By Brian Dirks
As the Marine View Guatemala mission team prepares for its departure, dozens of details remain to be tackled and thousands of thoughts are running through the minds of each member.
The team will catch a red-eye flight from SeaTac International to Guatemala City via Houston on May 22, then make the day-and- a half journey to Barillas, where the Everett-based Hands for Peacemaking organization maintains its mission house and stove manufacturing facility.
Two days after their arrival the team will brave another three hours of bumpy roads until reaching the Mayan villages of Loma Linda La Frontera and Nueva Reforma Santo Domingo, both adjacent to the southern Mexican border. Here the team will install 110 stoves that will reduce toxic indoor smoke and burns among children.
Team members are checking off their to-do lists for personal and collective tasks. Each has visited a health clinic to secure assorted shots and medications in readiness for travel to a region where emergency medical care can be hours away. This will be the first time malaria and Dengue fever – both mosquito-borne illnesses – will be a threat, largely due to serving in a lower elevation than in the past. So extra care must be taken to not be bug-bit. Team members understand that sleeping under netting is required on this trip.
Thanks to the generosity of Marine View parishioners, a sizeable funds carried forward from the 2014 team. Meanwhile, this year’s team members’ fundraising also was successful. So the 2015 team is thankful and relieved to be on solid financial footing. All bills are now paid and there’s a good sum left over for 2016.
The team is saving money and packing space by buying Bibles in Guatemala for families this year, rather than bringing them from the U.S., as previous teams did. The team also procured a donation of 200 youth shirts from the Seattle Sounders FC that will be given to every child in the village. Marine View member Joe Martin, who works in the dental products industry, once again donated oral hygiene products for the children gift packs.
The packs also include an assortment of toys, school supplies and tennis balls, all assembled in zip lock bags through the good hands of the congregation’s small groups.
As the team leader, I (Brian Dirks) have been in regular contact with Hands for Peacemaking staff in Everett and on the ground in Guatemala to ensure all is in order and communicating with team members on a near daily basis. The Guatemala crew has been working for several weeks to move supplies to the villages and is preparing the villages for the Marine View team’s arrival.
Please pray for health, safe travels, and God’s guidance as the team members embark on their 10-day mission. Below, hear from each individual as they reflect on their joy and fears and consider the job ahead.
The team of stove installers has changed in make-up since an earlier story. There are still seven members but, with great reluctance, three-time mission veteran Reuben Weeks had to withdraw on doctor’s orders. He soon recruited his replacement, longtime acquaintance Eunice Bias, a retired masonry worker from Seattle with a quick, merry laugh and a ton of spunk,
Eunice sees this as a mission of opportunity, a chance to fulfill a calling that has long been in her heart.
“God has blessed me with the spirit of giving and sharing of myself,” she said. “There are so many people in this world that can benefit from each other in so many ways. Out of high school I wanted to join the Peace Corp but it was a matter of money.”
Then life took a different turn for Eunice. She married, began a family and before she knew it she was immersed in the world of bricks and mortar – all together 30 years of it before her retirement two years ago. She once worked with Reuben in the construction business, then lost track of him until a chance meeting a few months back.
“Meeting Reuben again has given me the opportunity to pursue a lifelong desire,” she said. “It’s my love for God and His love for me that moves me in a way that helps mankind.”
When Pete Kinch, the executive director of Hands for Peacemaking, spotted Eunice’s dossier on her application, he knew just what to do. Turns out there is a Hands for Peacemaking school construction underway near their Guatemala base city of Barillas. He intends to “borrow” Eunice for a few hours to see if local workers are building the masonry well. In light of recent major earthquakes, including a major trembler in southern Guatemala, it’s possible that Eunice’s observations could save children’s lives.
And for her part, Eunice has put members of her Seattle Central District area senior center to work making potholders to give to the Mayan moms, adding to the hefty collection of well over 200 potholders now that the team will take with them. The potholders will distributed in the two Mayan villages where the team will install the stoves.
Michael and Marie Blank
“I’m getting really excited about it,” says Michael, an engineer by trade. “I’ve been working on how to put these stoves together and how to put them together quicker. We are getting our family stuff in order, so that we’re ready to go, and saying prayers.”
Michael sees the mission as an opportunity for him to spread the word of the Gospel and the love of Jesus.
“The mission for me is about going deeper and going wider,” he says. “This is something we can talk to other people outside of the church about, an easy way to do discipleship outside of the church.”
