village. While many students worked in the clinic, others were out spending time with the villagers. Some of the activities they did included coloring, playing soccer, throwing a Frisbee and painting nails. I wasn’t too fond of doing nails with the girls, so I stuck with the soccer. Many of our students thought it was funny that their Youth Pastor knew no Spanish and continued to say the wrong words to the villagers. After we played all day and handed out medical supplies, we felt the power of the Holy Spirit.
We gathered the villagers into a room where we played the Jesus film. It is the story of Jesus from birth to the cross. Even though it was in Spanish you could still feel the intensity and emotions during the film. You could feel what they where saying even in a language that you didn’t understand. After the movie our team went up front to worship. We sang songs in front of the villagers in English. I think, just like we could understand the Jesus film, they could understand our worship to our Lord and Savior in English. We worshipped and glorified our God with everything we had. The hardest part for some was next. We finished singing and Dan Smith asked us to share our testimonies. For some of the students this was the first time they had shared their story of salvation and how God moved in their lives. After we shared our testimonies a Guatemalan pastor got up and started to share what the cross meant. The freedom in Christ and the eternal relationship we have him. As the pastor talked we were told to start laying hands on people’s shoulders as the music came on. As we prayed for them the pastor invited them to receive Christ into their lives. It must have been bizarre to the Guatemalans to hear a white stranger praying for them in English. Even stranger would have been when we placed our hands on their shoulders. Many of the villagers came to know Christ at the two places we visited. I believe this was some of the most powerful moments in our trip. Living in our culture we don’t see very many altar calls that bring so many people to Christ. It was a really cool experience.
Each participant had a different story that changed their lives in Guatemala. My stories can’t speak for everyone but I know lives were changed. I know hearts grew closer to Christ and that we are called to live differently now. We are called to be agents of change in our communities and the world around us. The ministry of Paradise Bound didn’t just stop in the villages. We sat in a circle at the base just like we had done for the last four days. We sat there and sang songs of worship on our last day at base camp. Something was different though. We sang and Dan spoke. He spoke with the same intensity you saw at the villages. He talked about the same Christ who he shared to the villagers. Didn’t he know we where a church group? He knew exactly where we came from and where our hearts were. He challenged us to look at our own heart. Not to feel if it was beating but if it was beating strong for Christ’s mission. He asked us if we really knew who Jesus Christ was? It wrecked us. There was a cross lying on the floor and it was there to nail our sins to it. We wrote our doubts, addictions, frustrations and our lives on a piece of paper and nailed it to the cross. The night went on as music played and all the students and adults stayed praying with each other. Underclassman prayed for seniors and seniors were praying for adults and the room was filled with a spirit of unity and powerful prayer.
We wouldn’t leave Guatemala and forget that night. I saw people come together in a very cool way. That cross on the floor with students praying together around it will be forever etched into my mind. Isn’t that was the cross is there for? Don’t we look to the cross and we are brought together through our faith and trust in Jesus Christ? That cross gives freedom and hope to everyone. We needed to encounter Jesus just as much as those Guatemalans did and that was accomplished.
Thank you to everyone who prayed for us and who financially gave for us to go. Thank you to those who donated money for us to buy the supplies to build the houses and for those who gave supplies for us to bring with us. We appreciate you and the people in Guatemala who we served do as well. Thank you!