Monday, February 27, 2012


Good morning from Santiago!  I tried to write this post last night but honestly I could not find the words to say.  This is the emotional part of the trip where two worlds start to collide and your heart and mind struggle to find a way to connect it all.

This is where I need FAITH.  My heart has been broken this week.  My family grew bigger.  I have nothing but admiration and love for Gregoria.  She is such a strong woman and so brave.  Her story has touched me in so many ways and I still wish we had time and resources to do more for her.  But I know that she is a child of God's and He loves her infinitley more than I do.  He has her and her precious children in his hands.  So I believe that and trust in that.  That is the Faith I will rely on today as we begin to say goodbye to this place and these people I have come to love so dearly.  I will recall over and over again the images of this week in my mind.  Vilma and Gregoria working so hard everyday at their looms.  The incredible smile that radiated so much joy as Gregoria looked through the window of her new home on thursday.  The excitement of the family as we brought in the groceries, cots and other items that you the church helped provide.  The time I spent with Esteban shoveling sand as he giggled 'help me' in spanish and reading books to the neighborhood kids.  So many pictures in my mind, so many memories.  Faith......
Gloria and Brother Tomas.

And yet as I prepare to leave Santiago today and head back first to Guatemala City and then home, my heart is aching to see my family.  I miss their smiles, hugs from my kids, talking with Corey, and yes even letting the dogs in and out the back door several times a day.  The flight home tomorrow will take an eternity.  I have chosen this visit not to take the meds I usually need for flying.  I think the excitement of coming (and Barrett talking to me for distraction) helped ease my nerves on the way here.  But tomorrow I will be tired, anxious and ready to be home.  I am already nervous about the flights.  Faith........

Cruz and his family.
I will be returning in July. It will be a different trip as the things we will be doing are slightly different than this one.  Much prayer is needed as we ask for God's guidance on how we should proceed.  There are still many ways we can help this community and talking with Pastor Diego has created a new excitement for that.  Again, Faith........

Knowing I will return soon helps as I continue to say goodbye to the people here who help us each time and have a special place in my heart.  Nino, our server, Josue, our driver, Gloria, our translator, guide, my roommate and wonderful friend!  Faith.... 

So although there is not one lesson I have learned, God definitely spoke the word FAITH to me for so many reasons.  And I will use that to continue to grow in my love for Him and the people around me; at home and across the country. 

The team before heading inside to church.
And as I finish typing this to you, God yet again shouts FAITH to me.  A prayer card from JoAnn.  Matthew 9:29 "Then he touched their eyes and said, 'according to your faith, will it be done to you."  Hebrews 11:1 "Faith is being sure of what you hope for and certain of what you cannot see."

I am certain part of my heart will remain here and I am certain God is watching over our new family.  Most of all I am certain and look forward to the day I will see each of them as brothers and sisters in His Kingdom.


Sunday, February 26, 2012

A dAy tO rEmEmBeR

This morning we Returned to Gregoria's house for our last time this trip. Pastor Diego, Brother Tomas, along with Cruz and his son Jose returned with us to bless the house. We were greeted at curb side by a small army of children to help us carry the staples and home wears to Gregoria's house 200 yds in from the street.

As we brought each item into the corn stalk gated court yard Gregoria's eyes got wide with excitement. Pastor Diego spoke to the family (Gregoria, Vilma, Claudia, Esteban) for a few minutes and then asked for comments from the team. I wanted it to be clear that our team was just a representative of a church family that felt blessed and wanted to bless others. The gifts they were receiving are not from us. They are from God. He only asked us to be obedient and bring them to them. Jason added with a comment about hearing part of her testimony and how it was powerful and filled with hope and courage.

Gregoria is a single mother of 3 children now. 4 years ago she and her children were abandon by an alcoholic, abusive husband/father. They were left to the wild and the generosity of strangers. She opened up to us and described how for 3 yrs she and the children lived among rocks and slept in the coffee fields, subject to the weather and the men that worked the fields. Occasionally someone would let them stay in their house or sleep on the ground within their fence, but she would start to feel their welcome being worn out and they would reluctantly head back into the coffee fields. It was not until Pastor Diego and the church found her that she started to feel hope. The elders help her get a loan to buy a small piece of property. She and the children slept on the dirt and worked on their looms that they borrowed from the church ladies to pay off their loan. They could not afford to, nor did they really know how to build a shelter from the elements.  Gregoria came to Pastor Diego and Brother Tomas and begged for help with a shelter. It was the rainy season. The Elders of the church worked together and built them a corn stalk house of which you can see in the picture of the site. She was not expecting the surprise she got when we arrived to build her a house made of brick and mortar.

