Thursday, October 27, 2016

Roofing Day

I woke up early and attempted to catch the sunrise several times over the course of the week, but most days it was too cloudy.  Thursday, however, made it worth the wait. I do so enjoy being near the water and it was nice to be able to have my devotions on the dock several mornings that week.
"In the morning when I rise, give me Jesus"

We headed north up the coast line and then turned into the Rio Dulce and headed for a town called Baltimore where we would spend the day putting a roof on a school.  After a short trek through the jungle, carrying many of our supplies, we arrived at the school.  Not a cloud in the sky, it was hot, hot work.

 I was allowed to help with the roof so I spent my day helping send sheet metal up to the guys on the trusses and trying to make sure everyone up there stayed hydrated.  Tom told us later that day that it was structurally the worst roof he'd ever worked on in Guatemala.  The trusses were extra-far apart and not made of the straightest (or thickest) wood.  Everyone not involved in the roof did, you guessed it, more crafts!  They also played games with the kids out in the field as well.

After lunch back at El Faro we had several options.  There was a soccer game between El Farro and a team from Puerto Barrios, the ropes course, and of course swimming and relaxing.  My pastor and Seth both love soccer so they played in the game (they found it frustrating though because of the language barrier).  I wanted to watch the soccer game, but as expected the game started late and I'd felt bad that only 2 people were interested in (or physically capable of) doing the ropes course with Alex.  In the end, four of my teammates and myself all attempted the course.  I thought that since I was strapped in and hooked up the height factor would not be an issue, but boy was I wrong.  I desperately wanted to turn around after making it through the first section (there were 3 or 4 more and they didn't look any easier), but they convinced me to carry on despite 2 others already having turned around.

 I somehow managed to finish the high course and then also do the lower course before I was finally freed and rushed back to the soccer field in hopes of catching some of the game.  All the adrenaline from the ropes course had me feeling great, tons of energy despite the hot and taxing morning spent roofing.  I only caught about 10 minutes of the game, it was easy to tell when they were cheering for Seth because they would yell "Canche" (Guatemalan slang for blonde/blondie).

After dinner the women from the sewing program set up a bunch of their stuff for us to be able to purchase.  There was a plethora of beautiful items and it was incredibly hard to choose!  One of the missionaries was also selling the coffee that the Medina farm sells to El Faro at wholesale; they get to keep all the proceeds.  This coffee is apparently one of the Starbucks Reserve coffees, so apparently that's a big deal.  I'm not a coffee aficionado by any stretch of the imagination, but our pastor is and he said it's really good coffee. **Anyone interested in purchasing the coffee (with part of the proceeds going to the mission) can do so at Connect Roasters.**

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

A Playground & A Prosthetic

Our schedule for Wednesday had us heading north towards Livingston.  We were going to a school to build them a playground.

School was on break, but the kids knew we were coming so we had lots of children, and some adults as well, to keep us busy.  Having a playground at school helps increase attendance and this school has been asking El Faro to help them build a playground for quite some time.

 We left the guys to build the playground, and us ladies did lots and lots of crafts with the children and women.  Nancy taught a woven cross craft, Linda & Debbie made crowns, and Ev and I did the braided crowns, with Lauren helping all of us and even doing some nail painting.  Everyone seemed to really enjoy the crafts.  We eventually ran out of the hair bands so I just started tying the braids like hair scarfs, or having them use them as belts.  "Necessity is the mother of invention."

The men were able to get the playground built in about 3 hours, and the kids thoroughly enjoyed it.  After a quick lunch, packed for us by the kitchen staff at El Faro, we were back on the boat and heading to Livingston.  We had the afternoon free to explore and do some shopping.  After an appropriate amount of time we all met at a local ice cream shop for a treat before finishing our return trip.  We had the afternoon free and many of us enjoyed a refreshing swim.  My brother, Seth, had created a ball out of string and scrap fabric from all the braided headbands we'd been making, so the guys and a young local boy enjoyed trying to catch the ball while jumping off the dock.  Rarely successful, but entertaining none-the-less.

During our evening devotions we had the opportunity to hear from 2 of the Guatemalan staff members, Alejandro & Sammy.  It was interesting to hear about how God brought them to El Faro and what ways they minister to those in the community.  Alex had been with us throughout the day and had helped translate for us, which is one of the ways he helps out.  The other two main areas are oversight of the ropes course and a new ministry of making prosthetic limbs.  It was incredibly fascinating and he even brought us a sample one he had made.  There is a social stigma associated with missing a limb, so Alex has to search out those in need of a prosthetic as they often are rather reclusive.  Sammy has a passion for computer, technology and  families.  He runs the computer lab on site and uses it as an opportunity to teach the children about Christ and to get to know them.  He explained that the government requires a computer certification to graduate, but they don't always offer the classes necessary to obtain the certification.  In addition to the schooling requirement, people without computer skills have a much harder time getting a good job so it creates lots of opportunities.  It's not without its challenges though as internet out in the jungle is quite expensive.

