Good morning everyone!
Even though I have been slow to report in to tell you so, your prayers were answered in big ways for the Open Range team that came down to Guatemala a couple of weeks ago. In the six days on the ground, they got to interact with and minister to three women's groups and one senior citizens group. If I had been more on the ball, I could have highlighted how each day many ladies (and a few men) came to know Christ, and you would have heard how each day we shared in lots of fun, food, and laughter.
Since there are lots of good stories from the week, I will try to spread it out over one or two more updates. Today I want to highlight our first day with a ladies' micro-business group in San Jose Acatempa. This village is a place where 50 to 60 years ago, gypsy families began to settle down to grow coffee in the foothills of the surrounding mountains. Because of the seasonal ups and downs of growing coffee, most of the families also do other agriculture-related work. This group of women gather to learn and encourage each member to come up with entrepreneurial ways to make things to sell.
Back in February, Irma, the president of this ladies group, and her husband Rolando had come to a birthday party that friends near Quesada threw for my wife, Nola, when she was with me in Guatemala. After connecting with Cesar about their group, we scheduled to connect with them at Irma's house on this trip.
Besides having to learn how to dance the national dance and make tortillas, the biggest challenge for our team was having to eat all the foods that the ladies brought to the meeting! Besides the coffee, there were quesadillas (a cornbread made with cheese), recado soup (that had portions of liver in it), goat cheese, a rice drink, pineapples, papayas, tamales, frozen bannanas dipped in chocolate and lots of tortillas and beans. While really tasty, there was so much food that toward the end of the day, when someone would bring out something else to taste, even some of the Guatemala ladies wanted to cry, "No mas!"
During our story-telling times each day, Laura, Linda, or Carla would be called upon to share their faith story, and out of that Cesar would invite them to pray to receive Christ. On this particular day, several ladies did so for the first time, and Irma's husband Rolando did so as well! I know that as a group, we could sense that your prayers were being answered each day as the stories connected so well with those present.
For me, one of the big surprises came when Mirna, a leader from El Durazno, a village about an hour and a half away from Irma's house, arrived. Mirna seemed a little surprised to see me, but I didn't pay much attention, because I was busy greeting others who were arriving. After Mirna spoke with Cesar for a few minutes, he waved me over. "Esteban, you have to hear what she just told me!"
"I don't know if you remember, but you were in my village when I was a teenager!" Mirna began. "Two weeks ago I was speaking with my mother about the many opportunities I have to share my faith in Jesus with the ladies in these groups, but my pastor doesn't understand it and believes I should be in the church's services more often. I feel such a burden to use the platform God has given me, but I don't know how to do it."
Mirna continued, "My mother then pulled out a picture of you and your family and said, 'These people could help you if you could find them.' I agreed, but how would I find them? So I said a prayer, 'Lord, help me find these people or at least someone who can help me.'"
"When Irma invited me to this meeting and described what you and Cesar were doing with Rancheros Cristianos groups, I thought, This sounds like the kind of thing I need to know about.' But how would I have ever guessed that when I walked up today you would be the same ones from the picture!!"
As Mirna shared her stories, I couldn't help but have flashbacks of being in her village and playing soccer with the kids and translating for Nola as she spent time with other women there. For me, I must admit that I was holding back a few tears and so grateful to God for letting me get a glimpse of what He is up to.
I'm not sure about all that heaven will be, but I figure that I got a taste of it that day in San Jose Acatempa!
More stories to come as Laura has a birthday, Michael and Carla show their dance moves, and we all eat till we feel we will pop!
Thank God for the safe goings and comings of our Open Range team. Pray for Mirna and other leaders like her who are being raised up to lead in these women's groups.
Thanks to you and others, God is continuing to provide for all our needs.
Be alert to new opportunities to receive Play. Story. Eat. training. We will keep you posted!
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