Tomorrow I leave to go on my 5th short term mission trip to Hope for Guatemala. I have the honor of co-leading an adult/medical trip and I am excited to visit what will soon be my new home – Zone 18 of Guatemala City! Every trip is different and every one brings about different emotions. As I prepare to go back this week, I’ve been reflecting on my first time in Guatemala, a trip that really changed my life. It was the first time in my walk with God that I heard so clearly what my purpose was.
In fall of 2013, I was asked by one of my great friends and mentors Chris Crutchley to join him and a great group of men on an October trip to Hope for Guatemala. When I agreed, I was excited to get to travel abroad with a group of extraordinary men build some stuff, and play with kids. Looking back, I see that God had bigger things in store for me! On this trip I gained a new nickname, formed some unforgettable relationships, and experienced many eye opening things.
As the week progressed, many of the guys on the trip started calling me Oso Blanco (white bear), the nickname of an Atlanta Braves baseball player. The kids picked up on the nickname and adopted it. To this day I am known as Oso at Hope for Guatemala. Most of the kids and teenagers don’t even know that my name is Brad! When Becca visits, they even call her Esposa de Oso (Oso’s wife).
On the second day of that trip, my heart was totally captured in a way that I never thought was possible. I completely fell in love with a tiny girl who could barely hold a broom but fervently swept the dining area. At not even 2 years old, Dulce had such determination and spirit. Every time I tried to call her over she would smile and run away from me, teasing me! After a couple hours of this back and forth game, she finally jumped into my arms, and each day I held her until she had to go home. God worked through this little girl to soften my heart in a way that I had never experienced before. The way she loved me unconditionally, without even understanding my words or knowing my name was truly an incredible experience that only compares to the love of my own family. On my last trip, after several years of seeing each other occasionally, she actually cried as we parted ways at the end of the week. I can’t wait to see Dulce in a couple of days, and once again hold her in my arms!
Another special relationship I formed that week was with Don Ricardo, an older volunteer of the ministry. I worked alongside him most of the week and even though we couldn’t understand each other’s language, we communicated in a way that only God could have perpetrated. Together we worked on construction at the newly acquired City of Hope, a large farm property in the middle of Zone 18. We laughed at each other’s jokes, and we built a special bond that week, much like that of a father and son.
Towards the end of the week, I got the chance to play a part in a story that changed the trajectory of the ministry for years to come. God used me in a way I had never experienced before. Up until October 2013, I’m sure God was at work in me, but I hadn’t ever really seen myself involved in the middle of a story He was orchestrating.
On Wednesday of that week, Don Ricardo took 3 of us guys out into the fields at City of Hope to pick about 50 pounds of the amazingly delicious fruit that grows on the property. It was quite an adventure cutting down bananas with a machete!
The security guard on the property at the time worked for the landowners, not the Hope for Guatemala ministry, and Hope for Guatemala was only allowed to use a small amount of the land. When we returned from collecting the fruit, that security guard decided to contact the landowner and report that we had “stolen” fruit from them. The landowners immediately contacted Jose and they agreed to meet at City to discuss the matter. One of the landowners arrived and Jose walked her through what had been her childhood home to show her all of the work the ministry was doing. On their tour, they came to the room our team had worked diligently at remodeling that week, and as it turned out, this very room was this particular landowner’s childhood bedroom! Through seeing the use of her room to bless the children of Guatemala, and in talking with Jose, her heart was softened and she extended grace to the ministry. She investigated the security guard and found that HE was the one who had been stealing. Through this experience, she decided to give Jose and Hope for Guatemala access and use of the rest of the 50 acres as he saw fit!! 2 years later, the ministry is celebrating as they are becoming a self-sufficient farm!!
In a situation that could have been devastating to the ministry, God aligned details perfectly to carry out His plan. I was completely humbled to see God allow a broken sinner like myself to be a part of this story. We never would have known that us “stealing” fruit would play such a large part in the story of City of Hope. I learned a lot about the way God works through this story, and it opened my eyes to how God could continue to use me in this place.
This first trip was the beginning of this crazy idea of moving my family to Guatemala City. God planted this seed in my heart in October 2013, and the harvest will come in June of this year.
Thank you for reading my thoughts and allowing me to share with you the love I have for Hope for Guatemala.