Posted by: annaakehurst | August 29, 2011

24-7 prayer continues in Guatemala :-)

A 24-7 prayer room at the recent Ezra Centre conference

 

http://www.24-7prayer.com/blog/1584

Check out this blog post on the 24-7 prayer site from my wonderful Guatemalan sister Emy Ortiz. Her parents run a charity called Centro Esdras (the ezra centre) which is working in Guatemala to train, equip and unite pastors. They recently held a conference for pastors from all over Guatemala and decided to create a prayer room as part of the event to encourage and promote 24-7 prayer within the country.🙂 The brochure of prayer ideas, that I put together in my last few months in Guate, was also put on sale with around 30 copies being sold. Emy played such a big role in the team when we set up the week of 24-7 prayer in the church in Guate (CEFEMI) and it is great to see her and her family sharing the heart and vision for 24-7 prayer in Guatemala! Please pray for them. Pray for Centro Esdras as it trains and works with pastors from all over the country, pray for those who were encouraged by the prayer room to take the passion to pray back to their areas and churches around Guatemala and continue to pray for the country of Guatemala. Even though I am not there Guatemala will always be on my heart, It is a country that carries a lot of violence and pain but it is a place where God’s love, grace and power are breaking in and longing to transform lives. Prayer changes things and these are some of the people that God is using to establish his Kingdom in this nation.

 

Some of the pastors who attended the recent conference held by The Ezra Centre

 

Posted by: annaakehurst | May 11, 2011

Going stateside…

So i have now been away from Guatemala for nearly 2 weeks. No noisy packed buses, no black clouds of pollution, no volcanoes or brightly coloured traditional dress. Some days i feel like i’m living in a dream and other days it feels like Guatemala was the dream. I haven’t really had time for my feet to hit the ground as i was only back in England for 6 days! 6 days of eating curries, visiting as many people as possible, being in London on the royal wedding day, unpacking, repacking, brunching and lunching and then..off to America!

I have just spent the last 6 days in Montana for my brother’s wedding. It was great to catch up with old friends, meet new ones and to spend time with my brother and my parents. We spent a day in yellowstone park, floating in the boiling river, a few hours visiting a local ghost/wild west town, eating with and meeting Rachel’s (my brother’s new wife) family and friends and then the wedding! It was a great day which began with a few of us just worshipping and praying together. The ceremony was beautiful and the reception an eye opener..mainly because we all realized that my dad is an awesome dancer! And now i am in Idaho…staying with my friend Cara who i met whilst in Mozambique with Iris ministries. She lives amongst the hills and her house has the most beautiful view! I am so blessed to have such great friends around the world!

And now i can breathe, i can rest, i can just be and can begin to process all that has been going on in and around me in these last 20 months. This morning i was reading Ephesians 4..

 17 So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. 18 They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. 19Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed.

 20 That, however, is not the way of life you learned 21 when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. 22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

I began to think about the condition of my heart.. my sensitivity to the Holy Spirit. I am so not where i long to be. My heart has become hardened in so many ways. I am in need of healing, forgiveness and a whole lot of love. But as i sit looking over the hills i know that my God is soo faithful, he is a God who restores and redeems. Who takes my messes and turns them into objects of beauty.. and as i sat there, totally aware of my weaknesses and failings, i became so aware of his love for me. His love that burns for me, just as much today as it ever has..his love that never fails. A love that says to me…

‘i will pour pure water over you and scrub you clean. I’ll give you a new heart, put a new spirit in you. I’ll remove the stone heart from your body and replace it with a heart that’s God-willed, not self-willed.’ (Ezekial 36:26 The Message)

Tomorrow i leave Idaho and we travel to Redding, California where i will be spending the next 2 weeks visiting Bethel church and just taking some time out. Please pray for this time as i begin to go through the good and the bad from the last 20 months, as i seek God’s heart for me and his plans for my life, as i go through healing ministry (both physical and emotional) and as i just spend time sitting at my daddy’s feet, delighting in him and knowing that he delights in me. Thankyou so much for all of your prayers and support throughout my time in Guatemala and since i have been back. I am so very grateful to you all.. i am going to be hanging out in the prayer rooms at Bethel quite a bit over the next couple of weeks and so feel free to email me your prayer requests and i will pray for you too! I will leave you with some fun photos from the wedding =)

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Posted by: annaakehurst | April 23, 2011

laying it all down again…

So, this will probably be my last blog post from within Guatemala and in a way i feel i have come full circle back to the place i need to be in on this good Friday. Back to the place of laying it all down, of placing my hopes and dreams on the cross with Jesus, of laying my tired heart and body on his and allowing him to fill me.

I’m tired..no, actually i’m exhausted. Not long after 24-7 prayer and Stacey’s visit i began to experience a long list of problems with my digestive system and lower region. It has been going on for over 2 months now.. often not being able to do anything other than just lie down or sleep. The doctor doesn’t really know what the problem is and i have been on over 4 different courses of antibiotics in the last 2 months..each one leading me to feel progressively worse. It means that i have not been able to do a lot of the things i was hoping to do in my last few months here. I have been unable to set up a 24-7 prayer room in the El Castillo homes and all of the walls of the church i go to remain unpainted.

