“Everlasting Father”: A Guest Post for Lemonade International

A year and a half ago, I had the honor of going on a Blogger’s Trip to Guatemala with Lemonade International, a nonprofit that works on the slum community of La Limonada, in Guatemala City. The task for us bloggers from around the country was to spend the week seeing the work they do, living life with the people, hearing their stories, and writing about it on our respective blogs. It was an experience like no other I’ve ever had, and I left it with new eyes for justice, love, community, and what God’s Kingdom looks like in this world of brokenness.

I once again have the privilege of writing for them, and this time it’s for their Advent series. Today, they’ve posted on their blog some of my reflections on the divine name “Everlasting Father”. Here’s a taste:

Imagine a tiny nation in fear. Their leaders have failed them and have abandoned all principles of dignity and justice for the sake of securing the place of the powerful. Their political alliances have ravaged their economy, autonomy, and national security. They still live in the shadows and aftermath of civil war and the meddling of other larger, more powerful nations looking to take advantage of this one, it’s resources, and it’s people–with no consideration of the long-term effects. Most in this nation live in apathy and ignorance of the injustice in their midst. The powerful do not care, the privileged do not see, and the rest just try to survive.

What would this nation do? Where would be its hope? To whom would it lift its eyes?

This is Guatemala. This is La Limonada. But it was also the nation of Judah.

Also, if you’re looking for an incredible organizations for your year-end giving, I cannot recommend Lemonade International highly enough. Nonprofits bring a lot of extra scrutiny and can often bring about their fair share of skepticism (as they should). Is the money being used wisely? Are they simply perpetuating power dynamics and deep injustices? Are they exploiting others’ pain for their own gain?

These are all legitimate questions to have for nonprofits and the work they do, and I am hesitant to wholly trust an organization or suggest them to others.

Lemonade International, however, is one that I completely trust. Their resources, people, mission, and methods are all done with such thoughtful care and attention paid to the web of systemic, spiritual, practical, communal, familial, and economic issues that arise in these environments.

So please consider giving to the incredible work of this amazing organization!


See the Official Guatemala Blogger’s Trip Photo Essay


Though I love to take pictures, I didn’t take that many shots when I was in Guatemala with Lemonade International alongside the rest of the team of bloggers there. This was because we had a professional, dedicated photographer with us. I wrote about Scott Bennett and my thoughts on his work before the trip.

Each night as we writers sat down to blog, he’d show us the pictures he took for the day, and we’d fight over which ones we got to use in our posts. He took some amazing pictures, and shared many of the raw, untouched photos with us.

Well, now that he’s had time to dedicate more time and resources to focusing his creative eye on the pictures, he has now released his official photo documentary  from the trip, as part of the site Visual Peacemakers.

This photo essay beautifully captures the essence of our time and the people there as well as (if not better) than the words of us writers. I encourage you to spend some time with these pictures and let their weight and beauty affect you. Then, would you consider joining with Lemonade International in their continuing work in the La Limonada community of Guatemala?
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Trickle-Up Resurrection (Guatemala Lessons)

Rothko-easterMy church is currently in a series called “Resurrection Stories” in which we’re going through each of the non-Jesus stories of resurrections (or “resuscitations”—whatever) found in the Bible. It is, after all, still Easter.

A few weeks ago, as we were talking about Elisha raising the Shunnamite’s son, our pastor pointed out that most of these resurrection stories seem to center more on the people around the dead person than the dead person themselves. And so, in a sense, these resurrections are more for the people affected by death than the one dead; the ones that “receive” the true resurrection power are mostly those around the resurrected one.

Further, as he pointed out, most all of these people that “receive” the truest benefits of these resurrections are women—the most alienated and disempowered group throughout world history.
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So, how was Guatemala? I finally have an answer for you.

la-limonada-hands-guatemalaHow was your trip?”

This has been the question I’ve been receiving more than any other this past week and a half, since returning from my trip to Guamtemala with Lemonade International to see their work in the community of La Limonada.

And yet, I have had no answer.

Nearly every person who’s asked the question has been someone I love, who loves me, and gets me. They know that I can’t even articulate a simple answer to a casual “How ya doin’?” thrown my way. And so I’ve felt grace and understanding as I haven’t been able to answer.

At a wedding this weekend, in an attempt at capturing in one word the seemingly contradictory dimensions of my experience in Guatemala, I blurted out the word “paradoxitous”. Yes, I was trying to be funny.

