Good morning everyone!
Many of you have been asking about Cesar Gonzalez, our ministry partner in Guatemala, and how he has been since his emergency prostate surgery. During his recuperation, Cesar has spent a lot of time on the phone, calling our friends to check in with them and calling me to keep me posted.
So yesterday I broached the idea of asking Cesar to do this week's update by sharing with me how he's doing and what is going on in the ministry. Without missing a beat, Cesar dove in.
"First off, please tell everyone, 'Muchas gracias for the prayers you prayed and for the economic help you sent. It was a huge help and it relieved a big burden on us," Cesar began. "Thanks to God I am recovering slowly but steadily from my surgery. I pray that at the beginning of November I can begin to visit the groups again and start making preparations for the January teams that are coming to Guatemala and to Honduras."
"I know you have been making a lot of calls," I said. "What is happening with our friends in the various places?"
Sepoc Church Celebrates!
"Well, October 15th, our amigos from Sepoc, in the jungle, marked the anniversary of their church with a big celebration," he began. "They can't remember if it's been 14 or 15 years since they started."
"I know they were asking me the last time if I knew how long it's been," I added. "I've been meaning to look back at my pictures and see if I can figure it out."
"No worries! They are happy!" Cesar offered jovially to relieve my guilt. "I was supposed to be there with them, but the surgery kind of blew that out of the water."
Expansion and Multiplication Opportunities in Honduras!
"By the way, a lot has happened at the University in Honduras," he continued, jumping to thoughts about our connection with the National University of Agriculture. "The Escuelas del Campo Program that was shut down last year is opened up and running again. They have changed the ownership of it from the University to being a partnership with the mayors of each region that they are working in. When I was talking with our friend, Rober Rubi, he asked if we were available to meet some of these new connections with the mayors in January. The leaders of the University commissioned him to ask us to bring North American friends with various levels of expertise to come teach and interact with them. I told him I would pass the word to our North American friends."
"So when we go to Honduras in January, what would that mean?" I asked.
"I don't know yet. But it sounds like the University is getting their act together, and maybe in January you and I could explore that with them," he responded. "But what is surer in Honduras is the connection we have with the cattlemen's association on the Atlantic coast. They, by the way, are a part of the new program with the mayors, and are asking if we can bring a group of North American cowboys and ranchers to come be with them. This is probably the second largest cattlemen's group in the country, and it would be a whole new region we have not touched yet."
Continuing on, Cesar mentioned other groups in Honduras, "The group in Catacamas is meeting and becoming stronger from what I hear. Poncaya is doing good. And the guys from the University that went to Choluteca, near Nicaragua, have started to meet and have asked us to come see them sometime."
Progress on Potential Brazil Connection!
Then, changing the focus, "I have been speaking with Renato, our Brazilian friend," Cesar continued, "and thanks to you guys helping him, he has his plane ticket to come visit us here in Guatemala during the rodeo time in January."
"I know the house we painted to pay for that!" I interjected, remembering a spot on a house that had a big hidden area of wood rot that bogged us down, and I winced remembering the new window I accidentally broke while installing it.
Cesar laughed and continued unfazed. "But Esteban, you love to paint! Your sons call you the paint Nazi right?"
"I'm in a program to get over that! Remember?" I said defensively.
"Gracias Esteban for your blood, sweat, and tears. I can't help but hope that this visit will be the beginning of something God wants to do in Brazil. Tell everyone to pray about that."
Guatemalan Women's Ministry Thriving!
"What about our friends in Guatemala?" I asked. "Like the women's groups and the folks near Quesada."
"The women's groups are doing well and continue to meet together. They keep asking when I am going to go see them. I think I will visit them in November. But they are doing really well."
"Speaking of Quesada, remember Raul, the guy who works with the USDA for Mango inspection?"
"He is leading a work in Cuilapa, but he told me that in that region there is a program for youth that he has gotten involved in. He feels we could help them with the Play. Story. Eat. process. That's another place I need to visit when I get to driving."
Rain Storms Make Travel Treacherous in Guatemala.
"Speaking of driving, are you driving yet?" I asked.
"I can drive short distances right now close by. I have been working my way up slowly to driving like I was before. When I start getting out, my goal is to drive slow and make frequent stops over several days and wind up in the jungle. I also want to connect with the pastors in Rio Hondo. They are open to helping us with cowboys in that region."
"How's the weather been holding out? And any earthquakes lately?" I asked.
"Just a few tremors. But nothing big on the earthquake front. However, with all the hurricanes in the Carribean, we have gotten lots of rain as the storms have let up in the ocean but meandered our direction. Our roads are in terrible shape. Even in areas that are normally good, the pot holes can almost swallow your car. We have to be alert for hazards and mudslides in the road. And with all the problems with our government, and the lack of money, we don't expect the roads to be fixed very quickly."
POLITICAL Unrest in Guatemala
Cesar continued, "Esteban, the political situation here in Guatemala is serious. I don't know if in North America you hear much about us, but the president here is being thwarted on every side to get anything done. Many are calling for him to step down. I don't think it's his fault, but the truth is, our whole political system is in chaos. The mayor in Guatemala City, a former president of ours, is probably the one holding us together, but we need lots of prayer for our leaders."
"We will certainly pass this on," I responded.
"Before we go," Cesar said, "I know that next week you are in Nebraska. Please tell all our Nebraska friends 'Hola' for me and tell them thanks for their prayers and partnership. It means a lot."
"Will do. Talk to you soon, Cesar. Adios amigo."
10:02 PRAYER (LUKE 10:2)
Please be in prayer for Cesar as he continues to get his strength back, and pray for traveling mercy as he begins to get out. Pray too for some of the opportunities he mentioned in Guatemala, Honduras, and in Brazil. Pray that the seeds planted today would lead to a celebration we couldn't imagine in 14 or 15 years--like our brothers in the jungles of Guatemala have had the privilege of doing in the past few days.
Begin praying now about the investment God might be calling on you to contribute as we approach the end of the year. For the first time ever, we are asking for this kind of significant, end-of-the-year giving. In coming days we expect to share more stories with you and more opportunities to make a difference financially as we respond to some places where the spiritual harvest is plentiful.
This weekend we are in Nebraska for the Play. Story. Eat. Experience at Camp Witness November 3-4. If you are curious about what it would take to bring this to your neck of the woods, let us know!