Sunday, 26 August 2012

Day 8 and 1/2 of 9

Hi Folks

So we're actually in the middle of day 9.  We've just reached Antigua.  We didn't have opportunity to post before now, and we don't have a lot of time so I'll make it quick (hopefully).

Yesterday was a great day!  We started the day by heading back to the work site for one last time.  Our other morning plans fell through so it gave us a chance to complete the work on the courtyard that we began at the beginning of the week.  It was very satisfying to complete what we started.

In the afternoon we attempted to visit a number of sponsor families.  Unfortunately, some of the families were out and about, and we could not find the others.  So in the end we only ended up visiting with one sponsored family at their store in town.  Nonetheless, it was good to connect with a family that was being blessed through their children having sponsorship.

For the evening we meet with the teachers from the Camche school, where we had done our children's ministry.  It was a blast, and also tasty!  After a number of group games we had a wonderful meal of tortillas, BBQ beef, refried beans, and some type of coleslaw, that I, Tim, actually enjoyed (I don't normally eat coleslaw).

Following the meal we went out to Alejandro's turf soccer pitch.  First our ladies played against some of their ladies in a very intense game.  Keli turned into Messi at some point during the match, though even that was not enough to stem the tide of the Guatemalan experience.  After their game the guys took to the pitch for a very intense match.  The Guatemalan's definitely had some skills, but perseverance and grit put us up 6 - 3 with about 10 minutes to go.  Having no idea how long this match was going, a few of us had to swap out for water, causing us to loose focus.  That combined with an own goal, the Guatemalan's ended up sneaking by to win 7-6.  It was a tough lose for the gang, but it was still a blast!  As it turned out, we played for a full 90 minutes with no half time - I guess they're pretty hardcore here.

Anyway, today has been a travel day.  We're in Antigua now and look forward to touring some of the history that this city has to offer us.

This may be our last post as tomorrow promises to be a full day, and we head to the airport early on Tuesday.  Anyway, feel free to check back, we'll post again when we can.  We also very much look forward to sharing our experiences with you to a fuller extent during the worship service on September 9.


Saturday, 25 August 2012

Day 7

This is Devon writing today’s blog since I went off to lala land early last night :) Today was the earliest morning so far. We were supposed to get picked up at 6:15am for breakfast, but got picked up at 6:30 instead. After breakfast we went to a school about 20 minutes away to take part in their morning devotional before their classes started. When we got there, it took a few minutes for the children to get used to seeing us there and then it was like they had known us for at least a few days already, not just seeing us standing there for five minutes. They came running up to us and started giving us hugs and tickling a bunch of us. It was great to have such a warm welcome. At the end of the devotional, we lined up outside and all 200ish kids came and gave us all hugs. After visiting the school we drove about 5-10 more minutes to the base of a mountain which we climbed up, to the top of the sinkhole. The sinkhole was and still is used for witchcraft rituals, although not as much anymore because local myths say that the sinkhole is losing its magical powers and not as many witches are doing rituals down there anymore. The sinkhole was really muddy and the hill we had to climb down was really steep. As we went down into the sinkhole, it got gradually darker and darker, but it didn’t get pitch black. Once everyone got to the bottom of the sinkhole, we make a circle and sang a couple songs and prayed. Almost everyone had their eyes closed during this time and after we finished praying and opened our eyes, a few people commented later in the day that when they opened their eyes, it felt brighter in the sinkhole. It was as if God had entered the sinkhole and was down there with us. It was amazing to feel that God would enter that dark place and be with us down there. After climbing back out of the sinkhole, most of us were filthy, and we went back to the hotel to change before going to the guest house for lunch. After lunch we went to the hospital in Coban to visit the sick children there as well as the new mothers in the maternity ward and give out the layettes that we had made. Seeing the sick children was an emotional time for many people in the group. Jessica (Les and Rita’s daughter) told us before we went inside the hospital that many people bring their children to the hospital as a last resort when they have nothing else at home that they can do for their child. In most cases, by the time they get to the hospital, it is too late for the doctors to do anything for the child. After visiting the pediatrics ward we moved to the maternity ward which the men were not allowed to go into, so they waited outside with the extra layettes while the women went inside to hand out the layettes to the new mothers. After handing out the layettes, Jessica took the guys into the nursery to see the babies and hold the abandoned babies. When they were done, the ones that weren’t holding babies came outside and the girls went inside to hold them. We got the babies from the guys and I wanted to take the one that I was holding home with me. (Mom and dad, don’t be surprised if we have a new addition to the family when I get home ;) After the hospital, we went back to the hotel for a little while and we cleaned our shoes from the trip to the sinkhole before going back to the guest house for dinner. After dinner, we waited at for Les to come and we had a debrief with him before coming back to the hotel for night. It is hard to believe that we leave Tactic in less than 48 hours to go to Antigua.

