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.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Reflecting on God's goodness

"Let making disciples be the song of their lives."
- Pastor Mark describing his prayer for Wooddale senior high students.

The final days in Guatemala are a time for rest and reflection before returning to our homes in Minnesota. The ministry staff provides this important opportunity for students and leaders to process what God is teaching them and how they can act upon what they learn.

During the trip, the ministry teams were accompanied by local evangelists and translators who helped the teams share the gospel during outreach in the community. These local missionaries also contributed valuable teaching to the students.

For example, William, a missionary from El Salvador who accompanied the mime team, also taught Thursday evening on Daniel 3, the account of Daniel's three friends being thrown into the fiery furnace for their faith and yet being protected from harm by a fourth person in the furnace with them. A reason for coming to Guatemala was to prepare ourselves for the fiery furnace. Students were challenged to consider whom they were when they came to Guatemala and whom they will be when they leave. William has been part of Wooddale's senior high mission trip to Guatemala for more than 20 years and continues to pray for our students from those trips.

Another Wooddale Global Partner, Chris Erickson, taught the evening before on the glory of Jesus Christ in Hebrews 1:1-3. A theme throughout the teachings has been to remind students of the need to be focused on whom God is, learning from his Word, and relying on the Holy Spirit to guide us.

After time for reflection along the shore of Lake Atitlán, and part of a day in Antigua, the colonial capital of Guatemala, the team is ready to start its journey home.

We look forward to sharing with you what God is doing in Guatemala and how he is changing us to be equipped for his work. Please join us Sunday morning at 9:45 for a celebration with the OCA team, the Chicago urban mission team, and the Project Colorado team. We'll meet in the Hillside room.

Thank you for your prayers!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Embracing the Unexpected

Sunday marked our one week anniversary in Guatemala. Every day has brought with it both blessings and challenges as God reveals himself to us through situations great and minute. Often these situations at first appear to be obstacles, but each has resulted in rewards far greater than anything we could ever have planned on our own. For the sports and drama team, this was never more true than in our two service outings Sunday.

Our first game was in the small mountain town of Ixchuan, located one and a half hours away from our base in San Marcos. We wanted to get an early start because of the distance and asked the kids to be ready to go by 7am. Well, we are in Guatemala and pretty soon 7 turned into 8 turned into 9, and we didn't end up leaving until close to 9:30. The late start was frustrating, but didn't change the view we got to experience. As we drove up into the
mountains, we were gifted with an awe-inspiring glimpse of God's majesty: around every corner were farmers tending to fields of corn and families gathering in the streets, all to the backdrop of towering green mountains and cascading tree-filled valleys. It was breathtaking, to say the least; the manifestation of God's creativity and power shown through vegetation and wildlife.

We arrived to an extremely warm welcome. The pastor of the church hosting us had put up fliers advertising our game and outfitted the arena--a large concrete basketball court/soccer field located in the center of the city--with a sound system which he used to blast Christian music and call out to people to come watch our game and drama.

People started trickling in as we started playing, and soon the stadium was full. Little boys in leather cowboy hats perched on the walls, women in traditional skirts and blouses huddled together gossiping and giggling--it was a colorful, beautiful sight. The weather was perfect for soccer: sunny and cool with just a slight breeze. This, too, was an example of God's grace: Ixchuan is more than 7,000 feet above sea level and is the only place in Guatemala that gets snow. Way up in the mountains--indeed, the clouds--it is the closest to heaven I have ever been.

Our typical audience for the drama up until this day had been school groups ranging in age from 10-17 year olds, so we weren't sure what to expect reaction wise from this mixed group. But as soon as the kids introduced themselves and began the drama, I knew God was at work and the Spirit was moving, because instead of giggles and chatter there was silence and concentration. This continued through Otto's sermon, and lasted all the way until we finished our pick-up basketball game.

Since we got a late start we didn't have time to return to the church for lunch, so we ate with the pastor at a local restaurant. Through Carlos' translating, the pastor showered us with words of encouragement and thanked us over and over for "blessing his community with our presence." His gratitude and humility mirrored the attitude of almost every Guatemalan we'd encountered over the past week. Everyone has been so eager to serve us, for no other reason than that they have servant's hearts. It is an attitude that I admire greatly and something I admittedly lack; one of the many things I feel God calling me to change in my own life back in Minnesota.

Our second location was in a covered arena with TURF! I emphasize this because up until then we had only played on makeshift fields of concrete and cobblestone. The minute we got inside, it started pouring. (Remember, at this elevation we are literally in the clouds, so when it rains, it really rains.) As we set our things down, we realized that we once again were faced with a unique situation: there were only 21 guys there, ages 13-20, and because it was Sunday and we were in an enclosed location, we couldn't reach out and draw in people to watch. Not only that, but on our way to the field we'd run into a funeral. Funerals are public occasions here, and we saw everyone from the town pouring from houses and stores to join in the procession. It was yet another opportunity to embrace an obstacle and choose to call on the Spirit to guide our ministry.

