Monday, June 21, 2010


*This post has been sitting unplublished for almost a week as I have been trying to decide whether or not to share my thoughts here.*

With all that has happened in Guatemala since our time there in May, I think I completely skipped writing about some of the things that took place and a lot of what was learned during the trip. The short version - we learned that Pueblo Nuevo is a village divided (as are many other areas in Guatemala, around the world and even in the U.S.). The major cause of this division is religion. Like I said, it's a cause of division all over the world. The problem is that this type of division (well, any type I guess) wrecks havoc in communities and essentially keeps those that are living in poverty in poverty because it isn't likely that in a small village only a couple of people will break out of poverty while the rest continue to live in it. Focusing only on certain families over a long period of time would make no sense at all. Of course much of what has been done and will continue to be done has been with the families that attend Marco's church, but we are there not just to focus on one church family and each time we are there strive to work with more families than the last trip. You can't alleviate poverty without COMMUNITY development. Community is the key word. And you can't really start community development when a community is so divided that there is no trust within churches, not to mention no trust between churches of differing denominations and especially between Christians and people that are not Christians. For a year it feels like we have been gathering pieces of a puzzle. In May we were able to put many of those pieces together to realize that this is what it is like in Pueblo Nuevo. Families within the church do not trust each other. No church (or pastor of that church) trusts another of a different denomination. And there is absolutely no trust between Christians and people that are not Christians. In fact many that are not Christians have been ostracized so severely that they want absolutely nothing to do with anyone of the Christian faith.

What we learned in May isn't shocking. It is common, actually. It's hard to deal with. It takes a long time and a lot of work. But eventually when you continue to work to build and strengthen relationships, change begins to occur. I have heard it time and time again from people that have gone through this in just one area and those that have been working in the field of poverty alleviation for years. Their advice, "It seems impossible. Do not give up! You are only just beginning. This is going to take a while. Some people may not understand it. They may think that nothing is being accomplished, but what is being accomplished with every trip is bigger than you realize right now. Keep going. You are already starting to see hearts soften. God is breaking down walls that have been standing for too long and it is only the tip of what is to come. Those walls, the walls among families, within the church, between churches, they all have to fall before a unified wall can begin to be built. With every need that is met, every hug that is given, every time you are there, a wall is going to fall or at the very least be cracked. This may be just one small village in Guatemala, but never be broken down enough as to think that this one small village doesn't matter. It matters to Him. You know the families that you love matter to Him. You love them because of Him. Remember that and you will see the walls continue to fall and before you know it you will begin to see families living lives on the other side of poverty. And with that, your mission of orphan prevention will come full circle as fewer children will be left to live as orphans."

Oh how I cherish encouragement like this from people that know what it is like because they have lived it. Sometimes it does feel so overwhelming and so often I have no idea where to begin in even thinking about it all. We have to continue working to meet needs now as we focus on long-term poverty alleviation. But how can we focus on that when we can't even get some of the local pastors to meet with each other? For weeks my mind has been spinning with thoughts and ideas of how to bridge some of these issues. It feels easier to be able to meet with families that are not Christians than to deal with so much division between people that claim to share the same faith.

Yesterday in church as we continued our current sermon series, "Ephesians: God's Blueprint for the Church", I 1) wanted to climb under the pew to hide because I am guilty of so much that was mentioned and 2) because those notes are being tucked away in my Bible and will be traveling with me every time I go to Guatemala. The message yesterday was on Ephesians 2: 11-22.

I won't type it all, but I will copy part of it.

"Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household, but on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit." Ephesians 2: 19-22 (NIV)

We are all "fellow citizens and members of God's household". We are brothers and sisters in Christ. But how often do we not act as if we belong to the same Father? How often do we forget or ignore the fact that God loves each of us and He does not want to see us hurt each other? I will be the first to admit that this is why I wanted to crawl under the pew. It felt like I had the word GUILTY stamped across my forehead. I sat there asking myself, "How far can I sink back in this seat," as Mike Holmes, our Associate Pastor of Ministries, poured out a list of how Christians treat other Christians badly and how we are responsible for giving Christianity a bad image and often turning people that are not Christians away from faith. "Right here. Guilty! So horribly guilty!" Thank God for mercy and forgiveness. We are all guilty of this in some way, but it isn't comfortable (but it IS necessary) to have it put boldly in your face like this.

As Mike continued speaking, I began to think of how all of this relates to what is going on in Pueblo Nuevo. How Christians there are at odds with other Christians because of differences in beliefs and opinions. If someone worships differently than another, that is wrong. If someone wears pants instead of skirts or dresses,that is wrong. If someone allows their child to go to school, that is wrong. If you attend a different church, that is wrong. And if you are not a Christian, you might as well stay far away because there is no room for you to be a part of this community.

