Missionaries Ted and Cassandra Fischer Serving in Guatemala

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Week 30-34: Finishing Strong

“However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.” Acts 20:24

It is hard for us to comprehend that we only have two weeks left in Guatemala. As we prepare to depart, our work here has been as exciting and as challenging as ever. We ask for everyone’s prayers as we “complete the tasks that the Lord has given us.”

September is a special time in Guatemala because they celebrate their independence from Spain. We got to be right in the middle of it because the choir performed at the kick-off ceremony which ended with a torch lighting. Even though only half of the choir showed up, the ones who came sang their hearts out and were well-received by the audience. They sang four praise songs and even sang “Lord I Lift Your Name on High” in English. It was a joy seeing how happy the children were that all their hard work and practice had finally paid off. A few of the children are already looking forward to choir next year!

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A teacher and student light a torch to celebrate Guatemala’s independence.

We were also able to participate in a special parade in Los Limones for “Dia de la Biblia” (Day of the Bible). The children and youth of Los Limones carried banners and handed out Bibles to everyone in the village. They were followed by the Lutheran school band from Gualan who played songs like “Somos el Pueblo de Dios” (We are the City of God). It was truly a special day celebrating the life-giving word of God and being a witness to the community.

week-30-parade

Marching through Los Limones on Dia de la Biblia.

As I shared last month, Los Limones is an impoverished community where a new Lutheran church is starting. Last month we had the first Baptism service and welcomed 8 people into our Christian family. Numerous people attending were inspired by the service and approached me afterwards asking how they and/or their children could be baptized. After sharing with them the blessings we receive in Baptism, we had our second Baptism service this month and welcomed 12 more adults and children into God’s kingdom. Since then I have had a few more people approach me about being baptized in the coming weeks. I can’t begin to describe how amazing it is to watch God’s Word and Sacrament in action!

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This time Cassandra was also asked to be Godmother for a few of the children.

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Holding our newest Godchild while her mother is baptized.

In our final two weeks I will be finishing up catechism classes in Los Limones, La Union, and Gualan and we plan to celebrate their Confirmation on October 9th. For Cassandra, the concert was the choir’s last performance as the school year comes to a close so she will be handing over the reigns of the choir to another teacher to lead next year. Please pray for our continued diligence in these final weeks as we fulfill our responsibilities and make preparations for our return home.

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Week 26-29: Reaping the Harvest

Before we came to Guatemala Pastor Luis shared a Bible verse with me: “La cosecha es mucha y los trabajadores son pocos,” which translates to, “The harvest is plenty and the workers are few” (Luke 10:2). I didn’t think about it much at the time but this month it has become extremely relevant to our work. We are now beginning to reap what we and our supporters have been sowing and for that we thank God!

Cassandra’s choir has improved leaps and bounds since we first began. It was a rocky start and at times it didn’t look like the kids would ever be ready in time for a performance before the end of the school year. This past month however, they have begun to look like a real choir and they have almost mastered the five songs they will perform next month. When they sing “Lord I Lift Your Name on High” in English you’d almost think you were listening to an American choir if you closed your eyes. It is a joy to watch these children get excited about singing songs that give glory and praise to God. Even though they attend a Lutheran School, very few of them attend the church regularly so this is a special witness to them and their parents who will attend their concert.

week 26-29 choir close upweek 26-29 choir

week 26-29 trumpetCassandra has also been focusing on private lessons with the beginner trumpets.

The ministry in Los Limones is stronger than it has ever been. Our youth and children’s Catechism classes on Thursdays and Saturdays are consistently attended by over 100. The youth are starting to get excited about their Confirmation and their chance to be considered adult members of the church. Pastor Luis also led the first Baptism service in Los Limones and 8 women and children were added to the body of Christ. I gave Baptism classes to the 3 mothers before we baptized them with their young ones. One of the mom’s asked me to be the godfather for her 3 children. To be given the responsibility to help raise her children up in the one true faith is an incredible honor. Participating in the Baptism service with my new godchildren is by far the highlight of my time here so far. The baptismal service also opened up the opportunity for others to be baptized in the future. Numerous people approached me and asked to participate in my next Baptism class.

week 26-29 godkids

Cassandra and I standing with my godchildren and their mother, Maria.

Our purpose as Christians is to go out and make disciples and baptize them. That is what it means to harvest. That is what we work toward no matter where we are in life: bringing others to Christ. To be able to do that in Guatemala and see the Word of God work in people’s lives is an incredible blessing. Thank you to everyone who has brought us here. Please pray for the continued growth in Los Limones as well as the Lord’s providence, as it is now growing faster than resources can support. Read more about it on our “Projects” page or click here to learn more about how you can help!

week 26-29 adult baptism

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Week 22-25: Important Ministry Update!

