Saturday, August 31, 2013

Quick Update: Day 1,046

There were a lot of things which people wanted to happen before I left where I'm currently living.  Antonella, my dog, needed a new home.  My landlady wanted me to find someone to live in the house.  (She's big on references.)  And I had a few other things to do which required cooperation of a few people...who either never seemed to have time or be around.

The cost of moving seems like it would come out to about 2 months of rent in the house where I currently am.  And, after 4 months in Los Encuentros, I'd apparently have to move again; so that's 4 months rent spent on moving.  So, despite that I'd be getting the house for free, it doesn't seem financially responsible for me to move at this point.

However, I would like to see this project off of the ground and then mostly be able to step back as community members step up to take it over.  So, pending a discussion with a few people, I'd like to travel to Los Encuentros every other week to deal with a lot of the details there.  I would do home visits and run meetings.  I'd stay 2-3 days and come back to my home.  It's a $6 round trip; I think I'm okay with that.

There will be another updating coming in the next few days as details are hashed out about this new idea.

Monday, August 26, 2013

A Disappointing Situation: Day 1,041

So, let me whine and complain a bit.  It's not something I usually do, and I'll try to not take up too much of your time.

About a month ago, I talked to Ismael about renting a few rooms in his house to live in while I worked on the community project that we're starting out there.  He said that I was free to name my own rent price, and so I've just been waiting for him to be around to see if the price I named was okay with him.  Today, I finally succeeded in talking to him.  Today, one of his little brothers also succeeded in talking to him.  It turns out that his little brother (who I will leave unnamed) is going to start building his own house there in January and has asked if the mason can live in Ismael's house.  Apparently, blood is thicker than sentiment.  The only good thing that comes out of all of this is that Ismael is willing to let me live in the house rent-free for 4 months starting September 3rd.  The bad news is that I'm supposed to be out of this house August 31st.  So, I need to talk to the landlady and see if she'll let me stay 4 extra days without charging me an entire month of rent.  If she does, I kind of just want to throw in the towel on this entire thing.  I was okay living in Ismael's house because it is so close to his parents' house.  I don't want to live anywhere else around there; I don't feel comfortable living anywhere else around there.

What I really want to do right now is cry and scream like a baby.  It will make me feel better and burn off the stress that I'm feeling.  What I want you to do is pray for guidance for me.  So much preparation has been put into this move and the project that I was starting that I feel like there must be some detail that I'm not seeing.  Thanks.  (Don't worry.  I'll be praying too.  Just give me some time to cry myself to sleep first.)

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Unexpected Gift: Day 1,030

Every once in a while there is something that just completely humbles me...

This week I've been helping out at Paso a Paso, a program here in San Antonio Aguas Calientes.  I was asked to go to Antigua to pick up a family and bring them out to the project...except there had been a mix-up.  The family only had a donation for the project as they hadn't heard back from their contact until that morning and had made other plans for their afternoon.  I invited them to come out a different day, and we chatted for a bit.  People always seem interested in me and what an "American" is doing down here; so I shared with them a bit of my ministry and the whole transition I'm in right now.  As they sent me on my way, one of them put $100 in my hand and told me it was a donation for the work I do.  The suitcase of stuff was for Paso a Paso; the cash in my hand--with no strings attached, no tax slip, and only a name (Carol) to attribute the money to--was for Los Encuentros.  That's a stove or two water filters!

When I was younger, I used to help my mother with her donations for the year.  We would pick out goats and pigs and Bibles for far away places.  I always loved deciding what to order for these people.  However, now that I see their faces and know their stories, it's harder to make those sorts of choices.  I see two families with a great need.  I have the money to buy a stove ($100) for one family--or the other--which would mean that neither families would get water filters, OR I could get water filters ($50) for both, but who knows when they would get a stove because, let's face it, it's easier to get $50 than $100.  And, to be brutally open with you all, I hate sitting on that $50 I have to help the people (a water filter for a third family!) until I get another $50 for that other stove.  I could be improving the quality of someone's water now, and instead I'm waiting to improve the air quality in their home.  Sometimes it makes me feel like a bad person.  It is times like this that I need to remind myself that all good things come from God.  When we need it, the money will be there to make positive changes in the lives of these families.  For that, I give thanks just as I give thanks to Carol for her donations, not only to my work in Los Encuentros, but also to Paso a Paso.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Mission Moment: August Newsletter

