The end of August will mark the closing of one chapter on this mission journey and the start of another. It will also mark the 1-year anniversary of living in this house, and we've just passed my 2-year anniversary of living in San Antonio Aguas Calientes by a few days. So, all-in-all, I can jokingly say that the time is right. However, it's not with a little sadness that I'll be leaving this town. I've made many good friendships here, some even recently. It's conveniently located. It's tourist-friendly. Its roads are all on maps (at least the parts of town that I frequent). And yet, looking forward to the future is also positive. My new “next-door neighbors” are people who treat me like a daughter. I'll be able to visit Antigua (and many of my old friends) pretty much every weekend. Kaqchikel—the native Mayan language—will ideally become second, er, third nature to me. I don't really know what the future will hold for me, though; so I'll take the rest of this to tell you about this past month.
On July 22nd, I welcomed a young woman named Madeline into my house. She is from the Ann Arbor area, and has a cousin who attends the school where my mother works (which is how she learned about me and what I do). She has a heart for helping people, especially kids, and has felt drawn to Central America. We have spent the past month allowing her to explore mission opportunities near Antigua and even took a trip out to let her see what I do in Los Encuentros, Solola. The first two weeks, she served at a project in San Felipe de Jesus called God's Child Project. This organization has many different projects which it runs including a malnutrition center, a homeless shelter, and an after-school program. During her two weeks, Madeline got to experience each of the different projects that they have there.
After that, Madeline has spent these next two weeks working at a project here in San Antonio Aguas Calientes called Paso a Paso (Step by Step). This project is much smaller (and much younger), but it operates an after-school program as well. However, it offers additional support to the families as well. The children here receive lunch 3 days per week. They're offered a safe and structured environment with discipline. And, most importantly, they are offered a lot of love. This program could do a lot more if they had a little more funding, and Ana Luisa, the founder and coordinator, is going to work to set up a sponsorship program for the kids.
Besides the work that Madeline has been doing, we've also taken some time out to see a little bit of the country (nothing I haven't seen before), a bit of the crafting (we're even learning to weave), a bit of the culture (we attending a VERY traditional wedding), and a bit of the food (some of which I have prepared, and some of which I've commissioned a friend's family to prepare). Right now, she's learning how to sweep with a spray bottle in one hand. (Sweeping a concrete floor seems to send very fine cement dust into the air unless it is sprayed in advance and kept wet during the sweeping process. This dust then settles on and sticks to EVERYTHING.) She has also learned to wash clothes by hand. Yes, there are things which frustrate her now and again, but as I have told her mother, I believe Madeline will be back.
The care and keeping of a missionary
I especially ask for your prayers this month as I start up in a new place and get situated in the community. I ask for your prayers for Madeline as she goes back to the States and considers everything that she has seen and done and asks for God's direction for her life. I ask for your prayers for Antonella who has been my “guard dog” over the last two years as we look for a new home for her. (My new home comes pre-guarded and wouldn't be safe for a new dog who doesn't know the area.)
My mother mentioned the possibility of her sending a care package to me in October. I know not all of you do e-mail, and I'd like to mention again that I love hearing from you and how you're doing. Also, for those of you who do use the internet and e-mail, my e-mail address is email@example.com, and I have a blog (like a journal, and it doesn't require you to log in) at http://GringaOnTheGround.blogspot.com in case you want to hear stories and get updates more often than once per month. Thanks for being you, for your love and support.