Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Minimalist Living Takes on a Whole New Meaning

Becoming a "minimalist" is all the rage. Many in our developed nations are striving to live a minimalist lifestyle to decrease the carbon footprint, to find "inner peace" and to achieve stress-free living. As I viewed the Guatemalan homes, which would be more accurately called shanty's, I was struck with the "minimalist lifestyle". A lifestyle that would not be considered peaceful and stress-free but a lifestyle of great need.

This small house to the left is just one of many highly sought after designs for minimal living. It has running water, a toilet, and although small, a functional kitchen. This house has solid walls and a floor to not only keep out critters but also the elements. Living in a house such as this one would have little worries of the rains washing away the floor.
This Guatemalan, open-air kitchen comes complete with free-ranging ducks and a wash tub. Some villages have been fortunate enough to have a clean water source, thanks to the initiative of causelife,  but many just hike it to the nearest stream of contaminated water. 

The stove is replaced with an open fire - sometimes made on top of cement slabs or blocks. The upgraded models include a grate to cook on top of. Most homes are one room. Walls of Guatemalan homes consist of woven sticks, tin/sheet metal, and even plastic which do little to keep out the rains. Many times the rains run right over their dirt floors. The one home I stood in was as big as my living room (before last week I may have even complained on occasion about my small living room). In this Guatemalan home, which was the size of my living room, lived a husband and wife, a grandma and nine children. In one corner was a bed which I assumed was the parents as it had plastic draped around to create a wall of privacy. Nine hammocks were tied around the room for the children, some tied above another to create a hammock bunk bed of sorts. The one other bed in the room was grandma's. This I knew because we had come to pray over her as she waited to die. 

Grandma had sustained injuries when she was hit by a tuk-tuk, injuries which if treated were not life threatening. Grandma however was refusing to be brought to the clinic at the Hope of Life and seemed resigned to staying in bed and allowing the injuries to take her life. With the help of a translator, members from our team spoke encouraging words pleading that she would use the medical assistance that was being offered to her. Unconvinced, she said she was ready to meet Jesus. 

As I looked around I thought that this was truly living the minimalist lifestyle. No closets full of clothes and shoes. From what I could tell by the clothesline closet strung between the walls, each family member probably had one change of clothing. And shoes? Some had shoes, usually flip flops and sometimes mismatched but others were embracing "earthing", the barefooted life. Not by choice but because this is their only option.

The contrast between the minimal homes in the developed world and the homes of Guatemala grips me with sarcasm and sadness. Living with little in the U.S. is seen as hip/chic/cool...any other adjective that paints a positive picture. Living with little in Guatemala means sickness, dehydration, malnutrition and poverty. The home that I viewed is the type of home in which the majority of Guatemalans live in. This isn't a small problem as OVER 70 percent of Guatemala is impoverished and over 50 percent fall below the "extreme poverty line"

Homes at the dump
When I returned home my eyes were opened to how blessed I am and my home had now become a mansion. Many emotions occur when one's eyes are opened wide. Guilt over all I have, shame for my discontentment, motivation to change, and sadness for those I saw that who are living in need.
How can you help? Partner with World Help. World Help works with the Hope of Life in Guatemala to rescue babies and children who are dying of malnutrition, digging wells to provide clean water in villages, sponsoring children so they can be fed, clothed and educated. Friends, the needs are so overwhelming great but we can make a difference! One child, one family, one village at a time. 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Blessed Are the Children

People were bringing little children to Jesus to have him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it." And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them.   Mark 10:13-16

This week my daughter and I are serving with World Help at the Hope of Life in Guatemala. The picture above is just a peek, a mere glimpse, into the fabulous day that we had today. The girl in the crib is just one of the many disabled children who live at "Kelly's House". She doesn't communicate with words but with her eyes, with coos and with sweet smiles. She, as well as many  all of the children, have stolen my heart. 