However i truly believe we have a God who loves to use us in our weakness..he is a God who tells me that  “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” It has definitely not been an easy lesson to learn this year after infections in my gum, dental surgery, these stomach problems, conjunctivitis that doesn’t seem to want to leave and then having my bank card cloned and money stolen from my account. At times i have felt totally battered by my health and circumstances but in the midst of it all i have met with with the creator of the universe, my daddy who whispers to me to just trust him, seek him, hold onto him and today, like yesterday i choose to trust him. In the midst of all my weakness he has been working and moving and using me in so many ways. A month or so ago i was fortunate to meet up with a team from the Bethel ministry school from Chicago. Their leader Michaela had read my blog and facebook stalked me (which i am very grateful for!) and asked if i wanted to meet up with them because they would love to pray and prophecy over me. So i met up with them in Antigua, we went into a local hospital and prayed with girls with physical disabilities and then they spent some time praying for me. It was such a divine encounter that reminded me just how much God loves me and wants to restore me completely! After my time with the team i felt led to take Isra (the leader of the youth group) and Emy his sister to visit the team at the YWAM base where they were staying..they spent time praying and prophesying over the both of them, an experience totally new to both Isra and Emy but God was speaking to both of them.

After this i was invited to preach for two weeks running at the youth group and i felt like i should speak on how we hear the voice of God. One week was on the theme of ‘how can we hear God speak to us’ and the second one was looking at ‘how God wants to speak to others through us’ looking mainly at prophecy. I was aware from my friends in the youth that these were quite tricky and new subjects for a lot of churches and that a lot of churches here in Guatemala had a reputation of misusing prophecy. I love my church and the hearts of the young people i have met here but sometimes have struggled with the lack of emphasis on the Holy Spirit and ministry times. I can completely understand the reasons why they question it and that they don’t want to be associated with churches who misuse the gifts of the Spirit but i really felt that it was time to give some biblical teaching on the theme and to encourage them to be open to what God wanted to do and say. Both times, before i was due to preach, i was suffering from bad health problems. The day before my first talk i had felt so much better (in my stomach) and then that night i only had 3 hours sleep because i came down with painful conjunctivitis in my right eye. I felt like i was in a battle which made me even more determined to say what i felt was on God’s heart. Both times people responded and i had the privilege of praying with specific people afterwards. As part of my second talk i had really wanted to give the opportunity for people to practice hearing God’s voice for others but it was felt that the youth weren’t ready for it..however God had other ideas.

      Just a few photos from my last youth group and last worship group meeting

I have just come back from a 5 day camp with GEU (it is like the UCCF..University Christian Fellowship of Guatemala) and around 14 of our church youth went along too. I was on my 4th course of antibiotics and spent a lot of time bed ridden with nausea and stomach problems but once again in the midst of my weakness God was on the move. A speaker had been invited from the states, called Andrés, to lead 2 workshops on prayer. I immediately enrolled to be a part of his sessions and was thrilled to see that a number of our church youth had signed up too. Everything he spoke on was a confirmation on what i had said at the youth group and at dinner after the first session i suggested to a few of the youth that we use our free time to practice hearing from God. For some of us that may not seem like anything big but for a lot of these guys it was a totally new concept and i was excited and a bit nervous to see what would happen. 6 of us met together in a back room and i tried my best to lead 30 mins of worship in Spanish and then we began to listen. One of the girls was reminded of the story of how Jesus washed the disciples feet and i felt like we should pray for each person in turn, listen to God for them and wash their feet. It was a powerful time. God was moving, his presence was with us. Many were moved to tears as other members of the group spoke God’s heart over them and washed their feet! It was great! I was at home!

The next morning same thing…i was bed ridden with nausea but made myself get up for lunch and for our free time prayer session! Everyone was tired and so we started off with just 3 of us, then another came and also a guy who hadn’t been the day before. We worshipped, we listened to God’s heart and we spoke it over each other and washed each other’s feet. Once again God’s spirit filled the room and filled our hearts. I then arrived at the prayer workshop to find we were going to do it all again! around 6 hours in total!! I went to bed truly exhausted but knowing that there is a God who uses us in our weakness! Seeds are being planted and heart’s are being opened!

On my last day of camp, two of the youth took me aside and began to pray and prophesy over me.. all things that i believed were on God’s heart and afterwards i found myself on my knees, alone, crying and bargaining with God. I was totally and completely exhausted, still in pain and overwhelmed. I found trying to make a deal with God. I would do all that he wanted me to do. Follow him anywhere IF…1. He healed me and 2. IF he could send me a husband to do it with and so…. today….

Well today i come back full circle…To Good Friday. To a God who gave up everything for me, who gave up his power and came to earth to lay his life down. No IFs…No BUTs.. Im still tired and i am still believing for the desires of my heart (for his healing and his promises) but today once again (like so many months ago) i became like the pregnant woman hanging herself on the cross (see Blog update from November 15, 2009). Laying down my if’s and saying ok God i will go..however i am.. in weakness or in strength, in health or in sickness, Single or married i choose to trust you and i choose to follow you for i know that you delight to be my strength in my weakness and he is enough, he is worth it.

‘Find rest O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, i shall not be shaken. My salvation and my honour depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge. Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge’ (Psalm 62: 5-8)

So today, on Good Friday i urge you too to search your heart. What are the IFs and BUTs you are carrying in your heart? Maybe today, on the day where we remember how Jesus gave up everything for us on the cross. Maybe today we choose to echo his prayer and say ‘not our will but yours be done’.

I leave Guatemala on Tuesday and arrive back on Wednesday! I am so sad to be leaving my family here but also excited to se what God wants to do next.. please pray..

Thanking God for my time here, for all that he has shown me and been doing in me!

Pray for seeds that have been planted that God would cause them to grow!

