Saturday, August 29, 2015

What if the Pastor Followed You Around? | Love Guatemala

As the campus pastor of a multi-cultural, English-speaking, post-modern, American-Style church on the outskirts of Guatemala City, I needed to invest more relationally with our team leaders. This is my approach...

No agenda. No talking points. No expectations. Just a shared day, me tagging along like a shadow, walking beside them in a day of their life. This is day two, with Ben Kunkel, director of Love Guatemala.

The contrast of red caught my eye against the bleak concrete floor. The red shoes were too worn to have their heels clicked together. The road had been followed and "no place like home" was tired commentary rather than promise.

At the foot of her bed was an old General mechanical sewing machine that reminded me of my Great-Grandma's Singer. I sat there in the dim light, breathing heavy and stale air as I remembered Grandma Elsie smoothly pressing that treadle as she guided material through the needle. I smiled. Her house was a lot like this one.

Things were piled up in that small space. I sat next to my friend, Ben as he listened to a story of lumps, a year long-wait for a doctor, surgery, biopsy, and now she must wait a month to learn the results. Tears flow unashamedly down her face as she tells us that she may be facing cancer. 

Above her bed hangs two small oil and canvas paintings. Her son painted one in a summer art program. The other was painted by her sister who attended that school. It's the school that Ben runs, Love Guatemala. We are here because she is studying in the cooking school there, and Ben is delivering a basket of food for her and her family. We end the time together in prayer.

There is hope in this heavy place. The paintings on the wall symbolize the bright colors of their lives that splash the promise of a better life for her children. Ben and his mission partner, Carlos are doing far more than teaching skills, they are walking beside families with sincere relationship, teaching them about the love of God, and providing generational change through education.

They began the day with teaching and worship. Carlos led his teachers in devotion, prepping them for a day of pouring into students. This critical moment sets the tone for the day. Love Guatemala is more than just a vocational school... it is a mission... it is about discipleship... it is a family.

My first stop inside greeted me with memories of shop class in high school. The smell of pine was in the air as the door opened and I could see uniformed young men cutting, planing, sanding, and finishing.

When I arrived we first visited the carpentry school. Ben and Carlos introduced me to Pedro, the teacher. Last summer Pedro and his shop built the drum shield for Journey Church. Their craftsmanship is solid and highly skilled. When the young men complete Pedro's 2 year program, they are ready to create their own furniture and have learned a meaningful trade.

From the rugged smells of a woodshop, a few steps down the central corridor brought me to our next stop, the Cooking School. We opened the door to see the ladies sliding sweet bread loaves into a heated oven. My mouth immediately began to water. 

The ladies introduced themselves to me, one by one, telling me their children's names, husband's names, and a few facts of their lives. Many of them told me how they want their children to have a better life than they'd had, and how faith in Jesus had given them hope.

Antoinetta is the master chef, teaching two separate groups of ladies, providing instruction with baking, candies, general cooking, and specialty pastries. The fondant work looks absolutely amazing! I expected Woody to jump up and yell for Buzz! 

Antoinetta told me that it is a great joy for her to volunteer her time to teach skills to the ladies that will enable them to start their own business, as well as invest into them through discipleship and relationship.

From the Cooking school, we once again made our way back into the central hallway, and I was greeted with a beautiful sight. The Art School was my favorite stop of the morning. 

Carlos and his wife, Thelma have placed color and creativity into the hands of these young men and women who bring light into dark places. The talent in this room felt inspired and perfectly at home in this school, on a majestic mountain that overlooks the capital city of this nation. 

I had to be nearly dragged from this room, and I will confess to making a purchase of a small canvas before leaving. There is just something organic and good about this young men and women capturing the beauty of their country. Our vision often directs our steps, and so... I think their steps should lead them to beauty.

This was the source of hope that shone in that little cinder block room where we prayed for a kind and brave lady who faces four weeks of laying awake at night, wondering if cancer is in her body. I remember the smile that broke out over her face and pushed fear out of the room as she talked about her sons who now have a better future. 

I know that Ben, Carlos, Thelma, Antoinetta, Rosario and Pablo will walk beside her. Their prayers of hope, peace, and healing lifted out of that room and were received by the God who created us all. He suffers alongside of us. He gives us a way. He gives us hope. Our praise lifts to Him. 

I give thanks to God for this experience today, walking a alongside my dear brother for just a few hours gave me such perspective for the scope of this ministry. No matter where you are, there are people to serve, to love, to just do life beside. We are called to bring solutions to the problems of life. Color to dark places. May our prayers rise to God like the fragrant smell of a sweet-cake from an oven. May we craft and build beautiful relationships. 

My purchases of the day:
Student Oil on Canvas by
Andy, and a water jug holder
by the carpentry school.
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