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Wednesday, 29 June 2011
The last two days have been interesting at best. The team divided into two groups. One group went to the wheelchair factory and prepared for the next distribution which will happen next week by a team from Lyndon which arrives on Saturday. The team I was on spent the good part of the day at the Hermano Pedro orphanage providing some relief to the disabled children there. We held children that would have otherwise been left most of the day without any attention other than there basic needs. Also, some of the older kids are taken out of their beds and put in wheelchairs and set in the hallways and courtyard of the orphanage until they are put back in bed. I really hurt for these kids and it seems like we are doing so very little.
Jesus said something about the “least of these”, well again, we experienced the least of these… My heart is sad for these kids. We hopefully made a slight difference and maybe made their day a little brighter.
There is some good news, however. This is the third year I've spent time at Hermano Pedro, and I feel the care has improved some. There are a couple of kids we've visited every time we've been there and at least two of the boys are using computers! One boy with very involved CP is actually using his feet to run the computer... I have pictures. When we got there he was downloading music from iTunes!
One other thing you might find interesting is that our part of the team was actually allowed to take three older kids to lunch. We wheeled them across the cobble stone streets in Antiqua to a place called Pollo Comparo. It is a chicken chain much like Kentucky Fried Chicken. We fed them lunch -- (literally) and you would have thought we'd taken them to Disneyland. Pretty small task for such big rewards... The smiles on the kids faces was worth all the challenges it took took to give here. We hooked up with a couple of college students who are spending their summer in the orphanage and they assisted us too. I 'm pretty proud that we we're trusted to take the kids on our own without supervision from any staff. The teacher, Nanette, has a heart of gold and trusted us.
We got the kids back to the orphange at 2:00 and then did a little shopping as we walked back to the Lutheran Center. Met up with the rest of the group at 5:00 PM. It was a great and rewarding couple of days as we did what we were sent here to do.
Monday, 27 June 2011
We have hit our halfway mark today, and in reflection thus far I can honestly say this is the best mission trip on which I've had the privilege to serve. The team gets along famously, respects each other and is working hard being Christ's hands and feet. No one is complaining, gossiping, nit picking or being difficult. What an honor to serve with such kind and compassionate people.
Yesterday we were given fresh tamales made from corn grown on the property of the house build. We also were served the best tea! And the family, and the community in which they live, were so grateful to receive us and the new structure. They pitched in to help, and showed us just how important honest gratuity is to the human condition. Lesson learned.
This morning we bumped into another mission team at the McDonald's in Coban. They were heading home after spending a week as a medical mission team. Very kind people. The only thing was that just as we were sitting down to eat, and getting to know the other team a man working on a roof across the street electrocuted himself then fell off the building. Our resident nurse, Katie, and our host, Chris, as well as medical professionals from the other team went to check on him. Katie sensed a slight pulse, but noticed bad burns on his chest, and worse, indications of a bad head injury. The medics arrived within 5 minutes of the tragedy and whisked him away. Unfortunately we do not know his condition. We are asking that you pray for him, his family and those who witnessed the accident, including several of our team members.
We are now at the Lutheran Center in Antigua with Chris. It is a good place to be after such a traumatic day. This is a peaceful place. And we found out the Mayan women who sold their textiles here have purchased the place with some Lutheran women!! Proceeds go to help bring water filters and stoves to the village they are from. And, our good friends and missionaries Dick Rutgers and Pat Duff stopped by to have dinner with us. They will not be with us this week, so we appreciated the time we spent with them. God is certainly good when we are in need of his strength and compassion.
Tomorrow half of us will go to the orphanage and half will go to Chris's shop in Chimaltenango.
