My heart’s cry so often is… Break my heart for what breaks yours…

I am burdened.


In a different way.  But I have recognized it as a heart burden.  A grieving.

It is easy to be in an area of need and be burdened.  But being in the states for a longer period of time and then being in the city has given me three different perspectives of the world in a short period of time.  And to each place, there are adjustments to be made.  Yet, there is a fresh way of seeing life here as well.  Being away gave me perspective.  Turned my eyes from the focus here to the focus there.  Being away reminded me of changes in the world and changes in myself.  A perspective that isn’t developed in a short trip back to the states.

And so, to step back into life in the valley here, in a way is to see it again afresh.  Many things were forgotten and my senses take it in again.  I see the burden.  I feel the burden.  I feel the difference.

Burdened.  There is something here.  Burdened for the older generation.  As they lived through a war and are on the other side.  As development happens, yet they cling to their old ways. Burdened as technology passes them up and I see the structure of family changing.  They are saddened.  They are struggling to understand the change.  I pass an old man a few times a week along the side of the mountain.  He is in his field with his hoe in hand.  Barefoot.  Trying to plant a crop of corn so that he can continue to eat.  Yet he barely has the strength to raise his hoe.

Burdened for the middle generation as they seek to work.  As they look for jobs and to provide for their families.  As they have hope now for change and as the Western influence comes.  Burdened because there are more materialistic things for them to desire, yet in this valley, the opportunities for jobs are scarce.  If they have an education and want to stay here, they find themselves in a corrupt system to struggle for a job.  You must be the right political party or family or associated with the right people.  Burdened because they want to provide a better life than their childhood produced.  Many of this generation has left leaving mothers to raise their children alone or aunts or grandmothers who now have the burden of raising children left behind by immigration.

And the burden grows. For the younger generation.  As I have listened to conversations and dialogues, I hear a change in the way that young people are talking.  Here in this valley.  They want out.  They want something different.  They hope for something that they have not had.  They want an education.  They want a change to dream.  They want the things they see in movies.  Many of them are looking to the states as an answer to that.  They know that there are opportunities out there, and yet they are ill equipped to embrace them.  They have pint-sized practice at decision making.  And yet, they are making decisions that completely effect their path for the rest of their lives.

And so as I listen to the youth here talk about their futures.  As I talk with students who have left to study.  As I talk with those from the mountains that have come to town, the general consensus is that they are searching.  Many go to the bigger cities.  Many go to the states.  They are searching for something that would satisfy.  Something that will help them make a better life for themselves than the previous generation had.

I had a flashback as I was thinking.  That much of what is happening here is not much different from what I have seen in my hometown.  Or in the small towns around me in Western Pennsylvania.  They were mining towns.  Oil towns.  Boom towns.  The economy was built on what was around them.  Over time the people left, the industries were not able to keep up with the change.  There were no jobs.  There was nothing to entice young families to stay.  Adolescents graduated, went away to college and settled elsewhere where there were opportunities and promises and a better job market.

I have a soft heart.  I am often burdened.  But this burden is real. I am constantly thinking of how to break that cycle.  How to provide hope.  How to create jobs that will keep the educated here, within their communities.  Bettering the town.  To have role models to point to.  And above all, for God’s mercy to shine in this country.




Some people rest well.  I am not that person.

There are times in my life that rest seems to allude me.  Like in the middle of basketball season and teaching and serving in the church.  Even on a day where I might try to rest, a deep level of rest doesn’t come.  I might nap.  I might be able to quiet my thoughts for a bit or distract myself.  But that’s just a momentary rest.  It is not a clear the mind all the way down to the soul kind of rest.

Or life in Guatemala.  Where each day is unpredictable.  It is a restful place nestled in the mountains.  But there is always the next thing to do and I am not a person that can quiet my brain from the next thing.  I think ahead, brainstorm. I think of what has just happened, am burdened to pray for someone or what I can be doing to help with part of a project.  On my Sabbath  I will head to the mountain and sit in quietness and can quiet myself for a bit.  But the rest doesn’t soak in.  It isn’t permanent. As soon as I descend the mountain, the rest slowly disappears and leaves me longing for the next Sabbath.

