Our First Trip Back…


Our first trip back to Florida after the first six months in Guatemala rapidly approached…to be completely honest, I  was a little nervous.  What if I got back to Florida and did not want to come back to Guatemala.  Not that I would become unsure of where God wanted me to be, but that I would not want what He had for me there anymore.  That I would not be able to make the steps to get on the return flight.  That I would be frozen and unable to be certain of where I was going.  Six months ago, I had no reservations.  Was completely sold out.  What if a few weeks back in the states changed that certainty.  Life was different in Guatemala, a little slower perhaps, but definitely not easier.  Would I choose the ease that I once took for granted and want to stay?  Those were the meandering thoughts that I had as I packed us up, gathered passports, cleaned and locked up our home in San Pedro Pinula, and rode the almost four hours into Guatemala City.

What if?  What good ever came from a “what if?” in my life?  Most of the questions posed have been “Why not?”…  Yes, as I laugh, I was that “Why?” child.  My poor mother!

God reminded me that my “what if?”  held no real weight if I trusted Him.  What if…?  What if anything happened or didn’t?  Would it change who I was in Christ?  Would it change anything about what Jesus has done for me?  Would God love me more or less or even change His mind about choosing me to be one of His?

No.  Not even a little bit.

My “what if” simply showed a lack of trust in Him and what He has done, was doing, and will do in and through my life.  Ahh…yes.  Trust me, Mandy, He says.  Just go when I tell you to, He encourages.  Love when and where and who I tell you to, He reminds.

“Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep His promise.”  Hebrews 10:23.

Only a handful of friends and family knew that we were coming.  We had kept it kind of quiet because we really weren’t sure if we would be granted the exit visas needed to come back because we had begun our residency process in Guatemala.  But, God is good and faithful- and we returned to Florida on Guatemalan visas.  I joked with the immigration officer that only the cool kids get the have their US passports stamped with a Guate visa…his deadpan was reply enough for me.  Ok.  Moving on…

Our trip began with a funeral, followed by a trip to Georgia, a surprise volleyball visit, one lost tooth, Lake Placid, Fort Ogden, Arcadia, church visits- new and home, a 10 year birthday for our girl, Prom for our boy,



dinners, meetings, love given and shared, a couple of hours with my toes in the sand, an ATV ride on the trails less traveled, a fishing trip, a tube ride on the lake, sandcastles, floating docks, an indoor trampoline park, Sonny’s Big Deals and Sweet Tea, Florida sunrises and sunsets, Easter dresses and dinner, 501c3 application and wait, packing empty bags, again, bittersweet tears…

To leave here is to arrive there.  To leave there is to arrive here.  He is here and there.  He is everywhere.  With everyone.  But, we cannot be…

An orphan care conference in Tennessee, donated CPR dummies, Spanish Bibles, and curriculum, attorney fees graciously covered, our path reconfirmed- willing and eager to go back home- home to Guatemala.    A deepened ache for those that we love but are lost.  A Flying Biscuit breakfast and the best grits ever, a hot water heater for the kitchen in Guatemala, next year’s homeschool curriculum, and a few comfort goodies thrown in for good measure.

My cup and my bags overflowed.  It was a miraculous thing that the bags made the weight and zipped.  Our hearts were filled to overflowing with love from our family and friends.  Those hugs and kisses, well wishes, and promises to continue to pray we carefully stored away for those days when they would be all we would love to wrap up in the most.  Financial commitments encouraged new ideas for ministry growth and eased concern for provision.

As we drove the almost four hours to the airport in Miami, I prayed and thanked God.

For this time- for these experiences- for provision- for your love- for the support given to us- for the obedience of His saints- for this life that He has chosen for us.  We thank you.  We love you. May all of our lives  bring Him glory.

We had a wonderful visit.  Crazy busy and busting at the seams!  With complete confirmation of  the life He has for us.  No “what if’s” here…or there.  We love you and will miss you until we see you again.