Monday, 27 June 2011
Good Morning, all. I finally had a complete nights sleep. Thank you, God. The last couple days have really been wonderful gifts. While the men worked on the house foundation the rest of us packed the truck with about 20 heavy suitcases and several, maybe 10 food bags, 6 water filter kits. All the families we visited were completely indiginous. Looking around I saw beautiful children in thread bare shirts ,too short pants with holes, shoes that were broken or none at all. They were very happy to get a couple new shirts, pants and one pair of shoes. It was soooo cute. We were definitely lacking proper shoes for the women and men. We are collecting a lot of good ideas for how we can really make an impact here. We don't want to change them. We just want to give them a hand up. There was not a feeling of feeling sorry, just that they were very gratious and need just a little bit to help them out. The food was major. We gathered around the family and prayed in spanish while the mother prayed in their native language. It was very emotional. While most of the team went caving, I stayed on the grounds because of my cold. I was very headachy and congested. More climbing didn't appeal. While I rested on a hammock, a little girl approached me. Her name was Filomena. She wanted to sell me a thread bracelet for ocho quetzeles. We bartered a bit but she wouldnt go down enough for me. We did start to try to converse. It was great. One thing that is stiking me is they are so great and if only we could really talk to have a conversation. It would be sooo much fun. The frustration was on both sides. Sunday the men finished the house build. It was so amazing. I felt so proud of my boys and the team for this accomplishment. It was hard, back breaking work in very hot conditions. We watch Saul explain the new stove to the family and they were so excited. They saw all the room they will have in the new house. We prayed and cried tears of joy and then started to clean up and reload the cars. It was hard to say goodbye. There is a connection that will always be there and I will always wonder how they are doing. We hugged, we waved, blew kisses, we waved some more. We pulled out, waved, concerned about leaving as this will be forever until we meet in heaven. I will always remember them in my prayers.
Sunday, 26 June 2011
I was expecting to experience something in Guatemala that would change my life forever. I imagined a single event that would stick with me for the rest of my life. Unfortunately, I cant pick out just one moment that has affected me this way. Every aspect of life in Guatemala is so different from life in the states, so much that I will not be able to remember every life changing event that occurred on this trip. The first morning Ellis and I got to ride on the back of a pickup through Chimaltenango for about five minutes. The sights, sounds and smells were overwhelming. Total strangers smiled and said good morning. For me, this experience was as moving for me as building a wheelchair for for a young man with cerebral palsey. Jeffrey arrived with an old rusted and dirty chair that gave him little support or comfort. We found a decent chair and pulled all the parts of his chair that he liked, and put them on the new chair. He smiled and laughed and interacted with all of us the entire hour and a half or so it took to fix his chair. Never once did he, or his family get impatient with us. Depending on the circumstances, the smallest things in life can enlighten and inspire us, it's just a matter of discovering our own perspective.
Saturday, 25 June 2011
*yaaaaawwwwwwnnnn* Wow....I'm exhausted......its been a long productive week! So anyways, today was the wheelchair disturbution. Very, very fun! It was Susan and I on a team at our little station with all of our handy dandy tools! One boy came in with his family and had very short legs. Not uncommon for young adults in their 20's. While fitting him in his chair, he was shaking his hands and started to cry. Our translator asked the boy's father what was going on and if there was anything we could do to help. The dad told us he was praying and was thanking God for us. This was the most touching momment of the whole entire trip. In the United States, you give someone a present and there all like,"Oh thanks" or "that was very nice"....but when giving these chairs to people who have barely anything, they not only thank us, but give us hugs and kisses. They also said things like "god bless you" and "you have changed our lives forever."