Thanking God for the wonderful friends that he has given me here in Guatemala and that he will continue to bless them and grow them in him!

Pray for a complete healing of my stomach and inner health problems (i have a quick turn around in England..just one week before flying to America for a month for my brother’s wedding and things so i would love to be well)

Pray for my flight home (i leave on Tuesday and arrive back in the UK on Wednesday) for safe passage and seamless changeovers!

Pray for us to grow in God, to get deeper into his heart, to listen to his voice and to follow him with all we are.

Hopefully see some of you very soon (and i will try and write another blog asap! to fill you in on my plans and about more of my last few weeks here! So be expectant! )

Annaxx


Posted by: annaakehurst | March 15, 2011

A week of prayer and my first visitor!

So our prayer week finished a few weeks ago and we have had time to reflect and see what God was doing through it all. It was the first time of running a whole week like this and so it was a bit of a learning experience for us.. trying to work out how to translate 24-7 prayer into a different culture and we learnt a lot!

We had to set up beds in the church so that people who wanted to pray during the night could stay over. As you are all aware..crime rates in Guatemala are high and violent crime is a big worry to a lot of people here and so many people don’t like to travel at night and especially don’t like their children traveling at night. I had never really thought about this before but it made the nights much harder to fill up than the nights in the prayer rooms in England! The young people were so excited and passionate about the room and about prayer but many weren’t able to come to the room during the week…due to parents working, having school work and not being allowed on buses etc.. so in the future we will probably run the prayer week during a school holidays so they can stay over in the church and be there more regularly!

Despite a few hiccups..the weeks went really well with over 60 people from the church coming to the room to pray during the week. after a couple of days nearly all the prayer slots were filled with many people signing up for more time. whole families spent time together praying and felt like God really broke through in those times together! I spent most nights at the church helping to cover the night time shifts and they were great times to pray for the youth and for God’s spirit to really break through in the church and in Guatemala. The biggest breakthrough seemed to come at the Sunday service at the end of our week of prayer. The week ended with a special time of worship and prayer and the atmosphere in the church was totally different to normal. Many people were on their knees weeping and praying for Guatemala..it was like a new passion had been birthed. People shared testimonies of their time in the room..one older lady began openly prophesying over different members of the congregation with words she felt God had given her in the prayer room..this shocked many people as i had never really heard her speak out loud in church before! Here is one prayer that was written up on the prayer room wall…

In English it says the following…‘God is here, as much as the air we breathe, as much as the sun that rises in the morning, so that when i speak, he hears me..Thankyou Jesus’

So what’s next???

On the Sunday after the prayer week. Isra, the team and I sat down with the pastors of the church to discuss how we could build on the prayer week. The church has committed to making a 24-7 prayer week a regular part of the church calendar and are committing to having a full weekend of creative prayer every 2 months! Different people have been asking me for resources and materials to set up prayer rooms in their churches and a local charity would like to start giving training on creative prayer and 24-7 to pastors across Guatemala. I have various materials on 24-7 prayer in Spanish which have been sent to me from 24-7 prayer in Mexico and i am in the process of writing a manual on creative prayer which will include details of creative prayer stations, with different themes, in Spanish! Please pray i get it finished and printed up in my last remaining 6, yes i can’t believe it, 6 weeks remaining! Here are a just a few photos of our 24-7 prayer room…

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In other news…

My first visitor!

A week after the prayer room i had the great privilege of hosting my first and only visitor to Guatemala! My friend Stacey came out for 10 days to visit me here. It was really great to show someone the country that has been my home for the last 18 months.. we visited the boys homes in El Castillo (where i worked for 9 months) and we went with the church youth to a local indigenous village to do some outreach work and give out shoes. Stacey even got the opportunity to put her hairdressing skills to good use when we went to a local village to cut the women and children´s hair. After a very busy and sleepless 24-7 prayer week we also got some much needed rest time when we went to visit lake Atitlan (around 3 hours away from my house). Thanks for coming Stacey!!

Stacey after her first trip on a local camioneta (chicken bus)

Prayer points!

  • Give thanks for our week of 24-7 prayer with CEFEMI.. Give thanks for those who came and encountered God during the week and for the affect it has had on the church
  • Give thanks for youth last Saturday where i lead worship for the first time in Spanish and remembered all the words and was able to enter in to the time of worship!
  • Give thanks for the great friends and people that support and care for me here! Especially for those within my church here in Guate
  • Pray that God continues to increase the passion for prayer within the church and within the young people
  • Pray that others around Guatemala will catch the vision for prayer and for 24-7 and that we would see more prayer rooms grow in this country. Pray specifically for Katy (a lady who i worked with in El Castillo) she is really wanting to run a prayer room with her youth in her church in an area called Villa Lobos. She has found a room in the church she can use but is praying for God to show her someone who could take on responsibility for leading the week. Please pray for God to raise up the right person to take on the vision she has for the youth and prayer there.
  • Pray for the youth (20s to 30s) of CEFEMI…and for the new small groups that have been set up. Please pray for Isra as he disciples the 6 leaders who will be leading these groups and pray for great relationships to be formed within the small groups themselves. Pray that i would be able to get alongside 2 of the leaders and be a support to them and their groups in my remaining time here.
  • Pray for writing of this 24-7 prayer manual! that i would get it completed and printed in the next few weeks (as it is much tougher trying to write it in Spanish!) and that God would use it for his Glory within Guatemala encouraging other people to pray 24-7!
  • With only 6ish weeks left…please pray that God would use me in the time i have left here and that he would prepare my heart to leave and begin to speak to me about my next steps.
  • For more of a hunger in my heart for God…that the words in the following Psalm would become a truth for me..

