Tuesday, July 21, 2009

What can we do to help?

Now that we have returned from Guatemala and are preparing for our October and December trips, some people are asking about ways they can help. There are several things that can be done and many things that we need in order for the next two trips to be successful.

We are in need of people that are willing to donate $30 for family food baskets that will be distributed in December. You may purchase a basket online (please see the sidebar) or by mail (checks should be made payable to 'Across All Borders' and mailed to: P. O. Box 14086, Baton Rouge, LA 70898).

In October, we will be traveling to Guatemala as well as making a shipment to Guatemala for our December trip. The shipment will contain toys, shoes and school supplies. We are asking people to help us collect these items. Cleaning out your child's closet, passing on our information to your family and friends, holding a toy drive at your church or a shoe drive in your community and collecting school supplies, OTC meds and hygiene products will be a huge help to the people of Pueblo Nuevo. In October, we will be holding medical and dental clinics as well as working with the children's ministry to carry out Bible study, activities and meal distribution. We will be distributing OTC meds and hygiene products during that trip as well as treating a variety of medical and dental issues. If you would like to donate any of the below supplies for either trip, please mail them to: Across All Borders, P.O. Box 14086, Baton Rouge, LA 70898

-Shoes (new or used in good condition) for children and adults
-Toys (stuffed animals, games, soccer balls, toys that do not require batteries...NO TOY GUNS OR KNIVES, PLEASE)
-Socks (new or used in good condition) for children and adults (all used socks should be separated by gender in labeled ziploc bags)
-OTC medications (acetaminophen, pepto-bismol, cold medicine, etc.) for children and adults
-Vitamins for children and adults
-Hygiene products (toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap, shampoo, etc.) for children and adults
-Non toxic paint
-Art canvases in varying sizes
-Crayons and colored pencils
-Art paper
-Paint brushes and sponges

We will be holding a golf tournament on September 18. Additional information will be provided soon. If you are local, please consider participating in this event.

Registration for both the October and December trips is still open. We are happy that the October team is continuing to grow. Traveling with us does not require any specific past experience. This is a medical/dental mission so nurses, doctors and dentists are welcome to join us, but we can also use those that are not in the medical field. You can find out more information about this trip by clicking HERE. December's trip is short, but jam-packed. If you are looking for a very short short-term mission trip, this would be the best trip for you to register for as it is only Monday through Friday. We will be holding a Christmas party for the children of Pueblo Nuevo, distributing food baskets to local families, distributing toys and shoes and working on other projects. CLICK HERE for more information about the December trip.

Most importantly, we ask that you join us in praying for those traveling in October and December, for the people of Pueblo Nuevo and for upcoming Across All Borders events and decisions.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Gifts of Hope: Across All Borders Marketplace

We are excited to announce the opening of Gifts of Hope...the Across All Borders Marketplace. CLICK HERE to visit our new website and to purchase a variety of Guatemalan items. By purchasing these products, you are providing assistance to artisans living and working in Guatemala as well as AAB's mission of providing orphan care and family outreach to children and families in Guatemala.

Please feel free to share this through Facebook, blogs and email and grab a button for your blog by visiting the GOH: AAB Marketplace website.

Thanks for your support!

Friday, July 3, 2009

The Hardest Post to Write

As I was on my way to the grocery store today, I popped a Third Day CD in the CD player and turned up the volume. Tommy loves Third Day so he was happily "singing" in the backseat when "Cry Out to Jesus" came on. I have always liked the song, but for the first time ever today, hearing it made me cry. The verse that says, "He'll meet you wherever you are", is what got me the most as thoughts from our trip and of the people we have grown to love as if they are family came rushing to my mind. For a week I have put off writing this post because it will be the hardest for me to write and because I'm still not sure exactly how much I should share here. I started this blog with the intent of sharing as many details as I could about AAB and all that goes with it, but there are people that love to twist my words and use them against me. It hasn't stopped me from posting yet, nor will it ever. But there are things that happen to me, personally, as we go along this path that God has chosen for us and I know that so much of it could help someone else that is in or nearing the same place in life. How much of "me" is safe to share here? That is the question I ask myself often. Tonight I do not care about being "safe" and I do not care if any thing that I say is taken and twisted into something that it was never meant to be. Right now, I just want to be me...not co-founder and executive director of AAB, not Danny's wife or Tommy's mom....just me. So for a moment, if you know me, forget that you do. If you love me, pretend that you don't. If you dislike or hate me for any reason, lay those feelings aside. This is going deep into our time in Guatemala and deep into me.

