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To comfort all who mourn

Last Spring, our Board of Directors met with a Strategic Planning Team.  We felt like it was time to refocus and ask God what He wanted for His ministry.  The process seemed a bit cloudy and overwhelming when we began, but then He showed up, and we realized that we share the same heart: His heart for the people of Guatemala.  

He gave us a new Vision Statement:   

"A world where hope grows and communities thrive"

He gave us a new Mission Statement: 

"Growing relationships that nourish individuals and communities to be whole 
and thrive in Jesus Christ" 

He clarified our objectives and helped us set goals.  We walked away knowing that the scripture that He so often had brought to us in the past would continue to be our theme.  Over the next few weeks, I hope to share stories of how your partnership with us in Guatemala is bringing Isaiah 61 to life.  Perhaps you would like to join me in praying this scripture daily or weekly over our community here in the states, as well as our communities in Guatemala.  
This week, I want to tell you about Andrea and verses 2 and 3 of Isaiah 61. 

Isaiah 61: 2-3 

"to comfort all who mourn,
    and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
    instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
    instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
    instead of a spirit of despair.

The call is to "comfort all who mourn."  That feels overwhelming to me.  Everywhere we look, we can see grief and sorrow.  Even as I began to write this post, a friend texted to say that she had hit the "sad" stage of her grieving process.  I remember last December when grief hit me like a ton of bricks, completely unexpected.  Many of you remember our sweet boys from Gerona, Erik and Samuel, who passed in a drowning accident.  I thought I would suffocate from the loss of a child who felt like my own.  In the months that followed as I sat with their family, I began to see God comforting them in their deep grief.  Your support allowed us to take a trauma team and minister to not only the family, but the community of young adult leaders who had experienced this great loss.  All of the kids in that family had sponsors, and through that support, I saw God provide for their basic physical needs.  

As time passed, though, I saw God provide on a deeper level.

It was July, and our team was at a local community college in Guatemala City with a group of girls and women.  They were exploring different career opportunities, and we were learning how we could support their ongoing education and job skills training.  We were taking a break when I sat down with Rosa, Samuel's mom.  We caught up and I asked her how she was doing.  She quickly switched to talking about her daughter, Andrea, and her concern for her.  I remembered Andrea as a beautiful girl, full of life, a huge smile.  Rosa shared that the loss of Samuel had changed Andrea.  Her teacher often shared how she would cry out in the middle of class uncontrollably.  

I asked Rosa if there was any way that we could help.  The counselor in me wanted to provide some tool that would help Andrea through her grief.  I asked what she enjoyed doing, and Rosa said that the only time Andrea was happy was when she was dancing.  Andrea had shared,

 "Mami, when I dance, I dance for Jesus and I see Samuel sitting beside him, cheering me on.  It makes me smile."

Rosa went on to share how Andrea had asked for a dance costume and how God had provided miraculously.  Rosa's mom purchases used clothing and resales it, and in the last purchase, there had been a dance costume, the exact size that Andrea needed.  Later, Andrea told her mom that she needed ballet shoes, and Rosa explained that they just did not have money to buy them.
That's when I started crying.  You see, my daughter Caroline had asked her dance teacher weeks before if she would like to get the girls at the studio to donate dance items to be given to the girls in Guatemala.  Ms. Robin jumped at the opportunity and the only things that were donated were ballet and tap shoes.  No costumes.  Caroline's goal was to use the shoes at a fine arts workshop, but that workshop never happened, and so as I sat listening to Rosa share how Andrea had asked for ballet shoes, I realized that the shoes from Ms. Robin's girls were for Andrea - not for the fine arts workshop. 

Rosa and I cried.  It was another layer of mourning the loss of her sweet, sweet Samuel.  But the tears were also tears of rejoicing, because of the great love of our Father who knew this mom's desire to provide dance shoes for her daughter.  

A few days later, Caroline was able to fit Andrea with her very own pair of ballet shoes.  You see, all the counseling in the world could not do what God did for Andrea.  He...  

"bestowed on her a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair."  

I learned a very valuable lesson that day.  God calls us to live out Isaiah 61.  "To comfort all those who mourn."  But He never asks us to do it on our own.  Never.  It is He who works through us.  All of us.  He could do it on His own, but He invites us into the process.  And I know why.  Because when we partner with Him, Isaiah 61 becomes true for us.  It's never about "us" helping "them."  It's about God healing all of us.  

And that takes me back to our new Mission Statement:

"Growing relationships that nourish individuals and communities to be whole 
and thrive in Christ Jesus"   

Thank you for partnering with us.  Really.  We can't do it without you.  In the months to come, there will be changes in Caroline's Promise.  They will be hard, and we will be presented with opportunities to grieve.  I encourage you to read Isaiah 61.  Let's pray it over ourselves and over our friends in Guatemala.  May we grow to be oaks of righteousness - whole and thriving.   

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