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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.

 

2018 Updates 

 [/dcs_p] October 20, 2018- 

 Seven sad Brewer fans have arrived safely in Guatemala from St. Paul's West Allis and two more will arrive there tomorrow.

  

  October 21, 2018 - 

  
Good Morning Guatemala!
It is good to be back. After a long day of travel it felt again like coming home.  We are a little saddened by the Brewers loss in game 7, but the loss will allow us to focus on the Lord's work here in Guatemala.
Sunday is usually church time, one of our favorites with Carlos's praise band and Brisa dancing.  Today though the weather was questionable and Kevin had to go get Carri and Joe at the airport, so we chose to have our own church service.  This is the advantage of having our Pastor as part of the team. "Where two or three gather in my name, there I am with them."  Matthew 18:20
We had an up lifting casual worship upstairs where Lenore shared a devotion referring to John 1:40-41.  It is in this reference where she spoke of the disciple Andrew as a good example of bringng people to God without taking the credit. In the Bible it says we are the salt of the earth.  So we need to get out of the salt shaker and "spread" ourselves around and share Jesus. Some examples during our travels was Kristy witnessing to an atheist in the airport. Lenore witnessed to her seatmate on the plane.  And Lou Ann calmed a nervous man who was an anxiouis flyer. He said he was so glad he was on a plane with Christians.  And finally Nancy spoke to a Great Lakes Navy Graduate and handed out her prayer cards to the airline crew.
We continued to share not only our fears but also our hopes for the week to come.
We ended the evening with Kristy sharing some uplifting scripture passages that are comforting to her in times of challenges.
We are looking forward to tomorrow where we will see our missionary friends and visit George at "Only a Child".
God's Blessing and Good Night.
With Love,
Crystal Barry and Darla Leitermann
Our quote for today "Be a rainbow in somebody's cloud today."

 October 22, 2018

  "Come and see what God has done, his awesome deeds for mankind!" Psalm 66:5 Today was another glorious day in Guatemala!  There were views of the volcanoes Agua and Pacaya from the mission house and we started the day with a devotion by Ana, one of the Guatemalan missionaries. Our St. Paul's team had then visited with George at the Only a Child Ministry.  Here we learned that the ministry's focus has shifted from rescuing boys from the street to reaching out to young men in rural areas who have the desire and potential to pursue a college education.  And today was an exciting day for the ministry as three of the eight boys had just been accepted to the University!  These three young men shared some of their stories with us and we had the opportunity to meet all eight young men participating in the ministry.  We also got to see the work-in-progress in the famous wooden boxes, crosses, and plaques.  It was interesting that the new young men have quickly learned the carpentry work (which helps to support the ministry) and have become quite skilled.   Today was Milwaukee Lunch Day!  We treated the team to "Imported Brats," cheese curds, and chips.  Pastor Bender ably grilled the brats on the rooftop of the mission house.  Once we were full and in need of a nap, we headed out on home visits.  One group went to the home of Miriam, sponsored child of Pastor Bender and Kelly Jo, and the house was located down in a steep ravine that tested everyone's cardio capacity (worse going back uphill).  The other group visited the family of Carlos, one of the Guatemalan Missionaries.  Carlos' daughter, Brisa, is graduating from high school this week and looking forward to studying Psychology at the University.  Brisa had been been a sponsored by Sharon Stehmeier who sent a video message that brought tears to the eyes of all Brisa, her family and all the team members.  It was a thrill to see such as strong, intact Christian family in a country with so many challenges. Tomorrow we look forward to sharing our faith lessons in El Rincon.  Say a prayer and wish us well! Bendigas to all!

