Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Moving On

James and Ellie Carr
Hello again, from our family to yours!  I just wanted to post an update on what we have been up to in the almost month that we have been out of Spanish School here in Guatemala.  Things have been moving quite fast over the past month which is encouraging to see since it was beginning to feel like we would never complete Spanish School!  We still aren't perfect speakers, and may use a tutor to polish our language skills in the future, but we are functional enough for ministry at the moment and are taking more steps forward in that area.

The week after James graduated from our school, his mom and my mom both came down to visit us for a week.  It was a nice break, and it was so awesome just to be able to spend time with them.  It was refreshing to have people who are really close to us down here to talk to, because at times, we just feel like we only have each other to open up to since we are so far from our hometown.  We spent a few days showing them the beauty of Guatemala, even though I think they were a bit more preoccupied with spoiling Riley.  That's what grandma's are for, though, right?

Riley and her Grandmas spending a day at the lake.
Since they left a few weeks ago, James and I have been working with Engadi serving in a variety of ways.  James has been working on the enrollment form for students to be a part of a scholarship program Engadi offers.  There are a few hundred children who live in Paraíso and are eligible for our scholarship program where they do community service and attend workshops and classes with their families in order to earn school supplies for the upcoming school year which begins in January.  We also spent some time last week working at the ministry house where teams from the States are housed while they are partnering with Engadi.

As the team coordinator, James also helped plan last weekend's Family Festival in Paradise by coordinating with the team leaders in the States, our Director of Discipleship in Guatemala, and the Ministry Director in Paradise.  James organized the games that all of the families participated in during the festival.  It was awesome to see how all of the families were brought together to hear the Gospel through the activities.  I know that statement doesn't sound like much, but if you could understand how rare it is to have these fragmented, hurting families spending time, laughing, and playing together, you could begin to understand the fulfillment we feel.  Not to mention that there were several fathers who came to the festival!  During the first few trips that I made to Guatemala, I'm not sure that I saw a single dad interacting with his children in public.  In fact, very few homes have a consistent father figure.  One of the boys we are aiming to disciple one-on-one did not even know the name of the man living in his house with his mother this month.  Seeing what fathers there race, play, and learn with their kids is such a reward for us in itself.  Overall, the festival went very well, and James is spending the rest of this week leading a team from Texas who is partnering with Engadi.

In one game, families had to race to find pre-selected Bible verses and read them to the crowd over the microphone.  Winning families received a soccer ball with Bible verses printed on it in Spanish.
The one thing that I think has been the most rewarding to be a part of over the past month is the initiation of the Derek Program.  The Derek Program is a program designed by Engadi Ministries to help raise up "Mighty Men" from the at-risk boys who are living in Paradise.  It is an intensive mentorship and discipling program targeting preteen and teenage youth.  The boys chosen to enroll are highly motivated and have dreams to succeed, but are lacking the resources to do so because they are living in poverty, have little family support, or have fallen behind in their education at an early age.  Engadi is seeking to tutor and provide resources and experiences for them that will further encourage them and help them succeed.

So far, there are about 20 boys actively involved in the program.  This means that they are attending weekly Bible Studies with their peers, and completing their allotted weekly goal of serving their community.  In exchange, we have been analyzing each individual, to determine how to help him reach his goal from where he is right now.  For some, it means helping them obtain a birth certificate from the government so they can be enrolled in a remedial schooling program.  For others, it is just providing encouragement and support with their homework in the areas where they might be falling behind, and encouraging them not to drop out of school, like the majority of adolescents their age in their area do.  For others, it may mean offering them a calm, safe place to live if they are facing a crisis or dangerous situation within their family.

Some of the boys who are active in the Derek Program along with Engadi staff members enjoyed bonding over ice cream as a reward for good work in September.  (James not pictured because he took the photo)
This is where the really exciting part is for us.  Within the next two weeks, we will be moving into a ministry home which we will begin converting to a boys' home facility for Engadi Ministries.  We will spend the next couple months preparing the house to accommodate them, and furnishing it to suit their needs.  Our goal is that Engadi Ministries will be able to open the doors of it's first boys' home by early 2016.  That's less than three months away!  