By this point in the week we could now make paper crowns with our eyes closed, and I can't help but think of the song "Kings & Queens" by Audio Adrenaline.
"Boys become kings, girls will be queens wrapped in Your majesty...Then they will be brave and free, shout your name in victory!  When we love, when we love the least of these..."  

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Adoradora de Dios

On Tuesday we headed to the local dump to minister to the families there.  El Faro hasn't had a regular ministry there as of yet, but one of the couples on staff would like to start reaching these people, so we got to help them start.  There are about 50 families that live in the dump and a local church has built a shelter there in which we were able to host a little VBS program.  The church also has plans (and is currently fundraising) to build bathrooms and showers, since one of the main issues for these families is lack of sanitation and clean water.  You may be wondering why people would choose to live in a dump, and I would have to say that "desperate times call for desperate measures".  In this area of Guatemala there are few jobs, so the men of the family often leave their village and head to a larger town to find work; most of them don't come back.  These women have children to care for and often little to no means to do so; their last resort is to move to the dump in hopes that they can find enough useful items that they can either sell or recycle.

The night before they warned us that it would be smelly and that there would probably be lots of fleas, lice, and other bugs.  When we arrived, I didn't feel that the smell was as overwhelming as it could have been and there were a lot of flies, but it wasn't all that bad (for us).  Still impossible to imagine a life so desperate that you move to a dump.  David, Zita, and Andrea (all Guatemalan) led the lesson time for the kids and then shared a snack with them.
Zita & David leading the song time
The gentleman in the background was our photographer for the week,
so you'll notice that most of the photos I post are actually his.

 During the children's program all the mothers and grandmothers were sitting around the edges of the pavilion to watch and take a break.  I was able to paint some of their fingernails (a few of them told me their church wouldn't allow them to have painted nails) and I was able to help them do some crafts.  The morning went by quickly as we helped them choose strips of fabric, braid them and then turn them into headbands.  Once the children's program was over many of them also wanted to make something; we had plenty of fabric so we were happy to "share the wealth".

No trip to Guatemala is complete without a visit to Pollo Campero, so we headed there for lunch.  It's a Guatemalan-founded fast food chicken chain - better than KFC.  They even have excellent vanilla ice cream, but I'll admit it was a bit challenging to go "out to eat" after ministering to people who live in a dump, literally.  We arrived back at El Faro (by sea again, which was much more enjoyable today since there was plenty of sunshine).  Some of our group headed out distribute water filtration buckets or to do some home repair, but a few ladies and I headed down the path to ministry they hold on site several days a week.  They have a sewing & jewelry making co-op, where the women create headbands, handbags, backpacks, necklaces, and earrings, which they sell for extra income.  They were kind enough to let us try our hand at making some paper beads.  These women have had plenty of practice and were far better, and quicker, at making beads than we were - but it was neat to see.  They have a great eye for colors and patterns, so their jewelry is beautiful.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Jesus Loves the Little Children ♪♫

After they typical Guatemalan breakfast of scrambled eggs, refried beans, and plantains we prepared to head out for the day.  As we were about to board the boat it started to sprinkle.  Luckily, I had sat behind my brother so he blocked most of the rain.  I did bring a poncho to Guatemala, but it was not-so-conveniently located in the bottom of my suitcase.  Halfway there we were all quite wet so they brought out some tarps and we held them in the front of the boat to block most of the rain.  This of course made driving the boat a bit tricky, but our fearless captain took it all like a champ.

Our first stop was at the Puerto Barrios Children's Hospital, the only national children's hospital in Guatemala. Some of the donations of toiletries that we'd brought with us from the U.S. were donated to the newly opened Mother's Hostel (similar to a Ronald McDonald home) which El Faro helped sponsor. From there we split into 3 groups to visit the various wards in the hospital.  My group started in the boys ward, which I considered a small blessing since children are not my forte, but I prefer boys to girls.  We gave out coloring pages & crayons, matchbox cars, and some little Lego men.  I was able to use some of my Spanish, and although I felt rather uncomfortable at first, the longer we were there the more at ease I felt.  Our group's transition to the other rooms didn't go that smoothly, but flexibility is the name of the game, so Seth and I spent the rest of our time in the girls ward.  We spent time coloring there and also painting some nails (both of the girls and their Mothers).  Seth used the nail polish to paint faces on the balloons, which the kids enjoyed.  It wasn't all fun and games of course; since it's a ward style hospital there's no privacy.  When the doctors and nurses came to clean the wounds of one of the girls who had been badly burned, we all tried to carry on and ignore her screams.

