A picture is worth a thousand words, ¿verdad? Therefore, this is a twelve thousand word post!
Author Archives: julie
Come see us this summer:
May 28: 9:45am Equipping Hour, Ephrata FIRST UMC Church, Ephrata, PA
June 4: 10am West York Church of the Brethren, York, PA
June 4: 6:30pm Franklin County, location TBA
June 11: 10am Yorks Corners Mennonite Church, Wellsville, NY
June 18: 10:30am Bell Run Union Church, Shinglehouse, PA
June 25: 11am Lowville Mennonite Church, Lowville, NY
July 2: 11am Ellisburg Union Church, Ellisburg, PA
July 9: 6pm EMM Worker Commissioning, Mellinger Mennonite Church, Lancaster, PA
July 9-14: EMM Oasis Retreat
July 15: 11am-3pm, EMM Global Fair, Hans Herr House, Willow Street, PA
July 16: 6pm Ephrata First UMC, Ephrata, PA
July 23: 9:30am Alden Mennonite Church, near Buffalo, NY
August 6: Rochester Area Mennonite Fellowship, Rochester, NY
August 13: Friendship Mennonite Church, Cleveland, OH
August 20: 10am Clarence Center Akron Mennonite Church, near Buffalo, NY
August 27: 10:45am Chenunda Creek Fellowship, Independence, NY
August 27: 6pm Ice Cream Social, Yorks Corners Mennonite Church, Wellsville, NY
September 10: Return flight to Guatemala! Thank you for your support!!
Labor Day is celebrated on May 1 here in Guatemala. Since it is a federal holiday and most things are closed, the boys’ school had a family festival at a local ‘balneario’ (swimming hole) today. Not having any idea what to expect, we weren’t quite prepared for the day, but it was a fun time.
They split everyone up into ‘families’ (teams) and each family had to go through the 14 stations surrounding the river–some of them in the river. It was a wet and muddy experience, but enjoyed by all and we also got to know some of the parents of the boys’ classmates.
Here’s a few pictures of the day. As the designated ‘dry-person’, I had the camera, but also the baby, so I didn’t get to all the stations before they had already finished and were on their way to the next one! Each station was named after something in the Bible (Nile River, Red Sea Crossing, etc) and had a Bible verse to go with it.
Blessed be your name!
We spent the week before Easter getting to know a new part of Guatemala–the desert! This year’s EMM Central America retreat was in Chiquimula, at a World Vision center there. Five families, including 18 kids (13 of them boys!), joined together in wonderful, precious times of worship, prayer, fellowship, teaching, and a little fun. It’s hard to say if the adults or the kids enjoyed it more. Friendships were forged and renewed and I think it’s safe to say we all left feeling very encouraged by our time together.
The adults discussed healthy marriages and parenting in the context of ministry as well as being passionate Christ followers. It was refreshing to discover that we all shared similar struggles and to discuss various solutions and just to know we aren’t alone. Some of the most special times were in the evenings when we spent time praying over and blessing each family including each individual family member. God knew what we all needed and his presence and faithfulness in providing it was soo good!
Here is a slideshow of some highlights from the week:
On our way home Friday, we stopped in Coban to check out the ‘alfombras’ or ‘carpets’ being made for the Good Friday processions. It is amazing the amount of work put into these just to have them trampled on hours later. Here is a time-lapse video someone did where you can see the whole process (in Antigua, Guatemala).
We enjoyed a relatively quiet Easter after the full week, and this week the boys started the second quarter of their school year and the rest of us are working on what needs to be done before heading to the States for the summer…a lot!
Every few months, we have the opportunity to take a trip to Guatemala City for one reason or another. This past week required a trip to finalize the residential visas for two of the six of us. (Luciana has dual-citizenship and so needs no visas!)
