Big News!

Hola! Who turned on the cold? We came home fully expecting to experience the beautiful spring weather we were hearing about…instead I am in my winter coat and scarf, thermal PJ’s and actually contemplating wearing socks to bed (gross!). Ok, I am being dramatic and perhaps my tolerance for cold has been tweaked a bit by the warmth of Guatemala. I have to admit though that I am feeling seasonally disoriented since coming home. Unless I think a moment, my body and mind are convinced it is fall. You know, the feeling you get when you are convinced it is Friday, only to realize or be reminded that it is actually Thursday or, worse yet, Wednesday? This is the daily battle in my head…reminding myself of the month and the season, not just because of the weather but my seasonal clock is off or something….it is strange. I feel like I was in a time warp.

We have been back for a little over a week. We are thankful for having some time to enjoy our adult children and grandchildren and visiting our parents and siblings when their busy schedules allow. We enjoyed my grandmother’s 82nd birthday celebration this weekend where we were able to visit with a lot of family members we haven’t seen for quite a while!

Each time I come back from Guatemala, I tend to purge the closets and cupboards of “unneeded” items and experience a greater desire to “live simply so that others may simply live”. As many of you know, I dislike shopping of any sort because it involves spending money and wasting time trying to decide if I really “NEED” the item. I am “cheap”, as some call it, when it comes to purchasing “possessions”. I call it resourceful and responsible…hahahaha! In general I try to keep items to a minimum and use them for a long long time until they wear out, no longer work or do not fit (or smell real bad in the case of footwear). When it comes to being generous with spending time or money on others, many view me as a little “crazy and overly generous”. I call it trusting and faithful, it’s God’s money & time, not mine. This time as I begin the purge process, assessing all items as being essential or not has taken on a whole new perspective. The purge will have to take on the process of:

Step 1. it must go….Move to Step 2 only if the item is absolutely necessary.

Step 2: Is it light and will it fit in a suitcase? If no, proceed back to step 1.

Do you see where I am going with this?

For a few years Brad & I have been discussing, praying and mulling over the call to spend extended periods of time ministering in Guatemala (i am avoiding the words “move to”). I have been increasing my (and Brad’s) time & frequency in Guatemala to try meeting the call & vision we have had placed in our hearts by God. This travel/ministry set up has been working in the past, however over the last year it has become clear to Brad and I that God is calling us to do more than can be accomplished in a 4 or 6 week trip a few times a year. He is also calling us to be ministering more together as a couple through Recycled Lives.

This past trip, as we prepared to serve, we went with the specific plan to pray and listen for God’s clear will on what to do with our future and ministry together. We began the trip together with Kelly and Dave by attending a couple’s intercessional prayer retreat to assist us through prayerfully seeking God’s will and in listening for His voice among the often times deafening earthly pulls on our hearts. Following this retreat we spent the next 4 weeks continuing to pray and seeking God’s guidance (and I admit I also spent a bit of that time wrestling with God and Brad over what we were hearing). Brad and I came to the decision the last week of being in Guatemala that we should take a look at a few pieces of property that would perhaps fit the vision we were given for living & ministering in Guatemala. After just a few houses we walked into what we believe will be our new home (away from home). A complete sense of peace was felt and the Holy Spirit was clearly there. With every step of the process, from talking to the owner about financing us, our financial limitations, our need to wait to buy, etc….nothing was a problem! The owner even began to cry when we explained to her afterward that our purpose for the home would be for serving God and His glory. She obviously has been praying not just to simply sell this home that she clearly built with love but that it would be sold to the perfect persons that would love it just the same and that it would serve a beautiful purpose. The home will allow us the ability to live simplistically while also having the space and set up to host mission teams. It will allow us the ability to minister in a variety of different ways outside of mission teams including housing/hosting families on vacations with a mission, prayer groups, small group bible studies and perhaps even students. We are excited for the possibilities to serve God with this home!

Brad and I will be spending the next few months preparing for this big transition by selling possessions and doing fundraising to help acquire the funds needed to complete the purchase and furnish the home for our first mission team that is scheduled to arrive less than 3 weeks after we purchase it! We are looking forward to spending time with family and friends before we leave to complete the purchase in October. We are asking that you would please continue to lift us up in prayer in all the needs that come with taking this step of faith. Further details will come in regards to the any help our family needs in making this transition. We are laying it all at God’s feet and trusting Him no matter what (easier said than done of course!) Please contact us if God lays it on your heart to assist us in any certain way. As always, your words of encouragement are wonderful to hear!

Praising God for your answered prayers! Thanks for all of your love and support. We will keep you posted!
Shawn
Founder & Executive Director
Recycled Lives

Guatemala week 6 March 2016

Hola!
Thank you so much again for those of you that are encouraging us through prayer, support and loving words of affirmation. The time here has gone by so fast yet it seems like forever since i have seen my loved ones face to face back in minnesota. God has been providing brad and me with a tremendous amount of peace and confidence in the work we are doing for Him.

Here are the highlights of the past week (week 6):

*we installed a cooking stove for a family which ended up being a peace offering and a way to share the love and forgiveness of Jesus with the neighbors at the construction site for the 2nd home.