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Holding on…

I found myself up early.  Alone.  Reading.  Working diligently on all of the updates, changes, and connectivity issues that seem to be lurking whenever I step near my computer these days.  It is good though.  The quiet.  It gives me time to listen.  Really listen.

As I was reading a sweet lady’s blog post, I was leveled.  Tears.  Big, fat, hot tears.  Her post spoke of letting go amidst all of the broken and hurting pieces of our lives.  To truly surrender into the plan of the Lord.  

“The art of living is about holding on to His promises- & surrendering to His plan.

Hold on to His promises.

Let go into His plan.”

It was the last part though.  That was the part that really got me.  I was thinking of the day that this picture was snapped.  This sweet little, broken baby let me hold him.  He let himself be held and held me back.

“Yes.  Child.  You can keep holding onto Me- because I am always holding on to you.”

How many times has God whispered this to us?  To me?  How wonderful to know that He will never, nor has He ever let me go.  

Or you.

#thebrokenway @annvoskamp

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One Step Closer

February 1, 2017.  Moving day.

Adios Antigua.

Bienvenidos San Pedro Pinula, Jalapa!

Three months flew by. (yes, we really are at three months now)  No mathematical errors right now.  Give me time..


We had the most amazing privilege of having our very own moving and encouraging team of four come straight from Georgia to go through all of the beginning hiccups of getting from one place to another, over the mountains and through the woods, here in Guatemala.  Here, where Uhaul is not a thing.  Where your moving truck probably hauled tomatoes yesterday and may very well haul cows tomorrow.  (mind you, we are glad of that order because vise versa might mean disaster for the furniture…if you know what I mean)

They blessed us with their love.  With their compassion.  With their selflessness.  Yes, we cried when it was time for them to go.  Being on this side of the mission circle means that pick up days are awesome and drop off days are not favorites.


But, we did not have much down time because we had another houseguest from the states and a team from New Hampshire  spend some time in Guatemala this month.  So much was accomplished with their visits!  We were so very blessed to spend time and grow with each of them!

We have been busy setting up house and working out the bugs of our new place.  Figuratively and literally.  Let’s just say that some of these bugs need a little extra dose of condensed spray…especially when visiting during shower time.  Grateful that there is no video footage.  I digress.

We received our water cistern and installation is complete!  Just this week!  We have been reveling in water every day.  Oh, the things that I so carelessly have taken for granted.  Water, for example.   Water problems are genuinely just a thing in Guatemala.  You deal with it and move on.  You run to the shower, quick like, when you the hear the water trickling into the pilla.  No matter what time of day.  No pushing.  No shoving.  Seriously.   (I will post a picture of a pilla later for those who have no idea what I am talking about.)

But, after 4 days of consistent water- after almost 3 weeks of unreliable service, we lost power to the house.  We now had water- but no power.

Let’s sit and chuckle.

I have to because the story I am about to share is straight from some comedy episode.  I cannot make this up.  Could not even if I tried!

So, the night before we leave for the awesome weekend conference for missionaries Intermissions 2017, I hear this loud noise that sounds much like the popping and sizzling of a motorcycle that is firing its last.  I know this sound, because, well, I had the pleasure of actually witnessing said occurrence  just the week before.  It was just another day in paradise until the lights flickered and I heard from one of my children, “It’s on Fire!!”.  Uh oh.  The first idea that flashed through my mind was ‘the moto crashed into the house and is on fire’??

Commence running.

There was fire.  There was smoke.  There was snapping and popping and sizzling.

However, there was no motorcycle.

There was only the electric meter attached to house shooting sparks.  ONLY.  Oh boy.

I am sure that you can imagine the frantic emergency call to the owner’s son in half Spanish and half English – because, well, I was freaking out a bit.  I suppose emergency situations bring your true language to the forefront.  I also was wondering what the emergency response # was.  Was it 911 also?  Mercy!  img_8792

Catastrophe was avoided.  God’s goodness was shown.  There was a sweet man that was able to fix the problem until a new meter could be purchased and we even had power within the next hour and a half.  We are now currently hardwired to the power line on our street.  You must know that time travels a bit slower in Guatemala.  So, this 1 1/2 hour time frame is actually equivalent to light speed!! God is good and faithful.

