It wasn’t so long ago that you were mired in that old stagnant life of sin. You let the world, which doesn’t know the first thing about living, tell you how to live. You filled your lungs with polluted unbelief, and then exhaled disobedience. We all did it, all of us doing what we felt like doing, when we felt like doing it, all of us in the same boat. It’s a wonder God didn’t lose his temper and do away with the whole lot of us. Instead, immense in mercy and with an incredible love, he embraced us. He took our sin-dead lives and made us alive in Christ. He did all this on his own, with no help from us! Then he picked us up and set us down in highest heaven in company with Jesus, our Messiah. Now God has us where he wants us, with all the time in this world and the next to shower grace and kindness upon us in Christ Jesus. Saving is all his idea, and all his work. All we do is trust him enough to let him do it. It’s God’s gift from start to finish! We don’t play the major role. If we did, we’d probably go around bragging that we’d done the whole thing! No, we neither make nor save ourselves. God does both the making and saving. He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work he does, the good work he has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing. Ephesians 2:1-10 (The Message)
Dorothy, we are not in Palmetto anymore. Fifteen of us from Palmetto 1st Baptist as well as friends from throughout the southeast arrived safely in Guatemala this evening. It was clear to us as we left Guatemala City and headed for Antigua that though the signs might be familiar, we are in a whole new world. While we could eat at McDonalds or Taco Bell, play games at Chuck E Cheese, shop at Ace Hardware or buy a car at Nissan, the brightly painted school buses loaded with people, the motorcycles whizzing through traffic and the heavily armed police officers on every street corner, remind us that we are far from home. We travelled about an hour from Guatemala City to Antigua and marveled at the traffic, the houses, primitive by our American standards, the mountains dotted with cell phone towers and the people walking carrying huge burdens on their backs. Guatemala is a country of contrasts. While we are staying in a hotel that is older than those in America, it has running water, indoor bathrooms and is spacious and clean. Just a few blocks away, there are people in great need. Antigua is an interesting town of about 36,000 people. It was once the capital of the Spanish Colonies in Latin American so has a large plaza in the center of town where there is a big Catholic Church and the palace that once housed the seat of government. There are many shops and restaurants to explore. Howie, the missionary with Florida Baptist Children’s Homes has been very helpful in getting acclimated to the country. After dinner, his reassurance that the sounds we heard outside the hotel were firecrackers and not bullets and his reminders to use bottled water when we brush our teeth and not to put toilet paper in the toilet were mixed with encouragement about how the work that we do this week will make a huge difference in the lives of the people we meet. Guatemala has the highest malnutrition rate of any country in the Western Hemisphere. While the people have plenty to eat, the food is not high in calories or protein. Children are literally starving even though they have full bellies. The Malnutrition Center currently serves about 75 children, but with a ratio of eight children to each adult worker, the extra hands that we provide will be welcomed. The construction team will help to build five houses for single mothers or families where the father cannot work due to illness. Currently, they are living in shacks. The new houses, which by American standards would be metal sheds, will provide not only a leak free roof over their heads, but a stable living environment. What has most impressed me today is how it feels to be in a country where I am the outsider. Few speak my language. I smile and nod and say, “Thank you” more often than I say, “Gracious.” Yet, the people all want to help from the cook who prepared our dinner to the young man at the front counter who helped me get signed on to the Internet. How welcoming were I be to them when the roles were reversed? I am outside of my comfort zone this week, but I think this is where I will learn much. I have come to help change people’s lives, but expect, it will be my own that will be most changed.