Friday, May 18, 2018

The End is Near

Coming to you from Guatemala by your favorites, Cristian and Hannah!

What a day to remember! Sadly today was our last day in beautiful Guatemala City. We started our day nice and early with breakfast just the way we like it, and as usual we had devotion right after breakfast. Lovely Sandra led devotion explaining and reminding us that the our body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who works through us. This will be good to remember as we leave Guatemala.

Unlike our past days, we did not have home visits but instead we had the opportunity to see the touristy side of Guatemala City. Our lovely group had the opportunity to choose between going to the Kaminaljuyu Archaelological Guatemala Park to see and explore the City of the Death and all of the Mayan ruins or to go to the Godoy Coffee Roasting place where organic gourmet coffee is made, roasted, and sold. My group (Cristian) was made up of Anna, Emily, Hannah, Casey, Yasmine, and Michelle . The group was led by Sandra and Carlos who did an amazing job explaining the old Mayan ruins, sites, and traditions. The other team was made up of Andrew, Mil, Skyler, Maddie, Jack, and Haylie. Their team was led by Kevin and Manuel. Both teams had a great time exploring a bit of Guatemala's beauty.

After returning from our trips, we enjoyed a delicious lunch of all our favorite leftovers from the week. The lunch was extra special because we got to eat with the Guatemalan missionaries again, like we did on Monday. All of the missionaries were so welcoming and friendly with us this week, so the whole day was bittersweet because we knew it would soon be time to say goodbye. We enjoyed some time after lunch to relax, hang out, or spend time talking with the missionaries before people began arriving for the faith lessons around 2pm. We enjoyed sharing pictures of with each other and getting to have a little more time to talk and laugh together.

Faith lessons went well again today. The young children spent the first part of the lesson in the garden, where they did the story, skit, and craft. After that, they walked to a nearby park, where they had lots of fun. The older youth were on the 3rd floor of the house, where a nice breeze kept everyone cool. Both groups had less kids than any of the other days, but that made it nice to build more personal relationships with the kids. Some of the missionaries had children of their own who attended the faith lessons, so it was fun to make those connections.

After the faith lessons, it was soon time to say goodbye to our Guatemalan friends. We all enjoyed getting to know each missionary this week, so they truly will be missed when we return home. We all made a special connection with different missionaries that will not be forgotten. We will remain thankful for how they guided and protected us this week. The missionaries not only shared their smiles with us, but also their love and positive attitudes.

For our last dinner, we enjoyed a five star meal with a view that consisted of pepperoni, cheese, and ham pizza, along with Guatemalan gasosas (flavored sodas). We enjoyed the meal on the roof, where it was cool enough to wear sweaters. After our familiar American dinner, our whole team gathered one last time to reflect upon our week. Both Kevin and Ginny joined us and asked us questions that prompted us to discuss the things we learned and the ways we were changed this week. In different ways, we were all touched by God, and being able to share these moments as a team was a special way to end the week.

Tonight we end by packing and getting ready for our early flight (leaving house at 3:30am!!). Although we are very excited to see our family and friends again, the friendships we made this past week will never be forgotten. We will cherish the relationships and memories that we made. This experience was a blessing from God, and we cannot wait to share it with everyone back home. Guatemala has been great to us, and we are forever grateful.

Special Shout Out to Melissa (Maddie's Mom), on her 21st birthday (LOL). Happy Birthday from Groundwork Guatemala 2018!!

Isaiah 55:10-11
As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. 

Thursday, May 17, 2018

¿Donde? En Mi Corazón

¡Hoy fue un dia muy coloroso (today was a very hot day)! But it was also un día muy sentimental (a very sentimental day). A large number of our team met the children we are sponsoring or have been sponsoring since last year or earlier. For me (Emily) personally, the experience was something I will always remember. I was able to visit the home of Karen, the girl I am sponsoring, and talk with her and her mother about their current living situation as well as our shared interests and events from my own life. I discovered that she is very artistic, thoughtful, detail-oriented, and is doing extremely well in school. It is truly a blessing from the Lord to be able to have this connection with someone who lives thousands of miles away from me and to support her education and faith.

I (Yasmine) also had the opportunity to meet my sponser child. His name is David and he is 13 years old. He is the sweetest boy I have ever met- when he found out I was coming he got all dressed up and even took a shower before-hand! He opened up to me right away, asking me several questions. David and I suprising have a lot in common. I really enjoyed listening to him talk about his family, friends, interests, and favorite school subjects. Later on I got to meet his mother who expressed a lot of grattitude and joy. I also got to meet my mother´s sponsor child. His name is Yefri and he just turned 17. He is extremely intellegent and determined to study computer programming and finish school. He asked me a lot of questions about my mom, which I thought was very sweet. I am so blessed to have had the opportunity to meet such amazing young men and to be able to help them grow in their faith as well as succeed in their studies.

