October 19th,2009- “Pre-flight update”
Here I am. Tomorrow begins the actual trip away from home. We will be heading to Chicago, hopefully beating rush hour traffic in, trying to sleep, then heading to the airport at 4am. It's hard to believe that after all of these months it's really here. Today was practically torturous at work. I had such a travel head it was pathetic. At one point I realized I was giving instructions for one patient when in my mind I was thinking it was for a different patient. I'm sure my co-workers had moments that they wanted to shoot me. Fortunately no animal was harmed in the process...lol. It's 27 days until I'm back at work... craziness.
I'm happy to report that Margaret and I are recovering well from our illnesses. She sounds well on the phone. I have a very slight lingering cough and my infected finger from the cat bite is healing well. The enemy tried, yet failed with that plan!
We have also been extremely blessed in regards to our funds. Besides having our travel expenses covered we have three suitcases full of supplies (shout out to no baggage fees for international flights) that we are taking with us. Some of the school supplies were given to us by the Santkuyls when we met with them in July. But many more school supplies were donated. I have never seen so many 24 count packages of crayons together in one spot other than a store. There are also chocolate/butterscotch chips, 750 children's Spanish tracts, pencils, markers, notebooks, and 500 little kids toys (bracelets, bouncy balls, cars, slinkies, noisemakers and boomerangs). Several of the supply companies that we deal with at work donated first aid bandaging supplies. When I get there I will see if there is someone working in a veterinary capacity that I can offer instruction to and pass them on. Otherwise I can attest to the fact that it all works well for humans too. I'm sure if God provided them that He has a use for them. Oh yeah, we are also taking some cheddar cheese down for Dennis. What else would you take from this great state of ours?!
Sunday was a great send off at church. So many friends offering me their support. I appreciate it guys. Thanks for the hugs and prayers. Also it was great to have the elders pray for me. I know that the moment that I think I can step out there on my own is the moment that bad things can happen. I only want to do what God wants me to. I also had a friend give me an awesome parallel Spanish/English Bible on Saturday!! It's so great!!
Please pray for:
Sleep for both of us these next few days. I know that I personally didn't sleep well last night. Way too many things rolling around in my head. At least I'm young yet... hehehe.
Safety as we travel and arrive in Guatemala City.
Hearts that are prepared for the culture shock we will experience. We need to be able to clearly focus on sharing the love of Christ.
Well that's all for now. Thanks for all of your prayers already.
"Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen."
1 Peter 4:10-11
October 22nd, 2009- “Made it safe”
Hi there. I'm writing this next to a window that overlooks a huge valley full of little fields. And about 60' x 60' if that. Situated among the rolling hills within the valley. It's a beautiful sunny day. People are speckling the countryside working in their fields. Off in the distance are higher green lush mountains.
The little village that we are in is a whole new experience for me. As has been every moment since we landed at 12:15p yesterday. What a blessing though. In less than 2 hours of being at on the ground I was on the verge of tears from the overwhelming presence of God. WOW. It's rather unexplainable. After Dennis and Sue picked us up from the airport we were taken to a market area. There we enjoyed some traditional Guatemalan food. Seasoned chicken, corn tortillas and guacamole. With some super spicy sauce on the side. I think I was born for this...lol. While we were eating a Caucasian couple approached us and questioned us on our English. They are missionaries that have been down here for 2 years working as support and coordinators for missionaries that are down here. http://www.dennyandphyllis.com/ Great couple for the few moments we had a chance to talk and fellowship. The unity within the Body of Christ never ceases to amaze me. You meet fellow believers and have this instant deep bond with them. Just imagine what heaven will be like!! (Rae Lynn, They have information on an orphanage down here too! So I have their contact information for you and your mom).
Before we left Guatemala City we went grocery shopping. Because Santkuyls were bringing someone back to Chimazat we had to strap our luggage to the roof of the van. It was a priceless experience. Offered the chance for great pictures too. The lady that we were bringing back was Norma. She was such a sweet lady. Despite the language barrier smiles speak a thousand words. Though I do know a few more Spanish words than I originally had given myself credit for.