So things are moving extremely fast for us now, and we can't wait to see how it all turns out!  Here are some ways you can pray for us as you feel led:

- Pray for our move in the next month as we transition to our first unfurnished house here in Guatemala.  We have been hopping around on short-term leases in furnished apartments since we moved here last November, and are ready to settle into a place for a while.  Pray that God will provide us with the furniture we are lacking over the next few weeks (beds, dining room tables, and we would LOVE to have a sofa big enough to recline on!).

- Pray that God would continue to prepare our hearts to be house parents to teenage Guatemalan boys.  There are still days when I think, "What the heck was I thinking when I said 'yes' to this crazy adventure?" but I know God is faithful, and He would not have called us to do something we can't handle.  Pray that language would not be a barrier, and we would be good role models for the boys.

- Pray for the negotiations on the actual boys' home.  The lease contract is set to be signed next week, and there is always a small chance something could go wrong; we've learned this time and time again since we've been here.  Meanwhile, we have to be out of our apartment by next Sunday (a week and a half away), so pray for the lease to go through with no hold-ups.

- Pray for wisdom on a trip home this December.  We have been trying to wait until we receive our permanent residences before we return home for a visit since that would be the simplest and easiest way to travel.  We received news two weeks ago, however, that our residencies may take well into 2016 to be processed (they were supposed to be done last month) due to a lack of staff at the immigration office.  We would love to be able to take one last trip home before starting 24/7 work in the boys' home early next year, since we don't know what sort of breaks we will have after that.  Pray for guidance on planning a trip this winter.

- Lastly, we are also asking for prayer for a community just outside Guatemala City that was destroyed by a mudslide caused by heavy rains last Thursday night, October 1st.  As excavation continues, over 350 people are still missing and the death toll has risen to nearly two hundred.  Pray for this community as they grieve the loss of whole families.  Pray for the 368 people the disaster has left homeless who are currently living in shelters.  Pray for the difficult process of recovery searches.

El Cambray II- site of the mudslide.  (Photo from Soy502 News)
As always, we thank you all for your prayers and support.  If there is anything we can pray about for you, please email us at thecarrs813@gmail.com; we love praying for loved ones!  We hope to see you all in the next few months, and until then, we will keep you all posted with updates here as well as in our family group on Facebook.

Much love,
James, Ellie, and Riley


Micah 6:8
"He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?"



Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Ministry Minded

JamesandEllie
Hello Again!

I (Ellie) just wanted to share a quick update and some encouragement from our journey in Guatemala.  Last week, I was able to finish Spanish School here in Antigua, Guatemala.  It has been such a burden lifted, as I can now devote more time to the ministry, Riley, and we have also deducted one item from our monthly budget.  Yahoo!!  James should be finishing school at the end of next week also, so we are pumped to be able to spend our days focusing on the growth and development of Engadi Ministries, and how we can better reach out to kids living in Paradise (our target neighborhood in the slums of Guatemala City).  Until James finishes up, I will be working on catching up on publications for Engadi, our family newsletter, and working with some of the paperwork and documents related to the boys we are working with in Paradise.

The students who graduated or advanced a level last week.

I have to confess that during my last week of school I was a bit disheartened.  I didn't think I was going to complete the program satisfactorily that week, tacking on yet another week of what seemed like a never-ending process.  I was also stressed with the amount of homework and studying I had to do, among other things.  I was unmotivated to memorize Latin and Greek suffixes and prefixes, many of which I don't even know or use in the English language (my vocab included the Spanish counterparts of words such as exonerate, euphemism, idiosyncrasy, etc.).  That being said, God, like so many times before, had bigger and better plans for my week.  God-sized plans.

Thursday morning, I arrived to school and my teacher and I were chatting about the events of the day before as an introduction to our day of conversation.  I told her that Wednesday night I had led a women's Bible Study group in Spanish.  She seemed interested in the group and asked what we had talked about.  I proceeded to explain to her that we were reading through the book When Godly People Do Ungodly Things by Beth Moore, which discusses how Christians should respond when they see and experience other Christians around them who are falling into the seduction and entrapment of sin, as well as how each of us as Christians can resist becoming lured in to sin ourselves.

My teacher said that she could relate to many of the topics we discussed.  She tearfully went on to tell me about many parts of her life which she wasn't proud of, and how she could relate to succumbing to the draws of sin, as we all can.  Right?  Although she claimed to be a Christian, she tearfully admitted that she didn't understand how a just God could overlook her past and that she was terrified to give an answer for the things she had done in this life.