We knew it would be awkward to do the drama for such an intimate group, so we started praying and brainstorming different approaches to sharing the Word. We decided to sit in a circle and get to know the boys we were playing. So we gathered everyone up, passed around the microphone, and shared our names, ages, and favorite colors. That broke the ice for Blake and me to share our testimonies, as well as for Carlos to share a message. Because we were allowing the Spirit to lead us into this unknown territory, Carlos was able to expand his sermon to include more than the usual five minute talk about heaven being a gift that we have to choose to receive, and how we are all sinners in need of a Savior. He used the extra time to also weave in the story of how the funeral had delayed us that afternoon, and how that is a metaphor for life: we have no control over our lives, and when obstacles pop up only God can help us overcome them. He also shared with them that we recognize life isn't easy; that abuse and peer pressure and anger and hurt are prevalent in this world, and that choosing a life with Jesus doesn't erase these things. But it does give us hope, and hope never fails.

As Otto prayed with the group, it wasn't clear how they were reacting. There was a pastor from the town there with us, and as we went back to our respective sides, I saw him talk with the boys and then talk with Brenda. I didn't think much of it and the rest of the afternoon was spent playing and loading up the bus.

Usually we spend the ride back decompressing and relaxing, giving the students a chance to talk with one another. But this time was different. As soon as we got on the bus, Otto shared with us what had happened behind the scenes that day. In the first town, the pastor had told Otto that some of the people who came to the game had never heard the gospel before, and that our drama had reached them and impacted them in a way he never could. And while I praise God for that, it was at the second place where the Spirit was moving in the most awesome, powerful ways.

During the second half of our game there, the pastor had told Brenda that all of the boys who had showed up to play that day had accepted Jesus as their savior--ALL of them. He said they'd been so impressed by our willingness to come to their country and play their game that they had opened their minds and hearts to our message. Usually we use soccer as the icebreaker and the drama as the message, but on that day in that place, the Spirit had called us to change our strategy and trust His plan to grow the Kingdom. On that day, God used us as His vehicle and showed us that even in times of uncertainty, He is all knowing, all powerful, and alway present. His plan is so much greater than ours, and when we are willing to submit to Him and His will, miracles do happen; there's no other way to explain that happened in the hearts of those 21 boys that afternoon. And for that, we praise God. To Him be the glory forever and ever.

--Ellen Burkhardt, Sports and Drama co-leader

Location:San Marcos, Sunday, June 16

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Eagle's Nest - 3

Eagle's Nest - 2

Man and his grandsons with their medicines and vitamins from the clinic.

The Eagle's Nest, Sololá

Today (Tues) the OCA team traveled from San Marcos to Sololá, a community overlooking Lake Atitlán. The lake is surrounded by volcanoes and small villages. In the afternoon, Pedro welcomed the group to the Eagle's Nest, a children's home established at the site of a previously run-down and bankrupt country club. Today, orphans and children in need of a safe and caring family live at the Eagle's Nest with 14 mothers and 2 fathers who raise them as their own.

The OCA teams spent the afternoon serving in areas organized by Pedro and his staff:
- Children's team played with the children and helped feed the toddlers; "They wanted love, so we gave them love." - Brooke N.
- Medical team opened a clinic on the campus and saw staff workers and children; on Wed. morning they will be open again for business.
- Sports/drama team went into town and had a 90-minute soccer game on a full-size field 11-vs-11 against the local elite team; they shared the gospel and seven of the Guatemalan team accepted Jesus as their Savior.
- Service team painted and moved dirt by wheelbarrow to reclaim a landslide area.
- Mime team divided up and joined the other teams in serving in their areas.

After the evening dinner, the group worshipped, prayed together and shared highlights of recent days, recognizing God at work in and through us.

Wed. morning the Mime team and the Sports/drama team will be presenting to the school on campus. The school includes students who live at the Eagle's Nest as well as students from the community.

