Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Guatemala Journals 3

The week with the children is over. We will spend today with the youth then go to Antigua. Yesterday we had a birthday party / "goodbye Americanos" party. A small group of kids sang in heavily accented English "Happy Birthday to Paul" (one of our team mates) then they swarmed him like bugs giving hugs. It was a sweet, sweet moment. (then they smashed cake on his face..pictured here) The kids were so elated to have cake and ice cream. They pounded down their food - green beans and eggs (sounds strange. tastes good), arroz y tortillas, of course, just so they could treasure that sweet birthday pastel.

We repeated the drill for the afternoon students, after the team dined on the same yummy meal...plus fresh-made Guacamole. I mean, a giant VAT of it. mmmm. (Since avocados grow in Guatemala - there's a big tree outside the ministry center - they are not such a pricey acquisition as in the US.)

As usual, the afternoon class wore me thin. A bunch of kids in one room with our mediocre Bible lessons... thank God for Rolando, our translator. He knew the ropes with these kids and led them through some songs that were tremendously more fun and hip than those 70s kids songs I strummed on the guitar in days previous. The kids loved the one about how Jesus is like hot bread and chocolate - once you get it, you can't help but share! There was another one about penguins...not sure about the theology, but the kids dug the dance moves.

So, as I stepped back to the front with a sore throat and tired voice to yell the memory verse 5 times and trudged through reading another lesson, I felt a little...useless? Then I realized again that regardless of what I do, I'm loving these kids...that's the impact. My task-oriented self has been rocked and God has been merciful to let me see His grace and love...in ways I do and do not understand.

I think of a comment Hermana Sara's (the regular Hope 4 Guat. teacher) made to me one of the first days. I stressed about the schedule and when to start and kept asking her if we needed to gather the kids or at what time...meanwhile students were being loved and hugged by our team and all I cared for was getting the "real stuff" started. Ha. Sara leaned to me and in her broken English said with a big smile, "Is okay! Reeelaaxxx". It made my shoulders go limper and the muscles in my face tense into a genuine smile. Ultra-efficient, control-freak American girl leveled by love. Awesome.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Guatemala Journals 2

Two days of class already.
Two days of kids' huge smiles and confusion.
On one hand, this VBS thing feels like a joke..that we're reading from a script: a very boring script read in a bad Spanish accent. But then, I'm glad they're here, even if they're bored. I'm glad they're here and not on the street with gangs. And I'm glad we're here.

There's so much to reflect on..what's happening in and outside of my heart, but even now I'm torn by needing to plan today's VBS lesson!

We went to homes yesterday...the home of 2 of the program participants. We prayed before we went as the area is unsafe (yet these girls walk there very day). We journeyed through what seemed a labyrinth of narrow passages leading steeply down, then steeply upward, passing ladies in traditional Mayan dress carrying large bundles on their heads. We past a place where several people have been killed. The 12 of us journeyed, not the least bit out of place, I'm sure. We carried crates of food and supplies for the family: items like rice, coffee, sugar, fruits, vegetables. We got strange looks from neighbors and gang boys, "maras". Their imprint is unfortunately on this community we ventured through, where families are looking for protection and hope amidst near squalor.

The father of the home we visited is a fledgling pastor - he has a church of 17 which is very close by. I gather that more than a third of the congregation are his family members. The family is living on the mother's meager $250 /month salary she earns at a clothing factory. This can hardly support a family of 7. We did not get to meet her, I believe that she works until about 3 am.

The family welcomed all of us so graciously, directing us to sit on their neatly made beds in the living room: One double bed, fit for the 3 boys and a set of bunk beds, presumably for the girls. A few steps beyond in the concrete block home with steel sheet roof was another "room" which seemed to double as kitchen and master bedroom, as I noticed a small bed in the corner and had not yet accounted for where the parents might sleep. The girls served cold cola to us..likely a rare treat for them. It was a treat for us on that hot day in the stuffy confines of their humble home. The father spoke to Sara, one of the ministry staff, about their struggles as a family, about his story, past, reasons for lost job, but most of all about how good God has been to him and his family, and how he trusts the vision that God has given him for a church. I translated when I could, and strained to hear the words of this man who has experienced so much in life already.

The eldest girl showed us a family album - maybe the only pictures they have. The collection, carefully placed in a tattered, old 3-ring binder also contained certificates and diplomas belonging to the various children for school awards, baptism, etc. The pride with which the eldest girl she displayed the worn album to me was truly delightful. I gazed at the aged photos of her father in "el campo" with his field-working buddies, her baptism photos, a few mugs family and friends and was thankful for that insight into their world.

I'm so glad to have gotten a small taste for the very difficult, yet genuine lives of this family. To accept their graciousness was humbling. We prayed for the father, for his strained relationship with his wife, for his church, and for the children to be good students. They are a lucky number to actually have their father around. Most families in zone 18 have only mom's or grandmothers, and the men who are present in most children's lives would be better off not around, based on the heart-wrenching stories of violence, alcoholism and prostitution that I heard.

