Missionary Sarah Burr Serving in Paraguay

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The last three weeks…

Christmas '14Christmas in Ciudad Viaja

 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” – Matthew 6: 25-27

Feliz Ano Nuevo!!

First off, I need to learn how to make accent marks on my computer. But after that breaking news, let me share the amazing blessing the last three weeks. As you can imagine, my first Christmas away from my family was difficult. Fortunately, God knows how to provide. I was adopted into a very gracious and kind family for the week, making the transition easier and a great opportunity for me to experience a Guatemalan Christmas! Let me explain to the best of my knowledge.

There may be no snow here, but they know how to make it feel like Christmas with many musical lights, Nativity scenes, Christmas Posadas, special foods, and pine leaves. To start off with, I noticed the Christmas lights, or at least hear them, and saw Christmas trees. After I noticed many large Nativity scenes, taking up almost half the room in houses. For the most part, these are all things I knew from America, but then I started noticing more and more houses having pine leaves line the floor. I found out this tradition is carried from when there were dirt floors in houses, the pine leaves are placed for celebrations. It changes the entire environment of the room: the color, the smell, and gives the room carpet. Then at night during dinner I began to hear whistles, shakers, car horns, and of course, firecrackers. My Guatemama told me to go out the door and I would see a Christmas Posada, which later I participated in. These Posadas went through town carrying a Nativity scene and would end up at someone’s house, asking if there was room. The house would let them in and feed them some food as well as serve Punche Navidad, therefore changing the history of Joseph and Mary being turned away.

Next, the big day is really Christmas Eve. After church, you wait until midnight and set off LOTS of fireworks. And no, I am not exaggerating, I mean A LOT. Everyone does, including all the neighbors, and this is not just at midnight. They continue to be set off at 6 am, noon, and 6 pm.  After you eat special tamales, in the Antigua area it was Red tamales or Black, which are sweet. Then you open presents if there are any, but mostly it is just time to spend with family. In the household I stayed in, we actually ate the tamales and dinner earlier, leaving us time to play Apples to Apples!

After the week was up, I left my “family” and got to practice my traveling Spanish! I spent the next two weeks traveling around parts of Guatemala with my boyfriend, Caleb. We met many new friends, whether in hostels, just at lunch, or in shuttles. And sometimes meeting those new friends meant I had to translate. It was such a great experience! I feel so much more confident in my Spanish being able to communicate with so many different people, with different accents, from different Spanish speaking countries! We spent New Years in Lanquin/Semuc Champey (don’t worry, there were fireworks!), and we spent time exploring Antigua, Lake Atitlan, and Quetzaltenango (Xela).

Now, since this post is long already, stay tuned for my January newsletter for more stories! Check out my facebook for pictures! If you have any questions, comments, or jokes, please share!

The Lord really does provide for His children’s needs.

Vaya con Dios!!

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Aqui Voy

Part of the English Class that meets Monday and Wednesdays

Part of the English Class that meets Monday and Wednesdays

Learning to make typical food from Guatemala

Learning to make typical food from Guatemala

The view from top of Tajumulco at Sunrise. The other "mountains" are also Volcanos.

The view from top of Tajumulco at sunrise. The other “mountains” are also Volcanos.

“For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.  For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ…Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” – 2 Corinthians 4:5-6,16-18

I am starting to lose count of how many weeks I have been in Guatemala. My calendar tells me I am going into my sixth week of language learning, which means, I have been here a little less than seven weeks. I feel like it has been two. I recognize I have been here longer, because everyday it feels more and more like home. My Spotify account is filling up with popular music in Central America, I have a regular cafe, I can carry on a broken conversation with my host family, and I can give directions. I am home for the time being.

Just because I am home does not mean by any means that everything is perfect. Like every person, the longer you are home, in a new job, a new school, a new anything, you begin to see the faults and failures. Everything is not new and exciting; it contains flaws and failures. Not everyone is a friendly Guatemaltecan, not everyday is clear, not every shower contains hot water. The world sometimes is really messed up, and I know I don’t understand everything. Being removed from understanding a language does not remove me from hearing about the evil in the world. I don’t get to automatically hide from the wickedness of the world. I am not automatically more righteous and closer to God because I am here. I am not automatically less of a sinner because I am here. I am full of the nasty, human nature that is in us all. But the Bible is full of examples of regular Joes that the Lord uses to do His work in a world full of fault.

