Two Weeks Later

Two weeks later . . .

Life is back to “normal”.  Preparations for Holy Week, laundry, spending time with family, grocery shopping . . . all of the activities that I would have been doing no matter a trip to Guyana or not.  But has anything really changed?

When I come back from a mission trip – whether here or abroad – there’s a period of adjustment for me.  There are moments when I realize how “good I got it”, how we don’t appreciate our blessings, how thankful I am for clean running water . . the list goes on.  Yes, there’s also some frustration with the world around me when I see petty complaints and selfishness.  Then I realize that I can’t point any fingers.  I can be just as petty and selfish.

I have been changed.  I will not forget the faces I’ve seen, the experiences I’ve had, and the love we’ve shared.  I will remember WHY we go with notes like this one written to Jeff:

I am a boy.  I love to play.

I will miss you all the best.

I need you to come back again.

To play with you again.

I am playing football at home with the children.

I love you.


I will remember that Paul needs us to come back.  He needs to believe that teams will come back and play with him.  I will remember that his home is an orphanage – that “the children” are just like him – in need of love and attention.

And in remembering, I will continue to be changed.

Love, T-Shirts and Food

Our last full day in Guyana began with visiting the market and other local shops.   A fun adventure . . . I mean where else but the Guyana market can you buy a piranha? Or have your image drawn on a coconut head by a street artist? Thanks to the Butlers I will have one for my office. Looks just like me or at least it’s a woman!

We made one last visit to Joshua House in the afternoon, timing it after school so we could see more of the children. Basketball game between the children, Will and Miles, tattoos for the children, and lots of swinging ended our week.

“Miss, can you push me?”

“Miss, can you help me with the tattoo?”

“Sir, throw the ball to me!”

The children called all of us “Miss” or “Sir” – different for me but sweet words to my ear.

Oh! And more hugs and kisses than I could imagine! One little girl, who I met for the first time on Friday, continually kissed me on the cheek and the neck. She made sure that someone (an older child) was getting multiple pictures of her love. All she wanted was love – just like the other children’s desire. Catching it on film was an added bonus for them – and for me!

Soon it was time to say goodbye with a “promise” or a hope to visit again.

My eyes leaked.

From there we fed the homeless on the street. On 2 vans loaded with 2 pots of “cook-up”, grape drink, our t-shirts for the week, a few shoes, lots of sweets (candy), and toilet paper, we headed out, making stops along the way to offer food. I watched a man gladly receive my Wilma 5-K t-shirt and as soon as he turned it inside out, he wore it proudly. I mean it did have a woman running on the front!

I saw again my friend, Aubrey, who I met on Sunday.   With a big smile, he said, “You came back!” We prayed together and again the question: “you will come back next year?” I hope so, Aubrey.

Along the way, we saw a man wrapped only in a blanket from the waist down. We stopped and offered food as well as clothes. Take a look at the picture post from Friday. You will see him go from unclothed to shorts and a T-shirt (pictures a little blurry because shot from a distance as well as getting dark).  It was a powerful moment to see the smile on his face.

We ended the day with dinner at the Brazilian restaurant with many of our Guyanese friends who worked alongside us during the week. Delicious meal with great friends!

Tomorrow we fly home.

Beauty out of Trash

We finished the playground project at Joshua House on Thursday. It was strong-hands teamwork for the raising of the beam for the swings connecting it to the tower. As soon as the swings were up and the team stepped back (maybe before the team stepped back), the children were all over the playground set. They loved it!

After considering the mess of glue and tiles for the mosaic from yesterday, our wise leader, Jeff, purchased some cement to finish the project. Thank you!! Andy mixed the cement and together, supervised by the children, we finished the cross. It turned out nicely, I think! Derick added to the artwork by creating the words “Sweet Jesus” in the shape of a cross on the adjacent wall.

Gladys, the director of Joshua House, said she couldn’t believe that we could take “trash and make something beautiful out of it.” That’s redemption! God takes the trash of our lives and makes something beautiful whenever we surrender. We just need to give Him our trash and quit adding to the pile.

My problem?  I put trash in a pile and then just move it to another place – just like what we did at Joshua House.  God says give me the pile!  I can get rid of it completely!

