Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Our time in Guatemala has come to a close

Our time in Guatemala has come to a close.  It is bittersweet.  We tried to show the love of Jesus to many people but more than anything, I think Jesus showed himself to each one of us.  People were refreshed, transformed and healed by His power. The family behind Hearts for the Children Ministry, Tom, his wife, Elizabeth, and daughter, Cheryl, live an abundant Christ-centered life.  I have learned so much about how to truly love others from them, from my teammates and from the Guatemalan people.

At first, though, I felt like what we did was so small in comparison to their needs. Then, it was explained to me that by showing up and demonstrating to them that we care about them, by simply spending time with them and ministering to their needs, by praying over them, the people become intrigued and many then choose to come to the ministry's church.  From that point, Jesus takes over and changes the direction of their lives.  We had the privilege of meeting some of the precious people who had made that leap at a dinner we hosted at Tom's ministry house.  How awesome to witness how Jesus works!

Our word for the week was relationship.  Maybe it is the word for more than the week.  How often do I superficially say hello or ask people how they are doing, only to keep walking along without actually waiting for a real answer?  What if I, if we, took the time to actually show people we care about them, by showing up, by simply spending time with them and ministering to their needs, by praying over them?  How many people might see and seek Jesus as a result?

Today at VBS at Dahlonega UMC, a little girl told me her hope was that Jesus would love her.  Ouch!  Everyone needs to know that Jesus already loves them, but how will they know if we do not tell them?

Jesus te ama,

Renee Lloyd

P.S. For those of you who may not know, Jesus te amo means Jesus loved you, which is not at all the same thing.  Some of us learned that the hard way.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Holy ground

Last night one of our team members and I were praying in agreement for some family members who needed prayer. I don't know how long we prayed, but we probably could have prayed for hours. Praying, praising God, worshiping God.

The presence of the Holy Spirit was so intense, it was a while before either of us could stand up from the table. Even then, I went back to my room and sat in the dark for quite a while, just being in the Lord's presence and thanking Him.

We remembered how, throughout the week, Tom (our local missionary) has mentioned the ministry house is on holy ground, a ground saturated with prayer, filled with the presence of the Holy Spirit and lots of angels.

But this is not the only holy ground. We have holy ground back home in Dahlonega. What we experienced in prayer last night should be a daily occurrence in our town. We need to live in that place of awareness of God.

As I walked around the property last night, I became so aware of the angelic activity and the absolutely vivid presence of God. I need to expect that awareness when I return home. Speaking for myself, I need to be more intentional about living in the kingdom of God daily. Being aware of the presence and power of God all around us.

I am prayerfully asking the Lord what it looks like, to live and move on holy ground back home. It's different for each of us.

The more time I spend sitting, being, walking, living in the presence of the Lord, the more I realize I don't know anything. Our team's theme for this week quickly became, "I don't know." We don't know anything. God knows everything. It's in the stillness of His presence, where we recognize our lack of knowing anything but Him, that He imparts His very best for our lives.

So I don't know anything. But one thing I am sure of: if each of us, including each person who reads these words, will daily live in constant awareness of God's presence, and expect His power to manifest in every aspect of our lives, together we will see the kingdom of God here among us. It will become more visible, not only to us, but also to everyone around us. And it will increase every day.

Love from Guatemala - Janet Eriksson

"Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, 'Surely the LORD is in this place, and I did not know it.' And he was afraid and said, 'How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.'" - Genesis 28:16-17

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Beautiful day in Guatemala

Wow! What a day.

We arrived early at the village with the makeshift houses on the side of a mountain. Across the valley was a smoking volcano.

The people were so warm and welcoming and made us comfortable as we set up our stations for medical, children's VBS, prayer, clothes and food.

A beautiful lady from the church prepared lunch for us, as she wanted to serve the team. Folks from the church joined us in the mission work. What a blessing!

The Holy Spirit moved powerfully all day. The weather changed frequently but God's love remained steadfast. The people may seem to have little, and their needs are great. But they have a deep faith and trust in God, and a deep awareness of their need for Him. They also have a strong sense of family and community. It was wonderful to see moms and kids playing together and enjoying the day in such harsh surroundings.

