Friday, December 16, 2016

Silence

James and Ellie Carr
Within the past two weeks, James and I have had a life-changing experience we want to share with you.  It has changed our perspective on our work, on Guatemala, and on orphan care as a whole.

Here in Guatemala, there hundreds of orphanages or children's homes, most of which are private, including Fundaniños where we live and work.  A small handful, however, are owned and operated by the Guatemalan government.  One such is located about half a mile away from us.  Recently but on separate occasions, James and I both visited the home where we were both astounded by what we found.  I write to you regarding the occasion on which I visited, although James' visit was no different.  First, however, let me paint for you a picture of Fundaniños, the orphanage or children's home that we call home.
Fundaniños Children's Home
When you pull up the bumpy, winding dirt road to Fundaniños, you may notice the tall cement, walls surrounding the property (which are normal property barriers here in Guatemala), but chances are, the first thing to grab your attention is the large grassy hill leading up to a playground and several brightly colored buildings.  If you look long enough, you may note the onsite school at the bottom of the property or the small enclosure of farm animals that the children take pride in raising on the other side of the property.  It's nothing extravagant, but it more than meets the needs of the kids and staff who live here.
Whiffle ball tournament in the afternoon
As you pull up to enter the property, you see a tall black gate, more than likely unlocked, and easily slid open to access the property.  Entering, you will see a large grassy soccer field that was blocked from sight by the tall walls earlier.   There will probably be kids running and playing on the soccer field in the afternoon, but if not, just turn your gaze to the playground atop the hill, and there they will most definitely be.  As you enter the property you will here squeals, giggles, and shouts, not directed towards you, but noticeable nonetheless as the children play.  You may note the rhythmic thumping of bass if the girls are dancing along to Zumba videos in the dining hall, their current favorite work out.  You will see the bustling of several employees, as well as a few caretakers sitting on the lawn looking after the children who they oversee.
Girls making mud pies and brownies in their kitchen
What you will see is life.  You will hear joy.  You will feel happiness.  That's just how Fundaniños is.  Back to our recent visit to the "macro institution" for children down the road from us-

Last week, we received a donation of vegetables from a local farm- snow peas, brussel sprouts, and wax beans to be exact.  The donation was tremendous and more than the children and staff could (or were willing to) eat before it went bad.  James made the call to send our staff home with as many of the vegetables as their families could eat, feed our animals that night with some of the leftovers, and with what remained we would donate to the government-run children's home- a lavish improvement to the small portions of rice and beans rumored to be the day-to-day staples.

I accompanied that afternoon as we drove over to drop off the donation.  We took several teenage girls to witness what "the other" home was like.  We pulled up to their gate, and the driver, another missionary, got out of the van.  A guard with a gun on each hip came out to greet him.  He looked at van of children and vegetables suspiciously.  He agreed to allow the donation of vegetables into the home, but the adolescents would have to wait outside on the side of the road while the van made the drop off- presumably so they wouldn't get mixed in (or be left) to the enormous number of children already inhabiting the home.  The girls and a chaperone exited the van, and we entered the home.

Several gray block houses were immediately visible, bars covering what windows they had.  An armed guard in uniform with a rifle stood atop one of the homes.  I knew he wasn't there wasn't to prevent people from coming in.  The van was backed to the kitchen where a cook came out to receive our donation.  We got out of the van to unload and all looked around.  We were greeted by complete and utter silence.  It was eerie and death-like.  There were no laughs, squeals, or giggles.  In fact there was no trace of any children on the property.

As we waited for the cooks to empty the baskets of veggies and return them to us, we were accompanied by one of the staff.

"How many houses do you have onsite here?" we questioned the cook to break the silence while we waited.

"We have four homes, divided by gender and age," he said going on to explain how the kids were divided.

"How many kids do you have room for?" we asked.

"400," he replied smiling sheepishly.

"How many do you actually have?"

"Currently," he answered, "we have about 790."

As we chatted, a rat scurried up about three feet from us scavenging for food scraps we may have dropped.  Moments later, our baskets were returned, we were thanked, and escorted out of large gates.

