Category Archives for "Guatemala"

Quick Update from Guatemala

Good evening!

We just returned back to our compound from a day of hard work at the site of the home.  We made incredible progress today.  When we started the day there was nothing but a slab floor.  By the end of the day the house had four exterior walls, three interior rooms, three windows, one door, roof trusses, and electrical roughed in.  The team worked really hard and worked quite well as a team.  I’m having a blast!

So, here’s my question for the day (it’s been running around in my head since yesterday):  Would you consider a blogger meet-up in Guatemala to build a house together?  Seriously!

(I’ll post more later – probably when I get home about my thoughts and experiences along with some pictures.  But this gives me a chance to fill you in.  There’s far more to process than I have time to document here right now.)

LIVE from Guatemala

Just a quick update.

We made it to Guatemala safe and sound!

We’re staying in a beautiful place with some great people.  I describe more later when I have some time (or when I get home).

We’re getting ready to leave for our first day of construction of the home.  I was able to visit there last night and meet the family.  This meeting alone was an experience I’ll never forget.

Pray today that our team will be effective and efficient in working on the house.  We’ll be forming and pouring the slab and beginning to frame out the walls and roof.  Your prayers are appreciated.

Thanks so much for your thoughts prayers and encouragement in making this happen!  May God be with you today.

Impromptu Ice Breaker:  What are you taking for granted today?

Departing Thoughts and Prayers – Leaving for Guatemala Tomorrow

Last night, we had our last team meeting before we depart for Guatemala early (REALLY EARLY) Thursday morning.  (That’s tomorrow!!!)

Our leader and high school youth pastor, Adam, opened up the meeting by asking everyone what they were thinking and feeling as the trip is just about here.

It was interesting to hear responses from the kids and even some of the leaders as the trip is upon us.  Here are some of the things I heard:

  • “I’m nervous about not being able to communicate in Spanish with the kids.”
  • “I’m nervous about getting sick again.”
  • “I still need to pack.”
  • “I’m nervous about leaving my family.”
  • “I’m so excited!”

It’s kind of interesting to hear some of these thoughts.  If I’m honest, I share many of these thoughts and anxieties.  I haven’t had Spanish in many, many years.  I’m not sure how I’ll be able to communicate with people who don’t speak English at all.  I certainly don’t want to get sick.  I’ll have medications necessary to combat stomach bugs and headaches, but I certainly don’t want to spend my time away sick in bed.  I still need to pack.  I guess that will happen after work tonight.  I’m a little anxious about leaving my wife and son.  I trust that everything will be okay while I’m gone.  But I’ll miss the ability to communicate and to be there to jump in on anything that would arise – even the small things.  I’m super excited as well.  I struggled with sleep last night which I’m sure is normal.  I’m a little nervous about hanging out with teenagers all week.  I don’t know many of these students now, but I’m sure that will change as the week goes on.

As Adam asked the question at our meeting last night.  He commented that it will be interesting to see how these thoughts look after we’ve been to Guatemala.

As I look at many of the thoughts including my own they have such a “ME” focus.  “I’m this…” and “I’m that….”  It’s my prayer that our team is WRECKED by this experience.  I pray that our focus would shift to others first.  I pray that we’d make a difference during our trip to Guatemala.  And I pray that we’d be open to ways that God will transform each of us through this trip which is sure to be adventure.

While I’m away, I have a number of guest bloggers lined up and some other scheduled posts to keep you going.  Please keep visiting here, and be sure to chime in on the conversations sparked by the guest bloggers.  You can also follow the blog of our team at  Someone from our team will be posting here daily – at least that’s the plan.

What are you anxious about today?  What are you excited about today?

WOW! Guatemala Goal Met!

For those of you who have been following along, The Stretched Community has been working together to fund the costs to build a house in Guatemala.  If you read my post this morning, you may have noticed that we still needed $2,550 to meet this target.


You stepped up!  The goal was met as of 1:36PM today!

Thank you!  Thank you!  Thank you!