According to When Helping Hurts, poverty is rooted in broken relationships...with God, with self, with others and with creation. As I have said before, I believe that every Christian involved in any type of missions work (within the U.S. or internationally), which should be EVERY Christian and especially pastors and those that lead ministries and organizations should read this book. It is true. While we can spend time focusing on a number of types of poverty (material poverty being the first that most would think about), unless we get to the root of what caused that poverty to begin with, we aren't likely to see long-term success in any of our alleviation efforts. What is at the root of poverty according to this book, even if it is from generations long ago? Broken relationships. And the more you learn about poverty, the more you see...they are right on with their definition of it.

If we ever wondered just how severe poverty is in Pueblo Nuevo, we have learned that it is severe. This typical Guatemalan village is just like the rest. Some families have greater needs than others, but poverty is widespread and holds in its grasp every family there. There may not be children left abandoned on the sides of the road, swarmed by flies and starving to death, but poverty is very real here and if things do not change it will get much worse. But in order to change the future, we have to at least glance at the past and break through some of what has caused this division. Without some sort of unity, the alleviation of poverty community wide will be all but impossible to accomplish. We do not expect everyone to be best friends. There will always be differences in opinions, religion, etc., but working toward to the same goal with disregard to those differences is a must.

So how do we go about bringing unity to this area? How do we help bring unity to the Church (the body of Christ) when there isn't even unity in individual churches? How do we reach people that are not Christians when just the fact that WE are Christians has them on the defense because of how they have been treated by other Christians in the past?

The answer is simple. Mike repeated it several times and it will likely travel with me everywhere I go from now on.

"The cross levels division."

I love that statement; I just have to say it again.


That is the answer. We will not bring unity to Pueblo Nuevo. We may be used to help repair broken relationships, but the division that exists cannot be bridged solely by anything we can do.

All we can do is keep going. Keep following His lead and doing what we know He is calling us to do. Keep working and keep giving Him the glory for it all. In the end, He has this under control. The cross levels division and the division in Pueblo Nuevo is not an exception to that.

My trip dates have changed from leaving this Friday to leaving July 9. Another trip, another crack in a wall and hopefully a wall collapsed as we work to help families rebuild their physical walls.

We are blessed to be a part of what God is doing in this part of Guatemala. I pray that as we work to bring people together, that we ourselves will not be a hindrance in any way. It is so easy both here in the U.S. and while we are in Guatemala to look at other Christians and judge what they are doing or not doing and it is just as easy to judge those outside of the Christian faith. For the rest of my life my prayer will remain the same. The mistakes that we have made in the past are in the past. I pray for now and the future...

"May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock, and my Redeemer." Psalm 19: 14 (NIV)

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

2nd Annual AAB Yard Sale

Dana of Dana Scott Photography, with the help of Fellowship Church in Prairieville, LA has generously offered to help us with a summer fundraiser. Together we will hold the 2nd annual AAB yard sale at Fellowship Church on July 24, 2010. We may also have a bake sale and jambalaya plate lunch sale that day as well.

We are currently collecting items for the sale. If you are interested in donating items to be sold and/or supplying any type of baked good, please email me at terry (at) acrossallborders (dot) org.

We also need several volunteers to help us set up the evening of Friday, July 23 and help us work the sale all day Saturday, July 24. If you would like to be involved please email me at the above address.

Thank you to Dana and the pastors of Fellowship Church for working with us on this!

This summer is full of cool AAB fundraisers. In the coming days I will be giving details about our 2nd annual golf tournament and making an announcement about an exciting upcoming fundraiser that we are calling "Pennies for Pencils".

Monday, June 14, 2010

New Life & Peace Ministries

(Photo Source: New Life & Peace Ministries)

Across All Borders loves the mission of New Life & Peace Ministries. If you are even an occasional reader here you will know them by the name Rehoboth Children's Home. What most people do not know is that the children's home is one of multiple ministries directed by the Barbella's.

In addition to Rehoboth, New Life & Peace operates a church and two rehab facilities in two countries. Rehoboth has recently been blessed by a missionary that will be serving there for the next two years and one of the many things she will be doing is maintaining their blog. Please take a few minutes to visit their new blog, learn more about their ministries and become a follower.