As i was working on the framing of the house it was high enough i could see over the fence. I noticed the condition of the outdoor cooking area being used by the family next door. God laid it on my heart to offer a cooking stove to the family. When we went to offer the stove and request permission to enter the property in order to nail up the siding of the house it became obvious there was a tremendous amount of anger and fighting that was going on between these neighbors. The woman was angry with us because we were helping someone she had a great amount of dislike for. This became an opportunity to minister as the stove created an avenue to show love and kindness even though she was being not so kind. It gave an opportunity to listen to her and try to restore peace while demonstrating withholding judgement and anger even when we may feel entitled to it. I was able to have a good conversation with her about my faith and motives and saw a change on her face and tone in her voice as i spoke with her about it being Holy week and the forgiveness Christ gives us even though we don’t deserve it. I know the problem still exists between the two neighbors but i honestly felt a change in attitude from her. We also had a discussion with the mother we were building for as well regarding hers and her teen boy’s attitude and actions leading to a lot of the problems in her community. We talked about God being a God of new chances for new lives. Please pray that there be peace and restoration in the future for these 2 families.

*Praise report! Someone donated $500 last week so we can now add the 10 families from the waiting list to the monthly food distribution! Praise and thanks be to God!

*we shared some American easter traditions with our friends and host family…with some guatemalan twists. We taught a lesson each time we used eggs explaining that eggs represent new life. We talked about the new lives offered to us through a saving relationship available through Christ’s sacrifice.

We decorated hard boiled eggs then made deviled eggs out of them the next day for breakfast. We made easter egg ornaments. We filled over 300 plastic eggs with candy and rode around the city Easter morning in the back of a truck and handed (sometimes tossed ) them out. We walked central park and handed more eggs out as well as some crocheted hats donated by someone from our church. We entertained some neighbor children with egg decorating and easter bags as well. We made easter baskets and hid them and eggs on Easter morning for our host family. It was a wonderful Easter week celebrating our savior Jesus and experiencing another culture’s traditions. We loved it.

*brad and i enjoyed taking in a few days of holy week celebrations including watching several processions , viewing the alfombras (carpets) and people watching….so interesting! Buses bring people from all over guatemala as well as el Salvador and honduras to see these processions over holy week! The number of people was like the minnesota state fair x 3!

*Clinic and Activity Center*:
The clinic roof is in progress with the materials donated or purchased. $1,600 is needed to help pay the workers to complete it. If you can help with a portion if this need we would praise God for it!

*General update*:
Brad and I completed the construction of the second home in Alotenango Guatemala. It was a tricky build for a family struggling greatly with interpersonal relationships. Brad and i were able to minister to them over the course of the week and love on the children and mother. I can honestly say i witnessed a great work of God on the mothers and oldest son’s hearts with demonstrating compassion, jo and love. We spoke the truth in love and honesty regarding problems we were noticing in parenting and responsibility. It was uncomfortable at times but necessary. Please hold this family in prayer.

Prayer requests:
*for all persons suffering throughout the world that lack physical resources but most importantly that do not know the saving relationship available through Jesus Christ.

*for the families we assist to not only know the comfort of shelter, water & electricity but the comfort of their Savior Jesus

*for support for the ongoing ministry work of Recycled Lives that I am blessed to lead and be involved in.

*for additional homes to be built for the long list of families that need them

*for Brad and me to continue to make decisions together in God’s will for our future ministry in Guatemala as a couple.

*for traveling mercies as we return to Minnesota tomorrow

Thanks for all of your love and support.

🙂 Shawn Johnson
Founder and Executive Director

Guatemala Week 5 March 2016

Wow 5 weeks!

*March mission team:* Kelly & Dave departed bright & early this past Tuesday morning (3/15). Their first flight was delayed 2 hrs which was a blessing in disguise…it got them on a direct flight(vs another connecting flight in Ohio) to MN and even arrived home earlier than originally scheduled! It was encouraging to be told by Kelly when she attended Wednesday evening activities at First Baptist Church how many people told her they are praying for Recycled Lives, for me & Brad & our family. I definitely feel the prayer covering. Thank you so much!

It was a wonderful 2 weeks serving alongside Kelly, Dave & Brad. We experienced a lot & ministered well together.
Here are the highlights:
*the team played baseball for hours & served over 100 plates of the local favorite meal: rice, tortillas and beans in San Gabriel (community surrounding a garbage dump )
*The team spent an evening popping 16 batches of top secret kettlecorn (60 treat bags) and provided a movie activity with the kids and moms in San Gabriel another day. The kids enjoyed a dinosaur cartoon movie & being loved on by the team
*the team attended a weekend prayer retreat and learned more about spiritual warfare and battling in prayer. We prayed for the ministries of Recycled Lives and for the 7 spheres of influence for the communities we are actively working to fight the grips of poverty.
*we built a 12×16 foot home with an attached sheltered kitchen with cooking stove for Miriam, Jose (7), Gabriella (3 1/2) and Daniella (6 months). It was 5 hard days of labor but it was amazing, sore backs and all! Sponsoring a home like this costs around $3,000 for the materials, labor & transportation. Any amount donated can help the next family receive a home!
*the team ​performed the Recycled Lives’ monthly food distribution for 130 families. There is consistently at least 10 or more families that come every month in hopes that there will be extra food. Some months we have a few extra packages, sometimes not. Would you consider sponsoring a year of food for these families so we can add them on the list? It would cost $450 ($38/mo). We want to add all 10 families at once to be fair and also need a commitment to help for at least a year. (Changing quantities of food purchased each month poses problems with our food distributor/order and also with the families as we only add families to the list when we can promise consistent help for the year. Please let us know if you can help with this need.
*following the food distribution the team enjoyed serving a hotdog BBQ with the San Gabriel community. It was a blast!
*on sunday we swam in a sea of people while spending a day in downtown Antigua taking in the craziness of 1,000,000 people (seriously) watching a holy procession which is a parade with one very large float the size of a large boat. It is carried by 100 persons wearing purple and white tunics, one block at a time before switching to another 100 people. People make alfombras in the streets along the procession route (they are carpets of various items such as sawdust, colored sand, pine bedding, flowers, fruits or veggies.) It is very beautiful and also a very interesting tradition.