It is now 10:20pm and it has been a long and emotional day for us. Good night all!!

Friday, 24 August 2012

Day 6.

 This was supposed to be written by Devon, but after our devotions, during reflection time she fell asleep so Roswitha and I (I being Amber) are writing it. Once again, we were woken up by out lovely neighbour rooster far too early. When it was finally time to get up, we made our way to the elementary school for morning devotions with kids ages four to grade seven. We listened to their beautiful voices glorifying God. At the end of the service, the principal prayed blessings over us as a few of the children hugged us as a means of laying hands on us; what an awesome feeling. When the service was over we walked to the guest house, about ten minutes away - our first time walking anywhere in the city. With breakfast in our tummies we were sent off to the market in groups of three and four with a list of things to do and buy for points and a prize. Included in the activities was to take a picture of one of our team mates with a real pig’s head (dead or alive); holding a live chicken; and eating fresh tortillas off the grill. We came home with bags of fruits and vegetables that we will be eating in the next few days. We were given points according to the quality of the food. Our group of me, Roswitha, Jordy, and Matthew, won the challenge and Matthew and Roswitha were not allowed to translate for Jordy and I. Next, we went to the high school, where we participated in their devotional. We also saw the medical clinic which is built on the high school campus. After lunch, we headed out to a coffee plantation twenty minutes from Tactic where we saw the stages of the plant from seedlings in little bags to the end of the coffee plant’s life which is about fourteen years. To see what we came to see, we had to climb almost straight up a mountain. We huffed and puffed and a few of us almost rolled all the way back down (don’t worry, no one was hurt). We even got to taste a ripe coffee been right off the plant. At this plantation, only women work the fields because they are better workers than men (we were actually told this by the supervisor of the plantation, we are not making it up. Women here are often single moms who need to feed their large families.) After walking down the mountain, we went to see the very simple processing plant where we were told how the beans are processed until they become a roasted coffee bean. After the tour, we had a little time before dinner so we went and visited one of the ministry schools a little ways up the mountain. There is not much flat land in this country. Before heading back to Tactic we stopped for a three course meal that could have fed twice as many people. Selby asked Peter H. if the salsa was hot and he was told no, so he put six teaspoons of it in his soup. It turned out it was spicy and he ended up with smoke coming out of his ears, eyes, nose and mouth but he still ate most of it, dousing the fire with a large glass of cinnamon rice milk and a few cups of water. No parasites will have survived that meal.  Peter later admitted that he wasn’t even looking when Selby asked his question. Back at the hotel we had some free time before devotionals which was followed by some personal reflection time during which, as we already said, Devon went off to lala land. During the writing of Selby’s story though, she was awakened by our laughter. Now that we’re finished we are all going to bed to get some rest for another exiting day tomorrow. Good night all!

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Day 5 - and still alive

Day 5 has brought us to the end of the early schedule of our trip.  We completed our last morning at the job site, and our last afternoon of children’s ministry.  The morning brought similar “new” discoveries as we dug in “the pit.”  Today, Peter Field began to document these bone chilling insects, by taking pictures of them.  The “Guatemalan Poison Green Gem Beetle” was the prettiest find, however, the “Valentines Day Worm” was surely the most insidious.  Casting fears aside we pressed on, and completed ¾ of the task of filling the courtyard with topsoil.  Some in our crew asked if we could come back to finish… ...we’ll have to see. 

Before leaving the site we took a walk up to the top of the property where they had just planted 15000 tomato plants!  It was an impressive field, and we hope with them for God’s abundance and provision through these plants.

Our final Children’s Ministry time was much like the others.  Loud, impassioned, singing by the children.  Loud laughter as they played games, and lots of giggling and having fun together.  It was hard to say goodbye today, as we assumed we wouldn’t be seeing them again.  This Children’s Ministry certainly touched the hearts of our team, and we hope and pray that we might have been a blessing of Jesus in their lives. 

As it turned out, after supper, we had a devotion time with Rita, and in the course of that time ended up deciding to visit the school for one last morning devotional with them on day 6.  So we will see the kids again for one more time after all.  

Anyway, another great day down here.  Thank you for all your prayers.  