While there is always a concern that something might happen, he says, “At same time we’re a group that supports each other and knows that God will be with us. I trust that Hands for Peacemaking will take care of us best that they can.”
The Blanks comprise the first husband-wife team in many years to go on the mission together. A worry for the Blanks is leaving their two children, 11 and 7, behind. But they will be in grandparent care.
“I’m very excited and have been from the beginning,” says Marie. “However, I am also anxious as a mom. It’s not like hopping on a plane and going to Vegas. It just feels different. If Mike wasn’t going I’d be more at peace. But I’m excited as it’s another step in my faith and getting closer to God and what I need to do to get close and personal.”
Marie anticipates this won’t be her only time to go with the Guatemala team. “I have a feeling I’m going to fall in love while reaching out,” she said.
“I am excited about seeing the beauty in the simple life of the villagers I’ve only seen pictures of. But I am anxious. I got freaked out by a spider on my ceiling the other day and my friend just laughed and said, “Just wait till Guatemala!” Right now I think I’m more afraid of the mosquitoes than the spiders!"
Liz is married but is leaving her husband Ryan and sons ages 11 and 8 behind. She knows that on a mission trip, risks are assumed – physically, spiritually and mentally.
“I think it’s not until I’ve gotten close to leaving that everything came to the surface. I have a big heart for kids and I think it’s going to be mentally hard to leave them at the end of the week, even though I’ll be so eager to see my own sons at home. Ultimately, I trust God. I trust that He called me on this. I trust that He will provide, and I trust that He will protect.”
Liz has taken on many tasks for the mission, including the big job of team finance officer in between accomplishing a big move a few weeks ago to a new home and two large volunteer project deadlines. “My couple hours a week with Sandi Dowell, the church financial secretary, has been refreshing in the midst of a crazy couple of months. She’s been so supportive."
Diane, like Eunice, does not attend Marine View but first learned of the mission through her attendance at Jazz LIVE performances at the church. This will be the Northeast Tacoma resident’s second time on the mission field. The semi-retired nurse, who once directed a MASH Army field medic unit in Vietnam, is the most senior team member and will mark her 70th birthday in Guatemala.
“It was very easy for me from the very beginning. I have been very fortunate as a white woman born in America to a middle-to-upper-middle class family. Then I see how other woman basically struggle with day-to-ay chores of getting water, of cooking for their family, and are in great danger. They walk five miles to get water then bring it back to a little hut.”
“This is something so simple to give those stoves that will last their lifetime, their daughter’s lifetime, their granddaughter’s lifetime. It’s an investment for a better life,” she said. “I really fell in love with Guatemala last year, and it wasn’t hard to do. I was just beautiful, and I felt incredibly safe. I think that Hands for Peacemaking does an outstanding job here in America and in Guatemala. I am very impressed with how they run their operation.”
By day, Ed is a software developer at Amazon.com. By night and on Sundays he plays cello, participating in the Marine View music worship team and in small group activity. This will be Ed’s third time on the Guatemala mission.
“It’s good to like get out of your life here for a while,” he says. “It’s sort of a vacation for a good purpose ... being able to help out others and make a difference in the lives of others. It’s empowering.”
Ed especially looks forward to meeting up with the Guatemala field staff as well as the villagers.
“They are always welcoming. It’s good to get out there and meet more people, and experience a good time there.”
Ed plans to again pack a ukulele, and is asking his team mates for song suggestions – especially Spanish songs – that he can learn in advance so he can play for the kids.
This will be my third mission to Guatemala and second time as team leader/coordinator. I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has put so much into our mission. It is a big effort, but also one with incredible rewards. We almost didn’t have a team this year, then suddenly some great new team members answered God’s call and came forward to join us and we were able to charge ahead.
I am frankly overwhelmed by their spirit and willingness to step forward and take on the many behind-the-scenes tasks that are so critical to the missions’ success. Don’t get me wrong – a lot of our work is still cut out for us, but I have no doubt we will get it done.
Despite the many hours that go into a project like this, it is truly a mission of joy and I know that through God’s love we will succeed. It is hard for me to overstate how much I appreciate the support of both the congregation and those outside of the congregation who have brought us to where we are now: all but packed and ready for another great experience in God’s name.
A prayer of commissioning for the Marine View Guatemala team will take place during both services on May 17. While this year’s team is set financially, the team does appreciate continued contributions to the mission fund. Each stove costs $200. If you feel called to partner with this mission please either make out a check to the Guatemala fund or donate online via the The City.