"He'll meet you wherever you are."

Three very different families traveled to Guatemala together. None of us knew exactly what to expect and we all were bound to have different agendas on top of being there to assess for Across All Borders. One family was there so that they could show their children their brother's birth country and so that they could learn more about the country in order to be able to tell their son about it when he is old enough to understand. One family was there to try to figure out exactly what God is calling them to do in the field of orphan care and how to go about doing it. One family was there strictly because they are founders of AAB so it kind of makes sense that they would be there. All were there because they love Guatemala and it's people. All want to help in some way. Without going in to a lot of detail about these families that we love with our entire hearts, I will say that He will meet us wherever we are and I am certain that He met each one of us in Guatemala.

He met one of us in a tuk-tuk through a child that reminded us all that the trip wasn't about us, but about Jesus. A woman got into a tuk-tuk with a bad attitude and got out a few minutes later knowing that God had just used her son to speak directly to her.

He met one of us in an orphanage through the faces of precious children with special needs. Through her tears, it was easy to see that He was at work.

He met one of us in Pueblo Nuevo as we toured the village. For months there had been resistance and for days before his heels had been dug deep in it, but there was nothing that could keep him from being shaken that day.

He met one of us that was determined to talk to the children. As she kneeled to ask children their names and ages in a language that she could not understand, we all could see that this child has been called to do big things for the Kingdom of God.

He met one of us in an empty field while playing soccer with the children.

He met one of us each time a stray dog passed by.

He met one of us on a rainy Sunday morning and He gave him the courage to speak on His behalf.

And He met me...every night when everyone in the house was asleep. Sometimes it was midnight on the floor of the bathroom I found myself in in 2007 because it was raining and there was nowhere else to really get away. Sometimes it was in the middle of the night on the rooftop terrace after waking me up from a peaceful sleep.

I've learned this week, after blogging through each day of our trip, thinking about what all transpired and praying about too much to go in to, that for each one of us what happened to our hearts went far beyond what we had planned for AAB, our personal agendas and our expectations. God must have been laughing again as each stepped off of the plane with our plans and left Guatemala (again) knowing that our plans simply do not matter. I cannot speak for everyone, though I do believe that every single person there was in some way touched by the hand of God and I am certain that things were made a little more clear to us than they were before we arrived, but for me, as JUST me with no titles attached, my soul was rocked...again.

You would think by now that I would be used to this. That I would learn to set aside my plans and go along willingly with His. You would think that each time He speaks, I would listen the first time. And you would think that every time I'm given a revelation about something that should have been so obvious, but wasn't and every time I have what some people in our group call a "Terry moment" that I wouldn't be shocked...but each time, I am.

Oh, this is hard for me to write. Lord, be near me....

