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Divine Connections

St. Paul's Outreach program, "Divine  Connections", seeks to divinely connect with others outside St. Paul's walls and into the community. Through various service opportunities, our hope is to connect and witness to others, as a call to expand God's kingdom.  

Groundwork Guatemala 

 

  On June 3, 2017, St. Paul’s sent a team to participate in Groundwork Guatemala, a faith mission headquartered in Guatemala City. Groundwork Guatemala was founded by an American couple, Ginny and Kevin Holmes, who operate the mission with the help of 8 local Guatemalan missionaries. Their work is complemented by week-long visits by teams from American churches, such as St. Paul’s; teams are actively involved in all aspects of mission work during their stay. Groundwork Guatemala’s motto is “ Finding the Lost, Equipping the Found,” and they fulfill this mission in several ways:

  1. Bringing God’s Word to the Guatemalan people. Each week, the Groundwork Guatemala teams presents a new scripture lesson to adults, teens, and children located in 3 villages as well as the mission house in Guatemala City. Visiting American teams are responsible for preparing and teaching a lesson based on assigned scripture from the church lectionary. A craft enhances the lesson for children and teens.
  1. Education. Many Guatemalan families cannot afford to send their children to school, public or private. Groundwork Guatemala, with the help of many American donors, currently provides scholarships to over 250 children, giving them hope to rise out of poverty. As a congregation, St. Paul’s currently supports 4 children to attend El Paraiso school in Amatitlán.
  1. Health Care. While not primarily a medical mission, Groundwork Guatemala does have a daily “walk-in” clinic at each village they visit. People will walk for many miles to be seen at the clinic and attend the faith lesson. Many problems can be handled by their nurse, Ana. With more serious issues, the mission is able to facilitate more sophisticated care.The mission also supplies vitamins and medication to as many as 1000 people. Hygiene items, such as toothpaste, toothbrushes, deodorant, soap, and shampoo are also provided as donations permit.
  1. Home visits. Each day, the local Guatemalan missionaries, along with their American guests, visit people in their homes to support them as they deal with social, health, spiritual, and faith challenges. Severe poverty is endemic, and emergency food supplies or medication may be distributed to families in need. Scripture and prayers are shared during these intimate and often heart-wrenching visits.
2017 marks the 5th time St. Paul’s has sent a team to Groundwork Guatemala. We look forward to presenting our faith lesson, based on the Parable of the Prodigal Son. Thanks to generous donations from St. Paul’s congregation, we will carry upwards of 1000# of school supplies, medicines, and hygiene items to be distributed to the Guatemalan people. Our days are busy and long, laughter and hugs interspersed with tears and culture shock. We hope to be a blessing to the Guatemalan people, and know that we will return home blessed beyond measure. We ask that you keep us in your prayers. We invite you to share our experiences on the website or Facebook. You can learn more about Groundwork Guatemala at www.groundworkguatemala.org.

 

   

2017 Updates 

 

 

June 3, 2017 - 

The group traveling on Saturday to Guatemala has arrived safely! They will be attending worship at Sendaro de la Cruz or  "Way of the Cross Church" tomorrow morning. 
Kellie, Pastor Bender and myself will be traveling to Guatemala tomorrow.
Joe
"Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom." 
Isaiah 40:28

 

June 4, 2017- 

Hola to our St Paul's Family!

We made it safely to the Mission House in Guatemala. Nine of the the 12 team members arrived Saturday and the other three arrived today. It did rain today because it is the rainy season, so we could not see any of the volcanos.

After breakfast we walked to our two hour Church service. One of the highlights of the service was watching our dear Brisa who was one of the praise dancers. During one of the songs she became so moved with the spirit that she stopped dancing, clutched her heart, closed her eyes and bowed her head and prayed. It touched us all to see her so moved by the Spirit. Brisa is the young lady that is the daughter of one of our missionaries and was featured in a video we shared with the congregation. She started to cry when we told her she was famous at our Church for being in the video.
After lunch we unpacked 17 suitcases full of all of the donations that we brought with us. We stocked the shelves with much need supplies!
After a bit of fellowship and relaxation, George from Only A Child visited and we had a very nice time listening to his stories. He told us how thankful he and the boys at his mission are to have received our very large and generous order of boxes and crosses. St Paul's orders this year have greatly helped George to continue his mission of keeping the wood shop operating and the mission for the boy's to continue.
We hope that tonight we can all sleep well even though we have to wear earplugs to block out roosters crowing, dogs barking, motorcycles, firecrackers and squeeky blow up mattresses.
Buenos Noches from Darla, Crystal and your Groundwork Guatemala Team!
P.S. Happy Birthday to Jeff Leitermann!