Driving. WOW. This is where you have faith in God and your driver. Dennis is a good driver. But think of a land with no rules...lol. Horns, hand signals and a prayer gets you through in one piece. It's bumper to bumper traffic with some recognizable lanes going about 70 miles an hour. It's like the way I drive in my video games...lol. Only there is no reset button if you mess up. You see vans with doors hanging open and people hanging on sticking out the doors. There are people working alongside the road that you see about 2 seconds before you need to swerve to miss them. There are no road signs offering help for direction so I'm thankful we are with someone that knows the area. Also may I say that any attempt that Americans try to make to be green is destroyed in about 2.2 seconds by the pollution in Guatemala City. From a great distance you can spot a bus starting out from the huge plume of black smoke.
The animals. I have obviously been observing this since this is how my brain has been programmed. Ever dog is itching from fleas and underweight from worms. The horses are mostly skin and bones. The cows that I have seen appear to be the healthiest. People have them on lead ropes holding them so they can graze along the road. There was a dog that visited us this morning to snarf the bones from the chicken that we ate last night. They don't know bones are bad for them. They are just thankful for something to eat. The poor thing had a cyst on it's upper eyelid that 10 seconds with the laser would cure his pain from it rubbing on his eye. But alas... he runs the street with his matted fur gathering scraps just happy to be alive. On the van ride to our new home I saw a dog walking the street that had a definite HUGE mammary gland tumor. In talking to Dennis people have a problem with their chickens dying before they even become full grown. But the electrolytes and vitamins that we consider routine are unheard of down here. This morning I woke up right before sunrise to hear turkeys gobbling and roosters crowing. When I ventured outside later I discovered that the turkeys I hear are living on the roof of the building across the road.
We have many activities planned. But I'm going to refrain from sharing them in advance, rather tell you after they have been completed. I can say we have tons of crayons, pencils and other items to sort through that became a jumble thanks to the 'careful airline baggage personnel'. The cheese and chocolate/butterscotch chips arrive undamaged though so all is good!
Well... I'm going to head out and become helpful and enjoy this beautiful day that the Lord created. First I will go apply sunscreen. In the 5 minutes I was outside earlier I discovered this sun definitely does feel different. I hope to return bronzed not blistered.
In His Service,
October 24th, 2009- “Hola!”
HAPPY BIRTHDAY MOM! ... a few days late :-S
Wow. Today we had time with some locals that speak English. Awesome.
It has been a great 2 days. I will keep this brief because we will be having supper soon. Which includes fresh avocados from a local market!!! I had a chance to try 3 new food items today. I still need to get the correct spelling though so I will keep you in suspense...lol.
I have pages written in my journal that I know I will have a chance to share later. I thought about it and I don't want to give away all of the details before I get back.
Yesterday was eventful. I had a chance to work with one of the English students that the Sankuyl's tutor. WOW... English is way more difficult than I thought. One of the things I had to go through was the pronunciation of the vowels in different parts of speech. I realize how lazy I have become. But then he had fun laughing at me as I was trying to pronounce the espanol words. I totally can't roll my r's.
I also met Mari. The Santuyl's househelp. That's right... I don't have to do dishes!!!!! Today she came with her sister. She was giggling when she stood next to me because I'm soy alta... very tall. If I had a penny for every time I have heard that around town I would be rich!
Margaret and Sue made 120 cookies yesterday that we handed out today with the tracts we have. Everyone was very happy and we would give one to a little kid and a short time later they would come running back with 3 more kids. It was fun walking by later and watching them grip them like they were a treasure that they had just been given. We also handed them out to the parents if they were with the kids too.
While they making the cookies yesterday Dennis and I went to measure and set stakes for Rayna. She was one of their foreign exchange students back in the states. She is hoping to build a store on her parent's land. I discovered that they have very interesting soil here. Then we came back and cut rebar for the burning barrels that we are going to make. He has a very sweet variable speed Milwaukee sawsall. Later Margaret and I bent a 90 degree angle in one end using an old rotor from a disc brake. Gotta use what you have.
A little girl, Kimberly, came over with her 2 little brothers yesterday and took us to see her house. She was very proud of it and thrilled that we showed great interest. WOW... totally different than anything you would imagine in the US. But it's all that they know. Just down the hill is where her grandmother and aunt live. Which is very typical around here. I have plenty of pictures to share when I get back.