Tim F  

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Tuesday, August 21st, 2012 - Day 4

Today we had another day of amazing experiences. The meals continue to be fresh, authentic and delicious and for the most part, everyone is embracing all the new flavours. Our work day saw us completing the excavation of the central court of the new guest house, only to be then filled again with top soil. 

It was in the process of extracting the top soil that our cross cultural experiences continued to flourish. Encountering critters of an entirely different bent proved to be the adventure of the day. While digging out topsoil, our fearless leader Tim came face to face with a Guatemalan death Schlang (a poisonous snake) which must have measured at least two metres in length. Oh, did I say two metres, I think I meant .2 metres (20 centimeters for those of you who aren’t familiar with the metric system.) Others might have fled the scene in great distress, but Tim, demonstrating an overwhelming sense calm and self control, proved why he is the leader of this team (of course, the fact that he had already accidentally hacked the poor thing in half couldn’t have hurt.) Either way, he did us proud - too bad we can’t say that of the other guys who suddenly decided that working in “the pit” was not for them.

“The pit” continued to unveil many other creatures throughout the afternoon that all seemed to have names with “Guatemalan” and “death” in them, like the “Guatemalan death beatle”, or the Guatemalan death ring” or my personal favourite, the “Guatemalan butterfly of death” and of course it’s poisonous.

The afternoon’s DVBS with the school children was another inspiring moment for everyone as the children continued to humble us with their complete devotion during worship. Their 40 voices can put almost any 200+ member church in Vancouver to shame. We have so much to learn from these kids. In spite of their difficult environments at home, they demonstrate so much joy here at the school. When seen in the light of this perspective, we realize that we have very little if anything to complain about back home.

After dinner the team met at Les and Rita’s to hear a testimony of one of their school principals. Her name is Evelyn and she moved in with the Peters when she was 13. She gave an incredible testimony about God’s power and love in her life despite the numerous difficulties she has faced growing up. It was also a moving testimony to the work that Les and Rita have begun inTactic and the work God is accomplishing through the many faithful servants here. Then the group shared their highlights of the day and an emotion we all faced since coming here. It was a wonderful time as the Holy Spirit moved among us, enabling us to open ourselves up to the changes taking place in our hearts. We are very thankful to Les and Rita for their extreme generosity and thoughtful approach to this entire mission experience.

Peter H

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

The long and tiring day....

Today was a early start, I myself woke up at 6:30. We started off by going to the school for a early devotional prayer time, just for kids. The way that the kids act, you can see that they have so much love in them to give. As soon as you walk into the school, they have smiles on their faces and they come up to you and give you a hug. After we went to the devotional prayer time, we went to eat breakfast at the guest house, which is also called the yellow house even though it has been painted green on the outside. Breakfast was delicious; it was eggs, pancakes, toast and fresh fruit. After breakfast we drove out to the construction site and watched how they make the floor tiles, which was quite neat. Then we went over the very rickety bridge that we could have fallen though at any time (it only felt that way but Les said that they drive gravel trucks over it) and went to look at the new guest house that they are building in the middle of the hill. We took a quick tour of the rooms of the future guest house and bible seminary dorms. We got to work right away, moving clay and dirt from the middle of the courtyard that will become a small green space with flowers, bushes, and grass. Because we are so close to the sun, it was a lot hotter than it would feel if we were in Vancouver. We took many wheel-barrow loads of clay down part of the hill to a pile of clay that was already there. After a long ordeal with the clay, we went back to the hotel to get cleaned up before lunch. We all decided to take quick showers and part way through, the lights and heat went off in the hotel. We found out later that we blew a fuse from using all the showers at the same time. After we all got cleaned up, we went to the guest house to have lunch. We had delicious rice, stuffed peppers, bread, cucumber and watermelon. My group was on for dishes and we had to do them really fast because we were running late for VBS. When we got back to the school for VBS, we started with Roswitha (aka: Butcherette) doing an intro in Spanish. Then we sang songs in Spanish. The best part about the singing was that the kids sang with such passion and so loud. Then we played many tag games and got very tired. After playing games, we did our skit of creation. It could have gone smoother, but we are not very good at understanding Spanish; our acting was ahead of the speaking by a couple of days. After the skit we did crafts with the kids. We did colouring and painting, but they liked the colouring the best. At the end of VBS, we said goodbye to the kids until tomorrow.
We went on a drive around the block, even though the place we were going for dinner was right beside the hotel. We got to make our own traditional Guatemalan dinner, which was Dobladas (which means “folded once”). We walked to the mill to grind the cooked corn for the tortillas. We made tortillas, filled them with cheese, folded them over once, and then they were fried. They looked like perogies, but were made with corn instead. While Cheni was finishing cooking the food, we listened to Edgar’s (Cheni’s husband) testimony while Jessica (Les and Rita’s daughter) translated for us. I felt very fortunate to live in Canada because in Guatemala you have to go one day at a time and hope for the best. After the testimony, we ate the delicious Dobladas that we made. Then we said goodbye to Cheni and Edgar and drove less than a minute down the road back to the hotel for the night.
It is now 9:30pm and we are getting picked up around 6:30am tomorrow to go have breakfast at the guest house.

