Paso a Paso - Day 4 [Blog]

By: Shawn Tracey

What an incredible week we have had so far!  The children here in the village are so beautiful and when those big brown eyes look at you and their shy smiles come shining through, it absolutely makes your heart melt! 

I have been part of the mission for several years now and my biggest challenge continues to be the language barrier.  I know zero Spanish other than a few key words and phrases and still feel a calling every year to return to serve these families. 

I struggle every year with being able to communicate verbally with the children and their families, but always seem to find a way to connect with them.  A simple hand gesture or demonstration can go a long way.  

I walked into a home today that had 2 small children and the older girl, maybe 5 years old, immediately started smiling at me and came over and gave me a big hug!  I was hooked!  She took pictures with me and sat on my lap for a big part of the stove install.  I showed her pictures of my family and Annalisa interpreted for me. 

It doesn’t take knowing Spanish to make a lifelong, heartfelt connection with the children here in Guatemala!  So my message to you is, if you are being called by God to serve along side the Now is the Time mission or any other mission project, but are doubting that you can make an impact because you don’t know the language, stop feeling like that!  All it takes is an open heart and sharing God’s love to make a difference in someone’s life!!!!  A simple smile, a big bear hug or making up games to play with the children is all it takes to communicate. 

Every year I leave here telling myself I am not coming back because of the language barrier and here I am again after 8 years.   God’s love shining in those big brown eyes keeps me coming back!!!

Paso a Paso - Day 3 [Blog]

By: Marla Dixon

Our evening reflections have been very meaningful. With a smaller group, we’ve been able to share openly in our discussions prepared by Nick and Damaris. The first evening, we were asked to list our expectations for the week. One expectation I listed was looking forward to working on a stove crew, mostly because I’d heard others share about the meaningful experiences they’d shared with the families that received the stoves. 

Today was my third day on a stove crew and I’m glad to say I’ve also created some memories from our time with the families in San Antonio. God has also used one family to teach me a valuable reminder…

Most families greet us with warm smiles and gracious acceptance. They are very grateful for our work and anxious to help in whatever way they can.  Our final home this morning stood at the top of a hill overlooking a beautiful view of the city below and a clear view of the erupting volcano Fuego in the distance. It seemed to me that we were not greeted with the same warm smiles we’d received from other families. I surveyed the home, which appeared slightly more prosperous than some others and quickly determined this family was not as appreciative and perhaps not in as great a need. Hmph!

About half way through the stove installation, we learned the grandfather, the patriarch of this family unit, had died that morning. Of course we weren’t greeted by warm smiles – this was a family grieving for a loved one. 

The Bible story for VBS today was the parable of the king who forgave a debtor a large amount owed to the king. Yet that same debtor turned around and threw into prison someone who owed him a much smaller sum. How quick we are to judge others rather than see them through the loving eyes of our Father God. My thoughts went to my morning experience – how I had quickly judged rather than considered with love, this family we’d been called to serve.

Our group devotion last night was about how God speaks to us. Thank you God, for using this family, this Bible lesson, to speak to me today and to remind me to love others as you love us.

Pas a Paso - Day 2 [Blog]

by Michael Berens-VanHeest

Today we hosted the first day of Vacation Bible School, and the theme for the day was listening. The Bible teaches us that it is not enough to merely listen to the word of God. In fact, it tells us that if listening is all that we do, we are deceiving ourselves. We must act upon what we read and hear in God’s word, and we are given the promise that if we both listen and act upon the wisdom of God’s word, we will be blessed in all that we do.

    So as I went through today, I tried my best to listen. I would like to share with you a few of the things that I heard today.

    In the house of an elderly couple where we installed a stove this morning, I had an opportunity to have conversations with both the husband and the wife. I listened as they shared some of their life experiences with me. I heard the pain the woman’s voice as she told me about the deaths of three of their eight children. 

As I looked around the home of this couple, I marveled at how different it is from my own. Like many of the homes that we visit, this one had dirt floors, with bamboo-like cane walls and rusted corrugated metal rooftops enclosing only covering only a fraction of the space. As I observed the chickens and turkeys that share their living space and the wide variety of plants that had been carefully planted and nurtured in order to grow food, I found it to be both fascinating and beautiful. I complimented the husband on their beautiful home and listened as he responded, “Yes, but this is nothing compared to the houses you have in the United States.” As he said this, he held his arms out wide while looking upward, emphasizing the difference in size between what he imagined my house might look like and what he knew his home to be.