We give God the praise in all things.  This situation could have been really awful.   A wooden house would not have faired well- we have a concrete block home.  Our electrician could have been injured- he was not and we now have a new friend.  A complete rewiring of the home could have been in order- not needed only one cable and meter box need replacement.  It really could have been a motorcyclist crashing into our home and been injured or worse.  Thank you, Lord for what did happen.  Thank you, that we can laugh because nothing warranted tears in this situation.





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Making a Splash in 2017

It felt like the whole of Guatemala had been practicing firework displays for the whole month of December.  In the mornings before the sun- bombas!  In the late evenings- bombas!   Bombas, by the way, are fireworks. Any dark hour, the sky would be illuminated and sound decibels broken!  Good thing that I truly love fireworks!   I actually run to the window, every time, to catch a glimpse of bright sparkling lights stretched across the darkness.


Let me tell you something- that month long trial and error period did not disappoint!  It lead to one of the most amazing fireworks displays that I have ever witnessed!  The night skies over cities and mountains came alive, bursting with color as the stroke of midnight bid farewell to 2016 and ushered in 2017 most spectacularly!  It was impossible to see 360 degrees around us- this video does no justice…maybe we can have a visit to usher in 2018 and you can see it in person?



January provided us the great opportunity to take an Emergency First Responder class- What an amazing experience with equally amazing folks!  Thank you Paul and Thania!  We are looking forward to the next class in March!


We finished up our last day of classes with Rosa and Eluvia n January 27.  We celebrated by going to Agua Calientes in Pastores.  We enjoyed a great time and delicious lunch with them.


As I watched the kids jump into those warm waters and splash around, I chuckled.  That is such an amazing visual of us all!  Our worship to God is like that pool.  We jump in and are engulfed in His glory, in His presence. Oh, how much we miss if we do not get into the pool!  If we do not enter into worship.  We miss the closeness.  We miss the blessing.  We miss the comfort that only He can provide.

I do not want to miss a single bit of it.

I want to splash around in His glory, in His presence.  I want to feel Him, oh so near.  I want to be THAT child of God.


Sometimes we let the world tell us that other things are more important than spending time with our Lord.  That He knows and understands our busy lives.   That He will understand that that one thing needs to be done right now instead of coming to Him.   He made us to do all of these things, right?

Hmm.  The world opinion is never a good marker to base any sound choice on.

I have heard myself say this to my children and honestly, to myself.

The Word. His Word is the best place to start and end with.

Never once have I fell short changed or deceived by anything that I have read in His word.  I cannot say that I have that same track record with the world opinion.  Maybe I have not fully comprehended every reading of the Word. But, that is just part of growing and seeking Him.  In His time, all will be revealed.

Until then, I want to make the biggest splashes.  I want to cannonball right in the middle of praising our Lord!  Worshipping our King and Savior.  Every day.  Every chance that I get!

Because after all, He is worthy of all of it. 

Worthy of every last splash!

Let’s make a splash this year…





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Perfect Timing?

December!  Hello!

School – for everyone in our home.  It is  Christmastime. Preparing for the birth of our Savior.   The Mercado is alive with a complete sector of Christmas decorations, music, and incense.  Handmade mangers and nativity sets! The big box stores don’t hold a candle to this full sensory experience!


Calamity!  Volcanic eruptions!  Earthquakes!  Realizing that the time frame from October to December is not three months, but, in fact only two months.  Furthermore, realizing that this “small error” in timing was actually going to mean possible homelessness for my family of four the week of Christmas and all of the time after that.

