Operation Central America

Come and see what is happening on the Operation Central America missions trip. Also learn about the teams and their prayer requests.

Monday, June 29, 2009

OCA 2009 Epilog

Well, we made it back home. There were no bags or parents left at the airport so I think we have everything and everyone back in their proper places. I hope by now everyone has enjoyed a real shower and are tucked into their beds.

I just wanted to add one last note to thank the students and staff for their part in making this a memorable trip. As always, it was not what we expected (or would have asked for had we known!) but God worked through it all. We had a great last couple days. I know there are still some not feeling 100%, so I hope they will be able to get the care they need to get back on their feet soon.

Thank you parents for your support for the trip. Please ask your student lots of questions about what they saw and what they learned and where God showed up.

Thank you leaders for devoting the time and energy to this group of students. Your love and support for the students was a blessing to me, the students and the people we served.

And thank you students for commiting the time to be part of this trip. I hope you feel both stretched and rewarded for the efforts this trip required of you. Be proud of the work that was done to further the kingdom of God, and be humbled by the opportunity to be the face of God to so many people in so many ways. Each and every one of you made a difference in someone's life on this trip. I hope it serves as a foundation for further growth in your relationship with Christ.

So I will sign off for another year. We'll let you know when planning starts for the next adventure!

Dios te bendiga!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Last Day

Well, we are back at our 'home' in Guatemala City, Telma's missions house. We arrived here tonight after spending the afternoon shopping and sightseeing in Antigua.

Yesterday we had a nice day at the Posada in Santiago Atitlan. It was very nice in the morning so we walked into town and did a little shopping. After lunch the service teams spent some time debriefing the two weeks, talking about their experiences and how each had grown during the time here in Guatemala. It had started raining shortly after lunch, so the bulk of the afternoon was spent playing board games and just talking. After dinner the whole group got together for some worship and sharing time. William, our evangelist from El Salvador, also spoke to the students, encouraging them to continue their efforts to grow their faith even after they return home.

We had the extra entertainment of having a couple students spend the night under observation at the local hospital (5 minutes from the hotel). Oour nurse and one fo the other leaders who is fluent in spanish spent the night with them. One was pretty dehydrated and we wanted to make sure whe was feeling good enough to travel home, and the other had come down with pneumonia. But after the night of care (and a good sleep) they were much better today and were able to participate in the shopping day in Antigua. One of the praises of the trip is that God has provided medical resources every time our staff has needed additional support.

Tonight all of the students are pretty tired but are in good spirits, aniticpating getting back to all of the things they have missed. Things like sweat pants, cell phones, cold milk and friends are all high on their lists. Many are excited to see the reaction of the people they purchased gifts for or to show off their ponchos, soccer jerseys and machetes.

We are planning to be at the airport by about 11:30 for a 2pm flight so hopefully it will be a realtively low stress process of getting everyone checked in and onto the plane. We will all be happy to be done dragging those black bags on and off the bus! We will have a 3 hour layover in Houston so there will be time to get through customs and grab some American food before the last leg to Minneapolis. We will look forward to seeing all your smiling faces at midnight tomorrow.

Thanks again for your prayers. We could not have done it without your support. Here is a poem that sort of captures the experience....

Rain again, yet I rejoice
Although it soddens beast and man.
I know it that whether soft or fierce
It is important for God's plan.

Trees grow tall and mountains rise,
Woundrous vistas to behold.
But hidden in the clefts and leaves
Is where true beauty does unfold.

There each one in perfect form
(According to the Maker's eye)
Begins their journey yet unknown,
Not knowing if they'll crawl or fly.

Each has a choice to trust the rain
And find in it renewing grace
Or curse the skies and bar the door
And search on for a sun to chase.

As for me I'll stand my ground
And each storm face (though hard it be).
For through it all the Son shines bright -
I know it is God's plan for me.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Time to transition

Greetings from Santiago Atitlan! It is a beautiful sunny morning
overlooking the amazing Lake Atitlan. We arrived in Panahachel
yesterday afternoon after driving through showers most of the
morning. It was still grey when we boarded the boat for the
cruise across Atitlan to the Posada (the hotel where we are
spending R&R). It rained a bit during the ride, but when we
arrived at the hotel it started to clear and by the time we had
eaten lunch and gotten our things put away in the rooms it was
nice enough for the students to swim in the pool and sit in the hot
tub and sauna. The question of the day is: how many gringos fit in
a 4 person Guatemalan hot tub? You don't want to know the answer... ;-)

Our last day in San Marcos was a good day for all of the teams. The
medical team spent the day in s small village outside San Marcos.
Between the dentists and doctor we served over 200 people. The day
started out sunny but quickly changed to rain. In the end this was a
blessing because it kept the clinic cool and allowed the students to
maintain good energy levels. Childrens and mime also had good service
days. They were able to complete their one outdoor appearance while
the weather was good, and all the other locations were indoor so the
rain did not prevent them presenting the gospel message to scores of
people. The service team had the paint brushes out again. They
painted the entire house, inside and out, of a family that is part of
the host church's congregation.