Now for a more fun subject! The team and I had the cool expriance of going inside a TRUE cave. Lets just say, this is something you wouldn't be able to do in the States because of "safety procotions"....so we climb up this huge mountain and end up at a little door. I was like,"Am i supposed to fit in that?" We go in and you are litterly on your hands and knees to get through these rocks! My hat light, of course, was burning out so Arlen was my only source of light! While climbing to get through these stupid rocks, we stop in this large area. Our guide tells us to turn all of our lights off and pray. WOW...very....hm....whats the word?....godly? Well it was pretty neat. hahahhahahahahahaha stuck in a cave waiting to go back, we all decide to play ninja destruction! Fun(: Then we all get ready to take a picture. We tell everyone to say cheese, and horhay, instead, says,"WHISKEY" Good times, good times(:
This trip has been so touching and inspiring. I can't wait for the days to come(:
Friday, 24 June 2011
today was a tiring day full of hard work. We arrived at our site around 7:30 in the morning and began loading tools down the hill. Lucky for us the land was already leveled. We began shoveling the dirt around the leveled land in order to place blocks around the perimeter. once we all finished moving the dirt out of the way Ellis, Ted, katy, and Jorge all worked hard placing the blocks around the site. once we got those annoying blocks placed we had to mix up cement and cement these new blocks called "U" blocks on top. Ted and I then began to place rebar within the "U" blocks. Then it was time for the concrete to be mixed up and poured into the sand and cement mixture to create working wet cement. Unfortunately we were sharing our water with our friendly guatemalan friends so it ended up that Henry and I had to get more water for both the Guatemalans and ourselves. This required going up a steep muddy hill and carrying two full buckets each weighing about 80 pounds combined. Then jorge and imixed up the concrete and ellis poured into the "U" blocks. Then it was lunch time and by that time my body was shaking of being starving and working so hard with all the shoveling and moving heavy blocks and transporting water. We finally got to eat which was nice but by that time it was blazing hot and there was no shade. After finishing lunch we began mixing more and more concrete. Requiring Henry and me to get more and more of those heavy buckets of water. All while the little Guatemalan ladies were laughing and passing us with ease. Just as the ladies got to the site and began eating it began thundering and dumping rain all over us. Which most of us did not mind because we were so hot. But the downfall to the rain was too much water in the cement and creating mud all over the place. After working for about an hour in the rain we finally finished working and began transporting items up to the cars. Both Jorge and Katy were amazing today as Jorge did not take one break the entire 9 hours except for lunch and Katy was the most prepared, worked hard, and kept making sure everyone else was ok and doing well. Today Ellis, Henry, and I all combined drank about 38 bottles of water and gatorade. It was a tiring and hot day of hard work and i am definitely sore.
Friday, 24 June 2011
After a loooonnnngggg drive from Chimal to Coban, which included flat tires, a semi-truck trying to pass us on a curve and some of the most beautiful scenery we've ever seen, then getting a pretty good night's rest, we rose early, loaded our small truck and the two SUVs with clothing, food and building materials and headed out to the house-build site. We managed to fit all 14 of us in the three vehicles, and it was a short drive from our hotel. The road was mainly rock and dirt, which was actually entertaining. We discovered just how adept our hosts are at "four-wheeling"!!
The drive to the site was absolutely breathtaking. It is hard to imagine that within such grand lushness there is such great poverty. The land is covered by ferns, pine trees (reminding me of my grandparents), coffee plants, and banana trees. I even discovered my favorite herb - Thai basil! The site for the house is hidden behind a serious of wooden homes that are well built, and well kept. The area was literally cut right out of the corn garden (too small to be a field). A team had already excavated and leveled the area, leaving the team the duty of building a cinder-block foundation and cement floor. Ones the tools were unloaded, and the team met the family for whom the house was being built, it was time to split the team. Chris had Arlen, Ellis, Henry, Katie and Ted stay to work on the house with Jorge, then Donna, Chris' wife took Bernice, Cathy, Emma, Nancy, Saul and Susan to distribute clothing, food and water filters to 12 families in the surrounding area. Arlen has agreed to share about the build a little later.
So, the half of the team that went to visit families first took care of the family that would receive the house. The family consisted of a young widow with two young children. The young woman was very gracious about receiving the extras on top of getting a new home. From there we went up the hill, make that the steep hill, to deliver food and clothing to a young boy who had recently been orphaned. An elderly woman living with her daughter and grandchildren had sweetly taken the young man under her wing, and appreciated our gifts for him. We let her know how we felt blessed by her generosity and compassion. It was an amazing moment.