‘God you are my God, earnestly i seek you.
My soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you,
in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your Glory.
Because your love is better than life, my lips will praise you.
I will praise you as long as i live, and in your name i will lift up my hands.
My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods,
with singing lips my mouth will praise you’
(Psalm 63 v 1-5)

Posted by: annaakehurst | February 10, 2011

Our prayer room gets a mention on the 24-7 prayer website!

Yesterday i received an email from Carla Harding, who works for 24-7 prayer in the UK, informing me that there was now a feature on the international website about our 24-7 prayer weekend in Guatemala. Click on either one of the 2 links to be taken to the website:

http://www.24-7prayer.com

http://www.24-7prayer.com/features/1448

We are currently in the middle of a week long 24-7 prayer with my church here in Guatemala. Our desire is that through it God would release such a passion and heart for prayer amongst the church and the young people here.

Posted by: annaakehurst | February 9, 2011

Changes, prayer and brussel sprouts


A very late Happy Christmas and Happy New Year to you all. Once again my mother has brought to my attention my lack of frequent blog writing and considering that i am wishing you all a Happy Christmas in February… she may have a point. A lot has happened in the last few months and changes lie ahead sooooo brace yourselves, get yourself a cuppa and let the updating begin.

The first bit of big news that i have to share with you all is that i will be flying home from Guatemala on the 26th April, arriving back on the 27th in just over 2 and a half months. You may remember that i was initially going to be in Guatemala for 2 years but in the time i have been here my little bro has got himself engaged and so i decided that coming home early was a small price to pay so i could be at his wedding. Congratulations Rachel and Steven!! Right… so what have a i been up to since i last wrote in the blogosphere…

The months running up to Christmas nearly always lead to Christmas party planning and so, as anticipated, November and December on the street team of Fundación Castillo de Amor meant organising 2 events for all of the kids with whom we work. In November we took the children to a local ecological park where they screamed in the face of barnyard animals and spent time just running around and enjoying being outside of the city. In December we planned an all singing, all acting, end of year, open air, party in a local sports ground. All the children and their families were invited to come and participate.  A local church provided special christmas songs and a play, there was a jewellery making workshop for mums, sports and parachute games for the kids and not to mention the traditional Christmas Tamale for lunch. It was a great day if not a little crazy and it has actually turned out to be one of my last activities with the street team (more about that later).

Christmas this year was mainly celebrated on the 25th. Guatemalan’s here celebrate Christmas on the 24th but alter an evening of stomach pains i decided that the best way to celebrate it was in bed!! The 25th was a traditional British Christmas  lunch at Suzanne’s house and we were not disappointed when we were served up with turkey and all the trimmings (including everyone’s favourite… Brussel Sprouts). The day was spent eating, playing games, watching films, praying for each other and chatting to each other’s familias on Skype.

New year this year was an understated affair although we were in the jungle! A couple of striders and myself decided it was time to visit Tikal (a famous Mayan ruin sites that puts stone henge to shame). So we decided to head up to the North of Guatemala and spend a few days checking out the area. It was beautiful and toasty warm but i have to say that after 3 days i had Developed a condition known as ruins overload! ( I think it is a similar to museum overload…a condition which i suffered from as a child).

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January was spent mainly in Nicaragua. I had holiday time owing and a Latin Link conference to attend. It was a great 2 weeks of getting some much-needed time out to process and reflect and a great time to see my friend and old housemate Emma who is living there now. We visited Granada, the beach and an island made up from 2 volcanoes, which is impressive to see but i spent the entire hour-long boat journey avoiding a local drunk who was insisting on being a personal tour guide! The next thing on my agenda was the Latin Link Central America conference where all of the long and short-term missionaries convened for the weekend in a local conference centre.

What should have been a simple weekend conference for me ended up opening a can of Worms in me that had laid dormant for months. As part of the conference we were given time to debrief a violent incident that had happened to some Latin Link volunteers in Guatemala and whilst i had not been directly involved i had been living in the same house as those who were affected deeply by the horrific incident. As the debrief began i just began to cry and cry. It had been the first time that i had really opened up about how i felt and was feeling. Questions bounced around my head like..why did God allow that to happen? Why them and not me? Why did God not Protect them when they were doing his will? Questions that i could reason out in my head.. but inside my Heart i was fighting over the answers.

Dealing with these now ‘out of the can’ Worms was going to take time. More time with God, more time working through my feelings, I was tired emotionally and physically and dealing with the ever increasing reality of living in a dangerous country. It was during this time that i made the decision not to go back to work with the street team of Fundación Castillo de Amor. It was a decision that lifted such a weight off me and filled me with peace for the first time in months. I had 3 months left (now 2 and a half) and it was time for a God ordained change. Over the past year i have become much more involved in my church here in Guate. Involved  with the youth, worship and prayer life of the church. Our 24-7 prayer week in February was coming up and i was feeling the pull to get more involved in it. God was increasing my passion for his people here in Guatemala and now i had the time to get more involved. So for my time remaining i will be working with my church here. This will include getting more involved in the youth leadership team, helping the church to pray 24-7 and even painting a few rooms. My involvement with Fundación Castillo will continue but based more around teaching  in the area of creative prayer..

A step towards the fulfillment of a vision..

