Monday, May 9, 2011

Los Laureles, and home again..

Hello Friends!

Since my last post, I have left Tegucigalpa, and spent 5 days working with my friends on the YES team in a dump community called Los Laurales, Honduras--nearby to the beaches of La Ceiba.
Reflecting on my time here as I'm sitting in the airport and about to fly home, I strongly sense that this may be in part the form of ministry that God has planned for me. Especially over the last week, I have sensed that God would have me spend my life discipling Hispanic children and young adults (especially the guys) who come from less-than-ideal backgrounds.  This, I actually find rather humorous... 

A few years ago, before even observing any official children's ministries down here, I felt the desire to someday start some kind of orphanage or some form of caring for the "least of these" of Central America.  As time continues this dream of mine (or is it really mine?) has grown, and I have been seeking opportunities to learn of ways to reach to the hearts of young people--primarily young men.

One of the boys I felt that I had really connected with in Los Laureles was called Diño. At 14 years-old, this young guy had already stacked up several chips on his shoulder--make that both shoulders.  Nearly every interaction that he had with the other local young chaps pretty much proved that true... for some reason though, he genuinely seemed to want to get to know me better, and at one point, I was able to spend 20 minutes swinging beside him on a hammock just telling him about myself and listening to him share about his background.  

Even though my Spanish is pretty limited, we were still able to have a relatively good conversation.  Still though, I'm looking forward to the day when I can communicate in Spanish fluently enough so that I can pour God's Word into thirsty boys like Diño without tripping over the language barrier.  These young men have tremendous potential for Christian leadership, and I am excited to think that God might have plans for me to be a part of discipling them in the future.

Thanks to all for your prayers and encouragement while I was on this trip!  Looking forward to seeing you all over the next few weeks.



Saturday, April 30, 2011

Oh, where to begin?  The last few days have been amazing! Visiting with Benjamin Zink and the El Salvadoran BIC church "Pan de Vida" went fantastically.  Benjamin and I joined a group of youth from this church one afternoon for street ministry.  Pastor Cesar dropped us off at the beginning of what appeared to be just an old country road.. or driveway, more like.  I was quite surprised when after walking for half an hour we arrived in a good-sized community of El Salvadorans.

We began walking through the village looking for people who would be willing to take a "spiritual survey" that was developed by my pastor, Mike Holland.  I was totally amazed at how easy it was to use this survey to stimulate a wonderful discussion with people that would otherwise show no spiritual interest.  Approaching others with the gospel couldn't be easier!  I definitely need to get myself a copy of that survey!

So we spent several hours sharing this "survey" with whoever we could find on the streets, and during this time I was entirely impressed with how thoroughly the local Christian youth knew the Bible.  Time after time, they would share a Scripture verse by memory (the reference, too!) with someone during the different discussions that started as a result of this survey. 

The mastery of the Bible that I saw in El Salvador amoung my younger brothers and sisters in Christ there is virtually unparralelled by the great majority of Christians Stateside--both young and old..  Suffice it to say that I was both convicted, and encouraged to study and commit to memory more of God's Word.  It is so true that we as Christians cannot live on bread alone, but on every Word that proceeds out of the mouth of the God (Matthew 4:4).

After my awesome, and way-too-short trip with "Benny Z" came to a close on Thursday morning, I caught a bus to San Salvador in hopes that there would be a seat available for me on the same day.  I arrived there about two hours later, and sure enough, there was a bus departing for Tegucigalpa--just where I needed to go--in just an hour.  Praise God that I got there in time!!! I am so glad I didn't have to spend another night on my own.  I love the culture and the people here, but I make a horrible companion for myself. :D 

My bus arrived in "Teguc" at about 7:00pm and while I was waiting in the terminal for my ride, the power went off. Pitch dark. In one of the most dangerous cities in Central America. I was immediatley concious of the increased likelihood of getting robbed since there were other people yet standing around waiting for their rides.  Thankfully, my sister Abby had given me a mini flashlight keychain a few years ago as a Christmas present, and I had stashed it away on my backpack.  As soon as the lights went out, I reached around to my backpack and yanked it off it's chain, and behold, there was light. And it was good. I didn't get robbed. Happiness!  Naturally, since the electricity had gone out during this storm, all the traffic lights had gone out too, which resulted in my missionary friend, Barry Horst, being expectedly late.

After another half an hour or so, Barry arrived along with the entire current STEP team.  It was great catching up with everyone, and hearing different stories, etc.

The following morning (yesterday), I joined two STEPers, Evi and Melanie, in working at a local ministry called the Micah Project. The mission there at Micah is to raise up leaders out of some of the most hurting and needy boys in all of Honduras.  All of the 16ish boys at the Micah project had been taken in from off the streets where they spent their days stealing or begging for food, and constantly staying high on glue to dull the pain of their hunger and hardships.

