Roosters, Earthquakes, and Machine Guns

Roosters. Earthquakes. Machine guns. What do these all have in common? They are all things our SLI team experienced in their first 24 hours in Guatemala City. After a day of flying, we crashed at our host, Hector Aragon’s, mission house. We enjoyed a fabulous symphony that first night; dogs fighting at 1:00AM, a confused little rooster at 2:30AM, an “earth-shake” (minor tremor) at 4:00AM and that darned rooster again at 5:00AM. I was ready to have that rooster for breakfast by the time I abandoned sleep at 6:00AM! Fortunately, great Guatemalan coffee helped restore our team’s spirits before we headed to a Guatemalan mega-church of about 6,000 people for their Sunday Service. We were greeted in the parking lot by attendants toting machine guns and whistles. We got a sharp whistle in our direction when we stopped for a moment too long. I have never appreciated Koinonia’s parking attendants so much!

However, as we entered the building, it was an entirely different experience. We took our seats and worship started. God’s presence was tangible. It is hard to describe that experience. The songs were all in Spanish and we could only pick up about every tenth word, but the unity in that place was astounding. We were singing words we didn’t know in a country where we were strangers, but it felt like home. “This is what the body of Christ is supposed to be like,” I thought. As our trip went on, I began to see that God will truly show up anywhere the church gathers in his name.

As we visited several schools over the next couple days, we had the opportunity to present the gospel to over a thousand kids through teaching, skits, singing and even dancing (yes, we all danced – that in itself was a small miracle!) Many of these kids had never heard the Gospel message and we had the opportunity see a great number come to Christ. There are far too many stories about these children, pastors, and missionaries to share them all here. We heard the story of a young, pastoring couple whose five-year-old son had died. They gathered around their son and prayed for him for fifteen minutes. Suddenly, he started breathing again. The faith of these people was overwhelming. I only hope we encouraged them a fraction of the amount they encouraged me!

After seven days of ministry in Guatemala, we made the trip over to Honduras. The next four days were spent doing ministry at schools in a squatter’s village outside Tegucigalpa. The community was a rough shamble of shacks put together from whatever scraps could be found, from tin to old tires to garbage bags. When it rained, their streets turned into garbage rivers flowing down the mountainside. For the past two years, Dale and Caroline Ruttan, have been working hard to establish ministries in the public schools of this area. The stories that came from this village broke my heart. Dale shared with us how he had been speaking to a grade 3 class. After hearing from one of the kids that his father had been just murdered the week before for his motorcycle, he asked how many other kids had lost a parent either to death or abandonment. Every single child raised their hand. Every. Single. One. Sickness runs unchecked. Crime is rampant. A person could get killed for 100 lempiras, the equivalent of about seven Canadian dollars. This is where these kids are growing up.

However, one story of a little girl named Daniella, impacted me more deeply than any other. We were at one of the schools and she came skipping up to me. “Quantos tienes años?” (How old are you?) I asked her. Smiling, she held up six little fingers. She then proceeded to give me the tightest hug ever. I laughed and picked her up and spun her around. Other kids started lining up for “spinning hugs” but after every two kids, there was Daniella again, begging to be held. After most of the other kids had gone to chase other SLI students, I picked Daniella up and was walking around with her when Caroline came over to me.

“It’s really awesome that you can spend time with her,” she said. “At home her mom is busy with other men and doesn’t have time for her. She wants love so badly that she will take her clothes off and stand outside her neighbours' doors and say, ‘I love you. I love you,’ just to get their attention.” Something inside me broke. I hugged Daniella tighter and wished I could pour all the love of God into her. My heart broke for the life she could end up in if this is what she did at six years old. This is why the church so desperately needs to do what it is called to. There are a million other Daniella’s in the world who need what only God can give them. And God chooses to operate through us. This is why our mission is so important. Jesus’ last words before leaving earth were, “Go into all the world and make disciples.” I hope that these stories encourage you to do just that. We are called to be the hope of the world.  