June 5, 2017- 

 

Hola!  Greetings from Guatemala!
There are many different ministries in Guatemala that all serve the people in different ways. Some build houses; some supply clean water; some provide tutoring and food. Then, there also those ministries that are primarily focused on spreading the Word and love of Jesus. Our true purpose for being in Guatemala has come up repeatedly today in team discussions. The Holy Spirit did not send us here to focus solely on the physical needs of the people; though we do care for them by providing medical and supplies, our purpose here is much deeper. We have been sent here by the Holy Spirit as his messengers, to share with the people of Guatemala the good news that is the salvation of Jesus Christ. We cannot break the cycle of poverty on our own, nor can we provide an education to every child in Guatemala. However, what we can do is share the life saving message of Christ, and the assurance of an eternal life where our worldly troubles are no more.
This morning, after breakfast, we had a devotion led by Ana, Guatemalan Missionary and Nurse, based on Joshua 24 and Psalms 105.  The devotion focused on the message that we are to serve the one true God instead of false gods.  There are many false gods and we have the free will to choose which god we serve.  Our God, the one true God, is gracious, mighty and unchanging, and the only God who can save us; therefore, He should be the God we choose to serve, always.
Our team then visited the wood workshop for the Only a Child Ministry, another Christian mission in Guatemala focused on the spiritual, mental, and physical well being of street boys.  George, the founder of Only a Child, shared the story of how he came to Guatemala to serve the Lord and how the current version of his mission came into existence.  The message George shares is one of overwhelming trust and faith that that Lord will always provide if you take the time to listen and have the courage to act.  While at the workshop George shared with us that the order that our St. Paul's team placed of 78 carved boxes and crosses helped to fund the mission.  This order helped give work to the participants and also helps them to earn money to support their lives.  We also spoke with several participants at the shop but Daniel stood out.  Daniel was a former gang-member and joined the Only a Child mission to go into hiding from his gang.  Daniel has completed law school and is studying now to take the bar exam, which he hopes to schedule for October.  Other long time participants of the program, Marvin and Rudy, arrived shortly before we left.  It was nice to see faces that we've seen in our previous visits to Guatemala.
We then had a moving experience during our visit to the city dump.  Actually, we stayed in the van and only visited the entrance to the dump.  In previous years the mission staff would take us to the cemetery so we could overlook the dump but this year, we got a new perspective by observing the entrance to the dump instead.  While sitting at the entrance, Kevin explained, in detail, that workers at the dump started coming in the 90's after the Guatemalan Civil War ended and many people who did not speak Spanish and had no education did not have job opportunities in the city which led to people sifting through the garbage to find items to sell for a source of income.  On the other side of the road from the dump there are two communities that have been built on top of the old dump site.  These communities are some of the most challenged and impoverished communities within Guatemala City.  Opportunities for the people in these communities are limited due to the simple zone number where they live.  The communities are in Zone 3; zones are similar to our American zip code system.  When people in these communities apply for jobs they must list their Zone and being a Zone 3 resident often is an automatic disqualification because most people in this Zone have never held employment other than working in the dump and therefore, have no "real" education or job experience and they have a reputation for being unreliable.
We returned to the mission house for lunch where it was Missionary Day!  This is an exciting day because our team brought bratwurst, cheese curds, stadium sauce and homemade peanut butter cookies to share with the Guatemalan Missionaries.  It was a hit!  After lunch we worked on our faith lessons.
Following lunch we divided into two groups for home visits in Zone 3.  Group one consisted of LouAnn, Pastor Bender, Kellie, Joe, Bob and Nancy.  They visited the home of Lydia.  There are several family members living in the home.  The team noted that even though the house is only two years old it was very dirty, covered in bugs and flies and living conditions were some of the worst our team has seen in Guatemala.  Lydia's mother, Maria, died last week.  The family requested that we pray for them during this difficult time.  Group one also visited the home of Ava whose son recently sustained a gunshot wound to the leg but is recovering well.  Ava's daughter recently abandoned the family and they don't have contact with her.  This family requested prayer for the safety and well being of her family.
Group two consisted of Carri, Kristy, Lenore, Darla, Crystal and Danielle.  This team first visited the home of Clara who is sponsored by Lenore and Darla.  Clara is also the sister of Guatemala missionary, Oscar.  Over the years Clara has been suffering from arthritis and depression.  Recently, Clara's daughter left the home and is not communicating with her mother and Clara doesn't know why.  Clara was overcome with emotion during the visit and requested that we pray family relations and the health of herself and her family.  The second visit was to the home of Julian, Guatemalan Missionary, and he is sponsored by Carri.  We met Julian's wife, Lucia (who is Oscar's sister), and Julian's three children.  They live in a nice home that they are in the process of buying.  But Julian and his wife are concerned because the area has changed a lot in recent months.  The family is most concerned about and requests prayer for the education of their children as well as the health and safety of their entire family.
We returned back to the mission house safely to a wonderful dinner prepared by Ginny. Nancy had closing devotion called "All God's Children."Jesus came to die and rise for the people we saw going into the dump looking for anything of value, all the people we see in Guatemala, all the back in Wisconsin, and all of us.
Good night and God bless,
Kristy, Carri, and the Groundwork Guatemala Team