For our day of of R&R we will spend the morning shopping in the market
in the nearby town of Santiago (about a 15-20 minute walk). This
afternoon we will spend doing some service team debriefing and just
relaxing around the hotel grounds. After dinner we will have a last
large group worship time. We want everyone to have a chance to share
what the trip has meant to them and to hopefully lock in the memories
in anticipation of re-entering their regular lives.

We will try to get some input from the students for a post later
today or tomorrow morning.

Hasta luego

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

San Marcos Day 2

Hello again from San Marcos. It is hard to believe, but today was our last day of service. Tomorrow we head out for 2 nights at Santiago Atitlan for some R&R. Everyone is looking forward to (hopefully) warmer and dryer weather and lower elevations. The two days here have been very productive, but the weather and altitude have made it a little more challenging. A sunny day and time to relax will do wonders for everyone.

One of the things we have done on the trip is have 'the word of the day'. The idea was to start each day with a Bible passage for the team to consider over the course of the day. With home stays we were not able to do it every day, but here are the ones we have done so far, in case you want to see what we have been using.

6/15 -- Romans 12:1-2
6/16 -- Psalm 118:24, Phillipians 4:4-7
6/17 -- Phillipians 4:12-13
6/18 -- Ephesians 3:14-20, 2 Corinthians 12:9-10
6/19 -- 2 Timothy 1:7-9, Galations 1:10
6/22 -- Matthew 6:19-21, 24-27, 31-34
6/23 -- Psalm 103

I did not have an opportunity to get input from students today, but the medical team compiled the following list they titled 'Praises about Guatemala':

* God has strengthened us all in ways that only he knows.
* His healing touch is with us and every person each student
and leader comes in contact with.
* Throughout the trip many children have stepped up and taken
* Over 600 patients have been given care and love by the team
* Dr. Byron sharing the Gospel with patients in Chisec
* medical team kids stepping up and praying and relying on Christ
completely for the words
* God bringing a really sick child to us for care
* Lifelong friendships formed with leaders and students and host
* Patients coming up to us with their families and thanking us
a day after their care
* Host families provided with strength and confidence from Christ
to share their faith stories
* Other OCA service teams having shared the Gospel with many people

More tomorrow!

San Marcos

Hello from San Marcos. We had a little technical issue yesterday so I have to re-post this. Sorry for the delay. Here are a couple entries from students and some pictures. I will post more later tonight to catch you up on today's activities.

Hey dad and mom sorry i haven't been writing on the blog. I'm doing well i haven't gotten sick or anything so thats good. That trip to Arizona to visit mark will be awesome! mime is really fun and our team gets along really well. today when we got
to san marcos we went to this park to perform but it started to rain so we had to leave cause nobody was there to perform to. but i have to go but i'll talk to you soon.
love, Jon Busch

heyo! Thanks mom and dad, nick and rach, I miss you guys a lot!! I've been staying with other families which is really cool. Sorry I missed Father's day, Love you dad!! I see lots of dogs here, but not as cute as Pooh!! I had like weird stomach
cramps early on but I adjusted quickly and I'm doing great! Thanks, keep praying for us down here. I haven't gotten worms yet so that's good ;) although I saw a patient who took off his boot to show me his :/ Alright love you all! Dios le bendiga! (God bless) ~Miss miss

*** Ma n Pa.
HEy whats up parents! How Anna do at the special olympics comp.on friday did she get gold?! Who all came from Montana? was it a good time? it has been a lot of fun down here the weather has been great i have a good tan goin i have not gotten sick yet but i do have an ear infection and cant hear out of my left ear but im takin meds. sry i havent been writtin cuz idk no time. but miss ya lots and pa i hope you had a great fathers day!! love ya Joel Lopez

Monday, June 22, 2009

One week completed!

