family in mission

Stories from Central America

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This winter we sent our DTS on outreach to serve first in Nicaragua and then in Belize! It was led by our staff members Aaron, Sarah, and Andy. The following is their experience through the eyes of Sarah. Our first two weeks in Nicaragua flew by! We spent the first 10 days in a little town called Masatepe. We had many wonderful opportunities to work alongside ministries in the area including sharing in local churches, serving food and passing out toys and clothes at a Christmas celebration for children, working at a farm that also operates as a rehabilitation center, hosting a worship night, and helping with a youth outreach. We quickly connected and made relationship with many of the locals and our neighbors!

On week three, we traveled up to the capitol Managua and spent our time partnering with a local church. We helped run children’s programs every morning, a VBS, and other local outreach in the city.

After our time in Managua we returned to Masatepe for our final two weeks in Nicaragua where we played with kids and served food at the local dump, helped wire a house for electricity for a local family, cleared land for a sustainable garden at an elementary school, taught English lessons, painted a building that will serve as a community and education center, and everything in between. I can't help but be amazed at all that God did in this country during our stay! I am thankful to Him, and so proud of our team and their hard work, dedication and love. We left the country with full hearts and with the same expectation to see God to great things in the second half of our outreach.

Our first ten days in Belize were spent at the capitol, Belmopan. Within one day of arriving we were graciously offered a van and a cell phone to use during our time by some YWAMers that we had just happened to meet. This proved to be a huge blessing to us and was a great help to get around the city. God’s provision is amazing!
One of our favorite ministries that we got to partner with was a girl's home. This is a safe place for girls who have been removed from difficult and abusive environments. Here they provide nurturing care, counseling, education and empowerment for all victim of abuse and neglect. We loved spending time at the home, whether it was helping during homework hour, doing devotions with the girls, or playing games outside.
We then drove to the south of Belize and arrived in Punta Gorda where we spent our last weeks of outreach. We stayed at an inn that is run by a local ministry. We shared at a women’s group, a youth group, and a church service- all which take place here at the hotel. It is really cool to see the students training and equipping people in things that they have learned in their DTS. One evening they taught on creative intercession and how to use art and creativity as we pray for others and seek God’s heart for them.

There were some amazing chances to serve the city and work with local ministries! One day we all met at 6:30am to do a prayer walk around the city and afterwards we went to town hall to share with the town officials and mayor to pray together with them. We asked them how we could serve Punta Gorda so that afternoon we filled up 11 trash bags at a local park!

Our days have been so full and we had many opportunities to serve and pour out. Our final days in Punta Gorda were nothing short of amazing and our team has really finished strong.

This week we also had the chance to work with a ministry that provides nutritious lunches to school age children. We all ate together and got to play and teach some Bible stories. We also had an opportunity to encourage and pray over the staff and workers, they have such a beautiful heart for these kids.

The last two days have been especially awesome for our team. On Wednesday and Thursday we got to work in villages tucked in the very south of Belize. Both were about 90 minutes away on a very bumpy dirt road. On Wednesday we visited Barranco, a Garifuna village and on Thursday we went to Sunday Wood, a Q’eqchi’ village. In both places we visited homes, prayed for families, played with children and shared at evening services. It was incredible to meet the families of these communities and get to know them.

Our time in Punta Gorda couldn’t have ended in a better way. It will be hard to leave this town and especially the good friends we have made here. I am so grateful for all that happened here and the privilege it was to be a part of it.

What a good God we serve! We will be welcoming our outreach team back to the states next week and can't wait to have them home! Stay tuned for information on a missions night we will be hosting full of testimonies and to hear first hand some of the things God is doing in Nicaragua!

A Holy Act

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by Olivia Gallagher Can sitting down to a Thanksgiving dinner be a holy act? I believe it can.

The gospels are packed full of Jesus ministering to people with one of the most ordinary things we do: eating. He demonstrates how life changing conversations can occur during normal, everyday activities. We don't have to look far to realize some of Jesus' most impactful times of ministry was over a meal.

His first recorded miracle was to refill drinks at a big event (John 2). He shared conversation with Mary while waiting for a meal, and encouraged Martha that the table didn't have to be perfect (Luke 10:38-42). He ate with people who were both easy and hard to get along with. He shared big news, and big encouragement during one of his last meals (John 13).

