Thursday, June 4, 2015

Our Story

Our Story

In 2009 we were given the opportunity to be part of a short term mission trip to Nagarote, Nicaragua. At first, we felt reluctant, but God quickly changed our hearts. We discovered some statistics about Nicaragua, and knew it was the right place for us to go.

Nicaragua is the second poorest country in Latin America after Haiti. Poverty is largely a rural problem in Nicaragua, although there are pockets of poverty in the capital, Managua, and in other urban areas. Close to half (43 percent) of the people in Nicaragua live in rural areas. Two out of three of them (68 percent) struggle to survive on little more than US$1 per day.

After returning from our first trip, we felt an intense call to return. We became the new mission trip leaders for our church and started planning more trips to Nicaragua. We fell in love with the town and its people, and knew that it was the place God wanted us to make a difference. Over the next few years we continued planning trips with various church groups.

While on mission, our groups conducted back-yard Bible camps and Vacation Bible Schools. We held several revivals and pastor training conferences. Some groups chose to tackle construction that included building a new home for a family in need and a stem wall for a local church that had access issues. Every trip included tract distribution along with some basic necessities like clothing, beans, rice, and toiletry items. Providing Spanish Bibles was also high on each groups' list.

Making connections with the local churches and its members has really helped us find out the greatest needs in the area. Even though we were serving by organizing and participating in these trips, we wanted to do more. The next step was to purchase some land. We sold our dream house in the US and bought a farm in the town of Nagarote. We are currently building a home and common area where groups can stay when they come on mission. This is a work in progress and we know God will lead us on the right path.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Things No One Tells You About Going on Short-Term Mission Trips

Things No One Tells You About Going on Short-Term Mission Trips

A few ways to make sure your mission trip is effective.

By Michelle Acker Perez at Relevant Magazine at (see link at the bottom)

June 2, 2014

Michelle is a born and raised California girl who now calls Guatemala home. She studied English as Westmont College and has an M.Ed. from the University of Santa Barbara. She and her husband live in G... Read More

It is estimated that over 1.5 million people from the United States participate in short-term mission trips every year. That is a lot of people. And those 1.5 million people spend close to $2 billion for these trips.

My husband and I live in Guatemala and host short-term mission teams throughout the year. I am originally from California and he was born and raised in Guatemala. For me, short-term mission trips were kind of like camp. Every summer I had the chance to go somewhere new and “help people.” For my husband, hosting short-term mission teams in Guatemala was part of what he and his family did. There were blessings that came from it, but it was mostly a lot of work.

We have both seen the good, the bad and the ugly of short-term missions. And we continue to feel this tension with the short-term mission teams that we host. Do they do more harm than good? Do they perpetuate the cycle of poverty? Do they contribute to feelings of superiority? Or inferiority? Our work with families and communities in Guatemala, as well as churches and schools from the U.S. has forced us to ask these questions daily.

We have learned that perhaps how we go might matter more that what we do. Here are a few things you may not have heard about being more effective on short-term mission trips:

You're Not a Hero.
First of all, before you go and when you get there, your team must commit to getting rid of the hero complex. Developing countries do not need short-term heroes. They need long-term partners. And if your group just wants to be a hero for a week, then you may be doing more harm than good.

Developing countries do not need short-term heroes. They need long-term partners.

Poverty Can Look Different Than You Expect.
If at the end of your trip you say, “I am so thankful for what I have, because they have so little.” You have missed the whole point.

You’re poor, too. But maybe you’re hiding behind all your stuff. There is material poverty, physical poverty, spiritual poverty and systemic poverty. We all have to acknowledge our own brokenness and deep need for God before we can expect to serve others.

Historical Context May Be Just As Important as Immediate Context.
Have you studied the history of the country or neighborhoods where you’re going? Do you understand the role that the U.S. has played there? Do you know what the role of the Church and missions has been? Do you know the current needs and issues of the people? Having background knowledge of where you're going will help you know how you can best fit and help in your immediate context.

Don’t Do a Job People Can Do for Themselves.
Last time I checked, people in developing countries can paint a wall, so why are you doing it for them? If painting a wall or school is really a need in the place where you’re working then invite students from that school or people from the village to do it with you.

Doing things with people, not for people should be the motto. Always.

Learning Takes Place in the Context of Reciprocal Relationships.
Be willing to share about your family, your pain and your needs. Sometimes people in developing countries think everyone in the U.S. is rich, white and happy. We know this is not true, and we have the chance to share honestly and vulnerably. Prioritize building relationships over completing projects.

You are an ambassador from your country. Thanks to globalization, YouTube and Facebook, most developing countries will have certain ideas about the U.S. before you arrive. Be willing to ask questions and share about yourself and American culture, as well.