Today we went and visited some Mayan ruins which was super interesting especially since we had a translator who has studied such things. We also saw a traditional Mayan ceremony that some people were partaking in. We are thinking from what we caught that someone had died recently. I have some great pictures from that.
Later we went for some Guatemalan pizza. I'm in love with Picamas. It's a unique green hot sauce that they put on things. Around that same area I also had a chance to visit a veterinary store. Also very interesting.
When we got back this afternoon I went wandering around outside and developed a following of children. It sort of evolved and we were playing with my nerf football that I had brought and a green kick ball. I think that there ended up being 9 girls and 6 boys by the end. Word of mouth travels VERY fast here...lol.
Tomorrow afternoon we are going to church with Mari. She is super excited about that. I will pray that I understand a word or two. Lol.
I pray all is well with everyone and you are enjoying your weather. It's like 75 here everyday!!! Sunscreen in my friend and the sun is SUPER intense.
May God richly bless you as He is blessing me,
October 27th, 2009- “Lo seinto”
Sorry I haven't sent an email lately. Life has been busy. As a matter of fact I only have internet access for a short time right now.
So this morning I had the privilege to climb an active volcano, Pacaya. Well... I climbed for awhile and about died 'cause the elevation was amazing thus less oxygen for my flatlander lungs. So I paid like $9 to a little boy and he lead me for the next 1 1/2hrs on his horse. It was really amazing. Though at some moments I was having a conversation with Jesus because it was a better option that looking at the drop off that was next to the edge of the path. I had a chance to get some great pictures that way. At the top we climbed even further than the horses could go right in to the heat. That's when I was glad for the guide...lol. We roasted marshmallows in the heat. Perfectly golden brown in about 5 seconds. I was about 30' from the molten lava river. One guy ran up to it and stuck his stick in it. Another guy had the soles of his shoes melt off. It was definitely an experience.
Tomorrow we are getting on a bus at 7:15 to head in to Guatemala City. We are in Antigua right now. We came down yesterday. We will be beginning our time at Safe Passage. I don't know exactly what I will be doing there yet.
Sunday we went to church with our housekeeper, Mari. She was super thrilled about that. It was from 2p to 4:15p. Let me tell you those hard, white wooden benches were not made for a 6' tall person. But not understanding what was said and having a dead butt at the end was worth it for the smile it brought to her face. She came to our place after and sat next to me on the couch. I put my arm around her as she began to share. She was having a miserable day with really nasty family problems. It was like really not good. So it was definitely worth it. She feels very special that the 2 gringas want to be her amigas. Earlier in the day we went to a city north of us and visited a Mayan family that the Santkuyls know. We had a warm fruit drink with pieces of fig, pineapple and mango in with coconut on top. We were told that it is something that costs them alot but they offer when they have special guests. It was really amazing. Oh, and all of the dogs in that city have mange. Today when we were coming down the volcano I saw a horse with a homemade splint on it's leg. There was no padding. You could smell the dead and rotting flesh from the trail. It's so sad that just a simple thing being done incorrectly is going to cost the horse it's life.
Well I'm out of time. Please keep your prayers coming. They are definitely appreciated. Please pray for wisdom and guidance and Margaret travel this road side by side.
November 2nd, 2009- “Who said the straight and narrow path was smooth”
Wow. So it has been awhile since I wrote last. It has been an incredible journey. It has been 6 days and 16 double sided pages in my journal.
First off let me say thank you to everyone who has written to me. Unfortunately because we no longer have Internet access that we don´t have to pay for I won´t be replying separately to each of you. But please know that it is nice to come online to greetings from home!!! Please keep them coming. Mom, both of your messages came in time.
So I think that the last time I wrote was last week Tuesday after we had climbed the volcano. Wednesday through Friday we worked with Safe Passage. This was something that had been set up for us before we got here. What the organization does for the physical needs of the kids associated with the Guatemala City dump is great. But Margaret and I came to the realization that so much is missing when the eternal needs aren´t addressed as well. We sorted piles of donations, put together gym outfits according to size for all of the classes, worked in the kitchen and dug 2 holes and part of a trench while we were there. I got my first callouses on the trip while I was there. In a strange way I was happy about that. I felt like I was doing something. But yet I know we came down here for so much more.
