Independent Service Week: Highlights!

Hola Amigos y Familia! Esta semana nosotros usé nuestros español aprendíamos a comunidad y construimos en a vives de guatemaltecos. Ahora nosotros estamos emocionados a comparamos con ustedes nuestros experiencia! 

This week Site número uno had the opportunity to work alongside various ministries that work to empower the people of Guatemala. You may have been following our various adventures along the way, however some of the work we do here in Guatemala is having the privilege to give back to the people!!  

On Sunday we had four groups of eager students set out to different parts of Guatemala to be the hands and feet of Jesus as we worked in Orphanages, Communities, Construction Projects and Schools.

This week we’re going to invite you along to experience a school called Mana de Vida. 

 Mana de vida is a school located in Escuintla which is about an hour south of Guatemala City. 

Escuintla is known as the second most dangerous city in Guatemala due to its location between the capital and the ports on the coast. This allows for a lot of violence, human trafficking, and prostitution. 

Mana de Vida started out as a program where they gave the kids in the community food! Growing into a school, they devoted their time to giving the kids well-balanced meals as well as a good education from pre-kindergarten all the way up to high school. Mana de vida has a variety of ministries which includes a free clinic that is open to families and students of the schools. However, due to great provision they were able to open up the resources of a free clinic to all the people of Escuintla. Another ministry that Mana de Vida runs is a group home for young kids who don’t have a place to stay or a parental figure to take care of them. Currently there are 14 kids living in this home and taking advantage of the programs they provide for them. 

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Showing up on Sunday, we had little idea what the week would hold, but we were more than eager to jump into all that they had planned for us. We were warned that it was hot in Esquintla, and when they said it was hot, they weren’t kidding! The average temperature for the week was 35 degrees! Fortunately at the school they have a pool that they use for the students to take swimming lessons. It wasn’t an hour into our time being there and we were already summoned into the pool by various students to swim! Right off the bat this was a great chance to meet the kids we would be working with throughout the week and enjoy building relationships with them. 

We quickly jumped right into our Spanish that we’ve learned, ready or not. As nerve-wracking  as it was, these kids accepted our broken attempts to communicate and smiled through it all. A big thing we learned is that communication through common language is not always necessary, but quality time and laughter allows you to connect on a whole new level. 

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At one point, we found ourselves sitting in the wading pool struggling to communicate with these kids that were so fascinated by us. Whether laying in our laps or holding our hands they couldn’t be more happy with the new visitors. 

Throughout this semester, our group has been learning a Spanish song that one of our partners taught us in January.  We thought this would be the perfect opportunity to sing the song for the kids. We started singing this Spanish song and it wasn’t long before all the kids began to sing along.  The small pool soon was filled with a chorus of voices singing Recibe toda la gloria (Receive all the glory). It was so neat how worshiping Jesus together helped us connect with the kids when we were at loss of words. 

This was only the start of such a great week! 

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On Monday when we showed up for our first day of work with the school we were greeted by many hugs and kisses (a kiss on the cheek in the Guatemalan culture is a way of greeting people). In the morning the school plays worship music over a loud speaker as the kids wait in their classes before the day starts. This was a huge highlight of our days as we walked to school hearing worship music and the anticipation of being ambushed with hugs each morning. 

Every morning we started our school day by eating breakfast with the 3-5 year olds. As little of a task  it seemed to us, it was such a big help for the teachers in getting the kids settled, insuring they ate their food, and cleaning up afterwards. Despite the craziness as some points I was always blown away by the amount of patience and kindness the teachers always showed towards the young ones. 

Later on in the morning we made our way to the chapel. 

We had stood back and watched as they worshiped and as they prayed. It wasn’t long before they had us up at the front teaching us how to dance and do the actions of the Spanish songs in front of everyone. Only in Guatemala do they incorporate salsa dancing into worship songs! 

Throughout the week we worked in various places in the ministry. A group of us worked in the kitchen prepping meals and helping with snack. We also worked in the clinic sorting and taking inventory of a variety of medicines that had been donated to this clinic. From sorting clothing donations or assisting the kids in swimming lessons to teaching in classrooms or playing with the kids this week was so full of excitement in doing Jesus’ work with this school. 

The cool thing about Mana de vida isn’t that it’s just a school, it’s also a campus of Vida Real church. This allows for the space to be used as church when school isn’t in session. We had the opportunity to partake in a Spanish worship service on Tuesday night. Despite the lack of Spanish we felt we had, it was really cool to see the increase in things we could understand from first coming to Guatemala. This was such a cool night to not only connect with the kids from the school and people in the community but to all come together and worship God together. There is just something so uniting about being under one roof worshiping as one. 

