Saturday, June 30, 2012

Guatemala Family Team- Days 1-2

After our day of travel, we arrived safely in Guatemala! Yesterday, we were able to sort our supplies and prepare for the week ahead. We were so thankful to arrive safe and sound. We appreciate everyone's prayers and would love for you to keep praying!

Today, we woke up and were able to go to Casita Adonai to do some work projects. We successfully completed the painting in two classrooms, prepared the bottle for planting projects next week, and starting our sewing projects as well! Despite all the rain, we had a great day and were so grateful for the opportunity to begin to serve the community. Last but not least, we were able to celebrate Taylor's 15th birthday and enjoy some great birthday cake. Feliz cumpleanos a Taylor!

Please continue to pray for our team's health and safety. We would also appreciate if you would join us in prayer for our host, Demli. She is still very sick and seeing the doctor daily. Please pray for encouragement, rest, and health for her.

Buenas Noches!

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Family Team Saturday

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Christ Wesleyan Team Headed to Guyana

We are excited to partner with Christ Wesleyan Church from Winston-Salem, NC to minister to orphans and vulnerable children in Guyana, South America.  Several on this team have served with us in Guyana in the past and are excited to return, this time taking friends and their new Pastor.  They will join full time missionary, Angie Hemric and CP Intern, Amber Gravley.  Their focus will be to improve the area where our PAL tutoring sessions are held, work with the local church in Guyana to reach out the community, and share Jesus with the kids and families of Plastic City.  Check back for updates and please join us in praying for this team

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Would You Be Ashamed?

From Amber - Guyana intern
 Would You Be Ashamed?
That’s a question a 13 year old asked me on Wednesday at PAL. We were using a dictionary to look up the continent and equator when Lily began to softly cry. I asked her what was wrong and she could only shake her head in silence.  I gave her some space as the others graciously continued working around her.  Her silence was broken a long while later as the children transitioned to practice a skit from the book Billy Goat Gruff. 
As others rehearsed, Lily came to sit close to me on the step.  “Miss Amber,” she asked, “Would you be ashamed if you couldn’t read?”  She was broken.  I had to fight back tears of my own as I looked her in the eye.  “No, I would not be ashamed,” I said, “but, if I knew I was struggling I would ask for help.” 

Lily has only been coming to PAL four weeks.  And as I continue to reflect on this situation there are so many things that I still can’t believe took place within this one conversation.  

  1. Lily’s broken boldness - to actually admit to me that you can’t read and that you feel ashamed of it – is a big step.
  2. Lily’s trust. She actually felt comfortable enough with me for no longer than she has known me.  Wow!
  3. Lily’s educational gap.  She is in ninth grade and can’t read. It makes me wonder if her teacher even notices that she can’t read.
  4. My (Amber) Emotional Conflict.

I am shocked and frustrated, and in some ways disgusted, while at the same time seeking to understand life here.  In the states a teacher has a student for 180 days and the teacher is aware of what the student can and cannot do. I would think that the teachers in Guyana would also know what the students can and cannot do. My heart hurts for all teenagers who are so far behind and are falling through the cracks.

But for today Lily is that teenager. 

Lily is the oldest of three siblings and none of them share the same father.

Lily is an orphan.

She has a mother who does not read and has no idea how to encourage her child to reach for a better life.

Lily is in PAL today because a mother of one of our young leaders stayed on her until she finally gave permission for Lily to come.  Imagine our own PAL children would take what they had learned in PAL and sit on Lily’s step to teach her…that is how bad Lily wants to read.  One thing that has struck me is how Lily has only recently started coming to lessons, but her younger brother has been with us for a year.  Now that I know Lily I see the same issues in his young life. 

Her brother cannot read either and he is ashamed, but he handles his shame in a totally different way. If he feels uncomfortable or “stupid” as they say here, he will drop his head and literally freeze. If we are not quick enough or gentle enough to draw him back in we lose him – literally lose him.  One minute he will be with us and the next minute he will be gone.  Shame causes him to run away while Lily has reached through her shame to ask for help. 

“Miss Amber, I need help.” Lily said.  And in that moment I was able to explain to her that PAL is here to help her.  The teacher Nikki has noticed Lily as well and together we are developing a reading plan for her.  The plan will involve the same children who helped her before she came to PAL to partner with her now to review with her on the days when we do not have PAL.  The plan will involve summer one-on-one help when PAL finishes each day.  We will also tackle the esteem issues that affect her so deeply. 