As I’ve been back in the states,  I’ve taken advantage of my time with others who have served overseas for decades and asked them, “How long do you have to be home before you can truly rest?”  And I didn’t like their answers.  Four months.  Six months.  Sometimes the full year that they were on furlough.   Or I’d ask, “What did you do while on the field to rest?”  And they’d chuckle and say, something like you just pretend to rest.  There is no opportunity to rest on the field.  To me having to rest is less restful than interacting and being around people sometimes.

But I have heard it said, “The greater the resistance, the greater the need.”

And I had plenty of resistance to the thought of rest.  If resistance is any indication of a need, I decided to take the path of least resistance and obey (after a few weeks of resistance of course).  I knew part of what God was asking of me was to rest during this summer .  To do something out of my character.  I wasn’t sure how to explain that or embrace it.  But He has shown me, slowly, what the purpose of rest is.

And then I read this…. “ If we are going to consistently spot the hand of God in our lives, we must cultivate a quiet, unhurried soul in a noisy, busy world.  Busyness can mask the soul’s emptiness for a season, but eventually the soul’s poverty is somehow revealed when we do not rest.  God calls out of our busyness into divine inactivity.  It is purposeful inactivity where we attune to His presence and enter His rest.  Human inactivity  is often escapism.  Yet Divine inactivity is restful, reparative and restorative.  These quick days of rest cannot bring the rest of the Spirit’s presence.”

And I read it again.  With a desire to get what was being said about the purpose of rest.  But even more, I read it because I had a thirst to see the hand of God in every aspect of my life.  I thought about activity and inactivity.   My desire in life is never to be inactive.  But I do desire to rest.  And as I compared the two, I realized that God has designed divine inactivity to reach our innermost soul.  So that we can say…. It is well, it is well, with my soul.

And it as if when I said Yes to God, about being obedient to the rest, that He said Yes to rejuvenating my soul.  It is not like me to not have a schedule.  It is not like me to be able to be content with not knowing what tomorrow will bring.  And it is not like me to just sit back and allow God to fill my days and ordain my conversations without any time of schedule making. But that is what he has called me to in this last month+.

Jim Elliot was a missionary who was killed in Ecuador years ago.  And I admire the joy and boldness that surrounded him.  One of his famous lines was, “Where ever you are, be all there.  Live to the hilt every situation you believe to be the will of God.”  When I look at Jim’s life, I see a man who was passionate about what God put on His plate.  But I also see a man who knew the Presence of God.  And knew how to rest.  And so, whatever season God takes me through, I want to live it out without regret.

Martha or Mary

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Were you designed like Martha or like Mary?

Martha was the one that saw what needed to be done and did it.  Mary was the one who lived in the moment and was not bothered by anything beyond that second.  Martha planned.  Mary sat. Martha loved Jesus through service.  Mary loved Jesus through focused attention.

 Anyone that knows me well knows that I’m a Martha.  Sitting is not in my vocabulary    Focus is not in my vocabulary.  I have always felt like Martha received a bad rap.  So maybe I am more inclined to defend her.  To me, both Martha and Mary worshiped Jesus.  Both loved Jesus equally.  Worship can happen while you are moving.  Undoubtedly my best times of worship have been alone on a run – while I was moving.  But I will admit that I have often found a rock to sit on and let it soak in as the words flood into my mind.   

I have spent years trying to make my Martha personality into a Mary.  Jesus said what Mary had to offer was better.  I wanted to know what it was like to be a Mary.  I want to offer what is best.  To wake up early to pray.  To sit through a prayer set in complete worship.  To immediately think that all you had to do that day was worship Jesus. 

And yet there were those people that could do just that.  God gifts some with the ability to be a Mary and focus in on the one thing, and God gifts some with the ability like Martha  to see the needs of others, to see how to reach out.   Yet in teaching, or worshiping I always wondered what it would be like to be Mary.  What that would feel like.  And so I spent years of my life sitting like Mary did, yet feeling like Martha would have felt just sitting.

