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Orphanage Wrap-Up

February 4, 2010

In case anyone is still reading :), we wanted to let you know that we’ve arrived back in the United States safely today and are so thankful that you’ve been reading this blog and praying- for us, for Guatemala, for Open Doors, for Paradise Bound, for lost souls and for so much more.

While our team is finished with our week working with Paradise Bound, other teams are preparing for similar work and will be writing blogs of their own like this. The amazing this is that our experiences through our one week in Guatemala are only a small part of what happens in this amazing ministry! Check out paradisebound.org and click on the blogs over to the right side of the screen to see what experiences other teams are having in Guatemala. As far as Open Doors Orphanage goes, keep watching for updates on opendoorsorphanage.org and on the Open Doors Facebook page!

Good night and God bless!

Orphanage Visits 2

February 3, 2010

Today – our last day in Guatemala – was as overhwhelming, productive, fruitful and amazing as all the preceding days you’ve been reading about. We have been so blessed here!

Through our two orphanage visits today, the Lord blessed us with staff members at each home who were willing to share their personal testimonies with us of how they got to where they are working at the orphanage. Hearing their stories and seeing the honest, raw and TRUE faith they had (and have) in God’s plans for them made Open Doors Orphanage more real for us than ever before. We know that the plans God has for this home are good and true and beautiful, and while it’s challenging not seeing one step ahead, we know that our Lord will bless our reliance on Him with more than we can ask or imagine.

Today was also another long day, and we end our time here in Guatemala (or this time at least :)) tired and weary, but filled to the very tip top with the love of Jesus Christ. This week, we’ve seen the Holy Spirit moving in Guatemala and changing this country in incredible ways. Without your prayers, our time here may have been very different. We are so blessed by you!

We’re leaving the mission base in Chimaltenango in about four hours (yes, that means we’re leaving at 3 am…), so please pray for safe travels back to the United States, continued good health and a renewed sense of the love and mighty power of our one true Lord and Savior.

These few days have been only one small part of God’s amazing, grand, unbelievable plan for Open Doors Orphanage. We cannot wait to continue pursuing His will from home and here in Guatemala and we pray that you’ll join us in the journey.

Orphanage Visits 1

February 2, 2010

Hello!

Today, we visited three orphanages in or near Guatemala City. Going into the day, we asked God to reveal Himself to us all in different ways throughout the day, such that our visits to the orphanages would be the most productive, efficient and Kingdom-driven that they could be.

As we closed tonight in a time of prayer for the future of Open Doors Orphanage, we could all see that despite being overwhelmed with information about how a few orphanages are run in Guatemala, we had all seen the Spirit revealed to us in different ways throughout the day. Some of us were spoken to about the critical need for safety, cleanliness and basic needs cared for. Others felt that God had truly shown them the importance of bonding with parental figures in the orphanages. Yet others were able to see, absorb and contemplate other aspects of orphan care, and for this we are all so thankful. We went into the day not knowing if perhaps our group was too big, if it might not work for some of the meetings we had arranged. But through our group (about 15 of us), God spoke about His will for Open Doors and began to reveal what the future holds for this beautiful place!

If it hasn’t been clear enough already this week, we have seen miracles here in Guatemala this week like many of us have never seen before. Open Doors Orphanage is no exception!! For many, many years, God has been planting the seeds for a new orphanage in Guatemala, and today, this week, these last few months- we have seen miracles happening that are leading directly to the establishment of Open Doors. Please read more about Open Doors at http://www.opendoorsorphanage.org/

Tonight, we prayed for the future of Open Doors Orphanage, and we would love for you to join us in these prayers. Pray that all the information we gather here will be used in the most effective and efficient way, and that tomorrow, as we visit two more orphanages, we would have clarity and discernment to ask the right questions and be open to the Spirit. Pray for the children who will live in the future Open Doors Orphanage, that even today they would feel the love of Christ stirring in them, preparing them for a future of hope and love. Pray for the other ministries we visited and will visit- we are so thankful for them and the opportunity to become partners in ministry with them.

Mostly, pray that we would keep our eyes fixed squarely on our one true and mighty Savior, that we wouldn’t doubt for one minute that He is greater than we can ask or imagine. Thank you all again for you prayers and love, and for reading this blog! It brings us so much joy to know you are walking along with us even thousands of miles away.

God bless!!

Medical Clinic 2

February 1, 2010

On medical clinic days, our mornings are a little more leisurely than on building days. We have time to update the blog :), eat a relaxed breakfast, pack up the meds and other clinic needs, play with the kids who live at the base, spend personal time with God and His Word, and have group devotions.