So after much prayer and thought separately and then together, Margaret and I have both come to the place where we feel God is leading us in a different direction than what the Santkuyls were leading us in. Some of it could be we are in our 20´s and they are retired. So we are staying at the hostel (boarding house) in Antigua that we had come to while working with Safe Passage. Santkuyls are returning to the village without us. God has opened the door for ALOT of great Christian contacts here in Antigua. Thursday night we went to the local YWAM (Youth with a Mission) worship service. It was sooooo awesome. We also learned of a local evangelical English/Spanish church which we went to on Sunday. It was an interesting contrast to the church we had gone to in Chimazat. It was much more alive and real. I hope to go back next Sunday.
Saturday we went with the YWAM group to a coffee plantation. The uncle of one of the YWAM girls runs it. He is a great Christian guy who contributes his life turning around to YWAM. He gave us a great deal on the ziplines his company also runs. That was amazing. Hundreds of feet over a canyon for 1,600 feet. We did two of those lines. After that adventure and we hiked back up to the transport trucks. As we were having a group picture taken the girl next to me fainted. So for the next 20 minutes I kind of let my training take over. There was another girl there that someone had sent over but she seemed unsure of what to do. I have plenty of experience with fainting people thanks to working at the clinic. Some people just can´t handle the sight of blood....lol. Come to find out later the girl that fainted is in human dentistry and the girl that was sent to help is a human med. surg. nurse. Though she thanked me for stepping in because she doesn´t even have human first aid training. So it was kind of confirmation for having a chance to use my skills that we are on the right path. After that we had a private tour of the ´finca´ http://kafesguatemala.com/ by the girl´s uncle. He donates 20% of his profits to The Latin American Christian Education Service.
Yesterday at church we made a ton of great contacts for volunteer opportunities. We could stay in the Antigua area for a year and not run out of Christian organizations to work for. After church I was invited out to eat with a group of missionaries. That offered many more contacts. There is a group here from CA that brought down $100,000 worth of medications to distribute.
One of the contacts I met was a guy (Mark Richard) that runs Hope Haven ( http://www.hopehaveninternationalministries.org/HopeHavenGuatemala/ ) here in town. He actually was involved in helping Joni Erickson Tada starting her organization. He said that they had been praying for help. So that is where we worked all day today. I´m definitely looking forward to bed tonight :-) They build and distribute pediatric wheel chairs. I have never seen so many wheel chairs in one place in my life. So we just had a day filled with a ton of odd jobs where ever we were needed. A bus with about 20 kids came in with their parents. And then a college group of physical therapy students came in to fit the chairs to each kid. Hope Haven had boxes of coloring books but no crayons. So we were able to hand out some of our crayons that we had brought with the books!! The books are great. They give the gospel message and have pictures for the kids to color of basic hygiene practices. Seeing the smiling faces of lives being changed was amazing. If this computer had a way for me to add a picture I would. Tons of parents hugged me with the glint of tears in their eyes as they were leaving. They had come from a village about 3 hours away. The mayor of their town had donated the use of a school bus. The bus was packed with people and new chairs when they left. So he needs more help tomorrow so that is where we will be serving. So from here on out we just live one day at a time serving where God wants. It was kind of cool there too.... he had Margaret diagnose what was wrong with their one vacuum cleaner. And I had to look at their German Shepherd that is due to whelp in 7 days. It´s interesting where God leads when you follow where He wants you to go, not where you had planned to go.
Well my hour is over. God Bless you all. Thanks for all of your continued prayers. Margaret was hit with some lower GI issues yesterday. After some Pepto and rest she is doing good today. That just meant she needed peace and quiet yesterday... so I had to find something to do.... like watch the Packer game in the local sports bar. Sacrifices I must make for my friend....hehehe. Till next time!!
Continuing to serve Him,
November 7th, 2009- “Another day in the life”
How is everyone doing?? We are doing well here. Margaret is back in tip top shape since so many of you had been wondering.
