As I go through the steps to prepare for our first mission trip to Sumpango, Guatemala, the absolute laundry list of details that must be conquered have had a way of stealing all my attentions and intentions. I find myself begging for God to not only give me the strength I need to conquer The List, but also to help shift my focus to Him. It is all too easy to be consumed with the nitty gritty of deadlines, packing lists, forms, and the dreaded fundraising. It is helpful to think about the destination and the work that will be done there so that I can keep my ‘eye on the prize’ and focus my prayers and intentions on His plan. Read further so that you might be more informed about Next Step Ministries, the town of Sumpango, and the work we will be doing there. Be sure to watch for my next blog entry where our team will take a more personal look at why we are venturing out in His name!
What is Next Step Ministries? Next Step Ministries is a Christ-centered, nonprofit mission organization with the goal of doing missions differently. Their passions include the experience students can have on a mission trip—serving others while encountering a living God who offers freedom and grace, thriving communities—developing from within and restoring dignity.
They lead thousands of students on one-week missions trips that connect them with sustainable community-led initiatives that they support on a year-round basis. After reading ‘When Helping Hurts’ in 2012, they were tempted to throw short-term mission trips out the window. But through a process of learning they were inspired to create a space where the beauty and power of short-term trips can connect to real sustainable community development, that when done right, can provide an incredible God-sized experience for both students and communities alike.
Where are we going? Sumpango, Guatemala is located about an hour from Guatemala City. Primarily a Mayan community, this town is full of vibrant people nestled in the middle of beautiful rolling hills. Sumpango is home to Next Step’s community partner, Betty Merida.
They met Betty in 2007 when first coming to Guatemala and reconnected years later in 2014 through God’s guiding hand. Betty is a local Guatemalan who felt God calling her to place her roots in Sumpango, a community that alongside its beauty, struggles with poverty, education, and a lack of hope. Betty moved to Sumpango in 2012, adopted a 4-year old son, and began to pour her life into her neighbors. She is determined to win the community over for Christ through the local Church. Betty has a vision for the Church to be a place of hope for Sumpango. The pastors of the church in Sumpango also share in this vision and have a desire to make disciples.
What are will we be doing? We will be working alongside Betty and the Church as we build and expand a local church building, serve at a local HIV orphanage, build home additions for overcrowded families, and hit the streets for powerful home visits where we will have the opportunity to pray and share our faith with many Guatemalan families. We will have a wide variety of construction and relational ministry opportunities, as we serve and worship alongside many of our Guatemalan partners. We can be an integral part of what God is doing in this special community of Sumpango, as we seek to be the body of Christ sharing in our gifts and passions with one another.
We might spend our days at Next Steps wonderful partner church in Sumpango, Busca A Dios. Our days will be divided up into two parts: morning construction and afternoon VBS. When First Steps began their partnership with Busca A Dios in 2014, their church had temporary walls and make-shift classrooms. Previous crews have worked side by side with the church community to rebuild the church with block and concrete and have built a permanent addition for classroom space. In the afternoons the music is turned up and the kids from the neighborhood roll in as we might help out with the locally-led community Summer VBS Program.
Each summer Next Step partners with local masons and our community leadership team to build 5-8 home additions. These families are selected by the Sumpango leadership team based on need and commitment to involvement of this addition. Most families are living in one-room homes with temporary walls and the teams are able to build a 12×12 block and concrete room addition to serve as a bedroom or kitchen.
We may have the opportunity to serve at the Anna Vittiello Orphanage. This school and orphanage is filled with 60-70 beautiful children living with HIV/ AIDS. The Next Steps partnership includes construction projects at the facility, as well as supporting the staff with music, games and free time activities with the children. We might spend our days at the orphanage with an even balance of physical work and relational time with the kids.
Just the act of composing the blog entry has given me more than enough inspiration the face The List with God’s love in my heart, because I know he has great things planned for us in this new place: Sumpango, Guatemala! We covet your prayers as we continue on this journey.