Lesson # 2 from Guatemala answered this question: What impacted you the most?
Wow. For starters, it took some thought to pinpoint what impacted me the most. I could make a list! I had to focus in on one particular story, and it really brought me forward in my faith. I wrote a bit about it in my journal, that you can read under 'Guatemala Diaries.' I don't think I'll copy out my notebook answer. Instead, I will start from the beginning and retell the story that Les told our group. I may not get it perfect- the facts could be skewed, but bear with me. I think it'll be worth it. Story time!!!
The man, his name was Edgar, I believed. He had worked his way up through the Impact Ministries Schools, and for a while had been pastoring a church right there around Tactic. Fun fact- he actually had been the sponsor child of someone closely connected with our team! I think I remember Les telling us that he now is the pastor of something like 600 people! (Don't hold me to that, my memory may be failing.)
The point is, he was really pouring himself out in service to the people at Impact Ministries, to the people of Tactic, and to the people of his church. He worked so hard at what he did, but in his heart, his dream was to be an Agricultural Engineer. He felt it was somehow what God wanted him to do. He went to university and got a degree, but that ate up nearly all of his money. He didn't earn very much being a pastor, and after being married and having a couple of kids, they decided, after much deliberation, that it was time to leave Tactic. He needed to go somewhere and get a job that would actually use his skills in Agricultural Engineering.
Everyone was sad to hear that Edgar was leaving. He had lived in Tactic all his life- it was his home! But there was nothing left that would help him sustain himself and his family, he had hardly any money.
*Pause* This will all come together in the end, but I will now skip forward a bit, and come at this story from a new angle... an angle that I got to be a part of.
It was early in the morning and the lazy Canadian dancers moped out of bed. Confused for a second, they took in their surroundings. Hot, humid air... old-fashioned, solid architecture... at least three other people in the room with them? Right! This was Guatemala City. Bags were shoved closed, jittery stomachs were settled with a quick breakfast, and the team was ready to hit the road.
They were heading for Tactic today! There was a tedious five-hour drive awaiting them, a non-stop twisty turvy roller coaster, but the pre-teens, teenagers, and parents felt strength and anticipation.
Piled in the doorway, the Guatemala team awaited instructions for filling up the 'Impacto Ministerios' cars with luggage. Before the orders were given, three unfamiliar men were introduced to the Canadians. The leaders informed the team that these men were from Holland, of all places! They were on their way to Impact Ministries as well, and were going there to build a Greenhouse! Nodding in fake interest, the teen girls impatiently waited to board the vans. These men had no connection to the team, just three hitchhikers from Holland with cool accents. Nothing more was said about it. The bags were packed, the people were seated, and away they went!
After a stop at the market, where a couple brave souls tried the freshest goat's milk ever, and some Guatemalan history was taught, it was back to the vans. Piled full with passengers, the trip was somewhat unpleasant. Some rested their heads on the forward seat, moaning and groaning in misery, while others, alert as meerkats, ooh'd and ahh'd at every palm tree, every house, ever Guatemalan family. Excited chatter drowned out the hum of the vehicle's engine, and lulled the motion-sick girls into a fitful slumber.
All the while, the three men in the back gabbed on and on, scarcely stopping for breath. They spoke Dutch, so the Canadians were oblivious to what conversations were being held. The only moments of comprehension were the frequent swears and coarse language, which for some reason, were spoken in English. After a while, one woman politely asked them to swear in Dutch, if they had to swear at all, to which they kindly obliged.
Whispers flew throughout the van- were these men Christians? Missionaries? Church-goers, anything? The answer to all questions was: no. Confusion settled in. Why on earth would these unbelievers be going to Impact Ministries, of all places? From Holland? It seemed slightly out-of-the-ordinary. Little did the Dancing Team realize that they were sitting in a van with an answer to prayer... from Holland. A miraculous story was unfolding right before their eyes, and they were sitting right alongside it!
*Pause* Back to Edgar.
