Cross Cultural Experiences (aka short term trips)

9 Jun

We often talk about short term missions trips as we refer to going abroad with the church.  It is often a very moving time of seeing the world from a very different perspective, encountering new languages, foods, climates, neighborhoods, and many new people.  It is a time of reflection, sometimes it’s uncomfortable and can often be life changing.  That’s why we take these trips.   It helps us instill a passion for others, those who need the hope that Jesus provides.  The trips also help us to realize how our lives are often empty in the midst of all the stuff that we have.  ‘Less is more’  is the takeaway that so many have upon returning home and walking into a house full of ‘stuff’.short term trips

Most missions agencies consider a ‘short term mission trip’ anywhere from one to two years.   It’s short term because it isn’t committing to a career as a missionary but it does allow for acquiring a new language, understanding the culture at a deeper level, getting used to the food, customs, and ways of life in a new country.   So while our trips don’t really fit into the traditional ‘short term mission’ definition they definitely fit into a ‘cross cultural experience’ and I hope at some point there will be some who will desire to go on an authentic ‘short term trip’.

Refugees in the Middle East

23 May

As I sat on the small patio overlooking an ancient city in the Middle East I could see 15 mosques.  From 4:30 AM through most of the day I could hear the ‘call to prayer’ as it echoed through the city.  As I took in the sites and sounds of the city it gave me time to reflect on the need for the S*vior to be proclaimed. The need is great.

The trip was significant for me in so many ways.  The impact was felt as I talked to two different couples and heard their personal stories of pain and loss.   They shared with me some of the incredibly devastating things that happened to them.  Hearing their stories and the description of the loss of everything, the death of many of their relatives in the civil war that has broken out touched me deeply.  They were no longer just ‘those people over there’, nameless statistics that aren’t personal  but they were Mohammed and Aiesha (not their actual names).  As they told their stories there was a deep sadness for them in my heart.  They have experienced pain and loss at levels I can’t even begin to comprehend.

Syrian-refugeesThis experience touched me at the heart level and gave me a great appreciation for the need for the gospel message to go out.  Our Faith Promise contributions make a difference for people like Mohammed and Aiesha. Being able to share the “message of hope” that J*s*s provides is part of the road to redemption, the road to a new life beyond their current pain and loss.

Stories from HIV Patients

17 May

On a recent trip to Ethiopia I was able to visit a number of clients of our partners in Sendafa.   I am always moved by their stories.  Over the next few posts I will be sharing some of those stories.  Today I would like to tell you about Shewa.  Her story is unfortunately not that unusual.  She contracted HIV/AIDS from her husband who eventually died from the disease.  Not only did that leave her a widow without a means of support but it also left her with a disease that slowly takes away your strength and immunity to things around you.  She was at the point of not being able to take care of herself.  Family and friends had left her since she had HIV but the PAAV team was referred to her.

They gave her vitamins, clothes, anti-retrovirus and lots of love and care.  As a result she slowly recovered, gaining strength each week.   When she had finally recovered enough to take care of herself the team invested in her with a small loan that allowed her to buy some sheep.  She did well at that and with some savings and and additional loan she bought some cows and now sells milk and calves along with her sheep.  She is now in much better health and is self sufficient.   The smile that she has on her face is so contagious and a great blessing.

Shewa is just one story of many that speak to the ministry in Sendafa.  Reaching out and touching the helpless ministering to body, soul and spirit.  Thanks to God for his marvelous works there.

Faith Promise Goal Met

26 Apr

It takes a few weeks for all the pledges to come in but I am pleased to report that we hit our goal of $400,000 this year in our Faith Promise Campaign.  We actually ended up over our goal achieving $408,827.  It is exciting to see how God’s people who see the need for Jesus throughout the world come together to support his ministry through Global Missions.

my-faith-promiseOur giving goes beyond the Faith Promise pledges.  Each year we have a number of people who give but have not pledged.  We are grateful for those gifts as well and rejoice that they make up a significant part of our support as well.  This year the amount of non-pledged giving is over $150,000.  Your faith promise giving allows us to continue to touch those in need all over the world.   A deep felt thanks to all who were part of that effort.

The Importance of Faith Promise

29 Mar

Each year this time we celebrate what God is doing throughout the world in Global Ministry.  We hear stories of people coming to know the Lord, churches starting and growing, people receiving treatment for deadly illnesses, bibles being distributed and so many more exciting things.   One of the best parts of Global Ministry is being able to participate in a variety of ways.   One of the ways that almost everyone can participate is through what we call Faith Promise.   Faith Promise starts off with a conversation with God, asking Him what can you trust Him for to give to our missions effort.  When I determine what He wants me to do I make a pledge for that amount.   Trusting that God will somehow, maybe even miraculously provide the funds for my pledge, sometime this year.  I don’t know how or when just that He is going to supply.

my-faith-promiseThen it is a matter of paying attention to those little extra amounts of cash that I wasn’t counting on.  It could be a tax refund, a rebate of some kind, an unexpected gift, or the sale of something that I wasn’t using anymore.  All to go to God’s kingdom work.  I love hearing stories about how money comes from unexpected places, at unexpected times and yet it added up to the amount that God had suggested I pledge.  It wasn’t so much them figuring out how to come up with the money but more paying attention to how God provides it.  If you have a story about how God provided for your faith promise pledge I would love to hear about it.