They need prayers for physical healing and basic needs. Most of all, pray for their spiritual lives as they continue to grow closer to Jesus and feel the depths of His love.

We served till late afternoon, and after a quick dinner went straight to church, where we did a Bible lesson and activity with the children.

We are tired and starting to feel some wear and tear, so please pray for our refreshing. We look forward to another day of serving in the village today. Much love from Guatemala - Janet Eriksson

1 Thessalonians 1:2: "We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers."

Kingdom of God in a mountainside village

Praying with people in a village yesterday, I experienced such an encounter with the presence of Jesus that I will never forget, and I know it has changed me.

The people have such a deep faith and trust of God, because they know how much they need Him. Here I was, praying for them. And yet their faith invited an encounter that changed me.

I was given this week off from school to come on this trip. Yet the Lord has me in His school, teaching me to pray and live in a new way.

We were in a village of makeshift homes on the side of a mountain. The homes have dirt floors, with metal pieces for walls and roof. The people moved there from three days' walk away, and they don't know when they might need to uproot. Many of the folks work in the fields nearby, and others work farther along the highway.

We had never served in this village before. The people welcomed us warmly and made us feel comfortable as we set up our mission areas: medical, children's VBS, food and clothing, and prayer. The people were expectant, knowing God is who they need, and knowing He is their help and strength.

They asked for prayer for basic needs, for work, for family, for provision. We prayed for healing of stomachs, ears, eyes, throats, coughs, epilepsy, diabetes. One woman asked for healing after being hit, as a pedestrian, by a motorcycle. She knew God is her Healer, and He was healing her, and He protected her during the accident. A little girl asked us to pray with her for her daddy, who has to work in the United States to support their family.

The local pastor was leading prayer, and the team of 5-7 folks from the local church and I prayed out loud but softly as he led prayer. I prayed mostly in the spirit, sometimes with a few English words whenever I felt led to speak words of healing. I cannot speak the language, and I am not leading the sessions, so I don't need to be alert to many things. I can simply be present with the Lord, and watch Him.

As one woman sat down, I felt the presence of the Lord move in, with an intensity I had not experienced before. Possessive (in a good way) is the best way I can describe it. I could see the Lord as clearly as I ever have, and I could hear His heart: "She is Mine." The love I felt from Him toward her is indescribable. It took my breath away and all I could do was weep.

Jesus was so big. So consuming. So ... Love. So focused on this beautiful daughter of His. His presence filled the tent. His heart burst at the seams. In an instant I felt a deeper sense of who He is than I have ever known. I felt His power. His wisdom. His peace. His utter control of everything. I felt what He is able to do, and it was beyond imagining.

His presence changed everyone and everything in the room. Jesus is here, and His presence is all we need.

"Focus on Me," I felt Him say. "Focus on Me and all of heaven opens around you."

My prayers changed. My prayers became a response to His presence. As I let Him consume me with His presence, suddenly words came, for the woman. The words came from His heart for her, and with an intensity and boldness I've never felt before. He knew what He wanted for her, and He would move mountains to fulfill His plans for her.

What I would have prayed for her needs were so small in comparison with what He wanted. What His heart desires for her trumps everything. And He takes care of everything.

I had started to become so tired to that point. After that encounter, and praying differently, I felt so revived.

Jesus' heart spoke of one person belonging in His family.

He spoke of another person drawing closer to Him - closer, closer, closer is what He wanted.

For another, He desired for her to expect everything He is to be hers.

Things I wouldn't know to pray without focusing on His heart. Things way beyond what the person might dream to ask for in prayer.

Some of those prayers might be a deep, unspoken longing of that person's heart, and the person might not even know. Others, desires for that person's life beyond anything that person might have expected.

This continued quite a while, and then the Lord prompted me to walk the grounds of the village and pray. I could see Him everywhere, more alive than I've ever known. On that remote hillside, among those makeshift homes, I didn't just glimpse the kingdom of God. It was alive all around me.