June 6, 2017- 

 

Good evening on Tuesday, June 6, from Nancy and Lenore at Groundwork Guatemala,
A truly magnificent day today! We began with a clever devotion by Aracely. She hid Bible verses in the furniture, then began a devotion on living a compassionate Christ-like life, walking as Jesus did. We all participated, because she would call out for "Verse number 6,"or Question number 3", and we would respond if that was the hidden verse we had found. The format and the verses themselves made for a very interactive and thoughtful devotion. We carried the "compassion" theme with us throughout the day.
We drove to our first village, El Rincon, which sits under the Pacaya volcano. There are many children in El Rincon who have received scholarship support from members of our group, and we try to meet personally with them all. Kristy and Lenore had chosen to be "new"sponsors, and our morning house visits were to their families. Kristy's new student is Yoni, a 7 year-old first grader ,who lives with his family of 5 in a concrete block building that is very clean and organized. Lenore is supporting Angela, a 9 year-old fourth grader who lives in a corrugated 3-room shack with a dirt floor, which is as spotless as it can be under the circumstances. Angela has 3 older sisters who are also sponsored students, and 3 older siblings who live closer to their work. Both parents welcomed us, and are strong Christians. It was a pleasure to visit with them. Bob and Carri also were able to meet up with their kids.
After the infamous PB&J lunch, we prepared for our initial "live" presentation of our faith lessons. This is always a cause for some nervousness, since we don't know how things will translate, how our props will work out, will it be interesting, etc.(Our scripture assignment this year was Acts 17:16-34, Paul teaching in Athens). Bottom Line: Everything went "pretty well," with some rough edges to smooth out, but we were pleased. Of note, the megaphones which 140 children made as a craft led to some genuine Guatemalan cacophony (mostly "spreading the word"!)
The local Guatemalan missionaries provided a treat for the young kids after their lesson. (This may be the most nutritious meal they get in days) Today's treat was a black bean tostada with grated cheese and a juice box.)
Once lessons were completed, we packed up the vans and headed home, tired but inspired from a Good Day In Guatemala. Many things to be thankful for today: An inspiring devotion, good fellowship on a scenic van ride to El Rincon, meeting intact 2-parent families who are genuinely concerned about their childrens' spiritual and physical welfare, brazos y besos (hugs and kisses) from the all the appreciative Guatemalan people we meet, our growth in testimony and witness, getting home safely to a tasty supper. And, of course, we are thankful for your interest in our journey and your prayers for our safety and success.
Kristy had evening devotion on "Planting Your Fields." We are in Guatemala planting seeds with the love of Jesus, we pray as they are watered they grow in Christ who gives them life through all eternity. Like a garden some won't grow, but it wouldn't be possible without the seed being planted!
Dios le bendiga,
Nancy Gottschalk and Lenore VanSanten

