Wednesday, December 21, 2011

My Guatemalan Grandma! :)

I was excited to open the Christmas Card from The God's Child Project this year but was even more excited to see the story in their newsletter!  It is about my Guatemalan Grandma Catalina (the lady my 2011 building team built a home for this year).  Though I new some of her story, which started near the middle of the entire story and had the "happy ending" with the joy of a receiving a house, i was not aware of the beginning.

We were told by the project that her children abandoned her (she was 71 years old).  Still don't know why or how... but that does not matter at this point.  She was found on the street by a man who witnessed her helping his son tie his shoe.  This man had lost his mother and his son never knew or would have a grandma in his life.  The family took her in, despite not having enough to meet their own families' needs, they just new this elderly woman needed them just as much as their son need an abuela (grandma).  They built a tin shed on their small plot of land for her to live.  That's where my team comes into the story.  We purchased the supplies with the help of the project to build a house for this dear deserving abuela.  Her one wish for her home.... to have a gutter to collect the rain water.  Wish and then some granted!!!!!!!!!! What a blessing to build this home with dear friends with the help of a very agile and able bodied 71 year old granny that probably could have beat me aerobically in a hill climbing challenge!

I can't contain my excitement when I think about going back to visit her, to hug her, to pray with her again.  With each and every home and family I build for each year it brings me further down onto my knees in humble worship of a God that loves me so much. A God that knows exactly what brings my heart joy, to serve others and be able to witness the imeasurable, permanent change a simple home can make for someone, for a family.  To be reminded so clearly how very blessed I am in every aspect of my life.

Hope this finds you well and enjoying the abundant blessings that surround us daily. Merry Christmas!

:)  Shawn

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Reflecting on Reflections...

As the reflection papers and testimonies slowly trickle in, I take them in one at a time and personally reflect upon each of my team member's experiences in Guatemala.  Hearing how God changed someone's life, how God gave someone the strength to be bold, how God intervened in a crisis situation, how God used someone in the perfect time, how God used someone's fear to help someone grow nearer to Him is so amazing to hear!  I am in utter awe just knowing there are many more testimonies than the eye can see, the mouth can speak or our forgetful minds can remember!  As a leader the burdens can be heavy and the responsibility and stress can easily take the joy out of the experience all too quickly.  When I begin to feel these things stealing away from the joy that God has abundantly poured over this experience and all persons involved I need to remind myself to stop for a moment and pray.  Prayer has been something I must say was a very bright theme throughout this trip for everyone.  Someone on my team said "I never thought my prayers really worked until I witnessed and heard them working while I was in Guatemala!".    I feel my heart leap for joy when I think of this!!!  From reading the testimonies and reflection papers it is so very obvious that God did amazing works not just through us but deep within us! I look forward to being able to sit quietly for a week and digest as much as I possibly can about this year's experience and share it in meaningfully written stories on this blog page.  As for now, I will pray that God will allow me that opportunity in the near future to put my thoughts and experiences in writing to share! Thank you for your love and support. <3 Shawn :)

Monday, August 15, 2011

Jesus we're on our way! Day Uno

After many months of planning our team is off to a perfect start! Well, aside from the leader (AKA me) arriving at the airport 8 1/2 minutes late!  Smooth sailing through checking 32 maxed out bags donation bags, everyone made it through security without a problem and the flight take off was good. 

As I sit on the plane, I realize I am the meat to a Cambridgian sandwich on the plane. Aisle row (my slice of bread) is Sue my bestie and Guatemala roomie and in the window seat is ironically a man that was Sue's neighbor, old friend of Zach's and did the cabinets in her lake home recently! Just a few weird strange face I thought important to share.

The team looks great, bubbling with excitement. Few have slept in the past 24 hours.... a food thing, it helps the first night in unfamiliar & uncomfortable surroundings easier to pass out from the exhaustion.  We will land in Atlanta in an hour then off to Guatemala City after a short layover.  Our first stop is the "For the Love of Patricia" orphanage outside of Guatemala City where we will drop off 4 bags of soccer uniforms & equipment where they will deliver them to a local school.  Tonight we will have orientation to the Dreamer Center & take in the environment at our new homes for the next 12 days. 