Our next stop of the day was at an orphanage run by a local Catholic church.  We provided the days entertainment and a pizza party.  I spent most of the afternoon making paper crowns with the house Moms and some of our team.  It was a very hot & humid day, but thankfully we had some shade.  The kids enjoyed the bubbles, coloring pictures, playing keep away, and hanging out with (or on) us.

I nicknamed this little guy "the Bubble King" -
He loved to run up to you and blow bubbles
in your face, laughing the whole time.
The boat ride back was much more pleasant, and after docking, several of us quickly donned swim suits and headed to the water to cool off. To round out the evening we had a church service with the staff on the base.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

¿Adónde Vas?

Background:  Work has been insane for the last 2 months so I haven't really had any time to blog.  My church decided to go support a ministry advocated for by Advancing Native Missions and my brother and I decided to go along.

Punta de Palma, Guatemala is a lovely spot - we're right next to the water (Amatique Bay) which I adore. The grounds at El Faro are impeccable, they have about 15 men on the base (for lack of a more adequate term) who take care of the maintenance.  It's a huge place with many facilities to keep in tip-top shape.

Our journey here included everything except a train, so it was more like "Planes, Boats, and Automobiles".  We met at the church at 2:30am Saturday morning (read: I didn't sleep for 30+ hours) and headed to the airport for our flight to Houston.  We had a rather tight connection there, but by God's grace we managed to meet up with Joann and get to our gate on time.  Joann works with Advancing Native Missions and was joining us for the week as the 16th member of our group.  Once we arrived in Honduras and cleared customs and immigration we met David & John, 2 of the missionaries working at El Faro.  We loaded up our plethora of luggage, hopped into our van and bus, and were on the road.  After a short stop at the border crossing into Guatemala we soon arrived in Puerto Barrios, the town in the region where we were staying and the spot where we would catch our boat.  The sun was low on the horizon by the time we arrived and the mountains were to our left, it was a lovely welcome.  The ride was short, 15 min or so to the base, and many of the destinations we visited throughout the week were more easily accessible by boat than land, so we came to be well acquainted with the dock, our boat & captain.

On our first full day we helped the missionaries do their home visits and food distribution, which I believe they do every 3-4 weeks.  They distribute a small amount of food, as supplemental only, to elderly people mostly.  Our group split up and went in opposite directions, each visiting about 4 homes.  My first stop was at the home of an elderly woman who is the caregiver for her 3 granddaughters and her mother.  Katie (the missionary) visits nearly every week and you could tell she had been building a relationship with them.  The mission helps tutor some of her granddaughters as well and they were excited to celebrate a recent graduation (it's not common for girls to reach the higher stages of education in this area of Guatemala).  There was also an elderly man to whom we gave food as well; he's homeless but local families sometimes allow him to live on their property in exchange for some work.  He's praying for land to call his own; it's not that land is expensive, but someone has to be willing to sell some of theirs.  In the afternoon we were able to help with the Sunday School Programs they have, called "Exploradores".  Our team was able to help with crafts and game time.  Some of the children have now become the leaders and are teaching the next generation, exactly as God intended.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Roadtrip to New Milford, PA

Grandma is always right.  Despite my Grandma having traveled quite a bit overseas, she has told me many times that I don’t need to go overseas because we have beautiful, amazing places right here in the U.S.  I always smile and tell her that once I’m retired I’ll travel the U.S. I know she’s right about one thing though, there are also beautiful, amazing places on my home soil.  It was a packed weekend.  Not only a holiday weekend, but a quick road-trip-to-a-wedding weekend as well!  My younger brother was originally to go with me (we love a good road trip), but due to a change in employment he ended up having to work.  Thankfully, my sister convinced her husband to let her join me.  It was really quite perfect, because her and the bride had actually gone to college together and she even spent some time at our house on college breaks.  Our families have known each other for years – our parents actually share their wedding date, July 26th – and despite rarely seeing them we’ve known them since I was about 6 years old.  I can’t quite remember how our parents met or what exactly created their bond, but I, for one, and quite glad they became friends.  

