Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Kekchi Radio Ministry in Petén

A couple days before we left Guatemala for this furlough we had a radio team come down from Lifeword. It is a ministry that spreads the Gospel all over the world through indigenous radio. They help in the areas of technical support, programing material, special equipment for rural areas with no power, follow-up strategies, and support for the nationals following up on the people who call in. They will also be helping us with some solar powered repeaters since the radio station only currently reaches about 1/3 of Petén.

The Kekchi churches in the SW corner of Petén started this radio, but Lifeword has done a lot and will do a lot to help it grow and be even more effective. We have shared this in churches, but maybe not on this blog. The Kekchi are animists. When they hear about this new God on the radio they call in to find out more about Him. Is He powerful? More powerful than the gods they already have? Should they worry about Him? They want to learn more and ask someone to come to their village. You cannot just show up to a Kekchi village unannounced. Even another Kekchi man from a different village is a stranger. These calls are what open the doors to these villages that are in complete darkness.

After you have a way in, you can start forming relationships. Then you can share the Gospel. It takes some time, but eventually several come to have a personal relationship with Christ. They turn away from all their little gods, to serve the one true God. A mission is started. Then after more families accept Christ a self supporting church is formed. It's a beautiful thing!

{Luis & Domingo}
The team first started by training Domingo and José on some new equipment. One thing they wanted to distribute are small, mp3 playing crosses (like the one around Domingo's neck), preloaded with the Kekchi New Testament and a radio receiver. They last a long time on one charge, but Louis Powell also brought some solar panels to charge them. Jimmy told the guys that they looked like Catholics with their crosses, but Domingo laughed and said it's a good cross because it had God's word inside it.
{Louis & José}
Louis also brought some Proclaimer boxes. These boxes are self charging with a built in solar panel or even a hand crank. These also had the Kekchi New Testament on them, but they are much louder and can be used in a small group setting.
After the team trained José & Domingo, they trained Jimmy, to make sure nothing was lost in translation!
To get this team out into some remote villages Jimmy needed a 4 wheel vehicle that could carry 7 people, but there weren't any available at the time, so Maricio (the owner of the beautiful place we eat at across the lake) rented us his Land Cruiser (that he hadn't driven in a while). While the team trained at the hotel, Jimmy had to take the Land Cruiser to the tire repair place. One tire went completely flat overnight.
This little boy was the tire mechanic available at the time.
We got it all patched up, but while climbing a hill on the way to our first village, a different tire blew out.
The beautiful thing about Land Cruiser is the jack fits into the bumper. It made changing the tire pretty easy. They plan on bad things happening on the road.
The first village we went to was San Miguel Alto Uno.
When we first visited this village with Andy Schalchlin 3 years ago for a medical clinic, there were no Christians in the village. We have been back several times to show movies and last summer visited the first Christian family with the youth team from Daytona and did an evangelistic presentation.
In early March a second family accepted Christ. Manuel (below in the checkered shirt in the middle) is an influential man in the community that recently accepted Christ. We give a Kekchi Bible to each family that accepts Christ. While Jimmy was there Manuel asked him for 22 more Bibles (he and Juan already had two) and 12 hymnals. He told Jimmy that by the time we got back he expected there to be 24 Christian families (out of 100 families in the village) and he wanted to make sure they had Bibles.
The weekend after this team left, another family accepted Christ and the weekend before we left fro the States we heard that 8 more people had accepted Christ. While we've been gone they have started building a church building. Manuel told Jimmy that day that if he would teach him how, he would like to be the pastor of this new church.
We left some crosses and a proclaimer with these new believers so they can begin to listen to God's word.
On the way to the next village we came upon a truck that asked us for a jump. Having just experienced truck problems, I didn't want to pass up giving a favor when we might need one just around the corner. Their truck wouldn't jump off the battery in the Land Cruiser, but a little push was all they needed to get on the road. It was funny that the side of the truck said "Jezebel."
We also visited the village of Esquipulas. This was another village we visited with the teens to follow up with last summer, however at that time there were no Christians. The next month we went back for a "salvation service" when 3 families and a single man accepted Christ.
This lady says she is Catholic, although there aren't services in her village. She is very kind to José and Domingo when they visit and was excited to receive a Bible for the first time. She cannot read and has her daughter read to her, so the cross mp3 player was perfect for her so she can listen to the Bible whenever she wants.
This is Juan, one of the men who accepted Christ last July. He has taken it upon himself to encourage the other new Christians in his village and witness to his neighbors. He is working to try and build a church building.
We also took the team to visit the radio station. It is 3.5 hours from our house. Our whole family went with José, Domingo and the team, so we took our Microbus. It was the first time that the team had air conditioning in their vehicle and I think they appreciated it. On the final stretch of road we lost our spare from underneath the bus, but we quickly got it back.
The latch on the bottom broke, but José had seen this before and with some borrowed string, tied it back in place.
I will post more from our radio visit and dinners with Domingo and José's families soon. Please keep the radio ministry in your prayers along with all of the nationals who work so faithfully to keep it running.

