Yakima Mission to Guatemala

September 01, 2007 | Nita Hinman

"The girl I sent to Guatemala was not the same girl who came back." These were the words of the father of a non-Adventist girl when she returned from helping to build a church in Ixobel, Guatemala. That father obviously felt the experience changed his daughter's life in a positive way.

Thirty-eight people from Yakima Adventist Christian School, Yakima Church, and Wapato and Yakima Spanish churches joined 24 others from the Upper Columbia Conference, traveling by plane and a seven-hour bus ride to Ixobel to build a church, which only had footings in place when they arrived.

In the Yakima group, several parents, including three doctors, one lawyer, one teacher, three pastors, and one pastor's wife, went along to support the youth. All five members of the Gaskill family went, and one student, Saul Dominguez, earned enough money so his mother and he could both go! That was a great blessing because they both speak Spanish fluently.

Although it was back-breaking work in the heat and humidity, it was not all work and no play every day. The group went on a field trip to Tikal where many Mayan ruins still exist. And some of the students visited an Adventist orphanage run by International Children's Care.

Jim Bechtel, pioneer missionary there in the 70s, started a technical school and academy, ICAP (Instituto de Capacitación Adventista del Pelén), which now has 400 students. Bechtel and his wife drive down to Guatemala each spring and spend several months in that area. The rest of the year they reside in College Place, Wash. He took Kris Loewen, Yakima Church associate pastor, and several groups of students on different days to surrounding villages near Ixobel so they could pull teeth. Pastor Kris pulled about 20 teeth!

Just before the group arrived, the elderly Adventist man who had donated the land for the church building project was hit by a bus, and it wasn't known if he would be brain damaged or even live. The first day they had worship under the completed roof, he walked in unaided and shared his testimony about God's healing powers.

After the church was built, three Yakima Adventist Christian School students—Becky Byrd (baptized just a year ago), Saul Dominguez and Jonathan Sharley—decided to stay an extra week to speak for two concurrent evangelistic meetings. Two other young men who gave nightly health talks were non-Adventist students from YACS. One night, in particular, after trying three times to get the computer to work and having no success, those involved gathered on the spot and prayed. They tried again, and it worked! They saw God working in many other ways as well.

At the end of the week, Harry Sharley, Yakima Church senior pastor, was privileged to assist the local pastors in baptizing 33 persons in a river located in a beautiful setting. He was pleased and surprised to baptize the lady who lived next door to the church and ran a little store from her home. She had graciously let the group set up tables in her yard for serving meals, but Sharley wasn't aware she was interested in the gospel message.

Like the girl first mentioned, if you spoke to any one of the students (or adults) you would find that they were all greatly changed by their experience in Guatemala.