You may remember (if your memory is better than mine) that quite a few months ago i was challenged about the prayer lives of the boys who i was working with in the homes of Fundación Castillo. I put forward a suggestion for them to build a new creative prayer room in the new buildings which they were constructing. The construction is now coming to an end and there is a prayer room waiting to be set up!  In these last few months here i am hoping to put together a training manual  about creative prayer which i can leave with the organisation. This would include information about creative prayer, 24-7 prayer and lots of ideas for prayer activities and stations. I am hoping to also be involved in setting up the prayer room in March although this is still waiting to be confirmed.

I feel like i have talked or typed for way too long and so will just leave you with a few praise and prayer points for you to mull over:

  • Praise God and pray for his continued protection and presence
  • Praise God for the new season of work that he has for me to do in my last few months in Guatemala
  • Praise God for the week of 24-7 prayer here at the church which we are currently running (the source of my next blog!)
  • Please pray for this week of prayer…that everyone who comes to pray will be touched by the presence of God, that he will use the room to birth dreams and visions in the hearts of all involved, especially the young people.
  • Praise God for my time with both the homes and the street team of Fundación Castillo de Amor para la niñez. Continue to pray for their work as they seek to work with the street children of Guatemala.
  • Pray for the new creative prayer room in the residentials that God would use it and would use me to help equip people in the area of creative prayer.
  • Last Friday i had an Apicoectomy surgery, which consisted of a dentist removing part of an infected root in my gum. I was left stitches and a sore face. I have to go back to the surgery on the 14th to see if it has been successful. Please pray that it has been and that the infection has gone once and for all!
Posted by: annaakehurst | December 13, 2010

Learning how to pray

If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14 TIME TO PRAY….

In my first week in Guatemala when I was praying for the city God showed me a river running through the streets…a river that as it flowed, began to cleanse and heal and clean everything in it’s path…people, things, whole areas. God took me to the verse in Revelation 22 (verses 1-5)

‘Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2 down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. 3 No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. 4 They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 5 There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever’

This was God’s heart for Guatemala city. It is very unlike the city that I am coming to know..a city where violence dominates and where the people are living in fear. The lonely planet guide book describes it as big, dirty and dangerous. There are churches on every road (normally more than one) and 35-40% of the population of Guatemala claim to be evangelical Christians. As I thought about this bible passage, looked at the statistics and the newspapers…something wasn’t adding up. I began praying and asking God what i should be praying for…what was the key to see change in this country?? I remember being in my room at language school in Antigua when i felt like i heard God say…Unity and Prayer. just 2 words that together can change lives, can change nations. Guatemala is not known for it’s unity amongst churches..it seems like a lot of people are out to just build an empire or secure a steady income. I recently went to one of the mega churches for a half night vigil in which no more than 30 minutes was spent in prayer for the country and the city but 2 hours spent on a Christian rock concert. After hearing these 2 words I would like to tell you that from that moment i was on my knees in prayer every day…but unfortunately that was not the case. I would like to make excuses and give reasons for not dedicating my prayer life to this country but all i can admit is that i have been selfish. Many times this year i have been wrapped up in my own personal struggles and worries and have failed to press in to God for more and to see Guatemala changed and become a picture of Revelation 22v1-5.

A few months ago, whilst in a church service (maybe during a preach in Spanish..ooops..sorry God) my mind and heart began to wonder onto the theme of 24-7 prayer. Those who know me know that 24-7 prayer has always been something very strongly on my heart… i love all things creative..music..art and often connecting with God in the formal ways of sitting still and quietly just lead my into a deep sleep (sorry again God). I shared this idea and my heart for 24-7 creative prayer with a friend Isra at church along with the things i thought God had shared with me at the beginning of my time here. He suggested that we took the idea to the pastors of the church but also informed me that the church had never really done anything like that before. We chatted to the pastors who all agreed that God was calling the church into times of deeper prayer and sent us away with a ‘go with it’ we are backing you up. So as a starter we agreed to hold a weekend on 24 hour a day prayer…

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When the day came to set up the prayer room i approached one of the pastor’s wives to get the key for the room. As i asked her she began to cry and she told me that a few years before she had seen a vision…a vision of the young people of the church rising up in passionate prayer for Guatemala…praying like never before….and they were praying in the room which we had decided to use for the prayer weekend. God was fulfilling plans that he has always had for the church…for the young people here in this place. It was a privilege to play a part in that. And as the weekend progressed I was blown away by the commitment and passion in the way that the church got involved. Before the weekend began every prayer slot was filled. Parents entered the room to find their young children prostrated on the floor praying. The youth group spent many hours praying…staying for much more time than their allocated time slots and as i spent time worshiping and praying i began dreaming…

IMAGINE…you have an area fueled by gang crime and marked by poverty. Churches everywhere you turn but very little unity. Imagine planting a house of prayer into that area or zone. A place not just linked to one church but one that would seek to unite the churches in prayer. One where people would be praying…day and night, 24-7, 365 days of the year. Prayer changes things..people, places, atmospheres and it brings down strongholds. What would happen if young people rose up in these areas..people rose up with a passion to pray until something happens and when it does…would keep on praying. Places that would start off as prayer houses and evolve into community centres, meeting needs and working with local community projects…Holy ground in the midst of unholy chaos. How would Guatemala be changed through a movement of 24-7 prayer in its darkest and most dangerous areas???