Edilser will meet us at the airport and accompany us throughout the trip.  He is one of the most sweetest and gentlest souls.  He is also a hard working loving husband to a very beautiful and kind wife and a father of 2 adorable children.  He works many long hours to aid volunteers in having amazing experiences and to keep everyone safe.  When there are no teams he builds homes for the project by himself! He is my Guatemalan brother that I have come to know and love for the past 4 years.  I so look forward to seeing him and hopefully meeting his family this year through attending his church.  God has so much in store for our team I can hardly believe all we will do in 12 short days!!!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Stressed but blessed...tired but wired!

Can I get an amen!
In the past four days I have lettered 19 shirts, 16 bags, organized 1,500 pounds of donation goods to be packed into 30 suitcases, organized the packing of 160 hygeine kits and 80 orphanage gift bags, co-authored a devotional guide, ironed labels onto over 100 Baby Elephant Ears blankets and planned and finalized a 12 day itinerary with over 20 different service activites for 16 people....just to name a few projects. I am giddy with excitement and in awe over what my team has accomplished and we haven't even left yet! God has given me the energy to do this as well as the help that I need when my energy is running on reserve.

My husband & son will not travel with me but they are a huge part of this journey.  I really am fortunate to have a fantabulous husband, Bradley, helping everywhere and anywhere I ask him for help. He loves me so much he drove to 3 stores just so I could have yellow paper for the devotional guides when I ran out.  My awesome son Josh has carried 1,000's of pounds of donations into the house from the car, to the "gym room" back out to the "spare room" and then back into garage ...multiple times as I shuffle and reorganize donations throughout the year.  Both of these rooms do not get used for their original purpose...i strategically block my ability to use the home gym good conscious of course because I need the space for storage for a good cause. :) Josh is "Joshy on the spot" when I ask him for help with putsy things like peeling backing off contact paper stencils all the way to the huge important things like giving me a hug when he notices I am wearing down.  My daughter Jordon brings perfect little Leon (my grandson) over to visit when I need to stop obsessing over my Guatemala plans and enjoy a lil LOL (Lovin on Leon) time!

I don't write all about me just to share about me.  I write because I am one in 16 that is playing out a similar story.  We each have a family that is traveling on this journey with their loved one, that has a church family that loves them & sends up oodles of prayers on their behalf and who's family has probably worried more than those traveling.  We each thank you, our families, friends, loved ones and even strangers at CUB foods in Cambridge & Coon Rapids for sharing your time, your resources, your prayers, your patience and your love. We appreciate your support of our calling to go on this mission. YOU are just as much a part of this trip as the 16 going! We couldn't do this without you and our Father God!

I am blessed beyond measure to be stressed in preparing to go serve strangers we long to call brothers & sisters in Christ.  It is all worth it if even one person be saved ... even if just here in the states when hearing about our work!  We are blessed to have the opportunity to ease suffering even if only for the length of time it takes to provide a hug or smile.  We are blessed to be building 3 homes that will keep a family safe and more comfortable for years to come.  Please Father God, use our team wherever you desire, we are your humble servants! Open our eyes to what you want us to see and hide them from what you desire us not to.  Break our hearts for what breaks yours Lord but give us the strength to endure what we will witness and the boldness to change what we can. Help each of us to draw nearer to you Lord. Remind us that you are safely holding us in the embrace of your loving arms always.  We trust in you alone!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

So blessed easy to say but do we really believe it? Do we really give God the glory or credit when saying we are/were/will be blessed?

Blessings are not simply the result of being lucky, random happenings or even earned. I sometimes need to be gently (or even through a slap alongside the head by my ego) reminded that the source of all things good are from Him, from whom all blessings flow.

June 26th was a good reminder of how quickly we can become so focused on our agenda or the negatives that we miss even noticing the blessings surrounding us.