We started the five-hour trip early Wednesday afternoon. We usually prefer to leave in the morning, but with the boys in school now 7:30am-12:30pm, we wanted to minimize the time they would miss. Between construction, an accident, and a dinner stop, we made it to the Anabaptist guest house, Semilla, in the city around 8pm that evening. We enjoy having this little “oasis” in the midst of the city. Thursday morning we had some time to relax before heading out for our appointments at 11:30am. During the previous month, we had scrambled a bit after being told I would need a certified copy of our marriage certificate or I would appear single on all my Guatemalan documents. We got the certified copy (four different steps in the US) with a week to spare, which allowed us just enough time to have it translated and get an authorized copy here. The long-awaited appointment took about 15 minutes for both Jacob and I and then we were done. In five days, the person helping us will pick up the final documents and we will be official! No more having to get visas coming or going. The other four are still in process. There is a small chance they could be finalized before our home leave in May. If not, they will have to apply for simple visas to be able to leave the country without having to restart the whole process when we return.
Thursday afternoon we did a little shopping to pick up some North American foods we enjoy that are hard to find in Coban. Later, we had the first chance since last July to visit the family who so generously shared their home with us when we stayed in the city awaiting Luci’s birth. It was wonderful to be able to chat with them again, and the boys really enjoyed renewing friendships with others in the same community. To top it all off, this week was the spring musical at CAG (Christian Academy of Guatemala–a private Christian school in Guatemala City that is in English), so we were able to go to a showing of Cinderella Enchanted. The kids loved and it were very excited by not only the show, but all the instruments in the orchestra as well. It was a late night, but very much worth it. Esther especially was thrilled to meet “the princess with the cape” (fairy godmother) and “the girl who lost her shoe” (Cinderella) afterward. 🙂
Back to Semilla for the night and we had a sleepy drive home Friday morning. On the way home, we had to stop a while for construction. Since this has been ongoing for a year, there are people that bring their goods and walk up and down the stopped lines of vehicles trying to sell things. You can buy some nuts for a snack, a cold drink, some ice cream, a cell phone charging cord, some cut-up fruit, and the list goes on. A couple of the ladies that came by were enchanted by Luci and enjoyed talking to her.
It was another successful trip to the city, bringing us one step closer to permanency. As usual, we enjoyed the trip and community it offered, but it can be exhausting as well and requires some recovery time.
One more week at home and then we will head out again for our regional EMM retreat where we are looking forward to four wonderful days of fellowship with the other EMM families around Central America.
We just said good-bye to a team from our home church that visited to see and learn more about our ministry here. It was a wonderful, blessed time that we are very thankful for. Some of the members shared their pictures with me, so I thought I would use them to put together a photo-post of some of the things we have been doing. (Roll-over picture to see caption, click on photo to see larger image with full caption.)
The first Sunday the team drove a couple hours to attend the village church in Checalte. Some of the ladies wore Kekchi outfits they had purchased the day before at the market (except Esther who insisted on wearing the skirt we purchased for Abby three years ago. It was a bit on the long side!) During the service, Pastor Gene shared a short sermon that Ted translated to Spanish and our friend Rigoberto translated to Kekchi. Some of the team also sang some hymns. The congregation wanted to share with us as well and sang a couple songs of their own including “I Have Decided to Follow Jesus” in English.
Throughout the week we visited several villages where we have built relationships. We started the week with a coffee tour. The team learned about how coffee is grown and processed.
Another day, the team travelled a couple hours to Chisec to visit and pray for a church in the process of constructing a new building. The pastor here, Pablo, was one of the first Kekchi Mennonite believers back in the 1960s.
We also visited Chiquixji to meet Felipe and his son Wilmar and family. Ted and I first met this family when we visited on our vision trip three years ago. We continue to be blessed by this relationship. We also visited a nearby benefício, or coffee processing facility, to see possibilities for future work.
Near the end of the week we travelled to a village garden that Red Paz (Peace Network)–an organization that Ted works with quite a bit–helped to initiate. Red Paz goes into communities and works to teach helpful skills both in agriculture and in peacemaking. They are the group that has partnered with Ted and the national organization Anacafé to help teach good coffee-growing techniques to Kekchi farmers.
This visit was followed by an uphill hike to visit some friends–Federico and Marta and their two boys. They are a wonderful family that has seen many challenges in the last several years. We had a very special time of prayer with and for them and enjoyed shopping Marta’s beautiful weavings–bags, placemats, table runners, and more.