At this point in the conversation, I felt a bit unprepared and nervous myself.  Who am I to give counsel to someone twice my age, even if she is asking me for it?  Why me?   What if I say something wrong?  More than anything, what if I can't find the words I need in Spanish?  I prayed silently that God could use me and guide my words.  I still have a cut on my lip from biting down out of nervousness.  I hope I didn't look half as nervous as I felt!

The good news is that God promises to give us the "right words at the right time" if we are seeking Him, and He did.  Luke 12:11-12 says,
"And when they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not be anxious about how you should defend yourself or what you should say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say."

God is a God of justice who cannot allow sin to go unpunished.  He would not be a just God if He did so.  Thankfully for us, He is also a God of mercy.  He sent His very own Son to take each of our sins.  He has already paid the price of death for us!  He has beautifully intertwined His justice and mercy to show us how great His love is for us.  Therefore, as Christians, we have no need to fear death.  Our sins are paid for- once and for all.

Sharing this news has been the highlight of my week.  It has been a reminder of why I am here, and also the very own joy and hope that I have.  I have no reason to be unmotivated, disheartened, or stressed when I keep my eyes on God and His Promises.

I will wrap up with today's post with that, as my beautiful daughter is begging for my attention with continuous kisses being blown in my direction between taste testing each type of dirt, leaf, and flower in our garden.  I will update again soon with our plans for after James finished school.

Crazy girl.
Much Love from Guatemala,
The Carr Family

1 Corinthians 15:56-58
"The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord, your labor is not in vain."

Monday, July 13, 2015

Team Season 2015

JamesandEllie

Hello Friends and Family!


It's been over two months since I last posted an update on what we are doing in Guatemala.  I apologize!  So much has gone on in the past two months, and I would like to give you all a brief update on the most important things.


James Carr, Team Coordinator-

That's right!  James has a new title with Engadi for now.  He has been helping plan, host, and lead the church teams that are coming down to work with the ministry this summer.  He was able to help with the team from our home church in Georgia, Watkinsville First Baptist, in June, and this month is helping with three other teams that are partnering with Engadi from other areas of the U.S.  There will be over eighty individuals making up the teams this month that are working with Engadi, so he has been extremely busy, but he has really enjoyed getting to know brothers and sisters in Christ from across the U.S. who also understand and are a part of the vision of Engadi Ministries.


James Carr, Team Coordinator

Outreach in Paradise-

This summer, Engadi Ministries has been hosting Family Festivals in our target community of Paradise, which is located within the northern slums of Guatemala City.  The festivals are geared towards entire family involvement with family relays, games, and short Biblically-based messages over topics including, love, respect, and forgiveness.  There have been two festivals hosted so far with several hundred local residents in attendance.  We have planned to host three festivals this summer and hope to continue with a couple more this fall as well. 

Getting ready for Engadi's second Family Festival on July 12
Initiating the festival with a water balloon toss competition

James and I are currently in charge of planning the games for the festivals which is altogether a fun job.  James also has the responsibility of coordinating with the groups that come down from the States to help coordinate their involvement in the festivals.  James has really enjoyed the opportunities to speak with, get to know, and pray with local residents attending the festivals.  The festivals give us a chance to deepen bonds with local residents, assess community needs, and of course, reach out to and share our testimony with individuals within the community.

James visiting with local residents of Paraíso

Language Fluency-

James and I are nearing our end date of language school.  Praise the Lord!  We each should only have a few weeks left until we finish our fluency program at Christian Spanish Academy in Antigua.  While we understand the importance of language learning, we are also very ready to be able to devote ourselves fully to ministry.  That being said, we have begun the process of looking for a house or apartment closer to where our ministry is located.  Moving out of Antigua will be a blessing, as houses tend to be cheaper outside of the city, and our drive to work will be shortened greatly.  We are asking for prayers as we search for a safe place to live while we finish school.  Specifically, we would appreciate prayer in either finding a semi-furnished house or apartment, or in locating some used furniture that we could furnish a house with, since we currently do not own any furniture.  We know God is faithful to take care of all of our needs.