I am amazed and blown away by the power of taking a leap of faith and by the power of community.

Thanks to your generous support, The Stretched Community will be responsible for building a house in Guatemala.

The goal has been met, but there’s still an opportunity to be involved.  You can give towards another home by hitting the fundraising page, and you can definitely pray for our trip.  My post from earlier today provides some specific prayer requests.

God is great!

When was the last time you were blown away?

Guatemala Update: 1 Week To Go!

One week from today, I will be leaving bright and early in the morning (2AM to be exact) from our church’s parking lot to catch a plane in Newark, NJ as I head down to Guatemala with my daughter and the rest of our team.  How did this happen so fast?

My daughter is mostly packed.  But I still have a lot to do to get ready.  I still need to pack.  I need to finalize plans for the Stretched blog while I’m away (thanks to those who have offered to guest post in my absence).  I need to get a haircut, and I need to pick up a few essentials required for the trip.  It is sure to be a busy week!

From a fundraising standpoint, we are still trying to see if we can raise enough money through The Stretched Community to pay for one of the houses we’ll be building while we’re there.  We still need $2,550 which may seem like a STRETCH, but I think we can still hit the mark.  Please consider how you might be able to help to close this gap.  If you’re interested in giving, you can contact me or you can go to my fundraising page to learn more.  Thanks!

As an update on our itinerary (so you’ll know how to pray each day), here’s our rough schedule:

  • Thursday (7/26) – Travel
  • Friday (7/27) – Home build with Casas Por Cristo
  • Saturday (7/28) – Home build with Casas Por Cristo
  • Sunday (7/29) – Church, Home build with Casas Por Cristo, and possible visit to Mayan ruins
  • Monday (7/30) – Bible School/Kids Camp in the AM (we’ll be using the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego throughout the week), Football Camp in the PM
  • Tuesday (7/31) – Bible School/Kids Camp in the AM, Football Camp in the PM
  • Wednesday (8/1) – Bible School/Kids Camp in the AM, Football Camp in the PM
  • Thursday (8/2) – Bible School/Kids Camp in the AM, Football Camp in the PM
  • Friday (8/3) – Travel Home

You can continue to pray for the following as we head on our trip:

  • Pray for safety for our team as we travel.
  • Pray for effectiveness as we minister to families and kids in Guatemala.  We especially want to share God’s love with the families who will get the homes and with the children who will attend our camps.
  • Pray for the impact on our team – may we be WRECKED!  (I’ll share more about WRECKED in the coming days.)
  • Pray for Leanne and Isaac at home that they would have a safe and fun time together, and that I would have peace of mind while we’re apart.

I think that does it for this Guatemala Update!  Thanks so much for being part of the journey.  I can’t wait to share with you all about the trip when we return.

Have you been on any mission trips?  Where and when?  What did you do to prepare for these trips?

Guatemala In One Month!

In a month (from tomorrow), I’ll be leaving for Guatemala!  I’m sure this month will go by quickly.  I have my passport and my vaccinations, but there’s some other preparations that I still need to handle.  With that in mind, I have a favor to ask – actually three favors:

1)  Continue to pray for our team as we prepare for this trip.  I would specifically ask for continued prayers for my headaches.  I saw a doctor last week who seems to be on the right track, but your prayers for a headache free trip would be appreciated.

2)  I’d like to keep the blog going while I’m away, but I definitely need some help.  I know I’ve mentioned it before and even exchanged a couple of messages prior to this post, but I am looking for guest bloggers to help fill in the gaps during my absence.  In order to make this happen, I need to figure out the posting scheduled in the next week or two.  If you are interested and willing in sharing your stretched story here, please reach out to me so we can coordinate.  Guest posts could also include Ice Breakers, 3 Thumbs Up!, and I’d entertain the idea of putting together some type of interview as a post idea.  At any rate, let me know if you’re interested by leaving a comment, so I can reach out to you.  Thanks!

