Guatemala-swing

I sat on the swing overlooking the beautiful garden. It hung from a thick tree branch above me. It was made out of an old wooden board and used rope.

It was the perfect place to spend a few quiet moments with the Lord.

I looked out over many rows of cabbage and corn. There were other plants in the spacious garden that crawled up the hillside too, but the rain had washed most of them away. Although it was difficult to discern between crop and weed, it was still a beautiful and inviting place.

“What do you want me to share today, Lord?”

I could sense His presence with me.

For weeks leading up to my mission trip, I’d prepared for this day. My friend Sara who helps lead Casa Bernabe, the Guatemalan ministry I’d traveled to serve, suggested I host special time for the women who lead the nine houses on campus.

They were married women with biological kids caring for children ordered by the state into their care.

I loved the idea, encouraging fellow moms sounded perfect.

Riding waves of excitement, I began making preparations right away. Plans for devotionals, activities and journaling exercises got scribbled into my notebooks.

Once I’d jot down one idea, five more flooded in.

Yet as our meeting time grew closer and I arrived in Guatemala, I sensed a different plan.

“Do a Bible study. Talk about prayer. Invite them to share testimony.”

Just as gently, yet quickly, as the cool morning breeze blew the wooden swing I sat on, our plan for the morning changed.

“Luke 11 – ask, seek, knock,” I felt the Lord put on my heart. As I got up from the swing and walked up the hill, my phone’s notification confirmed it.

I looked down to see an alert with the verse of the day from Luke 11.

“If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” Luke 11:13

Bingo.

Guatemala-garden

Discovery Bible Study and Testimonies

I left the swing and walked up the hill toward the cafeteria to meet the women. I met up with Julia, the fun, curly-haired missionary coordinator, who was there to help translate.

As much as I wanted my four years of Spanish to carry me into heart-to-heart conversations, within minutes of arriving in the country, I knew I’d need a lot of language help.

Julia smiled and began to prepare hot water for tea as I cracked open my Bible to read the verses one more time. Soon I looked up and saw two women slowly walking through the doorway.

“Hola,” they each said quietly. Julia quickly went in for a hug.

A few more appeared.

Before I knew it, we were gathered in a small circle around the table sipping hot drinks and sharing our names. In the stop-and-go way that translation brings, we covered the basics.

“My name is Danielle. This is Ashlyn. Today we’re going to do a Bible study and share our stories because when we share stories of what God’s done, it increases our faith.”

They nodded their heads after the beautiful Spanish sentences rolled off Julia’s tongue.

Guatemala-bible-study

Answered prayers

We prayed to open and then dove into the scripture. I shared how a “Discovery Bible Study” works and we talked about what the verses told us about God and man.

As the conversation began to slow, I transitioned us.

“These verses are about praying. Today I wanted to share about how God answers prayer. I’ll share my story first.”

I shifted in my seat, looked down and then back up. I took a deep breath and began to share pieces of my story one sentence at a time.

“It’s an answer to prayer that I’m sitting here in this chair, in Guatemala, right now. I wasn’t sure I’d ever be able to do this 18 years ago.”

The women’s eyes stayed glued to me. I began to explain why.

“I wanted to be a missionary when I was little. I was signed up for my first mission trip when I was 17 years old, but I couldn’t go. I’d been having bathroom problems and when I went to the doctor, we found out I had colon cancer. I couldn’t go on my trip.”

They nodded to show they understood and empathized.

“I got better, but when I was 25, I got cancer again. This led to anger and a crisis of faith. I questioned Him. Is God really good? Could I believe? 

Their eyes widened, surprised by my age, the shock and trauma.

“I struggled a lot, but I kept praying. I kept reading God’s word. One day, I decided I still believed it. Jesus suffered and can relate to my suffering. That changed my heart and I decided to believe God is good and faithful. It took a long time, but being on this trip is an answer to my prayers.”

I beamed with a wide smile, a smile that matched all of their faces. Warmth filled my chest.

“Did I really just say that?” I asked myself as the conversation transitioned and another women began sharing her story of surviving cancer. As Julia translated, I found my thoughts bouncing between the shock of hearing another survivor’s story and processing what I’d just said myself.

“I’m seriously here… wow.”

For the next hour, more powerful stories of God showing up crossed back and forth across the table. From English to Spanish, and then vice versa, the power of the Father’s love became evident.

As we sat together, women from very different backgrounds, cultures and families, one thing was clear:  the same God answering my prayers answered theirs.

The God who’d seen the silent tears trickling down my face from my hospital beds and heard Ashlyn’s prayers from her high school hallways was the same God who’d heard these women’s cries from the jungles of Latin America.

Thanks to His deep love and answers to our prayers, we were connecting as sisters across a table in a Guatemalan cafeteria.

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