By Sue Sprang
LAKE ANN – It’s roughly 3,000 miles from Lake Ann, Michigan to San Lucas Toliman, Guatemala. But distance is no barrier for members and friends of Advent, Lake Ann.
The bond between Guatemala and Advent is strong, mostly due to regular “vision trips” to Guatemala, the most recent one in February. Although the make-up of group members fluctuates with each trip, they are always led by Pastor Justin Grimm, whose passion for Guatemala goes back to his seminary years.
During that time, Grimm took a one-month cross-cultural class to San Lucas, site of a Roman Catholic mission. Here, Grimm said, is “when I fell in love with the place, the ministry, the people.”
About three years into his ministry at Advent, Grimm put together the first of five trips.
“It was always my goal to take groups there,” Grimm said. “I have been blessed to be able to do it.”
Participants refer to their journeys as vision – not mission – trips.
“We are careful to not call it a ‘mission’ trip, “Grimm said, “simply because the word ‘mission’ carries so much baggage when we think about traveling For me, it is about seeing God at work in a different part of the world and seeing more about ourselves.
“Really, the trip is more about our growth than the work we do there. Our motivation is simply loving these people and being loved by them too. It’s really amazing.”
Founded in 1962 by the New Ulm Dioceses (Minnesota), the mission has been a source of education, health, agricultural, and other initiatives to increase the quality of life in a place of extreme beauty as well as extreme poverty.
The first initiatives were: granting of three acres of land each to 4,000 families, establishing a medical clinic, and starting a fair-price coffee project. Needless to say, San Lucas Mission has established a critical presence in San Lucas and the surrounding area.
Cristy Allen and her husband, Tim, were among those who traveled to Guatemala in February. They became acquainted with Grimm through one of Advent’s ministries, Beers and Hymns, where they heard Grimm talk about the trip.
“This trip was billed as a ‘vision’ trip,” Cristy said, “to see and learn more about God, about a new culture, and about yourself. These were all motivating factors for my decision to go.”
Advent member Norvilla Bennett had the “Guatemala seed” planted in her when Grimm began organizing the trips. The February trip was a fulfillment of her hope of making the journey.
“I knew I would participate one day,” said Norvilla. “As I am in employment transition, this trip fit my schedule. [During this] transition, I have become more intentional with prayer, devotions, and learning to fully rely on God.
“I was also influenced by two of Justin’s sermons. One, last spring, reminded me to call the Holy Spirit into my life. In the fall, the message focused on ‘how do we let our light shine’. Both of these messages and the fact that I had some ‘free’ time on my hands provided motivation.”
Gwenn and Tim Willson, members of Advent, also joined the group.
“This was my first mission trip,” Gwenn said, “and my first trip to Guatemala. My motivation was that I wanted to see the work of the Lord in Guatemala, a country so close to the U.S.A.
Part 2 of this article, soon to follow, will include experiences and observations about the trip from Cristy, Norvilla, and Gwenn.