The Lord's presence shook me to the core. We had felt a mild earth tremor that morning, on the heels of a fierce lightning storm in the night, and I knew the Holy Spirit would move in power. But this was beyond anything I could have expected. The Holy Spirit rearranged me from the inside out, more profoundly than lightning or earth tremor ever could have.

This encounter came as such a gift, in one of the most desert seasons of my life. The Lord took me to a place where I would not be distracted or focused on anything but Him, and He shook me to the core.

The invitation was not just for a week in Guatemala. It is a lifetime invitation of surrender, of presence, of focus on the Lord. The place has no bearing, because the kingdom of God is everywhere. Jesus told us the kingdom of God is already here, among us.

Through this encounter, the Lord reminded me that any of us has barely scratched the surface of who He is. There is so much more of Him to know ... to love ... to be known and loved. It is an invitation to fall deeply in love with Him, and keep falling more deeply into His heart. It's the best kind of fall, into a bottomless well of love beyond imagining.

As I move in prayer where God leads me, whatever I pray for others needs to come straight from His heart. As I move through my day, every breath must come from His desires for me.

He has got to be everything.

He is everything.

Love from Guatemala - Janet Eriksson

"Nor will they say, 'Look, here it is!' or 'There!' for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you." - Luke 17:21

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

friends-true love

There is so much to share but I will go with what is on my heart at this moment. So many of the people here are as beautiful as I remember...so full of love, light, surrender,and gratitude. We have truly been blessed as we pour out our hearts and hands to them. Another great impact has been the team's influence upon me. I am amazed at the love and inspiration shared amongst us. We have loved, cried, laughed, and grown. We have went to a deeper level with our friendships and our faith...  the blessings are overflowing. My heart aches for more of that with our friends in Dahlonega. I pray that God will help me to slow down and know Him and others at this level. Love is the answer! Mary

Life Without Any Buts

2 Cor 4:7

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.

In our bible lessons for the children here, we have been teaching them about the first phrase of this verse, that each person carries Christ in them.  As such, we should all take the time to see past the hardened outside of people and find the treasure in each one of God's children, despite our differences.

Tom, the Director of Hearts of Children Ministry, preached to us yesterday morning about the second part of this verse, which speaks to God's all surpassing power, Easter power, as Louie Giglio calls it.  The same power that rose Jesus from the grave is available to every one us, if we are willing to surrender to him as Lord and access it.

Many of these beautiful people here in Guatemala live in unspeakable conditions, homes built of sheet metal or cinder block, without water, without heat.  At home, our animals receive better care, as our teammate Chris says.  Yet, these people have such a joyful contagious spirit.  They are gracious and grateful. Their sense of community is striking.  Even young children know to take care of each other and help without being asked.  They support each other in order to survive.  They live in the moment, not consumed with plans or worries of the future.  What a lesson we can all learn from witnessing their collectivity and their present day awareness.  We tend to isolate ourselves in our homes, our workplaces, and on our phones and we wonder why we have a breakdown in our families and our communities.  They have so little but many appear, as least to me, to understand what is important, that they are rich in family.  When the children were asked what treasure was, they named family and friends, not homes, cars or money.

 I can't do much to help these people but our God can.  His power can work through all of us, if we will only come to him, surrender ourselves and let him go to work.  But as Tom says, we must be bold, knowing that His power is for us to use.  How  is this possible?  In his words, we must "just do it."

People who go big for God are not supernatural.  They have only chosen to tap into His supernatural Easter power.  This is a daily choice that comes from being in His presence and putting self and fear aside and choosing obedience.  Choosing Jesus.  Since Jesus commands us to love his each other, how can we not?  If we truly love him, like Peter, we will take care of his sheep.

Why did the Lord bring me to Guatemala?  Maybe so my heart would break not just for these children but for all of God's children, wherever they may be.  Today my Scripture reading was from 1 Kings 17 and 18.  Many times it repeats the theme  ...the people worshipped God but they appointed their officials or they worshipped God but they served other gods as well.  My prayer is that we live a life without any buts.

