Posts Tagged With: Kekchi

WALC with Abby

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This is a guest post by Abby about the experience she was able to participate in during November. We are very thankful not only for this opportunity, but also for the amazing young lady she is becoming.

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Abby with Ingrid and the other “gringas:” Miriam, Sarah, and Taylor.

When I was first offered the chance to volunteer with the WALC program* for twenty-five days of November, I nearly said no. I’d been hoping to do NaNoWriMo again that month, get ahead in schoolwork, and prepare for the holidays, and I didn’t want to leave my family or my kitten for that long. I wasn’t sure I wanted to spend the month in a place I didn’t know, with new people, and a hundred Q’eqchi’ girls talking to me and asking the same questions every day, and then laughing to themselves in a language I didn’t understand. But God reminded me how I’d prayed for Him to take me out of my comfort zone. He softened my heart to see my stubbornness. My selfishness. In my notebook I wrote:

“Don’t I know that by following Him, His voice and His call, and leaving this bubble of comfort –don’t I know there is so much more to be experienced outside my desires? I claim my greatest desire is to follow Him- but does comfort mean more to me?”

“If it weren’t for You,” I wrote to God, “I’d choose no.” And so, though I was still nervous, I chose yes.

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Abby and her friend, Heydi.

“You will be my strength- all of it, for I have none of my own for this- and You will be my song, even on the hardest days. You will be my shield- all around me, protecting me, upholding me, and You will be the only reward I ever need. “

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Working on and showing off their orchid embroidery.

I stayed at the site of the program five days a week, coming home for one night mid-week and for the weekends. On November 6th, the day we picked up the girls and checked them all in, the day the program began, I found these words playing over and over in my head.

“God of the skies
You are watching over me
Every moment of every day
You are by my side.”

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Planting cebollines with Ingrid’s (back left) gardening class

The adventure began. There were twelve classes, twelve groups, and twenty-four workdays, meaning over the course of the month, each group spent two full days in each class. For the first week of the program, I helped with the hortalizas –gardening- classes. We planted cilantro, kale, onions, and peas, all in the first few days. We harvested malanga root from taro plants with machetes, and spent the majority of our time weeding.

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Organizing tree bags with Cleydi’s reforestation class

After that, I joined the reforestation classes for a week and a half. We spent four hours every day organizing tree bags in the nursery, rain or shine, and more often than not, it was extremely muddy. I discovered most of the girls were afraid of earthworms and centipedes and snakes of any kind, to the point where they would simply stand still for several minutes until it disappeared back into the soil, or scream and cause the whole group to gather around. It became part of my job to move the earthworms out of the way whenever they were spotted so the girls could continue with their work.

For the last week or so I helped out the cocineras –cooks- in the kitchen, and I’m glad I did, because I enjoyed those hours most of all. The days were spent chopping, peeling, and grating various vegetables, cooking rice, fetching tortillas from a nearby few families who worked together to make them for us every day–300 every meal, and collecting leaves from a certain plant called rok’tix in Q’eqchi’, to fry with eggs.

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Helping distribute ingredients for making a rehydration drink–a very important recipe for rural communities where health care is hard to reach.

Over the course of the month, I learned the importance of choosing kindness before preference or comfort or judgment. I become excessively thankful for those who have been kind to me after I wasn’t to them, and I learned so much about just how connected I still am to my comfort zone, even when I thought I wasn’t. I met a hundred and thirty beautiful souls and got half a hundred hugs every day. I got to hear them sing, I got to dance with them, and I got to learn bits and pieces of their lovely language.

I’m so thankful God didn’t let me choose no.

1 Timothy 4:12: “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.”

*WALC stands for Women in Agroecology Leadership for Conservation. The program is for teenage Q’eqchi’ girls, focusing on agroecology but also teaching them about nutrition, cooking, health, hygiene, self-esteem, and various life skills. The program is made to empower the girls and to equip them so they can improve the agricultural practices of their own villages. Some teachings are based on historical practices of the Q’eqchi that have been lost over the years. When they complete the 25 days of training, the girls receive scholarships to go to school, since dropping out is extremely common for girl in their age range otherwise. More about it here: http://cloudforestconservation.org/our-work/walc/

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Catching Up

On our way to church

On our way to church

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).

