Let’s go to Guatemala and hug those kids!

guat-2018-logo-green.jpg

By Scott Linscott

Plane tickets are reserved and plans are being made to return to Oratorio, Guatemala in April of 2018. We’re heading back to see our kids!

Today more than 30 children at the Noah’s Ark Center have sponsors because we went in 2016. That is a significant impact in that community because a little church in Westbrook, Maine decided to step outside the comfort zone and get involved.

In 2016 we found the school in serious need of attention. The kitchen was dusty and dingy and difficult to clean with cement walls and floor, the play area was dreary and rain and dust blew through shutterless windows into the large group meeting area. Peeling paint was everywhere we looked.

Today there is a renovated, tiled kitchen with new cooking surfaces, fresh paint throughout the entire school and steel shutters that are easily closed in the large meeting space.

The changes begun in April 2016 and continuing are bringing a new feeling of life and energy the school.

 

13062947_935310896584946_3795751433726573467_o

The hot foods kitchen in 2016.

15540875_10211752202540176_5037685157357544237_o

The kitchen after a remodel with $2000 we sent.

15167592_1113921568723877_3415336902941955890_o

Black, steel shutters now keep the wind, rain and dust out of windows that were entirely open.

15540823_10211752203180192_3485125777914329217_o

Ceilings were also painted and the entire school given a face-lift that we began in 2016

13029681_935220063260696_927299942584240769_o

The play area in 2016 where the children played soccer and other games.

19549357_1454041797999365_594841050_o

That same space now! Another team came in to continue the work begun in 2016.

19749696_1464258696977675_156468310_o

The entire facility now has a different, more energetic feel.

19988781_1472881266115418_1209170891_n

The dedicated staff is now painting a new mural to welcome the children.

Wow! It is so amazing to see all that is happening but, even more important than an upgraded facility is the lives that are now being impacted by those who have stepped in to connect as monthly sponsors.

Buildings will need to be repainted eventually but the investment in children’s lives changes things forever. Sponsorship is literally a bridge to life for children trapped in poverty. Our partnership with the AMG staff and the teachers in Oratorio keeps us in contact and gives us confidence that our children and all the other kids at the school are getting love and care. Because we know them and call them friends, we know how much they truly love the children.

“Why go back to the same place?” a friend asked me, “Why not go somewhere you haven’t seen before?”

That’s called “tourism.” This is about serving people, loving them and building a lasting partnership in ministry. This is a partnership in the work of the gospel, not a chance to get a stamp on our passports.

If you sponsor a child in Oratorio we will gladly bring a gift for you. Keep it to no more than 3 pounds and be sure to include a framed photo. Sponsored children consider their sponsors their “godparents.” They treasure the letters they receive.

We need your help!

We will need your help getting our team back to Guatemala. We’ll need prayer and financial help. You can give a tax-deductible donation to support the entire team or an individual team member at www.easytithe.com/fbcwestbrook .

If you would like to sponsor a child at our sister school, click here to meet the children who are waiting. ($32 per month)

Of course, I’ve got some big dreams and continue asking God to provide in big ways. I have been praying for $10,000 for a roof over the play area since I first went to Oratorio in 2016. Let me know if you have any ideas of how God might be planning to provide the resources.

  • Scott

 

 

Well, here I go again!

I’m on a bus headed back to Guatemala. It’s the first leg of bus, plane, plane, car to get to were I’m going. In just 14 hours my friends Brian Dennett and Sam Avila will pick me up in Guatemala City.

I like to travel light. This time “light” does not describe me. I have two suitcases, gifts for 16 of the 19 children we sponsor as a church, my laptop editing setup and a packpack filled with camera gear. I’m hoping for curbside luggage drop for Delta in Boston to ditch these two giant, 48 pound bags as soon as possible.

My primary task this week will be to tell stories through photographs and video. I’m pumped about the photo part and somewhat anxious about video. I’m not a videographer but will give it a shot!

Tomorrow morning I will photograph a church that is part of AMG Guatemala’s Family Preservation program. AMG is developing relationships with local churches in support of local communities. The hope is to build strong connections between churches and their neighborhoods so that AMG can help meet needs through them. It will be dark but I brought my remote lights to place strategically.

I’ll try to keep updates coming throughout the week whenever I have WiFi. Each day will hold new experiences and new challenges.

Hugs to all! Thanks for all your help!

Scott

 

This is Mark. He’s a nice guy. He gave me water.14807693718071849920828

 

Is it over? No! It’s just begun!

Sometimes church mission trips are just quick experiences and then they are over. As the weeks go by, the experience can fade and the work is forgotten. That’s not the case with our trip to Guatemala. How so?