Hello again from Guatemala City. Its hard to believe we have already been here a week. We just wrapped up a very rewarding two days of service in Villa Nueva. There were many people seen at the medical and dental clinics held in the host church (Iglesia Vida).church (Iglesia Vida). The mime and childrens teams perfromed at local parks the first day and then went to different churches on the second day.
At the second church of the day for childrens the rains came as they arrived - it was so loud on the tin roof that you had to cover your ears or it hurt. In spite of the rain there were over 200 children who came from the surrounding barrio and they had a great time. The service team spent the 2 days painting the inside of the host church. It is a converted lumber wharehouse so it was more high painting. This time they had good, sturdy ladders and so was not quite so adventurous. Last night (Saturday) the youth group of Vida Iglesia had a get together with out students and sang songs and played games and had a great time of fellowship. Jeremy had the opportunity to preach to the group and he did an awesome job.

Everyone was in homes stays here and I think they all had a tremendous experience. This is the first time Vida Iglesia has done this sort of thing and they were so excited to have gringos in their homes. They went out of their way to make the stays comfortable and to welcome us into their families.

This morning we attended the regular church service and then were back on the road. We went to a local sort of hospice. It is a residence for ill children who have no other place to go. Most of them are HIV positive, but there are some with other ailments as well. They veyr much appreciated the attention from the students, and I think the students were really touched to see how something as small as a hug or a piggy back ride could bring so much joy.

Tomorrow it is breakfast at 7:30 and then on the road by 8:30 for the 6 hour (Guatemalan time) drive to San Marcos. It is a beautiful drive through the highest part of Guatemala. Hopefully there will be a break in the rain so we can see the countryside. Some local friends from previous years (Luis and Immanuel) stopped by to visit tonight. It ws good to see them again. They said it has been rainy and cold in San Marcos - cold enough to have frost on the ground in the morning. So if that is still the case it will be quite a chanbge for us.

Thanks for your continued prayers. It seems that everyone is getting their plumbing back to normal so that is an answer to many prayers. We see God working every day and know that it is in part the result of your continued prayers. Thanks so much for your support. More in a day or so. (We'll try to get pictures on here one fo these days!)

Here is a collaborative entry from a group of the students:

Hola Familias y amigos;
Today we traveled back to the Missions Home from the church and home stays in Villa Nueva. Villa Nueva was a really cool place. So much different from Chisec. It's a suburb of a Guatemala City, so it's really busy and full of traffic and whatnot. From what I have heard,everybody had a great home stay and loved staying in Villa Nueva. The last thing we did was attend a a service lasting about 2.5 hours. On our way home We took a detour to a hospice for HIV patients and played with the children for about two hours. I really think they all enjoyed us playing with them. We once again went to the mall food court for dinner and now are back at the missions home for the night after a great day.

Happy Fathers Day from everyone :-)

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Three Days in Chisec Complete, Now to Villa Nueva

Good evening from Guatemala City! Today we drove through a gentle rain most of the day, coming back to Guatemala City from spending three nights in Chisec. At Chisec all of the teams worked hard. It was amazingly hot when the sun was out and quite humid so we went through a lot of water. It started raining yesterday and was still raining when we left this morning. It prevented us from being able to play soccer with the youth group from the Chisec church but we were able to finish the service work before the rains came.

The students and leaders are doing great. There are a few who are experiencing some upset stomachs and intestinal "processing issues", but so far nothing very serious. Please keep praying for good health for everyone as we continue to experience variable sleeping conditions and food. Tomorrow we will start service in Villa Nueva and go into new home stays. Thanks for your continued prayers. Here is a perspective from some of the students....

Mime Team written by CJ:
Hey all, overall, the mime is going very well. Prestly says 'hey mommy I miss you...not really :)' The whole team took a trip in the rainforest the other day, and the bumpy ride was fun and death defying, kidding, kind of. The reactions from the audience has been nothing but positive. Our pastor from El Salvador said he has seen changes in the faces of the audience, and some little kids cried when Jesus is crucified. Amanda says 'Mom I'm alive.' Some people on the team have had to switch roles and Steph Tebbe did very well when she was put on the spot. Very impressive. I guess I'm a really sweaty Jesus. My shirt is drenched every single time we perform, or just stand around. I am making less mistakes every time we perform. The restof the team is amazing, I couldn't ask for a better team. My stomach is mad at me, but besides that we're all good. A few sicklings is all. We were able to swim a few times which is so incredibly refreshing in this heat and humidity. Miss you family, friends, more than you know. P.S. Victor, Josh, Kike and William all came back!

