Sunday was our team’s first full day in Guatemala. We started out with our daily devotional. Tom has led our devotion time for the past few years. He did a great job leading, and we finished off singing a Big Daddy Weave song. Fortunately, we had the real song playing in the background to make up for my lack of musical talent.
Our first stop was the grocery store in Tecpan. When we go for home visits, Bethel always gives a food basket that has beans, rice, vitamins and other essential food items. We always like to add a little something extra. Jeff brought oven mits and metal stir spoons. We added extra bags of rice and beans, oranges, bananas, coffee, 18 eggs and a bag of marshmallows. These things are a hit when we go into the homes. They are called “Angelitos” or ”Little Angels”. The kids love them!!!
A group of young Guatemalans ran the Vacation Bible School at Pastor Juan’s church. Carol was the leader. She works with Bethel in Chimaltenango. The kids had so much fun. They played games and made “Salvation Bracelets”. Chris told the story of “Joseph”. I filmed the entire thing. It was twenty minutes long. I’m going to try and upload it sometime, but the internet is too slow here.
After a delicious Pollo Campero lunch at church, we headed out for our first home visit. For those not familiar, it is a time where Chris goes to connect with a local family in need. This first family was a woman named Filomena. That is confusing, because the woman we are building a house for on Tuesday has the same name. This woman has a husband who is an alcoholic and is not home very often. They have four children. The oldest son is a wonderful young man. He has had to grow up fast. He does go to school, but he is also a construction helper. We talked with him about how proud we were that he has stepped up to help support his family, but not given up on school. He told Chris that he did not have a Bible of his own. Chris wrote the young boy’s name on the inside. He was so proud of his new Bible!
It takes us a while sometimes to figure out the real reason we are there. It turns out it was because of a girl in the home named Ingrid. She is an adorable 11-year old girl. It was funny because she had a towel wrapped around her head. It looked like she had just gotten done doing her hair. Chris discovered she had dropped out of school. She was not learning as fast as the other children and a couple of them started to make fun of her for not being as smart. It obviously had been a huge burden on her heart. And, why not. No one likes to be told they are not smart. No one likes to feel different. We can be so harsh to each other in life. Chris has an amazing talent of using humor while simultaneously digging VERY deep into someone’s life. The tears began to fill Ingrid’s eyes. All the pain came to the surface. Chris told her that we don’t need to listen to others try and hurt us. He went around the room talking about how each one of us had been made fun of in life. It was killing me because you could see the pain was so deep and so real for her. Chris asked her if she wanted to go back to school. She said “yes”. Chris has a tutor named Flori who teaches in Pastor Juan’s church. She has 15 students. Chris said she could go there and begin to learn again. I told Chris we should give her a backpack. Chris made a deal with her. “Ingrid, I want you to make a decision in your heart. Do you really want to go back? If you take this backpack, you are telling me the answer is ‘yes’, and you truly want to go back. But, don’t take the backpack if you don’t plan on going back”. I was praying for her choice. You could see the dilemma in her face. After a moment of contemplation…Ingrid took the backpack!!! It was such a huge relief to know she will begin to learn again. But, she will learn in an environment that is safe and loving. Bethel has hired tutors like Flori to work with students like Ingrid who need extra time or attention. That’s one of the things I love most about Bethel. They care about the hearts of the people they work with. There is no “one size fits all” solution in these people’s lives. It will take time and love.
Only a few things will get your attention in Guatemala, and wild dogs is one of them. At our second home visit, I had a flashback to many years ago with “Rambo”. Rambo thought I looked like lunch. Not a delicious lunch, but at least a small snack between meals. As we approached the house today, I heard someone on the team say, “look out, this dog doesn’t like people!”. I quickly avoided “Max”. I’m sure deep, deep, deep down, Max is a nice dog. He’s probably just misunderstood. Dogs have to fend for themselves around here. Fortunately, he was on a chain! I gave him a wide safety zone!
Our second visit was about a girl named “Dorcas”. She is 13-years old. Her dad passed away many years ago. Her mom is very strong. She had to quit school to help support her family. She just dropped out of school, so the opportunity for her to go again is very real. It will require some effort on Bethel’s part. Her old school will not give kids their papers when they leave. There are families who owe money, so they withhold other student’s grades so that they will put pressure on the others to pay their debt. It is so sad they do that. Chris thinks they should be able to do everything very quickly. But, Dorcas needs sponsorship. It will cost $50 a month to send her back to school. She is such a sweet girl. She truly wants to learn. Chris talked about how much value she has in God’s eyes. She is sweet, smart and wonderful girl. If you know of anyone who would sponsor her, we would greatly appreciate it. The $50 a month covers all uniforms, shoes and fees. Please consider helping her.
We then went back to church. Chris preached a message as well as Juanito. The music was great! Afterwards, we had our big church dinner. It is like a massive family reunion. So many families come back to see us. Little kids who are now much bigger. Rick got many photos of kids he had past pictures from. So neat to see the growth that has happened.
It’s been great being with Chris, but also Ben and Emily. Ben is Chris and Donna’s son. Emily is his wife. They are so sweet. They are funny, easy going and are willing to translate all the time. We have all enjoyed being around them.
Each guy is doing very well. Jeff has totally fit in. He was a huge help at VBS and the kids love to rub his head since he does not have hair. Scott got to spend a lot of time with Blanca and her girls, who now have kids of their own. Scott is the poster child for Google Translate. He talked for hours with his iPod and the app. Very impressive! Rick is such an ambassador with the families. He remembers everybody’s name and makes them feel very special. He got to talk a lot with Etylvena and her kids who are both doing well in school. Etylvena is one of the greatest success stories we have seen. God has done a tremendous work in her life. Please go back and read her story from a couple of years ago. Tom is the Pied Piper of kids. They love him! He laughs and dances with them. He has given out a million bracelets and bags of candy. They think he is Santa Claus. It’s funny to hear a little child say, “Goodbye Tom”. They love him.
As for me, I am so thankful to be back here. I love this town and I love the people. I don’t have Rick’s talent for remembering names, but I remember faces. I know God is going to do amazing things only He could do. We go on home visits to install stoves tomorrow. That is my favorite thing to do. Asking questions and seeing God move in people’s hearts and lives. Just like Ingrid. So many people at a crossroads in their lives. Only One Person can truly help them on their journey, and that is Jesus. I’m so thankful to be here serving Him. As one of my favorite movies says, “God is good all the time. And all the time, God is good!”