In England and other parts of Europe this movement of boiler rooms (as named by 24-7 prayer) is growing…there is so much need here…not for another separate church or project, not for more money to be thrown at different activities or charity work, but for the churches here to recognize that they are the people of God…not separately but together…united. The need to realise the one of the keys to change in this nation in prayer and unity. My prayer….is…..”Lord, teach me how to pray” take my eyes off myself and fix them on your face. If i want others to get passionate about prayer i have to start living it…laying down my life again…all of it. It’s hard….death…dying to self. So pray for me, pray for Guatemala, pray for dreams to rise up in the hearts of the young people, pray for dreams to rise up in me.

And as a church the passion to pray is continuing…we will be having a full week of 24-7 prayer at the beginning of February….


Posted by: annaakehurst | October 29, 2010

A short time with the street team

A start with the street team (now called prevention and rescue programme)

I feel like i begin every blog post with an apology! hmmm well Why break with tradition…Im sorry for not writing blogs sooner!! So….a lot has changed in the last few months. Last time i wrote i was all set to join El Castillo’s street team. I did begin with the street team in September and spent a month with them.. doing the things that the street team does. When i arrived they were in full swing planning an event for el día del niño. We travelled round all the schools that El Castillo is working with and all of the other groups inviting all of the children to an activity at the circus!!! There were 4 showings and around a thousand children came over the day..it was a very long day but a lot fun! I was in charge of organising and distributing snacks to all of the children in each showing and when i got the chance to have a break i played with a tiger!!!

Back into the homes..

About 2 weeks ago we had a meeting and were asked to go back into the homes for a period of around 6 weeks..the homes within El Castillo are going through a lot of changes and there have been a lot of problems as the boys and girls come to terms with the changes. In my last few blogs i told you about Joshua. A few weeks ago he left the  home and was sent back to live with his mum. I recently spoke with one of the Psychology staff who told me that she had spoken to both Joshua and his mum and that Joshua was doing good and was coping with the change well. Please continue to pray for him and that he stays away from the temptations of drugs that could lead him back onto the streets. I was also saddened to hear that another one of my boys from Maranatha ran away just a couple of weeks ago. He was found back with his mum and wants to stay now with her. Once again please pray for him as his sister still lives on the street and his mum has been known to have bad health. It has been really hard for me to watch everything that has been happening in the homes…especially with the boys. It has been a really tough 3 months for them and there are still lots of changes ahead. When i was told that we, as a team, would be going to support the homes for 6 weeks i was a little relieved. A part of my heart was left with those kids when my project changed and i was happy to get back and see them and help in whatever way.

A new challenge..

Not long after that initial meeting i was asked if i would use the 6 weeks (until the end of November) to teach English to all of the children within the El Castillo residential programme! For a girl who only learn’t what a verb was a year ago…this was a daunting prospect. I was given 3 days to research and meet up with a friend here who teaches English. This week i met with every single child and did some basic tests to work out their levels of English and next week i begin. I will be teaching 6 classes of English each week and will be moving between all of the 3 homes. In the times when English classes aren’t programmed i will helping out in the girl’s home. I would appreciate your prayers in this coming month! For wisdom and creative ideas!

Here are a few photos from the circus!!

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El Castillo will soon be no more…

No, it is not closing down but it is changing it’s name. It is now becoming known as Fundación Castillo de Amor para la Niñez. You can find it’s facebook page here : http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=40276&id=123485044373374#!/fundacioncastillodeamor

The fundación is still in the process of completing it’s new buildings and hopefully from December all the homes will be combined onto one new site. The future plans of Fundación Castillo de Amor look very good with on site workshops such as sewing, bread making and special education included in the plans. I spoke with the director of the project recently who described the phase we are in as that of a pregnancy..the body of Fundación Castillo de Amor is going through changes and it is not easy. There are problems and challenges to be faced and the process can feel very uncomfortable. Please join with me in praying for the successful arrival of the ‘baby’. That God would really have his hand on the process and the kids who are in centre of all of these changes.

Alex goes to England…

I just want to take a moment to share about my dear friend Alex. Alex has been my closest friend here in Guatemala and has been such a support and help to me in my time here. On Tuesday he left Guatemala to go and spend a year in Loughton,  Essex with Latin Link. He will be working with a church there doing youth work and getting involved in the worship team. As you can probably imagine, raising funds here in Guatemala can be a lot trickier than in England. If you feel that you would like to support him he has a just giving page. Please visit http://www.justgiving.com/alexortiz

Prayer points:

  • Please thank God for my time with the street team (prevention and rescue) so far. I have felt part of the team and accepted and included by them
  • Thank God for Alex’s safe arrival in England and pray for him as he adapts to the culture and his project
  • Thank God for the success of día del niño and for those who came to and helped with the circus
  • Thank God for his protection of Joshua and Jason and pray for God’s continued protection and love
  • Please pray for me as i start this season of English lessons! That God will equip me with all i need
  • Please pray for those kids in El Castillo who are due to be reintegrated into families in the next 2 months. Pray for God’s protection over them and that they settle back into their families or independant lives
  • Pray for me as i try to press into God more. I have been feeling a bit lost and homesick! I miss parks and walking! Pray that he can become all that i need.

and finally….a shameless Christmas plug!!

I cannot take any credit for this idea! It was given to me by Jon who works in the Latin Link office! Christmas may still seem 2 months away but Guatemalan post can take up to a month!! Therefore if anyone would like to send me Christmas treats (like chocolate!) please contact me and i will send you my address!! I miss you all very very much! thankyou for supporting me, for praying, for being there… it really is so important to me
Annaxx

Posted by: annaakehurst | September 20, 2010

inbetween times

So it is now 5 weeks since i left the homes and i thought i would fill you all in on life in the interim.