Service Team written by Scott S.
Hey everyone! we are all having a great time here with everything we have been doing. Me and Jeremy stayed in a home and slept in hammocks outside under a tin roof while it rained every night and it was a pretty cool experience. communicating with all of the people is hard but we are definitely getting a lot of work done. In Chisec Andy, Jake, Nick, and I worked on painting the whole inside of the church and although a bit frustrating it was a good time. They were using some old paint rollers and using really watered down paint,and when brought out the fresh rollers and thick paint things really started to improve. many of the children that were hanging around in the church building picked up paint brushes and paint rollers themselves and helped us the best they could. it was really cool to see that. we also went with the childrens team for a little while and helped out with the kids. Many kids really enjoy throwing around the Frisbee! some of the locals helping out painting wanted to change the color of the paint and decided that adding gasoline was the best solution. it did change it a bit but it definitely changed the smell of the room. We made it work and got the church finished! also I was feeling real sick and after painting for a little while I felt like i had to throw up. so i ran to the bathroom quick and threw up a lot. after going back into the church i noticed that i didnt feel my retainer with my fake teeth in my mouth! so i ran to the toilet and had a very interesting time digging through a very dirty guatemalan toilet for my retainer. but i found them! with my bare hands. im feeling a whole lot better from that and now everyone is dealing with the usual guatemalan symptoms. its been a great time so far and we are excited to continue to work in the next city! its a lot of work but it is worth it and is a great time! we miss you all a lot! see ya soon. (leader's note - we will clean the retainer thoroughly before he even thinks about putting it back in!)

Medical Team written by Missy Vavra

Hola padres! (hey parents!) We just arrived back to our "home base" in Guatemala City after our three day stay in the town of Chisec. We had our first home stays of the trip and LOTS of different experiences that we have enjoyed sharing with each other at breakfast at the nice hotel where we were very fortunate to eat three excellent meals while there. Although everyone has pretty much experienced their own medical issues/ bodies adapting to the food and climate in unpleasant ways, lack of American plumbing has been significantly missed by all to say the least. We still have high spirits and have been able to share with each other the love we've experienced with the Guatemalans, with each other, and with God. His love has definitely been seen in incredible ways and it is so encouraging to hear how God has worked through us, despite the language and cultural barriers to share the love of GOd. The first day of the clinic was definitely overwhelming for us all. We were thrown into this city after a six hour bus ride of mountain roads and we were all a little mixed up on the time of day and our energy levels were out of whack but it was amazing to see how we pulled together and got right to work. There were already tons of people waiting in the church where we set up the clinic and so we got to work immediately. I was really excited to use my spanish that I've been studying for six years...little did I know, the people in Chisec speak Ketchi!! Luckily we had Chisecians who were willing to sit with us for hours in our makeshift intake area and pharmacy station to translate from Spanish to Ketchi (no english/spanish translators but enough of us knew Spanish to figure out a working system). By the second day, we were pros atrunning this clinic instead of it running us down. Team members who didn't know much Spanish, aside from Hola and me llamo, stepped in and took vitals for patients in intake and served as the walkers who walked patients from the waiting area to the doctor and from the doctor to the pharmacy, and also served amazingly well in the pharmacy filling prescriptions. The others of us who could make us of our spanish knowledge communicated with the translators and patients to obtain their symptoms and information about the patients. Working in the church, in the clinic, was a challenge, we all faced obstacles that we didn't necessarily prepare for but I think God had prepared our hearts for our service and we were able to help so so so so So many people it was incredible. We've grown quite close within our medical team and I think this was probably the hardest town considering the circumstances that we worked under (according to the students who went on this trip last year). Most of the patients we saw had worms and complained of stomach problems and rocks in their eyes. It was hard to see all the small children and infants who were dehydrated and some of the more severe cases, non responsive. We have been working with a dentist and his team of students who have been extracting teeth so that's really cool that we have the medical and dental resources to provide these people. I hope in the next town our prayer and teaching area of our clinic can work out, with the language barrier (ketchi/spanish) and lack of sufficient translators, we couldn't provide that part of our clinic which is the most important spiritual aspect of our service. We have adopted the phrase "Dios le bendiga" that we say (meaning God Bless you) to the people and they are very gracious and seem to understand that we are here to serve GOd.

Side note: It's really cool to see one of our leaders on the trip, Victor,from El Salvador, lead intense in-depth talks about God and his life with God and our lives with God and his message is all about the Bible and how to live essentially. The Bible is the truth, there is only one Christianity, one way, and that is all found in the Bible. So, as he has accentuated to us, ask yourselves "have you read today?" Parents, you can take on the challenge too, Christianity is a race, start running with your eyes fixed on Christ and start living the life that GOD has given YOU. =) Dios le bendiga!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Chisec, Day 1

Buenas dias! After spending the morning driving from Guatemala City we now have one day of service under our belts and the students have had a chance to put all they have learned into practice. We are in Chisec, Guatemala, up in the central highlands rainforest. It is quite warm and humid here - 'sauna-like'may not do it justice!