Facebook Updates-

We have recently created a Facebook group to be able to post shorter, more regular posts on things we are a part of, and everyday life here in Guatemala.  The group is titled "Carr Family in Guatemala."  Feel free to join the group if you are interested in following our journey as family here in Guatemala!  You can access the group here: Carr Family in Guatemala

Thank you again for taking the time to read and be a part of our ministry in Guatemala.  We always ask for continued prayers as we discern and follow God's will for our lives and do our best to serve Him daily.  We love taking time as a family to pray for our loved ones back home as well; if there's something we can pray for (or praise God for) in your life send us a message or an email!  We miss our friends and family in the States greatly, but are thankful for your support in allowing us to serve God in Guatemala.

In Christ,
The Carr Family

2 Timothy 1:7
"...for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self control."

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Spring 2015- Moving, School, and Ministry

JamesandEllie
Happy Spring, everyone!  I (Ellie) just wanted to write a quick update to keep you updated on our progress here in Guatemala, and a little bit of what is going on in our personal lives.  I will start out with what has happened last month.

About three weeks ago, we moved from the apartment we were living in to a small house owned by a retired missionary here in Guatemala.  We are so thankful for the opportunity that opened up that allowed us to do so.  Our new house is about 500 square feet, has two bedrooms, and came furnished, which was exactly what we needed right now, since we sold all of our furniture before leaving the states.  It is very tranquil and the neighbors are a little further away, so we don't have to be on edge every time Riley cries.  My favorite part is that it has hot water throughout, including the kitchen sink!! Our last apartment only has hot water in the shower, but that was definitely better than none.  I never thought about how much I appreciated hot water in the kitchen sink until I moved and had to hand wash ALL of our dishes because, of course, there are no dishwashers here!  God has definitely changed our perspective on so many things and made us more thankful.

Currently, we are both still working our way through Spanish school.  We had both hit a plateau at our first school, so we changed to a more advanced language school here in Antigua that is geared more towards teaching missionaries.  Interesting to me, our Spanish teacher, Teresa, considers her ministry to be teaching missionaries Spanish so that they are prepared for the field.  She says that she could easily find a job at a higher paying or more convenient school closer to her house, but chooses to work at Christian Spanish Academy, because she feels God has called here to prepare missionaries.  We have both loved getting to know her and sharing our testimonies and struggles with her.  We are also constantly amazed at the beautiful web that God is weaving to reach the boys in Paradise.  It is like He is teaming up Teresa here in Guatemala, Engadi Ministries, each of you in the states who prays for and supports us, and so many more.  The web just keeps stretching, strengthening, and building, which is so cool to be a part of.


I don't have many pictures relating to school, but this is our walk to school in the mornings. 
Anyway, back to our schooling.  At our new school, Christian Spanish Academy, there are seven levels of Spanish that we must complete through exams and interviews to be certified as "fluent."  Two weeks ago, James passed both his exam and interview to get to level three.  Last week, I completed level four and started level five, and by the end of this week, James is set to move up to level four if all goes well.  It is exciting to finally see some progress, and to see the light at the end of the tunnel.  While we are finishing our schooling, Engadi Ministries is busy drawing up the legal documents to take in our first boys from off the streets.  The ministry will be busy hosting church teams from the states all summer, and finishing other preparations, but it looks like we are just a few months out from starting our official role as houseparents!  We are looking forward to not living out of boxes, and actually working with the kids full-time!

Next week, a team from South Carolina will be coming down to work in Paradise (our target neighborhood in the slums of Guatemala City), teaching English within the schools there.  We will spend the entire week with them working with the kids in Paraíso, so we are excited to have a brief break from school to work with the ministry and the kids.

So that is what we have been up to lately.  Other than that we are doing well, and Riley is growing like a weed.  She is about seven and a half months old now.  She loves getting her hands on anything and everything that she can reach, and is trying her hardest to crawl which she hasn't quite mastered yet.  James and I are soaking up our last few days before she is totally mobile!




