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Volcanoes, Eggs, and the Glory of God: The SGC Mission Trip to Guatemala

• Joy Sasser

Posted in Discipleship, Evangelism, Events, Every-Member Ministry, Mission, Service

By Joy Sasser

My name is Joy Sasser, and I was one of the 32 from SGC that recently ventured down to Agua Viva Children’s Home in Guatemala. Speaking for the team is tough because everyone took something different away from the experience and of what God did through us and in us. There are a few things I can confidently say from the group.

First is how grateful we are to have been sent and supported through prayer, finances, and service by our family, friends, and SGC. For some, trusting God to provide the finances through you all was a big step of faith. Many of you served at the garage sale and Lindy Meeker, who didn’t go on the trip, took time out to choreography a dowel performance as one of our skits. For all the ways you served and helped us, we are grateful.

Secondly, we are thankful for the leadership we had through Jonathan and Elvia Garner and Mark and Sherri Schlax. They humbly led the team, with clarity, unity, and with the purpose of us joyfully serving others and challenging us to grow in the process. Something hopefully you will see in my description of the week is how this team was full of a wide variety of talented members who took charge in different areas, but everyone faithful served side-by-side.

7000 Feet and Volcanoes All Around

I want to give a snap shot of what and where Agua Viva Children’s Home is and who we were serving. The 13 lush green acres are situated at 7000 feet above sea level with valleys and volcanoes all around. It is simply beautiful. You can at one moment be in short sleeves basking in the closeness of the sun (a few even got sun burned), at the next be engulfed in a cloud, and then be caught in a bone chilling down pour. As we were there on the tail end of the rainy season, we had plenty of rain, but the Lord was gracious in that the rain never interfered with our work or our plans. This walled compound has a school educating 250 kids pre-K to 9th, a working farm that produces 1/3 of their food and all the buildings that make up the living quarters for the children and the staff, including the dining hall and work buildings.

Currently living in the home are 80 kids ranging from 1 to 18 years old. They are split by age into 5 homes: 2 girls houses, 2 boys houses and a baby house that is from 1-6yrs. Within these homes there are 2 sets of amazing house parents that rotate every 48 hrs. The Agua Viva Children's Home is a non-denominational Christian home that has helped meet the physical and spiritual needs of hundreds of impoverished children since 1977. Its goal for these children is to rear and educate them in a loving Christian environment to be successful, Christian adults with the desire and ability to help their own people. Elvia Garner, one of our four amazing leaders, is an example of this as she was raised in the home until she was adopted at 15.

“Draw near to God and He will draw near to you” (James 4:8)

This was the theme of our team as we focused on the book of James. We did this personally in early morning devotions (Tom Heck led the 5:30 sunrise guys challenging them to hear from the Lord), as a team with morning and evening team devotions led by Bob Walton and worship led by Nathaniel Hinds, and it was the central message we shared with the kids in the evening Vacation Bible School. To kicked off each evening we divided the kids into teams for games. This helped us gradually get to know a specific group of kids all week long and opened the door to more intentional relationship building during the afternoons. After the games we did a variety of skits tackling topics such as wisdom, faith verses works, worldliness, and drawing near to God. Caroline Gregus did an great job writing most the skits and Ben and Abbey helped with translating them and took the longest speeches. I was very proud of Henry, Jediah, Eli, and Joby who also had to learn lots of lines in Spanish! Ben Schlax then used these topics to launch into the nights teaching, all completely in Spanish. If my Spanish was better, I would have fully grasped how great he did.

400 Eggs a Day

After breakfast and devotions most of us worked on completing a variety of small work projects (such as washing 400 eggs a day, sewing curtains for the girls houses, organizing donations, fixing barbed wire fencing, painting, building cabinets, mowing, digging footers and more). During this time Rebekah Hill and Abbey Schlax led the cutest group of girls in ballet lessons with leotards and tutus. Talk about making a few dreams come true as they performed for all of us on Friday night.

Since the kids were out of school and on vacation, we then had the joy of spending the afternoons with them kids on fun projects! We brought down the Pine Car Derby track and a bunch of cars cut by Tom Heck. All the boys worked on sanding, painting, and finally racing their cars. They really got into their work and in the end were awarded for sportsmanship, creativity, and speed. Misi and a group of ladies worked hard to create fun and interesting crafts for the girls. They made beautiful fabric flowers that they then attached to hair clips or headbands bands, pearl necklaces, fun fuzzy sock octopuses and magnets. They were very creative in their designs and it was fun to see the girls wear their creations throughout the week or even save some as gifts. The late afternoons is a mandatory outdoor/active time for the kids, so many of the guys got regularly humbled on the soccer field during this time. On Friday we had an an all out, all day, field day that culminated in a massive unplanned shaving cream fight that really got the kids laughing. God bless the house parents who had to help get everyone clean!! As you can see, it wasn’t all work and no play. In fact, we spent one day down in Antigua and hiked to a cross that overlooked the city.

Two Personal Pleasures

In addition, I had two personal pleasures. The most important was for me to share this experience with my two middle-school aged kids, Georgia and Henry, and see their view of God, the world, and the needs of others expanded. They may not even fully comprehend that now, but I pray that it will influence the way they think and understand God’s call on their life for years to come. The second was indulging my love of children's literature with the little kids in Casa Samuel (the baby house) They lit up, climbed on me, turned the pages, read along, and answered questions. They clamored to be the first to name the animal and color in the Spanish version Eric Carle’s book, The Artist Who Painted a Blue Horse, and then would laugh and giggle as they competed to tell what color the animals would really be. My Spanish was good enough to carry me through Eric Carle but when it came to reading Curious George that was out of my league so I had to get help from the house parent. I am thankful that Caroline thought of bringing these books and I hope we can continue to build their library and build a love of reading that would carry over to loving to read their Bible.

In preparation for our trip, I prayed for our team and our time in Agua Viva. I felt the Lord give me these verses from Isaiah 55:10-11 “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

Sweet to the Lord and Not in Vain

I believe and shared it as a word of encouragement for the house parents and staff, that their work is sweet to the Lord and not in vain. As we went through the week I realized this was a word for our team as well. Not so much that our work was not in vain but rather a clearer understanding of our role in the greater body of Christ as just one team in many that come and help at the home. Our heart was to help water the seeds planted by the staff and other teams. We were like a quick down pour in our hugs, activities and teaching, but I recognized that those who live among these children are the steady rain and sunshine that truly cultivate the growth the Lord is doing in their hearts. I left with a passion to not only pray for these beloved kids, but also for the faithful house parents and staff who can have the greatest consistent and long-term impact on their lives. I am thankful that one night we had the opportunity to pray for several of these individuals.

Please join us as we continue to pray for the work the Lord is doing at Agua Viva and how we can serve and bless them in the future.

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