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Haddonfield 1st Presbyterian Church did medical mission trips to help John & Sharon Harvey in Guatemala before they started ASELSI. Sharon's brother, Harvey Hawn, got a group together from South Jersey to go down and help them. This group later became Gospel Outbound. Over the years, Haddonfield Presby (aged teens thru retired folk) did medical mission trips and also helped to build ASELSI, to reach out to the children where we were doing medical clinics, and to build stoves. We fell in love with the Mayan people and because many of us had referred babies we saw in the highlands to the Milk Program, we wanted to involve our congregation when the Christmas Party was started.
Children in the congregation hear about what it is like to be a kid in Guatemala in Sunday School (so do Scout troops looking for service projects). A few years later, when they're old enough, some of these children may go to ASELSI with Gospel Outbound. One young person did a trip to ASELSI in high school and now, as an adult, just returned from doing a paper on abused women in Guatemala. He may be returning to work with a group down there focusing on that. Others help with migrant workers in Camden, NJ where some of us too old for foreign mission work are doing now health screenings and outreach.
Because our church is very mission conscious, we have months designated for specific donations. The Spring and Summer months already were concentrating on migrant workers in the fields and the poor in Camden, so we chose January for Guatemala Christmas bags. Most of what is collected comes then. We store things in a special mission closet at church. Then in August, we gather to fill bags and send them down with prayer and excitement. When the video comes of the party in December- Sunday School classes and individuals watch with wonder and again talk about how the Lord is working down there thru what the kids are receiving. Because of this awareness, some people donate directly to the Milk Program. When we first started going down on trips, we took huge suitcases filled with drugs, vitamins, and other things donated by doctor’s offices, drug reps, and hospitals. That is no longer done but our dentist still donates small tubes of toothpaste. Most people donate from the list, a few families donate money to purchase items...money their kids have designated for this use rather than something frivolous for themselves. The mailing costs are part of the mission budget. We have not tried asking people to fill bags themselves-partly because of limited storage space. Group packing of bags actively involves more people and keeps awareness and prayer going year round. We are grateful for what our involvement has taught us about Guatemala and how the Lord works in many ways not only through what happens but through what doesn't happen. HE is in control and isn't that just THE BEST!!!!!!!!! GRACIAS SENOR! Photos and text by Jillsie Mascena