We hope everyone in the States is doing well, and recovering from the springtime pollen.  We don't miss that at all.  We do, however, miss you all very much and appreciate all of the prayers and support, as always.  If you would like to be a part of our ministry here in Guatemala, there are several ways you can get involved-

1. Pray- We need your prayers!  Pray that we can finish Spanish school as quick as possible.  Pray that God is preparing us completely (spiritually, mentally, and physically) to be parents to boys currently living on the streets of Guatemala City.  Pray for God's continued provision for our ministry and that we would act wisely with how He blesses us, using each blessing to its fullest potential.  Pray that we can be the best parents possible to Riley, and be receptive to her needs.

2. Serve- Do you think your church, school, or small group might be interested in serving with Engadi Ministries?  Engadi Ministries hosts vision trips which are short trips (3 or so days) for a small group of individuals (usually 3-5 people) to discover what we do here in Guatemala, how God has led our hearts to serve the people of Guatemala City, and how you can get involved here.  If you think your church, school, or small group would be interested, let us know, and we can get you more information on setting up a vision trip with Engadi Ministries.  For more information on the ministry, check out www.engadiminstries.org.

3. Give- We can't do what we do here without your support.  At the start of 2015, we lost several of our monthly donors.  If you forgot to renew your monthly gift or would like to set up a monthly or a one-time donation, you can do so at www.cten.org/jamescarr.  We appreciate the generosity of each gift we receive, and thank you for being a part of what we do here in Guatemala!  We can't thank you enough!

Time to wake Riley up from her nap, and take a walk to the market to do some grocery shopping before James gets out of school.  Thank you all again for all of your support! Until next time.


"Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil.  So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is."
Ephesians 5:15-17 (my favorite verse in high school :))

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Farsightedness

JamesandEllie
Recently, during our nightly devotion, God revealed to us that we were suffering with a chronic but curable condition I named “farsightedness.”  I cannot recall the topic of our devotion that night, but I do remember what was revealed to us.  While living in the states, Ellie and I went about our daily grind like most anyone else would, except we had lost our ability to use our full field of view.

Webster defines farsighted as, “able to see things that are far away more clearly than things that are near.”  Now, before proceeding any further, our physical eyesight has not been compromised lately, but we are referring to our spiritual eyesight and the sight of our hearts. While in Georgia, we ran to Walmart, doctor’s offices, gas stations, and rushed to be on time for work and other important appointments, meanwhile not really paying attention to who may be around us. It is easy to get focused on the task at hand in our busy lives and block out all the “non-essential" things around us in order to accomplish our to-do list for the day.  By living this way, we have closed ourselves off from opportunities for God to use us and we have closed other people off from opportunities to know our Lord and Savior.



Something that has helped us to better understand this truth is moving to Guatemala. Here, we have learned that this culture is more of a relational-based culture versus a task or money-driven culture. In Guatemala, it is very common to have deadlines that are not met, but on the other hand, walking down almost any street and having almost everyone greet you is just as common. This stresses the fact that people here, generally speaking, are more important than what may be on the calendar. If people are this important, then how could we continue to go throughout our days not really caring about or acknowledging those around us?

Looking back, I am saddened at the number of people whom I remember passing on a regular basis and  I could not even stop to learn their name. After learning of this truth and slowing down while running about, it is incredible to see the possibilities to share who God is with others. We write this not to condemn or judge, but to share truth from our lives and what we have learned while being here. We realize that there is a difference between the two cultures and that the streets can not become a big social club seven days week. But being deliberate to make time for a conversation or asking God for the courage to start a conversation with someone new is a start.  We are not trying to make everyone street evangelists, but taking the time to meet and learn the story of the Walmart greeter or post office clerk who you see every week is a good start.  First their name, then maybe their kids’ names, then maybe how you can pray for them.  We are not pros, but have learned that relationships with others in life are far more important than the things we were placing first.


Romans 13:8-10

   Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. For this, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Holy Week in Guatemala

JamesandEllie
Happy Spring, Everyone!  More importantly, Happy Easter!  The grave was unable to hold our Lord, and He is alive today!  Not only did He die an indescribably painful death as payment for your and my sins, but three days after His death, He rose from the grave!  What a great God we serve, and what a privilege it is to be His!  I can't help but be passionate about His love for us this weekend, it is such a great reason to celebrate!

