Friday, October 21, 2011

2012 Trips

As I am working on the big post with details about last week’s trip (I will try to get it up sometime next week), I thought I would share trip dates that have already been scheduled for 2012.  So far we are forming teams for March 12-17, 2012 and October 15-20, 2012.  Detailed information about these trips will be posted on the website in the coming weeks.  If you are interested in traveling either of these weeks or would like to form a team of 5 or more to travel any other week of the year (excluding Easter, 4th of July, Thanksgiving and Christmas weeks), email me at terry at acrossallborders dot org.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Different Worlds, Same Heaven

From the time I pulled into the parking lot on this bright, beautiful day, I knew it was going to be hard for me to get through.  Leaving Guatemala is never easy for me.  When the next day is Sunday and I have no time separating church there and here, it makes it a little more difficult.  Without early arrivals and long layovers it takes only 4 hours to get to Guatemala from here.  It’s just 1601 miles away.  I often wonder how so many different worlds can exist on one planet.  Different cultures I understand, but it seems as if we live in totally different worlds.  Just 4 hours from each other.

I get out of my car and walk into the church that I love so very much.  One of the first things I see is one of our team members surrounded by people intently listening to her.  She is talking about the trip and is already on the verge of tears as she was much of last week.  What a new experience this is for me.  What a wonderful one it is.  I never get to see team members right after a trip because they usually live in other parts of the U.S.  This was the first trip our church has joined with us to take.  She is so deep in conversation that I ignore the urge to move everyone out of the way to hug her and simply pat her on the back and keep walking to my class.

I’m late, but that’s OK.  Stopping to chat with people along the way wanting to know all about the trip is exciting.  Once in my class I sit next to another team member and open my Bible to what is already being discussed.  And that’s when I begin to get a little shaky.

The size of our ABF room is almost the size of the entire church in Pueblo Nuevo.  We have carpet and padded seats and tables covered with table cloths.  There are enough chairs for everyone.  No one is dirty because we all had access to warm showers this morning.  Our clothes are clean and are not torn.  There are purses hanging from the chair backs and wallets sticking out of men’s pockets and even if someone in the room was considered “poor” by U.S. standards there would really be no comparison to that which we just came from.  Everyone has a Bible or a Bible app and we can all read and write.

We are discussing Luke 19:11-27, the parable of the ten minas.  Rarely does my focus wander during class, but today it was in and out.  Our teacher happens to a friend and the missions pastor of our church and his wife is a dear friend that had just returned from Guatemala with me.  I paid no attention to the reading or to much of the discussion because my mind was 1601 miles away, but I did hear some of the comments made by our teacher.  He’s made so many comments over the last few years that have stuck with me and yesterday was one of those days when his comments pulled my wandering mind back to the present, where it should have been.

“Where is our sense of urgency?  Why are we acting like we have plenty of time.”

“Do we walk the aisle, get baptized and that’s it?”

“Christians are rewarded for the things they do for the Kingdom so why are we not doing more good?”

We walk out of class and more people want to hear about the trip.  I speak to the pastor’s wife for a few minutes and make my way into our super comfy sanctuary.  Padded pews, carpeted floors, a big screen in front, an incredible baptismal, the perfect lighting, a top of the line sound system.  I take my normal seat in the front and wait for it to begin.  I know it’s coming.  The music starts and though I open my mouth to sing, nothing comes out.  Tears fall and my hands shake as I hear everyone singing, “You make beautiful things, beautiful things out of the dust…”  A child is baptized then we greet each other before more singing.  I walk around openly crying as I find each person that spent last week in Guatemala to check on them.  As if Revelation Song is brand new, it gets me again.  “Jesus, your name is power, breath of living water, such a marvelous mystery…”

I know that not so far away a tiny church is packed.  The pastor and his family either walked or rode what I affectionately call a chicken bus a few miles to get there.  It is raining and everyone else made their way through dirt and mud in the best clothes they have to get there.  They have no instruments other than a single guitar and no sound system.  They do not have enough room for the number of chairs they need so it was likely standing room only.  But I’ve seen the worship and it is so real and dare I say more genuine than so many of our churches here.  The words they sing do not just come out of their mouths.  It comes from deep within and is poured out as a true offering of praise.

Both pastors begin their message at close to the same time.  I am moved, as usual.  My mind and my heart is torn between two places.  I am so thankful for where I am and where I’ve been and I long to be in both places at once, knowing it will never happen.  But then I realize that I could not be more wrong.  I will never be able to be everywhere that I feel connected to while on Earth, but Heaven is a different story.

We all get the same Heaven.  I’ve said for as long as I can remember that we aren’t different than anyone else in the world.  We may have a lot of differences which usually boils down to money and what we spend it on, but we aren’t all that different.  I spent my morning learning more about and worshipping the same Lord our friends in Guatemala learned more about and worshipped.  Depending on what is at the core of our hearts, people all over the world are more the same than we are different.   