4 Things We Learned on our SLI Mission Trip

1. Christ's church is the church, no matter where you are in the world

The band started playing, the other congregants were still trickling in through the back door of the church.  If we thought the myriad of conversations and the few babies crying from the back were loud, we were proven wrong when the worship team from Pastor Eleazar's church kicked it into gear.  We tried to engage in the Spanish worship, while some of us slipped tissues in our ears as discreetly as we could.  But as the band worked through therir set list, the Holy Spirit was speaking something to our hearts.  Christ had paid for these people with his blood and He had redeemed us as well, so why wouldn't we celebrate, and celebrate together?  On that very Sunday in nearly every city across the globe, men and women were gathered together to worship the same God.  Rather than simply a foreign experience, that night downtown became a wide angle lens with which to view the church around the world.  - Jonathan

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2. Diversity in the team only means that we are each gifted in different ways

Creating the kids program from scratch meant we all had to contribute (there are only 4 of us!)  Each person played an important part.  While practicing the program we discovered that we all prefered different age groups and we had to involve things that all ages would love.  It was fun to see each person more involved and animated in the program for the class that they better related to.  Through Issachar, our translator, our nerves calmed down and we each had a blast teaching the message "Jesus is with you; there is no need to be afraid".  The program turned out really well because each one contributed in their own way to make sure everyone was included. - Autumn

3. We can use our differences to our advantage

We put on the very first men's conference in Puerto Plata and the North coast - it had never been done before.  Not only that but a bunch of "rich white people", affectionately called "gringos" were speaking at it.  We were different, but that was part of what drew people's attention and attendance.  Another difference was in our definitions of poverty.  Ours was "you are poor and have little, so I will give you stuff/money so you won't be poor", while their definition of poverty is "I am hopeless and nothing can get me out of this situation".  Once we understood this, we could help them not by throwing them our leftover pesos, but by showing them the source of hope - JESUS.  When we encourage them to rely on Him for help, getting out of poverty can happen as a by product of knowing HOPE. - Ben

4. Emotional brokenness is cross-cultural

While the guys were at the men's conference, the ladies went to a womens' ministry to speak to single and pregnant ladies.  We worried that whatever we could say would be meaningless because their lives seem so much harder than ours.  We each shared personal testimonies and then we had a time of prayer.  It was amaizng to see how so many ladies related to what we said and asked for specific prayer.  God taught us two things here: first, no matter what situations we are in or where we live, we can struggle with the same issues.  Also we learned that God can use anyone who is willing.  He doesn't just use the confident speaker who blows people's minds with their words.  He uses the servants that are willing to be used by Him and He does the rest.  The results were more amazing than what we could ever imagine. - Evangeline

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SLI Class of 2013/2014

Congratulations to our SLI Class on their graduation!  We are proud of each of you and how you have grown this year.  

One of our SLI, Bianca Guderian, delivered this excellent speech about what she learned during her year.  It's a beautiful picture of the inner workings of relationships:

"I'd like to talk about two things that I have learned a lot about this past year; math and people. In the past 12 months 3 of them have been spent learning about math and 9 of them spent learning about people.  Math is logical, consistent and predictable.  People are unpredictable, inconsistent and don't always make sense.  Math follows the numbers.  People can follow their emotions.  Math is perfect.  People are imperfect.  Math brings problems to be solved.  People bring conflict to be resolved.

I prefer solving math problems as opposed to resolving conflict with people. Problems are easily solved; conflicts are not as easily resolved. But what I have learned this year is that the result of resolving a conflict is much greater that the result of solving a problem.

I used to look at building relationships as writing a math equation. I wanted them perfect with no error. But a perfect relationship, with no trial, is a weak one. This year taught me not to build perfect relationships but strong ones. Conflict resolving gives you a strong relationship. Contrary to popular belief solid relationships are built on conflicts overcome.  Conflicts build strong lasting relationships. In order to overcome conflict, commitment to the relationship, patience, forgiveness and love is needed. I thank my classmates for demonstrating all of these things and showing me that relationships are worth fighting for. We had our fair share of conflict and disagreement but we wouldn’t be the friends we are today without them.

This year has also shown me that every relationship is unique and valuable. While math will always give you the same answer, people will never give you the same relationship. The way you work through conflict and the experiences you share give you a unique relationship with that person that no one else has. In the past I have found myself coveting others relationships because they “always get along” or they are closer. But the relationship I have with that person is unique and no one else has it. The conflicts resolved and the experiences shared are ours and ours alone. The relationships I have are beautiful things.

I thank the SLI staff, my classmates and my family for showing me the value of the relationships I have and how to build strong lasting relationships."