Welcome back! I promise you I was not just taking a break during our newsletter hiatus. During the last 2 months I have been translating for Now is the Time (the mission team which I used to come with in the summer), preparing my house for my guest, Madeline, who will be spending a month with me and working at a malnutrition center, and taking multiple trips out to Solola preparing for the program I'll be starting this fall. With the help of local leaders, I have visited 45 families in the area, and I still have 6 to visit. Of those 45 families, 21 have been approved for full-inclusion in the program. Others may receive partial assistance.
The main focus of the program is to break the cycle of poverty. The best way to do this is through education. The idea is to either get the children in school, keep them in school, or get them back in school. However, if their bodies aren't receiving the necessary nutrition or if the children are always sick from their living conditions, the education received won't be as effective. So, there is also an interest in improving their nutrition and hygiene standards.
The majority of this work will be done through the help of donors who feel a desire to help these people; this includes the money that you as a church donate through the mission fund each month. Additionally, if you have friends or family members which might be interested in sponsoring a family, please get them in contact with me!
Finally, I want to share a few stories from my visits, one funny one and one a little more difficult. First I'd like to share with you the story of David. David is only a year and a half old. He is the youngest of four children. The oldest, Carlos, is 16, finished 7th grade, and works during the harvest (and at other odd jobs when they can be found). Wendy, age 12, also finished 7th grade and now works full-time making crafts to sell. Floricelda, age 8, is in second grade but helps her older sister make crafts in the afternoons when she gets home from school. This is just some of the information I collect about each child.
When I arrived at their home, Wendy and Floricelda were busy with their work. Carlos and his father were away, and their mother was cooking some beans for lunch. David was toddling around grabbing onto the yarn which his sisters were trying to weave into their baskets. However, they all sat down to chat when I showed up with my small group of translators and community leaders. As I worked my way down the sheet filling in information, we shared a nice camaraderie. David was pleasant and cheerful. However, when I said, “And David doesn't do anything yet because he's too little” (in Spanish, of course) and put a line through the space where I note if they work or study, he let out a howl which made most of us jump. “Okay, okay,” I said (in Spanish), “David works in artisan work as well with his sisters” and wrote through my crossed out line. He instantly burst into a smile which made us all laugh. As we got ready to leave, Floricelda gifted me a little basket; she said, “David wants you to have this to remember what good work he does.” We still call it “David's basket.”
The other story is much more sobering. While trying to find one of the houses—there aren't really addresses—we ended up visiting the next-door neighbor of the house we wanted. It was not hard to get confused. The house we visited was made of metal. It had metal walls and a metal roof. Outside we met Maria and Elena. Maria is a widow with two children: Juan and Elena. Her husband committed suicide a few years back. Maria couldn't support the family; so she sent her children—now ages 10 and 11—to work. She tried to get Elena a job making tortillas, but the people at the tortilleria said that she was too little and couldn't make tortillas good enough to sell. (I believe I was told that Elena was 8 at that time.) Juan sells gum on buses. They have no electricity or water at their home. Their “bed” is a few wooden planks on cement blocks; it has no mattress. They cook over an open fire on the other side of their room; the only way for smoke to escape is through the door or at the corners of the room where the metal sheets don't come together completely. Fortunately, they own their land, and they are able to rent some of it to a potato farmer just to have a regular income.

The Care and Keeping of a Missionary
As I enter the next phase of the ministry which God brought me down here for, I'd like to take the time to thank each and every one of you for the support you have given me. Without your prayers and financial support, I might have given up a long time ago. As we enter this next phase, I ask that you keep me and these 21 families in your prayers. Please share this ministry with others who you encounter as we'll need 21 sponsors. The full program outline is available upon request. I'm still working out a few final details; so any thoughts and suggestions (as well as questions!) are more than welcome. Keep me in your prayers as well for my health and that God removes any roadblocks which may show up.

Remember that I update my blog as well at for additional stories and updates which don't always make it into the newsletter, and also I love to hear from you; so feel free to write to me at I hope you are all having a safe and wonderful summer!