              Buenas Noches - Tanya Johnson :)

Monday, 20 August 2012

Recap of Day 1 & 2

Hi folks.  Sorry for the blog delay.  As it happens not all things have gone as planned. Though it’s been quite an adventure and a good beginning to our time here nonetheless. 

In the wee hours of Saturday morning a small group of family & friends saw us off at YVR.  After a few character building opportunities at ticketing, security, and customs, we caught our flight to our layover in Houston.  

Houston was good to us.  So happy to have us there that we stayed for an extra 3 hours.  However, Houston provided us with 2 amazing lightening shows, and we had a lot of laughs together as we waited patiently.  

It was about 1:30 Mountain Time, that we finally landed in Guatemala City.  However, arrival & customs went very smoothly.  Les & Juan were waiting for us upon arrival, and after a short drive our heads finally found pillows for a short sleep. 

This morning, after a delicious breakfast at SETECA we travelled to Central square for a bit of Guatemalan history and had a chance to see the palace and cathedral there.  

We travelled through the late morning & afternoon through the beautiful countryside & mountain ranges of Guatemala.  Something that impressed us during our travels was the way that corn was planted up steep mountainsides.  It’s hard to imagine how difficult it must be to plant and harvest corn on such steep slopes.  Very resourceful though!

One of the reasons for the delayed post, is that we don’t have ready access to internet.  We are staying at a hotel rather than the usual Impact guesthouse due to it’s proximity to a very noisy, and intrusive fair, that is happening on 3 sides of the guesthouse and lasts well into the night.  

Shortly after arriving at our hotel we were again whisked off to the late afternoon church service.  It was wonderful to worship together with Les & Rita and their congregation here.  We brought greetings to them from Sherbrooke, and thoroughly enjoyed worship with our lively brothers & sisters in Christ here.  

After a supper of Tamales and an orientation meeting with Rita, we’ve arrived back at the hotel.  Though it’s relatively early, the cumulative 6-8 hours of sleep that most of us have had since Friday night has caught up to us, and we’re all eager to sleep.  

On Monday we begin our work projects & children’s ministry.  Pray for us, for the people here, and especially for the children.  Pray that we would communicate the love of Christ to them, and that our time together would make us ever more aware of God’s presence & leading in each on of our lives.  

Buenos Noches. 

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Commissioning Service

On Sunday the congregation prayed for the team & commissioned us for the ministry we are participating in beginning this Saturday.  

Keli & I began by sharing some of what we're looking forward to as a group: the opportunity to serve, to connect with people of another culture, to be stretched by the experience, and to be a part of what the Spirit of God is doing among us, and through Impact Ministries.  

We also invited the congregation to pray for us: for the challenges we will face, for our ability to be patient, graceful, and flexible, that we would love the people we meet, and that we would live as a blessing to them.

We are very grateful to the many of you who accepted Pastor James' invitation to pray for us every single day of this trip.  We were also blessed that so many of you came forward to lay hands on us as the congregation prayed for us. 

As we complete our last minute prep, we ask that you would continue to pray for us.  Pray that we might prepare well.  Pray that we might cross boarders well, and travel safely.  Pray that our bodies, minds, & spirits would be ready to engage fully with the ministry of Jesus in Guatemala.  

We hope our next post will be Saturday night upon arrival in Guatemala.  We'll do our best to keep you updated.  

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Where you'll find us

Hi Folks

So this is where you'll find our daily updates for our trip to Guatemala.  We'll try to have a new update everyday for the duration of our trip.  Complete with pictures and stories from our day.  Quite possibly we will have different folks writing for different days, so this will be a great place to check in on your loved ones as well.  

Please keep us in your daily, or even hourly, prayers.  We're excited for this trip, for the blessing we might be, and the blessing that folks in Guatemala will be to us.  Pray that God would move among us, and through us, and that we would be shaped by this experience to be the disciples that the Spirit of God is moving us to be.