Day 5 – Posted by Brad
We started with a special treat as Keith had a chance to drive in Guatemala. He drove up a dirt road to the village we were going to work with. He did a great job, and only crashed two times. Just kidding!
Today we visited a very special group of women at a remote village. There are about 25 families, and Bethel visits them often. We visited them last year, and looked forward to seeing the women and children again.
We built another chicken coop, this time for Maria. We decided to build a “mini-house” this time, figuring it would be much more durable and faster to build. When we arrived, we were overwhelmed by all the little kids who wanted to visit (and get candy). We did not disappoint. Rick gave them rubber balls to play with, and we handed out a lot of gum and lollipops.
After setting up the tools, Keith, John Forshner, Tim, Scott and Rick began constructing the coop. They were doing an excellent job, so Chris, John and I decided to go visit some of the families to see what their needs were. On the way, Chris spoke to the mom of a little girl named Sonya. She had gone to school last year, but her mom said she could not go back to school this year. School started 15 days ago. Sonya said she has been pleading with her mom every day. Well, she got her wish today. Chris talked to her mom and she will be in school tomorrow. Praise God! She was so excited. I let her choose a backpack for school. On a sad note, there was a girl who had been going to school in the past, but decided not to continue this year. She is the daughter of Rosalia, one of my favorite moms. When I had Chris ask why, she finally confessed that because she is older, and taller, the kids teased her at school when she could not learn at the same pace as the others. We tried to encourage her. John Mitchell and his non-profit “On His Path” is going to partner with Bethel to have a tutor come visit this village on a consistent basis to help them learn. Many of the kids have been struggling because when they get homework, their moms cannot help them as they have no education themselves. When I gave Sonya a backpack, this girl said she wanted one too. Chris and I said that we are so hopeful she will continue in the future, but we need to save the backpacks for kids who go to school. I know this may sound harsh, but it was meant to be a firm encouragement. Well, it worked. She was visibly upset. Chris spoke with her, telling her that very soon the tutor will be coming, and she can get the help she needs without embarrassment from the others. After much conversation, she said that she did want to go, and will commit to it. We gave her a backpack and praised her for her big step, and encouraged her to study hard.
It was also encouraging because I looked up on Rosalia’s wall and she had the pictures I had taken of her family last year still up on her walls. It shows you how you can never take for granted the power of a picture. These photos of their mom, and family obviously meant a lot to them. I get a lot of flak from the guys for taking so many pictures. But, at moments like that, I am glad I do.
Now for the best part of my day!!! As we approached the house, there were two men hand digging a water well for Rosalia. We walked up to take pictures and ask questions. They had a HUGE pile of dirt that they had removed. They had already dug to about the 30 foot point and hit water. As we walked away, I thought I heard one of them ask if we were “Christians”. I said that we were Christians and asked if they were. They said yes. In actuality, what he asked was, “Are you “Christian?” Meaning, are you the man named “Christian”, instead of “Chris”. When we went into Rosalia’s house, one of the men stepped inside and asked if he could talk to Chris. He began to share his story. He has a wife that is suffering from debilitating arthritis. He has children, and has been praying for help. He previously lived near this village we were working in, and would often see Chris and Bethel visit. He had to move away to get his wife closer to his family, as she literally cannot get out of bed any more. He works from 5:00 AM to 7:00 PM EVERY DAY. He is working hard to provide, but does not know what to do. Chris spoke for a while and ultimately told him that his wife needs a miracle. To be that far in debilitation in her early 30s is not good. I felt led to encourage him as a dad. I told him how great it was that he was working hard to provide, caring for his sick wife, praying for her and trying to seek any help he can. Instead of doing what so many other Guatemalan (and American) men do, and abandoning his wife when the times get bad, God sees his faithfulness, and I encouraged him to continue. I told him that God has blessed men with the privilege of being responsible for the spiritual direction of our families. Not only to provide for the physical needs of each, but to ensure the spiritual strength of his wife and kids. Chris then took the opportunity to pray over this man. Chris, John and I got down on our needs and laid our hands on him. Chris prayed for him, his wife’s health and his future. After Chris was done praying, Chris shared the Gospel with him. He made sure that he understood the love of Christ and what God wants in each of our lives. The man was very appreciative. We gave him some money for his family’s needs. Chris also said that he was going to pay for the well he was digging for Rosalia. This man was not charging the full amount for the well, as he knew Rosalia could not afford the amount. What a blessing and opportunity.
We then went back and helped the guys finish the chicken coop. It looks REALLY good. It is a smaller version of a metal house. Rick and Scott did a great job setting up the roost inside. Tomorrow, we will pick up the 50 chickens for Maria and 50 for Viviana. They will hopefully have a fantastic egg business the next day as the chicken should be laying right away. I truly like this idea. What a way to bless a family. Not only are you providing employment, but a future. It is the goal to empower these people to get ahead in life, provide for their family and bless those around them.
After dedicating the coop to Maria, we went to build a kitchen and install a stove for a woman. She lost her entire family except for one son in the Guatemalan Civil War. Her father, husband and brothers were all killed. She makes her living by making traditional clothing. She moved to Tecpan after the war, and had been paying very high rent. She bought a piece of land and paid it off. While she did not smile a lot, you could tell she was a very strong woman. When we walked up, I almost walked by her old kitchen without realizing it. It was so small. As you can see by the pictures, it was not much. It really puts it into perspective for us in America. We complain about how small our kitchens are, and spend so much money renovating them (often times more than once). For $300, we changed this woman’s daily life. She no longer has to sit in a small smoky area every single day, breathing that smoke. As we dedicated it, we found out she does not have a water well or electricity. We decided as a group to sponsor both of those. This will allow her to continue to work after dark, and also not have to walk so far every day to get the water she needs.
Little Claudia tracked down Michaelito (Chris) again. She ran down the path and clung to him. She is literally one of the most adorable girls any of us have ever seen. We can only stand there and laugh as she smiles every time anyone says the name “Michaelito”.
Finally, we went to our second annual “Tecpan men’s Bible study”. This year, we had 7 Guatemalan men and 8 American men open and study the Bible together. Scott did a great job talking about forgiveness and fellowship. Several of the Guatemalan men shared thoughts as well. It was very encouraging to see these same men again. One man said he missed last year, and was very sorry. I don’t think he will miss next year. He was very excited.
After the study, Pastor Juan’s family brought a pound cake to help celebrate Tim’s birthday, which was yesterday. We sang Happy Birthday in English and Spanish. I think Tim was genuinely surprised and thankful. After talking for some time with the men from the study, we headed back to the hotel.
We are getting up early on Thursday morning as we will be having our wheelchair distribution in Chimaltenango. It is only a few doors down from Bethel’s wheelchair shop. This should be an amazing time. Many of these people are in desperate need of these chairs. Many have waited for a very long time to receive them. They will go home with a new life of mobility. This will not only change their lives, but the lives of their families as well.
Please pray for us at the distribution. We are all healthy and having a great time. We are growing together in our faith and friendship. I am personally thankful for each man who chose to take time away from their lives at home, and serve. God is doing amazing things, not only with the people we serve, but in our own lives as well.
We continue to pray for all of you at home. Especially in Iowa with the snow and cold and Louisville with the crazy winds.
Dios te Bendiga,