Hola Amigos y Familia! Esta semana nosotros usé nuestros español aprendíamos a comunidad y construimos en a vives de guatemaltecos. Ahora nosotros estamos emocionados a comparamos con ustedes nuestros experiencia!
This week Site número uno had the opportunity to work alongside various ministries that work to empower the people of Guatemala. You may have been following our various adventures along the way, however some of the work we do here in Guatemala is having the privilege to give back to the people!!
On Sunday we had four groups of eager students set out to different parts of Guatemala to be the hands and feet of Jesus as we worked in Orphanages, Communities, Construction Projects and Schools.
This week we’re going to invite you along to experience a school called Mana de Vida.
Mana de vida is a school located in Escuintla which is about an hour south of Guatemala City.
Escuintla is known as the second most dangerous city in Guatemala due to its location between the capital and the ports on the coast. This allows for a lot of violence, human trafficking, and prostitution.
Mana de Vida started out as a program where they gave the kids in the community food! Growing into a school, they devoted their time to giving the kids well-balanced meals as well as a good education from pre-kindergarten all the way up to high school. Mana de vida has a variety of ministries which includes a free clinic that is open to families and students of the schools. However, due to great provision they were able to open up the resources of a free clinic to all the people of Escuintla. Another ministry that Mana de Vida runs is a group home for young kids who don’t have a place to stay or a parental figure to take care of them. Currently there are 14 kids living in this home and taking advantage of the programs they provide for them.
Showing up on Sunday, we had little idea what the week would hold, but we were more than eager to jump into all that they had planned for us. We were warned that it was hot in Esquintla, and when they said it was hot, they weren’t kidding! The average temperature for the week was 35 degrees! Fortunately at the school they have a pool that they use for the students to take swimming lessons. It wasn’t an hour into our time being there and we were already summoned into the pool by various students to swim! Right off the bat this was a great chance to meet the kids we would be working with throughout the week and enjoy building relationships with them.
We quickly jumped right into our Spanish that we’ve learned, ready or not. As nerve-wracking as it was, these kids accepted our broken attempts to communicate and smiled through it all. A big thing we learned is that communication through common language is not always necessary, but quality time and laughter allows you to connect on a whole new level.
At one point, we found ourselves sitting in the wading pool struggling to communicate with these kids that were so fascinated by us. Whether laying in our laps or holding our hands they couldn’t be more happy with the new visitors.
Throughout this semester, our group has been learning a Spanish song that one of our partners taught us in January. We thought this would be the perfect opportunity to sing the song for the kids. We started singing this Spanish song and it wasn’t long before all the kids began to sing along. The small pool soon was filled with a chorus of voices singing Recibe toda la gloria (Receive all the glory). It was so neat how worshiping Jesus together helped us connect with the kids when we were at loss of words.
This was only the start of such a great week!
On Monday when we showed up for our first day of work with the school we were greeted by many hugs and kisses (a kiss on the cheek in the Guatemalan culture is a way of greeting people). In the morning the school plays worship music over a loud speaker as the kids wait in their classes before the day starts. This was a huge highlight of our days as we walked to school hearing worship music and the anticipation of being ambushed with hugs each morning.
Every morning we started our school day by eating breakfast with the 3-5 year olds. As little of a task it seemed to us, it was such a big help for the teachers in getting the kids settled, insuring they ate their food, and cleaning up afterwards. Despite the craziness as some points I was always blown away by the amount of patience and kindness the teachers always showed towards the young ones.
Later on in the morning we made our way to the chapel.
We had stood back and watched as they worshiped and as they prayed. It wasn’t long before they had us up at the front teaching us how to dance and do the actions of the Spanish songs in front of everyone. Only in Guatemala do they incorporate salsa dancing into worship songs!
Throughout the week we worked in various places in the ministry. A group of us worked in the kitchen prepping meals and helping with snack. We also worked in the clinic sorting and taking inventory of a variety of medicines that had been donated to this clinic. From sorting clothing donations or assisting the kids in swimming lessons to teaching in classrooms or playing with the kids this week was so full of excitement in doing Jesus’ work with this school.