I cannot even scratch the surface of imaging what Heaven will be like, but I do know that for the first time ever I won’t feel torn and for the first time ever all those that I love in the world, no matter where they are right now, will all be in the same place at once if they have given their hearts to Jesus.  With all of my doubts and uncertainties in this thing called life, that is the one thing  I am certain about.

No Sacrifice

For the last week I’ve been in Guatemala.  I left my my family to go serve those that I love as if they are my family.  I led a team that had never been there before.  Actually, all but one had never been on an international mission trip before.  They left their families to travel to a place they had only heard of, not knowing what to expect.  We served through downpours, almost constant rain and threats of mudslides…mudslides were happening all over the country and causing multiple deaths.  We served near livestock, diseased animals and were constantly surrounded by their waste.  We worked through the language barrier without an official translator and had plenty of misunderstandings.  We were broken in ways that we never have been before.

Some call it (a mission trip) a sacrifice.  Surely paying the expense, leaving your family behind, going to a known dangerous country, working in a tiny unknown village in conditions that are less than desirable is a sacrifice, isn’t it?

But it is no sacrifice at all.

It is not a sacrifice to hold filthy hands and kiss dirty cheeks.  It isn’t a sacrifice to go back to the base at the end of the day with wet shoes and socks.  It isn’t a sacrifice to play soccer in the the rain, regardless of how many disgusting things are around.  It isn’t a sacrifice to be able to communicate only with a smile or a hug.  And the list goes on and on.  None of what we did was a sacrifice.  It was a gift to us.  We may have been used as a blessing, but I think we may have been blessed even more.  We may have gone thinking that we would be sharing Christ with people in another part of the world, but He drew us closer to Him than ever.  We may have prayed to be His hands and feet, but we saw Him in the eyes of many we met.

As we are cruising at 36,000 feet, my ears are filled with music that is causing my heart to overflow with thoughts of His goodness.  I will forever want more of Him and will spend my life praying, “More of you, Lord, and less of me.”  And maybe the song in my heart will always be…

“It’s all about you Jesus. And all this is for you, for your glory and your fame. It’s not about me, as if you should do things my way. You alone are God and I surrender to your ways." (Jesus Lover of My Soul)

Not all things went as I planned this week, but I am certain it went as He planned.  I can’t wait to share all of the details.

Friday, October 7, 2011


I cannot imagine one organization being able to fight poverty alone.  There are so many things to consider and do when working to alleviate poverty and there is just no way one organization can do it alone, without the help from another.  For us, we are still so new at this and to be honest, I know a little about some things, but there is a lot that I do not know so we have to ask other organizations that specialize in certain areas to help.  No one can be an expert in everything.

We are getting a lot of help this trip from other organizations and we are so thankful.

For starters, our team comes from Istrouma Baptist Church in Baton Rouge, LA.  This is an incredible group and I can’t wait to serve with them!  Thank you Istrouma!!

Then where would we be without help with water filters?  I know NOTHING about dealing with water other than if it’s contaminated, don’t drink it.  And it is contaminated, so people need filters.  So again we turn to our partners at HELPS International.  We will continue working with them to provide stoves for everyone in Pueblo Nuevo.

We are blessed to have been in contact with Faith Comes By Hearing over the last couple of months and thanks to one of their ministry programs we received two Proclaimers (self or solar charging audio Bibles) in Spanish to be used by listening groups in Pueblo Nuevo.  These Proclaimers can be heard by hundreds of people at a time and will be a huge resource in helping villagers hear the message of Christ and come to know Him.

And it isn’t definite yet, but we are working with WINGS to coordinate their help with a family planning clinic for this trip and possibly cervical cancer screenings in the coming months.

The more I do this the more I realize that unless people are connected to each other, we will never move forward.  We would be unable to do any of this trip, other than children’s ministry, without the help of these organizations.  Thanks to each of them for being involved in the lives of the people of Pueblo Nuevo!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Clean Water for Everyone!

Last September, after arriving home from Guatemala disgusted by the contaminated water situation, I posted this.

I ended that post saying, “It will cost an estimated $10,000 to provide every family in Pueblo Nuevo with a water filter. I have never been one to dream small. It is my personal prayer that every person has access to CLEAN water by the end of 2011.”

With every thing else we were and are committed to in this village, it was my hope that in just over a year every single person living there would have access to clean water.  Did I believe it was possible?  Yes.  Did I think it would happen?  No.

But our God is so much bigger than my doubts.

By the end of December, every family in Pueblo Nuevo that wants a water filter will have one.  The Lord has provided in such an amazing way for this and it wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be.  Oh me of little faith.  Why would I think this would be a challenge?  He overcame the grave.  Making sure everyone in a small Guatemalan village has clean water is nothing for Him!

With the help of individual donors (from those that donated one filter to the one that donated 100) and Istrouma Baptist Church in Baton Rouge, LA, we will be distributing filters weekly, beginning next week, until everyone has one.  Along with that, each family will attend a hygiene class and hear the message of Christ. 

