“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” James 1:27
God is sovereign. God is gracious. His mercies endure forever. He is faithful.
These are all beautiful truths about God, and if we are Christ followers, we have all heard and experienced these truths in life.
Even still, I don’t know that I have ever gone through so many emotions and experienced all of those truths in one week. I’m talking about motion sickness from a five-hour bus ride through mountains to exhaustion from traveling 11 hours in one day….to crying then laughing then laughing while I’m crying….to feeling stripped of all the familiar to being so happy and feeling so blessed to being nervous for the first day of projects….to being homesick then head-cold-sick then feeling at home….to being humbled to being in love with the city of Chichi to feeling heartbroken to leave it.
The October Guatemala team served the people of Chichicastenango as the “Manos de Jesus” for one week. (Manos de Jesus is the name used in Guatemala for Pray America, the organization Port City Community Church partners within Guatemala.) For one week, my team experienced God’s sovereignty, His grace, His enduring mercies, His faithfulness. This is our story.
Going into this mission, our team met monthly for several months to get to know one another better and to prep for the mission as a whole. It was crushing to see how the enemy was trying to weasel his way into each of our lives and make us doubt the great plans God had for us. From terminal sickness in families to financial troubles to personal health concerns, the devil truly was trying his best to attack and stop any one of us he could. But praise God — He is stronger and more capable than the enemy!
A few of us had concerns about being able to raise enough money to be fully funded. I remember sitting in my coworker’s office, telling her I need to raise all my money in three months and even she was nervous for me. I started posting to social media and little by little, money started coming in, but nowhere near what I needed to feel comfortable. Still, He is sovereign. I prayed through it. Fast forward to two days before we left and I got an email with my up-to-date funding statement: I was fully funded! In fact, I was $200 over what I needed. I remembered someone else on the team was having a hard time raising money, and I wanted the $200 to go to her. He is faithful. She needed exactly $200 at that time to be fully funded! And I could not stop thanking Jesus.
I’ll be the first to admit, I was terrified to fly. I prayed leading up to the day that God would just take the fear because I knew how irrational I was being. And I thank God that He came through with mercy in placing me next to the best plane buddy, Alex, who is also on our team. She is the sweetest person and I’m so grateful for her hand because I was holding it during every takeoff and landing.
But being in the clouds, as the sun was rising that Saturday morning, I felt compelled to take out my journal and write what I was feeling:
“I’m sitting by the window and looking out just made me feel a wave of wonder. Like, how can one not be in awe of God? Seriously. Especially being up in the clouds like this…God is just so freakin’ AMAZING! And how could we not feel like we owe it all to Him to go out and spread His love when he has equipped us with the means to do so?! I mean, a plane — a big machine that man engineered — to take us across oceans and lands. And a healthy body that is perfectly able to do a mission. When God asks us to do, the only option I truly believe we, as Christians, have is to DO. He will provide all the rest because His faithfulness is true! His love is all-consuming. His grace is so sufficient. His promises are real.”
Two flights, a bus ride, and 11 hours later, we arrived at Pray America’s campus tired, emotional, and excited for the week ahead. Our team quickly turned into a family unit. We were there to support each other. We were there to take care of each other. We were there to work and serve together. We had our first of six family dinners and our first of seven debriefs. Family dinners were a great way to end the day. We all came back together and were able to talk and laugh about the day we had over a meal prepared by a team of wonderful Guatemalan women employed by Pray America. Debriefs were so essential to processing everything we saw God doing throughout the day. But that first night truly was an emotional evening. God was making His presence known and by Monday — our first day of building projects — just about everyone had acclimated to the altitude change and we were SO ready to get out and start loving on the people of Chichi.
On Monday, we split into two groups of seven and each group built four stoves for four different families. That’s a total of eight stoves for eight families! Tuesday we divided up again and each group helped build two bathrooms for a total of four different families! Wednesday we split again, and this day was without a doubt the most special day for me. Wednesday was the build day for houses. Each team built one house for a widow. My team had the honor of building Maria’s home. Maria reminded me so much of my grandma. My grandma passed away on August 24 of this year and it was a very difficult time for me, especially with this mission trip coming up.
During my prayers for this mission trip, God clearly spoke to me and reassured me that my Maw (what we called her) would be with me on this mission trip. But I was so not expecting to see her in a little 74-year old Guatemalan lady who lived with her family on the actual side of a mountain. We learned that Maria has pain in her feet, so with her permission, we laid hands on them and prayed for healing. I cried on that Wednesday. I laughed. I joked. I remembered. On Thursday, I had the honor of returning to the home we built for Maria and washing her feet by Jesus’ example in John 13:1-17. It was one of the most humbling moments of my life, next to putting lotion on my Maw’s feet during her stays in the hospital.
All in all, this mission trip came full circle. Initial fears we had were blown away by the breath of God, and, through the end of the week, God’s sovereignty prevailed. We are all so grateful for having experienced this adventure with Jesus. It was truly so much more than I can put into words for others to read. But I pray this summary provides its readers enough insight to feel even a touch of what the team and I felt during our week in Chichicastenango, Guatemala. The grace of God is real. His sovereignty is unmatchable. His mercy is forever enduring, and He is the most faithful being I have ever encountered, never leaving nor forsaking.
Story Written By Sarah Leitner
Learn more about PC3’s short-term mission opportunities, as well as places to serve locally, by visiting portcitychurch.org/missions.