Today Angie and I took Lily and another older girl out to eat chicken.  It only took Angie asking the other teenager how tests were going in school for Lily’s tears to start flowing.  Shock struck us both, once again.  Angie then turned this moment around with as she used a simple bottle of Sprite to get our girls talking about the issues of life.  She shook up an almost full bottle and pointed it at me as she asked the teens what would happen next.  They both answered that it would go all over me and mess up my clothes.  The tie-in came when she shook up the second bottle that was almost empty.  She explained how both have the same reaction, but the full one is the one that overflows.  Everyone knows what happens when you shake a soda up - it starts to spew out the top. In the same way, when life starts to overwhelm you, you either do two things. You either cry or get angry.  Angie explained to Lily that the more she was involved with PAL the less her bottle would be filled.  Her emotions would not be so much on the surface and uncontrollable.      

There is a saying that the Lord will never give you anything you cannot handle, but there is also another saying that says the Lord will never give you anything you cannot handle with his help. I think of that often when I think about Lily’s situation and what it must feel like for her. My mind can also easily wander to the places that are hard to talk about.  One thing I have seen that Lily can do well is clean the house and care for her younger siblings.  She is also petite, quiet and beautiful.  In a place like Plastic City where the innocence of children is stolen so quickly I worry about what will happen if Lily’s desire to read does not fulfilled.  Will she follow in her mother’s footsteps or worse….will she be trafficked. 

Lily has found her voice.  She has made her desire known and it’s obvious that she is embarrassed that she cannot read.  Teaching her to read is a big task, but nothing that we cannot overcome together.  To hear Lily one day read a book in PAL is possible.  To know that Lily can be the first one to read in her family and have her future re-written is a cause worth fighting for. 

Happy Birthday Caroline!

Nine years ago today David and I were in Guatemala, returning to the city from a week of ministry at Lake Atitlan.  I knew that we were close to a referral of a baby girl from Guatemala and that Friday I could not get her birth mother off my mind.  My heart broke for this woman I did not know yet, understanding that she was probably close to delivery.  All I knew that day was that God was asking me to pray for her.

Several days later after we had returned home we received the call from our adoption agency that our baby girl had been born!  When David asked "what day?" he was not surprised to learn that it had been that Friday, the day that we spent on that bus.

We have always shared this story with Caroline as a testimony to God's timing.  He knew that she was our daughter and he had us IN Guatemala on the day she was born!

That was nine years ago and we can't imagine life without her.   Today she will spend her birthday, celebrating in her beautiful birth country, Guatemala.  What a blessing to be able to give her opportunities to love and be loved by the amazing people of Guatemala.

Feliz Cumpleanos Caroline!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Wilson Team - on the ground in Guatemala

What pure joy it has been to be a part of the very first missions team from Wilson Community Church!  I'm so thankful that the Lord has allowed Caroline's Promise the opportunity to share this experience with them.  In just a few days, these men and women  have their eyes opened, hearts broken and spirits set on fire with a passion for the work God is doing here in Guatemala City. 

In just 2 days, this team has painted classrooms and worked on lighting at Casita Adonai, shared testimonies and helped with children's ministry at church and worked alongside local youth workers from Iglesia Adonai to minister to children at Herona (a church plant of Iglesia Adonai).  Those are all wonderful accomplishments, to be sure.  But the greater accomplishments, I believe, have been the things that cannot really be quantified, qualified or checked off a list.   These are the accomplishments of the Holy Spirit in each one of our lives. 

For example, one woman has shared that she has always been the kind of woman who had to be busy all day long.  She could not stand to be “unproductive”. However, due to an unavoidable delay in getting painting supplies to the school, there was a lengthy span on Saturday when the team had nothing to do.  During that time there were some kids at the school and several team members started playing with them.  She said she realized that had we been busy painting, those precious moments interacting with the kids would have been missed.  This has taught her a valuable lesson in being still and allowing God to work.

A man from our group shared that he has been very disturbed to see God's children living in such extreme poverty.  He was reminded of how, in Genesis, God created man as the crown jewel of creation and he also made us caretakers of Eden.  He feels deeply convicted that,  as Christians and caretakers, we are responsible to reach out to those in need.  We cannot be content to live in such abundance while we allow God's creation to live in such a broken, impoverished state. 

 Another man on our team said he thought we were coming to teach the children at Casita Adonai new things.  But, he now realizes that God has sent us here so the children could teach us new things. 

As you can see, the Holy Spirit is at work in the hearts of this group.  Please pray for our continued safety and health, but even more, that lives will continue to be deeply impacted. 

