February 25, 2012

The Home Visit

This is home . . .

Rains had moved in, the roads were wet and the grounds muddy as my teammate Steve and I set out with missionaries Mary Jo and Dick Crandall on a 30 mile journey to follow-up on a recent patient of Hospital Shalom. We were going to visit a young thirteen-year-old girl that Mary Jo said carried a rare grace like that of a princess. I couldn't wait to meet her and her family.

I wondered why we were travelling a mere 30 miles for a home visit -- that is until I experienced the conditions of the rural Petén highways from the back seat of our borrowed “low-rider.” The highways boasted gargantuan, crater sized pot-holes and random speed bumps that threatened to sheer the undersides of the car away and leave my feet dangling above the pavement. Just because it's paved doesn't mean it's smooth.

All was quiet when we finally rattled up in front of her palace an hour later. The rain-soaked yard boasted  mud, ducks, chickens and pools of stagnant water. Four young boys just returning from school scrambled out of the brush along the roadway and ran toward our car. Dick and Mary Jo recognized them from a previous visit, and we soon discovered that The Princess was not at home.

Four princes of the palace with Steve

She was at the hospital (!) which meant the family had spent scarce resources to travel into the city…one of the very situations we had meant to prevent by coming to the house for the follow-up in the first place.

Home visits for patients in the Petén Jungle region of northern Guatemala provide several benefits:
  1. It is very difficult – if not impossible – for many rural families to make a trip for follow-up visits because transportation either does not exist, is very difficult to arrange, or the distance and time required for travel are excessively burdensome. Many patients live hours away.

  2. Home visits allow workers to assess living conditions which may provide greater insight on the patient’s and the family’s overall health care, physical, social, emotional and spiritual needs.

  3. Home visits give hospital missionaries an opportunity to continue contact with the family and the community in order to build relationships and to share the love of Jesus.
While Dick and Mary Jo talked with the boys I pulled “The Amazing Gospel” comic books, crayons and some coloring books from my back-pack. One of the boys spied the enticing graphics on the cover and we quickly became their new best friends in town.

Gospel comic books -  un regalo (a gift)

Their faces exploded in smiles so huge it made my own cheeks hurt, and they repeatedly held the comics up so we could take pictures of them with their new books. Mary Jo asked one of the boys to read for her, and he flipped open the pages and read in unfaltering Spanish a portion of the greatest story he'll ever read! 

Guatemala 2012 284

The children in this village speak both Q’ueche and Spanish, but we learned that while speaking Spanish is common… READING Spanish at this age is a remarkable breakthrough. We were thrilled to hear this – not only for the potential economic advantage it affords them in the future – but just to know that they held in their hands the very words that would tell them about JESUS, about FORGIVENESS of sins, LIFE and HOPE in a format they cherished and could read on their own! Talk about amazing...


Before we left, they asked if their friends down the block could have comic books, too, so we sent them off with the few extra copies we had. The sight of them running off, calling out to their friends, so excited to share this wonderful book is forever imprinted in my mind.

Guatemala 2012 270

The home visit certainly didn’t turn out as we had planned. After all, we make our plans, but God directs our steps, and these four boys walked right across our foot path. Who knows? Maybe you’re looking at four future evangelists and powerful church leaders for the nation of Guatemala. Rise up, you mighty men!

Let it be, Lord.


Who can you share the good news of Jesus with today?

Note: “The Amazing Gospel” comic books are available from Gospel Tract Society. Contact them to order copies in Spanish & English or to check for availability in other languages.

February 10, 2012

Not quite home: the re-entry challenge

My internal thermometer seems broken after our brief stay in the humid biosphere of northern Guatemala. Here in Missouri (USA) the furnace roars and a chill slowly creeps into my aching joints. Time to grab another cup of coffee, not because I need a caffeine hit but because I cherish the opportunity to cling to its warmth.
Just last Saturday I awoke in the clammy, heat-blanketed rainforest to the cascading call of roosters competitively crowing up and down the shores of Lake Petén-Itza. The thunder of motorcycles and scooters -- zipping past bony, untethered horses grazing at whatever patch of green they found along the roadside -- was a welcomed excuse to crawl out from between sticky sheets and into my damp clothes.
The metal grates of local shops clanked and screeched as they opened for the start of business in this small town located on the way to somewhere else. Children laughing. A baby crying. Another round of crowing.
Wood smoke from a nearby outdoor cook fire drifted through the cabana screen, and my stomach responded with a hungry growl. Time for some bananas, scrambled eggs, black bean puree, toasted bread and that delectable grainy soft cheese --homemade by the farmer just down the road.

Guatemala 2012
Neighboring homesGuatemala 161

rural Guatemala

That was then.

Today I am home, but my thoughts and my heart haven’t quite arrived. The faces … the physical and spiritual needs of the people I met override the mental images of the construction projects yet to be done at the site where we worked.

Re-entry into the daily routine of “home” is an uncomfortable little time warp that still challenges me even after multiple short-term mission trips. I admit it’s my least favorite part of going… having to fully return.