These boys are hardcore--rough, often rude and self-seeking, but entirely desperate for love.  Didn't take too long to realize how much they long just to be wrapped in an embrace.  I only wish I could have spent more time there--I definitely want to spend a few weeks working with these boys someday soon. 

Each of these future leaders for Christ has different struggles and so many of them have been hardened by their past circumstances.  Many have left the safe haven of the Micah Project at least once and headed back to the streets, only to come back again for help and to set their lives straight.  All this before many of them reach 16 years.  The intense need for these young men is enough to bring tears to my eyes.

How these boys need Christ!  And yet so many others are still in the streets hurting and being hurt because they have no one to love them.  I can only dream of the day when I'll be able to help quench this thirst for God's love by serving boys and other needy souls just like them when I land where God's sending me.

I have a few more stories to tell, but I guess I'll have to save them for later!  Blessings to you all back at home!  Thanks again for your prayers--they are at work here in Honduras!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Greetings from El Salvador!

So Sunday early in the morning we left San Andres, Guatemala, and arrived in the city in time to attend one of the several services at Casa de Dios--the largest church in the country.  From there we headed over to Antigua, Guatemala where we celebrated a successful medical mission with some touristy activities.

Yesterday afternoon I left the medical team to head to Guatemala and purchase my bus tickets to El Salvador. After spending the night there, I caught my 6am departing bus this morning, and traveled via Ticabus to Santa Ana where I was dropped off along the road with hardly a clue as to where I needed to go. Thankfully, my Spanish proved sufficient to ask directions to a place I could catch a chicken bus towards Texistepeque where I was to meet a friend of mine named Benjamin Zink, who is interning with a BIC pastor locally.

An hour or so and two chicken bus-rides later, I stepped off into the market in Texistepeque, where I was quickly spotted by Benjamin.  We spent some time catching up, and then I listened to him talk about the local culture, etc.

Tonight I'll be going with Benjamin to the local BIC for the church event of the day--music practice! I'll be staying here through to Thursday morning, when I'll be heading over to Tegucigalpa to meet the Horsts and the awesome STEP team.

Continued prayer for health and safety would be phenomenal!  Thank you all so very much for your prayers and support thus far!  Can't wait to share with you all in more depth how this trip has gone!!  Blessings in Christ!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Last day of Clinics

Buenos dias a todos!

The last three days the medical team and I have been setting up medical clinics in two villages, and today is the final day we'll be opening a clinic on the missions base in San Andres, Guatemala. In the past we've done a maximum of 3 clinics over a period of 4-5 days, but this time we will have hosted 4 clinics over 4 days.  Can you say intense?  Besides the heat and the work of setting up clinic, we also have had to prepare medicine dosages beforehand, so there has been plenty to keep us busy!

Yesterday I had a little adventure of my own when my uncle (Doctor Crespo) asked if I would go and purchase some needed medicines in a village called Santa Elena, which was about 45 minutes away. So I set out with a driver from the Hearts in Action missions base who knew his way around pretty well—but only spoke Spanish... I had a blast!!  On the way we were able to have a halfway decent conversation as he told me more about himself and his family, and I shared a little about my background.

It took several tries at different pharmacies before we finally found the medicines we needed to purchase. Surprisingly enough, medicines are about twice as expensive down here as they are in the states!

Oh, and if you guys wouldn’t mind praying, I seem to have picked up a cold!  I am next to positive it’s because I pressed myself a little too hard with my finals, etc. before I left for Guatemala.  Either way, I’m sure it’ll be gone in a day or two.. thanks for praying!


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Hello Guatemala!

Yesterday I left early in the morning for Central America, and the medical team and I arrived in San Andres, El Peten, Guatemala last evening at around 10pm.  We did some minor unpacking, checked for scorpions and tarantulas (none in my room!!), and headed to bed. 

First thing this morning after breakfast, we started packing our portable pharmacy and all the things we would need for our clinic, and had everything in the bus and ready to go by 10am--by then of course, it was probably well over 90 degrees. Yeah, coming from PA this year was not very good temperature preparation. The clinic destination today was Sacpuy, Guatemala, and we saw about 150 patients.

I had the pleasure of working with the children's ministry, and was able to teach a few different songs to my audience (yes, they were quite gracious with this gringo...).  All in all, I had a great time meeting some very cute children, and doing my best to let Christ shine through me and into their lives.

Tonight we'll be repacking (besides cooling off!) and preparing for launching another day of clinics first thing tomorrow morning.  This is the first year we have done more than 3 clinics, so I'm sure it will be intense! 

At this point, I'm just uber excited to be here, and super glad that I have such an awesome trip still ahead of me after we finish our epic work here. 

Blessings to all on the homefront!