June 7, 2017- 

 

Greetings from the mission house in Guatemala City!
Today started early with breakfast at 6 A.M. followed by a two-hour drive to Buena Vista. While the adults gave their faith lesson, the other eight toured the local school before splitting into two teams for home visits.The school teaches kindergarden through sixth grade, and many students were working on art projects. Although the school was busy, loud, hot, and poorly lit, we were thankful to see cheerful kids attending school in a place where many children don't get an education.
Once they split, Nancy, Pastor, Joe, and Crystal went with the missionaries to visit 42-year-old Alicia. Alicia has been seriously ill the past few weeks with an undiagnosed medical condition. She was concerned about her relationship with God and wanted to be baptized since she may not live much longer. She had asked other pastors who had come to Buena Vista if they would baptize her; one denied her baptism because she did not have proper identificaiton, and another pastor said she needed to fast for three days before he would consider baptizing her. Since baptism is God's gift of grace for sinners, and she understands its purpose, Pastor baptized her. So, using water from a coffee cup and poured into a plastic bowl, Pastor Bender baptized her just like we do in church: In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. There wasn't a dry eye in the house, literally!
Kellie, Danielle, Carri, Bob, and two Guatemalan missionaries walked about a mile to an area beyond the roads and electricity to visit Lucia and her husband, Marcelino. Kellie and Danielle, being new to the country of Guatemala, were astounded by the pure beauty of God's creation here. Lucia and Marcelino were very welcoming and even gifted us with mangos while we sat and shared God's Word and stories with each other. They were very happy to have visitors as they are lonely and often pray for company.
Last evening we all reflected on the first day and worked to strengthen the lessons; the teams felt that all the faith lessons improved today. All of us nearly fell off our stools the first time we heard a coconut or avocado drop from the trees above us onto the tin roof of the pavillion we were sitting under. Once we realized it was only harmless vegetation, they only become brief interruptions during our lessons.
While the youth and children's lessons were going on, Kristy, Lenore, LouAnn, Darla, and the Guatemalan nurse went to Xaya (shy-YAH). They visited a 23-year-old man who is very sick. Even though he was too sick to talk, he responded positively to the Guatemalan nurse who had visited him before. Please pray for him and his grandmother, who is caring for him.
Our day as a group ended with our usual devotion, which was written by Joe tonight. Its title was "This is Where You Belong," which encouraged each of us that we are all here because God placed us here. Afterwards, we spent time in fellowship, talking about what brought us all to the Guatamalan team for the first time.
Stay tuned for tomorrow's blog, which will recap our day in Amatitlan!
With sincere thankfulness for bug spray, PB&J lunches, and a Guatemalan market right in our dining room,
Kellie Jo Bender, Danielle Jackson, & the rest of the Guatemalan Team

 

 