At that time Gregoria surprised us. Vilma and Gregoria had been working hard on their looms all week. What we did not know was that the scarves that they were working so hard on were for us. She explained that she could never repay us for what we have done for her and her children. I think we as a group collectively at once told her that she already had through the smiles, laughter, and yes tears, we as a team of believers experienced while working on her house. She then walked among us and placed over our heads onto our necks a scarf they had made. It felt like we were receiving metals of love from her for the hard work we had done. I don't think I have ever received a more touching gift from someone I barely knew. Collectively none of us wanted to leave, but it was time. We hugged our goodbyes and posed for picture then reluctantly headed down the trail looking back over our shoulder to catch one last glance of her house before we went around a corner and it was gone.

The day continued with visits to families of past builds. It felt like home walking the trails of this village. Around every corner there was a familiar face. Diego's daughter's (Vilma and Claudia) followed us from their house. We were then joined by Marta (Pedro's daughter) and then Ernesto and more and more. I was able to finish each leg of our walk through the village with big hugs from families and children that I have grown to know and love over the past years of working in this village.

We finished our day with a good meal and tons of laughter followed by short periods of silence as we remembered the day and then felt the sorrowful pain of the coming departure from this community.

God is good. The Glory is all His, but He has rewarded us with something we could never obtain for ourselves.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Day 5 The school supplies!!!

Today we woke up more rested and were able to catch some extra z's because we went to the school. We finished packing all the school supplies that we started packing the night before. We sorted the items out into individual bags so that we could give each child a portion of the school supplies. The first day we were here we purchased the notebooks they typically use for school but apparently we did not get enough. So today after breakfast we took a trip in TucTuc's to purchase additional notebooks to ensure the children each received some supplies.

Jason and I used some of the money people had given us to go and purchase additional pencils and colored pencils from Costco and the Dollar store. We had a great time purchasing the additional supplies before we left for the trip. Also today when we handed out the supplies the children were very excited with big smiles on their faces. It was a lot of fun to see the joy the children had for items we take for granted. Simple things like note books, pencils, pens, and other items we do not think twice about. Thanks to everyone who purchased school supplies! I wish you all could have been there to see the look on their faces.

After we handed out school supplies we met pastor Diego who took us into Cerro de Oro to all the schools. We visited the schools in the community to see the facilities for planning activities such as VBS for the children in July. Once they met with the principles at the schools we headed off to see the house. Cruz and Jose had made great progress and were finishing the construction of the stove in the old house. This is a unique feature for the home typically the kitchen is placed in one of the two rooms of the home. Gregoria asked if we could build the stove in the old home so that they can have two rooms instead of one. She would like to have a room for Esteban when he gets married for him and his wife to live in.

Barrett with Pedro (the twins brothers)
We told Cruz and Jose we were heading out to visit some of the families we had built houses for. So we started at Quebac family visited with Concepcion her two sons (Cruz and Diego) and her mother, Catarina. We prayed for the family at the home and were able to spend some time visiting with them. Next we headed to Puac's family and talked with Juana and her son Jacinto. We also prayed for the family and their home. It was exciting to see the improvements the families had made to the homes to make them more comfortable.We visited a few families today since we have to visit 12 families total.

Thanks for all the prayer and support we really appreciate and are enjoying what God is doing in the lives of the community.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Day 4 Roof & Floors!

Hola from Santiago-Atitlan. This is "Yason". Today all of us woke up a little cranky due to some unruly roosters that could not tell night from day. We quickly decided that it would be appropriate for all of us to pray for a peaceful and uplifting rest of the day. And just so all of you know, Anna is ok and her eyebrow has almost already healed over. She was not affected in her spotting of the dogs on this mornings drive to Cerro de Oro unfortunately.
Barrett is now sifting with Anna. Jason got fired!

  God did not disappoint as he answered our prayer this morning! Cruz and Jose had already placed the tin roof and were ready for us to start mixing some concrete for the floors! Yes today was a little hotter than the past few but we accomplished much and had some "spare" time to play with wooden blocks and read a couple of books with the little boys in the neighborhood. In fact, one boy, Leonardo, read the book "Harry el Perrito Sucio" to me in Spanish! Leonardo also signed his name in my journal after he was wondering what I was doing. It is very encouraging to see these young boys (about 5 years to 10 years) show me what they have been learning in school. I cannot wait to visit all the houses from previous trips and the schools this weekend!

  Tonight we invited Brother Tomas and his wife Elena and family to dinner to ask about the mission plant in Cerro de Oro. He revealed some very exciting news to us! Gregoria and her family (our house build) have all accepted Jesus Christ as their savior and are to be baptized together this following Sunday March 4th! We are so sad that we will not be here, yet so excited for them and look forward to all the blessings for their family. AMEN!