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Tomorrow, I start posting again.

paul-window-guatemala-logoAny regular follower of the blog has seen that in the past week and a half that I haven’t really been posting. This is a big change from the near-daily posts I was putting up all the way through my trip to Guatemala.

Though a big part of the silence has been time constraints after being out of the country, the main reason has been the (literally) speechless state in which Guatemala left me. I’ve needed this time to process, talk to people, pray, and find the words in which the community and people of La Limonada would dress themselves in my mind.

I think I now have these words (or at least the provisional ones; we’ll see what time does), and so expect the blogging to pick back up tomorrow. I’m looking forward to getting back to this; I’ve honestly missed it a lot.

See you then.

photo by Scott Bennnett

Change: God is Real [Guatemala, Day 4] [photo sermon]


For those new to  the blog: each week, I try and write a “photo sermon” based on the themes of WordPress’ Weekly Photo Challenge. This week’s theme is “Change“. I thought I’d take this chance to begin processing my time in Guatemala with Lemonade International.

* * * * *

I don’t struggle with the plurality of beliefs about God. If there is a God, I am quite confident (as arrogant as it may sound) that Christianity is the proper understanding of Him.

Rather, my struggle is with the sense that God is there at all. Many of the posts on this blog have dealt with my open acknowledgment of my “inner atheist” (as I’ve called him several times), and how I’ve tried to deal with him.

I don’t know that I need to expound on this too much, as I’m confident many of the readers here get this already, but just in case: this doubt is not intellectual; it is existential. I often miss that abstract sense and “feeling” of God’s existence. Continue reading

“Strong like Lemonade….and sweet.” [Guatemala, Day 3]


Tonight is my last night in Guatemala. By the time this is posted and most of you read this, I will be on a plane (or, more likely, waiting in an airport), on my way back home.

The past couple of posts this week have been a little intense. The way I received and processed those first few days was definitely through the filter of brokenness and pain. And this was definitely appropriate. There were so many stories of poverty, violence, abuse, economic exploitation, injustice, paedophilia, and rape that I simply could not tell.

We have to see the need for hope before we can feel its presence.
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As We Lay Dying [Guatemala, Day 2]


Since God’s children share in flesh and blood, Jesus himself likewise partook of the same things

Today began with a meeting of the microenterprise crew–the staff and several of the women who have benefited from small loans to help start small businesses in the area.

Lemonade International is insistent that this is merely a solution to help some of those that are gifted in this way. Lemonade International partakes of the flesh and blood of these people, weak as they are, and sees how they can serve them as individuals with individuals needs.

I leave encouraged. Continue reading

Chasing Grace [Guatemala, Day 1]


Last night. She sat in the corner of the bed-couch in the corner of the room. One leg tucked under the other, face still red from the laughter she has both given and received over dinner. In one turn, though, the tone becomes serious as a question rises above the crowd, asking for her story. The story that has brought us here.

A nurse to burn victims, Tita began making home visits to a severely injured gang member, not knowing that her feet were walking upon the holy ground of poverty, violence, and death.

She eventually realized that she was in the neighborhood of La Limonada, nestled in the valley of the shadow of Guatemala City, considered a trash heap by those outside; both the people and the items are considered its waste.

And yet she continued going. And serving. And loving. Continue reading

Why I’m in Guatemala: Meet Lemonade International


Yesterday, I touched down to begin my week in Guatemala on a blogger’s trip with Lemonade International, a non-profit development organization doing work in a particular called La Limonada.

This community of La Limonada is the largest slum community in Central America. After the 36-year-long Guatemalan Civil War began (due to an American coup to overthrow their leader), many, many children and women lost their fathers and husbands to fighting, leaving this huge community of hurting people. Many, many of the refugees ended up in La Limonada.

This community is a 1-mile long stretch that is a half-mile wide and straddles a ravine. 60,000 to 100,000 people live there. It is considered a “red zone” by Guatemala, meaning that deliveries, police, and most outsiders in general don’t go in there. In the boundaries of the “zones” of Guatemala City, La Limonada is between two different zones–it doesn’t even have a place in the official boundaries of the city.