*Clinic and Activity Center*:
We are in awe & praising God that a local Guatemalan cement company donated 240 sacks of cement for the construction of the clinic. This is a huge thing for a company in Guatemala to make such a donation!!! God is blessing this project one beautiful step at a time! Please continue to lift this need up in prayer.

*General update*:
Brad and I began the construction of another home in Alotenango Guatemala on Wednesday (3/15). We expect the home to take 4 to 5 days and will take the weekend off of building to give ourselves & the workers the weekend off from the heavy labor. The home construction has been very different as it is on a very narrow strip of land for a family of 7. Please pray for us as we work in tight quarters and create the home as we go as it is on a “pie shaped” piece of land from 8 feet wide in front to 6 feet wide in back by less than 30 feet long. There will be an area in front of the house where we will create a covered kitchen/storage area and toilet. It is going to be challenging but we are confident we will be blessed as we work! Please pray for the family to see the value of hard work and be released from feelings of helplessness and dependence upon the help of others.

Prayer requests:
*for all persons suffering throughout the world that lack physical resources but most importantly that do not know the saving relationship available through Jesus Christ. That during this holy week we can shine even brighter as we serve.

*for the families we assist to not only know the comfort of shelter, water & electricity but the comfort of their Savior Jesus

*for Kelly and Dave as they adjust to returning home and process their experience.

​*for Brad and I as we construct another home and prepare to minister over holy week to the communities God calls us to

*for support for additional homes to be built for the long list of families that need them . 2 homes could be constructed each month if we had the funds.

*for our family back home, for care to be found for our Grandson Leon.​ *****PRAISE REPORT: Brad and I were baptized on a Palm Sunday 13 years ago, our daughter Jordon felt the Holy Spirit call her to be baptized while attending Palm Sunday service this past Sunday!!!! I cried with joy when receiving this exciting news! Thank you so much to those of you that thought of recording her testimony and baptism and sending it for Brad and I to enjoy seeing and hearing! (we will view the videos that have been sent as soon as decent internet is available!)

*for Brad and I to continue to make decisions together in God’s will for our future ministry in Guatemala as a couple.

*for me to continue to learn and be able to speak spanish so I may minister more directly to the people I have been called to serve

Thanks for all of your love and support.

🙂 Shawn Johnson
Founder and Executive Director

Guatemala week 4 March 2016

It’s hard to believe it’s been 4​ ​weeks ​that I have been ​here in Guatemala. It is a ​strange mix of emotions for me to feel so at peace & joyful in what I am doing yet knowing that my heart misses my family back home. ​ ​I​t certainly is the blessing of peace described in Philippians 4:7 …..peace ​which transcends all understanding. I know i miss my children, grandbabes, family, friends, church… the “normality” of daily life yet i feel i am exactly where i am supposed to be​,​ doing exactly what i am supposed to be doing.

Here goes for week 4:

March mission team: Miriam, Jose (7), Gabriella (3 1/2) and Daniella (6 months) received their home on Friday after 5 hard days of labor from the mission team and this family.

​We are so blessed to have grown as an organization in which we have the tools we need & dedicated construction guides that are patient and loving and enjoy the hard work. We were also blessed to have Wilmer, a young father and the nephew of Miriam, who was helping his Aunt with the home construction. We definitely needed his strength to mix cement and help carry blocks up the hill to the construction site. He carried 5 blocks at a time on his back up the hill to our 1 or 2 blocks! He & and wife wept when he received payment from our team for the help he was giving to his aunt Miriam. ​He was not expecting it. The family cried as our team presented them with the home and blessed the home with prayer and worship. The team sang the song “Holy Spirit you are welcome here”.
Throughout the construction we enjoyed connecting with the family as we worked and were also were blessed with a beautiful view of the volcano Fuego which has been active daily with ​frequent ​ash plumes and lava at night. ​The construction site was visited every day by wom​e​n lining up requesting homes​, help for their children for school and for food​. The need is so greatly overwhelming for us but for God it isn’t. ​We are p​raying ​God moves hearts to help us ​continue ​construction and mission work in this community​​.
​The team performed the monthly food distribution in San Gabriel for over 130 families. We spent 3 hours portioning and weighing 1,100 pounds of beans and rice on sunday afternoon and distributed the food on Monday. Following the food distribution we enjoyed a BBQ with the community. We had exactly enough hot dogs for everyone that came! Kelly and Dave left for home this morning at 4 am and are traveling as I write. I am so thankful for their support of me and Recycled Lives over the past several years and it was a blessing to work as two married couples as a team.
Clinic and Activity Center Construction:

​We are p​raising God as another generous donation was received that we can begin construction on the roof!​ ​We are still seeking funds to see this dream to completion but each week we are yet another step closer. Please pray not only that the funds continue to trickle (or pour in) but that the volunteer help needed (25 people) is obtained the day the cement needs to be poured for the roof. It will take a lot of extra hands for an entire day of heavy labor.​
General update:

​​Tomorrow Brad and I will begin construction of another home in Alotenango Guatemala. The home construction will be difficult as it is on a narrow strip of land for a family of 7. Please pray for us as we work in tight quarters and create the home as we go as it is on a “pie shaped” piece of land from 8 feet wide in front to 6 feet wide in back by less than 30 feet long. it is going to be challenging but we are confident we will be blessed as we work!

