Last night was very long for many of us on the team. The winds blew extremely hard, and the hotel is not the most air-tight place. God used that fact to break our hearts for the people in Guatemala. Rick texted me this morning and said we needed to talk. All he could do last night was think about little Marta and her family sleeping in a corn-stalk house that allows the cold, wind and rain in very easily. Over breakfast, we decided as a team to sponsor little Marta’s family for a house. So, not only will Marta be able to go to school now, she will have a house that protects her from the elements in the very near future.
Because of the cold and wind, we bundled up as we went outside to gather our tools. Scott and I walked around outside talking about the many years we have been coming to work with Bethel. It is such a blessing to be able to come share this time together as friends and brothers in Christ.
We had to admire the artwork as we walked around. The hotel decorated one of the walls with an old urinal with flowers inside. Not really sure of the connection. Scott noticed the flowers were dead (I wonder why).
Scott had a lot of fun when he jumped with the kids on the trampoline. Rick was hoping to have an entry for America’s Funniest Home Videos. But, nothing bad happened.
Our first family to install a stove for was Felipe and Anastasia. They are a very sweet couple who have two children (Deborah and Juan Diego). As Scott, Rick, Jeff and Tom installed the stove, Chris, Ben and I talked with Felipe and Anastasia. We asked Felipe about his life. He sells coffee beans that he grows and also works at a local Christian radio station. I thought that was cool. We discovered that even though Felipe and Anastasia have been together for six years and have two wonderful children, they are not married. They said that they wanted to get married but could not. I already knew the answer to my question, but I still asked why? Because of money. This couple is like so many others in Guatemala. They love each other, are deeply committed, love God and want to do the right thing…but finances stand in the way. This family can barely afford to feed themselves. They live in a home that barely keeps them dry. The idea of having the money to buy the marriage certificate from the city is very difficult. But, the real financial strain is in the celebration that is culturally expected to follow. Once they get the certificate, they will then be able to have a church wedding. The expectation is that they will hold a fiesta with their family and friends. This is cost prohibitive. I reminded them that marriage is more than a piece of paper. You are committing to God that you will love one another and remain faithful. Not just because you love your spouse, but because you are promising God to love, honor and cherish forever. They both knew that being married was the right thing to do. So, we told them that our team would make their marriage a reality. We talked with the village official who was with us. Very soon, Felipe and Anastasia will be husband and wife. This will change their lives. It will be a great witness to their children as they grow up.
We then headed out to a place that would physically challenge us beyond our imagination. We went to an area where a dad owns a very nice piece of property where his older children and their families can all live in their own homes. He lives on the lower section, and the others live up higher. When I say higher, there is a 185-foot height difference between where we parked the van and to where the last house we installed a stove. We had to carry three stoves worth of supplies up the very steep hill. I got a great pic of Scott when he got to the top of the hill. He looked like I felt…very tired.
Rick and Tom talked with the dad who is 67-year old Don Sebastian. He grows coffee beans and sells them to a buyer. He seems to be doing very well. Scott and Tom were greatly encouraged by his faith and commitment to his family. There was much laughter during their talk. After Jeff, Scott and I installed the stove, we headed up to the last place we were installing a stove.
We made it up to the house of Ricardo and Juana. Ricardo was not there as he was working in the fields picking green beans. They have four children, and boy were they something else. Fidel is their oldest son. Their next son was Jose. Boy, was he ever unsure about us. He was not happy we were there. It was only after much time of Emily and some of the guys playing with the other kids that he ever decided to engage with our team.
My heart broke again for Juana. I have a picture of her bedroom wall. It might be hard for you to see, but Juana has a two-foot gap in the wall right above where her bed is. The rest of the house is not much better. The corn stalk has huge gaps and there are big openings in the wood and plastic. I asked her where the wind blows from. She said up the mountain, which is on the side of the house with the large gap. Once again, I cannot imagine what it is like to have your kids sleep in a place night after night where there is virtually no stopping the wind. Amazingly enough, the kids were all pretty healthy. Seating is always hard to find when we do these home visits. As Ben translated for me while talking with Juana, I leaned against one of her walls (I knew better). Part of the wall just about came down. I would have been very sad. Fortunately, her house remained standing.
One of the guys had a very insightful comment, “These people have nothing, yet they have everything.” I had to think about it, but it is profoundly true. By US standards, these people have absolutely nothing in worldly goods. But, they are extremely rich in their faith in God, and their love for their families. They have every reason to complain. Yet, none of them do. They thank God for what He has provided for them, and are very thankful for anything else they get. I know we came here to be a blessing and encouragement to these people. Quite honestly, they are encouraging me even more. There is so much joy in the faces of these people.
This team has been absolutely wonderful. The bonds that have been formed are priceless. There has been so much laughter. Between Tom’s Spanglish and all the “Elf” and other movie quotes, we are having a great time. Ben and his wife Emily have been wonderful to work with. They are a sweet couple. Emily does so well playing with the children in the villages. Ben has such a huge heart for the families we visit with. Bethel is blessed to have them. I am blessed to now call them friends.
Our last visit ended on a sad note. As we were all making our way down the mountain, Juanito’s wife Anna, slipped and fell on her wrist. It began to swell very quickly. Chris took her to the doctor in Tecpan. We would appreciate you praying along with us for her comfort and healing. She was taken to a private hospital in Chimaltenango to get a cast. I will keep you posted on her progress.
The forecast looks good for tomorrow. We are planning on building Filomena’s house. Please pray there is no wind as that makes it difficult to handle the metal.