October 23, 2018 Hola a todos, Today we visited El Rincon in Amatitlan, a city situated in a valley near a volcano. Upon arriving, we broke up in to three small home visit groups. Three team members got to visit the homes of their sponsored children. Each visit was filled with joy and the love they share was evident. Each family is so appreciative for the help that the children receive, and they truly thank God for our visits. Kristy had the opportunity to visit the home of her sponsored child, and it was a very positive and uplifting experience! Carri and Nancy had the opportunity to visit a teenager that Carri has sponsored for four and a half years. He has been diligently studying in high school to become a chef, and recently graduated! It was very moving for Carri to have the chance to hold in her hand the diploma of her sponsored child! For four years she has encouraged his studies, and seeing his goal reached was an incredible joy. Not only has he succeeded in his studies, but he is a wonderful role model for his younger brothers and sister who look up to him! Crystal had a lovely visit, too, because she was able to go to the home of her sponsored child, and meet her for the very first time! Crystal encouraged her to focus on her studies and her future, because she is a very beautiful young woman and, unfortunately, in Guatemala, often times young women are tempted to fall in to the pattern of beginning families at a very young age, and therefore not completing their educations. They shared Proverbs 31:30 with her, which says "Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised."  Following home visits, we were blessed to speak with the three chidren sponsored by Bob. Unfortunately, Bob could not join us this year due to back surgery, so his kids were saddened by his absence. However, the children, their mother, and younger siblings were joyful to have had the opportunity to meet with us and receive Bob's love and hugs. They are a beautiful family, and Bob had so much to be proud of! We also had the opportunity to meet and speak with the young woman now sponsored by the Ladies Guild - Kayla. She is very appreciative of the help and support that she is receiving, and she sends her thanks and love to the Ladies Guild of St. Paul's. Then, we broke into our faith lesson groups to teach the children, youth, and adults. Despite it being our first efforts, it went well for all teams and we are excited to only improve as the week continues! After dinner at the mission house, we were visitied by George, the founder of the "Only A Child" ministry that we visited yesterday. We spoke with him more in-depth about his boys and his ministry, as well as its future. He expressed great thankfulness for the support of our team and our congregation. We thank God for George's mission and humbleness, as he continues to bless many lives around him. Thank you, as always, for your continued prayers and support. Buenas noches! Carri and Nancy

October 24, 2018 Greetings from Guatemala on Wednesday evening! We began today waking up to have breakfast at 6:00 a.m. and then leave for the two hour ride to Buena Vista. As we drove we were again amazed at the beauty of God's creation! We were blessed to drive past the volcano named "Fuego" which erupted about four months ago. Huge scars are on the face of the volcano where the lava flowed. Also, sadly nearly two hundred people died with another two hundred people still missing. Pray for their families!   Upon arriving at the "International Headquarters" of Groundwork Guatemala (a fenced in concrete pavilion and out house with stools for chairs) we unloaded the vans and prepared for our faith lessons and home visits. We (Joe and PB) went on home visits in the morning. I (Joe) went with Kristy Baars to visit Thomas. The original plan was to visit his daughter who had neck pains after having nine babies, but she was at the hospital. We were both touched visiting Thomas among pigs, chickens and dogs. He expressed how thankful he was for us coming, sharing God's Word and praying. Despite his work on harvesting corn and not having a guarantee in his work he is very content and trusts God to always provide!   PB went with Lou Ann Zimmel, Kevin (GG's Leader) and local missionary Aracely to make home visits. The first visit was at the home of Virhilia.  Her property was the location of the faith lessons when they first began years ago.  When they outgrew her place, they purchased the land and pavillion of the "headquarters."  She is 71 years old and shared with us the tragic story of her 28 year old son, Willian.  Until he was 20 years old he was a hard-working young man, even winning an award for his work.  One day at work, Willian had severe headaches and later that day he became paranoid and aggressive towards others.  Back in Buena Vista, he started throwing rocks at all the people who live there, would take off his clothes, and say that everyone wants to kill them all.  Virhilia has to watch him 24/7, a huge caregiving responsibility.  She asks for our prayers, for healing for her son, and for strength for her.  She says that she reads her Bible and prays every day.  God bless her!   That same group was unable to make a second visit as the folks weren't home.  Kevin led the group on a beautiful "short-cut" through the Guatemalan countryside, through beautiful palm trees, across a stream, through a bit of mud, and then through a sugar can field to take us back to the pavillion.   All the teams felt that our faith lessons went very well, much better than the first day of presenting them.  Our evening concluded with a wonderful devotion by Darla Leitermann on "Please and Thank you."  She said that we should really be thankful to God first, thanking Him for all His blessings before we get to our requests. She shared a "Thank You" card with a Bible verse with each of us and we closed with prayers of thanksgiving to God.   We give thanks for all of you who care enough to read our blog and support us in prayer and in our mission work.   One final bit of excitement: this evening right after dinner another volcano erupted.  It is named "Pacaya."  And as the writing of this blog, it is still erupting with lava flows that we can see from about 20 miles away.  Please pray for any affected by this eruption, that God would bless them with protection and faith to see them through.   Serving our Lord and as Ambassadors of St. Paul's, Joe Ross and Pastor Bender  