So I guess it was Monday when I wrote last. Tuesday through Friday we worked at Hope Haven (the wheelchair place). Tuesday another group of those to receive wheelchairs came in. They were much older kids this time. One 86 year old grandma had come along and they gave her a new chair too. She just had a sling style transport chair. I never knew that there were so many chairs with so many different applications. There are the ones designed to basically live in and then there are the ones that are to get you from point A to point B. There were two 17 year old boys that received their first chairs. One came in scooting himself along the ground with his arms. He only had 1 crippled leg. The other boy came in supported by his family. The look on their faces when they were in their new chairs after receiving operating instructions was something I will never forget. Most kids in the states look less thrilled when they receive their first cars around that age.
There was one mother there that had been carrying and nursing a little boy all day. She had come along but didn´t really expect a chair. He was 2 years old and couldn´t even hold up his head himself. One of the students noticed her in the corner and fit him with a chair.
Btw... people think nothing of nursing out in the open here. And the men think nothing of relieving themselves where ever they are at. It was semi disturbing at first but now is it wrong to say it seems normal and doesn´t strike me as odd anymore?? I am looking forward to a non-lukewarm shower and flushing my toilet paper when I get home. Plus bright lights. Everything is soooooo dim around here when you are inside.
So back to the Hope Haven story. There were also 2 families there that had 2 disabled children with them. The one mom was so sweet to her children and the people working with them. I just wanted to hug her and bring her and her family home with me. We handed out more stuff to the families as we had done on Monday. The one 17 year old used his slinky as a holder for his crayons. We told him he was very inventive and smart. That brought a huge smile to his face.
When we had made it all the way around the building handing out crayons and those awesome gospel/hygiene coloring books I felt a tug on my shirtsleeve. Here was a father of one of the kids. He asked me for a set also. So of course I obliged. Later on I walked past and there he was coloring right along side his kids. If that doesn´t make you smile I don´t know what would. I have so many awesome pictures from this trip. That is one of them.
At lunch time the families were eating their packed lunches. We went to the warehouse and had Domino's pizza. There were some of us that sat in the sports wheel chairs that were all around. So Omar, one of the workers came over. He talked a couple of us in to racing him. He won of course. I don´t even think he was trying. Then he was showing off his one handed wheelies. Myself and Brian were the only 2 dumb enough to accept that challenge. Omar even let us start out with 2 hands. Well... Brian and I both ended up with skinned elbows from going over backwards....lol. Though I stopped after one failed attempt. Brian had to go backwards a second time before he realized he was no match for someone who has been in a wheelchair since he was a teenager.
We also saw Carlos demonstrate his motorcycle riding abilities. He had just come back from placing 2nd in a race in El Salvador. He did it with his pant legs rolled up to show off his 2 prosthetic legs.
Wednesday we cleaned up from the last 2 days activities. Then Larry, a guy in charge, gave Margaret the job of cleaning and organizing their upstairs storage area. She did an amazing job and finished 2 days later. Larry had me run the drill press and pipe bender to get them caught back up on their wheelchair production.
Later on Tuesday, Bill, another local missionary came over. He is building 5 bunk beds (10 mattresses) for an orphanage that the church we had attended partners with. He had gotten delayed a week because of funding issues. So Mark, the guy that runs the place, told us to direct our efforts to the orphanage project. So that is what we have done Wednesday through Friday. I have cut metal angle iron and measured/punched/drilled 160 holes for the brackets. I have also spent more hours over a cut off saw than I have my entire life. We got a great picture yesterday of Margaret and I covered head to toe in saw dust surrounded with all of our new friends who work at Hope Haven. They are a super talented group of men and women. Most of them have been wheelchair bound because of polio. It´s sad because it´s so preventable. But they make the best with what they have. Gustavo we have discovered is an amazing artist (I´m bringing home one of his drawings he did on a random piece of cardboard) and a very good tennis player. He showed us his picture in the latest issue of a national sports magazine. Carlos races motorcycle and always has a smile on his face. Omar knows English because of the 3 years he spent in NYC in an iron lung. Juan Carlos has rigged his car so he can drive despite his severe disabilities. This list doesn´t include the unknown stories of Paulina, Sandra, Isaias and the 2 others whom I haven´t learned the names of yet. The one guy has an upper body of a Mack Truck. To get around he has rigged a machine with bike pedals that he runs with his hands.
