Cheered Across the River

A Guatemalan  Impact Team Testimony

“Josiah, bring the soccer balls!”

“Zack and Katie, please lead the learning game, “Correr”!”

“Mrs. Lisa, don’t fall in the river!”

“Erin, thank you for talking with the little girls shyly peeking over the school wall!”

Do you notice a pattern in these quotes from my recent Impact Team trip to Guatemala with Nicolás Fund for Education (NFE)? Josiah, Zack, Katie, and Erin were student members of our team. They traveled with their parents and had important, vital roles in our work. One day, they helped me complete a hike and NOT fall in the river!

Nicolás Fund for Education is a partner ministry of BelPres, and grew out of our long commitment through Agros and Journey with a Village. For two decades, members of our church and Evergreen Covenant on Mercer Island have walked alongside the people of two Mayan villages in the highlands of Guatemala. Homes have been built, friendships forged, churches founded, and Jesus glorified. Now many of the families of La Bendicion and La Esperanza own their land and homes but continue to suffer from poverty, lack of opportunity, and discrimination.

NFE was founded to support the Ixil people through education. Prayerfully, the founders of this ministry committed to support the children of the villages to strengthen their village schools and mentor students and teachers. This year, NFE opened a Christian secondary school for the students of the villages. They can attend at no cost to their families, and experience the love of Christ in the hope and opportunity education provides.

Our Impact Team included three families with children and youth, a longtime NFE leader, the Youth Pastor from Evergreen Covenant, and myself (representing the Early Childhood Ministry and families of BelPres). Back at BelPres, the Preschool Children were a part of our team too – praying for the children I would meet and my experience with the Ixil people. As an intergenerational team, we were able to connect with the people in the villages regardless of age – children, youth, adults, and elders.

In the village primary schools we led activities, sang, played, encouraged the teachers, and gave a hands-on science lesson on digestion! We listened to teachers and parents talk about their dreams for their children and concerns about their communities, including a water issue and the need for a fence around the schoolyard for safety.

At Nicolás Christian School, the new secondary school, we participated in the school’s opening ceremonies, taught classes on subjects like computer skills, science, math, and “Our Identity in Christ.” We introduced volleyball and installed a net; we began a mural project and looked on in awe as the students created amazing works of art.

Josiah, our youngest team member at age 9, played soccer and taught volleyball, befriended the children of construction workers and taught them games, spoke Spanish confidently and loved all the good food our hotel host provided. The youth members of our team shared some of their computer and math knowledge in fun ways, made friends with students their age and young children, led art projects, and even shared about their faith to the high school students.

I loved seeing the families on our team work together. Any power struggles or family squabbles were left behind as we all worked together, honoring the gifts each person brought to the work and encouraging one another.

One day we took a hike to a cave, led by a group of village boys. As we walked along, the little boys brought the women wild flowers and soon we carried bouquets. As we approached the river, I saw a small narrow board we were to cross to reach the other side. I was about to say, “I’ll wait over here,” when one of the village children took my backpack to carry, Zack fortified the bridge, and all the children together cheered me on. I will not forget the way I was encouraged and guided on our adventure. It took Guatemalan friends, young team members, and the Holy Spirit’s nudge to get me across that river and show me that Jesus’ love is shared through relationships.

Is your family praying about serving together on an Impact Team? I believe God wants to see us serve together, young and old, quiet or loud, questioning or confident in our faith. We go to help others and we end up strengthened in our faith and confident that God passionately loves every person in the world.

I promise you will be cheered across the river, too.

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