Our last visit of the day was to Holy Family Home, a residential center for elderly women. Again, we went to bring love and gifts to others and instead God blessed US by their smiles, songs and love.

Dinner on Thursday night was a special treat. Tessa, Derick’s daughter, had arranged a traditional Guyanese feast at the home of her friend, Pinkie. Wow! It was like Thanksgiving Day. Delicious food – brand new tastes for me!

It’s hard to believe we only have one more day in Guyana.  The week has flown by!  It will be hard to say goodbye to the children tomorrow.

Messy Cross, Preaching and Music

On Wednesday, we continued our work at Joshua House. The children – our helpers – were becoming more comfortable with us and showed us in the hugs they gave and in the gradual conversations. “Miss” and “Sir” were our names and slowly I learned a few names – Paul, Ezekiel, Ram . . .

Tony’s mosaic idea from Tuesday became my project.  Off I went to the hardware store with Andy, our driver, an essential member of our team.  I needed something to adhere the tile to the concrete wall – I mean, how hard could it be to find what we needed?

The task was easy – buy the adhesive, get some chain for the swing sets – 4 eight foot pieces. Well in case you’re wondering, metric is the measurement system used in Guyana.  I was just thankful that I had taught this system when I was a science teacher.  I was so thankful for Andy who made the purchases happen!  I love a good hardware store and let me just say, in Guyana, it’s an experience!

When we got back to the House, I started using the adhesive to put the pieces on the wall to make a cross. I had an idea of what I wanted it to look like but the adhesive was not cooperating. Several children walked over and honestly said that the cross did not look good. Adhesive was running everywhere, glue getting all over me and soon the children deciding it would be fun to put it in others’ hair. I was wishing that my friend Gela was there. She can make art out of anything!

Soon it was time to stop for the day.  I knew that I had started something that I had to finish but I also knew we were leaving Saturday! It was going to take me forever. Project to be continued tomorrow.

Wednesday night, we worshiped at Victoria Methodist Church again. Clemente, our Guyanese team member, arranged the “Gospel Encounter” – a time of music and testimony with my honor to be the preacher. Tony and Pat both gave a witness along with a local Victoria church member. A young woman led the music for about 40 minutes – no words, no plan – just from the heart singing with the keyboard player figuring out what key she was in as she sang. I couldn’t believe how the Holy Spirit took over and worked all of the music together in harmony. I started preaching about 8:00 – service started at 6:30 (or 6:50 local time).

My dear Pine Valley UMC, an hour may not be enough time for us on Sunday!  Just saying.

Another great day!

Thank you, Lord, that even though we may be different, we are really all the same.

Love A Child

On Tuesday, we started our main construction project for the week – a playground set for Joshua House, an orphanage for 40 children. Operating as a true team, each person did their particular part in the construction process. Some cut the wood, some drilled the holes, some drilled in the screws and some put it all together.

We noticed when we got there that there was huge pile of tile in the corner of the playground area. We knew that it would be a hazard for the children so we started moving it. Then Tony had the idea of making a mosaic cross using the tiles on the concrete walls near the play area. Great idea!

Most of the children at Joshua House were in school during the day but there were a few children who had not gone to school. They were “helpers” in the construction process – well, sort of. Helpers or not, they seemed to love having us there and loved the opportunity to be included. At lunchtime, the children who had gone to school walked back to the house for their lunch. Some of them joined in the “helping” before they headed back to school.

In the afternoon, we visited the Red Cross Center, an orphanage for 28 children ages birth-five years. We got there as the children were walking up from their naps and as soon as we walked in the room, their arms went up. They wanted to be held!  Every team member had at least one baby in his or her arms at all times. You can see that in the few group shots that I was able to take (stricter rules for photography).

It was so difficult to walk away from that center knowing that all of those babies just wanted someone to love them.   We could only do it for a short time.  I will, however, hold those babies’ faces in my mind and pray for them.

Lord Jesus, so many children who need love . . . May we never forget to hold a child whenever we can. May we share Your love to all of Your children.

Making a Difference

Monday’s journey took us to 3 homes: Hope Home, Phoenix House and the Ruimveldt House.

In 2014, the Guyana team built a playground set at Hope Home and the 2015 team was excited that it was still in good shape, even the roof that was built by Tony and Miles. I don’t really know what this means but I heard a lot about Tony’s roof. Maybe Tim Reaves also had something to do with the construction.