We know that others on the team had similar interactions, as we heard stories about impactful moments throughout the day.

For the faith lessons we went to Gonzales Park. The physical space of the park was different than that of other areas we had visited simply because the ground was cement and there were benches and lots of tents. It was almost like large courtyards that made it easy to organize the kids into groups and have plenty of space to play soccer, read, run around, and jump rope. Many of the kids were super interactive and wanted to learn English words, such as colors, animals, and basic phrases. They even said "Thank you!" on the way out. Overall, they were full of energy and showed enthusiasm for learning. We were definitely worn out (and sunburnt) by the end of the lesson, but in a good kind of way. :)

When we got back to ministry headquarters, we had a delicious meal (shoutout to Ginny) of pasta and salad. Per usual, we shared our highs and lows of the day and are ready to take on our last full day tomorrow in beautiful Guatemala.

¡Hasta luego!

Yaz y Emily

So now I am giving you a new commandment: love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.
John 13:34-35

Así que ahora les doy un nuevo mandamiento: amense unos a otros. Tal como yo los he amado, ustedes deben amarse unos a otros. El amor que tengan unos por otros sera la prueba ante el mundo de que son mis discípulos.
Juan 13:34-35

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Just The Way You Like It

Alright we started our morning with breakfast at 6am with "the Berwin meets Des Plaines meets Joliet Holiday Inn style just the way you like it without the waffle maker" (Kevin). Then we loaded the vans by 7am and were on our way to Buena Vista.

Upon arrival we applied numerous amounts of bug and sun sauce. We helped set up bible lessons, then we went to the local school. When we first arrived at the school, they were still in session. The school allowed us to enter and observe their classrooms. The school had 5 classrooms; the classrooms were very full, one teacher had 51 students in one classroom that should only contain about 20-30 students. Also one of the classrooms were empty because it was a pre-school and now there is no desks or a teacher in that classroom. At the school the playground was in the center of all the classrooms and it had a mini stage and a couple tires in the ground. The children out at recess at the time were running around and playing tag, all the children seemed interested in us because they all kept looking at us, as if they were unsure about us. When we left the school, waiting outside were these two little boys Minor and Juan. They stuck to Andy instantly and followed him the rest of the day.

After leaving the school, we broke up into groups of about 5 and 6 to go on house visits. My house visit (Casey) was to the family where Deaconess Betsy sponsors one of the sons. The son was at work in the rubber tree farm, so we met with his mother, grandmother, sister, and brother. The mother was extremely grateful for us coming and visiting her. It was good to hear that her son is doing very well in his studies and at the top of his class. The siblings were also very excited to meet us and they were interested in what we all were studying in school. There was one part during the house visit that was so awkwardly funny that it is worth sharing. There were guard pigeons everywhere. So during the house visit we were standing in a little half circle. It went myself, Anna, and then Andy. In the middle of our conversation, one of the guard pigeons decided that it was an appropriate time to fly into the house by flying in between Anna and myself. Anna jumped just a little but a few minutes later another pigeon decided to join his friend in the house as well. This time, the pigeon flew between Anna and Andy. Anna jumped way more the first time and she said she felt the bird flying past her head and was on alert the rest of the house visit. Back to the house visit, the mother was very grateful for us being there for her and praying for her and her family. 

On my house visit (Yasmine) we visited a young girl named Suzy. She just finished high school and was trying to get a job at the sugar cane plantation to work in the office. She has to wait until she is 18, which will be this Saturday. This girl is one of the only children to complete high school in her village. She is very successful in her studies. While we were there she showed us how she uses the machine to grind the corn to prepare it for making tortillas. After she had showed us this, she asked us to sit down. We talked about our families, her older sister also finished high school and is married with children. She also has a younger sister, who decided she will no longer attend school; she was in 3rd grade. Suzy now wants to go to the university to study to become a nurse but her mom wants her to stay in Buena Vista and be at home. After we prayed and said our goodbyes, we all encouraged her to go back to school to persue her dream of becoming a nurse. After leaving, I realized that Suzy is an inspiration to me and her village because she worked hard to continue and finish school, whereas most people in the village are unable to finish school. After that we went to the local river, where they wash their clothes and dishes and also take baths. When we got down to the river, Haylie was holding Marvin's (Guatemalan missionary) hand and was stepping along the rocks. She slipped and fell in the river and she was fine but it was intertaining. There was a women down there washing her clothes and it occured to me that she had to carry this huge basket of clothes back up this steep and slippery trail. I was honestly heaving breathing on the way back up; I could not image carrying up laundry and a child. I am also adding that Haylie tripped twice going back up and that was pretty funny too. But she is okay, so it is fine. Then we headed back for the faith lesson.

