Sunday, March 31, 2013

Happy Easter! (Day 893)

I hadn't planned on this post, but every once in a while something is said which sparks a connection in my brain.  Last night, a friend of mine was upset that he had been asked to clean up a mess which wasn't his.  It had been a long day, and he was tired.  And, perhaps most of all, he knew whose mess it was and felt they should clean it up.

Yesterday at work, I had a bottle of pop which I normally drink with my lunch.  The one time that I don't actually watch myself open my pop, it explodes.  Fortunately, none got on my light blue shirt I was wearing.  (The pop is red.)  It got on the desk.  It got on the floor...and it got on the yellow chair cushion.  A little also got on my dark gray pants, but you couldn't tell.  Well, my paid employment is at a hotel; so the yellow chair cushion having red spots in the reception area was just not possible.  The receptionist did me a favor and grabbed me a white washcloth to mop up the mess.  I did the best I could with that.  Then the cleaning lady walked in and started cleaning.  When she noticed what had happened with me, she came over and started cleaning up my mess, even to the point of putting her clean hands on the dirty mop to make sure the side of the desk wouldn't be sticky.  Later, I took the chair cushion and washcloth to her and asked her what to do because I really wasn't sure.  She simply said, "Give them here," and walked off to make sure they got washed.  I was a little embarrassed, but mostly I was humbled.  This was not her mess.  This was my mess, but I didn't know the best way to go about cleaning it up.

Those nearly 2000 years ago when Jesus died on the cross, he was cleaning up my mess.  In Matthew 5:17-18, we read, "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.   For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished."  So, what is the law?  The law is about cleaning up your own messes.  In Leviticus chapter 4, we can read about the sin offering, what had to be done to atone for sin.  A person had to sacrifice a bull, a goat, or a lamb without defect in order to purify them from their sins.  But what is really "without defect?"  When has your dog eaten your homework or thrown up on your rug?  I know little about livestock, but I imagine that they're much like dogs, not perfect, defective.  So, basically, all these offerings to God just weren't cutting it. (Reference Hebrews 10; it was too long to include here, and I'd like you all to get some exercise pulling out your Bibles...or googling it.)  Which is why Jesus, a.k.a. God, had to take on a human body and have his blood poured out for our sins.  God, being the guy who sets the standards, is the only one who can be without defect.  (It's a little like "keeping up with the Joneses.")

I am not perfect. I make messes.  Often, I am not adequate to clean up my own messes.  I am humbly blessed to have Someone who cleans them up for me.  Happy Easter!  Your messes are cleaned up!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Learning to Speak (Day 884)

I don't usually ask for money directly; however, I'm searching for donations to help me learn Kaqchikel. The cost of classes here in Antigua is $250/week (6 hours per day, 5 days per week) or $200/week (3.5 hours per day, 5 days per week). The former obviously appeals to me more due to the value (hours/$). I am theoretically only looking at 1 month of intensive classes, and then using my Kaqchikel to communicate with everyone around me (who speaks it) in order to further solidify it. Anyone have $1k to help me become trilingual and better serve the people I'm here to serve?

Normalmente, no pido dinero directamente, pero estoy buscando donacions para ayudarme aprender Kaqchikel. El precio en Antigua es $250/semana (6 horas/dia, 5 dias/semana) o $200/semana (3.5 horas/dia, 5 dias/semana). El primero obviamente me parece mucho mas por el valor (horas/$). En teoria, solo estoy viendo un mes de clases intensivos y dispues usando mi Kaqchikel para comunicarme con todos (quienes lo hablan) a mi alrededor para permanecerlo en mi cerebro. Alguien tiene mil dolares para ayudarme ser trilingue y servir mejor a la gente?

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Bring on the Rain (Day 882)

Yesterday was a big day for me.  Yesterday was a big day for a lot of people.

Some of you may remember Juana.  In case you don't feel like viewing the YouTube video, she's a mother of 7 (all boys) whose husband abandoned them all.  The oldest two boys--still minors--work to help support their family.  I took Juana's story back to Michigan with me, along with some of the crafts that she and her sons make.  This story, through a really strange route, made its way to a woman named Christina.  Christina is a mother of 8 whose husband is very much in the picture.  And Juana's story touched Christina's heart.  So many people want to help and don't know how, but Christina took a step and asked me what could be done.