Fortunately I am not witnessing myself or about my life. I am witnessing about Christ, His light, and forgiveness in this dreary world that needs His Glory. We may lose heart when we see the evil in the world around us, but we should never lose heart in the Lord! The Lord is bigger, brighter, and more full of love than we can comprehend. Even in a fallen world, He has a plan to make His light shine. He uses each one of us. We are in this fallen world, which takes its toll on us and sometimes are spirits, but the Lord conquers our fears. Our fears are fleeting, but the Lord is constant. He is eternal.

In all of my trials and fears here, the Lord is with me. I thank you for your constant prayers and support. Prayer is powerful, and I can see how the Lord is watching over me daily. Please continue to pray for my language learning, safety, and that God would use me as a tool to shine His light in all of my interactions during the day. Please let me know if you have any prayer requests!

Other highlights recently:
– Hiking Volcano Tajumulco: the highest point in Central America
-Learning to cook typical Guatemalan dishes
-Continuing teaching English Class and being able to communicate with students

Vaya Con Dios!

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Getting to know Guatemala

Edwin

Edwin my language instructor

“for God’s gifts and His call are irrevocable.”- Romans 11:29

English class 1

English Class Group 1

   As of today, I am officially starting my 4th week in Guatemala and my third week in language school here in Quetzaltenango (Xela). I finally think I have the pronunciation down for the city, so I can move on to other words! In all actuality, I have been very busy with learning Spanish here, whether that is in school in the mornings, activities in the afternoon, exploring on weekends, or even teaching English classes.

This past week, my friend and fellow student here, Nanna, from Denmark, began teaching English classes for kids. The kids here are having their “summer” break now, so ICA language school is suppling basic English classes. Nanna has been studying here for six weeks, so she is very capable to teach in English and communicate in Spanish. She asked me to help because being American, I supposedly know how to spell and speak English correctly. We started off with one class of students twice a week, Monday and Wednesday. Then last week during a class, a whole group of new students showed up, so we have started another class that meets on Tuesday and Thursday. It is quickly filling my days, but it is such a great joy!

Anyways, during my language class today, my language instructor Edwin asked me why I was here. I had answered this question before and then he repeated in Spanish, “No, how were you called here.” I already knew he was a Christian because he has been pointing me to different churches. We also have spent time talking about our views on death because of “Día de Muertos” here, and his volunteer work. Even with all that it was really awesome when I got to tell him how I ended up here. At the end of trying to tell my story through a mess of words and tenses I am still learning, he wrote down Romans 11:29 on the top of my notebook page: “for God’s gifts and His call are irrevocable.”

I know I am here learning Spanish, but I also know I am here because God is using everyday to strengthen me and even use me as a tool for others. Everyday events, explaining why I am here, and “Día de Muertos” give me the opportunity to talk about my faith with fellow students, my family, and my teacher. It is so emotional to see God in everyday things and people. It really makes me remember that I may be here to learn Spanish, but I am constantly a witness for God.

Other highlights from this week:
– Hiking Volcan Chikabal
– Hiking Volcan Santa Maria
– Watching Guatemaltecos celebrating San Simon
– Watching and participating in activities for “Día de Muertos”

For more of what I have been up to and pictures, add me on facebook! Click here.

Vaya Con Dios!

 

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And the Journey Begins…

ICA Language School

ICA Language School, Xela, Guatemala

“Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.” – 1 Corinthians 9:19-23

Hola!

I cannot believe I have been in Guatemala over a week already. Time is already flying by. So much has happened in the last few days, but it may be best for me to just recap the highlights.

On Wednesday, October 15th, I left my house at 4:00 AM to catch my flight to Miami. There I met up with Dale Talsma of Global Lutheran Outreach and we flew to Guatemala City. Dale served in Guatemala City and introduced me to many members in the Body of Christ and the work they are doing there. We stayed in Guatemala City till Friday and headed to Antigua for the day. I got to check out the Lutheran Center there. The next day, we woke up at 4:30 AM to the glow of volcano Fuego to head out to Quetzaltenango (Xela), Guatemala.

Once in Xela, I met my host family through the ICA Spanish School here. My Guatemalteco family consists of two grandparents: Marco and Marta, along with their granddaughter Stephani, plus the multiple children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren going in and out. I meet someone new in the family everyday it seems! This is not counting their two dogs and cat. The cat has decided that at night jumping in my window from the roof is the best option. He takes over my bed daily, so it feels like home. But no one tell my cat Wilma in Indiana, she is possessive.