Friday, May 27, 2011

More Animals

On one of our last days in Kansas we went to the Tanganyika Wildlife Park. It is a fun experience because you get to pet and even walk around in the pins of most of the animals.
Jimmy's brother Jon went with us and so did his Grandparents!
Jonah and Silas got to feed lettuce to rabbits and turtles.
They enjoyed feeding the goats. I was really surprised at how comfortable they are with the animals. They are very gentle with them (Jonah and Silas are gentle). I think we have Lucha and Atzi to thank for that!
The animals aren't always gentle when their is food involved. I think Jonah got nibbled on!
We had fish food...
but I think most of it was eaten by the ducks.
We walked around with the lemurs...
and the kangaroos. I think this is what Silas would look like if he was a kangaroo!
We stopped and played a while!
Our last stop was the birds. Jimmy hates birds... he doesn't trust them. This was a result of a dare:
Silas did NOT like those birds landing on his daddy. He was very worried about him. (I think he could sense the fear!)
We had a wonderful time and I would highly recommend this place if you are ever in the area.
{My favorite photo of the day}

Please lift up my extended family in your prayers. My cousin past away Wednesday night. He had a very rare form of cancer. He was one year older than me. I really looked up to him growing up. I loved the way he treated my Grandma. He was the most adventurous person I knew. I am so thankful to be a part of a family who would look to God during something so painful as this. Please keep them in your prayers. I love them so much. Thinking about my cousin and who he was makes me want to not waste a minute, I don't think he ever did.

Monday, May 23, 2011

There's No Place Like Home

We had been planning to return to Petén in 2 days, on the 25th. We have been really excited about getting back home and back to work. There has been a lot happening while we've been gone. Last week we received a link to a news article about a massacre in Petén. After quickly reading it we were not too concerned. It was drug related and the workers killed were all workers from a drug lord's home town working on a drug lord's farm where he received cocaine shipments. While it is a tragic story, everyone there was involved and knew who they were working for. Again, Petén has always been a violent place, but the general rule was that if you stayed out of trouble, you wouldn't get into any. The narcos who have been running our department kept it safe. It was really a relatively peaceful place to live compared to Guatemala City.

The very next day, while driving through rural Indiana towards Ohio, Shelley was reading the facebook page of one of our friends in Santa Elena. She was hold up in her house listening to grenades, helicopters and machine gun fire. That dealt with this story. Even if you don't speak spanish, the picture from that article might interest you.
It is exactly next door to where we used to live in Santa Elena. (We only moved from there to find cheaper rent.) Basically there was a 3 hour fire fight between some Zetas and the military/police. This caused all the businesses to close for two days and schools to close indefinitely. This is where we go at least once a week to buy our groceries and pay our bills.

It happened that President Colom was in Petén to fly over the massacre site when the fire fight happened. That night he declared a State of Siege, also known as Martial Law for the department of Petén. This basically means that the military is in charge and there are no individual rights. They have imposed curfews and can arrest anybody, impound any vehicle and enter any house, all without warrants or due cause. Normally this is not a problem, as the military is often more trustworthy than the police in Petén, but during a raid of a Zeta camp they found many military uniforms among the weapons and drugs. In fact they are notorious for dressing up like officials and carrying out their kidnappings in broad daylight.

Then a few days ago there was the story about a kidnapping in Dolores, Petén. 17 armed men entered a woman's house and kidnapped her, while only asking for around $6,300. The family negotiated down to $2,700 and during the exchange 4 men were arrested. I have heard that this family was also "involved in things" but the paper does not say who the woman was nor whether they saved her. An unconfirmed addition to this story states that while 4 men were arrested, others took the money and the family member who was carrying it in addition to already having the woman. We live in the county where this took place, Dolores.

The day after the massacre we received two emails from the US embassy asking all foreigners to avoid Petén, not even going to Tikal or flying into Santa Elena. After that the Guatemalan Tourism Agency (ASISTUR) gave the same notice. For this reason we had to cancel our next 2 teams. One was a KBI module scheduled for next week and the other was a youth team that was going to do evangelistic outreaches in new Kekchi villages scheduled for July.

So presented with all of this information we have decided to extend our stay in the States for a short time more. The State of Siege was only declared for 30 days, so we might stay until then. Every day we are monitoring the situation and talking to friends there to get a feel for the situations. Our town was known for being a base for the old family who ran things, but they have now fled Petén. There are many situations we have to be concerned about. While not concerned about checkpoints or housing raids by the military, I would be concerned if what appeared to be the military ended up being a group of Zetas dressed up like military. We cannot gloss over the fact that if there are groups hoping to profit from extorsions and kidnappings, we would be likely targets.

I am confident that the government will soon have the roads secure and the larger cities. We are always careful when visiting rural villages and have had in place a personal rule against traveling in rural areas close to the Mexican border. At the latest we will return after the State of Siege is lifted, but it is possible we will return even sooner. We request your prayers for our national friends who are in this dangerous area and do not have the option to go somewhere safe. Please pray that the Zetas do not take over since they are much more violent. Please also pray that we will have wisdom as to when to return to Petén. We just want to go home and get back to work.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Mother's Day Family Photos

We had a meeting at a new church on Sunday morning, but it was close, so we got to spend the afternoon with Jimmy's family.
It was a beautiful day, so we got some good family photos in their backyard.
You know how guys are about taking photos. Since Jimmy's dad's dad was there (Grandpa Jim) I wanted to get a 4 generations photo...
but this is what I had to work with. If I ever got Jonah and Silas' thumb out of their mouths, this is what I would get.
We got to spend a lot of time with Jimmy's Grandparents. We love them and so do the boys!
Silas was a ham all day.
While we were in KS, Joe would come home on the weekends to spend time with the boys. They definitely bonded with their uncle Joe!
Silas is very affectionate, Jonah not so much, but we hug him anyway!
{Back Row: Joe, Larry, Jimmy, Grandpa Jim, Jon; Front Row: Melissa, Jill, Jonah, Silas, Me, Grandma Helen, Robin}
The original Dinsmores. Jimmy did not appreciate that he was the shortest brother in this photo. It was taken on an incline, I think he's the tallest. I told Jimmy that he's shrinking! He tried standing on his tippy toes for a couple shots, but it's really hard to do that without your eyebrows going up... try it!
And my favorite...
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