This year nearly 50 children have "escaped" from the home.  In October alone, 31 went missing one night.  The majority were girls between the ages of fourteen and sixteen.  It is believed they were sold into trafficking.  James and I both left there with a feeling of hopelessness.  The contrast between the sterility of the government home and the care and life at Fundaniños was palpable.  The fact is that we can't help everyone.
I only write this to make you aware of the vast needs here in Guatemala in the orphan care industry.  Yes, Fundaniños is a wonderful home, but still nowhere near the childhood that we dream of for our own kids.  The needs here are great.  The help is little.  Guatemala is facing a crisis with the number of orphaned, abused, and neglected children in the system.  Our family can't rescue them all, but with your help, we can continue making a difference in the lives of those whom we work with.  We will continue our work here as long as God calls us to do so, and you can be a part.  We need your prayers and support to continue our work here.  If you can help, we would appreciate your donation no matter the amount.  We thank you again for allowing us to be a part of orphan care here in Guatemala.

Until next time,
James + Ellie

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Burning of the Devil Celebration

James and Ellie Carr
Last night, James and I experienced our first "Quema del Diablo" or "Burning of the Devil" here in Guatemala.  The somewhat controversial celebration is one that we don't condone as Christians, but was interesting to be a part of, and I wanted to share a little more about the commemoration of the day with you, and why we observed it at Fundaniños Children's Home this year.
The devil shaped piñatas waiting to adorn the Fundaniños burn pile

History

Traditionally in Guatemala, December 7 is a day when people purify their households from the sin of the previous year in preparation for a new year and the celebration of the coming of Christ at Christmas.  The tradition is suspected to have started in colonial times on the day before the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.  As years passed, people grew the tradition believing that the devil was constantly lurking and living behind furniture and in dark corners of their homes.  To cleanse their homes, people would bring out any sort of trash, household items in disrepair, and even clean out their refrigerators of old food.  They would then burn off all of the items signifying a total cleansing of their households.

Today's Celebrations

La "Quema del Diablo" is now celebrated nationwide with heaps of trash and other flammable objects lit promptly at 6:00 pm on December 7 creating millions of buying trash piles nation wide.  It was so fascinating to see small fires all burning at exactly 6:00 across the rural mountains facing Fundaniños yesterday evening.  During the weeks leading up to the occasion, you will see Piñatas in the form of small red devils, about three feet tall, lining the highways and roads in Guatemala, as they are sold to passing by cars for any where from $2-$7.  Often the devils will also take the form of controversial or loathed public figures, and added to the scene this year was none other than small cartoon shaped Donald Trump piñatas.  The figures come stuffed with Black Cat firecrackers and other explosives and are perched at the top of each household's burn pile.  In some cities, devils and mannequins of disdained political figures are constructed, in some cases up to three stories tall, and the town or pueblo will gather to burn the figure hoping for a change in the coming year.
The fire moments after being doused in gasoline and lit

A Learning Opportunity

As the head of spiritual growth at Fundaniños, James took the opportunity to teach the kids about how our sins are really forgiven by a loving God, and how the celebration itself cannot cleanse us of our own sin nor temptations and demons that we face.  He took time yesterday to talk to each of the houses onsite and explain to the kids the historical and pagan beliefs behind the event as well as the cultural significance.  As it is a tradition here at Fundaniños, and we are cultural outsiders, it was not something that we wanted to come in a strong-arm and demand that the celebrations cease.  Instead we used it as a time to teach the kids about their nation, heritage, and God's truth regarding the issue. Several kids and caregivers opted not to participate in the occasion, and we gave them the liberty to do so and have free time instead.  Several others took it as an opportunity to write down sin in their lives that they wanted to take the initiative to get rid of and place it at the base of the fire symbolically to mark yesterday as a day in which they wanted to move forward in the Lord and let go of sins and burdens holding them back.  We made it clear that the ritual of the fire would not do so for them, but they would have to make an effort and a choice to put that sin behind them in their lives.
Riley with her first sparkler
After the initial burn pile had finished detonating, the children were provided with hours' worth of sparklers and small fireworks to play with.  I mean, forty-something children playing with smoke bombs and firecrackers, what could possibly have gone wrong?? We are learning how to do Guatemalan-sized celebrations here, and celebrations in Guatemala are neither reserved nor ordinary!  The night closed with a huge fireworks show donated by the founder of Fundaniños, that captivated not only the Funda kids, but also all of our neighbors in the valley.
Overall, we had a superb time learning and experiencing new traditions yesterday.  We would love to hear below what you truly think about the celebrations, and any doubts or questions you have for us as well!