Prayer requests:
​ ​
*for all persons suffering throughout the world that lack physical resources but most importantly that do not know the saving relationship available through Jesus Christ.

*for the families we assist to not only know the comfort of shelter, water & electricity but the comfort of their Savior Jesus

*for Kelly and Dave as they return home.

​*for Brad and I as we construct another home and prepare to minister over holy week to the communities God calls us to

*for our family back home, for care to be found for our Grandson Leon.​

*for me to continue to learn and be able to speak spanish so I may minister more directly to the people I have been called to serve

Thanks for all of your love and support.

🙂 Shawn Johnson
Recycled Lives’ Founder & Executive Director

Guatemala week 3 March 2016

Hello!

Thanks to each of you that have taken the time to email message me &/or comment on Facebook posts with encouragement over the last week! Having the team here certainly has sped the time forward it seems and a lot has been accomplished!

Here goes for week 3:

Spanish lessons: I continued lessons until the team’s arrival last wednesday…the lessons have now transitioned into application and practice. Our usual translator has been sick with bronchitis so has not been well enough to join our team and perform translation. This has forced me to apply & use what i have learned and has provided me with the confidence boost i needed that i can maybe figure this out. Many of the people i encounter have been patient with my slow and limited vocabulary. The good news is I can usually figure it out enough to understand what is being said & give a somewhat toddler like response….

Clinic and Activity Center Construction : Diego continues to oversee the daily progress of the center. Step by step this dream continues to come true to have a center where we can provide space for health care & mission teams to serve out of.

March mission team: Kelly and Dave arrived last week and our team of 4 is complete for this mission. We have enjoyed spending a day serving hot meals to about 100 people & playing baseball for a few hours with about 40 kids in the San Gabriel (the community surrounding the garbage dump).

Friday we were able to visit & taught a family how to make Recycled Lives’ top secret kettle corn through gifting them with the tools and supplies needed to add this product to their small home business of selling sweet breads & other foods. It was a blessed visit. This family has been in our care program since 2011 when one of my mission teams built them a home. We have assisted this family through high school for their 2 boys, helped them when the father died of diabetes (some of you may remember the story of Lorenzo from the hungry feast event). They struggle hard each day & the mother i a suffering from much grief and anxiety. Please pray with us for her & the teen boys.

Over the weekend we enjoyed receiving training in intercessional prayer through a couples prayer retreat hosted by a YWAM (youth with a mission) missionaries. The entire weekend was centered around prayer, worship and fellowship. It was a wonderful experience…well, except for the 4hr long switchback mountainous drive & throwing up as a result of playing the game “beanboozled”. A jelly bean game we thought would be a blast to entertain our missionary host’s 5yr old son. It involves spinning a dial and eating (or trying to eat) the selected color jelly bean. The bean has the potential to be a good or disgusting flavor….my selection was chocolate pudding OR canned dog food….yep, my lovely teammates were kind enough to record my instant gag and wretch response to the potent alpo flavor jelly bean i shall never forget. As soon as someone gets decent internet connection i shall be haunted by the video memory i am sure…

We shared many good laughs, shed tears, learned, experienced amazing prayer & rooftop worship times and enjoyed some much needed fellowship with Christian brothers and sisters who were equally desiring connectedness to Christian fellowship.

General update: we started home construction on Monday for a single mom with 3 young children. Please pray for them as well as any observers and helpers to experience Christ’s tremendous love through witnessing the work we are doing.

Prayer requests:

*for all persons suffering throughout the world that lack physical resources but most importantly that do not know the saving relationship available through Jesus Christ.

*for the families we assist to not only know the comfort of shelter, water & electricity but the comfort of their Savior Jesus

*for my entire family as I am away, I miss them dearly. leon (our oldest grandson) is in need of a care provider as he can no longer attend yet another daycare because of his special needs /behavior. Brad and i watch him quit a bit cor this reason so when we are away it is hard when this situation arrises. Please pray for the right help for him and for the anxiety and frustration that stirs in him over things he experiences in daily life.