13244230_951932471589455_6307412616180097809_oWe have children who are now depending on us! Our team came home sponsoring 10 children. That means we are investing in their education, their nutrition and their health. We’re making it possible for them to continue to receive help from AMG. But, more important than the $32 a month we send per child, there are now connections with people we met and fell in love with. Sponsored children love getting letters from their sponsors and many have later said the letters were the key to encouraging them in their faith and education.

It get’s better! When we told our church family about the need, another 9 took information to pray about sponsoring additional kids. At least four of those have already followed through online to put their sponsorships in place. (Visit AMG online by clicking here to see the kids who are still waiting.)

Imagine the change if we, as a faith family at FBC Westbrook, could sponsor 20 children from Oratorio! We could have a real and substantial impact on that community and the future for so any people.

I’m excited to see so many people putting their faith into action. I’m excited about the connections we have with “our school” in Oratorio and the fantastic staff there. I’m excited about the prospect of returning in the future to reconnect with our kids and see how they have grown.

I have goals. I’m a goal kind of guy. My big goal is to return with bilingual children’s books that will help the teachers and students learn English so that they might find employment in a call center, airport or tourist center. Another goal is to write to both of my sponsored children each month (we have 8 year old Tanya in Oratorio and 17 year old Vincent in Ghana) to encourage them.

I’m also excited to see us be able to partner with my friends, Brian and Mary Dennett, who, 8 years ago, sold everything and took their family to Guatemala to live out their faith in a tangible way.

Our trip was just the beginning of relationships that will shape the future. That has me pretty pumped!

 

Thankful!

_LIN0993By Bill and Stacey Lamson

We’re so grateful for:

  • Having the privilege of serving God with a special group of people that worked well together and truly loved each other and the folks they were serving.
  • Having the privilege of taking part in a worship service and experiencing the Guatemalans’ overwhelming joy for the Lord.
  • Experiencing the love of the Guatemalan workers and children.
  • Having the privilege of seeing the child that God would lead us to sponsor.
  • Having the opportunity to encourage and spend time with our missionary friends Brian & Mary Dennett whom we haven’t been able to spend time with in years.
  • Feeling safe in God’s care knowing we were being lifted up in prayer by our family and friends back home.

The Providence of God

_LIN0961.jpgBy Jan Perry

We experienced God’s providential love through loving God and loving others…in Guatemala 2016

The mission trip that I thought “I” had decided to take proved to be something God had already orchestrated.  I was thrilled, at my age, to be able to do this, especially with Sara and Kim…three generations.

Shortly after the very first meeting in Scott’s office when 18 of us “signed up,”things began to make a downward spiral.  On three separate occasions from September to January, health issues arose in our family that seemed to be getting in the way of some of us making this trip.  Kim was waiting for a clear “go” from the doctors and we were waiting for Phil’s meds to begin their work.  Scott was dealing with stuff too.  Family members were concerned.  The advice was, “just keep coming to the meetings and work projects and see how it all plays out.”

On our third meeting, we discovered that a fellow (not from our church) was going to join us.   We discovered he was a doctor…relieved hearts all around…just in case we have health issues?  God’s Providence.

On April 16th, driving from the airport to our “hotel”, we saw sights that many of us have never seen before.  Devastating living conditions that we have only seen in pictures where we can turn the page or close the book, were in front of us every day.  We left the smell of clean air back in the States.

Without knowing that some in our group were experiencing culture shock, after breakfast on Sunday morning, Steve Wilson felt it in his heart to share his first mission trip experience and how frightened he had been.  And after a heart to heart with Sara, which led to her opening herself up to our group, she was comforted and encouraged by heartfelt prayers, was relieved and jumped in, ready to go on Monday morning.  God’s Providence.

We arrived at “Arca de Noe” (Noah’s Ark School) on Monday morning to begin our mission work.  Again, devastating conditions that most had never witnessed.  An old, cement school with a locked gate and bars on the open windows, definitely in need of severe repair that we certainly could not even begin to accomplish in our short time there.

Then, the children arrived.  Happy, joyful little faces with beautiful big brown eyes, hanging on the gate, waiting for it to be unlocked.  In they ran with open arms, giving hugs and kisses to complete strangers.  They ran off to their classes…dimly lit rooms with old, worn desks, one little lined notebook and one pencil per child…yet they were excited to be there.  We witnessed them praying before classes began and singing (loudly) about Jesus.