Meals here consist of bread, black beans, eggs, and rice typically. For lunch, soup and meat are thrown into the mix. Don’t forget the tortillas or coffee though! Coffee is all day, everyday it feels like. And the streets of Xela are filled with the scent of tortillas during the three different meal times. Most people do not make their own tortillas because it is so cheap to buy it from the other street venders and others making them. My family has them delivered to the house.

So far my typical schedule is waking up around 6:45 AM for breakfast at 7:00 AM. School starts at 8:00 AM and I have classes till noon. During the afternoons there is typically an activity to see some aspect of culture or see new things, but always practicing Spanish! In future posts, I will let you know specifically what I have been up to, but for now I’m keeping this on point. 🙂

Xela is a very special city to learn Spanish in because most people here do not know English. This is a total immersion setting. Whether I am eating out, walking around Xela, in school, or in my house, most people do not know English. The 8-year-old granddaughter is the most English I have heard in this house because she likes practicing, “Hello!”

The school had five students when I arrived, one just finished his few weeks and now there are four of us. It is nice because then we really get to know each other and the teachers. For my first week of classes my teacher was Edwin. He has been a fountain of information about not only Spanish, but the culture, and sometimes even about American culture.

There is so much more I could say about this week, but I think this is just a good place to start. I will be working on posting pictures, but click here to  friend me on facebook to see the ones I have posted now! Overall, it has been an adventure so far. I am learning so much about Guatemala, Spanish, myself, and God. I cannot wait to continue this adventure. Please continue to keep me in your prayers! If you want to contact me, please do. I would love to answer any questions. My email is sarahlburr@gmail.com. Thank you so much for your support!

Dios te bendiga!

Sarah Burr

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Taking Off!

Do not fear “But you, O Israel, my servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen, you descendants of Abraham my friend, I took you from the ends of the earth, from its farthest corners I called you. I said, ‘You are my servant,’ I have chosen you and have not rejected you. So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” – Isaiah 41: 8-10

My first flight leaves the Indianapolis airport in 32 hours. I leave at 6:13 am for language school in Guatemala, where I will be for a few months before settling in Paraguay. I haven’t finished packing, I still have things thrown around my house, which my loving mother has put up with all summer, and I have to get my haircut. I have less than 32 hours to get everything together, say my last goodbyes, and do my last load of laundry. Needless to say, I feel like I should be a lot more frazzled than I am.

Over the past month, I have spent an ample amount of time trying to get things in line for my departure on Wednesday morning. Besides the packing, I am physically ready. I have said most of my goodbyes to friends and family. Although these goodbyes were not been the easiest, I have been able to see the support and love of Christ and His Church. I have also felt the peace of the Lord.

For the past week, I have waited for the shock of leaving to set in. I keep getting asked how I feel, and in all honesty, I feel at peace. The peace that only the Lord can supply. Am I scared? I believe it is human nature to be scared. This is something that is different, and I have no idea what is going to happen over the next 15 months. What I do know is that my God is bigger. Veggie Tales taught me as a child that “my God is bigger than the boogie man,” but now I have grown and discovered that my God is bigger than anything the world can throw at me. Will everything run as planned? Probably not. Does that matter? No. My God is bigger than any adversity or struggle that I will face or any fear that will come my way.

Max Lucado wrote in his book, “Great Day, Every Day” that:
    “The presence of fear does not mean you have no faith. Fear visits everyone. But make your fear a visitor and not a resident. Hasn’t fear taken enough? Enough smiles? Chuckles? Restful nights, exuberant days? Meet your fears with faith.”

Meet your fears with faith. I may be scared, homesick, panicked, excited, adventurous, and full of the Lord’s joy at points, but through it all God will be with me. He will “uphold [me] with [His] righteous right hand” through it all. I will meet all of my fears and joys with faith.

Please keep me and my family in your prayers the next couple of days as I am traveling and getting adjusted to Guatemala for language school! Thank you for your prayers and support.

Blessings!

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Faithful supporters

Faithful supporters who will join me in prayer and encouragement. With their support I have the opportunity to extend the Gospel in Paraguay, in which I will obtain no salary myself during this “faith mission.”

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