While we were in Guatemala I gave the impression to some people that the trip wasn't going well. I will never say that the trip was bad because it wasn't. In most ways it was a wonderful trip and I could not have asked for it to go any better. The purpose of it was served. We did exactly what we needed to do and are now prepared to start our true mission in Pueblo Nuevo. But I was not myself and while I regret that, it is something that I am trying to let go of. I do not know when it started, possibly when we first arrived in Guatemala, but I truly was not "me" during most of our trip. Add to that that I became sick on the second or third day (or was it the fourth?) and felt horrible for the remainder of the trip and I was FAR from being me. Who knew that I would return to Guatemala and end up being sad, a little upset and somewhat bitter...and that was not just while we were getting ready to leave. If you would have asked me before we left for Guatemala what first impression did I want to leave with people and what one thing I wanted people to think of me, I would have answered that I would want people to know, without a doubt, after first meeting me and spending a little time with me that I am a true Christian that is striving to live the life He gave me according to His purpose. Sadly, I do not think that is what people saw. I am sure that they saw someone that loves the Lord, but I am also certain that some people saw the very flawed and broken side of me...the side that I would rather hide from the rest of the world. They probably saw someone that can be too judgemental and too hard on people that do things a little differently. And they may have even seen someone that isn't as big hearted and generous as she would like to be.

So what went wrong with our time in Guatemala was more of a personal thing than anything related to AAB. I beat myself up so badly after realizations like this....that is something else I am working on since I know that my Saviour has already forgotten whatever it is that I did wrong that week. But it still hurts to know that I may have hurt someone's feelings and I may have given the wrong impression.

He still met me every night and every day, even though I was too busy trying to hear His words for AAB instead of listening to what He was actually saying to "me". AAB is not my Saving Grace. Whatever we do means nothing if we lose sight of Him along the way. His grasp is so tight and He is not leaving our side, but for a moment (actually, for a week) in Guatemala I became someone that I am not proud of and someone that I do not want to be and I am praying, always, that the lessons learned on this trip will last throughout my lifetime and that I will forever remember that when all else is gone and I am down to my final breath, it will be just me and God.....only me...the real me. Regardless of what anyone thinks and regardless of what I think, that's all it is anyway...every day of my life....every day of OUR lives.

He is constantly meeting us wherever we are...we just have to learn to listen and truly follow. I am so thankful tonight and always that no matter how many times He meets me in whatever place I am in, He never gives up on my stubborn, sometimes deaf, frequently blind, resistant self.

Final Days

We left Antigua Thursday afternoon and traveled to Amor del Nino, a children's home outside of Guatemala City. Amanda and I met Steve Osborn, one of the founders of Love the Child, at the Christian Alliance for Orphans Summit V in April. We are grateful that even though we were not there with a large working team, the Osborns allowed us to visit with them and the children. Many of their children have special needs and spending time with them was a blessing to all of us.

Friday morning, the Butler's went to tour Safe Passage and we (the Braceys and Salemis) spent the entire day with Steve. He picked us up and because we all wanted to be able to visit Safe Passage, he took us to the back part of the Guatemala City garbage dump. We traveled through a cemetery to get there. The closer we got to the dump, the more the look of the cemetery changed. Once there, we walked by graves that had been robbed (of every thing including the caskets) and were circled by buzzards. We stood there, overlooking the dump, for quite some time. I think we were all somewhat speechless about the sights below us. At times, you cannot tell the buzzards from the people...each is large in number and each hovers and waits for something "good" to arrive from the trucks that continuously roll in. As each new truck enters the dump, people surround it, trying to be the first ones to dig through it in hopes of finding something of value. People dig through trash that is already on the ground, as well. There is no way to adequately describe what it is like to watch so many people spend their lives digging through trash to survive.

We left the dump and went to Amor del Nino. For a while we played with the children, but mostly we just hung out with Steve, talking and listening. Actually, I spent most of my listening...it was probably the only time during the trip that I was quite. Steve is a wealth of knowledge about all things Guatemala and his testimony is more than inspiring. I found myself trying to soak in every thing he said. It was during our time with him that I began to feel better about our week and the things that had taken place. It helped to hear that someone like him had gone through difficulties in Guatemala. Every one that works in the missions field goes through confusing, hard times, but hearing detailed stories from others that have lived it and gone on to things that once may have seemed impossible helps tremendously. What we experienced during our time in Guatemala cannot be considered "difficult" compared to other stories that I have heard and even seen and we are bound to walk through things much harder to deal with than what we can imagine (it is inevitable), but I think hearing Steve's story, ideas and opinions will prove to be helpful in the years to come. We are incredibly grateful for the time that he spent with us and for his openness and honesty as we prepare to spend our lives working with the people of Guatemala.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Pueblo Nuevo - Day 3