As I was counting the cash from my team's fundraiser, I found myself selfishly doing the math in my head (for those that know my math skills you are probably laughing). I made a mental note with every stack of $100 that it meant that for each of the 16 members on my team it was only about $5 each. (May I remind you of my limited math skills?) I found myself convicted of my selfishness & my focus. Here I am forgetting about the awesome fun teambuilding time we just had & was hoping we had earned more money from all the work we put into it.  I was calculating in my head the value of my time & resources i put into earning my $90 share.  A few humbling thoughts then occurred to me:  1. $90 is more than a month's wages for those in Guatemala I am going to serve. 2. I can throw together limitless resources to bail myself out of trouble ( i even have the "luxery" to go into debt/borrow money if I need to make ends meet). 3.  I am being given an amazing opportunity to pass this blessing onto someone in greater need & i'm sniveling over wanting more. 4.  $1,400 is a lot of money! I should be jumping up & down for our team earning that much!

I decided a little taste of tough work to remind me I am blessed was in order.... i decided i will do something else to raise funds for myself & give my $90 to someone who could use it more without sniveling it wasn't enough......I decided to torture myself by doing something I dislike greatly... a garage sale to help earn the funds I still need for my trip.

God blessed me with the 2nd hotest day of the year to do it even! The sweltering heat was a constant reminder that I am blessed, that I have been provided for abundantly by my Father God and that I have a bunch of extra posessions & things I can get rid of.  It reminded me to see the blessings & know they were there regardless of my hard work or not.

The more I relied on God the day of the sale, the more I noticed His blessings upon me. I prayed for a stranger that shared her difficult circumstances with me.  I gave away items when it was clear money was tight, I prayed for more customers & they came.... God knows the desires of our hearts, He knows our intentions & motives.... and might I mention He loves us unconditionally, even when we are whiners. I just LOVE My Father God!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Sweet 16 Team!

In 41 days my team will be departing for a life changing experience. I pray that you will follow this blog to also participate in the experience. Each team member is participating in devotional & worship activities throughout the preparation, interum and post trip experience. God put together this amazing team of varied personalities, talents, skills and interests to best serve Him! Our God is an AMAZING GOD... ALL THE TIME!  I would like to share with you my Sweet 16 Team:

Shawn (aka "me"): I am the semi~fearless leader of the pack. This will be my 4th Guatemala team that I will organize and lead. I am very proud to be leading a team of Christians that are excited to not only serve those in need but embark upon a spiritual journey that will strengthen our personal relationships with our Lord and Savior.  Please pray for my family while I am away & the decisions I make for our team as the leader.

Michelle: We are so blessed to have Michelle joining the team for her 3rd year! Michelle is one of the most flexible, easy going & compassionate woman I know. Her love for children & God are obvious in the way she lives her life. Michelle will assist in our VBS activities in Guatemala. Michelle is a nanny and came to my team through being friends of a PTA student of mine 3 years ago.

Amanda: This will be Amanda's 2nd year joining me. Last year I had the pleasure of praying over Amanda one evening in her hotel room while on an excursion to Panachel at Lake Atitlan in Guatemala. I did not know Amanda very well at the time but I felt led to pray over her when she shared with me that while she had been journaling and having some reflection time in her hotel room she sensed she was being called to return to do volunteer work in Guatemala.  That prayer that was honored by God. Not only is Amanda joining my team again this year but she is staying for 3 months to serve in Guatemala! Can I hear an AMEN!!!!!!!

Brenda: A PTA graduate and repeat traveler with my team for a 2nd time. Brenda is strong willed and determined. She is a wife, mother, grandmother, and new PTA graduate as well as a fellow Guatemala addict like me! Brenda has sacrificed much to go these past 2 years and is looking forward to seeing her host momma Lucy and the babes in Casa Jackson Malnutrition Center. Brenda did a rock star job serving at the food distribution & bustin her bootie home building last year as well. Please pray for Brenda's studies for her PTA licensing exam.  She has a very busy and exciting summer ahead of her!

Kelly: One of the sweetest "sistas" I know. This will be her 2nd trip to Guatemala as well. Watching Kelly's sweet quiet way last year in Guatemala while serving the mothers at a food distribution & holding & playing with the infants at Casa Jackson Malnutrition center & Dories Promise orphanage was heart-melting. Last year Kelly & I were "randomly" brought to the very same passages in our bibles on 3 separate evenings!  God was with us every moment and we trust He will be again!  I am so blessed to have her joining me again this year.