*for me to continue to learn and be able to speak spanish so I may minister more directly to the people I have been called to serve

Thanks for all of your love and support. Blessings,
Shawn
Recycled Lives Founder & Executive Director

Guatemala week 2 Feb (Chupacabra)

Hello!
Thank you all for your email messages and encouragement last week! It was a tough week but I am tougher for it! I am also feeling abundantly blessed through it as I got to witness several answered prayers!
It is my goal to provide a weekly update during the time I am here in Guatemala and the work of Recycled Lives. Here goes for week 2:
Spanish lessons: I am continuing to study and learn spanish daily. This week my light bulb moment was understanding the name “Chupacabra”… yes I know this does not seem all too exciting for most but after a frustrating day of feeling completely lost in past imperfect conjugated irregular verb formations my head was exploding like the volcano fuego. I decided to take a break from the verbs and review animal names. Chupar (to suck) was a verb I learned and Cabra (goat) now that strange name for the “fictional” creature makes sense…..
Clinic and Activity Center construction: Praise be to God as we continue to see slow but steady progress on the clinic. This past week we are praising God for His goodness in that we received word the cement for the floors and skimming the walls was donated by a local Guatemalan cement company! We also received a generous donation that will support the materials for the construction of the roof!!!! Thanks be to God! Step by step this dream continues to come true to have a center where we can provide space for health care teams, a physician on a semi regular basis and the food distribution and mission team activities! The estimated material costs remaining to complete construction is approximately $10,000 ($1,000 for the electrical, $2,500 for windows (16 windows x approx $150 ea), $2-5,000 for other items (doors, septic, plumbing materials, paint, fixtures,etc.). We are still in need of funding for the workers to construct the floors and roof with the current donated materials (only $200/wk supports a salary for local men to supervise volunteers and perform the majority of the labor.)
March mission team: Brad arrived on Sunday and we have been enjoying preparing for the arrival of Kelly and Dave this afternoon. The team will “hit the ground running” starting tomorrow with serving a meal and offering some games and activities in San Gabriel (the community surrounding the garbage dump). Friday we will be installing a wood burning cooking stove for a family and teaching her how to make Recycled Lives’ top secret kettle corn through gifting her with the tools and supplies needed to add this product to her small home business of selling sweet breads. This family has been on our care program since 2011 when one of my mission teams built them a home. We have assisted this family through high school for their 2 boys, helped them when the father died of diabetes (some of you may remember the story of Lorenzo from the hungry feast event). Over the weekend we will receive training in intercessional prayer through a couples prayer retreat hosted by a YWAM (youth with a mission) missionary couple I met nearly 2 years ago (Her name is SHAWN and her spouses name is Dave) LOL! Funny how God works.
General update: Following my request for prayer last week for the return of water, it finally returned that very evening I sent out the request! Thank you for praying and thank you God for blessing that request!
Brad and I were able to do a social visit yesterday to the Salazar family. They recently lost their mother Isabel about 2 1/2 weeks ago. Please pray for them as they are grieving quite hard as Isabel was the glue to the family. It was quite the blessing however to hear the 14 year old provide comforting words of hope to his sister that they need to unite together in prayer and going to church and to rejoice in knowing their mother is no longer suffering as she had been suffering greatly from severe diabetes. Please lift this family in prayer as they process their grief and adjust to life without Isabel.
I was excited to be able to start our first ladies prayer and yarn club in Guatemala. I love to knit and have been wanting to lead a group of woman in a yarn club back home for some time now. Last November I met a woman here in Guatemala that had the same desire. When we connected she nearly cried when I shared my wish to do this back home with women. She has been desiring to start a crocheting and knitting prayer group for women here in Guatemala but didn’t have the resources to do so. I put together 10 kits for her to start her group and also donated a suitcase of yarn and was blessed to see her lead her first group of woman last Saturday! (photo attached) I learned I am going to stick with knitting…crochet was quit hard for these knitting hands! These ladies had a wonderful time. It was a great blessing to see a group of women learn not only a hobby that is relaxing but one that could potentially provide a small income.
This past week I have been surrounded by people sick with very bad colds (am pretty sure it is influenza for the severity of illness). I have been fortunate enough to only be mildly sick with a few days of a minor cough, headache and body aches but I am feeling much better this morning as I write. I have been using an essential oil blend since my arrival on a daily basis to boost my immunity. Please pray for my home stay hosts and spanish teacher, they have been sick with this horrible cold for close to a week.
The volcano Fuego (fire volcano) has been very active. It surely is one of God’s most amazing creations!

Prayer requests:
for all persons suffering throughout the world that lack physical resources but most importantly that do not know the saving relationship available through Jesus Christ.

For each of us to know and “go” (work) in our personally God-given ministries to reach all persons lost and suffering.

for the families we assist to not only know the comfort of shelter, water & electricity but the comfort of their Savior Jesus

for the salazar family and women in our yarn group
for the mission team’s first day of ministering in San Gabriel and our prayer retreat and its leaders
for my entire family as I am away, I miss them dearly.

for me to continue to learn and be able to speak spanish so I may minister more directly to the people I have been called to serve

