Lemonade International Blog

Ray Strecker – Lemonade Int’l Board Member – Guest Blog Post

A couple weeks ago, I led a team visit to Guatemala and La Limonada. As a member of the Lemonade International Board of Directors, Bill asked me to share some of my thoughts afterward.

My wife, Carole and I were some of the first people to visit the building that has become Escuelita Mandarina just after it was purchased last December (2008). The transformation of that building over the last nine months is nothing short of amazing. It really took a visionary like Tita to look at the dark, run down and crumbling home and see what it could become.

I have visited Mandarina several times this year and it just keeps getting better and better. New walls, windows, floors and a new white roof greeted us as we entered. Bright colors adorn most of the walls. New lights and windows make the spaces open and inviting. We could hear the sounds of children in their classrooms– along with the sounds of the continued renovation work.
I love that we have been able to raise the funds so local workers could be employed for this project. The result is that the work has progressed much faster than if we had to rely solely on mission teams, and local workers receive a much needed wage to provide for their families. These guys are very hard workers who earn every Quetzal they are paid.

We talked with Tita and Juan Carlos– the general contractor about what still needs to be done to complete the school. One of our biggest needs right now is to raise the rest of the funds we need to keep the men working to get the school completed. At last count we need about $11,000 in additional donations. To contribute toward this important project, go to our secure Online Donation page.

We talked about the woodworking shop that is planned for part of the space on the lower level. Tita’s vision is to have a shop class to teach gang members in the Mandarina barrio woodworking skills that would enable them to earn a better (and much safer) living. Our goal is to have that shop equipped and set up by this coming January (an ambitious goal to be sure!). Members of my team in Cincinnati are spearheading that effort. We are planning to hold a fundraiser in Cincinnati in November. Send me an email if you would like to help – ray@vcnw.org.

A highlight of my visit was getting time with Shorty and Gerardo. These are the two pastors who are spending a couple days each week in La Limonada. I listened to them as they expressed their strong conviction that God is calling them to serve in this community. There is such a need for strong, positive male influence here, especially with the adolescents. Shorty said some of the students are already calling them “papa”.

As we walked from Mandarina to Limón, it was great to see how easily these two tough former gang members related to and interacted with the local gangs. These guys are uniquely qualified to impact this community with the love of Christ in an authentic and natural way. During this time we are praying about what the next steps should be to support the potential startup of a “missional worshipping community” in La Limonada.

On Independence Day (September 15), the school was closed but our team was able to spend time with Tita and her household in worship and prayer. The Holy Spirit was present in a powerful way and touched each us of deeply. It was a good reminder to me of how much they need the prayers and support of all of us who are committed to this ministry.

In thinking of our time there, the words to a worship song come to mind– “God of This City”, “Greater things have yet to come, and greater things are still to be done in this City”. I came away from La Limonada both hopeful for the future and yet sobered by the magnitude of the challenges that we face there.

I was able to go home to my comfortable and safe life in Cincinnati at the end of our trip. Tita, Monica, Leah, Kate and the rest of the staff face significant challenges every day. Please pray for them often. Ask the Lord what He expects of each of us regarding this community.

Micah 6:8 “And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”

Tita, we’ll be back soon.

-Ray Strecker

Ray Strecker is passionate about serving the poor and oppressed in Guatemala. He and his wife, Carole travel to La Limonada in Guatemala City regularly. A former business owner, Ray is currently on staff with Vineyard Church Northwest in Cincinnati, Ohio.

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