The cool thing about Mana de vida isn’t that it’s just a school, it’s also a campus of Vida Real church. This allows for the space to be used as church when school isn’t in session. We had the opportunity to partake in a Spanish worship service on Tuesday night. Despite the lack of Spanish we felt we had, it was really cool to see the increase in things we could understand from first coming to Guatemala. This was such a cool night to not only connect with the kids from the school and people in the community but to all come together and worship God together. There is just something so uniting about being under one roof worshiping as one.
As we sat with some of the kids that we met from school and worshiped together I was so amazed by how good God is. The picture that plays over in my head is the young girls all sitting in a row at the front on their hands and knees pouring everything they had into worshiping their Saviour.
These young girls live in a group home due to different life circumstances. However, despite the things I perceive that they lack, they give all they have to the Lord. They have such a love for Jesus and through Him they have everything they need. I’m so humbled by how we don’t need worldly possessions to determine our wealth, but it is when we lay our lives down and find our life in Jesus that we really gain everything. These girls displayed this perfectly as they gave all they had to Jesus with the faith that he would provide.
Thursday was another special day where we had the opportunity to teach English at the High School which is located at a different campus. We were quite nervous going into it, because in reality it’s quite easy to speak a language, but when it comes down to actually teaching it, that’s a different story. It turned out to be quite the experience that left us wanting to come back. We taught seven classes alongside their English teacher throughout the day. We also helped serve the kids snack and participated in different group games with the classes.
It goes to say that we were definitely welcomed with open arms into the school. The question of the day was “¿ tienes novio? (Do you have a boyfriend?) or “Will you marry me?” following many love notes and Facebook friend requests.
Many pictures were taken, but the one thing that will stick with us most is our time we spent with the students over lunch. Before we ate we stood in the middle of the cafeteria and one student volunteered to not only pray for the food but pray for us. With outstretched hands the students joined together in prayer to pray for us and our time with them. This was not only so special for us, but it was amazing to see the Lord at work in these schools. How they are raising up young leaders to lead for Jesus. At that age many kids shy away from publicly acknowledging their faith, however I love how it’s not something they are ashamed of, but they take pride in it and sharing it with others.
Mana de Vida has a slogan that says “transforming lives in the name of Jesus”
Afterwards, we stood there trying to figure out where to sit and within seconds the kids grabbed our plates and made a place at their tables. After many conversations about favourite foods, sports teams, if we had kids or siblings the students proceeded to wash our dishes for us. In hopes we would go to the school to bless the kids, they turned it around and blessed us through these little acts of kindness.
Throughout our week we had the opportunity to build relationships with the teachers in our off-hours. Usually the teachers head home around the same time, but they decided to stay behind and spend time getting to know us. They came over to our place and we played basketball and did a craft with them. The next day they came over and went swimming with us. It was really cool to see their kindness and willingness to build relationships and continually reach out to us on their own time.
After such a fun week, Friday came so soon! We had the opportunity to hang out with the kids in the morning and play soccer as well as teach the younger kids some English. After lunch we were waiting around before we got back to work, until we were all wisked away individually to different classes. We knew the students were preparing a surprise but we had no idea what that entailed! To our surprise they took us to their class and made us dresses out of news paper. They did our hair and make up with the little things they found in their backpacks. They prepped us with speeches and even taught us the proper way to walk. After we were all done up the whole school gathered in the courtyard to put on a little beauty pageant. Each class cheered us on as we made our speeches and we’re presented with pageant titles! (Miss Español, Miss MDV, Miss simpática, and Miss elegancia)
Afterwords the kids prayed over us and wished us on our way. It was such a beautiful way for the school to show their appreciation for us this week and our hearts were so full after this fun activity.
