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.