As I got to know this fascinating couple during the hour or two of our visit, and reflected on how difficult their life must be, I began to sense deep within them a strong undercurrent of strength and conviction that I struggled to make sense of. I began to understand when the wife later told me that the most important gift that she had received from her parents was a faith in a kind and compassionate God. 

This afternoon, during music time at vacation bible school, I listened as approximately sixty children sang praises to God. I was overwhelmed with emotion when I heard the children loudly sing out the very first song that Shawn played, clearly remembering it, despite the fact that it has been a year since they sang it last. 

As the children sang about the amazing things that God can do if we have faith in Him, even if it is as small as a mustard seed, my mind jumped back to the home of the elderly couple. Seedlings of faith, I thought. Perhaps that is what God sent us here to do: plant and nurture seedlings of faith. 

I pray that God will use the work that we are doing in the village this week to nurture the faith of all of God’s children, regardless of age, so that they too might come to know the strength, love, and hope that God alone can provide.


Paso a Paso - Day 1 [Blog]

by Victoria Gaston

On Thursday, July 2nd, my brother and I went up to Paso a Paso for the day to update the child sponsorship that he manages. Through his sponsorship program, Guided Steps Ministry, I have been able to create a bond with a child in Guatemala.

My sponsor child’s name is Damaris and on Thursday I finally got the chance to meet with her. I also got to play with her before she knew I was her sponsor and she was already really starting to warm up to me, so I knew when she found out I was her sponsor she would really open up. 

After a while of playing games, we had all the children who got gifts from their sponsor gather in a room to hand out the gifts they received. Once my brother handed the gift to Damaris and told her that I was her sponsor her face just lit up. She was so full of joy and just gave me the biggest hug I have ever gotten before.

Then, after all the kids got their gifts they went out to show their friends and play with their new gifts. While Damaris was showing her friends and siblings she just kept looking over at me and smiling the biggest smile. We continued to play a little more once her friends finally let her have her gift back, but after a while I had to leave so I told her goodbye and she gave me another big hug and finally let me go. 

Seeing her again today just brought me so much happiness and love. Every time I glanced over at her she was staring at me and smiling. I couldn’t help myself to keep glancing at her because her smile was just so contagious. Also, those big brown eyes that just melt your heart every time you look into them make it hard to not want to keep peaking over.

We had a little bit of time today to talk, and being able to bond with her is just such an amazing experience. I hadn’t met Damaris until a couple of days ago, and she’s already just impacted my life in ways that I can’t describe. 

Santo Tomás - Day 6 [Blog]

By: Courtney Hughes

Today was such a special day. This week has been such a special week. I cannot believe I will have the chance to say I went to Guatemala to build some stoves and sing some Spanish songs to the kids. I never expected the kids to have such beautiful faces, hearts, and smiles. The kids impacted me the most.

And if there is just one thing I want to tell my friends when I get home, is how full of love the kids are, when in reality, love is the only reliable thing they have. They do not have much material, or much of a home, sometimes, much of a family. However, they do have love. I was privileged to see that.

Nothing feels better when you see a kid light up when they see you, and they run to hug you. It does not get better than a little girl holding your hand as you get in line for crafts. But, it breaks my heart to see little children crying on the last day because they cannot continue VBS longer. God blessed me to have this opportunity and the kids made every second of stress more than worth it. 

I was also privileged to have taken four years of Spanish and been given a love to speak the language. Having that experience under my belt was incredibly helpful. Although I need A LOT more practice, I enjoyed speaking Spanish everywhere I could. I cannot wait to get home and be conditioned to say things… not in English. I enjoy annoying my friends because none of them know what I am saying, hehe. 

I am thankful for this trip on so many levels, but the biggest thing I am thankful for, is building my relationship with God. I was surrounded by astonishing people all week and got to work with them every day. I learned something new from every single person. They are all so kind and compassionate towards each other; I was fortunate to be welcomed into that family. The people this week allowed me and taught me how to strengthen myself with Christ. Now Is The Time to celebrate!