Another month has gone by and we have some important news for our family and friends. After a lot of prayer and discussion between Cassandra and I as well as Pastor Luis, we have determined that our ministry in Guatemala will end in mid-October. Although we had initially planned on remaining here until December, we’ve made a change in our plans based on the following reasons:

1. Our primary responsibilities here will be completed by that time. The school year in Gualan ends on October 15th and does not start again until January so Cassandra will no longer have any work to do with the school. My 3 confirmation courses are on track to end the first week of October and we have a Confirmation service planned for October 9th. I am currently training those who regularly assist me with my classes to take on the next year’s cycle of Confirmation students.

week 22 25 luis ant

One of my helpers, Luis Antonio, leading praise songs in La Union.

2. We have some health concerns. Cassandra’s health especially has been inconsistent at best during our time here. Her immune system in general seems to be weaker because of the stress of mission work. We are also concerned about the Zika virus  and it’s potentially unknown effects (Guatemala and specifically the region we are in are at risk for Zika transmission).

3. We dearly miss our families and friends. It did not help matters that Cassandra lost her grandfather just before we left. Right now we are motivated to stay here because we still have clearly outlined work that we need to do, but when October comes we won’t have the same motivation to stay here away from family and friends.

4. We are running out of funds. That is likely due to our troubles with the car as well as the fact that we only raised 87% of our funding goal. We faced the option of asking our generous supporters for more funding, but due to the other factors listed above we feel that would not be the best use of our supporters’ resources.

Due to the reasons above, we have come to an agreement with Pastor Luis that we will be leaving in October. We made this decision on amicable terms and there are no hard feelings between us. Pastor Luis fully supports our decision. This was not an easy decision for us to make by any means. Many hours, tears, and prayers went into it. We are sad to leave our loving Christian family here in Guatemala, but we believe that this change of plans is the best for everyone involved. We continue to thank God and all those who support us for the incredible opportunity we have had to be a part of the ministry here. Please keep us in your prayers as we begin making preparations for our return home in addition to many exciting events we have planned within our respective ministries. Details about those events are as follows:

Cassandra and her choir will be performing their first song this Monday for the school’s 7th anniversary celebration. She also has a larger concert planned for September that the kid’s are extremely excited about. They’re even learning a praise song in English!

As far as the ministry I’m involved in, I have finalized a date to confirm youth from the three different groups I work with. It has truly been an honor to walk alongside these youth as we learn more about our Savior and the foundations of our faith in Him. Another very exciting thing is happening with the adult ministry in Los Limones. I help lead an afternoon prayer service every Sunday and when we first started only 5 adults were in attendance. Well, now we regularly run out of chairs! I just got back from this week’s service where we worshipped with over 100 people. God is truly working through the ministry here and strengthening this community around His Word.

 week 22 25 ubaldo

Ubaldo leading the prayer service in Los Limones

If you have any questions for us you can contact us via Facebook or email me at justplainted@yahoo.com.

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Weeks 17-21: Los Limones Ministry Spotlight

As I said in last month’s post, I was working on a promotional video for the ministry taking place in Los Limones. The purpose of the video was to show to the congregation of Trinity Lutheran in Monroe, Michigan. They are considering helping Pastor Luis to start an agricultural program in Los Limones. The program would help create jobs and a source for healthy food in a place where those resources are scarce. The wonderful people of Trinity Lutheran wanted to get to know the people they would be helping. I thought I would share the same video with you all to give you a look at the incredible ministry that Cassandra and I are blessed to be a part of.

In other news, “winter” has begun here in Gualan. I use that term loosely because the weather has only changed from 100 degree days to 90 degree days. They actually only have two seasons here: rainy season, and dry season. The rainy season cools down the climate slightly which is greatly appreciated.

Guatemala’s winter season is also its mission trip season. A group from Trinity Roselle just came to Gualan to give an eyeglass clinic, and according to Pastor Luis there will be a different mission group coming each week for at least the next 4 weeks. Our current responsibilities will be our first priority but Cassandra and I will be helping out with these groups however we can, by translating or just lending an extra hand. Please pray that these groups travel safely, learn a lot, and have a positive impact on the ministry.

We appreciate the continued prayers and encouragement from everyone back home and we love and miss you all!

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Week 12-16: The Lord Provides

And somehow another month has gone by! A lot happened this past month so it will be hard to fit into one post, but I will do my best!