I attribute my love of traveling – or perhaps my realization that I love to travel – with my first trip to Japan. Coincidentally, it was also my first trip overseas; for this reason, I always refer to Japan as my “first love”.  I don’t know what it was exactly, I can’t really pin-point any specific moment of that trip, but the exotic language and local, even the culture that was so completely opposite of the United States, all collided to create the perfect soil for the seed planted in me to grow.  You might be wondering at this point, and rightly so, what in the world a trip to Japan has to do with a road trip to New Milford.  So boil it down, and to save time, here’s the condensed version.  God called the bride’s parents to be missionaries to Japan. If our parents had never become friends, my family would have never gone to Japan the first time in 2004.  We also would never have gone in 2006.  They wouldn’t have visited us on furloughs (the bride had an unfortunate horse-riding accident at our house one time, now that I think about it) and probably would not have asked me to live and minister with them in 2008.  Admittedly, my sister and the bride might have still gone to the same college, but I think you get the point by now. As they say, everything happens for a reason.

Anyway, back to the roadtrip….

A bit of time has passed since my sister and I were on a trip together, or any trip for that matter - she's now got a husband and a baby!!  It was great to have so much time together to chat, catch-up, and create some new memories.  We started out Saturday morning with the GPS and my co-pilot offering conflicting directions.  We soon decided a quick call to our father was in order.  He confirmed that although both were correct ("all roads lead to Rome" sort of thing), my co-pilot had chosen what he deemed to be the better route.  Seven years later and she still knew how to get to Clarks Summit :)  I doubt I could say the same thing if the roles were reversed.  

In preparation for our trip I'd done some internet surfing to try and find any interesting stops along our route and found a great little place called Dr. Doolittle's Roadside Cafe & Creamery.  Nothing like an ice-cream stop on a road trip!  We decided not to take the time out of our day so far from our destination (we'd been warned of possible traffic on 81), and unfortunately, on our way home when we stopped they didn't open for another half-hour.  It will definitely be on our list of stops to make if we ever have to drive out that way again - home made ice cream has to be delicious, right!?  The scenery along 80 (and 81 for that matter) was beautiful, but taking photos out the window is a bit tricky: all the ones we took turned out blurry or showing a reflection in the window...

Our hotel in Gibson/New Milford was very nice despite its odd location.  Situated in the back of  a large field and right next to Spectacular Fireworks USA which claims to be PA's largest fireworks superstore.  Granted, on an Independence Day weekend that shouldn't seem so odd, but it did.  I missed the turn onto the road that leads back to the hotel twice (not very well labeled) so we did a U-ie (or is it U-ey?) by cutting through the fireworks warehouse parking lot.  The co-pilot thought some of the characters stocking up on fireworks looked a bit shady, and I can't say that I didn't agree with her.  Anyway, back to the hotel: free cookies in the lobby and free coffee and hot chocolate in the dining area 24/7!! Our room also had a mini Keurig, fridge, and a microwave plus some wonderfully fragranced body lotion in the bathroom.  Anyway we arrived at our hotel with just enough time to freshen up and change before hopping back in the car and hoping we could find the wedding location.  
We had some very generic directions and an address of a nearby church - thankfully we didn't have a too much trouble.  An insufficient number of signs pointing the way (and the general size of the signs) were our biggest hindrances, but we did locate it and we weren't late (we decided that was a win).  It was a beautiful location back-dropped by the large, private lake.  It was a very sweet ceremony and very God-honoring.  Although neither of us knew many of the people there we ended up sitting next to two members of another family that serve in Japan with the bride's family.  They are home for college and barely remembered us from our 2006 trip, but we had enough in common to carry on some conversation for a bit after the ceremony.  We recognized another couple (and ended up sitting next to them at the reception), we were finally able to deduce that we'd met in Japan in 2006 as well!  They're now missionaries in the Seattle area working with Iranians, which I thought was very cool. We had a nice, but too short, chat with bride and her family as well, of course.  The food was delicious and even the cupcakes (I'm not a cupcake fan) were fantastic. For those readers who are native Western Pennsylvanians: the reception, to our dismay, did not contain a cookie table.  We really must spread that tradition to the rest of the state.  