And "celebrations" might be an understatement of what goes on here in Guatemala during Cuaresma (Lent) leading up to Semana Santa (Holy Week, including Easter weekend).  In fact, Antigua, Guatemala, the city in which we are currently living, boast of the second largest Holy Week celebration in the world, trailing only behind that of Seville, Spain.  The entire city is decorated in purple banners, while trees all across the city are in full bloom with beautiful violet flowers that seem to be perfectly timed to bloom this week.

Antigua's Central Park packed with people on Palm Sunday

The streets of the city are shut down while business owners and residents construct beautiful "alfombras" or carpets made of colored sawdust, pine needles, flowers, fruits, vegetables and baked goods across the cobblestone.  The colors are gorgeous and intense.The materials create a beautiful colored mosaic that mark the routes of extravagant processions that march through the streets.


Laying sawdust to make a carpet for the procession.

Families work together to create beautiful carpets of sawdust.

A finished carpet that took about seven hours to create awaiting the coming procession.

Unfortunately, amidst all the beauty it seems as though idolatry and all sorts of immorality are more celebrated than the purity and holiness that are key to easter.  You see, Semana Santa, or Easter Week is similar to Spring Break in the states, but on a grander scale.  Almost all business with the exceptions of food and entertainment shut down from Wednesday until Easter Sunday.  People from all over Central America and other parts of the world flock to Antigua to party and take part in Semana Santa.  It is like Spring Break at Panama City Beach, but on steroids, if you know what I mean.  Bars and sidewalks fill up as people wait for the processions to pass along their street.  It is a pickpocket's paradise as they weave through the crowds, some with razors to slice open the bottoms of book bags and remove the contents before the owner's realize what happened.  Crime escalates as people flock to the city.

Meanwhile, the processions take place daily.  Thousands of individuals pay money to the local Roman Catholic churches in order to be a part of the processions.  They are then assigned to solemnly march, carrying enormous floats that depict a scene from the Bible for a certain number of city blocks.  The floats are wooden and carried by usually 80-100 people and can weigh up to three tons.  This act said to absolve individuals of their sins from the past year.  The church keeps their money.


Men carrying a smaller float with Mary several weeks before Easter

The wooden floats are carried on the shoulders of partakers as a payment for sin.

Women carry separate floats, often with a depiction of Mary.

The absurdity of it all blows my mind and saddens me.  Amid all of the beauty, such paganism takes the forefront while Easter is pushed to the background.  For the Christian, what would be the most significant and celebrated holiday is turned into an opportunity to make a buck.  Vendors push their way to set up shop on the front steps, and even inside of churches and cathedrals.  I can't help but picture the story of Jesus overturning tables in the temple each time we pass a church flooded with those selling jewelry, souvenirs, and "holy" trinkets.


Vendors line the entrance of the main cathedral in Antigua to sell merchandise.

Food vendors outside of another major cathedral in Antigua.

Vendors selling toys, balloons, and snacks follow closely behind the end of each procession.

Mark 11:15-17
And they came to Jerusalem. And He entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold and those who bought in the temple, and He overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. And He would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. And He was teaching them and saying to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.”

I feel as if there are so many better ways to represent Jesus' life than a crushing weight on the shoulders of His followers. Somehow this image just doesn't sit well with me:



You see, I believe there is freedom in following Jesus.  Rather than placing burdens on us, we are now able to bring our burdens to the foot of the cross and leave them there.    Jesus has already paid for our sins through His death on the cross followed by His defeat of death three days later!  There is no need to carry them with us (for any number of city blocks) or pay to have them absolved.  The belief that there is any other way to rid one's self of sins simply belittles Christ's death on the cross.

Romans 8:1-4
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

I also do not want to write this article condemning the culture or art that surrounds me.  I realize that there are many ways to worship our God.  I also realize that there are similar distractions and idols from the culture I come from.  While one culture might party and parade images pushing the envelope of being idols through the streets, I have spent many past Easters eating marshmallow peeps, planning big meals, and worrying more about Easter eggs and the Easter bunny than worshipping Christ's resurrection.  Neither culture is wrong until Christ's death and resurrection are pushed to the background of the holiday celebrations.  We look forward to learning more about why people do the things they do here in Guatemala, and the reasoning behind ancient traditions.

This Easter, I pray that you will keep Christ's death and resurrection the highlight of your weekend, and in doing so that God's name would be glorified.

To Him be the Glory,
James, Ellie, and Riley

1 Peter 1:3-4
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to His great mercy, He has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, tan inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you..."