In Him,
James + Ellie

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The Part of Mission Work I Hate

James and Ellie Carr
Fundaniños Guatemala- home to 40-60 orphaned, abused, and neglected children.
I want to start this off by saying that there is one part of mission work that I hate.  I can't stand it.  Those who follow our family may recognize that we avoid the topic as much as we can.  I'm not sure if it's because of how I was raised, but conversations about it just make me uneasy.  Maybe it's my stubborn nature and my innate desire to be self-sufficient and not rely on the help of others.  For many people this type of uneasiness is found in the discussion of politics or even in the duty to share their faith.  For me, it's in the conversation of asking for your help.

I love sharing my faith where we live and serve in Guatemala.  I love questions about it.  They fuel me.  James and I are completely convinced that we have the best job that the mission field has to offer as Subdirectors here at Fundaniños Guatemala.  It is soul-scrubbing, sanctifying, sometimes heartbreaking, but fulfilling to serve the kids and caregivers living at Fundaniños.  We live among them.  We think we are teaching them, but learn so much in the process (see my last Thanksgiving post).  The orphans here have become part of our family.  Just yesterday morning, I walked into our cabin from the directors meeting to find one of the girls here snuggled with Riley on the couch watching cartoons, and another washing our dishes without any prompting.  They are like daughters to us.  It is a privilege to work with them day in and day out.

"I want to give thanks for the people who donate so that
we have everything and don't lack anything."
- "S" 11-year-old girl at Fundaniños
That being said, those of you back at home who support us, have no less of an impact on the kids here.  Without you sending us, we would be unable to work with these orphans in Guatemala.  Without you, we would be unable to love on them day after day.  Without you, we would be unable to give the directors of Fundaniños time to visit their family in the States this Christmas- something they haven't been able to do in years.  Without you, we would be unable to share our lives, our faith, and our training with the direct caregivers in the homes at Fundaniños and encourage them to continue working as the backbone of Fundaniños.  Through your support, you help so much more than just our family; you allow us to reach out to the kids, caregivers, and directors surrounding us in Guatemala.

Thank you.  I know it sounds cliché, but we could not do it without you.  Let that sink in.  Without you, we would not be here.


James serving Thanksgiving dinner
with Director, Barb Freed
This Giving Tuesday, I want to be really honest with you.  Our family needs about $2,000 per month to live off of and effectively do ministry here in Guatemala.  Yes, the cost of living is cheaper in some aspects here in Guatemala, but in other areas it is much more expensive.  As citizens of the U.S. we are still bound by many U.S. regulations as well.  We must have health insurance.  We must pay taxes on your donations (the catch is that Riley doesn't count as a dependent down here- go figure that!)  Although we don't drive much, gas is more expensive here.  I would be happy to share a copy of our monthly budget with those who are curious, but for the sake of those who aren't "numbers people," just know that $2,000 is the magic number this year for our family of three (soon-to-be four).

Can I get even more honest for a minute?  We only hit our mark of $2,000 about 50% of the time.  We are not salaried by any organization that we work for, but rather have been sent by friends, families, and believers in the States.  We moved to Guatemala with the faith that God would provide and the wisdom and planning from other missionaries, sending agencies, and churches.  We need your help in 2017.  We want to continue ministry here for years to come, but we cannot do it without you.  Would you pray about or consider partnering with us monthly in 2017 to work in Fundaniños children's home here in Guatemala?  The amount you decide to give is between you and God, but no amount is insignificant to us.  Would you consider this Giving Tuesday as a day to pledge to make a difference in the lives of the orphans and other children here by allowing us to continue serving them?  We cannot tell you how grateful we would be.

So there it is.  The tough conversation of 2016 for me.  I apologize to those who are as uncomfortable as I am talking about giving money.  I thank those who are considering supporting our family, or who have already given so that we can be here.  I understand those who are not in a position to give right now or who are supporting another missionary or organization- praise God that there are so many great ways to give!  Thank you for taking the time to read and for your consideration.  We love you all.  To God be the glory always, and may we continue working to serve Him and make His great name known.

~ The Carr Family
Ellie, Riley, and James Carr, October 2016
If you would like to make a one-time donation towards the work that we do in Guatemala, or are considering a monthly partnership with our ministry, click here.

James 1: 22, 27
"But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.  Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world."

Friday, November 25, 2016

Thankful

James and Ellie Carr
November 2016, especially Thanksgiving, has taught me so much.