Faith lesson time. Although yesterday's children were very talkative, these children took some time to warm up to us. To start the faith lesson, Oscar (Guatemalan missonary) introduced us to the group of children. Then we started with the songs, and today they went very well. The children knew all the words and we were all in sync. Following the songs, Jack taught the kids the memory verse, Hebrews 3:13. The verse was the introduction to the skit. The skit consisted of Nick, Andrew, Emily and us two. But what was new about today compared to the past two days, was that Oscar suggested us wearing beards. So Andrew went and found beards somewhere in the house last night. So today everybody except Casey wore a beard. But in my defense (Casey), there were none left and I used my hair to make a beard, so it's all good. The skit went good in the end. After the skit, we introduced the kids to the craft. The kids loved it and it was great to see.

(Casey) The highlight of my day was before the faith lesson started, I was reading booking to children. The children were a little distracted, which was understandable because there was about 125 children gathered in one space. While I was reading a book about a cat and sitting on a stool, this little boy comes up to me and puts his arm on my back and looked over my shoulder at the book. It melted my heart, it was so sweet to see that they were interested in anything that we were doing.

(Yasmine) The highlight of my day was meeting a little girl named Estella she was 8 years old and she was the sweetest thing. Estella asked me to read with her, then she smiled at me the entire time we were singing, she sat by me during the craft, and then held my hand and walked around with me to give the other kids high fives. She was just so cute and her smile warmed my heart. I am truly blessed to be here and have the opportunity to have such and amazing expirence.

We are both very thankful to be here! The experiences and encounters with the people of Guatemala have been truly amazing and an once in a life time experience. There are not enough words to express how great these past four days have been.

-Casey and Yaz

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

¿Como se dice bock bock en Ingles?

Andrew and Mil reporting for blog post duty.

So we are sure all of you are wondering the story behind the title of this blog. Well have no fear, Andrew and Mil are here with a fun, little story from our very eventful day.  So, this being the first day that we were able to teach and interact with the children, there already was a great conversation with one child in particular about chicken noises that represents some of the time we had with the children today.  So... Mil was conversing with a few children about pets and it all began with a young girl asking in Spanish if Mil had any gatos, (cats).  And not knowing much Spanish, Mil kept having them repeat the word until one charistmatic little boy made cat noises, meow meow, to help clarify the word.  After this was figured out, they proceeded to talk about cats and dogs, which Mil understood perro to mean dog.  Then, the young girl shared of another pet that she had which was a  Spanish word that Mil did not know the meaning of.  In her moment of panic and not understanding this word, Mil ransacked her brain for any other animal she had seen today and in Guatemala.  The first and only one that came to mind was a chicken.  However, to make matters funnier, this came right after the same little boy made rabbit ears to try and help clairfy the animal.  For Mil, rabbit ears equaled chicken in her panic.  She proceeded by flapping her arms and making bock bock chicken noises to help describe a chicken, while still thinking that might be the answer...  but a boys response was more out of left field than even her random animal guess.  This particular boy asked how to say bock bock in English.  How would you answer that?????  Well, Mil responded with "chicken" and soon after a translator named Marvin came over and told Mil that the little girl had a pet rabbit. The end... just kidding!

This story is a great example of how many of us had a difficult time communicating with the Guatemalans, but through sign language (inside joke ask somebody about this who was on the trip), repitition, and the wonderful translators, both Guatemalan missionaries and our fellow team members we were able to get our message across. The message of our faith lesson, Barnabas encouraging Christians, and Christ's love for them. We exhibited this message of love to the children by reading books, playing games, showing interest in their lives, and assisting with their craft.

So, overall this was a special day for us and the whole team as it was the first day we traveled out of Guatemala City, to a place near Amatitlan called "El Rincon," and taught the planned out faith lesson to kids, teenagers, and adults.  After our morning breakfast, "Holiday Inn Express Des Plaines, IL style" (as Kevin would say), and a devotion from the Guatemalan missionary Manuel, we all got into two vans and traveled about an hour away to "El Rincon."  When we arrived we split up into three groups and went to visit different homes to do house visits.  These house visits had special significance for our team this morning because each family visited had a child sponsered by one of our team members.  This was a wonderful time for our team members who sponsored a child to meet them or recconect with them and their family. 