Wednesday, February 18, 2015

About Paradise

JamesandEllie
Community soccer field in Paradise neighborhood of Guatemala City, Guatemala
Last month, James and I had the opportunity to venture to Paradise together while a team from Texas was working with Engadi Ministries.  Usually James will go to Paradise while I stay at home to watch Riley (because of the dangerous area of the city, mixed with the uncleanliness of the environment there, we have been cautioned against, and chosen not to, bring Riley into Paradise until she is older).  It always seems difficult for me to put into words the emotions that accompany a trip to Paradise, but I owe it to those of you who have never been here, to try to paint a picture of this neighborhood and its people that have stolen our hearts in the slums of Guatemala City.

In order to understand a little bit about the children in Paradise, you must first understand the history of the neighborhood.  Until 1995, Guatemala was involved in a Civil War in which people from all over the nation migrated to Guatemala's capital, Guatemala City seeking shelter from the warfare that destroyed villages nationwide.  People flocked to the city with just the clothes on their backs in search of a place where they could begin a new life.  During the night, people would move in and construct shacks made of wood, tin, and other debris on empty areas of land in the city.  The communities that would often appear "overnight" are known as squatter communities.  Paradise is one of these squatter communities.


Part of the neighborhood of Paradise
Paradise, however, is unique in the area of the city in which it was built.  It stands today as one of the poorest squatter communities in the city, and was built on one of the cities landfills.  Shacks cascade down the valleys of the landfill which end in open streams of sewage at the bottom.  Trash can easily be seen erupting through the ground as you weave your way through the narrow alleys between homes.  There is little motivation to keep streets and alleyways clean when the streets and alleyways continually produce layer after layer of trash themselves.


Houses like the one pictured are built upon decades of trash.
Paradise is also unique in that it is located in one of the most dangerous zones (or district) of Guatemala City which is Zone 18.  Internationally known, "Barrio 18" is the gang that has taken this neighborhood to be their territory.  Murders, extortion, rape, theft, and vandalism occur daily in Paradise, and the majority of crimes go unsolved.  I have yet to meet a family in Paradise not affected by gang activity.  Families are desperate for justice and safety, but often left hopeless in their own brokenness and poverty.

As a rule, children are bound to grow up in a broken household.  Boys are likely to join gangs before they are teenagers in search of love and acceptance that they never received from their absent fathers.  Over half of these boys will die before their twenty-fourth birthday.  Girls are likely to have their first child before their sixteenth birthday, forcing them to drop out of school.  I'm certain that you can see now why the average family in Paradise is made up of one mother, six children (from several different men), and no father.  It is a toxic cycle.

I have only described to you the tip of the iceberg.  I can not even begin to touch on how the faults in the education system, government, and lack of healthcare further affect the lives of people there.  Perhaps I will little by little in future posts.  More importantly, however, is the solution.  Is there one?

I feel strongly that there is a solution, but it must be a holistic approach that addresses and meets each of these issues where they are.  We have joined Engadi Ministries Intl. because they seek to minister to the community as a whole, partnering with the local schools, churches, healthcare facilities, and families that make up Paradise, and strengthening them where they are.  More importantly, however, is the intensive focus that Engadi Ministries places on the boys growing up in Paradise.  Engadi seeks to mentor these boys to be true disciples of Christ, while giving them opportunities to live, study and grow apart from the influences of gangs and poverty in which they are surrounded.

Only with Godly men will the community of Paradise be able to turn itself around.  Children will be able to grow up in homes with BOTH loving parents teaching them right from wrong.  Godly men will demonstrate how to love their WIVES putting an end to rape and teenage pregnancies.  Women will have a Godly leader who they can respect, and who will LOVE them as Christ loves the church.  Gangs will decrease in size, strength and appeal as boys receive love and ACCEPTANCE from their fathers.

With help, Paradise can become a thriving community.  They don't need a handout, they need a STEP UP.  They don't need empty promises, they need GOD'S FULFILLING, REFRESHING AND LIVING WORD.  Most of all they need CHRIST'S ABOUNDING AND UNCONDITIONAL LOVE.