On November 3, James, Riley, and I touched back down in Guatemala City after a time of furlough in  the States in October.  I think this has been one of our hardest departures from the States yet.  With all the comforts of "home," sights and smells of fall, the warmth of family constantly surrounding us, and no return trip to the States in sight, coming back was just hard.  The contrast of life in the States and life in Guatemala was exaggerated.  One thing was certain, however, our work was not done yet in Guatemala.
James leading a game of whiffle ball over Christmas break

Our first week and a half was spent getting over an outbreak of hand, foot, & mouth disease that struck all of the toddlers and most of the kids under 10 here at Fundaniños.  Up until last week, there were still kids complaining of symptoms.  Riley was a trooper though, and didn't let the open sores on all of her extremities and in her mouth slow her down at all.  I, on the other hand, thought it was the worst disease know to man, and wondered why I couldn't spend the week in bed.Apparently it is rare for adults to get the disease, but I drew the short stick and was the only one here at Funda to get it.  It was miserable, but we managed to survive.


A week and a half after arriving, was Orphan Sunday- a day promoted by Christians to raise awareness of issues such as adoption, foster care, and the needs of orphanages and orphans worldwide.  I had heard of Orphan Sunday in the past.  I applauded the short films shown in church in previous years and looked up to those who made decisions to help orphans, but his year it meant more to me.  I was secretly in anticipation to see how the day would unfold here at Fundaniños, waiting for something magical to happen- a team of missionaries to come visit form the U.S., gifts to arrive for the kids, or better yet, a phone call that one of the kids here had a prospective family.  Nothing of that sort happened however.  It was a Sunday like any other here, without so much as a single visitor other than the regular staff onsite that day.  My heart sank a little.  Why did I get my hopes up?

The next weekend was marked by National Adoption Day.  I knew better than to get my hopes up on that day for anything out of the ordinary to happen.  Adoptions just don't seem to happen here in Guatemala.  They just don't.  But my mind still wandered.  What if all of the kids here who are "adoptable" found loving homes?  Why is that so out of the question?  They deserve it so badly, but in the end I was left with no more of a conclusion than this-

The childhood reality of the kids here is the reality of Orphan Sunday rather than the hope of National Adoption Day.

The majority of them will live their their childhood without parents, a nuclear family, and a home.  It may be a bleak outlook, but it is unrealistic to think that any of the eligible children here will be adopted into families before they age out of the system at eighteen years old.

Thanksgiving dinner at Fundaniños

Thanksgiving dinner at Fundaniños
Then Thanksgiving came.  In the week leading up to Thanksgiving, James was intentional about teaching the children about gratefulness.  He spent time before meals discussing with the kids why we thank God for our food each day, and even had some of the older girls create a chart where kids could share what they were truly thankful for.  I imagined it would take a good bit of prodding to get some of the chart filled in, but I was wrong.  Before Thanksgiving even arrived, the chart was completely full!  Each space was filled by the kids and staff, who from any outsider's perspective, have so little, but they were so grateful.  I was astounded and a bit convicted.

The completed chart of what the kids are thankful for
While I had seemed to lose hope of these kids having a future that I felt like they deserved, they were busy leaning to be thankful for what they did have.  My declining attitude had sank passing the improving attitudes of the kids on its way down.  How could those with so little have such better perspectives than me?  It was a sobering thought, one that I am still processing.  My attitude could use a change, not because of how much I have or to set a precedent for anyone else, but because I have been created to love God and am unconditionally loved by Him.  I was created to sing His praises, not lose hope and complain.  It is His will for me and life is always more fulfilling and worthwhile when we are in His will.
"Thank you [God] for my friends and the family
that I have at Fundaniños."
I thank Him for the chance to grow, change, and serve, and for the opportunity to learn each and everyday from the kids we work with.

~Ellie

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Changing Gears

James and Ellie Carr
After being on the mission field for about a year, James and I began feeling as if we could be doing more than we currently are.  We had been doing a lot of good and helpful things, but felt as if we had yet to fully dive into what the Bible says that we should be doing.  After many months of prayer, times of just listening for God's voice, and scouring scripture for answers, James and I came to the same conclusion.
As our Heavenly Father, God's love for
us is merciful and unending.  He even
created us in His own image!
We are still here to make disciples and share the Gospel with others- that is a non-negotiable command for all Christians no matter where they live or what they do for a living.  While reading the scriptures, however, we kept coming back to this theme of love God has for orphans and widows. God is referred to throughout scripture as both our Father and the Bridegroom of the Church.  Both titles are distinct examples of His unfailing and unconditional love for us.  Throughout the entire Bible we see this love especially exemplified in the form of God being a "Father of the fatherless and protector of widows."  This beautiful correlation is one that I continue marveling at.
As the Bridegroom, God loves us
unconditionally and for who we are,
not what we've done!
There are also various commands throughout the Bible to love, care for, and defend orphans (James 1:27, Exodus 22:22, Isaiah 1:17, and more).  God promises to be a Father to the Fatherless, but how can orphans experience His love and comfort unless they know Him personally?  While Romans 10:5-17 specifically refers to the message of salvation, I feel that verse 14 could also be fitting in this context, "How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?"