So we have most of the lumber cut. Monday we will be finishing that and be doing the pre-assembly. The plan is to be able to help with the installation up at the orphanage before we return home on Thursday. Bill told us what an answer to prayer our help has been. He had gotten a week behind on his project because of the afore mentioned funding delay. Well Friday he is picking 2 guys up from the airport to show the various ministries opportunities in the area. They are scouting for a group that is coming down later. They will be here for 4 days... and then Bill is heading to the states on the 19th. So he said he had been stressed knowing he didn´t have enough time to get these beds done. Amazing how the Lord works when you are in His will isn´t it :-)
Today Margaret and I decided to be adventurous. Mom, grandma... stop reading... hehehe. So we read in the local magazine and found a macadamia nut plantation. They offered free tours but we didn´t have a way to get there. So we walked down to the market and found the chicken bus that the guy at the plantation said we needed to get there. This is when I´m thankful for Margaret´s Spanish. We hoped on, payed our Q3 ($0.36) and told the driver we wanted La Macadamias. When he stopped the bus it looked like we were getting dropped off in the middle of nowhere. But a little sign we couldn´t read was the only indication there was life around. So we wandered up the dirt road into the most beautiful area I have seen. The air was soooo refreshing because of all of the trees too. It is a true breath of fresh air after spending our time in Antigua. They gave us a brief tour and a complimentary facial. That was amazing especially since she went as far as my shoulders. I guess riding bike on cobblestone streets and lugging lumber for the past couple days had taken it´s toll on me. So after we made our purchases we began to walk the road back to Antigua until another chicken bus came along. Another Q3 and we were on our way. I guess the story is lacking if you have the same knowledge of a chicken bus as I did when I arrived in Guatemala. They are BRIGHTLY colored school buses that are ALL over the place. Look for bright colors and a huge plume of black smoke and you have probably spotted one. They have racks on top because people take anything and everything with them when they travel via these buses. Watching the ones going to the market is interesting. HUGE piles of fruits and vegetables adorn the roofs. Inside is another story. More racks for stuff and PEOPLE. We were lucky enough to get seats both ways. But there are rails on every surface it seems so the people that are crammed in the standing room don´t fall on anyone else. It was definitely an experience. Maybe now we are ready to try for the Amazing Race...lol.
Oh. Ida. I didn´t know about the storm to our east until someone mentioned it in an email. The only affects we felt and are still feeling is cool and rainy weather. Rumor has it that by tomorrow the weather will clear up. That will be nice because it´s only in the mid-60´s right now. I know... I have gotten soft these past couple weeks....lol.
Well my time is about up here. I may have a chance to get online once more before heading home... but I can´t guarantee it. I can´t believe it is almost time for us to come home. It seems like there is so much more for us to do here. Ah well... maybe this is just a glimpse of what God has in store for my life.
Please pray that we can continue to be a blessing around us as we serve here. Also please pray that we can get my bike tire fixed. It blew on our way home from Hope Haven Friday night.
To Him be the glory!!
November 15th, 2009- “The end… yet just the beginning…”
Greetings!!! So I'm writing this at home on my own computer. Craziness.
Margaret and I got home Thursday night. Friday I went to town and am slowly adjusting to life around here again. I went to grab for my water bottle the first night before I went to brush my teeth. But alas, we can use our tap water here. It's also so amazing having a HOT shower (and open your mouth in the shower) and being able to flush the toilet paper again. I went to the store to buy some milk (non-powdered!!!!). As I was walking down the aisle I overheard two guys talking. They were complaining about some hardship in their life and taking God's name in vain while doing that. I sure didn't miss that.
So this is alittle bit delayed because yesterday was spent outside working on projects that need to get done before the snow flies. Even though I lived in a awesome climate for 3 weeks I have to face the reality of living in the froze tundra once again. So I forced myself to be in a sweatshirt instead of a coat.
