Sunday, June 23 was the day for our annual Excursión Familiar with families from the neighborhood around Casita Benjamín in Zona 3 alongside the largest land fill dump in Central America.
This event has become a much anticipated outing with people asking for months if we will be doing it again this year!
For most of these families it is the only family outing they will have, not being able to afford to take a trip out of the city with lunch etc.
|We arrived to a crowd waiting to board the buses!|
Like each year families sign up to reserve a spot, and if there is a dad or male figure in the family, he must attend. Most of these kids come from single parent homes (sometimes it is an aunt, or grandma) and most have experienced and witnessed abuse, either spouse or child abuse or both. These neighborhoods are some of the poorest, most densely populated in the city, filled with gangs, crime and violence.
The social breakdown of the family is the norm here, and we hope to gradually, one person at a time, begin to turn things around here.
It is a huge task, but we have a God that is more than capable!
|One of the two buses filled to capacity!|
Just like most of the youth we have been working with, it begins with learning about unconditional love.
Most all of these people, adults and children, only know a world of conditional love. But to truly understand grace, and believe the security of salvation, you must believe in unconditional love.
So, we want to love these people, not just with words, but in action, in life.
Our hope is that they will be able to see God through our love, because...
We love because He first loved us.
|Some of our servant team starting the children's program|
So, we arrived with our servant team and two large buses to Casita Benjamín at a little after 8 AM.
When we pulled up out front there were already over 100 people waiting!
By the time we loaded all of the food and supplies for lunch, and 3 huge piñatas, we had the buses filled to the max with 160 people!
We gave a quick explanation of the program, said a prayer in each bus, and we were off!
|Good turnout of men hearing the Gospel!|
After just over an hour on the road we arrived at ´Finca El Edén´!
It truly makes you feel what the garden of Eden may have been like!
Finca El Edén is located near Escuintla, Guatemala, part way down to the coastal plain where it is warmer than in the capital. We had the entire park reserved just for us and includes a river running through it, trails through the lush tropical forest, pools, basketball court, soccer field, covered patios and a beautiful outdoor kitchen!
|Large group of women also!|
When we arrived we took a few minutes to unload the buses and get organized.
We then broke everyone up into three groups, men, women and children.
The men found a small patio under the trees to sit in a circle and hear about the hope that we can all have in Christ.
We had a good sized group of men, about 20, and a few were gang members.
|Preparing lunch for 160 people!|
The women formed an even larger group and found a spot near the pool in the shade. There were many women sitting above the group on the upper patio.
|Emily & Lauren making Guacamole|
We gathered all of the children in one of the covered patios for a fantastic program just for them!
As the groups were all getting started, three of our interns that joined us, Emily, Lauren and Robert, began helping Isabel, Ana and Loyda from Casita Benjamín in the kitchen to prepare the lunch for all 160 people!
|A puppet show for the kids!|
The kids program began with some songs with movements etc to get them all involved. Several of our youth helped Jassiel, a student at SETECA with the program!
After some songs and games etc, it was time for a puppet show!
Jassiel is part of a wonderful group of puppeteers at SETECA and brought a puppet stage and a few puppets.
|The kids were mesmerized by the puppets!|
They have some great skits with the puppets that explain the Gospel!
The kids were mesmerized by the show, it was amazing to see that many kids all staying quiet and intently following every word!
|Explaining the Gospel with puppets!|
The kids program was a huge hit, keeping their attention long after the men and women had finished their group times!
The men´s group also went twice as long as originally planned with a lot of interaction and questions, concluding with a beautiful time of group prayer.
|The men closing their time with group prayer|
After the group time there was still plenty of free time before lunch to enjoy the pools, river and play areas!
It was so much fun to watch families spending time together, relaxing, laughing and just, for a few hours, free of concerns.
|Many took advantage of the pools to cool off!|
I felt like I was constantly on the run all day with people asking questions or needing something, seemed like almost every minute we were hearing "hermano Mike, what do we do about?..."or hermano Mike, where are the baños?" "hermano Mike this" , "hermano Mike that"
|Some of our hijitas on the way to play in the river|
However, Sandi and I still managed to spend about 20-30 minutes with some of our special youth wading in and splashing around the river! What a sweet special time that was for me!
Then we were being called that lunch was ready!
|Time for lunch!|
And what a lunch!
Carne asada with chirmol, rice, frijoles, tortillas, guacamole, watermelon and fresh made pineapple juice!
The line snaked all around but we got everyone through with out problems, except for running out of plates just before the end....but those who went through first were finishing so we were able to wash their plates and continue without interruption!
|Everyone enjoyed the excellent lunch!|
There were tables and chairs for everyone spread out among three patios.
|Some of our servant team|
We had a little more free time after lunch and then....RAIN! Good tropical downpour for about 30 minutes or so.
|The rain very nicely waited until after lunch to begin|
While it was raining we strung a rope under one of the covered patios, filled the three huge piñatas with candies and had a very typical piñata whacking!
We had a piñata for niñas (girls), another for niños (boys) and finally one for the adults!
It´s hard to maintain order when there are piñatas, they love their piñatas! The adults get right in there fighting the kids for the candies!
|One of the three huge piñatas!|
After the piñatas everyone helped getting everything loaded back on the two buses and we headed back to the city.
Two buses filled with tired and very contented people!
We received some wonderful thank yous from some very appreciative people.
I believe God touched many folks this day, the people all felt genuinely loved.
Big thank you to our servant team, our youth that helped, and to all of you that prayed for us and this event and those that have helped provide the funds to be able to do this.
I know God was smiling, He was glorified throughout the day!
A GREAT GREAT DAY!
EL DÍA FUE LO MÁXIMO!