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.
We began fundraising a year ago this January. As we look back on 2014 it is amazing that we have come so far and accomplished so many things during those quick 12 months.
It has been an exciting time, seeking partners and meeting many like-minded friends for our mission. We’ve worshipped with many churches in New York and Pennsylvania, sharing how God has called us and how he continues to provide for us. We’ve fellowshipped with many wonderful people at the mission conference in Bell Run and at various events. We’ve rallied together for God’s cause to bring hope and justice to the wonderful K’ekchi’ people in Guatemala.
We’ve also had to say good-bye to a lot of friends and a lot of the things that are dear to our hearts. We remember the tearful good-byes at church, the last Christmas with family and the last picnic and bonfire with friends. We’ve sold our possessions and our house and land, and brought our children to a different land with new people and customs.
We’ve been in Costa Rica now for 5 out of 10 months, learning Spanish and adapting to the culture of Latin America. In a way it feels like we’re in a holding-pattern, in between the excitement of being sent and the compelling work of being on the ground in Guatemala. At times it can be discouraging and uncertain, when our resolve is tested and the mountain of spanish verb conjugations piles up endlessly, or when our children deal with culture change in different ways.
However, we know how important this time is for us as a family. We are growing in ways we didn’t foresee, drawing closer as a family as we draw closer to God. We have learned how to be a witness in our community, even when we are unable to communicate the language. The children have made friends with our neighbors and with the local kids at the park. We shared in the joy of providing Christmas for a nearby orphanage and we spent a number of mornings after the New Year picking up the trash in the playground.
At first we didn’t see the need for so much time studying in Costa Rica, we were eager to get on the field as quickly as possible. But we’ve come to appreciate this incubation period, this time for God to work in our hearts and teach us to be humble and patient, allowing Him to work through us instead of trying to rely on our own strength.
We are thrilled that you have joined us on this journey of the past year. We praise God that with your help we have 98.5% of the needed funds for the coming 2.5 years. With $5,000 left to raise, there is still an opportunity for you to join us by donating if you would like to join us in what God is doing among the K’ekchi’ in Guatemala.
One thing we didn’t anticipate when we were preparing to leave for the mission field was what new ‘pets’ we might acquire. We have seen many new creatures here in Costa Rica, some of them we have appreciated and invited back, some not so much, and some are ok..in their place (which is not inside the house). Here are some we’ve captured on ‘film.’ (Click on any picture to see it larger.)
Moth: This large guy was discovered hovering around the light in the boys’ room one evening. By turning various lights on and off, we gradually lured him outside and he spent the night on our back porch. We didn’t mind him in the house, per se, but something that size flitting around in the dark is rather disconcerting.
Ants: These tiny ants are ever-present in Costa Rican kitchens and virtually impossible to get rid of. If you drop something sweet on the floor, you are sure to have an entire colony within an hour or so. Sweeping them up is quite a treat–ever watched your dirt pile walk across the floor in front of you?
Gecko: This picture is a baby-size gecko I found on the shower curtain one morning. We have a larger one (3″-4″) in our kitchen that shows itself in the evenings–but never hangs around for a picture. We greatly appreciate these guys for helping to keep our insect population under control, though they do make quite a loud chirping noise for such tiny creatures. The first few weeks, we looked around for a bird whenever we heard one.
Leaf bug: This picture is an actual Katydid, aka walking leaf. However, walking down the sidewalks we often see many leaves moving across their sidewalks, what looks like on their own. A closer look reveals to them be ants carrying pieces of leaves. During one walk to the park, we followed a trail of them over 25 feet and up a tree. The ants around here quite industrious!
Monkey: We visited one of Costa Rica’s many beaches (Playa Doña Ana) during a national holiday back in September. These monkeys were very used to getting food from the beach-goers, though we’ve heard that isn’t the case for the monkeys at all the beaches.
Birds: We have enjoyed finding new species of birds here. Many look and/or sound similar to ones we know from the states, but there are many new ones too. Because we leave our doors and windows open the majority of the time when we are home, these two little guys found their way int the house once morning, It took a little encouraging to get them back out again.
I’m sure we will continue to expand our knowledge of the animal kingdom greatly in the coming months.
Our Spanish knowledge is coming along too. Just last night, Chimp was “reading” Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? to me and he read, “Blanco dog, blanco dog, what do you see?…” and “Negro sheep, negro sheep…” I’m pretty sure he didn’t realize he was mixing languages!