Student view

Hey readers! Gosh, this trip has been SO eventful! Sorry for waiting so long to make an entry.
It has been such a blessing to be on this trip again. Everywhere we've gone i've felt right at home remembering last year.
God has been so good and powerful these past days, showing his love and strength in all that I have been a part of. It has been surreal being on the mime team and being a tool in God's plan in bringing people to Christ and sharing the good news.
I honestly don't want to leave Guate (sorry parents); I have made some great friends here, the scenery is beautiful and the whole OCA team is so wonderful to me. We just left San Marcos about an hour ago, and if it was possible I would have hidden in a room and stayed there indefinitely, it was so hard to say goodbye (though the twins reassured me it was not a "goodbye," but "hasta luego" - see you later). I'm really considering coming back as a leader, or studying abroad here.
God has been blessing me so much, teaching me with every step I take and every performance i am a part of. As we head to the orphanage, I cannot wait to give the children there one of our best performances yet.
I still don't feel I can fully express this great love and hope He has been giving me. Somehow He has revealed himself so strong and beautifully, and I feel so at home here. I can't thank you all enough for your support and prayers for this trip.

keep us in your prayers that we all will keep a servant mind as our strength wanes and R&R is nearer, that we see God in new ways every day, share His love, and allow Him to continue to work in and through our lives especially as we grow in fellowship and community in this last few days.

Lots of love,

P.S. Daddy, thank you so much for everything you do, you have been so good to me and have gone to such lengths to make my life better. Happy late fathers' day. LOVE YOU!!!!

Isaias 40:28-31
2 Timothy 4:16-18

Demolition work in San Marcos

The Service team spent another day working on a demolition project at the home of Pastor Neri of our host church in San Marcos. The house is located on an acreage outside of town. Pastor Neri dreams of building a home for his church on the property, along with a medical clinic. The church is ministering to children, young mothers and gang members.

One large project was to disassemble a clay tile roof and rafters on an adobe mud brick building. A concrete overhang proved to be a difficult part of the structure to remove. But the team finally pulled down the wall with the help of Pastor Neri, a small but strong man who represented Guatemala in the Olympics in Los Angeles in 1984 and in Seoul in 1988 as a weightlifter. Pastor Neri has often used sports in his ministry to reach people with the good news of Jesus.

More student observations

Hey guys! Guatemala is gorgeous and God is doing crazy and radical things. Thank you for all of the prayers because lives are being won here in Guatemala and people are coming to know Christ. San Marcos is the sickest place in Guatemala and it stinks we have to leave tomorrow. We will see all of you soon and have really cool stories! Shout out to mom and dad i love you.
-Alex O

Hi mom and dad, I love you!
- Ben A

hey mama and dad and of course my favorite sister ever!!! i am having such an awesome time and i am so excited to see you guys soon! right now we are going to our work site and going to demo it! love you bundles and am so excited to see you! oh and thank you sooo much for the letters mom and dad! ps tay thanks so much for packing those really good smelling dryer sheets...i need them :) see you soon happy late fathers day!
-amalie h

hi mom and dad!
Miss you guys and Emily so much! I'm having an amazing time in Guatemala and I can't wait to tell you all about it! thanks so much for the letters. I almost started crying when I read them:(

Dad, Happy Fathers Day!!!! thanks for being the best Dad I could ask for!

Love you all,
hannah s

Okay hello again family. Just a little side note: If you plan on going grocery shopping before I get back, Nutella and some bread to smear it on would satisfy my chocolate deprivation immensely. Also, you could bring a burrito bowl with chicken, fajitas, cheese, corn, and guacamole to the airport. It closes at ten... Love you all hope you're having a great day. I also hope you're actually reading this blog because if you aren't then this is kind of awkward.
tammi l
p.s. tell my sisters that their letters made me cry and I can't wait to have a sister play date
p.p.s GIVE STUART A HUG FOR ME. I miss him so much you don't even know.

hi mom and dad!!! I miss you guys SO much!! Your letters made me cry and I can't wait to see everyone! Tell Cocoa and Chanel hello for me! Being on the medical team has been really awesome, today during teaching and prayer (which is where we teach the guatamalens basic hygiene and pray for them) I got to witness a 14 year old girl accept Christ into her heart! It's a really amazing experience to see how we impact others and are able to change people's lives forever. Also HAPPY FATHERS DAY DAD!!!!!! Love you so much and I hope you had an amazing day! Mom, I miss your TLC and daily back scratches so be prepared!:) love you!
p.s.: As tammi said above, I am super chipotle deprived and having a chicken, lettuce, white rice, cheese and guacamole bowl after my long plane ride would be AMAZING. (it closes at 10)
love you guys!!!!!!
-Kara H

Mom & dad ,
Im really loving guat.. I found some really good tea, well ok it was given to everyone at dinner one night and since then we've all kind of gone whacko with it. I might of had 8 cups today.... (I'm pointing this tea addiction at you dad!) the coffee here is super good , you would like it mom it's pretty sweet. Today I got to sit in on a procedure involving the removal of a cyst. Super cool but it broke my heart bc the girl, while she was under meds, could still feel the pain and was crying. I then came out to prayer and teaching and got to see a 14 year old girl accept Christ into her heart. That hit me really hard , it was a really powerful moment, i'll tell you more about it when i get home. Lets just say Oofta my heart.
Loving hard on you both in guatemala.
Say hi to the rest of the fam for me.
Emily B
ps do you want anything from guatemala? we shop on one of last days.I already planned to buy a few specific things.
pps: if its not too much trouble I've been having major cravings for chipotle and chocolate (like you don't even understand). soooo chipotle closes at 10 pm..... my order: chicken burrito, white rice , guac (yes it is extra but essential!... :D ) , lettuce and cheese w/ lemonade or that grapefruit drink. ppps: dad this is not only addressed to mom , if you pick me up please come bearing burrito goodness. pppps: dont forget chocolate! ppppps: I LOVE YOU GUYS (main point of message ... i got off topic... again with the cravings)
pppppps: shout out to keelys mom: med team rocks!