Thanks for all of your love and support. Blessings,

🙂 Shawn Johnson
Founder and Executive Director

Guatemala week 1 Feb 2016

Hello!
It is my goal to provide a weekly update during the time I am here in Guatemala and the work of Recycled Lives. Here goes for my first week.
Spanish lessons: I am very slowly learning Spanish, it is so very hard, especially learning the grammar & pronunciation piece so I can string together the billions of words I think I know but can’t use properly.
Clinic and Activity Center construction: rThe walls are all constructed!!! The roof, floors, electrical, plumbing and interior finishes remain. The estimated material costs remaining to complete construction is approximately $10-15,000 (estimates are currently at: $5,000 for the roof, $1,000 for the electrical, $2,500 for windows (16 windows x approx $150 ea), $2-5,000 for other items (doors, septic, plumbing materials, paint, fixtures,etc.). This amount is with the hopes that a local cement company will be donating the bags of cement needed for making the floor and sidewalk. This amount also does not count the $200+/wk salary for the 2 workers (that guide volunteers and do most of the labor). We currently have enough funds/supplies for one more week of work. If funds continue to come in for the needed materials & labor, the clinic should be done in May, longer if needing to wait for funds. Please pray for God to continue to bless this building project/ministry into its completion. It has employed 2 local men since November, has brought much unity in volunteerism in the community and will be a huge blessing to the community for healthcare and ministry programs.
March mission team: Social visits were performed and it has been determined that the team that arrives next week (my husband Brad and friends Dave & Kelly Wichman) will build a home for Miriam (30), Jose (7), Gabriella (3) and Daniella (5 months). The children’s father committed suicide and life has been very tough for this family. Little Jose witnessed the death of his father.
After Kelly & Dave leave, Brad and I will be building a home for another family (Claudia & 5 children). They live on a very narrow and long piece of land. We are really in need of additional funds for this building project as the initial estimate for the cost of the house was half of what it will actually be due to the difficult nature of the build and shape of the land. (it is only 6 feet wide in the back and 8 feet wide in the front by 30 feet long. This family lives under pieced together sheets of rusting tin, rotting boards and suffers tremendously when it rains. They basically have little to no shelter.

General update: This week has been one of my most challenging weeks in Guatemala. It has offered me many areas for personal growth and opportunities for dependence on God and thankfulness for the blessings I experience in my daily life at home. For the past 5 days, the city in which I am staying has been without water. We were fortunate enough to have a trickle of water from the water lines, enough to wash hands and fill the toilet tank over the course of the hour…. however today, the trickle of water is gone and there is no water at all making things even more difficult. We also experienced several hours of no electricity last night. The water likely will not return until at least this weekend when a city water pump is replaced.
Aside from “suffering” without the customary comforts I am used to, I am really trying to embrace the situations and learn from them. I cannot imagine life never having the hope of running/clean water, shelter, electricity…the reality so many of the people we are trying to help feel each and every day, it is humbling and also heartbreaking.
Prayer requests:
*for all persons suffering throughout the world that lack physical resources but most importantly that do not know the saving relationship available through Jesus Christ.
*For each of us to know and “go” (work) in our personally God-given ministries to reach all persons lost and suffering.
*for the families we assist to not only know the comfort of shelter, water & electricity but the comfort of their Savior Jesus
*For the aid to be available to finish the clinic, build many more homes, continue to feed our supported families monthly and provide Christ-centered help
*For team members Brad, Kelly & Dave as they prepare to depart for Guatemala
*or my entire family as I am away, I miss them dearly.
*For my brain to absorb and my tongue to speak Spanish fluently to minister more directly to the people I have been called to serve

Thanks for all of your love and support.

🙂 Shawn Johnson
Founder and Executive Director

Feliz año nuevo! Happy New Year!

As 2015 draws to a close, I can’t help but look back at the wonderful things that God has done at Recycled Lives and be in awe. This year brought about continued growth in reaching more persons in need. We had many opportunities to stretch our faithful dependence upon our Father God as we trusted Him for donor support to sustain our monthly food distribution, build houses, lead a mission team, install stoves and begin a school supply and chicken coop program. We also took a leap of faith and decided to partner with another nonprofit organization based out of Spain, Quesada Solidaria, which works with medical groups in Guatemala to start the construction of a clinic and activity center in the San Gabriel community where we have been ministering for the past 3 years. It is an answer to many years of prayer that we have found an established partner organization in Guatemala that allows us to utilize its trusted staff to carry out some of the work while we are not there. I can’t even begin to tell you how much joy it brings me to feel things are up and operating smoothly as we celebrated our first official year of being an established nonprofit organization in September. It excites me to finally feel that we are in a place that we can begin to grow our support base and outreach programs to help even more people living in poverty. I hope that you too are feeling a great sense of joy in seeing the work being carried out and knowing you helped make it happen through your financial and prayer support. No prayer is whispered too quietly for God to hear and no contribution large or small goes unnoticed! We stretch each gift as much as possible to help this beautiful community receive the help God desires for them to have. We are thankful for a great year, and excited about what this new year has in store for Recycled Lives! If you would like me to come speak at your church or a small group gathering I would welcome the opportunity. We pray that many homes are built, the clinic and activity center is completed and most importantly that many more lives are touched with the loving and saving relationship with Christ Jesus. We could do none of this without our loving Father God and your ongoing and generous support. May you have a blessed New Year!

Shawn Johnson

Founder & Executive Director

Executive Director 2014 Year-end report

I write this report in humble reflection upon an amazing year of serving in faith and joy.  Recycled Lives, as well as I personally, have experienced a great amount of growth in a steadfast and unwavering commitment to do our best in glorifying God in all that we do while serving those He has called us to help. I am privileged and blessed with the opportunity to use my heart and skills to do this work in which God has entrusted me to do.  I respectfully submit the following report as reflections and highlights of this past years’ service.

The beginning of the year started with a bang celebrating the start of the New Year in true Guatemalan style with the December 2013/January 2014 Mission team. I served in Guatemala from Dec 21, 2013 to January 10, 2014. The team arrived on Dec 26 and we all returned home January 10, 2014. The team built 9 stoves and performed daily VBS activities while at the San Gabriel community (“the dump” in Escuintla), we served several hot meals, did a gift-giving activity for Christmas and on Christmas eve I provided a message and we served an amazing catered meal!  We held daily prayer and devotional times to keep our hearts centered on the reason for the season and did all we could to witness to others the love of Christ in our actions and words.