Jessica: I am looking forward to the amazing and sure to be powerful prayer & worship times Jessica is organizing for our team this year. Jessica brings a fun element to the team with her desire to serve & worship God in creative ways. She has inspired starting team prayer partners & the idea to pack potty ponchos this year! She is the leader of the pinata event at our June 26th fundraiser in Hudson. This too is Jess' 2nd year serving in Guatemala. Now that's legit! [ inside joke ].

Britta: One of my PTA students. She is a positive role model for her class, loves horses and has a fabulously close family (I adore close families). Britta is always willing to jump in and help which is a great character trait to have in the field of PT and in serving others! I am really looking forward to watching Britta's obvious love for Christ grow deeper through her experience in Guatemala.

Courtney: The youngest in our group but from what I understand more mature than most in her walk with Christ. Courtney is not your typical teenager as she is voluntarily wishing to hang out with a bunch of moms and adults while in Guatemala! She enjoys spending a good chunk of her summer helping at Trout Lake Camp. I am eagerly awaiting to see the long term mission work that Courtney will likely be called to do when "she is grown up" given her interest and desire to be a missionary. I am also excited that her prayer warrior mother, Stephanie, will be (and has been) offering up oodles of prayers for our team and leading others to do the same.

Judy: Will be the leader and organizer for our VBS activities while in Guatemala. Judy teaches at CCS and has a sweet quiet way about her but get her on a topic of interest and you will hear the ideas fly!! I love her enthusiasm for what she enjoys. I am excited that Judy not only will be a leader for the VBS activities but she is stepping into the role of "Big Sister" and guardian for Courtney while we are in Guatemala!

Sue: A true picture of trust, faith and strength.  Sue has been a friend, confidant and spiritual mentor for me for many years.  Since beginning my trips to Guatemala I have been praying every year that God prepare her to go with me.  God decided this year is the year!  It has been awesome witnessing Sue's trust and faith grow even greater in her decision to listen to her calling to go.  We each may doubt the ability of our imperfect selves to teach or demonstrate to others anything of life changing importance.  I am here to say, it is not always a well spoken sermon that draws someone to Christ or strengthens their walk with Him, it is watching real people like Sue live a genuine life that does it.

Kim: A graduate PTA student this spring. Kim is excited to be experiencing a mission trip of her own after helping raise funds several times for her own girls to go on them. I am looking forward to not being the only one crying my eyes out on a daily basis now that Kim is joining us! Don't get me wrong, Kim & I are tough as nails... but we share soft squishy hearts! :) Pray for Kim as she is planning the trip of a lifetime while studying for the PTA exam of her lifetime! Busy summer this woman has ahead of her!

Richard: One of the two awesome artists on my team this year. Richard is witty, caring, compassionate and plans to wear sandals the entire time we serve..... I made him promise he would wear shoes during construction days as my experiences with hospitals in Guatemala are wished to be complete for a lifetime! Richard will work in competition with the other male on our team to see who is the strongest and toughest at mixing concrete and building homes! Seriously though, Richard is a great addition to our team with his childhood experience and desire to serve others!

Hannah: I just now realized how many sweet people I have on my team and just changed the description of our team name to "The Sweet Sixteen"! Hannah puts the faith in faith and sweet in sweet! She is truly a blessing to have on this team. She is prayerful in what she does, she puts Christ first in her decisions and it is clear that the honest and transparent way she lives her life for Christ is genuine.  I love reading Hannah's facebook postings, they provoke and encourage me to stregthen my walk with Christ.

Jonathan:  The "other guy" on our team.  Jonathan comes from a close knit family (remember...I adore close families!).  Jonathan has participated in our church's Nett Lake Mission team and says he is looking forward to serving in another country.  This trip will surely meet that desire.  I look forward to seeing how this trip will help each team member grow in our faith and in our relationships with one another and as a body of Christ.

