Pastor’s Corner


We are Home!

    The mission team from Guatemala returned to the United States late last Saturday.  Before we returned, one of the leaders of Groundwork Guatemala asked us to say what would be different on Monday after we got home—what would we do different, see different because of how God had worked through us on that trip.  This was a wonderful question and helped us all to start thinking about what really mattered.  Our time in Guatemala was not just for those eight days but was in fact a training ground, a beginning to the next chapter in our journey of faith.

    Life happens so fast, with so many expectations and commitments that it isn’t often we get the opportunity to pause and consider how God is leading us.  What is He calling us to, asking us to quit, challenging us to grow, sending us to bless others.  So often our day is pre-scheduled, our month pre-planned, our year dictated by school, sports and work.  The chance to pause and ponder the question “what is God doing here?” or “What does God want me to do with this?” never crosses our mind.

    For those few moments as we sat there and searched for an answer to what Monday would bring I was able to really listen to God.  The answer?  I don’t know.  That is the answer I shared, “I don’t know” I don’t know what it is God wants me to do different except just that very thing.  Stop, ask and listen to Him about where He is leading.  That is what we did all week in Guatemala.  We had a schedule, but the schedule was filled with un hurried time to talk, listen, share and serve others the way God asked us to, not the way we wanted.

    This is what I am bringing home.  This is what I am doing differently.  I am changing some things to make more room for Him to act, to lead, to direct my steps.  Too much of my time is scheduled and too much of it is accomplished out of obligation.  Starting today, less of it is.  Today  I challenged the staff to make more room for God in their day.  Which means less meetings, less structure and more time to listen to God and act on it.  Make a phone call, send an email, write a letter, offer a prayer.  Do what God is asking you to do. 

    This sounds strange at first, and maybe it is the whim of a guy who just got back from a mission trip.  Maybe it is a dream that happened in Guatemala that would never work in the United States.  Or maybe, just maybe doing less and being with and listening to God more is so crazy it just might work. Thank you for you prayers, for your partnership and for listening to God’s promise of hope and life.  Because when the last day comes and everything is revealed, what we will discover is that our relationship with God and our living out our faith with one another is all that ever mattered.

“After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” Revelation 7:8-10

Day 4-Gonzalez Park


Upon regaining consciousness (waking up in the morning), we began the day with breakfast just the way we like it (This is one of a few phrases our host Kevin frequently uses) . Then Carlos led us in a wonderful and spiritual devotion. After that, we rode to Guatemala City.

Once we got to Guatemala City, we separated into tres(three) groups for house visits. Our group was Carlos, Kevin, Melissa, and us. Our group was led to the house of Franklin and Marta. After talking and sharing verses, we began to pray. Although we did not understand what was being said, we both understood that the prayer was very powerful. Then Carlos, Franklin, and Marta sang Franklin and Marta’s favorite song together.

Afterwards, we went back to Gonzalez Park, where the faith lessons would be held. We ate lunch together, just the way we like it, then we all bonded with each other before proceeding to play with the niños(children). Melissa talked with her friend’s  sponsor girl Evelin.  I (Jack) played tag, Jill played pattycake, Ryan read books, and I (Nick) talked with children and told them some English  words and phrases they wanted to know.

To begin the faith lesson, we led the children in songs. We then taught them the memory verse, before telling them the bible story. Shoutout to Kandi, who we missed at the lesson today, and who we are glad made it home safely. Next, we passed out a craft-which Erik  named Jill because it previously had no name – and we helped them construct it.

Just before heading back, we visited Lake Amatitlan, which the Guatemalan missionaries wanted us to see so that we could experience the more beautiful side of Guatemala. The ride home was very fun.

Once we got home, we had supper, just the way we like it, and during supper we shared highs and lows for the day. We are all excited for tomorrow; however, it is bittersweet porque(because) it is our last day in Guatemala. After an hour and a half of cheerful banter and mass confusion, we finally post this.

Day 4, from Jack Schmeckpeper and Nick Winkelman,









Buena Vista

fuegoToday our day started bright and early with breakfast from 6-6:30, loaded up in two vans and on the road at 7am.  We had about a two hour drive out of  Guatemala City which has an elevation similar to Denver CO, down to an area just above sea level near the Pacific coast.  We traveled though some breathtaking views past mountains and three volcanos to a small village called Buena Vista, which means Beautiful View.  It was much warmer and extremely humid there compared to Guatemala City.