In grace and peace,
Renee Lloyd

Praying for the people in Guatemala

One week ago, I was at home praying for people in Guatemala and for the mission team who would visit them. I had no idea God would also send me on this trip! Intercessors don't always get to see the people they're praying for in person, or walk the streets with their shoes touching the soil. It's an amazing privilege. 

But the prayers are just as powerful either way. For those who have been praying for these precious Guatemalan people and this mission team from home, thank you so much. Your prayers are so powerful. Your prayers invite God to do ALL He desires to do here. I hope to give you a glimpse of how God is working through your prayers.

On Monday in a village we visited, I joined with the local pastor and prayer team. We set up stations for people to visit - medical, food and clothing, playing and making crafts with the children, and prayer. People came for prayer as individuals or as families, and were asked if they know the Lord, if they attend church, what medical problems they are having, and what prayer needs they would like to bring to God.

Most of the people said they attend church. For those who didn't, the pastor explained how vital it is for them to be in Christian community; how Jesus uses the church family as a lifeline for each person, so they can stand together through the trials they face, and help and encourage each other. Life can be isolating anywhere, but especially so when a person is struggling just to get through the day, and to meet so many needs. 

For three young people who visited that day, Jesus had been working in their hearts, so they were ready to invite Him into their hearts as Savior and Lord. 

A lady came in carrying a 14-day-old baby. I learned that a year ago, she had come asking for prayer, because she was unable to have a child. What an answer to prayer was that precious baby, and what a blessing to pray over that child.

We prayed with folks for healing. One girl had been badly burned. Many struggled with stomach pains. One boy had an eye infection and another had swelling on his face. Another boy suffered with a bad fever. Many woman had back pain, from all the burdens they carry - physical, emotional, and spiritual. Children were glassy eyed and undernourished, but their eyes sparkled when they smiled, and I could see Jesus smiling back at them and loving them. The pastor modeled Jesus in the way he lifted the children in his arms and blessed them.

For many hours we prayed in a hot, dusty room. The pastor was so surrendered to the Lord, and so filled with the joy of the Lord, that I noticed his spirit and his joy never faded, no matter how hot and tired we had become physically. It was an amazing reminder that Jesus never tires, and is always fully present with us. In every minute of every day, Jesus gives us His whole self, holding nothing back, and filled to overflowing with joy and love for us. I got to see this in the flesh, and so did the people who came for prayer. Those who came toward the very end received the same exuberant and unfailing love from Jesus as those who arrived earlier in the day.

It was also beautiful to pray in an environment where I do not speak the language. I know just enough Spanish that, with the help of the Holy Spirit, I did understand some things that were said by the people in their requests for prayer. But what a blessing to pray and just allow the Lord to lead. While I try always to let Him lead me in prayer, words can be a temptation to think instead of surrender. There is something powerful with having words removed. It opens your heart to truly watch and see what Jesus is already doing and desires to do.

I saw how much Jesus is working in each heart, in each family. I felt the presence of the Holy Spirit through the entire day. I could discern the generational healing Jesus was bringing to several families, and the way He trampled the enemy to bring peace. 

The Lord had me pray His heart for the children, that they would see how He smiles at them, that they would know He will never leave them, and that He will guide every step they take for their entire lives - that they would know the relationship they have with Him is forever. 

I could see Jesus' healing power, and that He is so much greater than the circumstances. And I could see the deep faith He has nurtured in these people. Their own prayers reflected a deep relationship with Him, that they know He is their everything, and they have such an awareness of how much they need Him every day.

We all need Jesus this desperately, and we all need such a deep awareness of how much we need Him, that we draw every breath from Him. 

As you pray for the people in Guatemala, my prayer for you is that the Lord will touch your heart deeply, to reveal how He is working in their lives and in yours; to increase your awareness of His constant presence with you and your absolute need of Him; to show you the unimaginable and unshakable depths of His love for you; to grow you in faith that He is the God of the impossible; and to bless you beyond measure.

Thank you for praying for the people of Guatemala. God bless you! 

Much love, 
Janet Eriksson 

"In all circumstances, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints." - Ephesians 6:16-18