It’s literally been abandoned and marginalized by the very nation in which it resides.
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Guatemala Bloggers Trip: Meet Scott Bennett

scott-bennett-lemonade-internationalIn preparation for our Blogger’s Trip to Guatemala in April, Lemonade International is spending each week leading up to the trip profiling each of the bloggers that will be participating. Recently, they profiled our official trip photographer Scott Bennett.

Scott calls himself a “humanitarian photographer”. I know, I know. You’re probably thinking (accompanied by an eye-roll) “Everybody’s a photographer now”. And yes, some of us like to think we have an eye for this stuff (MySpace profile shots and Instagram pictures excluded), but Scott is different on many levels.

First, I can’t tell you how refreshing it was to open up his blog and his online portfolio page and not see any pictures with filters and major edits done to them. Like a true photo artist, he seems to consider the camera and the subject as his primary tools of his craft, not Photoshop. If he uses it, he uses it as any artist uses any aid: he doesn’t so you can’t tell.

Secondly, any real photographer can tell you that there is far more to truly beautiful and meaningful photo art than mere “composition” or simply “capturing an image.” There has to be movement, narrative, and/or dimensionality.
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Death & Dignity: what’s the point?


Next week I head to Guatemala for the Lemonade International Blogger’s Trip. Having been introduced to this organization, I’ve been following their blog closely, trying to get to know them more and more.

A couple of days ago, they posted about a tragic loss. A member of their school, Herber Giovanni Sandoval, died a couple of days ago at the age of 17. In the conclusion of their post, they said this:

“We are especially grateful to the youth group at Lifepointe Church in Raleigh, NC for sponsoring him while he was still attending the Limón Academy.”

I immediately had the image of the youth group kids or sunday school class at that church who probably spent years following the story of Herber. I wondered how they would feel and respond to this news. How would the leaders help them process this? Would it impact the kids at all or would they be too removed from it?
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Guatemala Bloggers Trip: Meet…Me.

paul-wine-flowersIn preparation for our Blogger’s Trip to Guatemala in April, Lemonade International is spending each week leading up to the trip profiling each of the bloggers that will be participating. This past week, they profiled me.

In it you can find out if Bring it On is my favorite movie, what my connection to Billy Ray Cyrus is, how I got connected to this trip, and how I would describe the content and audience of this blog.

Tell me if you think I’m  wrong.

All next week, I’ll begin blogging about my own preparations for the trip. I’ll be writing about readying myself spiritually, emotionally, and practically, as well as sharing with you all the Guatemalan history that sets the context for the work Lemonade International does.

Hopefully, by the time I leave next Sunday, we will all feel like we’ve prepared well for the trip ahead.

Thank you all again for reading this blog and giving me the chance to do a trip like this. Also be sure to bookmark this page on my blog to follow my blogger’s trip to Guatemala!

Click the banner below for more info in the trip. lemonade-guatemala-2 BloggersDate

Guatemala Bloggers Trip: Meet Dana Byers


In preparation for our Blogger’s Trip to Guatemala in April, Lemonade International is spending each week leading up to the trip profiling each of the bloggers that will be participating. Recently, they profiled Dana Byers.

I don’t know Dana personally, but she’s got quite the resume. As the President of BlueDoor.tv, she helps train and support pastors all over the world begin online-based ministry and community (she even wrote a book about it!). She’s the Community Pastor for the online church branch of LifeChurch.tv. That means that she doesn’t simply theorize about this stuff all day, but she actually lives it out and puts into practice the new methods of ministry she helps others develop.
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Guatemala Bloggers Trip Profile: Tim & Katie Høiland


In preparation for our Blogger’s Trip to Guatemala in April, Lemonade International is spending each week leading up to the trip profiling each of the bloggers that will be participating. This week, they profiled Tim and Katie Høiland.

I take personal responsibility for hooking Tim and Katie up over Twitter. They were married a couple of years ago in Phoenix in one of the best weddings I’ve ever been to, and it was here that I first heard of Lemonade International. In lieu of wedding gifts, they requested we give to LI.

And that is the heart they have. The Twitter hashtag they led them together was the #socialjustice tag. They have such a heart for all that’s represented by this Guatemala trip, I’m so glad to be spending this time with them. In fact, it was Tim’s recommendation that gave me the opportunity to do this.

And so, today, I offer you the chance to get to know this amazing couple. Check out their LI profile, Tim’s blog, and Katie’s blog. Click the banner below for more info in the trip.

lemonade-guatemala-2 BloggersDate