First of all, we want to let everyone know that Cassandra is finally feeling better, thanks be to God! It turns out she somehow ingested a parasite which created chaos in her stomach and left her with dysentery. It was as bad as it sounds! Illness is unfortunately very common when living in a foreign country. But we are both very happy and thankful that she has returned to health and we want to thank everyone who kept her in your prayers.

On a brighter note, Cassandra’s parents and sister came to visit after she got better and we had a wonderful time with them. They got to see us do our work here in Gualan and we also took them to see the Mayan ruins in Tikal. It was great to spend time with some people that we missed very much, especially for Cassandra. They seemed to be happy to see their daughter too and the ruins were absolutely stunning.

week 12-16 ruins

One of the many pyramids that the ancient Mayans constructed over a thousand years ago.

Cassandra’s work is in full swing now and she has begun private lessons with the trumpets as well as practice with the choir. The hope is for the choir to be ready to perform a concert of a few Christian songs but so far they have only learned one song. There are over 50 kids in the choir so it has been very difficult to keep them all focused on the task at hand. I accompany her to try and reign them all in but even with the two of us we are grossly outnumbered! It looks like the group may have to be split up for more progress to be made and we are working with Pastor Luis to figure out the best way to teach them. Please pray for our patience and guidance in working with the choir.

week 12-16 choir

The choir on our first day of practice

As far as my work, I am continuing to work with the catechism classes and bible studies in addition to helping Pastor Luis with various projects around the church. Until recently, my ability to work was being hindered by the consistently unreliable car we purchased 2 months ago. After over a month of spending every Monday and Tuesday in the mechanic shop, we decided that it would be best to look for a safer, more reliable option. Here it is very important to have a dependable car for long trips because if a car breaks down on the road, it instantly becomes a target for thieves and people who wish to do harm. But what bothered me most was having to cancel events in La Union because my car was in the shop. Not only was the car making us feel unsafe, it was beginning to hinder our ministry as well.

week 12-16 muffler

The muffler disconnected during a long drive and this was my quick “fix”

The Lord provided, as he always does and I was actually able trade in our car for a newer model with less mileage and less problems! It has already proved to be more reliable than the last one and my ministry in La Union can continue on a much more consistent basis. Another blessing of God’s provision occurred in La Union when we found a meeting place for the youth group. Until recently we had been meeting in a public school classroom but many bible studies were cancelled due to it being unavailable. After searching for over a month, one of the youths came forward and said that his mother would be willing to let us use a large empty room of a building she owned. She also allows us to use it free of charge. The Lord provides for us in better ways than we can even ask!

As far as new projects for the church, I have begun collecting contact information and taking pictures of the members in order to create a church directory which will hopefully improve the communication within the Christian community in Gualan. I am also working on finding a design for new church pews to replace to very old ones that church currently has. week 12-16 directory

These happy faces will be smiling the the church’s new directory!

Cassandra has begun preparing healthy snacks to bring to the bible studies in the rural community of Los Limones. A lot of the children are unable to receive the proper nutrition they need so our hope is that this healthy snack will help in some small way. This is the community where a church in the United States has expressed interest in helping create an agricultural program that provides jobs and food for the families of the church. I just finished collecting video footage of the ministry there and I hope to finish editing the video this week so the church in the US can get to know their Christian brothers and sisters in Los Limones.

Week 12-16 kid food

The children in Los Limones enjoying their trail mix snack after bible study.

Thank you to everyone who is supporting us during this journey. We thank God for all the ways he has provided for us and also for all of the challenges he has put in our path. Please pray for our continued perseverance amidst challenges and for guidance in how to best be of service to God’s children here in Gualan, Los Limones, and La Union.

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Week 9-11: Challenges and Rewards

Somehow another three whole weeks have passed! We’ve realized that our time as missionaries has flown. We’ve already been here almost 3 months and it feels as though we just left. Our work is in full swing now and it can get pretty busy!

As promised, I have included some pictures from the work that I’ve been doing. Now that I’ve been with the different groups of youth and adults for a few weeks they are much more comfortable participating in discussion and we can all get to know each other a little better. I teach 4 Small Catechism classes and 1 Large Catechism class in addition to leading Bible studies and working on different projects for Pastor Luis. One thing I’ve learned about teaching Catechism is that it’s actually harder to teach adults to memorize things than it is to teach the kids. I notice it in the adults that I teach and also with myself as I learn to memorize the catechism in Spanish for the first time. It seems that with age, we lose the ability to memorize. Although it has created an interesting challenge for my adult lessons it also gives us all something to laugh about!