Later that evening we were invited out to one of the directors and his wife’s house for a night to unwind after a busy week. We jumped in the back of his pick up truck and headed to his house. The little things like riding in the back of pick up trucks are some of the things I’m going to miss most about Guate. To our surprise they bought us pizza and we watched a movie in English. This was such a nice break and for the first time in a long time it felt like home. This was such a highlight for our group and the simple generosity in spending time with us spoke volumes and will be a time we won’t forget.
Overall, I couldn’t be more thankful for this week and all we had the opportunity to experience. Mana de Vida means Mana of life, which relates back to the Bible when the Israelites were in the desert and God provided for their needs by supplying them Mana. We have not only watched God provide this week, but we also have had the privilege to see his work thus far in the organization and how he continues to provide for their needs. On the back of all the kids uniforms read 2 Corinthians 3:18.
“Nothing between us and God, our faces shining with the brightness of his face. And so we are transfigured much like the Messiah, our lives gradually becoming brighter and more beautiful as God enters our lives and we become like him.”
Jesus has been so evident this week and I believe that he has so much more for these kids and this organization. I have loved seeing Jesus’ kingdom being built here in Guatemala and how it starts with the little ones. They truly are the hope for our future.
-Taylor on behalf of Guattatown
Hola from Guattatown!
We started this week with a 9.5 hour drive back from Finca Ixobel on Sunday. Then, on Monday, it was back to our regular San Juan schedule of Spanish classes and living with our host families. It was a tough first day back to “the grind” of school after two weeks of travelling, but we had a highlight as two guests from Canada had arrived. Cam Priebe, our Outtatown director had arrived to spend a week and a bit with us and to help out the leaders with whatever they needed. Then we met Cam’s friend who quickly became our friend as well: Jay Siemens. Jay is a photographer in Canada and is famous in the world of fishing photography! He had come to hang out with us for a week to film and take pictures of whatever we happened to be doing.
We kept up our normal schedule through the next part of the week heading off to our service projects Tuesday, and then having small groups Wednesday. Jay ran around to all of our different activities trying to capture what it is like in a day in the Outtatown Guatemala life for the promotional video that he will be putting together for us for the upcoming year.
Thursday was a crazy day full of many awesome experiences. The day started by us finishing our second last week of Spanish classes, which was good because we were all exhausted, but sad because it meant we only have one week left. In the afternoon, we all headed to the bus to drive to the San Antonio cultural market for our weekly cultural activity. We arrived and were welcomed by Mayan women in full traditional clothing who introduced themselves and told us a little bit about how we would be learning about their Mayan culture that afternoon. They started off the afternoon by performing a cultural dance for us, then we learned about an important piece of cloth called the sute (soo-tay). This piece of cloth is something every Mayan woman has because of its alarming number of uses. We first learned that it can be used like a bag and tied around all of your purchases at the market or tienda (store) and then be carried home. Another great use for the sute is rolling it up in a specific way so that it creates almost a sort of cushion which is then put on your head. This then gets a basket full of goods added to it which can weigh up to 75 pounds and then the woman can carry whatever she wants with her hands free. They then brought out baskets and sutes for all of us and we practiced carrying empty baskets on our heads which is a lot harder than all the Guatemalan women make it look. We then learned how to carry a baby safely in a sute which none of us tried for the baby’s sake. Then the women explained how a boy proposes to a girl, and the long chain of events that take place before the couple can get married. After we heard the explanation, the woman in charge came up and told us that it was our turn! So, two students got up and volunteered to marry each other for the sake of the experience.
The husband shares his account of the event:
“I thought to myself that I would probably only get one chance to say that I was married in Guatemala… so why not seize the opportunity?! I got up, and my future wife and I went to a back room to put traditional Mayan clothes over our current ones. I thought I looked pretty good in my black robe and cowboy hat and my wife looked very beautiful in her traditional Mayan clothes and veil. Once we were all dressed we walked out arm in arm and knelt down on two mats while my “mom” threw flower petals at us. A woman came to the front and said some words in Kekchi to bless the marriage. We then got up and everyone danced to rejoice with us, the happy couple. I can truthfully say that my wife and I are very happy but sad that we will be parting ways in a month’s time. But don’t worry, we are in the process of working things out… we’re still good friends.”