Because of this we can now begin our stove project.  One stove will be installed next week and more information will be provided when we return.  These clean burning stoves will not only eliminate illnesses, but also help with job creation as women become better able to cook and sell their foods.  Clarita, for instance, will be able to start the tamale business she has been dreaming of and produce more tamales than she does over her open fire.  She is just one example of a soon-to-be new business owner in Pueblo Nuevo all because she will have a stove.

I don’t even know how to end a post like this.  As I am sitting here overwhelmed in Starbucks, what I want to do is jump up and down and let everyone know how great God is and tell them all about this village that is getting clean water and new stoves, learning how to take care of themselves through hygiene and preventative health classes and creating new jobs and providing for themselves (by God’s provision for them) without getting handouts of trial sized hygiene products, clothes, shoes and toys.  I want to tell everyone how happy they are when they receive something that is life changing versus receiving that thing that won’t last a month and how much dignity they have when they do something for themselves versus us doing it for them.  What I want to do is tell the world how it is all being done while men, women and children are learning about Jesus and how they are coming to know Him.  And I want to tell everyone that says, “You’re doing great things,” that I’m not.  It isn’t me.  I’m just the one that mentions this village and asks people to help.  He’s the one that moves hearts and changes lives and molds us all, both those of us here in the U.S. and our friends in Guatemala, into what He created us to be.  His.  I will never cease to be amazed by the work of His hand.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Four Years

Tomorrow is such a special day for our family.  It doesn’t seem like it has been four years since we brought our son home from Guatemala.  Celebrating our fourth Family Day day this year includes a family photo shoot, gifts, dinner and dessert that Tommy picked out (tacos and a cookie cake) and a trip to the fair the next day.  Family Days are as important to us as birthdays.  We waited a long time for days like this. 

As special as tomorrow is, I can’t help but think back to four years ago tonight and how my heart overflowed with joy at the thought of bringing Tommy home the next day as I sat in my hotel room sobbing because I had to leave Guatemala.  I’m not sure I have ever felt such a mix of emotions before or after.  I remember packing our suitcases,  glancing at his visa next to my passport, such a marvelous sight at the end of any international adoption, and the sound of his breathing as he peacefully slept.  He had no idea what was going on…no idea that his mom had never been so close to being put back together even though she was falling apart at the same time.  I talked to Danny and heard his excitement and nervousness as we discussed my schedule for the next day and I was excited, too, but I also remember telling him that I didn’t want to leave Guatemala.  Not yet.  Maybe never.  I much preferred he just move to be with us.  He must have thought I had lost my mind.  In fact, I’m certain that is what he thought.

Once our bags were packed and waiting by the door in preparation for our very early flight the next morning, I sat down by the window overlooking a busy street with my prayer journal.  I read back over a prayer I had written the month before.  I told God that I knew there must be some reason He was keeping me there.  I begged for His help in opening my eyes and my heart and asked to fall deeply in love with Guatemala if I had any kind of purpose there.

I did fall in love Guatemala and the night before I left, I prayed something much different.

“…I wanted to love Guatemala in a way that is unimaginable and as always, you answered. The love that I have for this country is greater than anything I will ever be explain. I do not want to leave and I can’t hide the fact that I’m disappointed about not being able to stay longer from you. But I’m still listening, still following. Give me the words to express the things you want me to say when I tell others about what is needed here; speak through me. I’m so afraid that as time passes I will lose this passion to return to Guatemala to help those that need you. Keep the passion burning inside of me just as intense as it now. Never let it die. My heart is still open, now more than ever. A piece of me will always be here. Please show me what to do next. I am still so confused…

Please also comfort me and as Guatemala fades into the distance, remind me that I will return because I feel like by leaving this place, I am losing a part of myself. Please, God, be near me because leaving Guatemala now, even with our son, is hard for me to do...”

I was so afraid that once I left Guatemala, that new love would quickly fade as I settled into my new routine as a mom in the U.S.  And I wasn’t completely convinced that He would bring me back to Guatemala quickly, maybe even never.  And it is true that as Guatemala faded into the distance the next day, I cried right along with our son…tears of sheer joy because our biggest dream was in my arms and on his way home and the most heart-wrenching pain…as if I were bring ripped away from something that was a part of me.

It’s almost funny to look back on it all now.  Thank the Lord, I will be back in Guatemala next week.  That passion didn’t die and it doesn’t burn now as it did then.  It’s much stronger now than it was even that night.  That teeny tiny baby is now a pre-schooler that is the light of our lives and desperately wants to go to Guatemala with me (he is staying in the U.S. this time).  Being his mom is by far the sweetest gift and raising him well is the most important thing I’ve ever done and will ever do.  And then there is this Guatemala ministry and what we’ll call a slowly growing international ministry.  I couldn’t have dreamed what our lives would be like four years ago and I make no attempt to guess what they will be like four years from now.  What a precious time we are living in!