3)  Casas Por Cristo.  You may remember that I stepped out in faith with an idea to build one of our teams houses through the Stretched blog.  Well, we’re about 70% there.  We still need $2,675 in order to finish one house.  It’s not too late to get on board with this.  See the link here for more details.  This will need to be wrapped up in a week or two also to coordinate with our team.  (Thanks!)

I guess that’s it for now.  Thanks for being part of this trip!

What are you preparing for these days?

Random Stretch Thoughts

Life continues to provide plenty of stretching opportunities. Today’s post is simply some of the things that are stretching me these days.

1. Headaches. Since the month of February, I’ve been dealing with lots of headaches. I haven’t had a migraine for a few weeks, but I’m still wrestling a bit with the day-to-day nuisance headaches. I started seeing someone who is helping with deep tissue message. This seems to be helping, but it seems like I still have a way to go until my back, shoulders, and neck loosen up.
2. Running. Yesterday, I shared about the 2nd Annual Race to Remember. Between blogging, headaches, and the other busyness of life, it can be a challenge to find a regular routine for running. I’m hoping that a date on the calendar will inspire me to be more consistent in my running.
3. Gardening. I don’t talk about gardening a whole lot here, but it is still one of my passions. Admittedly, this hobby has taken a backseat to my family, my job, my writing, and other activities. I did manage to get my garden planted a few weeks ago. Now, I need to figure out how to keep the deer and groundhogs out of the garden. And I need to find time to weed.
4. Blogging. I love the blog, and I intend on keeping it going. My main struggle is landing on my next path forward – What is the next step for the Stretched Blog?  Should I write and eBook? If so, where should I focus? I know for certain that I want to use my writing and blogging for something way bigger than myself. The Guatemala trip and the Stretched house is confirmation that anything is possible.
5. Guatemala. I really need to work on my Spanish. In nearly a month and a half, I’ll be making this life changing trip. I pray that I will be alert to the impact of this trip. We’re less than $2,700 away from paying for the house! Feel free to hop on board.
6. Family and marriage. This is a huge priority for me. Many times I feel like my attention and energy isn’t always where it should be. I don’t want to look back with any regrets. In a week, my daughter will be graduating from middle school. I know she’s ready for high school, but this milestone is a reminder that time isn’t slowing down. I need to make the most of the opportunities.
7. Faith. To put it plainly, my relationship with God has to be the most important thing in my life. I’m constantly filling my mind with good things, but I’m realizing more and more that I need to be still. This stretches me to the core.

I’m sure there are many other things that are stretching me, but this list provides a glimpse into the ones that keep coming back to me. I’m thankful that God is patient with us while we stretch. I’m thankful that he desires a relationship that is new, exciting, and stretching.

What’s stretching you see days?

(Don’t forget to get in on the giveaway that’s going on this week on the Stretched blog. Click here for more details.  There’s still time to win Platform by Michael Hyatt or Love Does by Bob Goff.)

Answers To Your Stretching Questions

On Friday, I asked you to ask me any questions.  Today, I’ll do my best to answer the questions.  This is one of my longer posts, but I hope you’ll find in interesting and perhaps a little humorous.  I’d love to hear your thoughts on my responses to your questions.  Thanks so much to each of you for some wonderful and challenging questions (I may just have to do this again some time).

What would you go back and tell 16 year old you if you could time travel? from Larry Carter at Deuceology

Great question, Larry.  I’d tell myself to buy stock in Apple.  I’d tell 16 year-old Jon Stolpe to be confident in who God made him.  I’d tell me that I am a writer.  I’d tell me not to sweat the girlfriend thing, because God has an unbelievable wife in store for me for the future.  I’d remind me that I am a leader.

Who is your favorite blogger? from Rob Shepherd at

This is really a tough one as I follow so many great bloggers.  Perhaps, my favorite is my dad, Norman Stolpe.  My dad is a writer’s writer.  He has been writing for years.  He doesn’t blog regularly though he keeps a blog.  But his weekly sermons have to be considered as some type of blogging.  My dad has inspired me on many different levels when it comes to my writing.  I don’t ever expect to hold a candle to his writing skill, but I hope that my dad will be proud that I’ve followed in his writing footsteps in some small way.