Life with the step team!

My first 3 weeks were spent helping to look after a team of 12 volunteers from the UK and Ireland (Latin Link calls it a step team). They arrived to spend 3 weeks working with the children of El Castillo both with the street team and with the homes. I was a bit worried about having to act as interpreter but actually i really enjoyed it and showed me just how far i have come with my Spanish!

Step Team with the Street team

The first week was spent working with El Castillo’s street team which was a really good insight into the kind of work that i will be doing from Monday (the 20th September). The team got involved with a number of different activities. One thing that some of us did was to go into a couple of local schools to help out with a series of lessons which the team have been doing, which try to educate kids about the influences of television and video games. A lot has changed in the street team over the years and with the situation of street children in Guatemala city and so the team has been working much more in the prevention of street children… going into schools doing lessons, working with families and kids at risk. Guatemala has a lot of video game arcades (as very few families would be able to afford playstations!) in which school children often use and hang out in on a regular basis. This doesn’t seem like a dangerous thing but local gangs can use these areas to try and recruit children and teenagers to join them. El Castillo want to educate children about the risks.

With the street team and step team we also had the opportunity to visit an area outside of the city called San Luis. I didn’t realize before i went that i would recognize a number of the children that we met there. Last December when i began my time with El Castillo i was able to spend some time with the street team as part of my orientation. We visited a group of children who spent their days cleaning car windscreens at a traffic light junction downtown in the city. We spent time with them doing activity sheets and praying with them. These children and their families were actually from San Luis and traveled into the city every day to work and get money. For different reasons El Castillo were invited to visit San Luis and some of the homes of these families and many of these families stopped working in the city. The problem is that the children are still being sent out around San Luis to sell things for their families and don’t always attend the local schools. El Castillo are trying to work with key families from the community to set up small business initiatives to help the families receive a self sustaining income. With the step team we visited some of these key families (who are living in extremely poor conditions), we arranged activity afternoons for the children, we helped one lady start a juice making stall, fixed tin roofs and provided new beds and mattresses. I was really touched by the story of one family. A family of 4 boys (all under 9 years old) who are being looked after by their grandmother after their mother ran off with another man. When we went to visit them we found them in a small roomed shack (about 6x8ft) kept in by a plank of wood and all alone as the grandmother had to go to a nearby town to file some paperwork. These are families in real need who touched the hearts of all of the step team that visited. San Luis is also an area in which i will continue to work with the street team on a regular basis.

The other main place of work is an area called the Terminal in the heart of the city. It is a bus station, garbage dump and market area…and amongst the garbage and the market are a number of urine smelling shacks where families have made their homes.. living 8+ to a room and sleeping on crates and cardboard. We were involved in a number of activities in the terminal and with the children that live there. We did a day of hygiene activities..teaching kids how to brush their teeth, cleaning their feet with water bombs and washing and doing their hair. We also helped to fit more tin roofs, build beds and just play and spend time with the kids who live there.

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Step team in the homes.

One week of the 3 was spent in the homes of El Castillo. The team spent time in both homes getting to know the boys and girls within El Castillo. They made up dance routines, helped out at a prize giving, endured the tropical rains on a trip to a local ecological park, learned how to make friendship bracelets and just spent time building up relationships with the kids. We also went to visit the new construction site where the new El Castillo homes will be combined and are being built. You may remember that a few months ago i wrote a proposal to the director of El Castillo asking if they would consider introducing a creative prayer room to the new build. A place where the kids can go to pray and be creative and spend time with God. During our tour of the new site the director showed me a room which will become the new prayer room! I had almost forgotten about the proposal but God clearly hasn’t and wont!

All in all i really enjoyed my time with the step team and made some great friends from within the team. After these 3 weeks i was able to take a bit of a break and my friend Maddie and i took a short trip over the border into Honduras for a bit of a break by the sea. My last 2 weeks have been spent back at language school, studying more Spanish and revising the things that i should know but have swiftly forgotten. It was a great opportunity to get some down time after the busyness of the homes and the step team visit and allowed me to get some time to really study some more Spanish! In the midst of all of this Guatemala suffered some more heavy rains and some severe landslides which killed a number of people and made the BBC news. The infrastructure of Guatemala hadn’t had time to recover or be fully repaired after hurricane Agatha and so this second bout of heavy rain had a deadly impact. All of us were kept safe but 2 of the striders were delayed in returning to their projects because some roads were considered far to dangerous to pass on.

And tomorrow i begin with the street team. A new start and a new area of El Castillo. I should also be moving to live in the city (closer to the El Castillo offices) from the end of October but i will keep you all posted on that! Check out a few more photos and then please spend some time praying for the requests listed below (including Joshua) . Thank you all again for your support and love and for all the messages i received during the heavy rains and landslides.

Prayer requests and thanks

  • Give thanks for my time with the step team. for new friends and to be able to spend time with the street team and also in the homes.
  • Give thanks for my time at language school and pray that i would be able to put into practice the new things that i have learnt
  • Please continue to pray for Joshua in the boys home. The judge is still to make a decision about whether he will need to go into a detention centre or home. So he is still in limbo and still in the home and still very unsettled. Please pray for an outcome to be reached soon and that is the best outcome for Joshua.
  • Please pray for me this week as i begin my time in the street team of El Castillo. that i would fit in with the team easily and quickly and that i would build up good relationships both with the team members and with the kids and families that they work with.
  • Please pray for me as i prepare to move house in October that all would go well
  • For continued protection especially as i will be working more in the city where there are more risks and problems generally
  • Give thanks for the addition of the prayer room to the new El Castillo homes. Pray that the plans will come into fruition and that i will be able to see the completed prayer room before i leave!
  • For a refocusing on God. I have felt so distracted and at times very far away from him. Pray that i find time to spend with him and that i can fix my eyes on him again! the author and perfector of my faith!

