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  • Writer's picturetimothy martiny

Being a Part of Something Bigger

We are all a part of something bigger. Something bigger than ourselves, bigger than our choices, bigger than the moment we are in. The pieces that come into play for us to be where we are at every moment might seem like mere happenstance, chance, or coincidence. Still, often, it's the choices of individuals who, just like us, were intentional about something that helped lead us to where we are today.

I had the opportunity to see that with a mission team we just worked with.

They came from Perkinsville Baptist Church in Boone, NC. How does a group of 16 college students, soccer players, coaches, Sunday school teachers, church members, and new believers partner with a family with six children working as missionaries in San Jose Pinula, Guatemala? Not through mere coincidence, happenstance, or luck but through the intentionality of people who saw what God was doing, looked at their circle of influence, and became advocates.

Work for this particular mission trip started months in advance. We run three community centers in Guatemala, serving 200 of the most vulnerable at-risk children, not in orphanages but right at home in their communities.

The purpose of our ministry is to provide spiritual training, educational reinforcement, and learning opportunities to children from hard places. It is important to minister to the parents to build strong families through a proper understanding of the Gospel.

Since the team would be teaching a VBS, we wanted it to be culturally relevant, applicable to the children, in line with what we are teaching, and well executed. No one wants 50 children getting restless while a group of volunteers tries to figure out how to play a game for the first time.

Working with our incredible national staff, Sharie prepared the material, selected appropriate Bible verses, and tweaked games, crafts, and activities so that they would work in a way our students would understand. We then translated the material into English so the mission team could learn it before coming. It was a lot of work but well worth it.

Instead of just jumping in and starting the first day the team came, we all attended church Sunday morning. It was a powerful way to start the trip. Worshiping together with their Guatemalan brothers and sisters in Christ at a church that was generous enough to throw in some English choruses and provide live translation gave our team a strong spiritual start for the week.

We then invited our staff and translators to have lunch with the team. Often, a mission team starts to bond while preparing for the trip. It can be awkward for the translators and local staff to connect, so having a casual time to get to know each other was a great way to break the ice.

The next day, we took time to review the entire program. Even though we had planned and prepared, there is no substitute for the real thing, and it was great to see everyone work together to iron out the remaining kinks.

Sure enough, the VBS program was a success. Over the course of the week, we did the program six times in a variety of settings. The space and location of our community centers vary greatly, from a big meeting room to a building with three small rooms to an outdoor garage. In every case, our team did a wonderful job adapting the program to fit the location. All the planning, preparation, and prayer that went into making this trip a success were worth it.

As our ministry is to the whole family and not just to the children, we took time in the mornings to visit the families in their homes and bless them with bags of food. The families' living conditions are humble, yet we were welcomed with open arms. It was encouraging to hear time and time again how grateful they were to have their children in the programs. For many of them, the Bible classes we teach are the only "church" they get.

The team saw that the staff who work at our community centers are more than just Bible teachers. They are the children's friends and "Aunties." They know the kids, their families, where they live, and their stories.

Spending time in the homes of the children we serve and meeting and praying for their parents gave everyone better insight into their needs. Some of them were moved to tears when talking about it later.

In our centers, we focus on holistic ministry, serving people's spiritual and physical needs. A hungry child has a hard time learning anything.

Our ultimate goal is not to make them wealthy but to give them eternal wealth through knowledge of the Gospel. Yet we believe that discipleship means teaching them all the teachings of Christ, and that includes helping them develop their God-given talents to their fullest ability so that they might use them to glorify God. (See Matthew 25:14-30 the parable of the talents)

One of the most beautiful moments of the trip was an impromptu worship time when one of the classes finished early. Our staff led the children in praising God through song. Children, team members, translators, and missionaries raised their hands to sing. Tears flowed, and prayer followed. It was a wonderful time of praise, and I truly felt God's spirit with us.

Toward the end of the trip, I was able to share the history of our ministry, how God brought us to Guatemala, and all the events that led to this team coming together to serve with us.

It started with a U.S. airman named Lucas, who came to serve on a mission trip 6 years ago to help with a soccer camp; after that trip, we stayed in touch, and he returned to help with one of our first VBS programs and a summer camp. When we had to make a trip to the U.S. to raise support for our ministry, Lucas offered to see what he could do to help. He found a place for us to stay and contacted his pastor so we could share about our ministry at his church. At church, we met Betsy Bolick, a staff member who is in full-time ministry. She got excited about what God was doing here and decided to lead a team to Guatemala, last year she came with four people, Lucas, her sister Brittany, who is a soccer coach at a university and Pagie, a Sunday school teacher.

After serving with us last year, they went home and raved about the trip to their church and friends, and this year, we had a ton of people who wanted to come.

At each step of the journey towards this team's arrival, someone stepped up and became an advocate, not for our work or for our ministry but for God's work and his ministry.

If there is one thing I have learned as a missionary, it's that this is not "my" ministry. God has graciously invited me to be a part of His work and His story, something that He has been doing since the beginning of time and something that He will carry on with long after I am gone.

Because I said yes to serving the orphaned, vulnerable, and disabled in Guatemala, because Lucas said yes to advocating for this ministry, because Betsy said yes to leading a team to serve in a far-off country because that first team of four people went home and advocated for those we serve, last week 16 people came and had a powerful week of ministry serving those who need it most.

As the team was leaving on the bus to return home, many of them with tears in their eyes as the emotional feelings of everything they had experienced welled up in them, I challenged them to take this journey one step further. I challenged them to go home and become advocates, not just for us but for those they come across who need help in this broken and fractured world.

Imagine if each of those 16 people answered that calling; what kind of amazing things could happen? We each have people within our circle of influence that only we can reach. What if each of us asked them to be a part of a cause we are passionate about? I believe we could see exponential growth in service, love, compassion, and the Gospel come alive in people as God's Kingdom comes here on earth and God's will is done on earth as it is in heaven.

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