Beth Anne:  A true sweety.  Beth Anne is one of the most talented and giving sistas I know.  She is an artist (in everything!!!!) I love how she brings her talents and love for art into worship, faith and serving others.  She has donated countless hours and funds to help our team use clay to raise funds. Beth Anne is sure to be a positive influence on our team while in Guatemala in demonstrating her faith & trust in God & her compassion for others.

Breanna:  Last but not least!  Breanna will be sure to bring a smile to others.  I love her willingness to help others and do it with a huge smile on her face.  Breanna will bring fun and enthusiasm to our team just like she does in her PTA classes.  I really am blessed to have so many students in the PTA program that love helping others and that this year there are 5 that are joining me.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Philippians 4:6 Prayer

Do not be anxious in anything,  but by prayer and petition with thanksgiving present your requests to God. Philippians 4:6

Do you believe in coincidences? What is a coincidence? According to the definition a coincidence is: "Striking instance of two or more events at one time apparently by mere chance."

As I was thinking about what I would write I decided prayer would be a good topic. Prayers are definately needed for my team's spiritual, financial, physical & emotional preparation for what will be a life altering experience [Prayer request]. I think of the above verse that I have prayed many times. The verse that reminds me of a dear friend whom is a prayer warrior. A dear friend whom has been a spiritual guide, a woman of God, an encourager & uplifter when I descended into the pits of hell on earth. She is a woman that is stronger than she knows, a woman that has been through more tests & attacks to her faith & clings to God through it all. She is an example of the Godly woman I strive to be.

I find it no coincidence I open my bible to find the page for this verse marked by a card I received over 8 yrs ago from this woman. That this woman represents to me a reminder that prayer [conversation with God] needs to be a constant part of my life. There is no coincidence that all of the "little" & "big" things in life are marked with the loving fingerprint of a God that aches to be entwined in every portion of our lives not just a part of it! As a believer I have to say there is no true coincidences... a better word for the "little instances" would be "blessings" & for the "big instances" would be "miracles".  A coincidence occurs when we fail to recognize God's hand in the "instances".

With this statement & belief I am prepared to hear the arguments that God couldn't possibly orchestrate all the minute details of every believers & unbelievers lives.  Well, he does! I am also prepared to hear that if God cares so much why do bad things happen & why is there so much evil & suffering in this world? God does not plan these things. He knows they will happen & does have the power & authority to stop it.  Take a moment to think of it this way:  Perhaps the blessing or miracle in the bad or painful instances is that He allows us our own free will, He allows us our choices,  our mistakes and our wrongs to be played out for us or others to learn to rely on Him, to come to know Him or to trust Him. He uses all things for good.  "Coincidentally" if we are failing to recognize Him or the potential good in the situation for ourselves, for others witnessing our circumstances & response or for His kingdom we will find ourselves not trusting or not knowing God the way He created us to be.
God doesn't want us to suffer but He allows us to often times for reasons we will never know why during our time here on earth. I do believe for those that proclaim His son Jesus as their savior, they will never ask "why" when we are standing before Him in heaven we will fully know & understand... and to put it bluntly... we will not care "why". For those that do not beleive in Him, when they die they will & stand before satan and for eternity will ask "why", never to know.

I choose to believe in blessings and miracles.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

A profound start....

My first Guate-blog-a posting.  Hmmmmm where to start? What do I have to say that would be so profound... nothing comes to mind but here are some lyrics that say what I will pray before I lay down to sleep tonight.

I come on my knees
To lay down before you
Bringing all that I am
Longing only to know you
Seeking your face
And not only your hand
I find you embracing me
Just as I am

And I lift these songs
To you and you alone
As I sing to you
In my praises make your home

To my audience of one
You are Father, and you are Son
As your spirit flows free,
Let it find within me
A heart that beats to praise you.
And now just to know you more
Has become my great reward
To see your kingdom come
And your will be done
I only desire to be yours, Lord

So what could I bring
To honor your majesty
What song could I sing
That would move the heart of royalty
And all that I have
Is the life that you've given me
So Lord let me live for you
My song with humility

And Lord as the love song
Of my life is played
I have one desire
To bring glory to your name

.......Big Daddy Weave