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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.

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.

Dental Clinic in Guatemala

1 Nov

As I thought about the trip I came to appreciate the dental care we have available in the United States.   From basic semi-annual cleaning and checks to fillings, caps, crowns, bridges, implants, root canals and the like we are well cared for. There are a number of dentists available when we need one and they can usually fix whatever problem we might have without resorting to pulling the tooth.  dental clinicOn the first day of the medical clinic in Santa Maria Ixhuatan I volunteered to work in the dental clinic.  I started out as the one who cleaned and sterilized the equipment.   Once I had that mastered I moved to setting up the needles used for the anesthesia.  That was a bit more complicated but after a few instructions I was able to do that as well.  Then came the big step, actually being a dental assistant. After I put on the mask and gloves I was instructed to hold the flashlight, hand them the ‘elevator’, ‘forceps’, and gauze as they extracted the teeth.  I would then take the extracted tooth and put it into the bottle we were keeping all of them in followed by the clean-up phase.

For the most part it went well, usually taking 5-10 minutes per patient but everyone so often it got complicated.  I won’t go into the details because a number of us don’t have the most pleasant memories of visiting the dentist and this would only resurrect those old thoughts.  I was moved by the number of people who have had many of their teeth removed over the years.  We Guatemala Oct 14 trip 094removed one woman’s last 2 teeth.  Removal of teeth, although not the perfect solution does give them relief from the pain of decay and in some cases infected teeth.  Over the two days of the clinic we were able to relieve the pain of 200 bad teeth.

The young people on the trip were valuable parts of the dental clinic. They were responsible for helping with prevention of dental disease by distributing toothbrushes and teaching the kids how to brush their teeth.  There was a good connection between the American kids and the Guatemalan kids.  If we can give them the gift of good dental health maybe we will pull less teeth in the future.

Reaching Out in Joyas de San Nicholas

13 Aug

Aug 2014 Guatemala 3It’s amazing to see God work in the midst of a rural village in Guatemala. Our medical team of 23 returned to York early Tuesday morning from a mission to this small village. In the course of 2 days they were able to see over 700 patients. The team did 19 surgeries, extracted 162 teeth and delivered more than 10 tons of food to the village. Reaching out ‘one on one’ the team took with them hundreds of small stuffed animals, shoes and clothes to distribute to those who attended the clinie. They also provided spiritual healing in the Soul Cafe where 263 souls crossed the line of faith. We are truly blessed to be a blessing.

Each of trip has a personal touch as well. They stay in the homes of members of Frater Church. That experience brings aAug 2014 Guatemala 2
much closer relationship with the people of Guatemala. When you stay in someones home you have the chance to interact and learn more about different cultures, lifestyles and personalities. Many great relationships were built this week.

Thanks to all who went on the trip as well as those back home who, prayed and financially supported those who traveled. God is so good.

The Joy Found on Mission Trips

6 Aug

Whenever I am in a new or different culture I am aware of the differences.   When I was in college I was able to travel in Europe.  While staying with some friends in Germany one of the neighbor girls came to visit.  She was about 4 years old.  She started talking to them in perfect German.  I was taken aback, which shows how little I knew about different cultures.   Of course she spoke perfect German, and there are billions of Chinese children that speak perfect Mandarin.  That is one of the joys of these trips.
Sendafa Jan 2014 162

It’s not just about languages either.  On a recently trip to Sendafa, Ethiopia one of the team members started to play with one of the young Ethiopian girls.  They were doing a game where they clap each others hands, slap their knees and things like that.  No words needed to be spoken but there was a connection there.  She got it and actually taught the team member a few new moves that she didn’t know.   I was fascinated watching the process.  This and so many more things are where joy is found on missions trips.  Ready to go yet?

Ministry of healing the sick

16 Jul

photoWe are blessed here in York to have very good medical care. The many health care providers can diagnose and treat nearly any kind of disease or injury that we might incur. If they are not able to determine the problem we are close to Hershey Medical Center, Johns Hopkins University and even places like Sloan Kettering, or the Mayo Clinic. There are world class experts who can treat the most challenging and unique problems that we might have.   In most of the rest of the world it is not the same.   They just have to deal the best they can with the illnesses and injuries they sustain.   The infant mortality rate is very high, life expectancy much lower than ours and the quality of life is to say the least ‘hard’.

As part of our ministry to the world Living Word sends 4 medical teams a year to minister to the poor.  A team just returned from Sendafa where they treated hundreds of people with a variety of medical conditions.  One of the most significant procedures is cataract surgery where the doctors can literally give sight to the blind.  What an amazing gift and all given in the name of Jesus.  I praise God for the medical professionals as well as those who are used to support them.  They are truly ‘Jesus with skin on’ to the patients they serve.

Where is Jesus?

7 Jul

Where's WaldoWhen my kids were younger there was a popular game called “Where’s Waldo?” which had very detailed pictures and you had to find “Waldo” in the midst of the busyness. That got me to thinking about “Where’s Jesus?” Our lives are so busy with so many distractions that sometimes I go through the whole day and miss seeing Him. But when I really think about it He was in many places, I just didn’t see Him.

He was on the corner in downtown York, a poor looking older man who needed something to eat. He was the person that used to come into my office that didn’t have the best hygiene and needed a lot of my time. He was the friend who needed me to sit with him while he struggled with the brokeness of his marriage.

He is also in Sendafa, Ethiopia. He is there in the clinic needing to have cataracts removed. He is in the small mud walled and floor hut of the HIV patient who is appreciative for any small thing we are able to provide. Living Word has a team in Ethiopia right now ministering to many who look just like Jesus. Please pray for them as they give of themselves to touch the others lives. While you’re at it you might want to open your eyes and see if Jesus is near you right now.

Video

Guatemala Construction Video

23 Jun

For the past 8 years Living Word has been sending a missions team to Guatemala to help build churches in the north. It has been an amazing opportunity to touch a group of people who have been through some very hard years. Being able to share the gospel has been powerful and the work and word of Christ has gone out richly.

Short Term Mission Trips: Medical

23 Jun

IMG_9788Reaching out and touching other cultures is not always easy.  Strolling into a village with no specific purpose or direction raises questions and suspicions.  Being able to offer the local population something tangible, something that they don’t have and yet need is a great way to enter into the lives of those who have the least resources.  Living Word’s medical missions trips do just that.  We gather a group of doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals along with other ministry partners in order to touch them with medical expertise, advise, prescriptions and treatments that aren’t available to them in their village.

Hundreds of people come to these clinics for medical help of all kinds.  We partner with local churches like Fraternidad de Guatemala City Church in Guatemala and the Project Adopt A Village team in Ethiopia to provide care.  The clinics see hundreds of patients each day.  Along with the physical medical care there is also an opportunity to minister to their souls through sharing and praying with them.  It is a rich experience for both the givers and receivers.   If you are looking for a life changing experience, one of our short term medical trips might be a good thing to explore.

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