Then the team got into the small truck and one of the SUVs to four wheel over to the next few houses. These homes were deeply nestled in a tropical area replete with coffee plants, banana trees and sugar cane. And of course we saw tons of maze. Two families were gracious in receiving the food and clothing, and were extremely excited to receive new shoes. However, the word got out that we were in the area, so we had to pack up and move on to the next area of families. At this stop, we were greeted by a gaggle of kids with grins from ear to ear. The family was small, just the mother and her four children. The youngest son was so excited about his new clothes he giggled out loud. It touched all of us. Several other families were blessed with food in this area. The children begged to have their picture taken, so when Cathy counted "Uno, dos, et, et, et.." when out of the blue one of the boys yellled "Three!" Then we were entertained by the entire group of children counting all the way to 20 in English with few mistakes. Very cute, and very humbling.
One of the last families we visited was a grandmother with her four grandkids. Their mother was at the market selling the tortillas she had gotten up early to make. She barely earns enough for the ingredients to make them. However the team was amazed at how neatly organized the home was. Yes it was run-down, but the woman obviously was teaching her family to take pride in what they did have. We gave them a water filter and showed them how to use it, to their delight. However, the seemed startled by the tast of purified water. Donna explained that it was because they were used to the foul dirt and bacteria in the water, the absence of it posed a unique taste. They would need to learn to acquire a taste for clean water.
The two halves of the teams finally met up, but the house build crew was still hard at work. Within the half hour the rain finally came, and the build crew kept going. The rest of the team found shelter with the families from the property and were blown away to watch two of the women strip and weave long dried plant frons into a fan used for fires. It is an art that is centuries old, and to witness two generations, an elderly woman and her daughter, working on this together was extraordinary.
It was a great day and reminded all of us why we are in Guatemala. Not so much to bless, but instead to be blessed.
Thursday, 23 June 2011
Sleep last night was great. It felt good to be finally here and get some restful sleep. The shower was interesting! There was one turn on that had "C" on it. OH, NO! I turned it on and checked for the possability of warm. Half way through, I received nice warm water. Yeah! I was careful not to open my mouth so I don't get sick. Then I thought about what was on my lips. Hmm. Hopefully I'll be ok. There were two small bath towels for the two of us and one hand towel and no washcloth. Ok. I can deal. After a wonderful breakfast at Pollo Campero, we walked to the wheelchair factory and started to divide into chores. The boys, Ellis, Arlen, Henry, Katy worked on the wrapping of wheelchairs with plastic and prepared the food bags. The ladies, Bernice, Cathy, Emma, Nancy and I worked on sorting the clothing for distribution. After that the muscle people- Katy, Ellis, Arlen, Ted and Henry, loaded the truck with the house building materials. We are all being forced to drink water - kidding! The weather is warm, comfortable, after a bit of rain in the morning. We all seem to be getting along and working together. I seem to be getting through dispite my horrible cold - throat, nose, ears, chest. Hope I don't run out of lozenges. Everyone is sooooo nice. Chris is fun, funny and hands out a great back rub. He is loving on Ellis, Arlen and Henry. We are really going to use them for the heavy stuff. They can't wait to work. We found that if we keep it simple that works best. Move this here and that there. Asking them to sort the clothing into gender and size brought blank stares and unproductive standing. We shooed them out to move more stuff and drink water. Division of labor with be according to strengths and other strengths. This is alll I have to say about that. Time to go flush the biffy by throwing a bucket of water into the bowl. Soon we will be on out way to Coban, a 6 hour drive.
Thursday, 23 June 2011
After a good night's sleep and a sporadic shower, we started our day in Chimaltenango at the Wheelchair Factory, the heart of the ministry. We will do two things today - prepare the food, wheelchairs and clothes for distribution, and then pack a large truck with everything we will need for our trip up-country to Coban where we will build the house, distribute water filters, and distribute wheelchairs, food and clothing. Preparing the clothing can be complicated - we have very little space and need to separate clothing into sizes by men, women, infants, and then kids sizes. Then we pack and label the suitcases so that we can distribute the clothing in an organized manner. Once again we are very short on little boys clothing sizes infant through 12. We found out that Crocs will match shoes that we buy - if we buy one pair of crocs, then the factory will provide two additional new pairs of shoes to the ministry. Crocs are a real bonus here in the wet weather. After a full morning of lifting, sorting and loading the team is tired and looking forward to lunch.