Maybe that’s because it’s not what God has in mind. How can we “fully return” when there is so much God has for us wherever we gowherever we are?

What good is it to go and to see and to do… if I fail to return changed and empowered with new vision and determination to engage more fully in God’s invitation to join Him in what He is doing … everyday… all the time… whether here or there?

Curious eyes

Ahhhh…. the challenge. Getting back to normal.

Lord, I pray that never really happens.


Tips for re-entry adjustment after a short-term mission trip.

Debrief. Journal any remaining thoughts about your trip.
  • What did God speak to you? What action steps is He indicating? How will you respond?
  • If you’re not into journaling, then think about the most significant moment of the trip and how God spoke to you through it.
  • Summarize your thoughts so you are ready to concisely share the experiences with others in a way that helps them catch the vision of God’s heart for the area you visited.
Prayer. Word. Worship. Fellowship. Right after an outreach or ministry involvement you are even more spiritually vulnerable than before. Give time to your spiritual relationship with God, and don’t let the days slip by without investing yourself in prayer, bible reading, and getting lost in worship.

Expect a let down. You’ve been in high gear with a cram-packed schedule. Whether it’s your first trip or your fifty-hundredth veteran outreach, you’re not exempt from the natural let down that occurs from a sudden change in pace and purpose.
  • Guard against disappointment, discouragement and doubt
  • by expecting this physical, spiritual and emotional dip.
  • Counter the dive with … Prayer. Word. Worship … and a healthy dose of rest.
  • Talk with your prayer partners if you are struggling with the slump.
Health. Diet. Rest. Activity. These areas are surprisingly overlooked on re-entry but definitely have a bearing on the degree of post-trip let-down you may experience.
  • Avoid the temptation to dive into heavy meals and fast food especially if your diet abroad was considerably different. That McD triple stack can really H-A-U-N-T you... just sayin'...
  • Remain active.  If possible, schedule activities of a similar physical challenge to what you were doing on the field. 
  • Defeat exhaustion with rest.

What tips can you share to help with re-entry adjustments after a short-term mission trip?

February 4, 2012

Homeward bound…

The trip is done. This morning we boarded the plane and are currently en route to the home front. Whew! Filled with more than words can express at the moment, I know it will take a few days to process all that we have seen, all that we have felt in our hearts, all the aches and sore muscles and good challenges that come from a trip of this nature.

We look forward to coming home, but a part of our hearts is still there in Guatemala with the friends we made at Hospital Shalom, with memories of those we met and had opportunity to minister to in the villages and markets, and with new brothers and sisters we discovered along the way. I can’t wait to tell you more.
“God, what are you doing? Show me your heart for the people of Guatemala… for the people in my own neighborhood. Thank you for showing Your great mercy and grace to us, and lavishing your love on all who look to You, on all who seek Your face and desire to know You.
Wonderful, amazing God.”

Struggling with their faith...
787805_preparing_a_fire_Qeqchi girls_boletin
Ambulance at Hospital Shalom

Photo credits 1-3: Heriberto Herrera
Photo credit 4: New Covenant World Missions

February 2, 2012

Tripping around in Tikal…

Today we tour the ancient Mayan ruins of Tikal. Throughout the Yucatan Peninsula –including Mexico, Guatemala, Belize and into Honduras there are numerous archaeological sites, ancient artifacts and reminders of a once thriving people.

The Mayans are known for their advanced use of mathematics, their knowledge of the precise workings of heavenly bodies, and their development of a very accurate calendar system including the dates and times of solar and lunar eclipses.


While I visit this place today my thoughts will reflect on what God wants for the current residents of Guatemala, the descendants and survivors of those who once lived and built these massive monuments now abandoned.

As I walk and observe, take pictures and drink it all in, I want to see more than cold lifeless reminders of the past. I want to see what God sees when he looks at the people living in this area today.


Currently on location with a construction missions team at Hospital Shalom, San Benito, Guatemala


Photo credits 1 & 2: SarahCorr
Photo credit 3: Heriberto Herrera

Pre-scheduled post

February 1, 2012

Just another day in the jungle…

…or in a Mayan village. Pictures of children working at trades, artisans perfecting their craft, curious smiles of children, and people… young and old.


Today is day #2 in the remote villages of the Petén Jungle of northern Guatemala… or at least that was the schedule. Our purpose today is to install and to build something here, we will have opportunity for outreach and something special for the children… soccer balls, Frisbees, coloring books, colors, and gospel comic books in Spanish. And to top it off... a fun frozen treat.

I have no clue at this writing what the villages we work in will look like, but I loved these pictures I found to share with you in the meantime. As you enjoy the scenes of Mayan village life below, please remember our team and hold us in prayer.
~ De


To read other posts about our Guatemala Missions trip click on “Guatemala” in the "I blog about..." section in the right sidebar.

Photo credits 4,5,6,7,8:  boletin / Heriberto Herrera
Photo credits 1,2,3 &9: treeland / Marie Gamache


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