Along the same lines, before you take a picture, ask yourself, "Would I mind if a foreigner took a picture of my daughter/son/sister/brother in this situation?" If the answer is yes, then don’t take it. Come back with stories and name of people, not just an entire album of “cute” nameless kids.

There is Something Special About Going.
Jesus left His home, the comfort of the Father to go, to be among the people.

All of this isn't meant to discourage missions work. On the contrary, the act of going is important. Jesus left His home, the comfort of the Father to go, to be among the people. Your willingness to leave your home, your comfort and GO is an example of that, too.

Things That Hold Us Back From Serving Others
So go, be among the people. Live with them. Learn from them. Eat what they eat. Observe what they do. Don’t spend your time in McDonalds.

Don't Raise $1,000 for a Week, and Then Give Nothing Else the whole Year.
We all know money is not everything. But when used wisely it can make a huge difference in the lives of people. You probably wrote letters and had car washes in order to raise money to go, right? Well, what keeps you from still doing that? We work hard for a one-week trip, but then what? What if your church or youth group or school worked on matching every dollar you spent on your one-week trip to send down to the place you served over the course of the year?

You Don’t Have to Fly in an Airplane to Serve the Poor.
Why not focus on seeking justice in your neighborhood? Ask yourself, "If Jesus was here who would He be talking to?" The kid with disabilities who sits in the back at youth group? The Spanish-speaking man who cleans your office? The woman who collects cans in the local park? Ask God to give you eyes to see what He does. It might change your life.

Please don’t stop taking short-term missing trips, but do consider helping your team understand that how we do short-term mission trips may, in fact, matter more than what we do.


Thursday, February 12, 2015

Why go on a short term mission trip?

This is adapted from a family serving on mission in Nicaragua. They are the Schmitz Family serving through Global Partners.

Why go on a short term missions trip? Why not just send money? What good does one week do?

I wanted to share this as I believe deeply and firmly that God uses teams through building relationships. "It is one thing to visit poor people with donations or advice, or a sick person with a get-well card and a potted flower. It is another thing to stay and walk WITH them, to be willing to show our OWN needs and brokenness, and to take on a piece of their sorrows and troubles.

We will never fully know what it feels like to grow up in (Nicaragua). If we come from the developed world, we will always have the advantage of a good education, a network of employed friends and relatives, the freedom to walk into a church, and a lifetime of role models.

Unless we make an attempt to imagine, even go so far as trying to experience what life is like for someone else with fewer advantages in life, we are missing a beautiful piece of how God loves people. God gave up his own rights and security in order to love a world full of broken people.

Trusting Christ means losing the ability to control our own safety. It means not getting to have every comfort we want. It means getting pushed to the limits of our strength and seeing our emotions spill out and sometimes in ugly ways. It also means knowing that WE need help and crying out for that help. It means being willing to be in both roles-not just the one holding but the one held. It means letting go of the naive illusions of our own benevolence and facing our own great need for grace. It means exchanging smiles with people of other cultures and economic levels and knowing we need to receive a smile as much as they do. It is coming to that place of surrender, realizing our own incompetence to meet the needs of even the people we most love- it is there that we meet the God of the poor.

In knowing Him, we learn to offer His love to others because WE ARE NO DIFFERENT-we are going through this together and God is taking good care of us all. We become available, like a child, to dance among suffering people singing, "The Lord is here, the Lord is here now. " -Jeske

Friday, July 18, 2014

Are you ready?

What a great week we had serving the people of Nagarote. 8 days, 24 meals, and 72 helpings of rice & beans later, yet another trip to Nagarote, Nicaragua is in the books. The work will continue on the mission farm even as we are away, and plans are already in the works for next summer's mission groups.

Our goal has always been to show and share the love of Christ in Nicaragua. Using whatever talents, skills, or gifts each team member has, there is always a need for each individual's skill set. Over the years, we have used electricians, plumbers, hair stylist, musicians, theologians, teachers, art instructors, interpreters, soccer players, magicians, brick layers, laborers, cooks, snack makers, balloon animal makers, face painters, you name it. We can and will find a fit for YOU! Our team members have ranged from 2 - 72. YOU CAN DO IT!

Our teams have done everything from completing constructing a house from start to finish to hosting a block party VBS style. If you or your church group is interested in joining us, please contact us. The complete trip is averaging $900 which includes air fare, hotel room for 7 nights, transportation, and 3 meals per day. Are YOU ready to serve in Nicaragua?

Monday, July 14, 2014

Dream of Louisa School

Today we went into a local school. We had English lessons and held a VBS with games and activities for the children.