The students and staff were very excited to finally get to perform and get the medical clinic up and running. The clinic was set up in the church and will be there for the next two days as well. The church is a space about the size of 2 basketball courts, surrounded by brick walls and covered with a high tin roof. They are still finishing the building so the windows and doors are still just nicely shaped holes in the walls and the floor is dirt. We have the doctor see patients in a room in the pastor's house which is adjacent to the church and the dentists (4 graduate students and a supervising dentist) work on the covered patio. The team adapted their system to the facility and language challenges (most people here speak Kechi rather than Spanish so we need 2-step translations) and were running very efficiently. We'll get a count of the number of patients seen in the next update.

Mime and childrens went to a nearby park and performed for and played with a group of about 150 children of various ages. Even with the language difference the interaction has been very good. Last night both teams also did their program during a service at the church. Also at the service 2 of the students were able to give their testimony and Jeremy provided the message. It was a great way to end the first 'real' day of the trip.

Service team had a wonderful day of carrying things here and there and helping the local workers paint the walls of the church. They had an entertaining time with the handmade ladder and paint roller extension handles (long boards taped to the paint rollers).

All of the students and staff have the opportunity to stay with families here. As you might expect the accomodations are a little different than you would probably find at home. But they are having a good experience interacting with the host families and seeing what 'normal' life is like here.

Prayer requests:
1. Health: its hot and everyone needs to be drinking more water than they ever imagined. So far people are doing great and everyone is holding up well. Please pray that we are able to avoid any serious illness.
2. Energy: its hot and the sleeping conditions are not always ideal. Please pray that everyone will be able to get the rest they need to stay healthy and able to stay positively engaged in the trip activities.
3. Connections: we have and will be seeing lots of different people in lots of different circumstances. Please pray that God will touch their hearts so they are open to His message that we bring and also that we will be sensitive to their needs. Also please pray that we can communicate - the interpreters are great and many of the students are doing well with their Spanish but it is always a challenge, so please pray that God gives us the wisdom and ability to present the right message at the right time.
4. Team unity: Everyone is getting along very well, but as days go by and people get tired this may become more of challenge. Please pray that relationships between the team members stay positive and that those who may not be as strongly connected forge some strong connections.
5. Leadership: Our team leaders are doing wonderfully with the "flexible" scheduling. Please pray that they will be able to effectively manage their teams and not forget to take care of themselves.

Thanks for all your support!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Safe Travel

Well, we made it! It is sunny and warm here in beautiful downtown Guatemala City. Our flight down proceeded without incident. All the bags went through without any being overweight and they sailed through customs in Guatemala without anyone opening a single bag. So thanks for your prayers. One of our bags did not make it all the way - I'm sure it is in the capable hands of the Continental baggage handling service. It is one we don't need until later in the week so we are praying it will catch up with us.

We are staying in a missions house in Guatemala City tonight and then will get on the road at 5:30 in the morning for the 6 hour drive up to Chisec. We are praying for good weather (this is the rainy season after all) so we can see the beautiful country side and the drivers don't have a tough day. For now we are relaxing from the long day of travelling and preparing to start service. The Guatemalans and El Salvadorans who will travel with us are here so they are working with the teams they will be helping in order to learn the program and gets the students acclimated to hearing Spanish. Don't worry - we are going to bed early tonight so we will get everyone a little caught up on their sleep.

Thanks for your support and prayers. Everyone is excited to finally be here and be so close to getting to work. Pray that this level of enthusiasm will continue. Here are a couple pictures from today: students at the layouve in Houston, the Childrens team practicing one of their songs, and Medical talking through their strategy for the first town. Next update we will get some of the students to share their experiences.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Faith Encouraging Faith

What a powerful sendoff service tonight! One at a time each of the teams (Children's, Service, Medical, Mime) introduced themselves and shared a team verse and specific prayer requests. Then family and friends gathered around them to lift their prayers to God.

The Children's team led us in several lively children's songs, one in Spanish and one in English. The boys sure had some great energy!

The Mime team shared a powerful skit with us called "Forgiven." This team will be able to share the message of Jesus even though they might not speak the language.

We heard from Romans 1:11-12. "I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong— that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith." In the Phillips version it says, "...that each of us may be cheered by the other's faith." Pray that we might be an encouragement (due to our faith) to the people we meet, and that we too may be encouraged and cheered on by their faith.

Now off to bed for a few hours of sleep!