In the year and a half since I met Juana de Leon and her family, their condition has worsened.  Their roof had significant leaks.  They had no bed. (The bed in the video is reportedly just a few elevated planks which they were sleeping on.)  They had no money to celebrate Christmas (until I returned in late November with some money from items which had been sold).  It seems as though only two of her children are in school this year. The oldest one of the five who I met on my last trip has a large open sore on one of his hands.  In fact, none of the three boys who were present at the house when we arrived yesterday seemed to have grown an inch.  (We can probably attribute that to some low-level of malnutrition.  The boys don't look malnourished, but they aren't growing.  And considering that the three who we saw were aged 13, 10, and 5, they should have grown in a year and a half.)  And, perhaps worst of all, a large crack has formed in the side of their adobe house.  (It is slightly visible in the video, but now it is pronounced on both the front and backside of the house.)

However, one thing had changed for the better: Juana de Leon had a peaceful smile on her face which didn't seem the least bit strained.  Yesterday, she received a new roof through a donation made by Christina and one of her daughters (really, in a way, the whole family).  Sadly, the donation did not quite cover an entire new roof, but that was partly due to the decisions which I ultimately made.  In Guatemala, there are two thicknesses of roof.  The thin one is cheaper, and the thick one is more expensive.  I'll give you one guess as to which one holds up longer.  (This is part of the reason that the poor stay poor.)  Luckily for us, the man who runs the only hardware store in Los Encuentros is a member of the church where Camillo (Ismael and Edgar's father) is the pastor, and he was able to sell it to us for less than he would normally.  Even so, in the end the decision was made to use two of Juana's existing roof pieces which weren't in too bad of shape to finish covering the roof.  The even better news is that we had estimated a little poorly, and we only ended up needing to use one of the existing roof pieces.

Juana had a basket which she had woven and presented it to me.  I had a loaf of bread I had baked (especially for her family using incaparina in place of 1 cup of flour) which I presented to her.  I was also able to present her with a Spanish-English New Testament which came to me in August 2012 complements of some Gideons.  (Please, bring me more Bibles!)  And if that wasn't enough, Juana's day only got better...

...And my day only got more crazy.  You see, we were slated to talk to the mayor of Solola concerning the formation of a group of artesans to travel to foreign countries.  I'm supposedly the one who is supposed to make this all happen.  Anyway, Ismael called to double check about this meeting.  We were supposed to bring the artesans to the meeting!  So, we drove around to the houses of the two other artesans in Los Encuentros and advised them to pack up a sample of their work and get to Solola (the capitol of the department of Solola...I know, confusing), and then we drove towards Solola and picked up another artesan.  Shortly thereafter started a series of meetings which lasted about 3 hours.  The main language in which these meetings were conducted was Kaqchikel, the native language in Los Encuentros, Solola; and San Antonio Aguas Calientes, Sacatepequez (where I live).  However, my neighbors don't speak anywhere near as much of it.  I don't understand Kaqchikel.  I speak about 20 words of it (11 of those being numbers).  It really is on my list of things I urgently want/need to do.  Let's just say that meetings of any length being carried out in a language you don't understand are exhausting.  I was asked to share a few opinions which I Spanish.  And then I was asked to name their artesan group.  Wow.  Talk about an honor.  But no one had warned me and I was supposed to come up with a name on the spot?  So, throwing a random idea out there, I said "Artesanos de Solola Internacional."  They seemed happy with it, and it describes the group perfectly.  Then they said I needed a name.  I don't know.  I think my parents gave me a fine name.  They said I needed an organization.  So, apparently, I need to become an NGO.  I've had a day to think about it, and I think I've decided on a name; I just know nothing about becoming an NGO.

As I said, Juana's day got better.  At the first meeting, we discussed Juana's situation a little.  At the end of the day, she not only had a loaf of bread, a New Testament, and a roof, she also had 2 foam mattresses, and a (supposedly, but I think more) 10-pound bag of healthy food for herself and children.  I was also able to talk to the woman who was in charge of our first meeting and share with her about the wall at Juana's house. She explained a little about a new kind of house that some people are trying to build in the area which looks a little like an igloo.  She asked me to send her the pictures, and she'd add them to the list of cases to try to get the project funded.