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Graduation from The Spanish Institute in San Jose, Costa Rica

Ted and I graduated from language school after two semesters in late April. Ted continued some classes/tutoring for 6 weeks until the kids’ school year finished in early June. Both of us received diplomas, which are only given to those students who are able to meet a certain level of achievement demonstrated through a half-hour oral interview and a 3-hour written grammar test. Unfortunately, that doesn’t translate directly to entering another culture and understanding everything that is said or done!
We arrived in Guatemala the evening of June 18 after another round of rushed good-byes with many special friends we had made in the previous 10 months. God truly used our time in Costa Rica to bless us and prepare us. The relationships we made there with so many others in such similar circumstances will be treasured forever.
All our belongings...in the back of one van.

All our belongings…in the back of one van.

A rest stop on the way to Carcha

A rest stop on the way to Carcha

We're home! After 30 hours of being homeless.

We’re home! After 30 hours of being homeless.

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.

San Pedro Carcha, Alta Verapaz, Guatemala

San Pedro Carcha, Alta Verapaz, Guatemala

Galen with Rosebud and Chimp

Galen with Rosebud and Chimp

What was left from the protest by the time we passed.

What was left from the protest by the time we passed.

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Julie & Silvia

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 visited a coffee nursery as part of the conference.

Ted visited a coffee nursery as part of the conference.

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.

Fellowship time outside the church after a Sunday service.

Fellowship time outside the church after a Sunday service.

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.

The kids are adjusting. It has been rough in some ways as they haven’t had a built-in source for friends at school. Cub and Chimp have enjoyed playing soccer with some kids down the street, and Rosebed has made herself a favorite of both our next-door neighbors and the ladies in the tortilla shop down the street. Daisy really enjoys the nature here and all the new bird and flower species that she has seen.
A visit to the market

A visit to the market

A little bit of street soccer

A little bit of street soccer

A package from home can brighten up even the worst day!!

A package from home can brighten up even the worst day!!

Visa paperwork

Visa paperwork all signed & sealed

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.

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Guatemala Day 3: Meeting the Kekchi

IMG_20130929_113804657_HDRIMG_20130929_111403018Sunday we attended a Kekchi church out in the country. Phyllis shared with me a Kekchi skirt and shirt she had been given, so I was even able to dress the part. Rosebud was too, as we had purchased a shirt for her from the weaving co-op we visited the previous day. (The Kekchi ladies’ skirts consist of EIGHT YARDS of fabric and a drawstring. It is quite a feat to deal with all that fabric to put the skirt on, let alone wear it around all day!) We drove 45 minutes or so through more gorgeous land and then had to hike 10-15 minutes up a narrow trail to the church. The Kekchi have learned from their Latino neighbors, that louder music is better, so they have pretty big speakers in their churches. As each person enters the church (which is just one large room) they go to the front or their seat and kneel to pray before doing anything else. The service is similar to ours with singing and announcements and prayer and a message. All visitors are invited up to give a welcome. Since the Groffs had prepared us for this, we were ready. 🙂 Ted also played and sang a short song for them, and Galen was asked to give the message in Kekchi (which he had also been prepared for). Rosebud was again quite an attraction with the children, and she enjoyed interacting with them too.

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IMG_20130930_131627 After the service, we were introduced to the piano player, Wilmar. He spent a year in the United States a year ago with MCC and is now back with his family and working to discern what to do next. Since he speaks English, Spanish, and Kekchi he was an immense help to us during our trip. We had lunch with Wilmar’s family. His father, Felipe, is a relatively wealthy farmer in the area who has quite a bit of coffee. Following our lunch of Caldo (a traditional Guatemala soup with chicken, güisquil, and other vegetables) and, of course, corn tortillas, the men gathered to discuss coffee and roya and what opportunities there were that Ted could assist with. On our way back to our car, we looked at Felipe’s crops. He has quite a bit of coffee (with various effects from the roya) cardamom, and 28 varieties of fruit. We also stopped and visited a nearby coffee beneficio (processing plant) that has been out of use for about 5 years.IMG_20130929_113914972 IMG_20130929_093850068 IMG_20130929_124634190_HDR IMG_20130929_120952614 20130929_134320 20130929_142918

Back at the Groffs’, we spent some time talking about what we’d seen so far and what we felt our mission would be and our vision. We ended that evening with a great time of prayer together.

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