Thursday, May 18, 2017

One Last Road Trip

Buenas noches amigos, esto es Sarah,
     It's crazy that this week is wrapping up so quickly. It feels as though we just got here, yet tomorrow will be our last day. God has blessed our time here abundantly. It's clear to see with every new day that each of us has a special purpose in being here.
     Today started out like many others, breakfast just the way you like it at 7am, then devotions to follow. The location today was Gonzales Park (Spoiler Alert: This "Park" is an old basketball court with broken-up cement and only one basket with no net). As soon as we got there we split into 3 groups because we had multiple people who decided to sponsor children from this location. When you decide to sponsor a child you are taking care of their tuition costs to attend school for the year. Many children don't get to go to school because their families can't afford it so children go without an education. In Guatemala it is nearly impossible to get a job as an adult without a high school diploma.
   Every group had a unique experience during their house visits. I went with Maddie and am so happy I did. Maddie felt called to sponsor 2 children and the first we visited was Blanca. The area we were in today was way more urban than we have experienced so far, but some things remained the same. Blanca's house had a tin roof, dirt floors, and sheets separating the different rooms. Their main room didn't have a roof, but it had a batch of newborn puppies lying on the floor who seemed to be in very poor health. We also saw the mother dog nearby who was so malnourished her ribs were clearly visible. Our heart strings were first tugged on when we saw the puppies, but quickly were hit much harder. Blanca and her mother (who was also named Blanca) introduced themselves to us. We then introduced ourselves to them and one of the Guatemalans on the ministry team, named Sandra, kept pushing me to speak Spanish and to help translate. After the introductions Blanca's mother delivered a very heartfelt and emotional thank you to our group and especially to Maddie. As she was speaking I was trying not to get choked-up as me and the Guatemalans were the ones in the room at that point who could understand what she was saying. As we translated her kind words to Maddie, her own tears started flowing. It amazes me how kind the Guatemalans are to us consistently as they ask strangers into their homes. They are constantly so thankful just for our presence and prayers. After Blanca's mom said her words, Blanca said some of her own about her thankfulness to Maddie and she started crying too! It was such an emotional visit, but I thought it was truly beautiful for them to be so grateful and connect with Maddie so much after just meeting her.
     After leaving la casa de Blanca, we went on to find Maddie's other sponsor child, Josuè. His house was the complete opposite of Blanca's as it had a car in the garage, cement walls and floors, wooden doors, and healthy pets. In this home, however, lived multiple generations. The head of the house was the grandmother of Josuè. She was the caretaker of Josuè, his 2 siblings, his cousin, her 93 year old mother who is very ill, and her 2 sisters. She is unable to work because of all the people she takes care of  and said that by Maddie sponsoring Josuè she is not only helping him, but helping his who family as they can use that money to provide other necessities. Everyone in this house was very kid, but it was a much less emotional experience.
     Once we left the last house we went back to the park and ate our homemade PB&J's for lunch. After lunch we headed down the road to John the Baptist Park for the faith lesson with all of the children. It started off a little rough with one of the children realizing I understood her and then proceeding to tell me her entire family history, followed by Courtney getting hit in the face with a microphone while singing the word "Donde"(where) instead of the word "Porque"(Because) loud and proud! Even though the beginning was rough, I think we made up for it by delivering our best performance of our skit so far. The reading of the verse by Despina went smoothly as well. After that it was time to make our sheep. It truly warms my heart to see these kids making the sheep my family and I put so much time into putting together. They are always so proud of them and it is just the sweetest thing. Today was a little less heart warming than normal. We didn't realize that yesterday the kids were pretty rough on the glue sticks and we ended up very short on them. Kids kept gathering around us asking for our glue sticks when we only had about 1 per 10 kids. Finally I just sat down on the ground in the middle of the kids with my one glue stick and roll of tape and asked the kids to give me their pieces. It was more stressful today than normal, but it was still so nice to see them happy and playing with their sheep.
     The kids finished their lesson by receiving a box of milk and some bananas on their way out the door. We then walked back to the buses to use the bathroom and head back to Kevin and Ginny's house. On the way back we stopped by a lake which had a beautiful view, but as we got closer we saw it was actually a nice shade of green and cringed as we saw locals swimming in it. We took a few photos by the lake with our Guatemalan friends and then kept on our way back for dinner. Mac and cheese with black noodles was muy bien and we thoroughly enjoyed hearing stories from Kevin and Ginny's past. Currently we are sitting around laughing hysterically about different events which have happened over the week including Melissa getting pooped on by a bird and Clair telling Skyler that she looks like a hamster.
     Thanks for reading my very detailed explanation of our day and I hope you all are doing well at home. We can't wait to be back sharing about how God has used us through the course of this week.