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Monday, June 25, 2012

Guyana Bible Society Visit

On Friday fifty children crammed up on six benches and overflowed on the steps as Guyana Bible Society came to visit PAL.  This is the second year they have partnered with Vreedenhoop Wesleyan (partner church) to distribute backpacks to 50 school children.  However this year was a little different from last year.
  • The first difference was the unexpected, but celebrated, arrival of six adults who came to support their children and genuinely show their appreciation  to us for caring so much for their children.
  • The second difference was the participation of our PAL leaders in all the events of the day.  The big event was taking the book Billy Goat Gruff and developing lines to create a skit from the book.  This two-week project with Amber had its debut and will have an encore performance at our upcoming community day.
  • The third difference was engaging our own local people as song leaders and distribution of backpacks and snacks to all the children.
  • The final difference was the greatest one.  Last year the talk came from the Guyana Bible Representative and focused on being a good neighbor.  We were not bold in our declaration of Jesus because of children being present from the Muslim and Hindu faiths.  This year we turned that around and I brought the talk and used the Billy Goat Gruff story to present a challenge for the children to cross the bridge to a better life.
In the midst of all the differences I have my own personal highlight and it may sound like the craziest thing ever, but here goes!  When the children were dismissed  a grandmother from the Jetty came up and took my hand to shake it and thank me with the utmost sincerity.  The twist in it all is that she was in her normal drunken state with the smell of rum all over her.   Her words were clear and her eye contact was strong as she said, “I want to thank you all for caring for these children and treating them ALL the same way.  You give to everyone not just the best ones and I like your style and you know what they say….what God blesses let no man curse!”  It’s a highlight because of the shock of it all – I cold not believe I heard words of blessing coming from her lips. Jesus reminded me in those moments that He still has hope for her.   It was Jesus who told his disciples that He did not come for the healthy but for the sick.  I pray one day she can be healthy – in her mind, body and soul.
The backpacks that were shared are the first phase of educational support that we hope to give to children in PAL this summer.   We also are raising funds to purchase school textbooks for every child in PAL and promoting this a project for children’s classes and VBS if this is something that you would like to partner with us on you can email Caroline’s Promise here.

Written by Angie Hemric - Guyana Country Coordinator

Friday, June 22, 2012

First Summer Team Headed To Guatemala!

This morning our first short term team of the summer boarded a plane to Guatemala.  We are thrilled to be partnering with Wilson Community Church in Wilson, NC as they embark on their first mission trip!  This outreach focused church has done plenty of mission work in their community.  For several years their pastor and members of the congregation have dreamed of serving in another country.  When they contacted Caroline's Promise and asked if we could take them we said "YES!!".  We are blessed to have Caroline's Promise Board Member, Tami Rumfelt leading this team. Our prayer is that their experience and the training they receive from Caroline's Promise will prepare them for years of international missions.

Thank you Pastor Gary and team for allowing us to be a part of your first trip!

You can see pictures of their commissioning service and hear a special song written just for their team here.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Education For Life

10 +1=? That is a question that a 10 year old child in Plastic City cannot answer. 

On Thursday, I had the privilege of going to dinner with one of the pastors from Vreed-en-hoop Wesleyan Church. He teaches at a secondary (middle) school here, and his wife is a professor in the Educational program at the University of Guyana. His wife Corrine, was telling me about the educational system in Guyana. I walked away from that dinner overwhelmed, but also more sure of what the Lord wants with my life.

In the States we have the “No Child Left Behind” program; Guyana used to have that, but in the past ten years, their educational system has changed. Now in Guyana, if you don’t pass your end-of-year test, you still pass the class!  In my opinion, that is why I find a ten year old who doesn’t know what 10 + 1 equals. It breaks my heart. 

Teachers here teach for the test. They write math problems on the board, (and in this particular child’s class) the teacher gives the children the answer and instructs them to copy it in their exercise book. My frustration comes as I realize that these children aren’t being given the chance to make a better life for themselves, because they aren’t getting an education where they learn and utilize critical thinking skills to help them go anywhere. 

So when you go to places like PAL, and try to help these children, you have to start at the very beginning: teaching an 8 year old phonics, and  a 14 year old what continent they live on. I am overwhelmed when I think about the lives these children are going to have if they don’t get a better education. The life that faces them is one where they live the same lives their parents or grandparents live, because they are stuck in that never ending cycle of poverty. 
A child in the school system in Guyana really has to make an effort to stand up and say “I am not going to live this life.” They have to work twice as hard as other children to get a better education so they can get a good job. Additionally, they need someone to step in and say, "I will help you learn what '10+1' equals."; teaching, not for a test, but for the love of learning.  Poverty is a never ending cycle, and can only be broken if the support system is available for the child.   
~By Amber Gravley