October 25, 2018 Hola, Today we were blessed once again, by sharing God's Love with the Guatemalan people in Gonzalez Park in Amatitlan. We started with home visits in order to see all the children that are sponsored by the congregation of St. Paul's and by our team members. Darla visited her sponsored child and he is first in his class, reads his Bible regularly, and plays the organ in church. He blessed Darla and the others by playing a beautiful song on the keyboard and singing (in both English and Spanish), and it was incredibly moving to all who were present! Kristy and a group of friends have just started sponsoring two children in Gonzalez Park. She visited the home of one of them, and the family was exceptionally grateful for the new support for their son. Then, they visited the home of a child that Kristy has sponsored for the last year, and they, too, were very appreciative. However, Kristy was saddened to hear that the family is going through a challenging period, and they are asking for prayers. Carri visited the home of a child that she has sponsored for three years and was very blessed by the visit. Last year, the mother asked for prayers for her family because her husband did not want to go to church with his family, and he did not encourage the study of Scripture in the home. They have been remembered in our prayers throughout the last year, and we were so happy to hear that now they attend church each weekend as a family, and once again study the Bible at home! Back at Gonzalez Park, we were excited to meet Bryan - the child most recently sponsored by St. Paul's. With the generous support of the congregation, Bryan graduated high school on October 4 and was blessed to begin a job the following day! He is now working for a cable company and hopes to save money so that he can continue on to the University! It was truly a pleasure to meet such a grateful young man and his mother, and we are so very proud of him! This is what child sponsorships are all about!! We also got to spend time with the other three children sponsored by St. Paul's - Yeymi, Santos, and Cristino. We have seen them each year, and they are growing quickly and they continue to succeed in their studies. They are so incredibly grateful for our continued support, and they send hugs and their thanks for your thoughts, prayers, and support. Our faith lessons all went well and, because school is now out for the year, the youth and childrens' groups were very large! It was truly a blessing to be able to share the Word of God with so many kids today! Each time we come to Guatemala, Thursday is one of our very favorite days. In Gonzalez Park, many children are sponsored by St. Paul's congregations, and by individuals on our team. We love to visit with them and spend time with their families, and they are a blessing in our lives! In Christ, Lou Ann and Carri

October 26, 2018 Good Friday evening from Guatemala! Today we had a delicious breakfast of egg and cheese sandwiches made by Ginny. We've eaten very well all week thanks to her cooking! Then we had an excellent morning devotion led by Cesar about God's grace and guidance in our lives for His good. All of the Guatemalan missionaries have expressed their countless gratitude for us coming to Guatemala and the time we've spent here! We did pictures together with the Guatemalan missionaries and the faith lesson teams then headed out to home visits. I (Joe) went with Kristy, Carri and Crystal with Guatemalan missionaries Sondra and Carlos to visit a home that God led them to. Sondra talked to a man as we walked and asked if he'd like us to visit and he happily answered yes! The family all works in the dump. It was heartbreaking to see the young child cry for food and their son gave the child food off the shelf that most likely came from the dump. We shared Bible verses with them that all fit together and blessed them. They were grateful for our visit and the time we spent with them! The other home visit was to Clara who is sponsored by Lenore. I (PB) went with Lenore, Nancy and Darla and Guatemalan missionaries Oscar and Julian. She was uplifted by our visit as we shared scripture with her and Nancy shared a song. We were glad to be able to visit her again and touch her life despite the struggles she's facing! With schools getting out today before they resume in January, the only faith lesson at the mission house was the adult group. Others helped Oscar work on the craft for the lesson next week. Then we had delicious ice cream in the afternoon and pizza on the roof top at the mission house before doing our "week in Guatemala" reflection. We thank God for bringing us here at this time, the blessing of Kevin and Ginny taking care of us all week and the time spent with the Guatemalan missionaries. As always it was tough to say goodbye to the Guatemalan missionaries after a week that went fast! We thank God for your support and prayers for our trip to Guatemala! Philippians 1:3 Joe Ross and Pastor Bender