Exploring the World of Global Ministry

1 Mar

Every year at this time Living Word has our Global Missions Focus.   It is a wonderful time of sharing the work of God throughout the world.   Having missionaries come and share their personal stories in our Global Cafe is one of the highlights for me every year.   One of the major reasons for this focus is to bring attention to our Faith Promise program.

Our Global Ministry has been funded by the Faith Promise process for decades.   The funds that people give toward global missions is dedicated specifically to our international efforts.  Faith Promise is beyond our tithes and is closer to an offering, seeking God for what you should pledge for this year and then having faith that God will provide, sometimes in mysterious ways.

Our speakers this year are Greg Hortman on February 28th, Pastor Ramon Vielza on March 6th and Todd Ahrend on March 13th.   You won’t want to miss any of these speakers.


Building Churches in Guatemala

19 Mar

Traveling to Northern Guatemala on a short term mission trip can be a life changing experience.  In February we had another opportunity to not only work to with Mike McComb and the Ixil people but to see God work in our hearts as well.   It was good to work together building God’s kingdom.

One of our team members captured the essence of this trip on a short video.  I hope you enjoy seeing the journey.

Having the Courage to Travel

28 Nov

IMG_0770There are many people who live in south central Pennsylvania who have not traveled much.  Whether they grew up on a farm and had to stay close because of the nature of farming or their family was not adventurous they never went far.   One person I recently traveled with had that kind of upbringing.  She had not traveled south of the Mason Dixon line until she was an adult.  That all changed when she heard about our short term trips to Guatemala.  She felt the call of God to step out of her comfort zone and sign up for the trip.

She had never flown before, had not applied for a passport much less traveled anywhere outside the United States.  It turned out to be an effort in perseverance and fortitude.  It was only 2 months before the trip.  She didn’t have a certified copy of her birth certificate which took her four trips to Harrisburg to get.  It turned out there as an error on her birth certificate which needed to be corrected.  Time kept marching on.  She then applied for her passport and it was finally issued in time for her to travel.

The trip was a great adventure for her; trying new things, experiencing the Guatemalan culture, eating new foods and seeing the way people lived in rural Central America which was quite different from Pennsylvania.  She stepped out and worked in some areas that were very challenging for her but she did it with grace and God met her.   She has traveled again and plans to make short term trips a regular part of her spiritual journey.  I am thankful for her dedication and perseverance.  She was a welcome member of the team.

Unsung Hero’s

22 Nov

The purpose of the short term trips to Guatemala are often medical in nature.  We are primarily looking for medical professionals to join us to minister to those in need in the rural areas of the country.  That usually makes up about one third of the people who travel.  The rest of the team are people young and old who want to experience a new culture, give up some of themselves and to serve others.  Even though they aren’t the focus of the trip they ARE critical to the trip.  TheyGuatemala Oct 2014 136 assist the medical team members with translation services, supporting in a variety of ways, moving equipment, registering patients and making sure that things are running smoothly.

The team leaders from both Living Word and from Frater Church make all the difference.  They are the ones who keep the clinic focused on ministering to needs rather than what could often by called chaos. They routinely check on each of the clinics making sure they have what they need, are getting enough breaks, and able to minister to the patients.  They are “Unsung Hero’s” 

These leaders are ‘unsung‘ because they are not the ones who get recognition for all the patients they saw, the teeth they pulled, or the surgery that they did.  If it wasn’t for them the skilled care workers would have to take time away from their practice of seeing patients.

Their leadership went beyond the clinic.  On the way back we stopped for a restroom break and there was a lady who was IMG_0992begging.  She was an older woman there by herself, hungry and without shoes.  Easy enough to ignore or just not acknowledge.   One of our ‘Unsung Hero’s‘ did notice her.  She went back to the bus and found a pair of flip flops and some food to give to the woman.  She kneeling down and put the flip flops on the woman’s feet.  It was a very touching and humbling scene.  I wish I had noticed her, I wish I had reached out and met her needs.  I think that’s what Jesus would have done in the same circumstance.

Giving the Gift of Sight

19 Nov

Guatemala Oct 2014 157The vision clinic that we operate on the medical trips to Guatemala are not fancy.  We often don’t have a Optician, Optometrist or an Ophthalmologist. We don’t have any fancy equipment, as a matter of fact we use some pretty primitive and rugged tools to help people see.   In other words, we rely on God to match anteojos (eyeglasses) with the needs of the patients.  It is amazing to see what a little ingenuity can do along with a healthy dose of prayer.

The Guatemalans often cook on open wood flames in their homes.  As a result the smoke and soot is Guatemala Oct 2014 119very thick.  In addition the rays of the sun do much damage to their ability to see so the older they get the harder it is for them to see.  Although we can’t provide anything in the way of surgery or treatments we can provide them with glasses that help them see.   We have had a large number of glasses donated so that we can take them with us.  We do the best we can to provide the right power of glasses and it is amazing how many of them improve their sight.

This year we gave out over 160 pairs of glasses in the two days.   One of the best parts of the vision clinic was the fact that a couple of our high school students from Living Word we able to run their own line of patients which made a big difference.  Thanks to Danielle and Anthony for their courage to step out.

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