What motivated you to start blogging? from Rob Shepherd at

I have a friend, Frank Chiapperino, who was my biggest encouragement to start blogging.  Frank was our adult ministries pastor at the time, and he now pastors his own church in Minnesota.  Frank still blogs fairly regularly about leadership, technology, and small groups.

What verse in the Bible challenges you the most? from Rob Shepherd at

Colossians 4:2-6 is one of my favorite verses and probably one of the verses that challenges me the most.  Making the most of every opportunity means so much to me.  I need to make the most in sharing my faith with others.  I need to make the most of the time I have with my friends, family, and co-workers.  I don’t want my time here on earth to be a waste.  I want to hear God say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”

Would you rather have spam for hands or mayo for a tongue? from Rob Shepherd at

This ones easy for me.  I hate (I strongly dislike) mayo, so I’ve got to go with Spam for hands.  If I had a mayo tongue, I’d be throwing up all the time.

It’s a question I asked on my blog yesterday. If you wrote a cardboard testimony what would it say? from Eileen Knowles at The Scenic Route

“God love me – broken and bruised, impatient and imperfect, STRETCHED!”

Where do you see yourself in 15 years? from Joe Lalonde at

In 15 years, I will be 55.  I’ll have two kids in their later twenties, and I will have been married for over 30 years.  I hope to be 100% debt free including the house.  I hope to be giving way more than I’m getting.  I’d love to have written at least one book by that time – though I’m still figuring all that out.  If I stay at my current job (which is definitely a possibility), I will have been there for over 31 years.  I’d like to continue to grow in respect.  I’d like to be known for investing in others like no other leader before me.  I’m not sure if blogging will still exist in 15 years, but I’d like to use my writing as a tool to expand the Kingdom.

As a man of strong religious beliefs, what do you think is in general the greatest challenge today to people who seek to maintain their religious faith? And what is the greatest challenge to maintaining your faith personally?  For example, is it that science has called into question many fundamental beliefs in the Bible? Is it rampant materialism in our society? Is it pressure from the mass media to adopt more secular values? When people who are hypocritical in their religious practice are exposed to the public, is that the greatest challenge to believers? Or is personal hardship and suffering a greater challenge to faith than all of these?  from Michael Shaw at I Love Skippack

Wow, this is a pretty deep question which I may need to explore in more depth in a future post.  My short answer is this: The greatest challenge today to people who seek to maintain their religious faith is the same challenge that has plagued people since the beginning of time.  We are so bent on being in control.  We’re self-centered, sinful creatures.  We all struggle with ME, ME, ME.  And we live in a culture where this pull towards ME is so strong.  It’s so easy to be distracted by the things of this world that call to us saying “I can help you get ahead by doing this or doing that.”  For me personally, it’s not much different.  I get distracted by thoughts of trying to get ahead, trying to make a name for myself, and trying to keep up with the Joneses.  The Bible talks about “seeking first the Kingdom of God” in Matthew 6.  This can be a real challenge and can be nearly impossible without the support of family and friends of faith who spur me on.  This is part of the reason I love this blogging community.  While I hope my writing will spur other on, it’s often the Stretched Community that pushes me to keep the faith.  For that, I’m grateful beyond words.

How much are you ready to stretch yourself in order to see your God-given dreams come to pass?  from Joe Abraham at

Appropriately, this question is rather stretching for me.  I’m fairly certain that I’ve shared this here before – I hate change.  I like things to be the same.  I would eat the same thing for breakfast and lunch every day given the choice.  So it’s no surprise that “stretching” to achieve my God-given dreams is not always easy for me.  Honestly, there have been a few setbacks along life’s journey that have dampened some of my dreaming, but I’m relearning some of the skill related to dreaming big again.  I shared some of this in a guest post over at Expect the Exceptional a few weeks ago, and I’ve been sharing some of these thoughts especially related to my leap of faith decision to go to Guatemala.  I think I struggle most in this area in trusting God financially to provide should I decide to leave my career and pursue something else.  I’m not convinced that this is where God’s calling me, but I think it would be the biggest challenge for now.  I’m not sure this fully addresses your question, but I hope it’s a start.  Thanks!

