My recent mission trip to Guatemala (February 19-26, 2010) which was a Medical Mission Trip was to participate in helping to reach out to and medically and spiritually treat native Guatemalan villagers who live in remote jungle areas.
I had been to Guatemala only once previously, in September of 2005. The background of this trip is a very interesting story! During the years that I was the pastor of River of Life Christian Center, our congregation purchased a huge 61′ x 85′ crusade tent to use for revival crusades in our local area and for other churches and ministries to use in proclaiming the Gospel in this unique way. We needed to liquidate some of our possessions as a congregation as our finances dipped severely, so I put the tent up for sale on eBay. A gentleman from the Chicago area purchased the tent as a “Buy It Now” option, and then sent a team of men to New Jersey to take the tent back to Chicago with them. I then found out that this gentleman, Phil Ephraim, of Maranatha Chapel Assembly of God Church, had purchased a huge piece of property in Guatemala and was building a mission retreat/conference center there. He purchased our tent to send it to Guatemala to this new mission retreat/conference center, and it was to be used as the main meeting hall and worship center. All of this took place somewhere in May, 2005. Late in August of that same year, Phil called me on the phone and asked if I had ever been to Guatemala. I told him I had not, but would love to travel there someday, especially to see our tent again. He then told me that the tent was not set up yet and that he would pay for all of my expenses if I would go to Guatemala for 5 days to supervise the setting up of the tent at his mission retreat/conference center. I scrambled to get my passport on a “same-day, rush/emergency” basis, for which I was successful (this alone was amazing, and confirmed to me that God’s hand was in this all the way!). I was now going to Guatemala! It was an amazing trip for me, and my heart began to be shaped by God for the work of missions.
In January of this year (2010), Phil Ephraim called me once again. I heard the same familiar voice on the phone ask me almost the same question…”How’d you like to go to Guatemala?” He didn’t have to twist my arm very much…he was skillful in his tactics of persuasion, “Do you want to see your tent again?”, he asked. My heart jumped…of course I wanted to go again. But I couldn’t imagine for what. I had a momentary sinking thought…maybe the tent was damaged and he needed my help again. But that was not the case. It was all good…in fact, it was an exciting and challenging proposition that Phil had for me this time. He explained to me that several times a year his church sends a team of people to Guatemala to assist native doctors and dentists there (who donate their time and services completely without cost for an entire week at a time) go into the remote jungle villages in the vicinity of “El Faro” (that’s the name of the mission retreat/conference center, and it means, “The Lighthouse”). He wanted to know if I would like to join the team from his church as they went to Guatemala in February for an entire week. Without hesitation I knew from the immediate confirmation of the Holy Spirit in my heart that I would go.
After arriving at the airport in Guatemala City the day before everyone else got there, I spent a very enjoyable evening at the local Holiday Inn and dined at the famous “Inn of the Golden Arches” there (McDonald’s)! The team from Chicago arrived at 7:00 a.m. the next morning, and we all boarded a double decker bus for the 6 hour over-land ride to “El Faro”, which is close to the eastern port city of Puerto Barrios, Guatemala. When we arrived at “El Faro” we were assigned roomates and bunk houses. I was completely amazed at how much “El Faro” was improved and developed in the five years since I had been there last (to set up the tent in 2005). And, there was the tent…still majestically standing, still in the center of the retreat/conference site. It was now being used as the main dining “hall” and worship area.
For the next four days the entire group was up at 5:00 a.m., breakfast at 6:00 a.m., loaded onto pick-up trucks and school buses, and on the road into the jungle by 7:00 a.m. The first day we traveled 2 hours into the jungle to a remote village. Each successive day we traveled 30 minutes closer to the camp, with the last day holding the medical clinic at “El Faro” and not traveling at all. There were 25 native Guatemalan medical doctors, pediatricians, OB-GYN doctors, and dentists who gave themselves freely to serve the Lord and minister to the people of Guatemala who couldn’t afford and/or didn’t have access to medical/dental care at all. The first day almost 1000 people came to the clinic, with about 500 on each of the next three days, for a total of almost 2500 Guatemalan villagers being cared for. Just look at the photos that are in the Media Gallery page for the Guatemala Medical Mission trip. Your heart will break for them. Yet, you will rejoice with us that God loves them and has not forsaken them. It was a privilege and an honor to be used of God in this way. Over 40 people from the Chicago area freely gave of their entire week’s time and expenses, each paying their own way (about $1000 total cost per person), for the privilege of serving and ministering as they did in Guatemala.
I can’t wait until next February, when I will undoubtedly go on this same missions trip with the wonderful people of Maranatha Chapel again and partner with them and Phil Ephraim (the founder of “El Faro”), and I’ll also get to see “our” tent once again. It’s in the ministry, it always was, and it always will be. Praise God!