  Today we ask for you to please be in prayer for ALL the good work being and to be done down in Santiago at El Buen Pastor and Mission Bautista in Cerro de Oro. Please pray for Brother Tomas as he tries to balance work in construction as a builder with his ministry in the church mission. Pray for his wife Elena as she joins other women in a ministry geared towards younger women in San Lucas. Pray for continued health for our group and encouragement as we go visit and pray with families of previous trips and as we bless Gregoria's home this weekend. Pray for all the school children that will receive supplies that their parents could not afford otherwise. 

Day 3 – Construction, Playtime & Fellowship.

There are so many things to say that it is hard to know where to start.  I want to share so many stories and somehow put into words the blessings that God has shown us so far this week.    He is using us to help this family and minister to those around them, but He is also working in each of us as well.  I led devotional on Monday morning and asked the team to keep their eyes and hearts open for what God was showing them.  It seems as though every time I come He has a theme for me.  For some reason I keep hearing Him whisper the word Faith this trip.  Although there is nothing that has stuck out as ‘the lesson’ yet, I am still waiting, listening, and trusting that He will show me why that word when he is ready. 
Today was full of many fun things.  Although we were still working on the house (and yes mixing mortar) we were also able to spend more time playing with the kids in the village.  Anna had a lot of fun stacking blocks with them that Barrett brought from home, Barrett was a carnival ride that the kids all love (he lifts them up with one arm and sometimes will swing them around) and Jason or ‘Yason’ as they say it, was the one that they would love to watch and help work with. 
As for the house, we finished the walls, got the boards up for the roof and started to level the floors somewhat.  I do have to say a huge ‘thank you’ to Greg Reed for teaching me how to hammer a nail on my last trip to Guatemala.  It came in handy today when I got to hammer some nails for the roof.  Although Barrett would tell you I still hammer like a girl, I was pretty proud of myself and Cruz seemed to think I did okay as well.  J  Much better than before (and much faster too).
Unfortunately we had our first injury on the job today.  And before anyone can ask, it was not me.  I wasn’t even involved.  Anna and I were sifting gravel and handing our boxes to Jason to dump and then he would pass them back.  In a split second of looking elsewhere, Jason hit Anna in the head above her eye and it started bleeding.  Barrett saw blood and ran for the first aid kit while we reassured Jason so he wouldn’t pass out (apparently he doesn’t like blood).  Gloria took the place of a doctor and helped get Anna taken care of.  She probably needed some stitches but butterfly bandages will have to do.  I told her she will have a lifetime souvenir of her trip to Guatemala.  Her eye started to turn purple this evening and we are all curious to see what the morning will bring.  But the funniest part was when we had dinner with Pastor Diego.  When he saw Anna and her bandages he looked at Jason and made a punching motion asking if he had hit Anna.  He did not know what had happened earlier in the day.  Everyone started to laugh and then Gloria explained to him that well yes, in a way he had.  Pastor Diego got a good laugh out of it too but then showed genuine concern and asked if she needed stitches and told her at the very least to put ointment on it and clean bandages.  J  Even better is that Anna is a vet and we are relying on her to be our team doctor.  So what do you do when your ‘doctor’ is the one who needs help?
As I mentioned we were able to have dinner with Pastor Diego, his wife Mary, and their young daughter.  We spent some time talking about how we could continue to assist the church here in Guatemala.  There are still so many things we can be doing to help.  Pastor Diego had a lot of ideas and I believe that we can work together to accomplish them.  Please join me in prayer and ask God how he would like to lead us in this.
We are looking forward to putting the roof on tomorrow and finishing up the house.  Please pray for our continued health and safety.  Pray for rest and rejuvenation.  We are tired.  But it is a good tired.  And we will be ready to get up and give it our all, heart and soul, again tomorrow, all for His Glory!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Day 2 onsite. Awesome day