June 8, 2017- 

Greetings our Brothers and Sisters in Christ Jesus, It is Thursday, June 8th, 2017  in Beautiful Guatemala where God continues to work through us and through the Guatemalans and even sometimes in spite of our off-key singing!  We were up at 6am, had a continental breakfast at 7am followed by devotion at 8am.  Carlos, one of the Guatemalan Missionaries, began devotion by singing a hymn in Spanish and praying. Then we were into the word. The devotion was mainly based in Philippians 4: v 8 & 9 as Carlos encouraged us to fight the good fight of faith by calling on the Lord to protect our thoughts. Thoughts always lead to actions whether good or evil; He said we need to say, "No thank you, "to the bad thoughts and ask the Lord to give us good thoughts that will lead to good actions. After devotion, we packed up our stuff, piled into the vans and headed to Amatitlan for  home visits and Faith Lessons. One of home visits was to  the home of Kristi Baars' newly sponsored child, Naidelyn. She was at school but we visited with the rest of her family. They did not know which of us was the new sponsor, but mother, Anna, pointed right at Kristi and guessed correctly. The night before, Naidelyn had asked when God would give her a  sponsor: Kristi was God's answer to her prayers and ran into Kristi's arms when she saw her later in the day. Another home visit was to the home of Darla's sponsored child, Elvis. Darla showed the family pictures, showing our church, the Milwaukee area and of her home too. Darla also shared the words of Jesus from Mark 12:30: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and with all your mind and with all you strength." Elvis had already written a letter to give to Darla that quoted the exact same words from the Old Testament Book of  Deuteronomy 6:5. God works in mysterious ways. One of the great joys of going to Amatitlan is that we have 10 children sponsored by our church or individual members of our church. We got to see them all!  Those sponsored by St. Paul's Church: Cristino, Yeymi, Santos, and Marvin Joel. The Ladies Guild sponsored child, Wilson. Darla's two sponsored children, Elvis and Dulce. Carri's sponsored children, Jefferson and Nery. Kristi's newly sponsored Naidelyn.  One of the most moving things to witness is the love expressed in hugs, and expressions on the faces of the children, families, and sponsors who embrace each other in the love of Christ. For the first time, the faith lessons given in Amatitlan were shared at three different locations: The little children in John the Baptist Park, the youth in an upper room of a local resident and the adults in Gonzalez Park. It was a blessing to share our faith lessons once again to over 350 souls eager for the Word, dampened only by an intense thunderstorm just as we ended. After dinner of soft tacos, beans, rice, salad and delicious guacamole, our day ended with a devotion in the upper room led by Carri, called, "Your potential, just as you are." The devotion focused on the various gifts, talents, abilities and passions that God has given us with the encouragement to use these for God's glory and as a witness to Jesus Christ. We were also encouraged to look at our weaknesses, failings, and regrets, knowing that God's grace is sufficient to cover these and He can even use these to help us witness to and encourage others who have experienced similar difficulties. It is a wonderful thing to go on a mission trip and serve with fellow Christians. Because of our bond in Christ, we can share our joys, sorrows, and sometimes the deepest parts of our soul with one another. We laugh together, cry together and we love and accept each other just the way we are!  We are a little sad that tomorrow is the last full day of sharing our faith lessons in Guatemala. While we are looking forward to coming home soon, it is always a bit sad to say goodbye to our Guatemalan Friends in Christ which will happen at the end of the day tomorrow. Until tomorrow, this is Bob Reynolds and Pastor Bender signing off for the Groundwork Guatemala Team.

June 9, 2017- 

Good evening from Guatemala! We started out with morning devotion by Cesar on being humble and serving the Lord. It's sad being our last day in Guatemala, but we are returning to Wisconsin blessed by the week in Guatemala! This morning Danielle, Kellie, and Joe went to visit Godoy's coffee and meet Caroline. She has run Godoy's for 25 years, and had her family in the coffee business for 100 years! We have ordered 154 pounds of coffee and chocolate espresso beans. It was interesting to see the process of roasting the coffee and how much time to roast each coffee. The samples were delicious and Caroline gave us each a coffee mug at the end! Crystal, Darla, Lenore, Nancy, Carri, Lou Ann, Bob and Pastor went to visit Sondra and Aracely (Groundwork Guatemala missionaries) and family who recently lost their Grandma. They thanked us many times for coming to Guatemala and how we touch the lives of the people we visit all week and brought Sondra to tears! It's a blessing to see another family in Guatemala that follows Christ and tries to live in a God pleasing way. They bless us by how much they give to the Lord and their example of faith! We came back to the mission house almost at the same time and had the "best of everything" from this week for lunch. Each group did their faith lessons at the mission house. It was smaller numbers for each group, but all the lessons went well and could interact a little more with the groups. We had ice cream with the Guatemala missionaries to close the week. We thanked them for working with us and the blessing they are to be with! We are thankful for the humble servants they are to many! We had pizza and soda for dinner. Then we had reflections on the week with Kevin and Ginny and what we can do to bring the Guatemalan experience back to Wisconsin and our everyday lives. We leave Guatemala at 8:05 a.m. and fly to Atlanta. Please keep us in your prayers as we travel back to Wisconsin. We thank God for the support of St. Paul's Lutheran Church to take our mission to Guatemala! Lou Ann Zimmel and Joe Ross