Orphans obviously have very unique needs.  They lack parents to love, defend, teach, disciple, and even care for their basic physical needs.  Not only that, but in Guatemala, where we live, UNICEF has recently estimated that there are over 370,000 orphans.  To compare, the state of Georgia, which is significantly larger than Guatemala, has less than 2,000 orphans total (according to a basic Google search).  To make matters worse, not quite ten years ago, Guatemala closed all international adoptions due to corruption causing the system to back up even worse than it had been.  So the need facing us is great, and it is right where we are.

For these reasons and more, we feel extremely certain of God's calling in our lives to work with orphans.  With guidance and direction, we took the position of sub directors at a children's home in Guatemala called Fundaniños.  The home provides Christian care to between 40 and 60 abused, neglected, and orphaned children just outside of Guatemala City.  As sub directors at Fundaniños, our family will live onsite and James and have the resources and ability to fully care for children and lead them to know and experience the love that our Father wants to lavish on them as His sons and daughters.
Part of the Fundaniños property.

Will you pray for our family as we take on this new position?
- that the move itself would be smooth and easy
- that we are able to form new strong relationships with the staff and children in the orphanage
- that God would equip us to spiritually lead the children and staff there
- that Riley adapts to yet another move and huge change for our family
- that our family continues to serve God and seek Him first in our new position

We thank you so much for supporting our family and lifting us up during this next transition and next phase of service as we seek to make God's great name known and show His love to others through doing so.  We also want to stay in contact with our family back at home, so keep in touch through the Contact Us link above, and let us know what is going on in your life and how we can be praying for you specifically!

Much love,
James+Ellie


"See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are."

1 John 3:1a

Home

James and Ellie Carr
Today we find ourselves packing to move yet again.  It is a chilly rainy Saturday just outside of Guatemala City as we empty out our closet drawers into suitcases and once again try to put all of our belongings into boxes while somehow keeping them organized.  Moving isn't a new thing to me, yet it is not the norm that I had hoped for my life.  Throughout my entire childhood, my family only moved one time, and I believe the same is true of James' family as well.  Once I reached college however, the concept of home became a more foreign concept.

With this being my fourteenth move in eight years, I'm beginning to feel that we have become some sort of nomads or wanderers.  Although I want to see it as though James and I have been very flexible and are constantly seeking and ready to follow God where He calls, this move has also been more difficult on me emotionally than others.

I find myself longing for a home.  I see Riley growing up faster than I could have imagined and I think back on my own childhood.  I always had a home growing up- a physical address that I knew, but more than that, it was a feeling of safety, warmth and relaxedness that accompanied the physical house.  I long to provide that to Riley.  I long to have a place where our family can grow and have those same feelings of warmth.  I wonder what Riley will call home as she grows up.




Questions like, "Where do you call home?" and "Where are you from?" are beginning to become more complicated than I expected, and know one day Riley will also be a little confused trying to answer questions that should be so simple.  Yet I cling to the hope delivered in God's word-



"Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds!
 Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? 
Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?
 “Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 
If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith! 
 And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. 
 For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. 
 But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well. 
 “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. 
 Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. 

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."
Luke 12:24-34
The house that will be our family's home at Fundaniños
I see the children we are going to be working with at the children's home and am grateful, however, that God has given our family a house to live in and love to bring us together.  That is more than most of those children have.  I also see and am part of a tight community of missionaries in similar circumstances as our own family.  I know that they face the same struggles we do and rest their hope on similar truths.  I know what God has provided our family with is more than what we need, and in His abundance we find comfort for today, hope for the future, and joy as a family.  We praise Him for meeting our needs on a daily basis, and the abundance of love He has put in our household.  We know that our treasure is in heaven and strive daily to give our hearts over to the Lord to bring glory to his name.  We find hope again in God's unchanging promises-

"But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself."
Philippians 3:20-21


Will you pray for our family as we transition this week to Fundaniños?

