Today was filled with pain, death, joy and life. Those words don’t usually belong together. But, it was a day full of every emotion.
Our morning devotion was about trust. Trusting God, even when it doesn’t make sense. None of us knew how clear of examples we would quickly see before our group.
Our first home visit was to install a stove in the house of a man pastor Juan has known for 15 years. The man’s name was Ricardo. They met each other while working on a project many years ago. We heard there had been a house fire in this area. What we didn’t know was that the house that burned was Ricardo’s. Not only that, but his wife passed away after being trapped in the burning house. Ricardo and his oldest son were working. Ricardo is a highly skilled mason, and builds block homes. A friend ran to his job site 40 days ago and said he needed to come quickly to his house. When he arrived, his house had burned to the ground. His wife was nowhere to be found. He asked everyone. He went to the local hospital in Tecpan. No one knew anything about her. They then traveled to Chimaltenango. They asked if anyone had been checked in who suffered from burns. They asked who was he in relation? He said it was his wife. They did have a woman who had been brought in. As he approached, he knew it was his wife. Though she was burned so badly, he knew it was her. They stayed for 3 days hoping she would get better. Finally, his father-in-law told him they needed to go back, as there was no progress. About halfway home, they received a call that they should come back to the hospital. They were thinking she must have gotten better. When they arrived, the doctor told him she had passed away.
After a very painful and complicated process of burying her, Ricardo needed to move forward. Before the fire, Ricardo drank too much. Now, his life was in such shambles, he didn’t even drink. His three children were there today, watching as their grieving dad retold the story. I wrapped my arm around Ricardo. I could not imagine the pain he must be enduring. We began to tell Ricardo how important it was to trust in Christ in the midst of this storm. We asked him how his life with God was. He said that it was not as good as it should be. I asked why? He said there were many things he had done or thought and was not able to be close to God. I told him that Jesus did not come to be with the religious elite. The Pharisees and teachers rejected Jesus. But, Jesus showed his grace and mercy to the poor in spirit. Those people had nothing to offer God, but their hearts. I held his hands out and ask if there was anything in them. He said no. I told him he had nothing he could bring to make God love him anymore than he already does. Ricardo is not supposed to put his life back in order on his own. It’s only in trusting in Jesus that we can find that direction and comfort. Ricardo is a mason. I told him the Bible says that Jesus is the “cornerstone”. The cornerstone is the first block in a building, and it sets the direction for the rest of the house being built. Just like in your life, if your foundation or “walls” in your life are based on what the world values, your life will be a mess. But, when built on the blood and life of Jesus, the foundation is strong and the house will not fall.
Nick’s wife Elizabeth asked Ricardo’s daughter Madeline if she felt guilty for her mom’s death? She had been at church at the time of the fire. You could see the pain on her face. Yes, she felt guilty. Elizabeth assured her it was not her fault. She should not be angry at herself or at God. These were words Madeline needed to hear. This was a very powerful moment for us all.
Nick asked whether the 15-year old girl had ever had a quinceanera? She said no. I asked Ben if we could sponsor a fiesta for her. He said we could. They then asked Madeline if she would like to have a fiesta. For the first time, we saw her smile as she said “yes”.
Pastor Juan came and sat with Ricardo. I told Ricardo how amazing God is, and how 15 years ago, he brought these two men together for this very moment in time. Ricardo has no direction or place to turn. Juanitio is the friend that has the answers he needs. Ricardo gladly gave his life to Christ. With tears streaming down his face, Ricardo prayed that Christ would save him. That God would give him the direction to carry on. That God would rebuild his life. New life has come to that home. It is sad to see the fresh ashes from the house fire that took his wife’s life. But, from those same ashes, new life has come. He is a new person, a new creation and has a different eternal destination.
We then went to install a stove in the home of a woman whose parents were both abusive alcoholics. Her name was Rosa. When she was 8 years old, her 10-year old sister was raped. The government came in and took she and her siblings out of the home. They were put into an orphanage, and no one came to visit. When her mom passed away, they put her in a car, drove her to the cemetery and without getting out, said it was time to go. When her dad eventually passed, they never even told her. Once she was older, she finally got out of the orphanage. But, she began to make the same poor choices her parents made. One day, a cousin visited and asked her if she wanted to grow up to be just like her parents? She said absolutely not. So, she began to go to church. She gave her life to Christ. She met her husband at the church youth group. He had a very similar abusive background. He decided he did not want to be that way as well. They both chose to not consider themselves victims. They chose to be people of joy. They chose to live a life of peace and happiness in Christ. Why is it that someone like her can have such a terrible life, and choose not to be bitter and move on. Yet, so many of us have never been mistreated the same way, yet we continually complain and never find joy? It is a choice. The difference is Jesus!
We then went to Blanca’s home to visit with her family. Blanca was the first person we built for in 2009. Unfortunately, her daughters are now making terrible choices with boys. They almost all have small babies, and only one has a husband. We love this family so much. We will continue to pray that God would change their heart and choices.
We finally ended the day by having dinner together at the hotel. We talked and reflected on what we had seen over the day. How we saw God move in people’s hearts and lives. This is an amazing group. I am so thankful each man has come to Guatemala.
Tomorrow is the house build. It will be very exciting.
I pray that you choose to be a person of peace and joy. Life will always be full of difficulty and pain. God has never promised us an easy life. Faith in Him is a choice. Choosing joy and peace will change the direction of your life. I pray new life comes to your home and family.
Dios te Bendiga, Brad