Ok, a bit dramatic.  I know.  But, the whole scenario played out in my mind as I pictured my family (dog included) camped out around a park bench with our so cleverly decorated Christmas Tree sapling in it’s ceramic pot sitting near by.  What a horrible mistake I had made!  A mathematical error that was going to have some tremendous effects on my little family whom were just starting to adjust to our new life.

Homeless.  Park bench.  In a foreign country.  Still learning Spanish.  Flashed across my mind.

I prayed, God, please guide me.  Please forgive my arrogance.  This mistake is all mine.  Please do not make my family suffer for this.

I began looking at available properties in the area.  The only places that we could afford were unfurnished and quite frankly, scary.

Again, I prayed.  Lord, show me.  Lord, guide my steps.

So, I started looking for furniture on a local Antiguan Facebook page.  You have to love “el Face” (it is not called Facebook here). I actually found some second hand living and dining furniture that another missionary couple had for sale.  It was gently used and the price looked affordable.  I mean, if we found a place, we would need furniture, right?

So, I called to set up an appointment to see it.  The drive over was interesting…

Shane was reticent.  “Why are we looking for furniture?”

“We don’t even have a place to live!  We are going to have to set this furniture up in the park!”

“We are going to have to move this stuff multiple times before we get to Jalapa!”

“Just come with me, Shane.”, I said.  “I don’t know why, but, we are supposed to go talk to them!”, I pleaded.

So, we get there.  Super sweet couple.  We began talking and they shared with us that they were being called from medical mission in Guatemala  to the states to help with youth ministry there.  Wow.  God is awesome.  Big changes for them.

Well, for us all, really.

As we talked, we asked about their apartment.  If it was available for rent because we were needing a place and theirs seemed really nice in a nice neighborhood.

Nothing awkward  there.  Not even a little bit.

Surprisingly, they found none of it slightly uncomfortable.  They reassured us that the apartment was indeed for rent and that the owner lived close.  They called her and immediately her grandson said he could meet us there.  Well, ok.

As we waited, they asked when we needed the apartment.  I told them the 19th of December around noon .  He started laughing.

Visions of park benches next to  a decorated potted Christmas Tree sapling came to mind.  Not funny.


But, I asked when they were returning to the states to maybe piece together what was so funny about the 19th of December. He replied with one of the biggest smiles ever- the 19th of December at midnight was when their flight was scheduled to leave Guatemala City.

Then, I found the humor of the whole situation right there.

As the owner’s grandson walked in, we realized that we had already met him.  He was a member of  the praise band at our church!!  I was already in full belly laugh at this point.  Pretty sure we all were.  God is good.  In ALL things.

My “huge” error of time.  My mathematical mistake.  Well, neither were erroneous, but indeed the divine provision of God. For both that sweet missionary couple taking steps to return to the states and for my little family just taking our first steps in this Guatemalan calling.

It wasn’t about anything that I had done- but, about everything that He is doing!  Is that not always the case?  We try to take it all into our own hands.  To worry in the details that may not always come together perfectly until the final second. We must wait.  For God.   In exactly the perfect moment for His perfect plan.


So, to wrap up this awesome Christmas story we were given, we did not spend Christmas Night (or any other) on a park bench.  We only moved that furniture once.  We were able to love on a special couple as they said their goodbyes to Guatemala, for now.  What a wonderful blessing.  What a wonderful example of His faithfulness- even when we think we have messed it up, royally.  He stands firm in control of ALL things.  Imperfect things. Imperfect people. With PERFECT Timing.

Merry Christmas, everyone.  May His joy and faithfulness resound in your lives!









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No Matter How Far…

I do believe that my brain is failing me!!


How much time do we need to spend in language school? We have started dreaming in Spanish- we are told that this is normal- actually is a great sign for us.  Really?  How is it a good and normal thing that I am fluent in Spanish in my dreams and I cannot remember my name, in English, in my waking hours??  Oh, and this is just the beginning!!

We are trusting the Lord!  Step by step.  Verb by verb.  Day by day.