Buenas noches y dios le bendiga,


P.S. Happy birthday Melissa! Maddie loves you so much and hopes you had a great day!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

The Village with the Good View

Hello friends! This is Melissa Dailey coming to you from the one and only Guatemala. Today was such an eventful day! We woke up at 5:45am (because we all love waking up that early) and we ventured our way towards Buena Vista.

Out of the four times I have been to Guatemala, today was my best experience in this place. Usually Buena Vista is HOT. And very humid! But this time it wasn't as hot as it had been in the past, which made the day a more enjoyable. After the two hour car ride, we drove down Main Street and we got to the Groundwork Guatemala Headquarters. We also made our way to the Executive Bathroom. We took a quick pit stop and we headed to a rural school.

I had visited this school many times before, though this time I was viewing it after I had student taught this past semester in an excellent school. It was interesting because at this rural school, the teachers were standing around talking while the students were running wild. Some students were in their desks, but many were playing and running down the road. The school had no textbooks or computers. In fact, many of the classrooms had tin roofs, holes with bars in the walls (windows), a small white board for the teacher to write out sentences for students to copy, and some decorations. A couple of the classrooms were closed because some teachers decided not to come to school today. The kids were still there, though, but they were just running around.

Coming from student teaching at a wonderful Christian school near Chicago, it was very eye opening to realize how little the students were actually learning. I planned lessons that allowed students to critically think. I used the SMARTboard to display the notes sheets I created on my laptop. I was able to distribute copies of these notes to my students using a copier. None of this is going on at this school. They don't have the resources to really help the students critically think and apply their skills to other situations, and that was really sad to see.

After we visited the school, I went with a group to an unknown place. We were trying to find a family and it took us 45 minutes. We finally got there and we were able to meet everyone in the family. They older couple had lost their son about a year ago, and because of it, they had to move away. They weren't able to attend the faith lessons anymore, and they needed encouragement on their faith. Every person in our group read a few verses from the Bible. We then prayed with them for a few minutes. The family was very grateful for us to be there. They even gave us Coke and crackers! We also each had a chance to make a tortilla and it was very fun. Some of our group members did very well, while others (like me) struggled. My tortilla looked like a triangle. I couldn't get it perfectly round like the Guatemalans do. Skyler and Maddie both dropped their dough on the ground! Regardless, we all had a great time.

When we got back, we taught the faith lesson with the kids. They really enjoyed singing and creating a sheep as their craft! All of us had fun serving the kids. They were so friendly and they wanted to play with us. We all enjoyed our time at Buena Vista.

I think I can speak for everyone when I say this week is going by way too fast. We only have two more days in Guatemala, and then we'll be home on Saturday! It's gone by so quick, but I am thankful for being able to come here with this wonderful group of ladies.

Until tomorrow, family and friends! And tomorrow will be exactly like today, only completely different.

-Melissa Dailey

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

A Day at the Corner

It's not what you think, just let us explain. We started the day like always with a devotion from our dear friend Manuel. Today we visited El Rincon, which was about an hour from where we are.  This is area was a lot more rural than where we are in Guatemala City.  We started our time there doing home visits.  Courtney, Melissa and Sarah were able to meet the child that they are sponsoring.  It was very sweet to see how excited these children were to get a sponsor and know that they have someone back in the States supporting them.  The homes in El Rincon were different than those we saw in the city. One house we saw had dirt floors and only two or three rooms. They had electric but no plumbing. The main room in the house did not have a roof over it, rooms were separated by curtains or sheets, and there was a chicken, a dog, and a cat just wondering around.  The other house they visited was bigger and more finished than the others. They had cement floors, more electricity, a separate room for eating and sleeping.  We then did our first faith lesson of the week! The faith lesson went very well, it is based on Matthew 28:19-20.  Our skit was a little bit rough, but the kids were able to follow and seemed to enjoy it. Our skit was the parable of the lost sheep with Courtney being the lost sheep, and she was the happiest lost sheep you would ever see.  We read to the kids and attempted to hold conversations.  It is amazing how much they will insist on communicating with you despite not knowing our language or us knowing theirs. The kids were able to make a fun sheep craft using paper plates and cotton balls.  Seeing them make the craft was great because they were so proud of their work and wanted to show everyone.  After everything was over we got chased around and tickled for about 15 minutes, Deaconess Betsy may or may not have ended up on the ground under a pile of kids.  All the kids and adults were very happy and grateful to see us there. Guatemalans are definitely huggers!!We ended the day by coming back to the house, eating some dinner, working on some crafts, and George from Only A Child will be here in a minute!