Hola Larry,Jill and Steph,
Missing you lot's and really wish you could be here with me experiencing all that God is doing in and through us all in Guatemala. Hope your fishing trip and Father's Day was great! Thank you for the awesome letter you wrote, brought me to tears in a good way. Praying for you all and hope work is going well and that summer has finally arrived! Looking forward to seeing you in less than 6 days now. Thanks to everyone praying for me and our team!!! God is Good Sabu :)

Greetings from San Marcos

happy fathers day daddy! love you tons. got your guys letter yesterday and was bawling for a good 10 min. not homesick dont worry, just really happy to hear from you guys. sooooo much to tell you all! taking tons of pictures. love you guys! -keely p

Hey guys! Guatemala is awesome and God has been stretching me in ways that I never thought possible. Only 5 more days here! I am going to miss the people and also their love for God. So pumped for another day of service!
-Nathan M

hola family!!! I got your letter yesterday afternoon and it made me cry! I miss you all sooo much and it was so good to hear from you guys. Today in Guat it is Fathers Day, so Happy Fathers Day dad!! I love you so so much and youre the best! I hope you and Nick caught a big walleye in the tournament! I feel so extremely blessed to not have gotten sick at all. However, my camera broke on the second day:( (Berit has me covered though:) I have tons to tell you about all my experiences. I am so happy to be right where God wants me to be and I absolutely love serving Him here. Hope all is well back at home.
love you!!! xoxoxo
Brooke N

Hi everyone!!! Mom, Dad, and Micah, I read your notes yesterday, thanks so much! Miss you guys but Guatemala is great (I promise I'll be on the return flight, even though I really don't want to come back yet...) Happy Father's Day, Dad, I love you so much! Thanks for being the best dad ever! Wish you could be here with me again! Keep us all in your prayers as we finish our last few days of ministry. Love you!
Maria B
P.S. Dad, Alex says hi :)

hola mom, dad, and ally! we received the notes yesterday and i was so happy to get to hear from you! i miss you so much, but the guatemalans are amazing! im enjoying getting to spend time with the kids; they are so welcoming to us and bond right away! the weather in san marcos has been great! even though im so excited to come home and tell you about all my new experiences, i will miss guat so much! keep me and the rest of the rest of the team in your prayers as we finish up our ministry and prepare to return home! love you so much and ill be back soon!
Maddie D

Hi!!!!! I got your letters yesterday Mom, Dad and Abbs!! They made my day! It was so good to hear from all of you! Guatemala is amazing so far! The children's team has been soooo much fun! The kids are all so cute and they absolutely love the show that we do for them! We are in San Marcos right now and it is so pretty! It is up in the mountains and the climate is perfect. I can't believe how fast the trip has gone by. I have been so blessed by my host families and all the kids I have met!
Hope Fathers Day was great Dad! Wish i could've been there to celebrate with you! Miss all of you and thank you for all the prayers!
Ellen W

¡Hola! Happy Fathers day dibby!!!!! I wish I could have been with you yesterday celebrating how awesome you are! I got your guys letter yesterday and it made my day! errrrrr :) Its gorgeous where we are now, it took like an hour to drive up the mountain to get here. Im continually amazed by the people, children, and passion here. I miss you all! hope everything is great back home. love you!! ~ Berit A

¡Hola familia! I got the letters yesterday... I was a wreck when i saw the picture of Stuart because he's so adorable and I can't wait to squeeze him!!! I'm currently sitting in the sun looking at a mountain. So yeah I can't wait to see you all and eat some chipotle when I get home. Hope you're all having a good summer so far. Tell Kyle I liked how he signed his letter with "meowist" adios see you in a few days
p.s. happy fathers day Mark!
Tammi L :)

Hi Mom, Dad, Cole, Blake. Thanks for the letter. I am having a great time and seeing God work here in Guat. I can't wait to tell you all about it. Love you!
-Emily H

Monday, June 17, 2013

Service team - 3

Service team - 2

Service team in San Marcos

San Marcos

Happy Father's Day from all of the team!

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Medical team - 3