So I would like to say I will keep this short, but with my track record I can't make any promises. You are all probably ready to shoot me for my length of emails. When I came home I saw one printed out. WOW, 3 pages, I never would have guessed :-S Wow, this is awful nice though using a keyboard where all of the punctuation is where I'm expecting it! The simple pleasures in life.
So I never did get my bike tire fixed as many of you were wondering. Instead God provided us with a ride in a car for the rest of our time there. I have to admit that was much nicer than riding on those cobblestone streets with buses going past you with 2 feet to spare. I guess I can be a bit more descriptive on the craziness and dangers since I'm home in one piece now. Riding on the white line on the highway with traffic going past at much higher speeds was much more interesting. But it just added to the adventure side of it all.
So Sunday we went to church again. So awesome to be able to fellowship with a great body of believers. The message was great too. One Scripture that I remember was the first couple verses in Hebrews 2. The first line is "We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away." This was something that I got to see first hand there. The difference in Believers who seek out connection and fellowship and those that don't. It is just like the word picture many have heard of the hot coal being taken away from the rest of the coals. It isn't long until the red hot fiery glow begins to fade. After church we went to a place in Antigua to watch the Packers play their new version of professional football. Ouch. For those that don't follow football... they lost miserably.
On the way back from the game we came across a procession that was blocking the street that we needed to walk up to get back to our hostel. This was one of the most interesting things that I have seen. And super sad all at the same time. It was a great living example to me of the difference of religion versus relationship with Jesus. Here are throngs of people following this man made float thing. Later I found out that they paid to carry it to penance for their sins. What they were following around also had a glass casket with an entombed Christ-like figure on top of it. Their were men following it beating drums so large that it caused car alarms to go off as they passed. In front of the procession were young boys carrying incense. This was at about 4 o'clock in the afternoon. As we ventured out later was saw this in front of the huge cathedral by the city square. Then we saw it the final time right before it had reached the place it had begun 6 hours prior. At that time I was able to get closer because the crowds had thinned significantly. I was attempting to get some decent pictures but actually got a first row view of the entire proceedings. The looks on the peoples faces are something that sadly are very hard to capture in a word picture. As I watched them I sensed this being done purely out of duty. No joy, no peace or anything else that I would have expected. I also noticed the number of deformed and crippled people following this. In at that moment wished I knew Spanish so I could share with them that the cleansing Blood of Jesus Christ is a free gift for all. You just have to acknowledge you are a sinner and can't just be good enough to get to heaven. Surrender your life to Him and He wipes your sins away. There is no money involved. I also wanted to tell them that the Savior isn't dead in a glass casket. He is so very much ALIVE and seated next to the Father. But alas, I can't speak Spanish in that capacity... so I do something that transcends even more than the language barrier. I pray for them.
Monday and Tuesday Bill picked us up in the morning around 7:50 and took us to Hope Haven where we continued to use their shop to build the bunk beds for the children's home. They were both long hard days lasting till 5pm. But instead of wondering when our time was going to be over I discovered I was disappointed that it was time to quit everyday. It was a joy building those beds for someone I hadn't even met yet. We counted, measured, cut, glued, nailed, sanded, cleaned and varnished countless pieces of lumber. Well really there were 265 pieces but who's counting :-D Once pre-assembly was completed we were down to 175 items to take with us on Wednesday. It was a joy to interact with the people who build the wheelchairs at Hope Haven.
Wednesday we finished the final prep and then had to say our goodbyes to everyone at the shop. They had gotten us a cake and Coke to aid in the farewell. Then Guastavo (the artist) drew a farewell on the dry erase board. It was a little baby bird with a flowered hat on waving goodbye looking through the tears in it's eyes. I'm very thankful for cameras!! I also had the privileged of giving my leather work gloves away. The previous day, Isaias had been admiring them. He then through the help of translation asked me if I would sell them to them. He has been affected by polio and to get around he has rigged a vehicle that is powered by bicycle pedals. But because he has minimal use of his legs he instead uses the incredible power of his upper body and arms to pedal. But he needed new gloves. The ones he currently had were so thin you could about read through them and had just barely enough threads remaining to keep them in the recognizable shape of a glove. So I told him that when I was leaving on Wednesday I would just give them to him. So we made that awesome exchange. He went and tried them out right away. Then he also let us attempt to drive his vehicle. He makes it look sooooo easy! Then Margaret gave up her Nike ball cap to someone who had been admiring it. So from there I ended up trading my Fox Racing cap to Carlos. He is a double amputee (has prosthetics) motorcycle racer. I now am the proud owner of his Puma cap. With a final round of hugs we were off to complete the bunk bed project.