We cleaned classrooms, worked in the “cocina”, painted, helped prepare food for the children (and us) and played with the kids.  We witnessed people in their everyday lives that were the complete opposite of ours, serving with happy, joyful hearts.  People who “don’t have much” in comparison to what “we have,”loving what God has called them to do in circumstances so vastly different from ours.  We saw Jesus EVERYWHERE!

Most of us came home with a new family member (sponsor child) that we fell in love with.  The Wilson’s discovered a “twin” that needed sponsorship…God’s Providence.

We ALL came home with a heart full of love and joy…wanting our thankfulness for what “we have” to be even greater and our “wants” to be even less.  God’s Providence.

No serious illnesses…in Guatemala…or at home.  He knew that…that’s why He allowed us all to go.  God’s Providence.

We saw that even though we live totally different lives than our friends in Guatemala, we shared the love of Jesus.  THEY taught US about what the love of Christ can do…true happiness and joy in knowing Him…without a lot of stuff.
We experienced loving God, and loving others.  Every single day.  God is calling us to do this here in our own very needy community.  We need to reach out and demonstrate to those around us the love of God in the way we live, work, play and serve.  I am praying that we will find ways of seeking out the needy and those who don’t know Jesus and maybe feel hopeless, and bringing them some joy and happiness through knowing Christ.

 

When we are the purpose

IMG_5959.JPGBy Liz Grant

When it was suggested to us we write letters to God as part of our preparations for our mission trip, I thought it was a pretty cool idea. So I wrote a letter with all the usual stuff in it. When they were handed back mid week, I was reminded that I had written I was worried about missing the reason or purpose of my mission trip. I asked God for clarity in recognizing and acknowledging my purpose in this trip.

On the very last day , in the very last hours of our trip I received my answer. When the bus we had taken to the AMG headquarters was backing up to park, I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned around and saw Russ with tears in his eyes pointing to a yellow rose in full bloom growing alongside of the building. I knew without words what he was feeling.

Russ’s mom loved yellow roses…even now, you will often find one carefully placed on her headstone. In that moment of unspoken words I felt God’s love and the clarity I had prayed for. That it was always God’s plan at work, that everything was going to be okay. That maybe it’s not about holding on as it is about letting go. That maybe when we’re so busy looking for our purpose we forget that we are often…The Purpose. That maybe what God wants from us is just simply to believe.

The mission trip was a beginning for me, not an ending. I thank God for His grace and patience with me… and I thank Him for yellow roses.

Weird coincidences?

By Scott Linscott

We’ve been back from Guatemala for almost two weeks now. Today, our sponsor kit with a photo of Tanya’s smiling, 7 year old face looking at me. The first thing I noticed was that her birthday is Sunday. I quickly went online and sent my little girl a letter, some photos and a birthday gift that I imagine will arrive weeks too late. It will be easy to remember our girl’s birthday because it is one day after my transplant anniversary. I’m thankful for that timing coincidence.

_LIN0740There were a lot of pretty awesome “coincidences” on our trip. One of the young men travelling with us, Sean, was an instant hit with a couple little girls who would have been content to sit with him all day if they could. He and his brother Cameron are identical twins and I still have trouble telling them apart. Sean, Cam and their mom and dad came to Guatemala with their hearts open to finding another child to sponsor. Here’s the coincidence that I think _LIN1538is so cool. They met a set of precious little, identical twin girls and one of them was in need of a sponsor! The connection was instant. I could not help but cry when I watched Melissa tear up when they gave her a gift of a framed picture of the two sets of twins together. I have no doubt that God brought the Wilson family to Guatemala just for that connection!

We saw the “coincidence” of Steve impulsively sharing a story of his first mission trip and feeling scared and out of place. He didn’t know that some of our team was feeling those exact feelings and would find comfort in his words.

There was the “coincidence” of our team having Doctor Paulding with us and 1 year old twin boys (more twins) with respiratory and ear infections with no money for medicine. “Coincidentally,” Doc Paulding had the medicine they needed and was able to help the family.

There was the “coincidence” of even the paint colors exactly matching the colors of the new painting we began in our home church. When we finish the painting here at home, I have no doubt where our minds will be.

It seemed like each team member found at least one or two natural connections and spots where they knew they belonged, from alongside Mimi in the kitchen to teaching in a first grade class to being adopted by a group of third graders. The soccer games gave us chances to laugh and celebrate goals and a quick downpour let us dance in the rain.

I went to Guatemala mostly because I wanted people in our church to experience the joy of Christians in third world poverty. I hoped to find a connection with another child to sponsor since our little boy from Ghana is now a young man. I hoped for a little girl.