Wow!  This was more challenging than I expected.  Thank you to everyone who answered the call to question me.  What’s your answer to one of these questions?  Or better yet, what’s the one question you’re most afraid to answer?

Guatemala Update – Details Revealed

Yesterday afternoon, I met with our team of students and adults who are going on the upcoming trip to Guatemala.  If you’ve been following along for a couple of months, you know that it took a leap of faith for me to decide to go on this trip with my daughter, Hannah.  During our meeting yesterday, we learned a little more about what we would be doing and where we would be working while we are in Guatemala in just over two months.

First, we will spend three days building one or two houses.  As you may remember, the Stretched Community is a big part of this activity.  So far, the Stretched Community has raised $5,210 towards the first house.  It takes a total of $8,000 to build each house.  If you’d like to help us reach our goal click here or go to the Stretched main page and hit the donate button on the right side menu.

Second, we will spend three days running a Kids Camp type program for children in the area.  Our program will be based on the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego from the book of Daniel.  I believe the main message of the camp will talk about the importance of standing strong in your faith.  Somehow, we’ll do this in Spanish.

Finally, we will spend three days running a sports camp.  At this camp, we will be teaching kids about American football.  We will teach them about the game, help them run drills, and lead them in an actual game.  This should provide a unique opportunity to interact with the kids from this area.

Speaking of this area, we will be going to an area called Xenecoj (apparently near Santo Domingo).  This area is located north-west of Guatemala City, the capital of Guatemala.

Please continue to pray for our team as we prepare for this trip.  Pray for safety, and pray that our hearts would be open to transformation.  Pray for the family who will be receiving the home we will be building.  Pray for the kids who will be attending the camp and the football clinic.  Pray that we would have an impact in Guatemala.

Finally, I have a big favor to ask.  I know the trip is two months away but that time will go quickly.  I’m hoping to keep the Stretched blog going while I’m away, but I’ll need some help.  I’m looking for guest bloggers to share their stretching stories.  If you have a stretched story to share, I’d love to share it with the Stretched community while I’m away on my trip.  Let me know if you’re interested by leaving a comment, and I’ll get back to you with more details.  Thanks!

(FYI, I’m planning tomorrow to provide answers to the questions that came in as a result of Friday’s Ice Breaker.  If you have any questions, you’d like to add.  Please stop by Friday’s post and leave a comment.)

Where is the farthest place you’ve been from home?

Guatemala Update – Stretching to Build Something Bigger

Two weeks ago, I shared a “big ask” on The Stretched Blog.  I challenged readers to pray for my upcoming trip to Guatemala and to consider the possibility of supporting the trip financially.  I also threw out a challenge goal of $5,000 to do something bigger through the Stretched Community.  At the time, I didn’t know the details of this “something bigger” project.  Within 6 hours of posting this “big ask“, someone stepped up to fund the trip and to meet the challenge goal.  I was blown away!

I received some comments that others might want to get involved with the Stretch project.  I’m happy to share details of this project and to share how you can contribute to doing something bigger together.  Through your generous donations, we will be building a house in Guatemala.  That’s right, if we can raise $3,000 more (for a total of $8,000), we can pay for a house.  I’m super excited about this possibility.  The house will be by our team through an organization called Casas Por Cristo.  Here’s a video to help you see what The Stretched Community will help to build.

To donate, click here to go to the fundraising page or go to the main page and click on the donate button on the right hand side.  Check back here regularly to see the progress towards this goal.  (If we happen to raise more than $8,000, we will build another house.)  Thanks!

Have you ever dreamed of doing something bigger?  What’s holding you back from pursuing this dream?