We (Bill, Pat, Margaret and I) headed to Rosas Amor Children's Home. On the way we met up with Denny and Phyllis. This is the couple that we had met in the food court area when we had been in the country for maybe only an hour. They were the ones that had helped us with making our connections that had lead us to this point. What an awesome Godly couple that I have had the privilege of meeting. So when we got to the home we took one trip of lumber down the hill to the home. After scouting the location for the beds we headed back up followed by a throng of eager children hoping to get a chance to help. I had actually dreaded thinking about how long it was going to take to tote everything down the hill. But in one giant whoosh the van was empty. So we began the final construction of the beds. It was discovered that having countless dozens of helping hands at that point was less helpful. So Margaret, Pat and Phyllis were on crowd control outside. Margaret spent 2 hours doing face painting. At one point when I looked out the window I saw Phyllis leading an exercise class. Denny, Bill and I were inside putting the beds together. The enemy was trying to thwart our efforts at every turn, causing things not to fit, being short of something or whatever else he could think of. But we problem solved and pressed on. At one point Denny and I were done with our task so we went outside to wait for Bill to complete his project. We couldn't assist him because he had the only tool. I was surrounded by little faces wanting a hug, to hold my hand or any other attention they could get. There was this one little boy that I wanted to bring home with me. He is sooooo cute. A continual smile on his little face with the cutest little crossed eyes I have ever seen. He just melted my heart. So I hoisted him up on to my shoulder and gave him a ride around the play yard. He was giggling with glee the entire time. Thus began my exercise...lol. The bench by the table filled up with faces filled with anticipation. I gave each one the same loop around the yard I had started with. Running at the same point as I had done with the first little boy. I didn't want anyone to feel that they were any less special. Though I secretly wished I hadn't been so ambitious the first time around. Fortunately the Lord saved me right before I dropped over from exhaustion because it was time to head back in to finish. At 7pm we were finished. These beds were for 10 teenage girls who had come to the home a number of weeks ago. They had currently been sleeping on mattresses on the cold concrete floor every night. In the morning they would stack them back up in another room. Besides being cold and alot of work, they also didn't have a place to put their belongings. All of the kids with a bed to call their own are able to place what few belongings they have on their bed when they aren't sleeping. The smiles on their faces were just radiant. These kids have had a rough life. They are around 13 years old. 2 had babies and one was pregnant. Phyllis said that it's either from incest or prostitution. But now they have found their way to a safe place that loves them with the Love of Jesus.
After the 6 of us went out to eat and ended up talking for something like 2 hours. But it was so amazing. What a blessing from God to be able to spend time with these brothers and sisters in Christ. One can just imagine how awesome heaven is going to be. As we were talking we were able to look back and share our small part of the story on how God had brought us all together. How the timing had worked so perfectly just blew me away. It was a miracle arranged by God. Some day I hope to be able to go there again and spend time fellowshipping and serving with them. But now... I'm at home using my experiences and lessons to better minister to those around me. I'm looking forward to sharing with my church and the youth group. Plus as it has seemed already these past 2 days... everyone else that I run in to. My 'quick' trip to town on Friday turned into a 4 hour expedition because of the people I ran in to that wanted to hear about my trip. I guess I should move to a big city where I can go to a store without seeing people I know :-D
So I guess this is the end of the emails that you will be getting from me. Many of you I will be having the chance to share more with in person. I look forward to that. I'm also sorting through my 2651 pictures from the trip. I want to still have friends left so I figure it's best not to make you sit through them all. So God Bless!! Thanks for the prayers and support. Please continue to pray that God will use everything learned on this trip for His glory. And that He will continue to minister to the lives that we touched while down in Guatemala.
With Love in Christ,
Ps. I have my pictures posted on Facebook for those that are friends with me there.