week 9-10 bible studyThursday night youth group means Bible study and games!week 9-10 youth group

week 9-10 adult catechism

We have our Large Catechism class outside the church in Gualan on Friday nights

One new project that I am very excited about is called “Biohuertos.” Basically it is an agricultural program designed to help the people of the church in Los Limones to provide for themselves by producing vegetables for sale to the public. Los Limones is one of the poorer communities in the area. The community of people live within farmland but most of that land is not owned by them and not utilized by those who own it. Because of this, most of them are forced to look for work very far from where they live. Many of them have to work away from their families for 15 days at a time. A Lutheran Congregation in the United States has agreed to partner with Pastor Luis and the church in Gualan to purchase some land and resources for the people of the congregation in Los Limones. This will create jobs and give them a tremendous opportunity to provide for themselves. Since I have been working with both the youth and adults of Los Limones, Pastor Luis asked me to make a video summarizing the ministry that takes place in their community. I will be using the video to present to the congregation back in the U.S.A.  I am extremely excited and honored to be a part of this generous ministry project that I think could have a tremendous positive impact on the lives of God’s children in Los Limones.

week 9 10 limones lesson

The most rewarding experience so far: the youth of Los Limones learn how to use their bibles for the first time.

As for the work that Cassandra has been doing, she just held the auditions for the clarinets and saxophones that were generously donated. Cassandra and the music director, Carlos, selected the students who showed the most dedication and potential for those instruments. The auditions for the other instruments will take place soon. With the addition of woodwind instruments to the band, she will be able to practice with brass while Carlos focuses on the woodwinds. Carlos has asked her to compile some hymns for the band to eventually play at church. Unfortunately, Cassandra’s work has been hindered by the fact that she has been sick for over a week now. She has some sort of stomach infection that has prevented her from working with the choir and band. Illnesses are a part of the less than glamorous side of being a missionary, but she has been fighting through it. We made our first visit to the doctor today to get her some antibiotics which should help her beat whatever is in her system, Lord willing.

This past month has met us with new blessings and new challenges, but we are altogether thankful for the opportunity we have to be here and serve here! Please continue to keep us in your prayers, specifically for our health and perseverance.

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Week 6-8: Settling in and Setting Up

A lot has happened in the three weeks since we posted last. So much so that I couldn’t find the time to make a blog post! We have spent the past weeks getting ourselves settled in Gualan and setting up our ministry here.

Our first two weeks were spent living with Pastor Luis, his wife, his mother, and three sons. Their hospitality was incredibly generous and they truly made us feel like we were a part of their family. During those two weeks we searched for a car and living accommodations. We found both, but the car turned out to be somewhat of a catastrophe when we realized the the gas tank had a large leak. The car was stuck in the shop for 2 weeks before it was finally driveable again! God has definitely been using situations like that to teach us patience. Thankfully our car is now up and running and we have made ourselves comfortable in a neighborhood about 5 minutes away from the Lutheran Church and School of Gualan.

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Our first meal with our Guatemalan mom and dad.

As far as our ministry positions are concerned, most of these past 3 weeks have been spent meeting with different leaders within the church and school community to plan out how we can best be of service to the various programs here. It’s been very exciting to have a clearer picture of how we will be used to serve God! We were installed as missionaries at their Palm Sunday service. During the service the whole congregation came forward to welcome us with hugs, making us feel very much appreciated and welcome into their faith family.

week 68 instalation

Cassandra met with the music director at the Lutheran school in Gualan and found out that he also teaches music at 2 other schools, leaving him with very limited time to dedicate to some aspects of the music department. The band, for instance, only meets to practice once a week, which is not enough time to truly improve. Cassandra will be overseeing extra practice sessions with each of the different instrument groups to help them reach the next level. She will also get a chance to help choose which students receive the instruments that some of our brothers and sisters in Christ donated. Those with a strong passion and potential for music will be receiving one of the thirteen generously donated instruments.

week 68 band

Percussion and brass getting ready for practice.

Cassandra has also been asked to start a school choir. Their goal in the future is to be able to have a choir and band ensemble to perform. In our second week she held auditions for children ages 9-16. She has selected a group of over 30 students who are ready to sing!

 

week 68 cass audition

Some of the kids chose a song in English for their audition!

My primary objective here is to assist Pastor Luis with his pastoral duties and work with the youth in Gualan and two nearby villages. So far I am teaching the small catechism to youth and adults in village about 15 minutes away called Los Limones. I am also working with a youth group in La Union, a village about 30 minutes away. I am teaching them the small catechism and leading bible studies. As for my work in Gualan, I lead a bible study and teach the large catechism to a mixed group of adults and youth. I don’t have any pictures of my youth yet but I look forward to putting some in the next post! I am very thankful for the opportunity to work with a diverse group of youth here and be a part of the church’s growing community.