The people who run the ministry are mostly Guatemalan. While I was making tags in the office for suitcases for clothing distribution an English study session was going on. English is much harder than Spanish! Our past tense is a mess - and that was with regular verbs.
I am very excited about going to Coban which is 6 hours from Chimaltenango. Our building site is another 15 kilometers from the city. The area is primarily Mayan and quite impoverished. But it is also an amazing opportunity to meet people one-on-one!
Wednesday, 22 June 2011
Up we go into the wild blue yonder! The team has successfully begun its first leg of its flight to Guatemala. Everything went relatively smooth, except at check-in where the machines were having "issues". Otherwise, security was a snap. The team was in good spirits with subtle signs of excitement.
Take-off was very smooth, and the cloud cover quickly dissipated. We were able to capture a gorgeous picture of Mt. Rainier and will post it shortly.
Prayers are helping with this part of our journey. It is never easy to leave family, so for the Christensen clan leaving our beloved Dot was a bit of a hardship. She will be taken care of by a wonderful and capable team of licensed care givers and family/friend volunteers. We do ask for your prayers that Dot would enjoy her time with these amazing people and not miss her family too much. She is the reason Ted, Emma and I are involved with this ministry in the first place. Our dream is to bring her with us one of these days, but logistics just won't allow it at this time. The more we visit and help the Guatemalan people embrace disability, the closer we will get to bringing her along. She would have a ball meeting the kids at Hermano Pedro hospital, and would bring so much hope to the families struggling to accept the idea that one of their own is disabled.
So, onward and upward, waaaayyyy upward (wink to Juls). May we be what God needs us to be, and may we see what he desires us to see!
Tuesday, 21 June 2011
Well, in less than 24 hours our Guatemala Mission Team will embark on its latest journey. Wednesday, June 22 at 9a they will be "leavin' on a jet plane" to Dallas/FrtWrth then onto Guatemala City for a 10 day trip that will take them to the heart of Chimaltenago, then onto the wet mountains of coffee country in Coban (two familiar staples of northwesterners) then finally to the antiquated beauty of Antigua. To say the team members are excited is an understatement. The planning for this trip began last fall under the leadership of Nancy Laswell and Ted Christensen, both experienced team members. Over the past several months the team has gathered for meetings and team building exercises as well as hosted several fund raisers. Now comes the time when they will reap the benefit of their hard work, and God's enduring grace and mercy.
The team is asking for your prayers for safe travel, health, stamina, calm weather (and volcanoes), countless blessings and Godincidences, and that the members will truly be the hands and feet of Jesus. While in Guatemala the they will build a house, distribute wheelchairs, clothing, food, water filters and vitamins, and spend time with disabled children and youth in a hospital oprhanage. Here is their itinerary while in Guatemala with Bethel Ministries International:
- June 22 Travel from Seattle to Guatemala City
- June 23 Load truck in Chimaltenago then head out to Coban
- June 24 Put floor in the house build and distribute food and clothing in the afternoon
- June 25 Wheelchair Distribution
- June 26 Church then housebuild
- June 27 Travel to Antigua
- June 28 Hermano Pedro Hospital children and youth wards (take some of them to lunch!)
- June 29 Hermano Pedro Hospital children and youth wards
- June 30 Hope Haven wheelchair distribution / New Life with Education (Christian school for the disabled)
- July 1 Return to Seattle
The team will be writing and posting pictures in this blog during their journey, so be sure to check back to see what they are up to in Guatemala. Adiós y que Dios bendiga.
Monday, 06 June 2011
The 2011 Guatemala Team would like to thank the members of St. John's as well as family and friends for attending our Taste of Guatemala event on Sunday, June 5. The generosity of those in attendance exceeded our expectations, and your gracious comments and support are much appreciated. Please keep in touch with us on our journey June 22- July 1 by visiting this blog. We will do our best to post short recaps and pictures of our time on the field and keep you informed of prayer requests.
Guatemala 2011 - The Journey