As Aaron led us in our group devotions yesterday, he brought us to a verse in Corinthians where Paul writes that he doesn’t come with wise and eloquent words, or with wisdom and superiority, but that he comes to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with fear and trembling and with the Spirit and power of Christ in him. This is so that his readers and listeners will know that the Word comes not from him (Paul), but from the power of the Spirit in him. We knew, as a group, that at the village the night before, we hadn’t all stepped up to share our stories with the group because of fear and trembling. We had truly allowed the enemy to distract us from trusting in the Lord to speak through us. The miracle here, prayer partners, friends and family, is that we were still able to see an entire village come to know Christ, even when we denied Him.

So last night, when it came time to share our stories, God led three of us to share, and this time, we listened. Even more amazingly, Hermano Jesus, in his message to the people of the village, reiterated that which the three of us has shared. Different stories they were, but all a part of why we’re here in Guatemala,, why we were at this village in particular, why we were called to share our own stories with this village.

We have SO much joy to share with you that YET AGAIN, an ENTIRE village came forward to accept Christ last night. There are no words or even emotions to express the power of Christ that will dwell in us when we beckon Him so. When we leave our hearts open to His callings, when we stop thinking of ourselves, when we forget about the fear and trembling we experience when asked to share our stories- this is when God will show us Himself.

Another construction crew arrived last night to continue work on the mission base, we’ll be heading to Antigua in a few minutes, and then soon we’ll return home. But friends, pray that what we’ve seen this week (miracles like few are privileged to experience), we will not soon forget. Pray that just like the families and individuals we’ve seen come to know a life rich in the love of Jesus Christ this week, we would allow Christ to become a true manifestation of the love of God in our lives.

Some of the group returns home tomorrow, while some are staying to visit several orphanages in preparation for the opening of Open Doors Orphanage. Please keep reading here for updates and photos from this group! Thank you again, friends, for reading, praying and supporting us from near and far. We hope you’ve seen the power of Christ like we have this week!!

Medical Clinic 1

January 31, 2010

(Aaron VanManen writing…):

To descibe the first medical clinic, let me take you back a week. I recieved an email from Dan asking if I would lead devotions for the group on the first medical clinic day. If you have been on a Paradise Bound trip, you know the power of Dan’s devotions and the responsibility to try and fill his shoes. I prepared and had a devotion planned and ready to go.

After packing meds, rice, beans and other necessities all morning, we gathered as a group after lunch to spend time in devotions. We started with a little singing and praising the Lord. Then, it was my time to lead, and in what I felt was a distraction, the group started to ask if we should sing in front of the village in Spanish or English? If you notice, what I’m writing is a lot about me and what I felt. I was not aware what God was doing in that moment. God was using what I thought was a distraction from devotions as His way of speaking.

We decided to sing in Spanish at the village that night and go with that. I led devotions, then we gathered by the vans to pray and headed to the village. The time in the village was great. As I watched Hermano preach, I noticed that he set his Bible down and did not read from it. That is not like Hermano to not read from the Bible. What he did was preach on a Spanish song we sang, the Wonderful Cross (Maravillosa Cruz). Hermano went off the words of that song and preached a powerful message that brought forth the whole village to accept Christ. Yes, I said the whole village. WOW! That is the power of God working.

The power of understanding the moment came as we were riding back home. What I took as distraction, God was speaking and knew we needed to sing Spanish because that is how God was going to speak to the hearts of the people in that village. The power of the Lord last night was greater than all we could ask or imagine. What I thought was a distraction God was speaking. Praise the Lord for people that were willing to let God speak, for Hermano who let God speak, and for the village who let the Spirit dwell in their hearts to be softened and accept Christ.

God is speaking! Are we listening?

Dedication Day, Continued.

January 30, 2010

When we arrived back at the village yesterday morning, we set about sanding, painting, installing roofs and cleaning the homes.

Each group took time to communicate with the family who would be living there about what they wanted on the walls of the home, and with a vibrant seafoam green as a base for the walls inside these blessed homes, the groups painted rainbows, human-sized flowers, palm trees, mountain scenes, crosses, butterflies, verses, phrases, handprints and names on the walls. Each house became a beautiful and unique representation of each family and each group that put their hands and hearts into building the homes.

After lunch, it was time for dedicating the homes. In our evening deevotions the night before, we discussed the critical importance of staying engaged spiritually as each group presented the family they built for with gifts like clothes, dishes, towels, and the ultimate and most precious gift, the Word of God and the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Truly, we saw miracles at each house. We saw hearts that had been hardened from years of cultural expectations softened to the love of Jesus Christ. We saw little children dedicate their lives to Christ and commit, even at such young ages, to following Christ all the days of their lives. We saw clear physical reminders that our God is all-powerful, all-knowing and present at all times. We saw men bless their wives and chlidren- men who have been angry, agressive and abusive toward their families for many years. We saw babies and little children begin a new life of hope and love in Jesus Christ because their parents hearts were broken and softened and opened to the love of Christ. We saw many tears, many smiles, many hearts rejoicing in the renewed spirit that comes when we accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. But most importantly, we saw four families- FOUR families- in one village commit their lives to follow Jesus Christ, and prayer partners (that’s you!), we know that’s why we’re here.