I had this interesting time of broadening my understanding recently  as I was not even thinking about Martha or Mary.  I was focusing on a list of things that tend to hold us back – pride, anger, jealousy, bitterness, passivity, fear, rebellion, anxiety, depression and I was thinking about how to eliminate these from my thought patterns.  And my immediate thought was to pray against each one that it would be gone. To expose it and erase it.  A quick fix.  Simple.  Just like Martha would have done it. 

But as I pondered more and let my mind float from thought to thought, I began to think deeper.  I saw the importance of focusing on each one and eliminating all of the factors that go into that thought pattern.   Like eliminating the roots and the branches.  Just like I am sure Mary would have done. To not worry about other hang-ups in your life.  But to focus on eliminating just one.   And as I thought further, I realized that neither way is the solution.  Both are needed.  I need the introspective thoughts of Mary to be able to reveal the roots and patterns.  I need to be patient and wait just like she would wait.  I need to sit with Jesus and think about just that one thing and not everything else that leads from it.  And yet I need the drive of Martha to see what needs to be done and take action.  I need to recognize it is there and press on to eliminate it.  Without one, the other would not completely work.

It reminds me of one of my favorite quotes as a teenager.  Life is like riding a two wheeled bike.  Keep pedaling or you will fall off.  I am sure that Martha and Mary did not make a good bike riding team.  Martha was always pedaling ahead and keeping her bike going, calling back to Mary to catch up.  And Mary stopped to pick each wildflower and admire each sunset.  Mary taught Martha how to see beauty in each situation.  And Martha ensured that Mary had the opportunity to see more than just one field of flowers.

Press on.  Pick the flowers.  Admire the beauty.  And then look for the next one.




The Call

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I have been asked numerous times in the last week, “How did you know you were supposed to leave when you did?” And that question takes me back three years. Really six years. There are times in my life where I sense God pressing upon me something – that I am to move forward, encourage someone, or that something is about to change in my life. Many of those times have happened as I sat in conversation with people and I have a sensation that comes over me as I realize that what is being talked about in the group is something God is speaking to me about directly. And knowing that God was pursuing me about Guatemala was one of those times….

Six years ago we were sitting around the table in the evening and brainstorming about the possibility of a hospital. Duane had been given a direct word from God about moving forward and constructing a hospital to serve the people. And we were talking about the possibility and how that could happen. We had to have more staff, without question. And doctors. And into my mind popped the idea that it would happen. God gave me the idea of a possibility and I remember talking about how there would be a rotating group of doctors that would come down that were all connected. And through them we would have the possibility of staffing the hospital. We talked about the possibility of this and how rare it would be for doctors to be part of a practice like this. But the thought stuck with me. I remember processing through this with confidence that it was a real possibility and how God was moving. And as the summer came to a close and I headed back to the states, I can remember praying through how it would all work to build a hospital and the still small voice of God telling me that when we proceeded forward with the hospital project, that would be the same time I would need to be there permanently.  Yet that time was not here yet.


And so the thought was shelved. Pushed to the back of my mind. Every now and then I would think about it as I communicated with those in Guatemala and returned. But there was the same talk every summer. Until the DOCS for Hope ( http://www.docsforhope.org/our-story.html )  group found us. Through a random connection. I can remember when Leslie called to tell me about this group. I can remember exactly where I stood. The thoughts that ran through my mind. What I was wearing. And my response. Those are the moments that I think God engrains within us to remind later when we ask, “What made you do this?” It was a confirmation moment.  I didn’t immediately pack my bags and leave. Four months passed. But the decision was a lot quicker to make because of the conversation that happened three years before. It was more of a call towards obedience than it was of what I wanted to do. God kept on asking, “Are you willing to obey me?” I loved my job. I loved teaching. I had a comfortable life. I loved my community. But the taste of disobedience gives a bitter taste to life and so…. I pressed on towards the call. Towards obedience. And I thank God for his grace. For not having it hit me suddenly. That it was years of living the call that led up to that moment.  It wasn’t easy, yet it was worth it.


The table where I sat that evening and had that discussion.  Here it is being used for our Friday night worship/ outreach to those within our community.  One of my favorite nights of the week.