- that the move itself would be smooth and easy
- that we are able to form new strong relationships with the staff and children in the orphanage
- that God would equip us to spiritually lead the children and staff there
- that Riley adapts to yet another move and huge change for our family
- that our family continues to serve God and seek Him first in our new position

We thank you so much for supporting our family and lifting us up during this next transition and next phase of service as we seek to make God's great name known and show His love to others through doing so.

Much love,
James+Ellie

Addendum- These are completely my thoughts & feelings and things I am still processing throughout our journey.  It may seem as though I can easily throw a Bible verse out there and decide to base my hope, emotions, and even my mood on it, but rarely is that the case.  I spent the evening after writing this exhausted and in tears (as well as the next evening after that) longing for a stable home like so many friends back home have.  I can say with certainty though, that God has a purpose in drawing our family to Guatemala.  We can't always see why, or where His path leads, but we know that He does not make mistakes.  We fight to pick up our cross and seek after Him daily, and are spurred on by the encouragement and support of His church.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Who Is My Neighbor?

James and Ellie Carr
Last week, a young woman that I was fairly well acquainted with gave birth to her third daughter.  I had worked with her on several occasions in the past, and she also occasionally attended the church that James and I attend.  Although rumors were swirling about this young lady's past behavior, and she was currently unwed and pregnant with her third child, I still felt burdened to love her.  

Just two weeks earlier I had attended her baby shower to celebrate the new life soon to make her appearance here.  It was a joyous time of fun and games, but at the same time I was questioning whether I should even be there.  You see, I had been challenged several times in the days prior by people asking, "Are you not promoting this young woman's promiscuous behavior by attending her baby shower and celebrating her pregnancy?"  I was burdened and lost.  I felt the need to help and celebrate this tiny new life, but definitely did not agree with her past (and possible current) decisions.

Sweet baby Cristel and her two older sisters
I went to the shower, sat quietly on the edge of the room, and showed my support through quiet smiles and short exchanges with the mother when opportunities arose.  Less than two weeks later, the baby was delivered early due to a medical emergency.  Having little to no prenatal care, the baby was born at only a little over five pounds, but miraculously was healthy.  Still feeling burdened to help, I visited the new mom and three young daughters to provide encouragement (and food).

Still praising God for the life and health of tiny baby Cristel 
Without the approval of several fellow Christians, I ventured to the small rural area where I found her living in a small two room house made of scrap metal lacking even a front door.  While the young mother still could not walk long distances, she ventured out of her house to the main road to help me carry groceries.  She was proud that she was able to live alone and take care of both of her daughters, and invited me to eat with her.  I could not have felt more welcome.

After experiencing all of this, I knew I was doing the right thing.  As Christians, we are commanded to love our neighbor.  It isn't a choice.  We aren't commanded to love those who make good decisions, or do things that we agree with.  We are commanded to love our neighbor.  That could be anyone.  It is so easy and natural to love people who are like us, and who do things that we agree with, but we can't stop there.  We have got to do more.

But what about-

- the pregnant teen who has been rebelling against her parents for the last several years in spite of her upbringing in church?

- the father who left his wife and children to pursue his own desires?

- the young professional participating in homosexual behavior?

- the alcoholic who has ruined what seems like every relationship around him?

In the parable of the good samaritan, Jesus tells the story of a man who is robbed and left for dead on the side of the road.  While religious officials (let's picture modern-day Christians) refused to care for the man, a Samaritan (let's picture someone non-religious, or even someone who practices idolatry) actually stopped to help the man and went to great lengths to restore him to good health.  Jesus says we are to "go and do likewise."


We are to love.

Not knowing someone's background.

Even if we don't agree with their current choices.

Is that not what Christ did for us?  Who are we, as sinners ourselves, to deny this kind of love from anyone else?  I'm not saying it's easy to love people who are different from me.  I struggle with it every day.  But it isn't a choice for me.  My Father has commanded me to do so, and I am a hypocrite to do anything but that.