As always, thank you so much for your continued prayers and encouragement. We miss you and love all of our family and friends back home!

 

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Week 4 & 5: Goodbye Xela!

Since our last post we have been busy finishing up our last two weeks of Spanish Language school. It was challenging at times, but most certainly worth it! Our “graduation” from language school was a bittersweet moment. There were many things we were sad to leave but we also have so much to be excited about and thankful for!

The saddest part about our departure was saying goodbye to beloved friends. We had tremendous tutors who became our close friends over the course of 5 weeks. We made each other laugh and we learned so much from one another. We also developed close relationships with the family we lived with. They fed us well and took care of us like we were one of their own.

 Week 4-5 fam

    The family from left to right: Isabel, Lilian, Bila, Ted, Ian, Maria.

     In addition to the people above, we will also miss the rich history of Xela and the beautiful views of volcanoes! Xela is a metropolitan area, but the area where we are headed is more rural so we will also miss the urban amenities we had access to.

Week 4-5 market

An open-air market with some colorful Mayan textiles.

week 4-5 kiosko

One of the many historical sites in Xela.

week 4-5 cass coffee

     Cassandra’s favorite thing about Xela: the cafes!

While it was difficult to say goodbye to Xela and the people in it, we were relieved to be finished with our training. We are very excited for our move to Gualan and the opportunities and new friends that await us there.

Week 4-5 diploma

We even received diplomas!

     We thank God for all that we learned in Xela and ask for prayers that he would continue to guide us and watch over us as we take this next step!

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Week 3: Faithful Friends

Sometimes it can be difficult to see the tremendous opportunity God has placed before us. It’s easy to forget why we are where we are with all the busyness we fill our lives with. We were having a similar experience recently as we found ourselves exhausted by another week of language school. But God reminded us of his purpose for us this past weekend through our dear friends in Christ, Nury and Arnoldo.

nury arn week 3

From 2 years ago when I saw them last.

I met Nury on my first mission trip to Guatemala 5 years ago and she has been an integral part of how Cassandra and I ended up here. We were blessed with the chance to stay with her and her husband this past weekend at their guesthouse for missionaries. She and Arnoldo truly uplifted us and encouraged us by telling us more about the area where we are about to serve. God used them to remind us why we are studying Spanish and living in a different country without some of the comforts that we would normally enjoy. It was truly the inspiration that we needed to keep pressing forward and a great example of the body of Christ at work.

 

Nury week 3

Arnoldo was taking the picture.

In addition to visiting with our dear brother and sister in Christ, we got to explore more of Guatemala. Nury and Arnoldo live right near Antigua, the old capital of Guatemala. It is a beautiful city with a rich history that is surrounded by breathtaking views of volcanoes.

 

Antigua week 3

Antigua’s iconic arch with volcano in the background.

It was Cassandra’s first time in the city and she loved exploring all the handicraft markets and museums (especially the chocolate museum). It was a much-needed getaway that readied us to take on our next week of studies.


Cass week 3

The indigenous women of the area are well-known for their colorful, handwoven textiles.

We are so incredibly thankful for the support we have from our brothers and sisters here in Guatemala as they remind us of all the support we have back home! We miss and love you all!

 

 

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Week 2: Hard Work and Relaxation

We have just finished our second full week of language school in Quetzaltenango. Each morning during the week we have been studying Spanish with our own private tutors. We have learned a lot from our incredible tutors, but the process is exhausting! We only spend 4 hours in class but that does not mean we get a break from learning Spanish as there are very few people here who speak any English. Participating in a normal conversation at the store or at our host home requires 100% attention and at times we feel like our brains can’t hold in any more Spanish. At the end of the day we are mentally fried, or as Cassandra puts it, “A different kind of tired.”

 

Week 2 classes

Our tutors, Ana and Miguel

For this reason we are encouraged to take time to relax on the weekends. So this past weekend we had the opportunity to explore Las Fuentes Giorginas, some beautiful natural hot springs. We had a very relaxing Saturday soaking in the hot water and taking in some views of God’s beautiful creation. After that much needed break we were ready for another week of preparation for our ministry in Gualan.

Week 2 springs 1

Cassandra running her hands through a waterfall

We continue to thank God for this amazing opportunity to learn and serve Him! Please continue to pray for us as we adapt to a new language and culture. We send our love to our family and friends back home!

Week 2 springs 2

 

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