After the wedding finished and pictures had been taken, we proceeded to help make tortillas for the meal we shared with the women who had been our teachers for the day. Making tortillas, by the way, is a lot harder than the Guatemalan people make it look. Very few of us actually succeeded to even get a tortilla with a relatively round shape to it. I guess practice makes perfect. All in all it was a very fun day full of learning and experiencing many new things and starting to understand the diverse Mayan culture in Guatemala a little bit better.
Friday was a very difficult (but incredible) day for 14 students and 2 leaders because the time had come for the annual climb of the Acatenango Volcano! Sixteen people got out of bed at 7am Friday morning to head to the bus and drive to the base of the volcano. I started out at the front of the group and was just chuncing it (chuncing is a new verb that we made on the hike. It is the equivalent of motoring it, booking it or trekking it… but used solely for going up volcanoes, if you were wondering) up the volcano for about 5 minutes before I was out of breath and gasping on the side of the trail. For the next hour and a half with the expecting of a few breaks we all chunced up the trail which was almost non existent because of all the sand on the trail. If you have even tried running on a beach you will have an idea about hard it was. You know the feeling when you start to run on the beach and you have absolutely no traction; well that’s exactly what this was like, except we were hiking uphill with huge packs on our backs. Anyway, we all managed to make it to lunch after about an hour and a half of hard hiking. We took a nice long break and then started up again. Taking a break every half hour or so, we managed to make it up to base camp in a total of about 5.5 hours. Everyone cheered and rejoiced with each other after dropping their bags and falling to the ground. We set up camp and just had a great time singing songs, dancing and looking at the great views. Except the views weren’t completely amazing because it was really cloudy out. Because of the clouds, we hadn’t really gotten a nice view of Fuego which is the active volcano just across from us. As time went on we were starting to get a little disappointed that we hadn’t seen it erupt yet so one of the girls said a quick prayer asking for God to let us see the volcano erupt. Not 20 seconds later, the clouds parted and Fuego erupted in a huge cloud of smoke! We all started screaming in excitement and everyone ran for their cameras. Shelby yelled, “HE LISTENED!” It was an amazing moment. As soon as the opening in the clouds had come, it disappeared. But God wasn’t done with us yet. We all turned around full of excitement to see that the clouds were parting again but this time giving us an overwhelming view of another volcano named Agua which was just off to the left. The sun glistened off of the clouds and in the background a rainbow appeared just behind Agua. It was like an indescribable painting appeared in the sky for just a few seconds and then was swallowed up again by the clouds. It was a moment we will never forget.
That night for supper the guide boiled some water and we had some Mr. Noodles along with the insane amount of trail mix everyone brought along for snacking. After supper everyone had a grand old time sitting by the fire singing songs together and watching Fuego erupt because the clouds had cleared by this time. As it got even later into the evening, almost all the clouds disappeared and you could see for miles and find different towns and volcanoes in the distance lit up by the full moon.
It was such a beautiful night that as people started going to bed, a group decided to sleep by the fire and watch Fuego and the stars all night long. Then at 4:00am the next morning everyone got out of bed and grabbed their walking sticks and proceeded to follow our guide Mel up the side of the volcano along a trail very similar to the one I described at the beginning like the beach. We trudged up the trail behind him because most of us didn’t even have enough energy to chunce up. As we emerged from the trees we were met with an incredible view of being above the clouds looking down on the cities and towns peaking up at us through cracks in the clouds. This gave us a new energy and we proceeded to hike up the trail. At our last rest stop before we got to the top we waited until we were all together to push for the summit together. The top of the volcano is more exciting and incredible than I can even begin to describe. You are literally looking down at the clouds while standing above two volcanoes that seem close enough to touch. When the sun came out it was the most beautiful sunrise I have ever seen. The sun bounced off of the clouds to create amazing colors and give light to not only the world but to all of our tired bodies. The energy level went wild and people started taking pictures like crazy and running around trying to take it all in. The guys in the group all took off their shirts and did a crazy dance that was mainly just jumping around freezing while the girls took videos and laughed at how stupid we were. After I brought out my pineapple that I had carried up and cut it up to share with the group.