He has Risen

Every year I am sure that I have written about Holy Week – Semana Santa.  And yet every year it has not changed.  There is this darkness, this oppression, this heaviness that comes with this time of year.  I spent the weekend before Holy Week traveling and was in Antigua on Palm Sunday.  This is the day that Jesus came into Jerusalem.  It ushers in the Easter celebration.  For Christians around the world, Easter represents hope.  And yet even as I traveled, even as Holy Week came and went here, there was a heaviness that evaded us.  It is a mixture of many cultures, many traditions here and many gods.  As one of my friends who endured much festivity for days directly in front of her house of darkness put it…. it is more like unholy week here than holy week.  As the time for Easter approached, I decided that I wanted to try and gain an understanding of what was on the minds of those around me.  And so the question I asked to many of the Guatemalans that I interact with on a daily basis was…. Which day of the most important day of Holy Week?  Or which day should we celebrate the most?  Most of them said Friday is the most important day.  Some of them said no day.  But none of them said Sunday.  And when I explained to them the significance of the resurrection, I still am not sure that they understood why Christians celebrate the resurrection.

And even as Easter came to pass here, it was so weird.  It was as if they missed the celebration.  During the week there was definitely an air of happening in town.  As Friday approached the stores shut down, there were less people in town and the celebration was happening.  But Saturday came and they cleaned up the streets and resumed normal life.  As we celebrated Easter on Sunday, I went into town and had an eerie feeling.  I was celebrating a day that didn’t exist to those in town.  The shops were open again and life had resumed.

As I write this, Easter has passed, but let us not forget that we have reason to celebrate Easter – the Resurrection – each day.  I am thankful for the community of believers that are here.  That we can still celebrate together and that we live in a country with the freedom to celebrate when and how we want.  Christ is risen.  He has risen indeed.  Les we not forget that we are all on this journey – and each day counts!




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Traveling with friends over Holy Week.

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Antigua is known for their carpets that they lay throughout the streets as they have processions daily.  A lot of work for a short period of time…. but definitely something to appreciate.  There are pagan roots and the Easter Story isn’t quite reflected correctly, but I have an appreciation for the art.


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Our sunrise service – the highlight of Easter for me each year since I was little… imagining I was Mary walking to that tomb…. and realizing that He was the Messiah and has Risen!  What excitement!




Traditions.  22 kids.  All in one place.  And only a few tears.




I dreamt of rain last night. And each day it is impossible to not hear conversation about rain. Right now the valley is covered by a heavy haze from burning fields along with gusts of dust from then the wind picks up every speck of dust and blows it across the land. It is hot. It is dry. It hurts to go barefoot as the ground is mostly thorns and crunchy grass. Sweat is inevitable.  Just sitting.

Yet I remind myself daily that many others areas of the world are more desolate than this. At least we have trees and mountains. At least there is a breeze. At least we have sunshine. And an occasional cloud. I find myself searching more for the things to be thankful for than not thankful about. I want a heart of gratitude.  Even when it seems like the land is parched and I am parched of life.  I want that grateful heart that sees the good.

Often we find ourselves parched, or at least I have. Where I want to have that drop of rain, or drop of the Spirit, or drop of peace where I would feel not as dry. Thankfully these times are not constant. Thankfully when we call upon God and ask for rain, he brings it. Not in physical form, but in spiritual form. And with the first drop of rain, we find ourselves desperate for the next one and the next one. There is nothing greater than a shower of God to remind us of His faithfulness and refreshment.

Last night I dreamt of rain.  And today I felt a raindrop.  And saw the trace of precipitation on the ground.  The rains will return.  The freshness will return. Just as God brings refreshment to the ground.  He brings it to all of us… and so… we press on.  With the hope of what is to come.  Day by day.  Parched or full of life.

Hebrews 6:7

For ground that drinks the rain which often falls on it and brings forth vegetation useful to those for whose sake it is also tilled, receives a blessing from God.


Here is a contrast in the difference in the grass.   The green area received water from the canal for an hour and immediately was green the next day.  The brown grass is what it looked like the day before.  This brown patch was elevated too much and the canal water never touched it.  Soon we will turn all brown areas green.

What Started it All


The mountains that called my heart 16 years ago….