As we sat with some of the kids that we met from school and worshiped together I was so amazed by how good God is. The picture that plays over in my head is the young girls all sitting in a row at the front on their hands and knees pouring everything they had into worshiping their Saviour. 

These young girls live in a group home due to different life circumstances. However, despite the things I perceive that they lack, they give all they have to the Lord. They have such a love for Jesus and through Him they have everything they need.  I’m so humbled by how we don’t need worldly possessions to determine our wealth, but it is when we lay our lives down and find our life in Jesus that we really gain everything. These girls displayed this perfectly as they gave all they had to Jesus with the faith that he would provide. 

Thursday was another special day where we had the opportunity to teach English  at the High School which is located at a different campus. We were quite nervous going into it, because in reality it’s quite easy to speak a language, but when it comes down to actually teaching it, that’s a different story. It turned out to be quite the experience that left us wanting to come back. We taught seven classes alongside their English teacher throughout the day. We also helped serve the kids snack and participated in different group games with the classes. 

It goes to say that we were definitely welcomed with open arms into the school. The question of the day was “¿ tienes novio? (Do you have a boyfriend?) or “Will you marry me?” following many love notes and Facebook friend requests. 

Many pictures were taken, but the one thing that will stick with us most is our time we spent with the students over lunch. Before we ate we stood in the middle of the cafeteria and one student volunteered to not only pray for the food but pray for us. With outstretched hands the students joined together in prayer to pray for us and our time with them. This was not only so special for us, but it was amazing to see the Lord at work in these schools. How they are raising up young leaders to lead for Jesus. At that age many kids shy away from publicly acknowledging their faith, however I love how it’s not something they are ashamed of, but they take pride in it and sharing it with others. 

Mana de Vida has a slogan that says “transforming lives in the name of Jesus” 

Afterwards, we stood there trying to figure out where to sit and within seconds the kids grabbed our plates and made a place at their tables. After many conversations about favourite foods, sports teams, if we had kids or siblings the students proceeded to wash our dishes for us. In hopes we would go to the school to bless the kids, they turned it around and blessed us through these little acts of kindness. 

Throughout our week we had the opportunity to build relationships with the teachers in our off-hours. Usually the teachers head home around the same time, but they decided to stay behind and spend time getting to know us. They came over to our place and we played basketball and did a craft with them. The next day they came over and went swimming with us. It was really cool to see their kindness and willingness to build relationships and continually reach out to us on their own time. 

After such a fun week, Friday came so soon! We had the opportunity to hang out with the kids in the morning and play soccer as well as teach the younger kids some English. After lunch we were waiting around before we got back to work, until we were all wisked away individually to different classes. We knew the students were preparing a surprise but we had no idea what that entailed! To our surprise they took us to their class and made us dresses out of news paper. They did our hair and make up with the little things they found in their backpacks. They prepped us with speeches and even taught us the proper way to walk. After we were all done up the whole school gathered in the courtyard to put on a little beauty pageant. Each class cheered us on as we made our speeches and we’re presented with pageant titles! (Miss Español, Miss MDV, Miss simpática, and Miss elegancia) 

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Afterwords the kids prayed over us and wished us on our way. It was such a beautiful way for the school to show their appreciation for us this week and our hearts were so full after this fun activity. 

Later that evening we were invited out to one of the directors and his wife’s house for a night to unwind after a busy week. We jumped in the back of his pick up truck and headed to his house. The little things like  riding in the back of pick up trucks are some of the things I’m going to miss most about Guate. To our surprise they bought us pizza and we watched a movie in English. This was such a nice break and for the first time in a long time it felt like home. This was such a highlight for our group and the simple generosity in spending time with us spoke volumes and will be a time we won’t forget. 

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Overall, I couldn’t be more thankful for this week and all we had the opportunity to experience. Mana de Vida means Mana of life, which relates back to the Bible when the Israelites were in the desert and God provided for their needs by supplying them Mana. We have not only watched God provide this week, but we also have had the privilege to see his work thus far in the organization and how he continues to provide for their needs. On the back of all the kids uniforms read 2 Corinthians 3:18. 

“Nothing between us and God, our faces shining with the brightness of his face. And so we are transfigured much like the Messiah, our lives gradually becoming brighter and more beautiful as God enters our lives and we become like him.”

Jesus has been so evident this week and I believe that he has so much more for these kids and this organization. I have loved seeing Jesus’ kingdom being built here in Guatemala and how it starts with the little ones. They truly are the hope for our future. 

-Taylor on behalf of Guattatown

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