We ended the visit Sunday by visiting our local church in Chamelco. The team again shared in song, but the most special part came after the service and after lunch. Rigoberto’s family joined us to go down to the river and fulfill a request Abby made several months ago that we thought would have to wait until next summer.
Although these were the scheduled events, there were many other special moments throughout the week, some captured on film and some not. We were truly blessed by this visit and praise God for everything coming together the way it did.
Our special visitors:
I’ve been writing down a few thoughts over the past several months and thought I’d share some of them. Here are several unrelated stories of our lives in Guatemala.
Standing on this mountaintop,Looking just how far we’ve come,Knowing that for every stepYou were with us...
Scars and struggles on the wayBut with joy our hearts can sayYes, our hearts can sayNever once did we ever walk aloneNever once did You leave us on our ownYou are faithful, God, You are faithful
You call me out upon the watersThe great unknown where feet may failAnd there I find You in the mysteryIn oceans deepMy faith will standI will call upon Your nameAnd keep my eyes above the wavesWhen oceans rise my soul will rest in Your embraceFor I am Yours and You are mine..Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior
As of today, we have been in Guatemala for two whole months! And on Friday, we will celebrate our one-year anniversary of leaving the U.S., I thought it was about time to update this blog. If you would like to be updated more frequently, you might want to sign up for our newsletters (see sidebar) as we try to get one of those out every 4-6 weeks. Or you could check out our Facebook page which gets mini-updates from time to time (you can view this page even without a Facebook account).
After doing a bit of shopping Friday morning in Guatemala City for some things to set up our new house, we drove the 5-hour trip to our new home–San Pedro Carcha, Alta Verapaz, Guatemala. We are truly blessed by our house here which came available in perfect timing. It has room for Ted to study with a Kekchi tutor downstairs while I continue to do school with the kids upstairs and even has a walk out roof from which we often enjoy the surrounding country. We spent our first weekend here visiting the Kekchi Mennonite Church and other surrounding places with Galen and Phyllis Groff, our regional representatives with EMM, who had lived here for 20+ years. Monday morning, Ted, Galen, and I headed back into the city to return the rental van, pick up some more things for the house and buy a vehicle for our family. What was to be a one-day trip turned into an overnighter when we ran into a protest blocking the road partway to the city. It delayed us several hours. Phyllis stayed with the kids and was a true blessing to us and them. After accomplishing the needed tasks we headed home. I have never outfitted a house entirely from nothing before, so our first several days were quite overwhelming as I determined our needs and where to find things here or in the city.
After a few more days of showing us around various local spots, Galen and Phyllis left to return to their home in Belize, and we were on our own! God has been faithful and we are slowly building confidence and relationships in our community. Phyllis introduced me to a Kekchi sister from church who has been helping us learn to navigate the market and local foods as well as helping me learn a bit of the Kekchi language. I was too overwhelmed at first to take in much of yet another language, but am starting to pick up more words now.
Ted dove right into studying Kekchi and has had two different brothers offer to come to our house weekly to work with him. He also has had a couple opportunities to drive local church leaders out to villages they needed to visit and thus gain relationships and understanding of the area. Last week he attended a teleconference in nearby Coban (15 minutes from here) put on by Anacafe, the main coffee growers association in Guatemala.
The local church has services in Spanish with a Kekchi translator for most of it. It took the kids a couple weeks, but they now look forward to going to their Sunday School classes each week. The services are something new for us to get used to. The churches in Costa Rica mostly had services very similar to those we were used to in the U.S., down to using the same hymns/choruses just in Spanish. The Kekchi have developed their own personal style of worship and music. It is good to see them worshipping in their own way and not just copying the North Americans, though it does make it more challenging for us to pick up on things.
This week we are taking our first trip back to Guatemala City. The documents for our permanent visas have arrived and we need to get that process started. The MCC office in Guatemala has agreed to help us with this process and have been a blessing in helping us figure out what all we needed and where to get it. Now we need to get everything to the City so it can be translated and go through some more levels of authentication before we can actually apply. We would appreciate prayers for this process. We can renew our tourist visa one time, giving us until December. If we are not far enough in the visa process by then, we will need to travel to either Mexico or Belize to gain another 90 days.