We unloaded the supplies from the vans which includes our teaching materials, medical supplies that the mission nurse uses to set up a small clinic for the people of the village,  sandwiches, drinks and a month supply of vitamins for the children.  We went for a short walk down the street to visit the village’s school.  The school consisted of four classrooms with kindergarten in one room, first and second, third and fourth, and fifth and sixth grades combined utilizing the remaining three rooms.  The rooms were dark, hot, in poor repair, and most disheartening, there didn’t appear to be any learning occurring, which as we were told, is a common occurrence.

Upon returning to the ministry site, we divided into groups with some of us doing home visits, and myself, Pastor Erik, Jack and Nick going to a nearby soccer field to play soccer with the boys.  It is a very common occurrence here for there not to be any men in the boys lives.  Taking some time to play one of their most beloved games with them really means a lot to them, and shows them God’s love though us. As we walked to the field, the Guatemalan team member that was with us asked if it would be ok if we stopped and visited a home by the field.  Pastor Erik had previously been conflicted whether to go play with us and the  boys, or go do house visits with the others.  He decided on the soccer game, or should I say, God chose for him.  God sent him with the soccer group  and put him on this impromtu home visit.  We visited with a very ill woman named Estrada, who was awaiting surgery. She desperately needed to hear the word of the Lord for healing and encouragement.  Pastor Erik and Nick shared verses with her that brought her to tears. We prayed for relief of her pain and for God’s healing hand to be upon her. After leaving her home we continued on to the soccer field for our game. We all had an absolute blast, and it was a really happy experience for the  Guatemalan boys and for us.

After the game we returned to the ministry site for a quick lunch and then broke into our groups dividing the teens and the younger children.  Andy and Erik were with the youth again.  Kandi, Jill, Nick, Jack, Melissa and myself again worked with the children singing songs, reading a bible story in Spanish, and a fun craft containing their memory verse. Walter had ministered to the adults earlier in the day and went to do another home visit in another town. He was so compelled to leave to immediately upon hearing this persons need, he refused to wait until after he ate lunch to go.  When he returned, his lunch was gone.  Walter told us later that he got an extra sandwich that was left from the ones that the children receive after attending the Faith Lesson.  He said “God gave me a better sandwich” since he traded a peanut butter and jelly for one of his native countries sandwiches.  The Lord shows up in big and small ways here  :)

Tomorrow we travel about 45 minutes to Gonzalez Park in Amatitlan for our next faith lesson.

Submitted by: Ryan Schmeckpeper

El Rincon

This morning we left Guatemala City and traveled to a rural area known as El Rincon. Upon arrival we visited the home of Marguerite and Carlos. They are friends of the ministry and they allow missionaries to use their bathroom/outhouse (the only one available to us in the area). On my past visits Carlos has been very gregarious in greeting the teams and sharing his faith, but today we found him to be very ill. We gathered around him to pray before he was taken to the hospital to be cared for.

From there we split into two groups to visit homes in El Rincon. My group went to the home of Luis, whom I met on my first visit in 2014 and have remained in touch with since that visit. Luis lives with his mother, sister and niece; his father left many years ago. Luis will turn 19 this coming Saturday. He is currently in the 9th grade, having been unable to attend school for a number of years when he was younger. Luis is the only member of his household who is currently employed. He works full-time in the fields, attending school only on Saturday. He struggles in school sometimes due to the demands of his life, and the poisons he works with in the fields sometimes make him sick or cause injuries to his hands and feet.

After lunch we began our first day of faith lessons. We have prepared lessons for children, teenagers, and adults, and will lead them at each of the four sites we visit throughout the week. Walter and Nivia Ramirez taught the adults; Pastor Erik and I led the lesson for teenagers; and Kandi, Jill, Melissa, Ryan, Jack and Nicholas led the childrens lesson (for about 130 children!).

Tomorrow we leave bright and early and will travel two hours for home visits and faith lessons in Buena Vista, a small settlement in the plains near the Pacific coast. Thank you for your continued prayers as we work alongside the Guatemalan missionaries to build relationships and share the Gospel throughout Guatemala.

Andrew Winkelman

Pastor’s Corner

When tragedy strikes, how can you help? When we see the awful devastation caused by something like Hurricane Matthew, our heart breaks for those affected.  The people of Haiti were still recovering from an earthquake in 2010.  But now a hurricane with 145 mile-per-hour winds strikes – killing hundreds, displacing thousands, destroying homes and causing tremendous floods from 40 inches of rain and 10 foot storm surges.

An LCMS mission coordinator to Haiti shared that many homes, churches, and schools have lost roofs, if not the entire structures themselves. The poorest people in Haiti live in shacks of wood or concrete blocks with tin roofs.  Many people refuse to go to shelters out of fear that the few possessions they do have might be stolen.