Jay all the while had been getting photos of everyone doing everything and as we are getting to the end of being there Fuego erupted and everyone just lit up with joy from everything they were experiencing. By this point everyone was freezing cold because it was below zero degrees up there and extremely windy, so we all gathered together as a group and sang our song “loved and cherished” and said a quick prayer recognizing this amazing thing we were all experiencing. Then we said goodbye to the summit and headed back down to camp to pack up and start the hike back down. The hike was a lot of fun as we could run down at points, and it only took us two and a half hours to complete. Back at the base of the volcano we took a very nice photo post-hike of all of our dirty and tired faces (see the “before” and “after” pictures below!) and drove back to San Juan.
Some members of our community chose not to hike Acatenango, and they all had a great weekend doing various things like visiting an orphanage, shopping and hanging out in Antigua, spending quality time with one another, and there was even a group of people that went to a restaurant called “Hobbitenango” which was Lord of the Rings themed and had a great time.
Finally, to end off our week we headed up to Cross on the Hill and had worship which was tough for the people who were tired from the hike, but was still a really amazing time to come together as a community and be in God’s presence through song, scripture, prayer and the symbol of the cross reminding us that God is with us wherever we are. It was a very peaceful time and a perfect way to end our second last week in San Juan del Obispo.
Jesse Neufeld (aka Padre)
On Friday, February 17th we said hasta luego to our lovely host families and all piled onto our bus and headed to Coban! The bus ride consisted of drying laundry, Spanish lessons with friends and lots of music. We arrived (many hours later!) at Community Cloud Forest Conservation (CCFC) where we met Rob and Tara. They were our hosts for the week and graciously welcomed all of us into their home (a beautiful log cabin lodge that CMU has been apart of building in the past!). They were very eager to tell us about CCFC and what they do to help the surrounding Mayan communities of the cloud forest.
That week, Rob and Tara were hosting about 30 children from a village community from up in the mountains called Cébop. We had the opportunity to hangout with the children and practice some Q’ueqchi’ (their Mayan language) while teaching them a little bit of English. We explored caves, swam in the stream running through the reserve, played soccer and watched the stars. Our mornings consisted of helping Rob and Tara build the second part of their building where they would eventually be able to help the people in their development program with girls in outside communities. We helped with construction in the morning, then picked up where we left off with the kids in the afternoon: soccer, cutting firewood (those kids were good with machetes!) and exploring the forest surrounding us.
After few days helping build and playing with the kids, it became time for our Mayan homestays. We were paired up and met the child whose house we would be living in for the next 3 days. We hopped into two small busses and drove up into the mountains to the Mayan village called Cébop. During our time there, we got to experience the life of these wonderful Mayan people. We were all graciously welcomed into our families where we played with the kids, learned some Quechi, ate lots of corn tortillas and hiked quite a ways to attend their school. After school, all of us Outtatowners and our host siblings gathered at the soccer field (7000ft up the mountain) where we played many different games with all the children. The last night in our homestays arrived quickly and we all went back to CCFC to share our experiences with one another.
We spent our last day at CCFC debriefing and preparing for our travel week ahead. We talked about our highs and lows: the things we enjoyed, and the things we found uncomfortable and challenging. Rob challenged us with a bible study from Luke 7 about juxtapositions: Overall, Coban was an amazing experience for all of us and were slowly letting this week change our way of viewing those around us. Our goal was to not allow this to simply be an “interesting experience”, but to allow it to slowly change our world, and change our perspective. We felt so privileged to be able to experience something that most people travelling through Guatemala do not get to experience… and it is something we will not quickly forget.