The phrase “back to school” has loaded meaning for our whole family this year. Not only are the kids starting a new school year, but Ted and I are heading back as well—for the first time in over a decade! On top of that, the younger two kids have their very own classes during mommy and daddy’s school time. This is the first time ever for any of the kids to be in a classroom since we have homeschooled up to now. That is a big change not only for them, but also for me as I am adjusting to not knowing all about their curriculum and what they are learning on a daily basis.
That said, the first week went pretty well. By the end of the week, Rosebud was going to class without crying—though she was sometime still upset at pickup time if all the other parents got there before we did. Chimp really enjoyed his PreK class which is all in Spanish. He hasn’t used much at home yet, but they said give him a month or so and he may be our translator! Cub is doing well and loving school despite my concerns about his ability to focus for long periods, and Daisy is relishing in the structure and lack of sibling distractions. Ted and I were both placed in an Intermediate level class to start and are doing well. We have four hours of class each day, split into three different classes: Grammar, Phonetics, and Language (mostly oral practice).
Our adjustment to Costa Rica is still very much a work in progress. One of the biggest changes is transportation. With no vehicle of our own, we are doing a lot of walking. We have used the bus a couple times and we usually take a taxi home from stores when we buy a lot of groceries, etc., but other than that, we walk. To the park, to school, to friends’ houses, to the market, to the corner store, to church, to the bank, to the panaderia (bakery, yum!)… It is probably similar to city living in the U.S., but coming from a very rural area, it is an adjustment for us. I think the stroller we brought has more miles on it in the two weeks we’ve been here than any of our other strollers in their entire lifetimes. 🙂
The other big adjustment has been security. Partly city-living and partly as North Americans (whom they perceive as being rich), we do have to be watchful. Not only do we have to keep an eye on our children at all times, but we also need to be conscious of making ourselves as inconspicuous as possible. Since the current targets seem to be smartphones and passports, we purchased a “dumb phone” for me to use (instead of the smartphone I already own) and we have had wallet size copies of our passports made so we don’t need to carry them with us (needed as ID whenever we make a purchase with a credit/debit card). Unfortunately, there has been at least one student held up each trimester at the school. I don’t think anyone has ever been seriously injured, but we still want to minimize our risk. We would appreciate ongoing prayers for our safety in this area.
On a positive note, the kids have really enjoyed the increased opportunities to spend time with friends. Not only during school time, but we often meet other families at the park or go to their houses for a bit on the way home from school. There is another family here, also from EMM, that has children similar ages as all three of our older kids! Ted has also made some great relationships as well. He enjoys working on his Spanish with locals whenever he can and already has several people he chats with on a regular basis. We have also connected with several other missionaries at the school who are also planning to work with coffee production/sales in some way or another. Even though we are eager to get to Guatemala and begin working with the K’ekchi’, it is obvious that God is using our time here in a great way too. Thank you to everyone who is making this possible.
“Saddle up your horses we’ve got a trail to blaze…” This Steven Curtis Chapman song has been the theme song of our journey this year. As a family, we have started every one of our many car trips for fundraising with the Overture and song. Today, as we take the next BIG step on this path God has us on, we invite you to join us. Big or small, local or global, God has invited each of us to follow him in our own Great Adventure!
Let’s follow our Leader
Into the glorious unknown
This is a life like no other
This is the great adventure
I came across this quote this past week and it really hit me. We have been saying so many goodbyes lately, and they are getting harder and harder. Yes, our goodbyes do mean going away at this time, but it is our prayer they do not mean forgetting. Although we cannot be directly a part of all the lives we were before, we still hope to be able to share in each other’s lives and support each other. We are very thankful for Facebook and email and Skype that allow us to continue to be connected in spite of physical distance. Not only can we share with others about our lives and how God is working in another part of the world, but we can also hear from you all about your lives and how God is working here!
We left our house and home community two days ago and already we have received several emails and notes from friends. This is such an encouragement to us even in this early stage of our travels. We covet your prayers greatly, but hearing from you is just as important to let us know we are not forgotten.
So, maybe we should not say goodbye, but see ya later, knowing that we will still be able to share our lives and with the knowledge that we will see each other again, and that this span of time that we are gone is very short when compared with the eternity we know we will have together.
No, not that one; we were married in May.
Today we celebrate the first anniversary of the day God called us to Guatemala and then confirmed that call in several ways.
We look back and remember how God gently led us to the point where we could accept His will with eagerness and not reluctance or fear.
We look at the present and see God’s faithfulness in providing for us as we raise funds and prepare our hearts and house and minds to go.
We look to the future and have faith in God’s continued guidance and that He is preparing the way for us even now.
Praise God from whom all blessings flow!!