Nearly 100% of the crops were lost in Southern Haiti. Many animals have been lost.  Food is already scarce, and some areas report that many people, especially children, have gone without food since last Monday.

One of the biggest needs is access to clean water. There is a priority to get clean water and hygiene items to families as fast as possible.  The World Health Organization is sending a million cholera vaccine doses to Haiti, amid concerns of the rising number of cholera cases.  Waterborne diseases are the first threat to children.

The need is apparent – but how can we help?

God hears the cry of the poor and afflicted. And He responds.

He does so through organizations like Lutheran Church Charities (LCC). God sends His people who become His eyes, arms, and feet to bring help.  Lutheran Church Charities, in partnership with the Lutheran Church in Haiti, is raising support to be handed out through our churches in Haiti. But LCC needs your partnership.  Tim Hetzner of LCC has already headed off to Haiti to deliver financial aid and access further needs to help the people of Haiti.  Would you like to help make a difference?  You can do so through LCC.

You can help by praying for God’s grace and care to the people of Haiti. You can help by donating to the Haiti Disaster Relief Fund through LCC. You can help by sharing this need with as many people as you can.

May your prayers and support bring Mercy, Compassion, Presence, and Proclamation of Jesus to those suffering in Haiti.

Pastor Matt Conrad

Humble and Kind

621d13fc8300929eaf9b50b375446838Hola! Beinvenidos de Guatemala! Today we have experienced emotion overload.

Our morning started with meeting the amazing Guatemalan missionaries who we will be serving along side us this week. They are so very grateful that we are here to help teach their people about the love of Jesus Christ. We enjoyed our morning devotion time together with them and then shortly after we hit the streets. First, we went to meet Jorge, a Boston native who came to Guatemala to help young boys get off the streets, out of gangs, and share the love of Jesus with them.  He came after reading an article in 1987  in the Boston Globe about a boy named Giovanni who was killed in the streets.

Jorges establishment, Only a Child, is a shelter for these boys where he cares for them, protects them, and teaches them the trade of wood carving. It was truly a blessing to meet these young men, hear their stories, and see their handiwork.

We then took off to visit the cemetary, which is more of a mosoleum. As we drove toward the back of the cemetary we started to see that quite a few of the graves had been tampered with, but we kept driving. We reached the end of the cemetary and we got out to look around a bit. Instantly, the foul smell turned our stomachs and we were surrounded by vultures swarming around our heads.  We walked a few more steps and found that we were at the top of a pit. As our eyes started to focus in a bit this place, steps away from the cemetary, was called the dump, we saw garbage trucks driving in and dumping the trash from the city there. No sooner than the trucks could dump and go, did we see people waiting to pick through it to find their next meal. Our hearts were aching… we felt the Holy Spirit led us to join hands and pray. Pray for them, for us, for the mission at hand.

We came home for lunch and  went right back out again for our first of many home visits for the week. We broke up into three groups so our experiences vary during this time but we all had the opportunity to meet the people, in their homes, and share the love of Jesus with them. The people were so grateful for this and many asked us to return. I encourage you to ask one of us, upon our return, about these visits. They are truly powerful and worth sharing.

We are home now to eat and prepare for our first teaching lesson tomorrow. Please continue to keep us and the people of Guatemala in your prayers.

Kandi Alfredson

Our Sunday in Guatemala

praise-dance-1Our first full day in Guatemala was more than I can process in a blog, however at 11:35pm I will try to walk you through a small but big piece of this beautiful day.

We had the priviledge of attending a church service this morning, unlike any I have ever attended. Thankfully, much of the service was graciously translated for me. Even not understanding the language, it was a powerful and unforgettable service. There was beautiful music and dancing, that extended out to the entire congregation. People were praying simultaneously aloud. Every person celebrated their worship time together, and yet everyone expressed their worship very differently. There was no right or wrong way, only the sincere desire to love and praise our Heavenly Father. I was struck by the intencity of the intimacy displayed, and honestly longed for the the freedom that this way of worshiping together fostered.

It was explained that Guatemala time is very different. In Guatemala, a relationship takes presidence over the clock. There is no predetermined time when meetings begin or end. The meeting ends when it is finished, and not a minute before.  People and relationships matter everywhere, and I find it very refreshing that here, time to develop relationships is greatly valued.

Thank you so much for your continued prayers. Please pray that we will be a blessing to everyone that we meet. We are so blessed to be here.