– Alex on behalf of Outtatown Guatemala
One of our highlights of this week in San Juan del Obispo, besides the usual routine of Spanish school, cultural activities and time with our host families, was all of us getting to watch the first Guatemala league soccer game of the season in the Antigua stadium. Playing was the team from Coban, against Antigua’s very own Pancia Verdes (Green Bellies), named for the city’s love of avocados.
The game kicked off after the avocado mascot danced off the field, and it wasn’t too long before the whole stadium filled with booing as Coban scored the first goal. Most of the crowd was dressed in the signature green of Antigua, some even buying scarves, hats, and face stamps from the many enthusiastic vendors.
From our end of the stadium, it was hard to know what to watch: the professional soccer players, or the group of four little boys playing two on two at the bottom of the stands. Every once in a while their ball would go flying over the fence onto the field, and one of the players from Coban would run over to throw it back to them.
But it was midplay that the excitement peaked: Antigua was bearing down on Coban’s net, looking like they might level the game, when a new player was added to the field—a happy dog, racing the teams for the ball. Gameplay came to a halt and officials swarmed the field, trying to chase the dog off. It ran around and around, across the field and behind ad boards, evading them at every turn, until it finally leapt triumphantly through the fence to cheering from all sides of the stands.
Gameplay resumed. Antigua soon scored, and finished the game with a one all tie with Coban. Antigua was the Guatemala-wide champion last year. We won’t be here to witness the winning games, but we wish all the best luck to the Panca Verde team throughout the rest of this season.
This game was also our last time seeing some visitors we had with us, pastor J Janzen and his wife Andrea here for the week from Abbotsford, BC. Throughout the week they had been taking students out for coffee, breakfast, lunch, and supper to hang out and talk about pretty much anything with us. Plans for next year, deep theological questions, tourist spots in Antigua, whatever was on our minds. We were very appreciative of the time and care they took meeting up with every single one of us seventeen students. They flew out not long after the game, and the rest of us were left to pack our bags for what’s coming up next in our itinerary: two weeks of adventure and travelling through the most beautiful scenery and experiences that Guatemala has to offer, from the clear pools of Semuc Champey to the ancient Mayan ruins at Tikal.
Until next time, this is Olivia from Guattatown signing off.
Wow! Another week has flown by in San Juan! Es muy rapido!
This past week has been filled with many different adventures such as climbing Volcan de Pacaya, helping in our service projects, and continuing to learn Spanish. We have been super busy and learning lots! Out of all of these incredible activities, my favourite part of this week was getting to play with the children at an after school program called “Niños del Mundo”, for children who don’t have the best support at home.
My small group was the first to visit the children on Wednesday. We have been studying the book ‘What’s so Amazing About Grace?’ by Philip Yancey, and were looking forward to understanding a deeper meaning of the term grace as we interacted with the kids. As we entered, we had no idea what to expect, only that we had a little over an hour to love these kids.
We met about fifty smiling children, ages five to twelve, who enjoyed playing games such as musical chairs, tag, and Pato Pato Ganso (duck duck goose). The time with them flew by! It was a phenomenal day and we looked forward to returning.
On Thursday, all twenty of us got to go to spend time with the kids, bringing along with us cakes and piñatas. This time there were many more kids and way more chaos, but still a wonderful time of getting to reconnect with our friends from the day before and meet new ones.
As we spent time with the kids, the theme of grace kept appearing. We had to have grace for each other in the overwhelming chaos of screaming kids, we had to have grace for the kids when they plunked themselves down on our lap then proceeded to snot and sneeze all over, and the children had to have grace for us and our very broken Spanish. One of my favourite quotes from the book I mentioned earlier is “Grace means there is nothing we can do to make God love us more and there is nothing we can do to make God love us less.” God’s love for us and for the children is unconditional. And we were blessed to be able to share that this week.
-Kari on behalf of Guattatown