During the months of July and November I traveled to Guatemala to do program review, future planning and to implement changes for improvement to programs as well as research new program opportunities.  I have been working diligently on establishing trusting relationships with the people of the San Gabriel community in Escuintla Guatemala. Implementing principles from the book “When helping hurts” has been key in doing our best to provide assistance in a way that is not shaming, pity-driven, God-complex ridden or done in a way that creates dependence.

January and February was spent finalizing the preceding several months’ work of researching, gathering, writing and compiling the data needed to complete our paperwork and forms for the daunting IRS 1023 application.  The application was submitted February 18, 2014.  Then the long, long, long wait began….We grew in patience and faith that a positive reply would eventually be heard….thanks be to the IRS for this great lesson in patience.

May we celebrated one of our FUN fundraising events: the Cinco de Mayo 5k/1k Family Fun Fest was our  4th annual event which was held on May 4th.  Also in May our IRS 990 (tax filing) was submitted….. and we were still patiently (kind of) waiting for the determination letter to come from the wonderful IRS on our 1023 application (501c3 tax exempt status request.)  May and June we also organized volunteer groups to serve at Feed My Starving Children packing sessions.

July was busy with a team of 7 that traveled to Guatemala.  The July team accomplished a double home build, hosted our first BBQ and movie night, served several hot meals, provided daily VBS activities and distributed bibles and small group bible study supplies. Funds were gathered by a few team members to provide the labor and transportation necessary for another humanitarian organization, Quesada Solidaria, to build another house in San Gabriel, Guatemala in August.

In September our prayers were answered and our long wait was over… we received the glorious news that the IRS granted us the 501(c)(3)tax exempt designation!  Praise and Glory to GOD!!!

November brought a small team of two to serve in Guatemala. Despite its small size, the team accomplished building a home, performing the monthly food distribution and hosted four movie nights with hot meals. Much time was spent building relationships and seeking input from community members to learn their honest perspective on what is helping, not helping and would be good for the future.

MEET THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS:

I am so thankful for a Board of Directors that love Christ and are passionate about the vision and goals God has laid on our hearts for Recycled Lives to accomplish. Each board member volunteers their time and talents to help keep our organization financially accountable and operating with the greatest integrity. They assure that our work and decisions are prayed over and they each are my accountability partner. The Board of Directors met for quarterly meetings during the months of January, March, June and October. Online meetings were held as needed for carrying out business.

Kelly Wichman is our Board of Director’s Chairperson. Kelly plays a key role in assisting me with planning and hosting each of our annual fundraising events (the Cinco de Mayo 5k/1k, garage sale, Christmas Delights, sweet on Guatemala event).  She is often researching and assisting with ways in which our organization can raise funds. Kelly is willing to serve and help anywhere necessary and for her support, friendship and true love for Christ, I am grateful.

Liz Cheney, our Board of Directors’ Secretary does a wonderful job keeping things organized and documented. I am also extremely grateful for her experience on non-profit boards and involvement in church operations and large scale fundraising. She is my go to gal for advice on operational procedures, ideas, prayer and encouragement.  Liz is devoted to shepherding others and this past October she became an ordained minister!

Brad Johnson, our Board of Director’s Vice-Chairperson, did a wonderful job assisting with the creation of video and photo presentations as well as signage for events and marketing purposes. He sets up and is responsible for the audiovisual operations behind events and helped to make the first movie night in San Gabriel happen. Brad is one of our behind the scenes helpers that keeps things moving smoothly by tending to many of the small but hugely important details for event,

Dave Wichman, our Board of Director’s Treasurer, works diligently at keeping the books current, watching our budget and balancing the books.  I feel one of the biggest contributions Dave makes to Recycled Lives is boldly sharing with anyone that will listen about our work in Guatemala, He to assists with keeping things sounding good at events with his experience with operating sound systems. Dave opens up his place of business to persons wishing to stop by and chat about what Recycled Lives is up to.

Michelle Jilk is on our Board of Directors and serves as the chair for the fundraising committee.  She has much knowledge and experience from her many travels to Guatemala. Serving others and being thoughtful and generous is in her DNA. Michelle’s organized a full year’s worth of ideas, lessons and supplies for a teen aged youth leader to lead weekly lessons for the children in the San Gabriel community. Michelle has a heart for children, the poor, volunteering and is simply one of the most generous and genuinely sweet people I am blessed to know

Lina Becker is on our Board of Directors as well. Lina brings to the board a great willingness to volunteer wherever needed. Her opinions and suggestions have been crucial in helping guide our organization in a positive direction through providing the valuable insight from the perspective of someone that has not yet traveled to Guatemala which helps to give us a different set of eyes so we don’t miss things by making assumptions that everyone “gets what we are trying to convey”. Lina has a firsthand and deep understanding of the effects of poverty through her adoption experience in Vietnam. Lina brings to the board a true passion for helping the poor, the single moms, the widowed and the orphaned. And did I mention she has much valuable experience in accounting, business operations and management to boot?!  Lina is a perfect fit and brings a wonderful balance to the board.

