Tuesday Sept 11

Final thoughts…

The trip last year was amazing as we saw the Lord work both through and in spite of us, our plans, and preparation. Doors were opened far beyond our expectations, which prepared us for this year’s trip. The group was well-prepared for the teaching and hands-on work, knowing all the while that we needed to hold things loosely, because there are always changes and unexpected occurrences. We had high hopes.

As you know by now, we did five days of teaching instead of four. 90% of the bomberos in Guatemala are volunteers. Guatemala has the largest volunteer fire department in Central America. The first four days of training were with the paid firemen. The last day was with volunteers. We recognized and knew a number of the paid guys from the last two years, so we could somewhat pick up where we left off relationally. The volunteers have other jobs and work 24-hour shifts. All of these men and women serve the people of their country with diligence and dedication. They take their jobs seriously and are very open to the training provided. And the learning is a two-way street, as our guys also learn from them and how they do what they do, often with a lack of things our guys take for granted.

When we heard of the earthquake in Costa Rica on our second morning and saw the Rescue Team quickly leave the room to find out whether or not they would be deployed, it brought each of us out of any myopic viewpoint on one’s global perspective. We do bear responsibilities to those around us. These guys were willing to leave their world on a moment’s notice to go help people they’d never met. Who is teaching whom?

We often hear of cutbacks and doing without, but the situation is Guatemala is beyond the mere trimming of expendables. There are 2.5 million people in Guatemala City, the capital, with 15 million in the entire country. There are 127 fire stations in Guatemala, more than the city of Houston. Many of them don’t have trucks. Personnel and gasoline/fuel are the largest expenses. The national fire department budget for the whole show is less than $5 million. They are asking for more than double that next year. Whether they will get it or some increment less than that remains to be seen. To put it in perspective, the fire service budget for the entire country is just under 39% of the budget of The Village Church! To say we respect the work these men and women do is a huge understatement.

So many aspects and conversations of the trip had could be viewed as highlights of the week. I think it’s fair to say for all of us, the trip to the Evangelical Church of God on Thursday night was a high point. This was completely serendipitous. It wasn’t on our schedule or plans, but through a member of Casa de Libertad we were invited to go to this struggling, little church in one of the villages within Guatemala City. It’s been a long time since most of us, if ever (though it was a “big” church compared to my first church down in the Cajun country), have been to a church like that. (I would bet that the offering picked up tremendously that night.) They sang with gusto, and we were all smiling when we finally recognized a song: “Shout to the Lord.” That one truly became bi-lingual! We were honored to be able to attend, participate, and pray with and over many of the men, women, and children there at the end of the service. The ride home that night was pretty quiet as we were in awe of what our Lord had allowed us to experience.

Speaking of serendipities, when we were in Antiqua at the market stimulating the Guatemalan economy (Brian especially!), Chris came up and said, “Look at this.” In one of the booths full of stuff, the guy was reading Amor Loco”—Francis Chan’s book Crazy Love!” Talking with him, we found out that he and his brother were going through it. Can’t make that stuff up!

This was/is a great group of guys. They represented their respective departments, families, and church well. They ministered to me, the bomberos, and everyone they saw with Christ-like character and commitment. Most of the conversations on the way home, through various delays, focused on what we can do to enhance, improve, and leverage our efforts for the Kingdom next year. We may try to offer a devotion for the bomberos at the training academy before the days’ training. We were thrilled to have more of them share the joy of worship with us at Casa de Libertad than last year. God is good, and we look forward to continued “Spiritsurfing” as we see what next year brings.

Lan Leavell, Th.D.

Connections Pastor/Associate Groups Minister

Chaplain, Denton Fire Department

 

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