To end, I would like to thank Shawn and Damaris for organizing all of the trip and the other trips. I would like to thank my mom for coming with me and for being with me throughout the entire trip, but also being there for me when we both grew together.

A special thank you to Christ the Shepherd Lutheran Church back at home for supporting my mom and I on the trip. And a TREMENDOUS thank you to the anonymous sponsor back at home for allowing me to come on this trip without worrying about a cost.

I could not have done this, or had such a life changing experience without everyone’s support, love, and prayer. I recommend a mission trip to any person, especially those who need to find themselves, who want a better relationship with God, and those who want to change lives.

Now Is The Time To LOVE.

Santo Tomás - Day 5 [Blog]

By: Nancy Peabody

I am a crier.

Many people know this.

They know this because they have seen me cry.  Frequently more than once.

I cry when I am happy and when I am sad.  I cry when I find something touching or sincere, which I am embarrassed to say can even be when viewing a Hallmark card commercial.  I even start crying when I see someone else crying, especially a good friend.

Oh, I almost forgot.  I am not a quiet crier who has one tear delicately falling down one cheek.  I am a full blown eyes red,  skin blotchy, nose running and voice squeaking kind of crier.

I was surprised, however, when I found myself tearing up a few times today.  My last day working donations for the Corazón de los Ninos Association. I have helped unpack, fold and organize over 2,000 lbs of donated clothes, shoes, toiletries, etc… with my friends Judy and Jendy. I also assisted children to pick out a new pair of socks and underwear, gently used clothing and hopefully a pair of shoes.

We worked with some amazing women from this Guatemalan community. These women have tirelessly worked to make this donation event organized and welcoming to the families involved with Corazón de los Ninos.   What struck me most about these strong, beautiful  women at the outset of this endeavor was their good humor, camaraderie and willingness to work without complaint.

While working our first day together I wondered what I had in common with these women that I could only communicate with my seriously deficient fourteen Spanish phrases. 

I am not sure how we all gathered outside in the dusty, but wonderfully cool breeze, but with the very patient Judy as our translator we all introduced ourselves and practiced the pronunciation of our names.  We found our common denominator as we talked about our children and grandchildren.

It was motherhood that brought us together.

As with most people who have been involved with a mission project I have been humbled, blessed and honored to have been a part of their lives for these few days and I felt sad it was coming to a close today.

Yes, I cried as we said our parting words and goodbyes.

I can’t wait for next year.

NIT 033 - Santo Tomás - Donations Crew [Podcast]

To listen to the episode, click on the player above. Click anywhere in black to skip.

Shawn Smith. Director of NIT Missions, interviews members of the Donations Crew from Week 2 at Santo Tomás Milpas Altas from June 21-28, 2015.


Donations Crew is:
Judy Higa
Nancy Garland
Jendy Nice

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NIT 032 - Santo Tomás - Crew 6 [Podcast]

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Shawn Smith. Director of NIT Missions, interviews members of Stove Crew 6 from Week 2 at Santo Tomás Milpas Altas from June 21-28, 2015.

Stove Crew 6 is:
Victoria Gaston
Anne Sporrer
Nathan Sporrer
Kyle Hughes
Court Hughes

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NIT 031 - Santo Tomás - Crews 1 & 2 [Podcast]

To listen to the episode, click on the player above. Click anywhere in black to skip.

Shawn Smith. Director of NIT Missions, interviews members of Stove Crews 1 & 2 from Week 2 at Santo Tomás Milpas Altas from June 21-28, 2015.

Stove Crew 1 is:
Dean Higa
Sam Higa
Garland Peabody

Stove Crew 2 is:
Stuart Nice
Fred Kraus
Sandie Smith

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Santo Tomás - Day 4 [Blog]

Breaking New Ground

by Brook Fonceca

Those of you who have been following the mission know that we are in a new village this year and are working with a new partnering organization — Corazón de Los Niños. From my vantage point, things are going amazingly smoothly! I am well aware, though, of all the work our mission leaders and partners have put in behind the scenes. They have smoothed out the foreseen bumps in the road. Again, from my vantage point, the unforeseen bumps have been quite minimal. I guess I could say that this new ground feels like the Promised Land!