Thanks for all your prayers! they are so appreciated!

Annax

Posted by: annaakehurst | August 13, 2010

Cry me a river…

So today was my last day in the home with the boys. The last few weeks have been a total rollercoaster of emotions for me and for the boys and my heart is breaking for the boys and for El Castillo at this time.  Last Thursday, due to lots of internal problems, my house parents decided that they would hand in their notice. The boys were told in a meeting that day and many responded with tears and nearly all were very angry as they felt that my house parents didn´t really want to leave the home. All of my boys have a fantastic relationship with Ana Yancy and Homar and their 2 little boys and for some of them it is like losing parents. I watched as even my older, more responsible boys became very angry and their attitudes changed. These are kids who struggle with change, many who have been abandoned by parents and left by the ones they loved from a young age. Change hits them hard.

On Saturday (when i was away from the home) 2 of the older boys who seemed most upset by the news were found having a full on fight in the home. This behaviour, for them, is very rare and when i spoke to them on Monday both of them were ashamed by their reactions. In the same night 2 of the boys got into another fight and one got into a really angry state. He grabbed a knife and ended up throwing it during a struggle. The knife ended up stabbing one of the other boys. So i arrived at the home at the start of the week to find that one of the boys- Andrew (the name has been changed) was in hospital with a stab wound that had narrowly missed his heart. I went straight to see him and although he seemed very weak and was feeding through drips i was assured that he was doing fine. The boy that threw the knife- Joshua (i have changed the name) has never been that angry, in the many months that i have been in the home. There is no excuse for his behaviour and he overstepped the mark but it seems to me that all of the recent changes and the news of Ana Yancy and Homar leaving have affected some of the boys much more deeply that others.

It has broken my heart to see the boys so affected by all that is happening and it has made me realise just how much i truly love them. I am really worried for Joshua. He is likely to have to leave the home and we are not sure what will happen with him. I have grown very close to him and have spent a lot of time with him talking about God and trying to help him open up and it just seems like he could slip backwards or through the net. I think that El Castillo will seek to get him into another project somewhere but he has been in other projects before our home and ran away from them. The other option for him is to be reintegrated back into his family. With the proper support this option could work but he has admitted to me that he fears going home and doesn’t feel ready to leave the home. He struggles with temptations with drugs and feels like he is not strong enough to go back to where those temptations are strongest and may end up back on the street. Today, before i left he ran up to me and just crumpled up, sobbing. My heart truly breaks for him. I always wish that there was something more i could do. That i would have a home that he could come and live in. Leaving him was so hard. A few days ago he drew me a picture of a figure in 2 hands and had written in English ‘my life is in his hands’. I feel so helpless but just have to pray that God would guard and protect him and steer him away from trouble. Today Andrew returned to the home from the hospital and i watched as Joshua hugged him and asked for forgiveness. Please pray for Andrew that he continues to heal and that he is protected from infections. He seems much better and is showing off his war wounds at every opportunity. Please pray for joshua that God would smooth a path for him, that he would continue to seek him and that he would find that God is with him. Please pray for me as i am finding it hard to release him into Gods hands and am so heart broken to leave the boys.

Despite all the tough times God has truly blessed me by letting me play a part in their lives. Each and every one of these boys is so special and it has been a fantastic privilege to play a part in their lives. Also in the last month i took over the responsibility for devotionals in the home..for most of the kids a devotional looks like another long preach. Many of the staff have not received much, if any, training in youth work (mainly because it doesn’t really exist here) and so just emulate the style that they see in church. It is hard for the kids to connect with their devotionals and many have a tendency to just fall asleep. In the last month i split my boys into 2 teams and we had a competition that spanned a month..every day we had competitions and activities based around a theme, along with a small talk and a prayer time. We made prayer stations in the lounge, threw sins onto a bonfire, explained the gospel by throwing mud! All in all it went really well but now it is time to leave. I have spoken to the people in charge of residentials and they have expressed an interest in having a training session for all the staff in September to teach about how to lead a good devotional, the attention spans of kids and teens, learning styles etc. Please pray that this comes together and that we can do some training which will mean that these kids will continue to receive fun, interactive, interesting devotionals and encounters with God long after we have left, not just the homes but the country. I am going to leave you with some photos from my last few days with the boys but before i do here are a few things you can be praying for:

  • For Andrew to recover quickly and for him to be able to forgive and build back a friendship with Joshua
  • For Joshua, that if he has to leave El Castillo that another Christian home would be found for him, that he would settle well there, that he would continue to search for God..that he would not be lost.
  • For me, that i would be able to trust these kids into Gods hands and that i would continue to pray for them and visit them. Also for my next 3 weeks where i will be working with a step team of volunteers both on the street team and in the homes
  • For devotionals. that we would be able to set up a training date and for me and all those involved with the planning.
  • For all of the staff and kids in the homes during all of these changes! that God will protect and be with them
  • For next Saturday (21st) when we have a Christian guy (who used to be in the gangs) coming to talk to the kids about Jesus. That many would truly respond and be changed through his testimony

Thank you for all your love, support and prayers.

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