P.S. El Rincon means "The Corner."

Until next time, adios!
Skyler and Maddie

Monday, May 15, 2017

First Day Adventures

Hola from Guatemala!

This is Courtney Lofink here coming to you live from Guatemala. We just want to wish all the moms out there a Happy Mother's Day (even though we are a day late). We hope you guys had an amazing day just like we did out here in Guatemala City! Yesterday we got the chance to go to church and experience a Guatemalan church service. It was such a fun experience to worship in Spanish and know that even in a different country we all worship and love the same God.

Today, we were blessed with more opportunities to see how God is working in Guatemala. Our first adventure of the day was getting to visit George's ministry called Only a Child. He takes in boys off the street and provides them with the opportunity to work and go to school. He told us his story and the way God is using him in the lives of these young men is inspirational. It is so incredible to hear someone be so convicted in their faith and so passionate about their purpose in life.

After hearing George's incredible story, we were hit with reality when we took a trip to the dump. In Guatemala all the garbage is taken to one spot and dumped in a landfill. There are Guatemalans who live on top of this garbage and spend their time searching through piles of garbage in the hope of finding something they can sell. It really puts things into perspective witnessing something like this and made me realize how many simple blessings in my life I take for granted on a daily basis. It was a very humbling experience for all of us. Our hearts and prayers go out for all the Guatemalans who deal with this reality everyday.

Our last adventure of the day was definitely the highlight for everyone! We got the opportunity to do house visits and pray with some of the Guatemalans. It is always so neat to talk and share bible verses with these amazing people. One Guatemalan, Meryl, told us a moving story about her uncle who had recently overcome the doctor's odds and was on the road to recovery after an accident he had been in. We shared Randell Newton's incredible story with her and were all overwhelmed by the realization that God truly does perform miracles. We are all sending our best wishes to Randell and his family from Guatemala and hope he can find comfort knowing that people in a different country are praying for his recovery also.

Please continue to pray for our team throughout the week and like Groundwork Guatemala on Facebook to keep up with the rest of our adventures. God's Blessings on the rest of your week!

Signing off,
Courtney Lofink

Saturday, May 13, 2017

We're baaaaack!

It is hard to believe it, but here we are. We're in Guatemala! Thank you to everyone for your prayers for our safe travel. For the most part, our journey was uneventful and smooth with no glitches(which parents and family members always like to hear!). Check-in, security, wait at gate, wait to board, fasten seat belts, deplane, go to next gate, wait, get Starbucks, board plane, watch in-flight movies, etc. Our quick landing in Guatemala City though was hard enough to wake the dead or maybe just Courtney and it evoked lots of cheering from the passengers when we stopped! Thank you Jesus for landing gear that can handle the short Guatemala City runways. Don't worry, because of Guatemala City's location in bowl, they don't have a lot of space to just glide in for a landing, so this is normal!
Despite that exciting part of our trip, the best part is always being welcomed into the warms arms of Kevin, Ginny, Manuel, and anyone else they bring along for the ride(this time it was Julio). For those of us who have been here before, we know these faces and how seeing them gives us the feeling of coming home again. For the newbies in the group, they will soon find this out. The missionaries here are going into their 3rd straight week of hosting teams, and even still their love and joy is not diminished.
Please continue to keep us in your prayers. Pray for all of us to stay healthy, and for our friends to get rested from the busy last two weeks. Keep coming back here for daily updates on our adventures, and enjoy hearing about our activities from a different person each night!

Buenas noches!

~Deaconess Betsy

Friday, May 20, 2016

This is Only a “See you later” Until Our Next Adventure.