I am so excited because unless plans change again at the last minute, which could be the case but I hope not, I will traveling to Guatemala next Friday and will be able to spend the afternoon at Rehoboth. I cannot wait to see the children, Chici and Victor and to finally meet Naomi in person, the missionary that has lived in Guatemala for a year and who's blog I have been following for that long.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Pueblo Nuevo Update

We were blessed this weekend by two friends in Guatemala that were willing to travel to Pueblo Nuevo to assess some of the damage and get a better idea of the immediate needs of families that we are working with there. A missionary that is serving at Rehoboth Children's Home for the next two years and the director of Rehoboth both went to Pueblo Nuevo and their reports have been more than helpful in making decisions on what needs to be done. (Thanks again to you both!)

What a blessing it was to hear that there is not as much damage as we originally feared. There is damage, some severe, but the situation could have been much worse and we are praising God for His hand of protection that covered the areas of Pueblo Nuevo and nearby Parramos. We are also thankful that those that had access to running water before the storm have had it restored since. While the initial reports were more alarming than our latest update, there are still needs that need to be addressed as soon as possible and we are working quickly to begin addressing those needs.

Homes of families that we have already spent time with have been damaged. Some have severe damage and it is just a matter of time before their entire homes are lost. We will do whatever we can to help them repair or rebuild their homes. Most of these homes are of families that are a part of the Tulio's church or children that often participate in the children's ministry.

There is another group of people in Pueblo Nuevo that are outcasts and are resistant to visits from the Church, wanting nothing to do with Christians. We have known about this group of families which are the poorest of the poor in Pueblo Nuevo for the last year and for that long we have prayed for a way to be able to reach them. These are the families that received the most damage and have the most immediate needs. Some of their homes are literally falling off of the side of the mountain due to storm damage. We have been told that some of these families do not have running water, do not have bathrooms and have no electricity. They do not allow their children to go to school and have no desire to hear anything about the Word of God. From what I understand, they have been ostracized by Christians in the community and rarely have contact with anyone outside of their personal secluded circle.

What is a ministry to do in this situation? There is only one answer.

This morning as I spent time in Romans 10, I read familiar words that reassured me that this is the path we are to be walking.

"How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!" Romans 10: 14-15 (NIV)

This brought me back to last night as I read the introduction to a "personal reflection series" by Beth Moore that I have wanted to do for some time, but until now have never made the time to do it. Her words struck me in such a way that I found myself crying and thinking how if I had to describe my feelings about the subject, I would not be able to say anything different than she did.

"That Son of His is the dearest thing in my whole life. I don't have pens or paper enough to express my gratitude for the privilege of knowing Him and loving Him. The little I know is so transforming and revolutionary to me that I yearn to know more. My chief request of God is that He will supernaturally flood my life with an unending, ever-increasing desire for His Son. Jesus is not only my delight; He is my safety. Loving Him with absolute abandon is no doubt in my own best interest. As one who has been delivered from a life of defeat and hidden self-destruction, my deepest desire for every man, woman, youth, and child is to find that love...Jesus is the most wonderful, most graceful, most exciting, most redemptive thing that has ever happened to me. He is my life. I cannot express on paper my love for Him. It is a love that has grown in incongruous bits and pieces, baby steps, leaps, bounds, tumbles, and falls...decade after decade."
Beth Moore, Jesus: 90 Days with the One and Only

I could not have said it better. I am so in love with Jesus that there is no way that I can remain silent when I know that there are people in Pueblo Nuevo (and around the world) that have never had the opportunity to hear about Him. Simply put, we could be like so many others and ignore the needs of these families in Pueblo Nuevo or we can take this time to minister to them through acts of love. From the beginning of AAB and for the rest of my life I will continue to say that we cannot do just one or the other. We cannot share the Gospel and ignore the physical needs of those we work with and we cannot meet physical needs without making Christ known and giving all of the glory to God. Jesus did both. So will we. My heart is broken by the fact that these families are struggling in a way that is not comprehensible, but even more broken by the way they have been treated in the past. It is time to show them through our actions that being a Christian has nothing to do with hate. There could not be a more perfect time to reach out to them than this.