-Ellie

"In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another."
1 John 4:10-11

**These are just my own thoughts and conclusions over the past several weeks, and I am still working through what loving my neighbor looks like in my life.  I would love to hear your own input and stories regarding the subject.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Burdened

James and Ellie Carr
Hello again, everyone. Ellie has given me (James) permission to write another post for our blog. We all know that she is a much better writer than I, and I promise she will be back again next time. I currently have this huge burden on my heart that I would like to share with all of you. I would say this burden started sometime ago but did not really come to a head until about 2 weeks ago, after I attended a conference here in Guatemala. The conference topic was “Reaching the World in Such a Time As This.” Naturally, as many of you may have guessed, this conference was about missions and spreading the knowledge of God’s perfect promise to those who do not yet know Him. One evening, after listening to our guest speaker, I was confronted with numerous questions about spreading the good news. Questions like… “Where is the mission field? Are there really people in the world who have not heard of Jesus, God, or the Holy Spirit? And if so, how can that be in such a time as this? What type of a person does God use to spread the good news?”

These questions, along with many others begged for answers that I did not quite know yet.  After attending the rest of the conference, and spending some time reading my Bible and praying, I believe I have found some answers, and I would like to share them with you.

I want to start by letting each of you know this is not an attempt to single anyone out, nor to put myself higher than another. I just want to share with you- our supporters, family, and friends- what has been burning inside me for some time. My other desire is that reading this will encourage you to do something. So please stick with me, and remember, I am here for any of your questions or feedback concerning what I am about to say. I truly mean all of this in love because I want to see the very best for you here and for eternity. 

This conference was comprised of interdenominational Christians from all over Guatemala and the U.S.  So, in trying to maintain the authenticity, I am primarily writing to those of you whom associate with Christianity. We read the Bible and take it as God's inspired word, and the Bible tells us that we are all charged with the responsibility and the opportunity as stated in Matthew 28:19, “Therefore go forth and make disciples of all nations…”

James and several of the boys he disciples in the Derek Program

For starters, I feel it is safe to say that God is the basis for everything. He is the Creator of all, the Father, and the One who is everywhere, all the time. Knowing this, all of the answers that I am sharing with you are based on Him and your personal relationship with Him. What I am trying to  say is if you are a Christian, and do not have a growing relationship with Him, then chances are your relationship is dying. How long can a relationship flourish without communication or the investment of time? So I encourage you to get back into a pursuit of Him if you have cooled off in your pursuit or to continue and not give up in chasing Him.

Now that we have the basis covered, let’s take a look at the questions that have been with me for a while. The first one is, “Where is the mission field?” Is it in Guatemala? America? Asia? The answer is yes, yes, and yes. The mission field is everywhere anyone can use the gift of Jesus Christ but has not yet accepted it. This might be your neighbor, family member, or even the young boy who is growing up in the streets in a town in Africa. The next question is, “Are there really people in the world who have not heard of Jesus?” This answer is “yes.”  There are approximately 2 billion people in this world who have no idea that there is a Jesus to believe in and there are many more who don't know enough about His gift to us or how to accept it. The other half of this question is, “How so in such a time as this?” The answer is because no one has attempted or successfully brought the good news to these people.

The last question that I would like to address is “What type of  person does God use to spread the good news?”  Answering this question is a little more complicated, but in short, the answer is “YOU.”  As stated before, every believer is responsible for spreading the news of who our Savior is. We all have a part to play in this. I’d like to dig a little deeper for those who may feel that their past may in disqualify them from this responsibility. By reading the Bible we find how God used ordinary men to become His disciples, and He did not stop there; we can also find how He used a murderer, a thief, a prostitute, and many more imperfect people for His glory.

This being said, I don't feel that everyone needs to pack up and move away to some foreign nation or quit their job and spend all day walking around the mall looking for people who don't know about the precious gift that has been offered to all.  This is where the basics of your personal relationship with your Lord and Savior come back into play. If you are close to Him and know His voice, He will guide you. As a side note, while Ellie and I were preparing to move to Guatemala we heard many stories about how people “could not do what we are doing,” or how they “could not leave because of [fill in the blank].”  Then, when I would ask a few of those people to explain why they felt that way, I could see the discomfort start to build up within them. Many times, after speaking to people who had gotten uncomfortable, I would wonder if the discomfort was possibly a feeling of denying the small but still voice that was saying, “Go.”  Action may not necessarily mean being the feet on the ground, or fighting on the front line, but action may be making it possible to assist the ones who do. This could mean deliberately and prayerfully supporting, in any way possible, including financially, those who are going into, or are already in, the field serving.  Some may go, and others may be "senders."

Romans 10:14-15 says, "How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed?  And how are they to believe in him of whom they have not heard?  And how are they to hear without someone preaching?  And how are they to preach unless they are sent?  As it is written, 'How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!'"