We are adjusting pretty well to life here in Guatemala.  The kids are enjoying playing soccer at a local youth sports complex.  Shane and I practice Spanish with our flashcards as we enjoy the papas fritas (French fries) from the concession stand!  Ha!  Simple pleasures!


Thanksgiving found us on our way to the Mission House in Jalapa to enjoy good fellowship and food with our family here in Guatemala.  I will not lie, I did shed some tears this month.  Thanksgiving is an American holiday and to be honest, it really did not feel as if it were time to celebrate it!  We were able to speak to family back in the states- that provided a balm to the ache of separation for this first “family centric” holiday.



Then, in true God fashion, he reminded me.  He reminded me of the tie that binds us all.  His love.  The unbridled love of God that gives us strength through it all.  The love that gave an only son for the world to live eternally.  Oh, He reminded me.  That no matter how far land or water separates us, it is at the foot of the cross where we gather.    The blood of  Jesus binds us all together.  We cannot be separated from him.  What a beautiful reminder of family.  Blood relatives we are. No matter how far.

“But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.”  Ephesians 2:13

Even here.  We feel near.  Thank you, God for reminding us…



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We Made It!

img_7028We made it!  16 bags, 2 kids, and 1 dog later-

Bienvenidos a Guatemala!

Thank you, Kevin- for being our taxi, tour guide, and great friend!

The Ross and Plumber Families, thank you, thank you, thank you for answering endless questions and for walking with us long before we even set foot on Guatemalan soil.

For those who have supported getting us here- financially, prayerfully, and physically- there are not enough thanks- you are all saints to the kingdom.

We started language school with our tutors, Rosa and Eluvia, on October 24, Monday through Friday from 8 am to noon.  No need to let grass grow!  Wow!  Has it really been that long since we cracked open a school book?? I digress…

The Mercado is an amazing, bustling place !  Fresh fruit, vegetables, and meat.  Yes.  Unrefrigerated.  We are adjusting. It is a great place to practice our fledgling  Spanish.  We have received looks and quite a few blank stares.  I have to laugh.  Really.  I am sure that is quite a wonderment to our poor “victims” as well!  Tuk tuk travel and walking 3 km one way are also new adventures.  One dear friend in Lake Placid will most assuredly enjoy the reference of it being our very own Guatemalan Boot Camp!!

It has been good.  But, I have to admit, there have been a few times where I have been completely leveled because of what I have taken for granted in the past.  Hot running water and driving my car  are two examples that make the top of that list.  We are adjusting.

With all of the new, however,  we are given encouragement in Matthew 5:13-16 to:

Be the Salt and the Light.  Here…There…Everywhere that He directs our paths to go.

So, we send you love and that same encouragement.  Let’s all GO!  Go shine and do the work He has sent us to do- Here…There…Everywhere!




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Who knew that it would be the Tupperware?

Cleaning out kitchen cabinets.  I am not one that has ever truly found this task as one that is cathartic, relaxing, or even fun.  Some do.  Those of you who do (holding thumb to ear and pinky to lips) call me.  All kidding aside, it is that time.  To get busy getting things in order around here.   Our departure date has been tentatively set and there is much to do!

I made a deal with my hubby – whom we will refer to as  “Senor Daddy”- that if he were to take care of three rather large items in our transition process, that I would take on the task of sorting, redistributing, packing and overall getting all house things done for our family of four humans, one dog, one fish, and sixteen chickens.   Okay.  So, I might have had a problem with feathered friend “acquisition”.  But, they are so  irresistible in their sweet, little fluffiness.  And, eggs.  We get eggs!  Until they molt- which, love their hearts, they all are right now.  Sigh.  No eggs.  Do Guatemalan chickens molt…hmmm?