As with most disasters, plans often change quickly and we are delaying the travel of a team until after I visit Guatemala for a quick 2 day trip in the next few weeks to make sure that once our team is there, we will be allowed to work in this part of the village in addition to the part of Pueblo Nuevo that we are already familiar with. Please pray with us that hearts will be softened and opened so that we will be allowed to work with these families that until now have been resistant to visits from Christians and for all families that continue to struggle with the aftermath of Agatha. Damage throughout Guatemala remains a huge concern and we are praying for every person that has been touched by this disaster.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Shipping Items to Guatemala

For the last week I have been working non-stop trying to figure out how to best help the village of Pueblo Nuevo and other areas of Guatemala that are struggling with the destruction caused by the eruption of Pacaya and tropical storm Agatha. The majority of people have no idea the extent of damage that was done and the extreme conditions people are living in so raising much needed funds just to provide emergency relief has been difficult to say the least. AAB is not the only ministry struggling with this. I have spoken with many other organizations over the last few days that are also having a difficult time meeting the immediate needs of those they serve in the communities they are committed to because they are finding it difficult to raise financial support. My discussions with them is for another post. All I can say now is that I love hearing the hearts of others that feel the way I do and I know that just like mine, their hearts are breaking with each passing day that they are not able to do more for the children and families that they personally love so much.

Between endless phone calls and emails, trying to raise money for basic needs like food, water, medication, home building supplies and all other necessities, I am trying to respond to a growing number of emails and Facebook messages asking if we are accepting donations of items such as clothes, shoes, blankets, food items, medication, etc. We sincerely appreciate the offers of these items that are, indeed, needed in Guatemala perhaps now more than ever, but we are unable to accept those items at this time. This is why...

We understand the desire to want to physically shop for items for the people of Guatemala. To want to clean out your daughter's closet and donate her outgrown shoes and clothes. Who would not feel good about packing a large box of supplies and sending them to Guatemala knowing that those items will be received by someone in need. Even I have done it in the past before realizing how much damage that can do to a community that is already in extreme poverty. I am not one to intentionally offend people and I know that I will likely receive emails or comments about this from people that disagree, but for the love of Guatemala, I think it is time to get as real about this as possible. I am far from the only person that feels this way, but until now have kept my strong feelings to myself. At this time, when there is so much devastation in Guatemala, I believe it is time to make clear just how much damage can and will be done by shipping items to Guatemala. I know that there are some groups that are already planning shipments and I commend them for their kindness and wanting to help, but I beg you...please consider what could really happen if shipments like these continue arriving in Guatemala (and in other poverty stricken countries).
It costs money to ship things to us and then a lot of money for us to get those items to Guatemala, either in excess luggage or in shipments. I want to show you exactly how much more can be done with all of those shipping fees if they were turned into monetary donations instead and tell you what happens to people in countries that we love so much when large shipments supplies arrive.

For the $20-$25 it may cost you to ship this box (the last USPS box we received cost $25.01 to ship) that includes a few pairs of shoes, underwear, socks and 10 stuffed toys.....

We could fill a reusable bag with enough masa harina, black beans, rice, consumme, salt, sugar, pasta, oil, potatoes, oranges, bread, cookies, oatmeal and laundry and dish soap bars (all basic items for making typical meals of torillas, rice and beans and some extra "goodies") for a family to have one meal a day for about 3 weeks.
(Photo of just some of the food bags we distributed in December 2009.)

For the nearly $50 that it costs you to ship this box (the last UPS box we received cost $46.11 to ship) filled with 15 pairs of toddler shoes, a couple of blankets, toys, school supplies and other items to us...

We could provide a family with a water filter that is capable of producing 10 gallons of clean water every day.

(Photo source:

For the $300-$400 PER BOX that it costs to ship all of those items to Guatemala...

(Photo Source:

We could provide at least 2 families with stoves just for the cost of ONE box ($150 per stove). So far, each shipment we have made has consisted of multiple boxes which could have resulted in a large number of families receiving stoves so that they no longer have to use...

(Photo source:

...these. This is the way most families in Pueblo Nuevo and many other families in Guatemala are forced to cook. These are usually found in their homes in front of walls and under tin roofs covered in black soot. No wonder many women have a cough that never fades and worsens over time. I can only imagine the illnesses that spending so much time cooking this way causes.

(Photo taken by Dana S. during our Oct. 2009 mission trip.)

Instead of spending hundreds, often thousands of dollars shipping things to Guatemala, we could build this, a stable home, for approximately $2000.

(Photo source:

All of this could be done with just the amount of money spent in shipping fees.

But why should we NOT ship items to Guatemala or anywhere else where poverty is an issue? The needs are great. People need shoes, clothing, blankets. Children need school supplies. Because sometimes, as I have said before and will never stop saying, sometimes when we think we are helping we are actually hurting the people that we desperately want to help.

In Guatemala and around the world, we can purchase shoes. We can purchase clothes. We can buy school supplies. And for the most part, while they may not be name-brand shoes and they may be second hand clothes, it costs less for us to purchase them there that it does to ship them there. There are places in Guatemala where I can buy shirts for 3Q and on ever corner there is a stand selling shoes for 20Q. There are piles among piles among piles of underwear and socks for sale in markets for very low prices. Much lower than the cost of shipping those items. And every time we purchase some of those items in Guatemala, someone makes money. Someone is able to provide food for his family that night. Someone is able to take their child in for medical treatment.