I realize that many of you are already serving or supporting missions. We want to you to know that by doing so you are encouraging us and other missionaries, and we are grateful for your example and obedience. We all, including Ellie and I, have this responsibility to be available and to be in the best location to serve our God, and the only way we can ever figure out where that might be is by turning to Him and asking. If you made it this far, thank you for staying with me. I love each one of you and I want the best for you now and for eternity, and that can only be achieved through obedience in Christ.  I hope that this will provoke you to consider your involvement, or perhaps your complacency, in fulfilling God's commandment to share the Gospel.

Thank you for allowing me to share this burden with you.  Please, feel free to contact us with your comments - good or bad - or questions. Ellie will be back next time, so please, check back soon. 

We sincerely thank you for the love and support each of you bring to our lives and to our work here in Guatemala.

-The Carrs

Photo Credit- Blume Photography


Isaiah 6:8
"And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?"  Then I said, "Here I am!  Send me."

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Happy New Year! (...A Little Late)

James and Ellie Carr
Hello Friends and Family!

Much has happened with our family since last October to update you on.  I will try to hit some of the highlights so as not to leave you with a novel to read.  I wrote a post yesterday that seemed to be a bit of a downer, but if you want to read some of my unedited feelings, they are in the previous post.  At least you've been warned.

Some of the biggest news that our family has from the past three months is that in November we moved out of Antigua, Guatemala, where our Spanish school was located, and into the Benaiah House, a home acquired by Engadi to become its first boys home.  We were grateful to find out that the home would be semi-furnished when we moved in, so that left very little for us to have to buy.  Praise God!  We spent a lot of November fixing up the house and making necessary changes to allow boys to move in.  Right now, with just our family there, it still seems very empty and is more than we need, but it is a wonderful design for a boys home, and we will need all the space we can get when they move in soon.

As of right now, it looks as though it will only be a couple more weeks until we open our doors to three boys from Paraíso.  We are so excited to be this close to what we feel God has called us to be doing, and at the same time we are also intimidated that in only a couple of weeks the number of mouths to cook for and bodies to clean up after will double.  Of course we have concerns with more than their physical well-being, as well.  Thankfully, another thing that we have had the privilege of being a part of was attending a class provided by Lifeline Children's Services called (Un)Adopted.  The course is geared toward preparing and equipping children's homes/orphanages to care for vulnerable children and children from troubled backgrounds.  The course was tremendously informative, and we hope to utilize many of the resources we learned in the coming weeks and years.

Over the past weeks, James has continued working with and building relationships with the boys in Paraíso.  It is great to see how much they look up to him and seek to have his approval in what they do.  As I've said before, the vast majority of them have no father-figure in their lives, and to see how they look up to and trust James is really rewarding.  This week, James is scheduled to help finish up the process of getting Juanes, one of the boys in Engadi's Derek Program, his birth certificate.  It will allow him to get a well paying job, start/finish school, and get married one day.  He is a teenager now, yet has never been to school and can't read or write due to not getting a birth certificate when he was born.  Through the process (and it has been quite a process) of getting Juanes' birth certificate, he and James have really bonded, and it's been really cool to hear about his ups and downs through the time spent together. We are really hoping that all goes well this week, and we can wrap up this birth certificate task.  Juanes has a bright future ahead of him.

So those are just a few of the highlights of the past few months.  We are anticipating having boys move into Engadi's Benaiah House soon, but must take care of a few details such as having internet hooked up first for their schooling.  We will keep you updated on the progress, as the date grows nearer to having boys join our family.  Thank you all for praying for us and supporting us through the ups and downs of ministry life.  It has really been an adventure, and we look forward to experiencing this next part together with you.

Riley with some of the boys of Engadi's Derek Program

Much love from Guatemala,
James, Ellie and Riley

Other things we have been involved with in the past few months include (but are not limited to)-
- Helping lead four week-long teams from the States who were working with Engadi (Oct, Nov, Dec, and Jan)
- Attending the week-long Synergy Leadership Summit in Guatemala City (Nov)
- Assisting moving the Engadi Ministries main office to the Benaiah Home (Dec)
- Took our first trip back to the States over Christmas/New Years (Dec, Jan)
- Supporting the enhancement of Engadi's social networking and outreach
- Creating meal schedules for feeding a larger family, and learning how to cook for larger numbers (Jan/Feb)
- Learned where/how to shop in bulk in anticipation for feeding larger numbers at one of Guatemala City's largest open-air markets (Feb)

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