PROGRAMS REVIEW:

Recycled Lives started our formal supplemental food distribution program in September of 2013.  We started with a monthly budget of $525 which covered a supplemental food package for 40 families as well as the labor and transportation costs to distribute it.  Families receive 5# each of black beans, rice, oats and 4# of tortilla flour. We spent more time researching prices and found a more cost effective option, made a slight adjustment of the quantities distributed per family and was able to increase the number of families served to 60 for the same price.  After reading “When Helping Hurts” in early 2014 I began to reconsider the way in which we were operating the supplemental food distribution program. In July, while working in Guatemala, I was able to share the biblical message that is provided prior to the food distribution each month. Following the message we held a meeting with the families where it was explained to them that if we began collecting a 10Q ($1.33) donation per family for their food package, they would be able to help 40 more families with the funds collected which would be put directly into purchasing more food. An informal vote was met with much excitement and I believe deep happiness knowing that they were not just getting a handout but they were in some way helping others.  Beginning in August we increased the number of families receiving food to 100. When receiving their food packages in August the family had the choice to make the donation or not. Every person on the list made the requested 10Q donation and continues to make the donation!  Praise be to God for this amazing step and the positive change it made not only in increasing the numbers served but in giving a great sense of worth and increased self-sufficiency to those participating.  Each month there are approximately 20 families that faithfully wait at the food distribution hoping and praying that we have extra or a sponsor for the month that has donated extra food. Sometimes we can help but often times we cannot. In order to add these 20 families to the program we would need $140 more dollars per month. With a monthly sponsor willing to help cover all or a portion of the $665 (the amount to cover the 120 families) it would free up funds for constructing more homes and starting new programs. In November we again surveyed the families regarding food preferences. The communities voice was that there was the desire to no longer receive oats but instead receive a larger quantity of black beans. This change was implemented with no additional cost incurred. This changed was implemented in December.

A smaller but important program we have started is the Individual and Family Care Program. This program is a sponsor type program where we do our best to meet specific physical, financial, spiritual, prayer and emotional needs with someone that can help.  Over the past year there has been 3 families that have had a consistent monthly sponsor providing $15-$25 per month as supplemental income to help them through a rut following a family member’s death, injury, temporary inability to work or find work, unexpected financial strain/burden, etc.  Three shelters have been rebuilt for families that are squatting on land. Five homes were built in the San Gabriel community, a water line was installed in January which serves 5 families and many children have received school supplies and uniforms because of donations/sponsors.  We were able to connect 5 persons with sponsor funds to help cover medication, laboratory and/or ultrasound testing.  There are seven families in the Cuidad Veija and surrounding areas that come to receive a supplemental food package each month and a social visit to assure they are doing well.  The program has also helped to connect two young teen girls with the opportunity to attend an intensive 20 day discipleship training program by finding the sponsorship needed for them to attend. These two girls are hopeful leaders for their community.  VBS supplies have been purchased and provided to two different church groups in the San Gabriel community and children have the opportunity to attend both Thursday and Sunday bible lessons. We have connected a family in need of assistance with water bills and another with electric bills with sponsors. During the November trip one of our care families experienced a death of the father/husband. God blessed us with the funds and timing that we could provide the traditional coffee, bread and cookies for the visitation and grieving time.  In November three families received a high efficiency cooking stove.  During the November trip many persons were ill with Chikungunya, a mosquito borne illness, including me. I prayed over many that were ill and witnessed rapid healing in four painful, fever-ridden bodies.  I too received prayer from a Pastor’s wife, and felt healing course through my body as well as ongoing pain relief received from her generous sharing of a medication she had. God is so AMAZING! Praise HIM!

I am excited to report that in our first full year of being a nonprofit, we exceeded all program goals I set and did so within projected budget through working hard and depending on God!  As you can read and see, this has been a busy year of ministry and growth in which I feel so blessed to have been entrusted to lead.  I am thankful for a wonderful Board of Directors that supports, knows and trusts me to get the job done in an honest and Godly manner. I thank God for stirring this deep love and need within me to help make a big difference in this world one small step at a time. Not because I want to feel good about myself and what is being done but because I truly want to please God through using the gifts, skills and talents He gave me.  I want to help others to know Him better, I want others that don’t know Him to see or hear Him through me and each of you.  I want to live a life of generosity, selflessness and simplicity.  I close this reflection with a few of my most favorite sayings and scriptures for encouragement to you into the coming year.

“No one ever became poor from giving”~ Maya Angelou

“Live simply so that others may simply live” ~ Mother Theresa

“The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by bad people but the silence over that by the good people” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

Ephesians 3:14-21 (NIV) 14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. 20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

Can I get another AMEN?!

Signed with sisterly love,

Shawn Johnson, Founder and Executive Director Recycled Lives





2014 Video update

Recycled Lives is a non-profit Christian organization dedicated to bettering the lives of people living in poverty through facilitating access to resources that are physical, spiritual and/or financial in nature. We are advocates for ceasing poverty for all of God’s people throughout the world. Recycled Lives is focused on sharing the gospel through serving as the hands and feet of Christ in our communities and throughout the world. We will go forth into the world to bring positive change to lives through demonstrating the love of Christ so that we may bring praise and glory to God. We are a 501c3 Christian non-profit organization. Your contribution is tax deductible and can be received online by clicking donate button or by check to “Recycled Lives” PO Box 408, Cambridge, MN 55008