But what happens when Americans send boxes and boxes of supplies that are needed, but could be purchased in Guatemala? We destroy local businesses, we take incomes away from workers that count on their jobs to provide for their families. We close shoe stores because of the number of shoes we distribute. We close clothing stores because who want to pay for clothing when they can get it for free from us. We close those store fronts that sell very inexpensive school supplies. We create beggars. We ruin jobs. We end the availability to adequate medical care. We end the chance for children to receive an education. We create orphans. We could easily destroy lives in the long run.

I know it sounds harsh. I know it sounds almost unbelievable to hear that our well meaning intentions could cause such damage to people's lives, but please think about it. If we spend so much money shipping items to Guatemala that could be used to provide food, water filters, stoves, homes, medical care. To help create jobs, enroll children in school and establish programs that will impact entire communities for generations, shouldn't we re-evaluate just how important those few items that are packed in boxes really are and how much more could be done if we just donate the money to a ministry or organization that is working to alleviate poverty so those items will no longer be a need? And if our distributions of shoes, clothes and home items takes even one sale away from local vendors and artisans which causes them to not be able to care for their families which quickly puts them in the cycle of poverty, shouldn't we stop doing such distributions and start making those purchases in-country instead?

To prevent children from becoming orphans, we have to alleviate poverty. Poverty alleviation IS orphan prevention! It is not an option. The orphan crisis will continue to grow unless we start REALLY thinking about how we contribute to the crisis by trying to help in these ways. We cannot alleviate poverty by ending jobs. We have to create jobs and that doesn't happen by wasting money on shipping fees and handouts of items that can and should be purchased in country.

Even now in the aftermath of Agatha, emergency relief supplies, shoes, clothing, blankets and every thing else that is needed can and should be purchased in Guatemala. Now more than ever we cannot take away income from families by purchasing items here and shipping them there. AAB is working to be able to provide families with their immediate needs of water, food, medical supplies/care and home repair as emergency relief. Once the needs of families in Pueblo Nuevo are met, we will return to plans of development as we work to alleviate poverty in this area.

This is an ongoing debate in the field of missions and I know that some people reading this disagree, but I ask you to please think about it before becoming angry and bashing me for my opinion of this. Do you really want to help the people of Guatemala? Or anyone in the world living in poverty? Helping long term goes far beyond giving them a pair of shoes because those shoes are going to wear out quickly. What will he do then?

If you agree with this, take the money that you would have spent on shipping items and donate them to an organization that has the mission of poverty alleviation. As always, we welcome your donations as we work to provide relief to the village of Pueblo Nuevo and move back into the development phase (poverty alleviation) to ensure that fewer children in this generation and those to come become orphans. We want your support. We need your support. Not for ourselves, but for the same people in Guatemala that your hearts are broken for. We all want what is best and we want to see them live the lives that we are all meant to live...lives that bring glory to God. Imagine how much glory He receives each time a person is able to step of the bondage of poverty. When he is able to provide for his family without the assistance of foreign aid. And imagine how much glory He receives when He uses us to help them to do that. Lives are changed. Ours and theirs. It doesn't come from handouts and even in disaster, when distributions are necessary, it doesn't come by having your income taken by outsiders carrying in boxes of gently used shoes.

Please continue to pray for the people of Guatemala and those of us that are working on multiple ways to bring assistance to those in need. And please pray for wisdom to know the best way for YOU to help.

Thank you to those that have donated financially this week and to those that have offered to help in every way. Thank you to those that have offered to donate items to ship to Guatemala. I know your hearts and love the hearts of every person that has offered to donate items. It is so hard to know the best way to handle situations like this unless you have spent a lot of time on the ground learning about what works and what doesn't and researching every aspect of poverty alleviation. I do not have the answers to it all. I never will. But I do know that some things work better than others and sometimes we have to swallow our pride and realize that what we've been doing is hurting those we love.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Relief Team Needed to Travel Next Week

We are currently forming a relief team to travel to Guatemala as early as next week. Right now we are hoping to be in Guatemala June 12 - 17. These dates are subject to change.

The mission trip fee for this trip is $985. This includes lodging, in-country transportation, travel insurance and dinner each night. Airfare is NOT included and it is the responsibility of the team member to obtain his/her own ticket.

If you are interested in this trip, please email as soon as possible. As soon as we have enough interest, we can finalize the trip date and make reservations.