Then, we all convened for "the best lunch we have ever had" because we made it as Kevin says.  During lunch, many people experienced their "low" of the day by going to the bathroom which consisted of a non-functioning toilet surrounded by 4ft tall tin wall and a torn curtain for the door.  This gave many funny stories that team members would be glad to share in person upon our arrival back home. Next, after our lunch came our faith lessons which we divided into our children and young adult teams as talked about earlier.  This time was full of both funny and uplifting stories as we taught and sang about our common faith.  After much fellowship and play, we returned back "home" where we enjoyed much laughter and delicious mac and cheese prepared by Ginny. 

The night ended with a heartfelt devotion led by Andy where we shared encouragement for each of our teammates which was spiritually uplifting.  Here we were strengthened as a team knowing we are redeemed by Jesus Christ and reminded that God placed us here all together for a reason working for His kingdom. 
¿Como se dice the Holy Spirit works in marvelous ways en Espanol? #Godisonthemove

Monday, May 14, 2018

City Livin'

Hey Ya'll it's Skyler and Maddie comin' at ya live from Guatemala City.

Today we started our day venturing into the city to visit another ministry called Only a Child. Here we learned about George's mission of getting children off the street, into school, and eventually a job. We were able to visit with the boys, get to know them, and encourage them. We also got to see how the boxes there are made. Being able to visit with the boys there was a great experience because we were able to see how encouraged they are by us being there and taking an interest in them.

After Only a Child we went and parked outside of the dump.  Basically the dump is a massive landfill where all the trash goes and then people go down there and look for things.  People want to find recyclables that they can then sell, or maybe even food to feed their family.  As you can probably imagine this is not the safest of things to do because they are going through garbage which can cause diseases.  In this area their is a lot of drug and alcohol abuse, so the money that they may make from selling recyclables often goes to their addictions and not their family.  Visiting the dump really puts the way of life in Guatemala, Guatemalla City specifically, into perspective for all of us.  Living here is not the safest or easiest,but its their normal day-to-day life.

Today we met all the Guatemalan missionaries!!! We got to enjoy lunch with them to get to know them before going out on our house visits. For house viisits today we had three groups, all being able to experience different things.  Guatemalan houses are not your typical American houses.  The houses we saw today have a tin roof, cement floor, and curtains as doors.

The group Skyler was in went to visit a woman named Laura.  Seeing how grateful this woman was to see and visit with us was incredible. We hadn't even shared anything about ourselves or about the Bible yet and she spent a good 15 minutes talking about how happy she was to see us. We were able to pray with her and encourage her to continue praying about the things that troubled her.  After encouraging and visiting with her we went down the road a little bit to visit with a man named Jorge. Jorge was also very grateful to see us.  He talked with us about how he wanted to be able to go and spread the Gospel, but was having trouble walking to be able to do so. We shared some Bible verses of encouragement with him and we were able to pray with him.

The group Maddie was in went on a visit to one of the Guatemalan Missionairie's homes, Oscar. We were able to meet with his mother, one of his sisters, and his nephew. His mother was so greatful for us to be there and to share the Word of God with her. We then went across the street to visit Oscar's sister and she shared a medical miracle with us which she shared how greatful to God for this she was. It was such a great opportunity to be able to expericence the life of one of the Guatemalan Missionaries!

The group Mil was in went close to the city dump. The first house was a family of five, but the one son was not there. The mother told many stories about how through prayer she was healed, and how women come to her to ask for a blessing of a baby even though they were considered infertile. Towards the end of the visit, the very outgoing father decided he wanted the family to play for us. He brought out a guitar, accordian, and a bass stringed instrument which the daughter, mother, and he played. The second house had three boys and a single mom who was gone most of the day because she had to work long hours to keep the boys in school. We conversed about their interests such as art which they were very good at. Most importantly, we finished with a prayer reminding them of their Heavenly Father.

We all had such a wonderful day here in Guatemala City and can't wait for what is to come in the next few days.

Love and miss you all!

Hasta La Vista Baby!!!

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Go with the Flow!

Happy Sunday!