So lets be intentional this holiday season! Let's offer to refill drinks, or hold a meaningful conversation while the turkey cooks. Let's help mom and tell her to sit down, that everything looks beautiful and you want her presence at the table. Whether your dinner table is full of difficult people, or people you feel at home with, let's make the most of every opportunity just like Jesus did.

 

Love sets the table

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Sarah Ortega, one of our base leaders here at Pismo, recently wrote this post on hospitality that we wanted to share with you! If you've ever been to the Ortega's house for dinner, you know how good she is at making you feel loved. For more of her writings, check out her blog at: http://www.sarahortega.com

"Practicing hospitality right where we are with the people we love is always a good place to start giving away our love. Especially when we use what we have and do with it what we can. Whether we use paper plates or fancy china, no one really cares what the place settings look like if a person is sitting where they're loved. It's a reminder to me that we buy the plates, but love sets the table."

-Maria Goff, Love Lives Here

I remember at the beginning of 2016 as we thought about the year ahead of us, I told Aaron that my heart for the year was to have as many people over for dinner as possible. Up to that point my worry of cooking the right food and keeping a perfect home was greater than my desire for cultivating deep community and making room for togetherness. The days were too busy, I had an infant, our house was too small, I might burn the rice... the excuses were unending. I finally decided that if this was going to happen, I needed to keep it simple, keep it a priority, and keep doing it!

There is something immensely sacred about opening your home, joining together at a table and sharing a meal. That is what I came to find as we welcomed family after family, couple after couple and single after single. We broke bread with retired grandparents, college students, young families, people we had known for years and people we had met once or twice. I soon learned how to cook for every food intolerance and preference- dairy free, gluten free, vegetarian, vegan, whole 30, you name it!

Before long our teeny tiny house was filled with so much love. Our community grew as did our hearts. Whether it was sourdough pizza served on paper plates in our backyard or sweet potato black bean chili around our secondhand kitchen table, it was served with love and offered with care. 

The desire that stirred up in my heart that year has become a lifestyle for us, a lifestyle of invitation, hospitality, and connection. When people come over we don't just share a meal, we share our hearts, our lives. It truly is a beautiful and sacred thing. 

How do you cultivate community? What is something you have learned about hospitality?

I'll leave you with this prompting and one of my favorite quotes from Shauna Niequist in her book, Bread and Wine.

"This is what I want you to do: I want you to tell someone you love them, and dinner's at six. I want you to throw open your front door and welcome the people you love into the inevitable mess with hugs and laughter. I want you to light a burner on the stove, to chop and stir and season with love and abandon. Begin with an onion and a drizzle of olive oil, and go from there, any one of a million different places, any one of a million different meals. Gather the people you love around your table and feed them with love and honesty and creativity. Feed them with your hands and the flavors and smells that remind you of home and beauty and the best stories you've ever heard, the best stories you've ever lived." 

Serving in YWAM as a family

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At 18 years old I remember boarding my plane to San Jose, Costa Rica. I had just applied to my DTS in Heredia less than a month prior and little did I know that the next six months would change my life. I met my husband, Aaron on the school and as newlyweds we went on to work with YWAM in South America. We eventually moved back to California, started our family and two kids later we were pastoring a church in San Bernardino. I looked back on our YWAM years with fondness and we were always excited when the young people from our congregation felt called to do their DTS.

When our daughter was two and our son was just four months I remember Aaron telling me that he felt that God was calling us back to YWAM. I thought he was ten kinds of crazy and even though I knew of families serving in missions, surely it wasn’t for us. As a 20-something I was happy to live out of a backpack in South America but with two small children it was a different story. In the months that followed God changed my heart and gave me a peace that could only have been from Him.

In July 2013 we packed whatever belongings would fit on our cars and made our way to Pismo Beach. Since then we have staffed and led DTS’s, pioneered a secondary school, and added another baby to our family. I can't tell you what a blessing it has been for our children to grow up in this environment. They are surrounded by different cultures, languages and food and also have countless honorary aunts and uncles from around the world. Last year we took our eight month old daughter to Greece to work with refugees and at the end of this year all five us will travel to Nicaragua to lead a three month outreach.

Serving as a missionary family has taught me to have more dependance and trust in God than I ever have before. I have had to lay down my rights and walk in obedience at times when I was scared and full of doubt. We have made sacrifices and have had to say no to our own agendas.

Being a family in missions has also been the most fulfilling, rewarding and valuable experience for us and our children. I wouldn't trade these years for anything and I look forward to what God has in store for our family in the coming years here at YWAM Pismo Beach.

-Sarah Ortega