Things are going to get better for Juana and her family.  This weekend I will be sending some toothpaste, antibacterial cream, perhaps another loaf of bread, and a couple toys to the family.  Sadly, I don't think I have any spare toothbrushes sitting around.  A lot of the time, we say that there is nothing to be gained in just giving to a family.  They don't gain anything because they get used to receiving.  However, Juana didn't ask her husband to leave her pregnant and with 6 boys under the age of 10.  And yet, for 6 years, she has managed to the best of her ability.  I know very little about the oldest two boys and haven't seen two of the other ones in over a year and a half, but I do know that none of the boys have ever appeared neglected or unloved.  For a woman who likely had no schooling to have to suddenly provide for so many by herself, the woman hasn't done so poorly.  She is one of the 19% in Solola who lives in extreme poverty.  If you recognize those who are willing to put in the effort and you give them a hand up to get to even ground, that's when you can see them fight a fair fight.  It's not about giving her a car and a TV and a laptop to each child.  It's about putting a roof over their heads, a meal every day to take the edge off, and a place to sleep at night.  Once they have that, they can work to get the other meal or two per day; they can work to put the boys through school, and they can mend the clothes and buy new-ish ones (and no, we're not talking Abercrombie & Fitch here).

And today, it started to rain at my house.  I think God was waiting for the roof.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Mission Moment: March Newsletter

 I think God must be looking out for me. Within 48 hours of finding out that I was without a paid job with which I pay my house rent and food, I was offered another job. The new job was to start 3 weeks later, but I was also given two translating jobs in the meantime. In other words, I've been doing okay financially.
The new job isn't high on my list of things I'd like to be doing down here, but it offers me enough flexibility that I will be able to serve more in the communities where I have been led to serve. It will also allow me opportunities to translate for mission teams which is another way in which I am able to serve the people down here. I'm working as a manager for some hotels in Antigua. It's 4 hours per day, 5 days per week. The hours and days are almost completely flexible. It's definitely higher stress than teaching English. I'm now responsible for all of the English which happens in 8 different hotels; this includes making sure the receptionists can sell rooms to English-speaking people. In short, give me middle schoolers any day! However, while on one had I feel like I'm getting away from my goal—helping the people who need help—I also feel that I'm getting closer to it—being able to be in the communities where I would soon like to be able to bring groups and have the flexibility to be with those groups.
The story I have to share with you this month, though, is a sad one. I ran into one of my students from last year on the bus a week or so ago. She graduated from the 9th grade and is now studying at a high school in Antigua. I asked her about her former classmates, if any of them had gone on as well. She told me that of the 12 of them, 9 or 10 are still in school. For me, the saddest part of it is that the brightest student out of the 12 of them (the only student in the entire school to have enough points to pass my class by the end of the third marking period) is not continuing on in her studies. This is likely due to a lack of money in the family. I've been considering what can be done, if anything, and what should be done. I'd ideally like to find someone to sponsor her education. The girl's name is Ana Gabriel, and she is one of those girls who could be a neurosurgeon or some sort of engineer or president of Guatemala. Someone with her drive and intelligence could become anything she wanted to be. But in this, one has to realize that maybe she just wants to be a wife and mother. Maybe she has come to her own conclusion that she doesn't need her family to spend any more money on her education. Maybe she herself has decided that ninth grade is good enough. Anyway, keep an eye out for further thoughts about her, and if you know someone who might wish to sponsor her education, let me know. (If you're not an e-mailer, you can send me messages through my mother who regularly e-mails me.)

The Care and Keeping of a Missionary

Obviously, I'd like for you to keep Ana Gabriel in your prayers. As for me, I want to thank you, as always, for your constant support—both in prayer and financially—of the work being done here in Guatemala. I hope to travel to Solola soon and present a roof and clothes for 5 boys which a sponsor in the US has donated. I'd like to ask for your prayers of safe travel not only for that trip, but also for an upcoming trip to the capitol to renew my visa for another 3 months which I'll have to take in the next 2 weeks. As always, you can read more at my blog: and you can e-mail me at I look forward to hearing from each and every one of you!