This morning we had a lovely breakfast of eggs, muffins, and bananas before we headed off to church. A short ten minute walk through the streets of Guatemala City brought us to Santidad A Jehova, a small church full of welcoming people excited to worship and praise God. When we  took our seats, an elderly woman came to each one of us and greeted us with a hug, a kiss, and told us 'God's Peace'. The service was unlike typical liturgical Lutheran worship that we are used to at CUC. Upon entrance, it was clear there was no set start time and many people were coming and going throughout the entire service. It was immediately apparent that we would have to go with the flow. In fact, one of the lead praise team members was taking a phone call, so the music couldn't start until he was finished. The church was designed in a very contemporary style with two screens on either side, three columns of stackable chairs, and the praise band was on a stage in the front with a center podium that had a miniture Ark of the Covenant in front. The music was very up-beat but with simple words that many of us could easily pick up on. During the 30 minutes of worship music, many of the women became very emotional, crying out and even falling to the floor in adoration of the Lord. There were several women, who Kevin described to us as being similar to Deaconesses, who went around to these women to comfort them and pray over them. This personally spoke to the two of us specifically since we are studying to be deaconesses. Along with the music, the service was embelished with a team of liturgical dancers. This week there were about 8 young boys, varying in age. Once the music was completed, the children came out and performed several songs and a skit to honor their mothers. In Guatemala, they celebrated Mother's Day on the 10th. One of our own team members, Christian, is serving with us instead of being home with her son for Mother's Day. Because Christian is fluent in Spanish she was able to follow the service and went up for the blessing that they gave for all of the mothers. It was a joy to see her immersed not only in the culture here but also being recognized on the day that we celebrate in the US. After all of the announcements that followed the commencement of mothers, the sermon began. Kevin explained to us that the pastor of the church isn't paid for his job and instead has another job to support himself; therefore, the congregation has to have a high level of participation throughout the service. In fact, one of the elders was the one who gave the message on 1 Samuel 1:1-8 about Hannah and Penniah. Though we couldn't understand most of what he said, we gathered that the main point was that we should ask God for our own blessings and not covet others' blessings. The service concluded with the presentation of two new babies to the congregation. Kevin told us they do this every 2nd Sunday of the month and it acts as a precursor to Baptism.

After church, we took the short walk back to the house and enjoyed a lunch of grilled cheese, chips and salsa. Next, we sorted out all of the supplies and donations we brought along with us. There were so many supplies that it covered the entire kitchen table and took 16 of us almost an hour to sort. We then had free time, which most of us used to take a nap. The rest of the evening consisted of planning our faith lessons for the week, eating lasagna for dinner, and playing several intense games of Dutch Blitz.

We would like to wish all of our mothers a very happy Mother's Day and God's richest blessings.

God's Peace and Goodnight,
Michelle & Haylie

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Bienvenidos a Guatemala!

We made it! Thank you everyone who prayed for our safe travel and who helped us to get here. Whether you made it finanically possible or physically drove us, we are grateful. We are also thankful to everyone that helped us fill our bags to bursting with donations. Tomorrow, we are looking forward to unpacking everything and helping sort and put it all away.
After our flight to Miami, we found Maddie who joined us via Baltimire and our team was finally all together. We grabbed a quick bite to eat and once again were on our way to our final destination, Guatemala City. Our trip through passport control and immigration (a first for several of our team) was like a breeze, thanks be to God! Before we knew it, we were walking out to the warm embraces of Kevin, Ginny, Manuel and even Julio! For several of us it felt like coming home to family. By the end of the week, I believe that will be the case for the whole team.
We are now at the house where we will stay each week. Kevin and Ginny showed us the essentials. Everyone has scoped out their bunk and been introduced to the odds and ends of living here this week. Will several of us need to go swimming for the toilet paper you aren't supposed to flush? Time will tell. Will everyone find the "sweet spot" for the hot water in the shower? That is yet to be determined. What we have already figured out is that Hannah may actually be a cut throat card player, several team members are forming a mint chocolate chip ice cream lovers group, and Jack has had several offers to do his hair. It is just the first day and some have just learned each other's names. Who knows what else we will learn about each other.
During our evening devotions, we talked about the fears in general we each have and specifically what we might be apprehensive about this week. We were reminded of the promise God has give us that He will command His angels concerning us, to guard us in all our ways (Psalm 91). This week we will tell the story of Barnabas encouraging the Christians at Antioch. Paul and Barnabas referenced Isaiah 42:6-7 to bring the light of the Gospel to the Gentiles, and we believe that promise to be true also for us. No matter what fears we may have, the Lord "who created the heavens and stretched them out", will keep us and make us to be His light. 
The house is quiet now. All of the early morning travelers are getting a good night's sleep. Rest well, and you will hear from us again tomorrow.
Adios! Dios le bendiga!

~Deaconess Betsy