Yours in Christ,

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Trip Itinerary

For those of you who would be interested in following my trip progress, here's my trip itinerary! Each location is numbered in order of when I'll be there, and below is an explanation of what I'll be doing at each place.

1. Guatemala City, Guatemala
    Day 1 I'm flying into Guatemala City, and catching a flight out to location 2 on the same day.

2. San Andres, Guatemala
    Days 2-7 will be spent setting up and running medical clinics in San Andres and two other local villages. Expected temperatures hover around 100 degrees Farenheit, and humidity is usually well above 90% each day. Day 8 the medical team will be headed home with a 24-hour layover in Guatemala City (chillin' time!).  From here I'll be on my own, and headed to location number 3 by bus (which will be my primary means of transportation until I leave for home).

3. Texistepeque, El Salvador
    Day 9 I'll be heading towards Tegucigalpa, Honduras, and stopping overnight in Texistepeque to visit with a good friend of mine who is currently serving as an intern with a Brethren in Christ ministry.  Can't wait to learn about what they're doing there in El Salvador!

4. Tegucigalpa, Honduras
    Day 10 I'll be arriving in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, where I'll be meeting with the Honduras leaders of a missions internship program called STEP.  I'll be spending several days here working with the current STEP team (which is quite a cool team, btw), and getting to know the missionaries, Barry and Kimberly Horst.  Note: Starting in September, I'm planning to be with STEP as an intern, so this will be an opportunity for me to meet the awesome folks I'll be working with, as well as check out the setting I'll be living in.

5. La Ceiba, Honduras
   Days 15-18 will be spent working with my epic friends on the YES team and learning about opportunities to serve in that community.  This particular ministry is targeting the children who live in dump--that's right!--These children and their families live in and around a dump where their livelihood is made in recycling trash from nearby tourist attractions.

6. San Pedro Sula, Honduras
   Day 19 I'll be headed back home again, and probably bawling my eyes dry.  No, just kidding.. I'm sure I will be glad to be going home to see my family and friends, but I'm also sure I'd be glad to stay!  The reason I'm traveling all the way to San Pedro Sula instead of flying out of La Ceiba is purely because I was able to book a flight for $150 cheaper from SPS--worth the extra 3-hour bus ride if you ask me!

So all in all, this trip is going to be an entirely awesome chance for me to serve God and His needy children! I'll be getting my hands dirty and learning about several different ways to minister to the poor in Central America, as well as getting a brief introduction to the different cultures that I'll be passing through.  I'm thrilled to be going, and praising God that He's ironed out the financial details through the generous support of His Church.  Please join me in prayer for His continued blessing on this trip!  Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Epic Missions Trip

Well, it seems like just yesterday that I was in Guatemala for the 2010 Corazones en Accion medical missions trip, and now it's just a few days till I'll be boarding a plane to return!  In all things, God has been amazingly faithful! I was starting to get a little worried that I wouldn't have all the funding necessary for this trip, but in His timing (which just so happened to be what I consider "last-minute"), the Lord provided everything I need!  

Anyway, here's a few details on my upcoming trip!
The Rundown:

Where: San Andres, El Peten, Guatemala, and the surrounding communities.

What: Hearts In Action Medical Missions Trip.  We will be bringing TONS of medical supplies and the expertise of several doctors and nurses to minister to the needy.  In the past, my primary job has been to be a "nurse" working alongside my uncle (Dr. Steven Crespo) and helping him attend to the needs of his patients.  I usually also help in the area of organization and the setting up and taking down of the clinics at the different sites we visit.  I'm so excited to be going back again! 

When: April 18-May 6

Why: We want to spread the knowledge of our Savior’s amazing love!

How:  By the grace of God, and the generous help of the Body of Christ.  If you would like to learn how you can partner with my efforts financially, in prayer, or in any other way, please click here.

Goal: To provide healthcare and medicine to approximately 1,000 needy Guatemalans, opening a door through which we can share Christ.  In addition to the Medical Ministry, we will have a Children’s Ministry for the children who will be waiting for their parents, as well as a Prayer and Evangelism Team to offer prayer and to present the Gospel to each of the needy people coming through our clinic.

Last year, our Medical Team saw over 900 patients.  Besides physical healing, many of our patients experienced spiritual healing through accepting Jesus Christ as their Lord.  Please keep us in prayer again this year as we seek to serve the Lord, and preach the deliverance that is in Christ Jesus.

This year, instead of heading back right after the medical mission trip (which ends the 26th of April), I will be spending ten days between three different ministries across El Salvador and Honduras.  I'll be spending the days there learning of the different opportunities for ministry, as well as to meet up and encourage a number of my friends who are currently serving missions internships.  I'm so thrilled to be going!! It's going to be a fantabulous trip!