                Well, it is the end of the week. If I were to attempt to even begin to describe all the adventures we have had here and everything that we have learned, I would have to write a 1,000 page novel.
                  I will start with today. Mikayla and I took a tour of a coffee roaster. I have to say, after listening to Edwardo (the owner of the roaster) talk about the process of making a few pounds of coffee, I definitely have a new appreciation for going to Starbucks and ordering a cup of coffee. There is so much work that goes into it, from picking the beans of the leaves, to skinning them, to roasting them, and how many trees it takes. Of course I was drinking a sample of coffee at the time, and Guatemalan coffee is hands down the best I have ever had.
                  After the tour, we had lunch as usual, and prepared for our faith lessons. This lesson in particular was different, because we did not venture anywhere, this time the lesson was in the mission house. I feel that this made the lesson much more personal and real. The place that we have been staying at was opened to all these people waiting to hear the word of God, and it just proved to me more that you can truly woirship anywhere. The church is not a building with four walls and a steeple. The church is US. Our faith, our love, our words. Something Ryan said tonight during the devotion really stuck with me. He said that language barrier is not an issue here. The language of love is one that knows no traditional language such as Spanish or English, it is much more powerful than that. Today, I definitely saw that as I have all week. I know barely any spanish, but the way that these kids who have NO idea who I am will run up to me and hug me, or strangers here will smile and say Buenas Dias shows that God is so unbelievably powerful in this place, and I love it.
              Thinking about going home tomorrow almost breaks my heart. But I know I will be back. Believe me when I say that there is no way I could not return.
              Andy also has mentioned several times that we build relationships with people here in one day. Just one day, you meet wonderful people and make such strong connections with them. But, our time here is fleeting and we have to leave those wonderful people. However, we cannot measure impact (something else Ryan has said, of course). What we do, whether to us may seem small, makes a big difference to these people, because all they ask for is LOVE. To love and to be loved in return.
          I am coming home from this trip with a bigger heart, and a strong desire to help those who need it. God has restored my faith in his love and grace, and that is something that needs to be shared across the globe. I will praise you, O Lord, among the nations.” Psalm 57:9
          All in all, what I have learned in this trip is this: Love others unapologetically. In whatever way you show love, do it. You never know who may need it. Do not be afraid of rejection, because avoiding those people and closing yourself off makes you miss opportunities to love others who so desperately need love. Go forth in love, friends. -Ari

 “Let all that you do be done in love.   1 Corinthians 16:14

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Fun at Gonzales Park

¡Buenos Días! Today we adventured off to Gonzales Park, another location where we did faith lessons and house visits. I have to say that today was probably the most spiritually satisfying for a majority of us. Five people in the group sponsored children in this area, and it allowed for some powerful house visits with these children and their families. 

When we arrived in Gonzales Park (which, by the way, is not even a park but this small square between two main roads), we split up into three groups to go on house visits. I went with Ari, Mikayla, Ryan, Sandra (one of the Guatemalans), and Rudy (a Guatemalan from the organization ´Only a Child´) to visit Ari´s and Mikayla´s sponsor children. Ari decided to sponsor Evelin and Mikayla sponsored Damaris. They were very excited and nervous to meet their children!

After a little bit of walking, we arrived at Evelin´ house. We went into her house and we talked with her mother, Ingrid, for a while.  She explained that she was 33 and had three children and a husband. She told us how blessed she felt because God kept providing for her and her family. She appreciated getting to know us and she enjoyed hearing us talk about what we were studying in school. She explained talked a little bit about her children and she showed us a few pictures. After we talked for a while, we all prayed together. During this time, Ari said a short prayer while Sandra translated. Then, Ingrid started to pray for us. She went to each of us individually and she laid her hands on our hearts. I´m not 100% sure what she said during the prayer, but I definitely felt the presence of the Holy Spirit. It was amazing because by the time she had finished praying for us, most of us were in tears. Ari told me after the prayer that she knew she made the right choice to sponsor Evelin. The prayers were so powerful and she knew that God brought her there for that reason. It was such a fantastic moment to see because I was able to see God working through her. The whole experience at the house was amazing because God´s presence was beyond evident. 

After that, we ventured off to Damaris´ house. She answered the door when we knocked, and when she found out that Mikayla was sponsoring her, she immediately gave her a hug and let us into the house. When we were there, we were able to sit down and have a conversation about Damaris´ life. She has a brother who is six, and a mother and father at home. Her brother and mother were home, and they joined us for the conversation. They were really nice and they wanted to know all about Mikayla. They asked her many questions, and eventually Damaris talked to us about school. She is in 7th grade, so she had various classes she had to take. Her favorite were art and communications. She showed us her artwork, and it was fantastic. She recieved 100% on all of her artwork. She also loved talking about God and appreciated when we all took out our Bibles to share verses with her. She was so happy for us to be there, and it was very evident. We actually overstayed our visit by 45 minutes (whoops... but the only ones that were not happy were our grumbling stomaches), but it is ok becuase people aren´t really concerned with time here. 

During the rest of the day, we completed our faith lessons, ate some great (gluten-free) mac and cheese, and played Dutch Blitz. It´s been very relaxing, and it also gives us time to think and pray. This is the second time I have gone on the trip, and I have to say that Guatemala sincerly feels like home. Part of it is because I feel God´s presence so strongly here, but another part of is is because I know God is calling me to serve as a missionary in Central America after graduation. It feels so weird to think that we are going home in a couple of days, espeically since it feels like we just got here. I know that this will not be the last time I will be here, which gives me great comfort as the mission trip starts to come to a close. I have been so grateful to come on this trip, and it is always a life changing experience to love God´s people here. Until next time, ¡adios!