_LIN1396Tanya kept smiling at me when we played with the kids who needed sponsors. She was guarded and quiet but her eyes kept locking on mine. When the noise from a tug of WAR game (thanks Sara and Cam!) drowned us out, I figured I would come back later to see about sponsoring Tanya. When things settled down, I found out Tanya was going to be sponsored by our church children. I pleaded that Robin and I could have her and the church take another because of the connection I sensed. So, Jose, became our FBC child and I got Tanya.

Tanya scott goodbye 2When we went to tell her, the AMG staff member told me not to expect much of a reaction because “she is very shy.” As we explained that Robin and I would be her sponsors she smiled and wrapped her little arms around my neck and squeezed. She took my hand and we went to find Robin who was mobbed by her third graders. Tanya spent the rest of the afternoon talking to me nonstop and we read each of the Spanish children’s books I had brought. When the AMG staff member walked by and saw us, surrounded by other kids, he smiled and remarked about how amazing it was to see quiet, little Tanya so animated and happy. It was such a connection!

It was the same, Providential connection, that we saw with the Wilson family, the Grants, Maddy, Sara, the Lamsons, Jan, Kim and even with little Jose! I think God picked out those kids for us before we even got there.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A message of hope

_LIN1601By Lorin Smith
I thought I could bring a message of hope to Guatemala. I had a strong grandfather’s image, a good testimony and desire to show some needed love to Guatemalan children. I was wrong about the message of hope. God is in charge of hope; He is the source of hope. I can only go where  He sends me. He uses Me.
I was a bad (naughty) grandfather. I gave a teacher a bucket of  sidewalk chalk. She wasn’t familiar with the stuff and just handed out a piece to each student. These second graders began to use it on paper. So I took a piece and drew a red heart on the wall, shocking the teacher. Then I wiped it away. The kids were now on the floor drawing on their papers so I got down and proceeded to copy what they drew by drawing with chalk on the floor itself. They were fast learners. I ran to get an interpreter to reassure the teacher. By then the floor was covered with chalk. She made me stay after school to mop the chalk off the floor.
Next I proceeded to buy my grandson a sling shot as a souvenir I was able to tell my testimony to Sam and a few women through him. God as been good to me far beyond what I could have imagined.
The hope thing actually happened,  We painted the front walls, some class rooms and an inside wall of the school. Now the locals can have more pride in their school and perhaps add improvements with their own efforts. We tried to hug every kid in the school. They cried and we cried on the day we left; all tears of love. Now there are nine more kids with new sponsors.
Guatemala went through thirty years of guerrilla warfare. Millions were killed. The surviving adults were raised on war, murder and theft. Armed guards, barbed wire and cruelty seemed everywhere. The hope is that we provided positive loving role models for these kids, especially by playing with them.
The average age in Guatemala is just over nineteen years old. They are all kids, teenagers with babies. Without any education all they can do is farm labor , picking coffee, or make cottage industry trinkets. What they need is education. There is a need for trades like electricians, masons and truck drivers. If you can’t add or read you are of little use in a retail business. We had less than a week to support this school.  We did what we could, but God will not return empty handed.
Our cup did indeed run over . We left shoes and a large pile of clothing, toys and  a table full of peanut butter and brown sugar. Add Jesus and they can have thousands of cookies for smiling kids with big brown eyes. We collectively poured about twenty thousand dollars directly into the Guatemalan economy.
  The good Lord supported us, but Satan erased my Spanish vocabulary. God provided the financing. We prayed for safety and protection; He protected us. We didn’t see any dreaded mosquitoes  nothing serious took place and  I lost twenty dollars from my suitcase but I was planning on leaving it in Guatemala anyway.
Rural Guatemala did not seem to have running water or sewers or even a welfare system. Seismic activity prevents it. If you want clean water collect lots of rain water. AMG, the group we were under seems to be the defacto welfare department for much of Guatemala. They rescue  the dump kids, the addicts, the abused  or abandoned kids, then feed them and school them and tell them about God.  There was lots of noise and lots of activity, mostly pushing small items for small profits. Guatemala city in contrast  had money and bigger businesses. It is comparable to Los Angeles with seven million people and nine tenths of the wealth of Guatemala but no skyscrapers. Guatemala is in general a tropical paradise with flowers, fruit and 85 degree weather but it is also dangerous with mosquitoes, volcanoes guerrilla  elements and drug dealers.
This short week long mission was one intense education, an awakening., God used us there and now we have  a message, a testimony of what we saw and witnessed.  Americans tend to put their trust in insurance companies. These Guatemalans have put all their trust in God and are happy. They are content with what the good Lord has given them.