There seemed to be no other option. Tactic had been his livelihood and held his childhood. His family, his friends, everything. But there was nothing left for him. He was desperate and disheartened, and not eager to have to leave now to start a new life in a far-off land. They prayed and prayed, pleading that God would send them some way to keep them in Tactic, where Edgar could use his skills in Agricultural Engineering, but still do God's work as a pastor. It seemed that there would be no answer. Discouraged, plans were begun. Plans that would carry dear Edgar away from home.
It happened unexpectedly. Whether by email or letter I know not, but a message was received. A message from... Holland?! Curious Les Peters read on. It was from the Kubo Sustainable Greenhouses company, and their network of partners in Holland. They were writing about some sort of 'Seeds of Tomorrow' project. Helpful or pointless? Les couldn't be certain, but something inside him encouraged him to read on.
The Seeds of Tomorrow project, hosted by Houweling's Tomatoes, seemed to be offering to build a greenhouse, right there in Tactic! Les scanned all the fineprint for any catches. Nope, confirming Les' hesitant belief, he read that it was a gift. Absolutely free. They were sending workers from Holland, should Impact Ministries accept, for June-July 2013. Overwhelmed and amazed, Les read up on the greenhouse itself. A huge glass structure, filled with the latest greenhouse technology in the world. Sensors tell the shutters to close automatically whenever the greenhouse got too hot, and to re-open once it cooled off. With ingeniously planned tables and hosing systems, the ultra-modern $60,000 building was a gift to Impact Ministries, and to the whole city of Tactic. What Hoeweling's Tomatoes may not have realized, was the fact that God was using them to answer Edgar's prayers.
With growing realization and joy, Les recognized this as the hand of God. A greenhouse was precisely what was needed for Edgar to stay in Tactic! It would be given to Edgar to run and work in, using his Agricultural Engineering education. It would be his job! What's even more amazing? Out of all the places it could have been built, this non-Christian organization chose Impact Ministries! So Edgar could keep his job as a Pastor, stay with his friends and family, in the city that he loved, and he can run the greenhouse!
Not only was this a benefit to Edgar, but also to Impact Ministries, as the food will be given first of all to the children attending the Impact Ministries Schools. In school, the workers at the greenhouse will teach the children how to plant vegetables, and they will learn about the importance of good nutrition. In this way, they will grow to help their community! The greenhouse will benefit all of Tactic!
*Pause* Back to the team. (Us.)
It had been five days since the start of the crazy venture. Everyone was tired, and really just wanted to shower and hop into bed. Les Peters brought the team to the Impact Ministries guesthouse, and showed them the machines they use to make bricks. It was a long and hard process, but generally interesting. Without complaint, they were driven up the steep gravel toad to the guesthouse. The team complimented and fantasied over the guesthouse- it was absolutely beautiful! Stories were told and the team listened in genuine interests, but once sporadic yawns were now frequent- you're yawning now, aren't you?
Hopping once again into the cramped van, the team members prayed and hoped it would be soon time to head home, but they were disappointed to see the van point itself in a new direction- a very dangerous looking gravel road winding its way up the mountainside... too steep for sensible drivers. The exhausted Canadians gripped the van's seats as they felt the world tilt sideways. They were sure that if they went any steeper, they would be upside down.
Pale and shaken, the team emerged from the vans at the top of the mountainside, not very impressed by the trip. Leaving no time for grumbling, Les hustled them off toward a huge glass building. A large sign outside claimed "Seeds of Tomorrow Project." With barely a glance, the weary dancers and parents slumped inside the building, where they saw a familiar face. It was one of the men from Holland who had driven up to Tactic with the team! He waved, but returned swiftly to his busywork. The building was not quite finished.
Now somewhat interested, tired figures pried droopy eyes open, and listened to the story. Les told of a particular Guatemalan man named Edgar. He told them how Edgar wanted so badly to stay in Guatemala, but he couldn't with little money, a family to raise, and an education that was doing nothing up here in the mountains. But one day, out of the blue, just when all hope seemed lost and it seemed like God was telling them, 'No,' everything suddenly went right. Their prayers were answered, and in such enormity that they were overwhelmed. It all came in the form of a greenhouse from Holland.