Dan reminded us last night that God didn’t need us for any of that, but He allowed us to be a part of it, to experience His glory in a rural mountain village, far away from our homes and families.

To tell each story from each house would take literally hours, because each family is so complex and each family has a story. But we want you to know that even while you were prayer for these families thousands of miles away, and we were in prayer for them here, and others were in prayer from them across the globe, God heard our prayers and let us watch him answer them!!

Today, we are preparing to bring a medical clinic to another rural mountain village. Meds are being packaged, coloring sheets folded, and our hearst prepared for another spiritual battle, of a different kind. This time, we don’t have three days to bulid relationships with the family. We aren’t building houses for them, we won’t have time to learn about their stories and challenge, and we don’t have time to digest and think about what we and you can pray for.

In the clinic and in the village, we will only be there for a few hours, but it will be a critical few hours. Please pray that the immediacy and urgency of the Gospel of Jesus Christ will enter these people’s hearts. Pray that we will continue to stay healthy (so far, noo major incidences or illnesses). Pray that we will come and go safely from the village, and that our vans make it without incident. Pray for their hearts and ours, that God would connect the wires, because even though we’re different, we know that we’re all human and we all desire to know a love like Christ’s love. And most of all, pray that this love- Christ’s love- is present and abundant and is the ultimate focus of all we do.

Finally, don’t forget to leave us comments (either here or on our individual pages), because we love to know that we have prayer partners all over the place! We have been rejuvenated by a good night’s sleep last night, and we are truly blessed by your support and love. Also, we posted a few pictures, so please check those out to see some snapshots our our time here!

God bless!

Joshua 24:15

January 29, 2010

“But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” -Joshua 24:15

Today, our third building day in the village and the day we dedicated the fours homes built this week, four households (for a total of more than 25 people) accepted Jesus Christ into their hearts and into their homes. What a miracle!

We wish we could have updated this yesterday, because there was so much to pray for, but we know that you who were praying were moved to pray for what was needed. And the Lord answered our abundant requests!!

We’ll start at the beginning. Yesterday, we rose earlier than day one (5 am this time) and traveled again to the village, where we drywalled, sanded and applied the famous Paradise Bound salmon-colored stucco to the outsides of the homes. While some were installing windows, doors and patios on the houses, others were spending time with the families who will now be living in the homes. And what a blessing this time was.

In one home alone, we learned that the husband was abusing the wife and that the wife had a desire in her heart for her family to live their lives in Christ (to make a long story short). So often, the machismo cultural norms here in Guatemala make it so easy for the husbands and fathers to become hardened in their hearts to the love their families truly need and desire. But for this family, we were able to begin praying for a softened heart in Esteban, the husband and father, and for a change to occur in his life.

The true blessing is that knowing this about Virginia’s and Esteban’s family opened our eyes (and broke our hearts) to see that every family has a story. Every family has challenges, every family has secrets–and every family needs Jesus Christ to come in our brokenness and give us life everlasting.

When we arrived back at the base yesterday, several hours later than planned, we were tired. One of the vans broke down in the village, then the van that Estuardo drove to pick us upin  broke down on the way back to the base. Looking back, we can see that it was only the enemy trying to get under our skin, trying to deter us from focusing on the prayer and preparation necessary to enter the spiritual battles we encountered today. So we worshipped, prayed and slept in the peace that God would be present to take care of the rest.

This morning, seeing the clouds settled low in the valley next to the base, the mountains peaking effortlessly above, we were reminded of the splendor and power of our king. All our fears and concerns and hopes and prayers- we gave them to the Lord before we got in the vans to travel once more to the village we’ve come to love and care so much for.

After another eventful drive (some of the group rode in the back of a cattle truck carrying new beds for the homes), we saw the enemy try to get to us again with another van incident. With rough roads and chaotic traffic, it’s so easy for us to become distracted by something we don’t even think about back home.

But today, there was no room for distraction. Today was the day for us to paint the interiors of the homes and later give gifts to the families, dedicate the homes and present the gospel of Jesus Christ to each family.

Tomorrow, we will write more about the miracles that happened in the homes today, the answers to prayer, the power of CHRIST that was present throughout every second of the day. For now, we will rest knowing that the families in the village are sleeping peacefully in their new beds in their homes, with Christ in their hearts and a new life abundant with His love on tomorrow’s horizon.