While I was standing with the others looking at last year’s construction, I felt someone touch my back. I thought it might be another team member, maybe Will, but when I turned, I looked down to see a little girl who quickly wrapped her arm around me and held on. She kept squeezing me and laying her head on my torso. “Maria” just wanted to be hugged and would not let me go. My first encounter in the orphanage brought tears to my eyes.

After Maria let me go, Melissa and I followed the sound of children singing and found Pat and the children in the chapel having a music lesson with their teacher.   Smiles, laughter and excitement filled the room. We were treated to several songs and a concert on their instruments – recorders and drum tubs. What joy on their faces!

As I listened and watched the children, I had one of those moments of clarity when I thought: these children live here. No one is coming at 2:30 to take them to their homes and their families. I knew in my head that they lived in an orphanage but, in that moment, it hit me in my heart.

From the Hope Home, we traveled to the Phoenix House, a recovery house for men and women in addiction. Several of the team gave a word of witness and then I had the honor of offering a blessing for each resident while also giving them a cross.

During our time together, I noticed a little boy in our gathering and asked the “house mother” if he was a resident’s son.

“No, he’s one of ours”, she said.

This little boy, who looked like he might be 8 or 9, was a heroin addict and had been brought to the house by Child Services.  I learned that he was actually thirteen years old and had been given drugs by older teens and adults. He didn’t remember how long he’d been at the House (the result of being brought to the home in active addiction). As Derick and I talked to him, he started to cry saying “no one comes to see me”. I was speechless and about to break down myself but God, in his mercy, helped me to be strong in the moment.  Phoenix House – so much sorrow and pain BUT also so much hope as men and women ARE living substance-free. Like a phoenix who rises out of the ashes, these residents are seeking to rising out of their addiction into recovery.

Our next stop was the Ruimveldt House – a home for children who are HIV-positive. We had a great time singing with the children; especially popular was – “I Just Want to Be A Sheep”, led by Tony. What joy and fun as we colored together and just got goofy with silly glasses!

A hard day emotionally but a great day!

I thought a lot about the starfish story on Monday.   A man sees hundreds of starfish washed up on the shore and starts throwing them back in the water. Someone comes along and says, “you’re not making any difference. There are so many!”  The man replied “it makes a difference to that one.”

I will not forget the face of “Maria” or the face of the young teenage addict. I can’t help all of the needy children that I saw today but maybe the hug for Maria and the listening ear for the addict made a difference for just that one moment.

May we all make a difference for someone!

Guyana: The First Full Day in Words

It’s hard for me to choose the right adjectives to describe my first full day in Guyana – amazing, overwhelming, sad, happy, humbling . . . and the list could go on.

Here are some highlights of this most amazing, overwhelming, humbling, sad, happy day:

  • Breakfast at Victoria Methodist Church, lovingly prepared by the wonderful servants of the church
  • Worship with wonderful singing, great preaching, celebration of two baptisms, holy communion, wonderful hospitality and did I write – wonderful singing. Only voices, a tambourine and congas . . .

Note: After the 2 children (infant and older boy) from 2 different families were baptized, Rev. Kofia Nials said:   “Church, you see these families? They’ve taken a vow to raise their children in the church. So if you see the children NOT in church, you know who you need to talk to!”

  • Visit to the homeless shelter where we handed out t-shirts, flip-flops, candy, granola bars and crosses. I had the privilege of placing a cross around the neck of each person and blessing them. Very humbling experience for me.
  • Feeding the homeless on the street (250 people or so) – Process: 2 large pots of “cook-up” – rice, beans and chicken with a boiled egg on the side – dished into containers, 2 vans driving around town, looking for folks, stopping and then asking them if they want food. First van with the food, second van with the drink. Sad to see so many hurting people but thankful that at least for a short time, they were not hungry
  • The honor of praying with a homeless man who had no shoes and seeing one of our team take off his own shoes to give to the man
  • Closing our day with a delicious home-cooked meal with Guyanese friends who graciously welcomed us into their home

Thank you, Lord, that I saw You in the faces of many today – in the church, in the cardboard box, in the shelter, in the home of friends . . . may I hold those faces in my head and heart always.