Another area of breaking new ground is that this year I am a team leader. For those of you that know me, that may not seem like a big deal. If you do not know me, I'm an associate pastor and a manager at a private school. I always find myself in some sort of leadership position. That is one reason I have enjoyed coming to Guatemala the last few years, where I can just be part of the team, working and playing hard. For some reason I was a bit nervous to be a team leader. To my pleasant surprise, I have a wonderful team to work with (two of whom are my children) and, as I said above, there have been next to no difficulties, as of yet, on this mission. 

Breaking new ground has been a theme for this season of life for me and my family. As you know, breaking new ground almost always involves tremendous amounts of hard work. I know of many difficult situations that our mission leaders went through just opening up this new village for us to work in. Then there are times when breaking new ground seems nearly effortless. It is in those times that just taking few steps back reveals that we are walking into prepared soil. The breaking is really more like continuing in the footsteps of the faithful servants that have gone on before us. This has been my experience with this year's mission, and I am grateful for it! I am looking forward to the remaining days of my mission and anticipate fruitful labors and joyful experiences! 


NIT 030 - Santo Tomás - Floor Crew [Podcast]

To listen to the episode, click on the player above. Click anywhere in black to skip.

Shawn Smith. Director of NIT Missions, interviews members of Floor Crew from Week 2 at Santo Tomás Milpas Altas from June 21-28, 2015.

Floor Crew is:
Rodney Gonsalves
Dave Tousley
Jason Nice
Fidel Nuñez

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Santo Tomás - Day 3 [Blog]

By: Fidel Nuñez

Embrace the Unexpected

    Hi, My name is Fidel. That kind of summarizes my experience thus far fairly well. This is my first time in Guatemala, I only really knew a few people on this trip prior to Sunday, and I didn’t really know everything that we would be doing when it came to serving.

To say the least, I came into this trip partially blind and not really knowing what to expect at all, but everything that has surprised me up to this point has been nothing but a blessing. A few examples are the following:

I found out I would be installing concrete floors when for some reason I didn’t even know that was a service that was provided. My group is on the early bus meaning I have to have my alarm set for 5:45 in the morning, and it turned out that I am my group’s translator for the week even though I’m really not that proficient in Spanish.

When I first found out about these different situations I just accepted them and my mindset was more towards “hopefully this won’t hinder my experience” than “I’m grateful for this”. That mindset has totally shifted by now.

The intensive labor of installing the floors has only added to my sense of accomplishment in service because the hard work is so much more rewarding when it is being done for someone who really needs it rather than a paycheck. The more I sacrifice myself for those I’m serving the more I can sense the heartfelt appreciation that the families here have for us.

The labor leaves me only more exhausted everyday, and knowing that I have to get up bright and early the next day is sometimes difficult. Despite this, I love being tired. It is very satisfying knowing that I am spent because I have spent all of my energy for the benefit of somebody else, and the soreness is also a constant reminder that the sacrifices I make of my body help to tell the people here that God is present and His work is alive in their lives.

The thing that I was dreading most was being translator for my group, but it’s funny how God takes you for a ride sometimes just to show you what you’re missing out on. Being translator has forced me to really experience the wonderful people in this country and build relationships that I would not have bothered creating if it weren’t my job.

It has been difficult no doubt, but I discovered that I speak enough Spanish to share some laughs and grasp the full amount of thankfulness and faith in the Lord the families we have served have. That in itself has made my time here worth more than any amount of money that I could have taken for installing 14 floors in a week.

It is very likely that if I had not been translator I would have just kept to myself and done the labor that I was supposed to do. I used labor in that last sentence because I would not have completed the work I was sent here to do.

God’s work is so much more than that. God’s work is sacrificing not only your body for others, but also your heart and your soul. To give a piece of each of these things is what doing God’s work really is.

That’s what I have learned this week, and none of that would have happened if God didn’t push me a little bit out of my comfort zone.

NIT 029 - Santo Tomás - Crew 4 [Podcast]

To listen to the episode, click on the player above. Click anywhere in black to skip.

Shawn Smith. Director of NIT Missions, interviews members of Stove Crew 5 from Week 2 at Santo Tomás Milpas Altas from June 21-28, 2015.

Stove Crew 5 is:
Bella Bevilacqua
Kim Nowlin
Olivia Nowlin
Moriah Tejada

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