Sixteen years ago I embarked on an experience that I had no idea about – no idea about the implications. No idea that it would lead to this. No idea of what a mission’s trip even was. No idea of the gains it would give me, of perspective, or the changes that would happen because I stepped foot on that team. And I still could not list how my life was changed because of those 11 days that I first spent in Guatemala. We often say, “I would not be here today if not for this.” Well that ICO trip serves as this moment for me…. The beginning of seeing the world immensely differently.


The truth is that I did not want to go. The truth is that a year earlier I was asked about going on that trip. And I said no – selfishly. I didn’t want to raise money for a mission’s trip. I didn’t want to give up my spring break. I didn’t understand missions. I needed to study and catch up on my academics after a long basketball season. I didn’t really see the benefit that a week could have – on either side. Except for a waste of money. And that is exactly how I felt. It was a waste of time and money. My roommate at that time asked me about going and I said no quite quickly – without praying about it. Without giving it any thought. But as she was preparing for Guatemala, and as her trip came closer and closer, I realized that God really was calling me to Guatemala. I realized that when my roommate asked me to go on that trip, that really that was God nudging me towards that trip. Nudging me towards surrendering more of myself and giving up yet something else. It was one of the first times in my life that I realized that my “no” to going was actually a “no” to God and an act of disobedience. This taste of disobedience is something that I have tasted a few times since… something that is stirred from within that I realize God is asking me to move and I need to be obedient to this calling. Whether I want to or not.

And so, before she even left, I made a promise to God to go the following year if God still wanted me to. That was my sophomore year. And as the beginning of my junior year started and trip signups began, there was no doubt that God was calling me to go. It was something strong within my heart. It was the call to obedience. And so, regardless of the fact that the Twin Towers had just been destroyed and there was a lot of fear about travel, I committed to that team that year. And my life has never been the same since. I never expected God to call me to the mission field again. I wasn’t going on the trip to explore what a life over seas might be like. And I most certainly did not think I would ever live overseas. I simply went because I knew God wanted me there. And I completely expected it to be a one time and done thing. Yet, like so many times….God had more in store for me.

There are moments that I can remember so clear while I was here the first time – where God spoke to me about my return here. And where I denied in my heart what He was doing. Time with the children. A culture that stole my heart. My understanding of missions broadening. Dena (the director of the orphanage) telling me that I would return here to this place. Not being frustrated through the challenge of communicating. And so as the following year came and God called me to return, I already understood a little deeper what obedience and disobedience looked like. I can’t say that I followed the path of obedience easier… or that it ever becomes easier. Or that I ever get it right. But I can say that that call God put on my life has changed everything. Absolutely everything.


I reflect upon all of this because last week that team from Grove City College just made another trip to the home – as they have year after year since that time. I didn’t get much time of interaction with them, except for a visit they made over here. But one thing I am sure of – there were hearts there who are open to what God has for their lives. They are hard workers. They have hearts full of love for Guatemala, for others and to serve. I am still grateful for a college that saw a need to give its students a greater perspective of the world. What started as inner-city outreach ICO has reached around the globe. And it made me reflect on what it was like to be in their shoes… and how I walked on this dirt here at the age of 20 having no clue that really God was doing something in my life that would change my future forever.


Here are a few pictures of the team that came this year…. Looking the same as we did 15 years ago.



The faces and smiles that captivated my heart.

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The team taking a look at the hospital.

Tunnel Vision


I remember when I started traveling, and I began to see the world from a bigger perspective than just the small town living that I was accustomed to. I took in all of the sights and sounds and places and cultures. And then I went to college and I heard the word “worldview” for the first time… and I felt like my ideas and how I saw the world and my perspective on life changed – drastically. No longer did I see life through blinders that were up where I only saw what existed around me. And then I went to Guatemala for the first time and Mexico and the Dominican Republic…. And I saw poverty and needs differently. And God opened up that vision even more. It’s like the walls beyond my vision were knocked down and I began to see the world even differently. And yet, as I continue to live here, and I continue to live in a culture that is still foreign to me. As I continue to seek after what God has for my life and the purpose that is in front of me, another wall has been torn down. Instead of just seeing the physical world and considering all that is here on earth, it is like other walls have fallen and I see things that were in front of me all the time, and yet I didn’t see them before. I viewed the world leading up to this point was through tunnel vision, and yet now I see peripherally. A simple concept to many, but something that I think I have taken lightly until recently. This is how it has felt through other moments of my life as well, when I saw what was in front of me and all of a sudden, I saw the pieces that went together to create the bigger picture.