I have so much to share but I know that we have another busy today tomorrow so I should get some sleep! 

Friday, July 11, 2014

One Child

Last fall I decided that I would like to sponsor a child and God gave me the insight to involve the daycare children in this decision. Oh what a blessing that has been!

I already knew that I wanted a child from Guatemala as Guatemala was one county that had been weighing on my heart. Since the majority of my daycare children were three years old, I searched for a child to sponsor who was also three. After narrowing our choices down to 5 children, I printed their photos and "introduced" them to my kiddos. For a week we prayed for each one of the children and at the end of the week we voted for which child to sponsor (oh, how I wanted to sponsor all of them!).

As we talked about the children, I shared with the kids in a age appropriate manner the needs of these children. We discussed the way in which we are so fortunate to have parents who love us and care for us so well. We have food and access to clean water. We have abundance, yet these dear children who we prayed for, have very little. As we learned more about the needs in Guatemala, I saw in these young Little Sprouts of mine a compassion for others.

At the end of our week of prayer we chose a new "Little Sprout" and the children where so excited to tell their parents all about Karina and Guatemala. It made my heart sing to hear the kids talk with such love about Karina!

Sponsoring has opened up so many learning opportunities for the daycare children as we learn where Guatemala is, we learn basic Spanish words and we learn to love others. My prayer is that my daycare children will carry these memories forever, that they will live a life of compassion and that they will continue to care for the "least of these" for the rest of their lives.

On Sunday my daughter and I will be traveling to Guatemala with World Help and working at Hope of Life International. We may even get the opportunity to meet Karina! My heart skips a beat and my eyes well with tears as I pray for this chance to shower this sweet girl with love and gifts. The daycare children, although disappointed that this isn't a daycare field trip in which they can join, have been buying gifts for me to bring to Guatemala.

One mom shared with me that her daughter insisted on buying toys and candy for Karina because, although the fact that she may be impoverished in other ways, the most shocking idea to this sweet four year old was that Karina may not have any candy! Oh, the hardship. :)

Katie Davis, in her book "Kisses From Katie", writes, "I have learned that I will not change the world, Jesus will do that. I can however, change the world for one person.....And if one person sees the love of Christ in me, it is worth every minute. In fact, it is worth spending my life for." My prayer is that Christ's love would shine through me to each of my Little Sprouts. Even my Little Sprout who seems to live a world away.

Friends, I'd like to encourage you to prayerfully consider sponsoring a child. Make a difference in the life of just one child!

Friday, July 4, 2014

When Dreams Come True

Nearly two years ago, after a moving sermon on missions, the congregation was asked to write on a prayer card the name of a country, or a people group, or a cause which created heart stirrings. Guatemala was on my heart that day, as well as many days before and every day since. At that time I didn't know and couldn't even fathom that one day I would get the opportunity to serve the people in Guatemala.

When I first received the invitation last October to travel to Guatemala with World Help, I was overwhelmed with financial "burdens" as my son had just had the first of two needed knee surgeries. Planning meetings for the 8th grade class trip to Washington D.C. (although we homeschool we had the opportunity to join) had just began as well. Traveling with my son to D.C. had been a dream of mine since my daughter's trip nine years ago. I had no idea how I'd be able to swing one trip let alone two! 

I must admit that I shed a few tears (maybe more than a few) thinking that my two dream trips were out of reach. I had came to the conclusion that neither were a possibility until one morning during my devotions I was struck with the fact that I was not trusting in God. I had forgotten that I serve a God who can make the impossible possible. After much surrender and prayer He did just that. 

Last week I was in Washington, D.C. with my son making memories that will last a lifetime and in ELEVEN day I will be going to Guatemala! Up until yesterday when our t-shirts arrived from World Help it still felt like a mere dream. Reality is beginning to sink in. I am so excited and a little scared but most of all I am blown away by God's goodness. He has made this trip possible and this morning I am on my knees in humble gratitude.