It is hard to believe that we have been in Guatemala for over a week already.  We arrived last Wednesday and the time has flown by.  We are enjoying our time here immensely.  Growing and learning and being challenged.  I am so thankful for those of you who are taking the time to follow along on our blog and to faithfully pray for us.  We appreciate it so much.  We have only almost been in accidents twice, once was just me and three other men, and once with Karen, Leah and Jake.  Considering the driving down here, I think we are doing pretty good.  Our health is holding up.  We are careful what we eat and drink, washing all of our fresh produce thoroughly and brushing our teeth with bottled water.  Leah is doing great.  She gets physically tired very quickly, and those of you who have traveled often know that there is no other bed in the world that sleeps as well as your own.  But I praise the Lord for her physical and mental strength.  She is really doing great.  Jake keeps rolling along.  He loves going to church and playing with the kids.  He does not show any fear, which is great.  As long as there is running involved, or a ball he fits right in with the Guatemalan kids.  He does get a little nervous when they (kids or adults) get right in his face and talk to him, or try to pick him up.  I have to explain to them that he is nervous because he has no idea what they are saying to him.  I tell the kids “Don’t pick him up, just play with him and he will be just fine.”  He loves to play soccer, they love to play soccer, it is a perfect match. 

Leah is in the most ‘awkard of positions, if I can use that term, for personal relationships.  Most of you know that I can speak some semblance of Spanish. When you combine that with my shy… I mean my outgoing personality you can imagine that I have no problem walking in and greeting and hugging and talking and joking etc…, with Jake and his little friends very little verbal communication is needed to play.  Just throw out the ball and boom, instant relationships.  Leah does not speak Spanish, is pregnant, is tall(er than most), and an American.  This just invites attention from the women, but communication is hard because she does not understand anything they say.  She is trying really hard but inevitably, one gets tired of having to try so hard to communicate and relate.  So please pray for her. 

Most of you who have traveled know that there reaches a point where you want to hear English, read English signs, see normal things, understand the sermon (without your husband loosely translating every few minutes), understand what people are saying about you and to you, and so on.  I think that is what makes culture shock so hard.  You are continually unsettled.  Very few things come easy and natural.  Everything is a labor, it is hard to feel relaxed.  How many Burger Kings in America have three guards armed with shotguns patrolling the parking lot?  It is hard enough at home to budget to go to the grocery store and buy food to make ends meet, without using the exchange rate on every item you pick up to make sure it is a good deal or not.  Imagine being at church and trying to talk with a group of teens and when they say something you don’t know if they are joking, lying, making fun, or being nice.  You may even understand their literal words, but you may miss the intent and the meaning by a mile.  In a small way these are the types of things we feel and experience.  Now we know that we are coming home in ten days.  Imagine the strain and the stress on a missionary family who experience these things over and over and over and over for months at a time.  Sure they will get used to it over time, and sure they will learn to cope over time, but it is just another level of stress that is added to an already difficult job.  Just another reason to walk into the Fellowship Hall, and look at all those letters of missionaries on the wall, and READ.  Learn their names and their kids names, learn the names of their churches, listen as they pour out their hearts for the people they have surrendered their lives to teach the Gospel.  And then go home and PRAY.  Pray long, pray with purpose, pray with intent, pray early and often.  They struggle with loneliness, they struggle with stress, they struggle with people close to them who betray and lie to them.  They think in two (or maybe three) different languages.  They miss their families, they miss their grand kids.  This is no easy task.  I have learned that. 

If anything, God has helped to remove the romantic view I once had of missions.  He has torn that down.  There will always be poor kids with big brown eyes and dark hair, I cannot adopt them all.  Their will always be a Pentecostal church 2 miles away that is double the size of mine.  Their will always be another man discipled in the faith who cheats on his wife that leaves you wondering how you could poor so much time and energy into him and that be the end result.  There will always be inter personal conflict between you and other missionaries, who hold to the exact same BIBLE that you do.  So God has stripped that easy, romatic view of missions aside.  And for my good.  Now He is tasked with helping me to not be overwhelmed by it all, to be reminded that He is in control, that He has a big plan for the glory of His Son Jesus Christ, that the Gospel was His idea.  It is easy to forget this when you drive thru one more village with no church, or you see a small church of 20 people in a village of 15 thousand.  Why so small?  Why are they rejecting the truth?  Why are they fighting over ping pong tables and drums in the church for no apparent reason? 

Here is an example of a real question one must ask themselves, if you surrender your life for missions and you spend 10 years or 20 or more in one place preaching the truth of the Gospel and you have a church of 20 people, have you wasted your life?  Could you have spent it doing something more ‘profitable’?  I have a missionary friend who preaches in two churches every Sunday, the combined attendance of both churches is 30 or under.  He fights and claws to teach them spiritual truth, and they are growing so slow spiritually.  His family live in a hard rugged poor place, with an outhouse, and rats, and flies.  Is that worth it?  What do you think Grace Baptist Church… is it worth it?  I am slowly learning deep down inside, in my heart of hearts, that IT IS WORTH IT.  God gets glory every time His Truth is proclaimed, and sometimes it is way hard to weigh personal cost against eternal glory.  We see personal cost with our physical eyes every day.  You have to learn to see eternal glory, you have to dig in deep to the Gospel and study and seek God’s face to see eternal glory.   

Anyways…there you go.  That is what is going on in the heart and mind of Kurtis and Leah.  Hard questions, hard thoughts, difficult answers and a lot of weariness.  But GOD is GOOD all the time, and these are important question for me to face.      

Alright,  next post there will be no commentary, just history of what we have seen and experienced.  It has been very cool, I wish my whole Middle School could come, and the Berean class.  I will try my best to help you see what I have seen.  Please keep reading.  I love you, Grace Baptist Church.