I do not want to have tunnel vision. I do not want to see just what I can see directly in front of me. I want to be able to see around me. I want to see need for what it really is. I want to see life for what it really is. I want to see the world for what it really is. I want to see what is in front of me in the physical and the spiritual and to understand what implications that has for my life.

And so… I press on… to see past the tunnel….

El HaNe’eman


El HaNe’eman

I never knew there were so many names of God – I have seen 581 to be exact- but over the years, I have begun to continually look over the list of names that refer to God in the Bible – Jesus, Emanuel, Savior, True God, Holy Spirit, Creator are just a few. But there are others that we don’t often refer to that are less common. Branch, Root, Judge, Fountain, Abba and the list goes on.


It is a tradition within my church to choose a name of God to reflect on for the upcoming year. An attribute to claim as you enter a new year – afresh. And so as 2015 comes to a close and we begin 2016, I have chosen the name El HaNe’eman …. which means Faithful.

Faithful. A word that I cling to. A word that I will continue to cling to. That is what God asks of us. To remain Faithful. And so, as I head into 2016 with a renewed fervor. As I start a new school year. As I open my arms to what God has for me this year…. I want to constantly remind myself that God is faithful. I have seen this in my life. And I will trust that He who has begun a good work in me, will bring it to completion. He is faithful and just.


And my verse for the year….

Deuteronomy 7:9 Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations.

If you would like to check out some names of God and claim one as your own, check out this link.

Reverse Culture Shock



There is culture shock. And then there is reverse culture shock. I notice that there is not dust on everything. I struggle to drive or judge distance when driving. Stairs are an odd thing to me. A car is an odd thing to me.  And I find myself claustrophobic. I notice that all of the rooms are closed in. Everything is arranged and has its own space.  I stand in a room and truly am claustrophobic.  There is carpet and plush furniture and there is not trash. I drive down streets and the houses are so far apart. And they are houses. Large houses. I cannot focus on a conversation because my eyes wander to small things like flower arrangements, or how candles are arranged or words on walls.  It’s ok.  It’s just remembering what this culture and life was like.


I walked into the high school that I used to teach in and the students looked foreign to me. I did not recognize the style of clothes, the hair or their routines. It is a strange feeling to be a foreigner in a place that used to be so familiar. I stood in my old classroom and could still sense what it was like to teach there. But it was weird. There were my cabinets and plants and my bird on the wall and posters that I had, but it had been too long since I lived in that room. I noticed everything that was different, and everything that was the same.

It is Christmas time which means that there is hustle and bustle everywhere. I have avoided most of it. Not necessarily on purpose, but it is not part of my routine anymore. I love the Christmas lights and take joy in the small things I never really enjoyed while I was here.  The longer I live a second life, the less of my first life feels normal. Living between two worlds is so difficult. There are so many conversations that feel as if I am a stranger. A lot changes in three years.  It is harder to relate.  My life is so different than a life here.  And lives here are so different from mine.

I am calling my transition back right now more like reverse culture shock. It is difficult to put into words what the last year has been like.  It has been my life.  It has been my assignment.  It has been where God has placed me and used me.  Everyone always wants to know what it feels like to be back… and some days it is comforting, enjoyable and relaxing and other days it can be overwhelming and stressful. I am grateful that I thrive on interaction and people. Although this can be a culture shock as well.  I can speak English.  Which can be a shock… but this is something I will welcome.

Be blessed this Christmas!  The good news is that this holiday is universal.  Jesus came to this earth for every tribe, every nation, every tongue… He is transcendent.  And he fits every culture.  Possibly a little different, but He is one constant regardless of the culture.  His purpose and life were the same.  And he knows how to communicate to all.  What a great gift!


For those of you who have followed Katie’s journey, her last three entries give light to the struggle here. https://theaaronfickers.wordpress.com/   Especially her Love Always Wins entry. Thank you, thank you for your prayers and support through this journey. We know that our God is greater than any pain that this world might give us.