Still, the miracle amazes them. The sheer impracticality of it all sends shivers down anyone's spine! First, a greenhouse was exactly what they needed. It gave Edgar a job, and it fed the community! Second, it's equipped with the most modern technology in the world! Third, it was completely free! A normally $60,000+ greenhouse was a total gift from total strangers. Fourth, it's from HOLLAND of all places! Fifth, do you really think it's mere coincidence that out of all the places in the world, Holland chose Guatemala?! And Tactic, a remote country way up in the mountains, of all places? I think not! Sixth, It's a non-Christian organization! Those Dutch men were not Christians, which was plain and evident in their language.... But it shows that God can work through anyone and everyone to get his work done. Seventh, they took time out of their summer vacation. These non-Christian men left their families to travel to Guatemala, not the number one spot for summer getaways. Plus, they had to travel the gruelling road trip along with us- definitely not a pleasant experience. And they did it all to work in the heat and humidity on a humongous greenhouse! One man's father actually died while we were up in Tactic. They really made a sacrifice to come work on that project. Eighth, this team was privileged and blessed to be the first team to see the greenhouse. And hearing Edgar's story and actually seeing the miracle being built- wow. It's hard to describe.
In short, that project was a downright, bona fide miracle straight from God's hands. There are no such things as accidents.
As the Guatemala Team listened in awe, they realized that they had been driving up the mountain with just a few puzzle pieces to God's amazing answer to prayer. They left that day with mixed feelings, pondering the amazing wonder that God had performed before their very eyes. One of them, a 15-year-old dancer named Karis, set her mind on writing out the special revelations from God in her journal. She also chose this story as the one that impacted her the most out of the whole trip to Guatemala.
Les' talks and stories inspired me so much. It sounds cliche, but I don't want to waste my life. Learning about the greenhouse and Edgar's story, it was proof to my that God's blessings come to pass, but on HIS time, through HIS sources, and in HIS way.
Sometimes when we pray, we tend to pray in a way that suits our details. We define what we want, how we want it, when we want it, and where. But we forget that God has way better plans than ours- let's not get too specific here! We need faith!
Sometimes, they come in the most surprising ways. For Edgar's story, everyone thought it was hopeless, people were beginning to despair, but THAT was when God sent the Greenhouse! An unexpected, surprise blessing in the most unexpected way, but it turned out to be a blessing to more people than could've ever been imagined, and in a better way than ever expected!
It was as if God sent an explosion to say, "Hey, guys, do you forget who I Am and the miracles that I've told you from the bible? It's ME! I've been here the whole time, and I've known how it would play out. I orchestrated the whole thing! I've had my hand on you and I've been preparing a blessing for you bigger and better than what you ever thought possible. Where was your faith?"
We really should start expecting the unexpected, and have faith that our God can do great things. That story strengthened my belief that when we step out in faith, spend unconditionally what God's given us, and serve Him wholeheartedly, He WILL bless us. And... I think He likes to surprise us, and remind us that His plan is way better than ours.
So, what do you make of it? Take it or leave it. God blesses those who serve Him, as Edgar's story proves. Just because He's not answering your prayer in the way you think he should, certainly doesn't mean he's abandoned you. He's probably telling you, "Just hang in there a second- wait til you see what's coming up!" I feel like that gives Him the most joy. Edgar had just about lost all hope- and it certainly didn't seem like God cared or remembered, or was planning on helping Him out. But look what happened! The biggest miracle, helping not just Edgar, but everyone around Him, coming from the most unexpected place in the most unexpected way, and touching so many lives! Wow! I bet that was better than what Edgar had in mind....
And if you think about it, that happens a lot in the bible. We don't notice it because when we read... the story of Joseph, we read the whole thing. We know what happens. We know it all turns out okay. But if you lived like Joseph, real-time action, it would sure seem like God had abandoned him. As he was dragged by a donkey across the desert to be sold as a slave in Egypt, abandoned by his own brothers, I'm sure he wasn't expecting God to make Him the 2nd most powerful man in Egypt. Gideon. Esther. Daniel. Moses. We read the whole stories. But it's just like Edgar. We can add him to the list. How he felt is probably similar to what they felt. They most likely weren't expecting the answer to prayer that God gave them but, in the end, His way was a billion times better than what they had hoped for.
Isn't God amazing??