Ok, I may be saying something that has been said several times before. “BEST DAY EVER!!!!”.
Anna is still the reigning champ at slug dog (slug bug played with stray dogs instead of VW bugs) although she is getting stiff competition from Paula. YA Jason and I still suck at it. HAHA.
We arrived at the site a few minutes late today to find Cruz and Jose waiting for us with smiles and laughing. We have already bonded well with them again. And the pranks are constant with  laughter filling the air all day.
Anna and Jason took their turn at sifting sand today while Paula and I tag teamed on 2 monster batches of mortar for the walls.
Brother Tomas came to work with us all day and we had many small conversations ranging from his prayers for us and our missions future as well as his daughters progress in school, to where he has been working.
Please pray for Cruz, Paula and I had a conversation over the past two days with him. He lives just up the trail from Moises whom we built a home for in February of 2010. Moises was Catholic, but has not gone to church for many years. We continue to visit and pray with him and his family every July and February when we are here. Cruz has been talking to him about Jesus and inviting him to come to church with them. Paula gave Cruz a bible to give to Moises. Pray the Holy Spirit works through the word of God and Cruz’s faithful evangelizing. It will be a day of rejoicing in heaven when this lost sheep rejoins the flock.
Paula and I played with Esteban all day while working. He was our fun little apprentice. He has the best laugh.  Paula also sat down near the end of the day and read him a book. Of which he was very happy to sit and listen to.

Vilma, the eldest daughter stayed home while Mom went to market. She worked diligently on her loom and laughed secretly to herself about her little brother and his games with us. We are bonding famously with this family and of course our relationship with Cruz and his son, Jose is growing closer and stronger.
We all thought it was very trusting of Cruz and Brother Tomas to leave all of us there by ourselves to work on the house without supervision.

All in all the glory was God’s today and it was good

Monday, February 20, 2012

Guatemalan coffee, brick, belts, and small helpers

Cruz, Jason, Jose, Paula, Anna, Barrett
We started out the day right with a devotional and cups of Guatemalan coffee.  We then packed up our bags and headed out to Cerro de Oro for our first day of construction. We met Pastor Diego who showed us where in the village the family lived. We wound around several homes and finally arrived at our destination.  Cruz and Jose (skilled construction workers) had already made a significant amount of progress on the home. We quickly got to work laying bricks after a brief demonstration and explanation from Cruz. I quickly learned that I am not good at laying bricks in a straight line. Cruz was an excellent quality control and would come help show me how to readjust the bricks appropriately to make a good row.
Gregoria and Vilma working on back strap loom making belts

While we were working Gregoria (mother) and Vilma (oldest daughter) started working they finished doing the laundry. Then Vilma got to work on the back strap loom making belts.  Vilma was weaving colorful belts that the women traditionally wear around their skirts. The belts are sold for about 30Q ($3.50) and it takes her about 2 days to complete 4 of them on a single loom.

After lunch the younger children were home from school and quickly joined us at the construction site. They were playing in the sand Gloria and Barrett had sifted through in the morning. Three of the boys help Paula put sand in the bucket to mix concrete. We went back to work laying brick and Paula mixed another mean batch of cement. I attempted to lay brick straight but Cruz had to come along and fix the work.  Just ask Jason and Paula if I offer to help build your wall politely decline because you may be fixing my work.

Jason and Estiban
Paula and I worked on one room together where we had precariously stacked bricks to stand on to help build the wall. Gloria and Barrett cleared out dirt to level the ground while Jason built the wall. We quickly realized that Jason had a nice sturdy bench to stand on and build the wall. Jason quickly got a small helper named Estiban (Gregoria’s Son) who decided to climb on the “scaffolding” around  and help. The help quickly turned into playing in the water and flinging it at everyone. We finished up our rows and then headed out for the day. We finished the day the same way we started the day with devotional, worship, and cups of coffee.

Please pray for opportunities for us to show Christ’s love to these children and being able to show the gospel to the people in the village. Thank you for all your support and prayers for our team. 
Gloria after helping Barrett with sifting sand 
Jose and Jason working on the bricks trying to get them just perfect. 

Me working on some bricks to try to get them straight. 

Jason and his little helper working on the wall.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Greater Things Have Yet to Come

Hola, from Santiago-Atitlan, Guatemala! Today started out great with a devotional reading of Isaiah 26:1-4 and praying for the greater things that are yet to come as we are preparing our hearts to work in Cerro de Oro tomorrow morning. After breakfast the six of us (including Gloria & Joshue) we went out into the city to purchase some staple food items for our family at the Wal-Mart in Guatemala City (Yes it is really Wal-Mart). They were very helpful even after Paula ran into a cosmetic rack with her shopping cart! We then proceeded with our heavily loaded van west on Pan-Am Hwy to the Highlands. Since reading in the van would have made 2 of 6 of us car sick we decided to play a game. "Slug-Dog" quickly became "Slug- Any random farm animal you see". Note to Self- do not play this game with a Veterinarian in the Van (my wife). She can spot a dog a half-mile down the road.
So we successfully made it to Santiago-Atitlan unscathed! All of us are super excited about getting to work tomorrow in Cerro de Oro: Home of the Sleeping Elephant. Please pray for Unity and Open Hearts! To Be Continued.....(loosing internet connection)