We didn't stay too long at the reception before deciding to head back to our hotel.  Our only real disappointment with our stay was that there was no hot tub or Jacuzzi.  While we appreciated that they had a heated swimming pool, when we got in the water we quickly realized that what we both wanted was a hot tub; tepid pool water just wasn't what we were seeking at 8pm on a Saturday night.  We determined that (decaf) coffee and some free cookies from the lobby, consumed while each of us enjoyed a large Queen bed to ourselves, was a better option.  With 4 pillows for every bed (2 soft and 2 firm) we were quite comfy.  A plethora of breakfast choices greeted us in the dining room the next morning and we were soon on our way back home.

wedding (noun)
1. the act or ceremony of marrying; marriage; nuptials.
2.  the anniversary of a marriage, or its celebration
3.  the act or an instance of blending or joining, especially opposite or contrasting elements

wedding (adjective)
1.  of or relating to a wedding

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Scrapbooking - A Year is a Long Time

Scrapbooking.  We have a love-hate relationship.  I love the finished product, but often hate all the time required to get there.  Had I realized, fully realized, how long it would take me to scrapbook my year in Australia, I'm not sure I would have done it.  I've found though that just because I might not do it if I had to do it over again, that doesn't mean I regret it. I do enjoy the crafty, creative aspect of scrapbooking, but sometimes the desire to finish over-rides the desire to be creative.  It's been a long, long journey and I will admit that it was made longer by my procrastinating, but it is nice to be done.  I have one more page that I'm still trying to decide what I want to do with, but as far as photos, events, etc. to be scrapbooked, I'm finished!!   In honor of this momentous occasion I've decided to share a few of my favorites.

If you'd like to see all three, yes, three books, I'm sure I can manage to arrange a private viewing... I contemplated having a travelogue (my Grandma always wants me to have one), but my faithful readers know all about my indecision issues.  Although, come to think of it, a travelogue would give me an excuse to eat Tim Tams and try some of the Australian Meat Pie recipes I found on Pinterest...

Monday, April 11, 2016

Easy Make-Ahead Breakfast

I was reminded a few weeks ago that I have not posted in a while, and I had to admit that it was true.  Life is so much busier when I'm home.  I'm about 90% done scrapbooking my year in Australia, but that last 10% is taking a disproportionate amount of my time...  I did make a trip back to Juarez, Mexico last fall, but I didn't take a computer to blog while I was there.  Anyway, someone asked for this recipe, so I figured I'd post it here and kill two birds with one stone.  The beauty of the recipe is that it only takes 5 ingredients, minimal utensils and equipment, whips up in less than 5 minutes, and is ready to eat the next morning.

  I always mix mine up the night before so that the chia seeds have time to absorb the liquid in the yogurt.  If you forgot to prepare it the night before, just let it sit for about 10 minutes and you should be fine.  You can double the batch and eat it over a few days too!

The trick to this recipe is that most container base to most blender will fit the mouth of a mason jar (regular sized, not wide-mouth).
That's how I have minimal clean-up, it's all done in one container.  Since we use lots of mason jars at our house (my Mom does a ton of canning) we keep plastic mason jar lids around, they're quite handy.  As with most recipe you can change the proportions to suite your tastes.  I've made this with cherries, raspberries, papaya, lychees, just choose what your favorite fruit - the possibilities are endless.

Did you know?  Chia seeds are a great source of calcium, vitamin C, iron, potassium, and Omega-2.  Enjoy!

Un-Granola Peach Yogurt    Serves: 1  Calories: 336

1/2 cup unsweetened, plain, whole-fat yogurt*
1 whole peach (fresh or canned - if using canned, don't add any of the liquid)
2 TBSP chia seeds
1 TBSP ground flax seed
1 TBSP unsweetened coconut


  1. Pour the yogurt into your mason jar (mine have the ounces marked on the side so it doesn't require a measuring cup) and add a peach (or fruit of your choice).  
  2. Add the blade and blender base to the mason jar and blend.  I prefer mine to be a bit more chunky, but feel free to completely puree the two.
  3. Remove from the blender and toss the blade and blender based into the sink.  I recommend cleaning them right away so nothing gets stuck, but that's up to you.
  4.  Add the remaining 3 ingredients and mix with a spoon.
  5. Screw on the lid and place it in the fridge for you breakfast the next morning.
*I make my own yogurt, no sugar, no preservatives, just whole milk & cultures
**You can also substitute yogurt for keifer (same quantity)

Keywords: Grain-free, Gluten-free, Low-Carb, Breakfast, Noatmeal, Healthy

Recipe Analysis provided by - this is for yogurt, not keifer
Total Calories: 336; 11g Protein; 35g Carbs; 15g Fiber; 18g sugar; 0g Added Sugar; 7g Saturated Fat; 2 Monounsaturated Fat; 9g Polyunsaturated Fat