Wednesday, what was to be our third day in Pueblo Nuevo, started out bad. I woke up dreading the day. I did not want to return to Pueblo Nuevo and after so long of wanting to be back in Guatemala and trying to figure out how to get there, all I wanted to do was go home. I sent an email to a dear friend that said, "Please pray....this is hard." The email must have sounded desperate because within seconds a chat box from her popped up. She said that she had been feeling all day as if something weren't right and was heavily burdened for me. She is one of those incredible friends that when she says she is praying, she truly means it, so I knew when she said she was praying that day she really was. I ended up calling her before we left for Pueblo Nuevo. I'm not really sure why I did...maybe because she has the ability to calm me down just by being on the other end of the line. Or maybe because she will be traveling with us later this year and I wanted her to know what was going on. Regardless of my reason for calling, she was as supportive as she always is and hearing a friendly, familiar voice that loves the people of Guatemala as much as I do, outside of those that were with us in Guatemala, meant a lot to me that day.

We arrived in Parramos to pick up the Tulio family and made our way to Pueblo Nuevo. The feelings were intense. The last time I felt that out of place was during my first few weeks in Antigua in 2007. As the children began to arrive, those feelings of doubt began to subside. We were unable to carry out our planned activity for the day, so after their Bible study we went to the field to teach them a new game (duck, duck, goose...which they had never heard of, but loved playing) and then returned to where the program is held for the big event of the day...pinatas. The children LOVE pinatas! I kept looking at these children....one boy did not participate in the activities because he just wanted to read his Bible. Another kept looking at the only child there with a Bible and I could see it all over her face....she wants a Bible, too. One child got hurt and another was quick to comfort her. And every one of them was hungry...even for a tiny piece of candy. While we were serving dinner, the answer to all of my questions were all around me. There were children there that had not been there the day before. Every child inhaled their food. Even though there are not enough spoons to go around and if you want a spoon, you have to hold on to your food until someone else finishes so that their spoon can be washed (in very unclean, unsafe water) for you, they could not even wait for spoons. Those without them dug in with their hands and ate as quickly as they could. We all stood there, watching them, unable to believe that these precious children had not eaten in God knows how long. There was enough food for each child to have a second helping so we began passing out food again. As we stood back and watched them eat again, as if they had not already eaten, I knew that no matter how uneasy I was feeling and no matter what doubts I was having or would have in the future, we were exactly where He wanted us and that even though I felt too weak to do any good in this village, He would make sure that His work is done...little by little, child by child, family by family.

After all had eaten, we went in to where church is held to give our children a snack from our personal bags. As we did, children began gathering around the door. They were still hungry. It was Amanda that gave the first cookies to a couple of the children. We all searched through our bags, taking out any kind of snack we had to share with them. We were somehow able to give every child something, whether it was a cookie or a cracker or a tiny handful of cheerios. We passed out snacks to child after child and I can't help but think that it wasn't an accident that morning when I loaded my bag down with more snacks than we would ever be able to eat in a day. Yes, this is where we were and are supposed to be.

Before we left, we had another brief meeting with the Tulio's, worked out a few misunderstandings, made it clear that we would be returning to Pueblo Nuevo in October, December and for a long time to come and then made our way back to Antigua. We all discussed what we felt that day and every one of us felt the uneasiness that I described, but at the same we all realized that uneasiness is not always a reason to put an end to something. We all left Pueblo Nuevo knowing that His plan is for AAB to work in and with this village for as long as it takes. We love the children and families of this village and are committed to them for as long as they need any type of assistance. We can't wait to return in October!

Another overload of out of order pictures....