Back to our “deal”.  I found myself cleaning out those cabinets that for the past six years have held dishes that now have chips-every piece, mixing bowls-that belonged to my grandma, sippy cups-still had one in there, assorted coffee mugs, canning jars- oh, the canning jars, lids and bands, water bottles for karate, Tervis cups that the lids have long since disappeared, spices-glad I cleaned out that cabinet, and finally, the Tupperware cabinet.  That cabinet has always served as a not-so-gentle reminder to stay on my toes.  You never truly know what will be lurking behind door #2.  Treachery, I tell you!  It is almost like the plastic lids and bowls wait in great anticipation of flying out at the speed of light to greet whatever body part that had the misfortune of not moving fast enough.  Usually, a forehead, face, or foot.   No matter how you try to sort, organize, stack, or plead with the useful little jokers, the outcome is always the same.

Opening the door.  Band aids.  Rewashing.  Restacking.

But, not this time.  Strange enough.  No trauma to any body part.  All was quiet and orderly in that cabinet.  I should have known that something was up.  Much like when your children are too quiet.  You know.  Something is getting ready to go down.  Who would have known that it was going to be the Tupperware that got me?  That brought me to my knees right there in the middle of my kitchen, sobbing.

It was actually after I removed every rounded bowl and square container with extra lids-  yet another mystery to ponder, later- that it occurred to me that these containers would not be getting a rewash by any hands in our home.  New homes, hands, heads, and feet would be part of the life of these little favors once I put them in the “to go” box.  Then, I looked around the very crowded, boxed up living and dining area.  I looked at not stuff, but, at memories of little hands helping.  Those little hands that have now grown larger than mine.  Holidays past.  Birthdays. Life that has been beautifully lived here.


Then, I turned and looked at that empty cabinet.  Empty.  And, then I broke on down to a puddle in the middle of the kitchen.  Knees to the floor.  Arms raised.  Thank you, God!  For not letting me go just through the motions of working out the “logistics” of this great calling.  Not just “getting it done”.  A reminder that there has been much accomplished here.  There has been so much love given and received here.  The value of this home and these things are no match to  the value of the people that have made this life here such a treasure.  Compassion and grace extended.  Love poured out.

Thank you, God.  For your love. For your patience.  For  your sacrifice.  For Jesus.

It was in looking at the clutter and not being overwhelmed, but encouraged, then turning to that empty cabinet and feeling sorrow, that it became clear that our lives are like that crazy, out of control Tupperware cabinet.  The doors fly open every day with surprises and there will always be an extra lid lurking around in there, but it is not empty.  Life, like that Tupperware cabinet is unpredictable and often times, despite our best efforts, is messy.  Sometimes we don’t move fast enough and get hit upside the head or smash a toe.  Sometimes, covered in band aids, we wash and rewash, sort and resort.   It is in that craziness, that living, that so much is done for the kingdom.  For God’s glory.  It is the image of  an empty cabinet that hurts my heart.  The image of an empty life.  That hurts.


Now, I don’t think that we are called to stuff our “cabinets” so full that it is completely overwhelming.  God will fill your “cabinets” with what He would have you hold.  We are often guilty of adding our own extra lids in there.  Lids with no bowl or specific purpose.  We can clutter our cabinets- our lives – if we are not careful.

God knows what is in our “Tupperware cabinets” and it doesn’t surprise Him.  Not even a little bit.   We can trust Him.  With ALL of who we are.  With any circumstance.  With every day.  With every open door.  After all, He already knows what is waiting for us behind it and He is waiting to walk with us through whatever pops out at us!





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the best things in life are not things…

  As our walls and rooms begin to empty, I am reminded. Of all the “things” that I value most, none are actual, tangible things. Laughter ( through belly laughs and tears) with those that I love. Moments baring feelings thought to be exclusive that are, in fact, shared. Compassion, given and gotten. Sacrifice. Empathy and advice. Sharing of this life. LOVE! Time. Oh, time. Sharing it, giving it, spending it. What a beautiful currency we have. So, as I spend time boxing and sorting and giving away, I am so grateful to have been blessed with this time. This time that is preparing the way for the new things ahead that I am very sure are not just “things”…To Him be all the glory.

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