*Photos Courtesy of Lynn Henry*

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Guatemala Journals

Firstly, I am back safely, and now that its Thursday evening (well, Friday morning really), I have no excuse but to be quite well-rested by now. My only souvenirs are a small wooden cross I bought in Antigua and the cold I picked up about mid-week. Not to be outdone, most every other member of our team got the same soar-throat, congestion melange. Its no surprise really that we all got the same illness, considering the 2 hours of quality time the 15 of us had together in a small van, and our fates were not bouyed by those collective trail mix bags that we all shared.

I can safely say that I got no other (you know the one I'm talking about ) illness while there. And, despite a few days of doing lice removal (see image above), or shall I say "de-lousing" on several children in less-than-ideal conditions, I don't think I got those little critters either.

The trip was a wonderful, challenging, changing experience. I loved our team, I was impressed with the community outreach that Hope 4 Guatemala is doing, and I am SO thankful for your prayers and support. Here are a few journal entry splices, and a link to my photos. Feel free to browse as you feel:

We are here. We have passed many hours in a small van, playing silly car games, asking Jose questions about this and that.

My hearts condition has vexed me. This place seems familiar, so the newness is not, well, a novelty. My heart and mind have changed perhaps becoming harder since the last "true" mission trip I took. I'm not sure how to name it really. I'm not sure how to blame it really.

Maybe it's okay...Maybe one answer to this tension is that I have approached this trip with a role in mind: My job is to help with Spanish and VBS classes...I offer this THING and thus I have worth. I think my reasons are skewed. Do I want God glorified or Katie?

The second tension... I have generally low esteem for short term mission outreaches. It seems like such a show, so much work for so little ...but as I see more and more, that is a lie. We are part of something bigger here. Jose Armas, the leader of H4G, is so deeply encouraged by our presence, its very exciting. Its amazing to see what has been built up from this ministry..what God has done. I'm excited to participate in that, even if for a short spell.


Casa de Waffles ...oye!

Yes, its just like Waffle House, but they have Pollo Ranchero, fried plantains and other Guatemalan specialties. Of course, they have Waffles, too. Its the "brainchild" of a Guatemalan pastor who toured the US and fell in love with the Open-all-night yellow and brown wonder that is da Wa-Ho. Como se dice "Scattered, Smothered & covered" en Espanol?


Friday, July 13, 2007

Various and Sundry

Hi friends -
Time has ticked by, and so has the appropriate-ness of my planned blogs about the Gold Cup, Fathers Day and other life events that are suddenly tucked away into the past. I did feel it timely to give a brief update on life and ask you to keep me in your thoughts and prayers as I head out bright and earlier tomorrow morning for Guatemala. I'll be joining a team of 15 others from my church to work with an outreach in Guatemala City called Hope 4 Guatemala. We'll be doing things like building a library, marking and cataloging books for said library, and teaching about 150 kids a day Vacation Bible School-type lessons and encouraging then to dream big things for their lives. We'll help feed them...for many of the kids, its the only full meal they get in a day. Plus, each team member is hauling down an extra suitcase full of things like shoes, toothpaste, paper, and other vital supplies for the outreach to these impoverished children and their families.

I'm excited about the opportunity. Its definitely kicked my Spanish practice into high gear having to translate Bible lessons, learn Spanish songs, etc. needless to say, I've been watching more Univision than usual...and not just because they're the only ones showing good futbol matches.

I hope to do some on sight reporting from Guatemala City, but given the patchy internet service, my best bet is good ol' pencil to paper journaling and pictures. Here is our team.

Before I part, I must also mention that I have just returned this evening from seeing The Decemberists at Chastain Park Amphitheatre. I regret that my review will be brief, for the music merits more than a few passing adjectives, however, see above for my raison du brevity. The show was at Chastain, a daunting enough venue for any serious musician as you must compete with yuppies gleefully chatting, the crunch of Carr's water crackers and cheese and the clinking of $10 chardonnay (people spend a few extra when its a concert night...).

Note that I say none of the above to belittle such traditions. I sat happily listening to the Crane Wife, a Decemberist title track, while munching on Gouda and sipping a mediocre white wine. That's what Chastain is for..your inner Yuppie.

Anyway, open-air ambience aside, the music was the main event. I regret there were not more people there to enjoy a marvelous set by the musically diverse quartet from Portland. Of course, the drama was enhanced a few degrees by their back-up band - the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. While for some artists, this summer-stock fare can add more cheese than have 6 Chastain tables (read: when I saw Peter Cetera a few years back). However, the Decemberists worked well with the accompaniment, their songs were bigger, and still enjoyable.

All for now, I must rest before tomorrow's long day. Hasta luego amigos. Espero que pueda escribir mas despues del viaje. Et pour mis amis Francaise....Bonne Fete du Jour Bastille!! J'espere que vous bouverez un Pastis pour moi et Jeff! Allez les Bleus.