Fathers who are present in their children's lives are few and far between in Paradise
If you feel led to partner with us in this goal, you can click the link at the upper-right side of this page.  You can also partner by praying for us in these specific ways:
- Pray for us as we continue to acquire the language and learn the culture here.
- Pray for us as we continue to meet and build relationships with boys living in Paradise.
- Pray for us as we consider moving to a more secure location better suited for our needs.
- Pray for us as we continue learning how to parent Riley; that beyond cultural differences, we could parent her in a way that glorifies God.
- Pray for Engadi Ministries as it prepares to enter a whole new season of growth this year.

Thank you again for all of your love and support so far.  Please feel free to email us with any questions or updates in your life.  We can't tell you how much it means to stay connected to those we miss in the States.

Blessings,
James, Ellie, and Riley

Romans 15:13
"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope."

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Erupting Volcanoes and Crashing Waves

JamesandEllie
Hello Friends and Family,

The past few weeks have been quite interesting for us down here in Guatemala.  James and I have been continuing language studies five days a week at a nearby language school.  I attend school in the mornings while James watches Riley, and over our lunch break we swap so James can attend school in the afternoons.  Learning a language definitely seems to be a never-ending process, but at least speaking and finding patterns that aid in learning are coming easier to us.

Normal activity of Fuego (far left) that
can be seen from our church parking lot.
This past weekend, however, was quite an interesting one.  Saturday, we went to the local market and did our grocery shopping, which we usually do on the weekends.  When we got home, we noticed that it was quickly starting to get cloudy outside, which was odd for such a clear dry day here.  We didn't think much of it, however, until later when we received news that one of the volcanoes surrounding the town we live in had become unusually active.  The volcano, called "Fuego," can be seen venting smoke on most ordinary days, and occasionally produces tremors that can be felt in the city we live in.  Saturday, however, it decided to act a little more crazy than usual.

Fuego's activity last Saturday.
Photo credit
: https://twitter.com/juanflores18/status/564518503110438912/photo/1
 When we went outside to our roof to see what was going on, we found a hazy smokiness all around us.  The volcano which is usually visible from our rooftop could not be seen nor the hills and other volcanoes that surround us.  We could feel tiny bits of ash and rubble falling from the sky, and could hear it hitting the ground around us almost like snow.  We were not in any danger, but had to stay indoors as the ash irritated our throats to breathe, and we did not want Riley to breathe it in.  The city in which we live remained safe, but one pueblo much closer to Fuego had to evacuate about one hundred residents.  The main airport in Guatemala City was also reportedly shut down until the next day, when the ash could be removed from the runways and such.


The amount of ash that covered the windshield of our car
the first few hours after the volcanic activity.
We learned that the ash would probably fall over Antigua, where we live for the next several days, so Sunday, we decided to go for a drive to get out of our house and get some fresh air.  We decided to drive to the Pacific Coast which is about two hours from where we lived.  Due to the amount of volcanoes and volcanic activity in Guatemala, the beaches that make up Guatemala's Pacific Coast are largely black-sand beaches.  This was Riley's first trip to the beach, and James' first trip to the the Pacific, so it was a lot of fun.  Riley did not enjoy getting her feet wet one bit, but she loved watching the waves crash onto the beach.  When she gets older, we definitely look forward to making more trips to the coast.

Riley's first trip to the beach

Back in Antigua this week, the air is still dusty and smoky, as business owners continue to wash the sidewalks in front of "tiendas" and other businesses.  Cars are still covered in a thin layer of ash, but life is back to what we are coming to know is normal.  Through all these experiences, we are also learning about many local customs, and why things are the way they are here in Guatemala.  We still have a lot of learning to do.

We are still working towards getting our residencies (which is like a more permanent visa) as a family here in Guatemala, which is a slow, slow process, as are most things down here, comparatively speaking.  We are also preparing for the next team that will come down and work with Engadi next month.  We hope all is well back in the states.  We would love to hear from our family and friends via email (jandecarr@gmail.com) or Skype (jandecarr).  We like keeping in touch with you and what is going on in your lives.  Let us know if there's something we can be praying for you as well.

Until next time,
The Carrs

Brilliant unfiltered sunset over Monterrico's black-sand beach and the Pacific Ocean
"From the rising of the sun to the going down of the same, the Lord's name is to be praised!"
Psalm 133:3

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