Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Angry Meeting # ... I Lost Count

We sent out our prayer letter for February Monday. I shared about our water story. It seems we have lots of water stories these days, but this one was about the institute. I'm posting it here with more details because it is definitely one I want to remember, one I need to remember.

Eventually we want to dig a well on the pastors institute property/farm. $20,000 has been given and set aside for this. Unfortunately for the depth that we need, we only know of one reasonably priced company that can dig this well. We have been on the waiting list for over a year. They have several government jobs currently that pay above going rate ($65,000), hence we are at the bottom of the list. Yes, there are missions organizations that dig wells, but the ones we have contacted either don't have the right equipment or are more expensive than secular companies. As a temporary solution Jimmy met with the village next door (our current church plant) over and over again to eventually get permission and a contract signed to be able to hook up to their well. The contract says that they cannot turnoff our water for any reason other than us not paying our bill. Not that we thought there would be any future problems;)
{The day there was running water at the farm was an exciting day}
  Jimmy has been having problems at the farm with people stealing watermelons and fish... like ALL of the watermelons and ALL of the fish. During the night someone would sneak on the property, crack open watermelons to see if they were ripe, then they would take all the good ones. The students were raising hundreds of white fish and Tilapia in ponds, EVERY SINGLE one was stolen.
{One of the ponds}
The property is 180 acres mainly of virgin jungle. The wood from that jungle is used to build student houses, bookshelves, tables, etc for the farm. We realize people need firewood. Jimmy had told that village (just that next-door village) that anyone who wanted firewood, needed to check in first and they could take as much "firewood" as they could carry. Well, huge trees are being chopped down without permission. Large Mahogany logs are being removed. One guy even drove a truck onto the property.

   On one occasion a student called and said that he had caught someone stealing wood and that when he asked him to leave, he cursed him and refused. Jimmy called the police to have them remove him. He was a teenage brother of one of the girls that comes to our church. Jimmy didn't want him to be taken to the capital and put in jail with gang members, so he didn't end up pressing charges, he just had him escorted home. The police even had the mom sign a piece of paper that said he was not injured during the incident... which funny enough didn't prevent all the made up stories afterwards. 

Just having the teen escorted home ended up upsetting some of the villagers. They do not believe that they are under Guatemalan law so this made them angry. Mob rule is the law in their eyes. They themselves have been having just as many problems with villagers stealing from them, so they called a meeting about it. One of our students happened to be there at the time, he said that he was just paying the water bill for the month. Somehow during this meeting, rather than identify the thieves, they turned the attention on Jimmy for getting the police involved in that specific instance. They held our student and wouldn't let him leave. There were around a thousand angry people in that meeting. They had the student call Jimmy and say that they weren't going to let him go until Jimmy came to the meeting. Well, Jimmy originally had not been invited to the meeting and had warned the students to stay away. Now, certainly Jimmy wasn't going to show up in the middle of a thousand angry villagers who live by mob rule. Jimmy told the student not to stress and that come noon, all the villagers would get hungry and go home. And it happened just like. About 2 hours later everyone got hungry and that ended up trumping their anger, so they let the student go so that they could go home and eat. Before that though, even with many of our church people speaking out against the decision, some of the outspoken angry ones went and turned off the water to the farm. Jimmy kept going and turning it back on, but then someone behind him would turn it right back off.

During that meeting the town instituted a curfew. Anyone on the street after 9PM gets shot, no questions asked. This scared many of our church members. In this culture, when the sun goes down, it's time for church to start, so by the time you have your service and people walk home, it is after 9. People were afraid to walk anywhere after dark, no matter what time. Even finishing earlier, this has hurt our church attendance and our youth group. It is slowly coming back, but honestly, I would be afraid to walk around after dark now too with that in place.
{The farm with the village beginning on the left}
It stayed like this for about a week until Jimmy could get a meeting scheduled with the town leaders. I was really worried about this meeting. I know that this institute is something that God put in Jimmy's heart to do. I know that God has protected this institute in many ways in the past when people tried to go against it. (I shared a specific story in one of our email updates and there are more I wish I could tell, just because it brings God glory.) Still, I was really worried about Jimmy stepping into a mess like that. The student who had been in the other meeting had been getting death threats... he was scared. Jimmy kept telling me about stories in Acts and how God is with him and will do the speaking and that God is the only one who can work in the hearts of the leaders. That is what Jimmy believed God was going to do- work in the hearts of the leaders.

It was a Monday evening. As Jimmy waited at the meeting place people who could barely walk because they were so drunk started showing up. So I guess Monday night is a horrible time to have a meeting, although it wasn't our choosing. On top of that the meeting had been moved so many times, that by the time it actually happened, none of the students were around to go with Jimmy to translate everything into Kekchi. There were villagers spouting off made up stories about Jimmy and the farm. Jimmy felt completely abandoned, in the pitch dark of night, arguing with a bunch of angry drunks in his third language. It looked for a while like it was going to end in the farm's favor, Jimmy had explained everything that had happened and cleared up many false rumors, but then at the last second someone who wasn't even a leader got up and shouted that they "must" turn the water off permanently. Everyone was over it by that time, so that was the conclusion.

Where was God? How can you have a farm and families living on that farm without water? We were so sad. We went to sleep Monday night feeling alone and defeated.

    Then early the next morning an unknown number kept calling Jimmy. Finally Jimmy answered the phone. It was the mayor of the village. He told Jimmy that he was not able to sleep all night long. All of these Bible verses kept coming to his head. (He does not profess to be a Christian nor does he attend any church). “The Bible says that if someone asks for water, you have to give it to him.” He said that he was turning the water back on. He called all the town leaders who were at the store buying the plug for the pipe and told them that too. Amazingly, these guys who a few hours earlier had been slurring their angry hate towards Jimmy, all of a sudden agreed and decided they shouldn't turn off our water. They got in trouble for this, but have stuck to it.  

I want to get this story down to help remind myself that what is in the book of Acts is true. If God has a job for you to do, He will make it happen. He controls the hearts of leaders, even those who do not profess Him. All of this just brings Him glory.

I have more to share later about how we are learning to live by their cultural rules. We are going to implement some new things before we restock the fish ponds for sure! Praying we can all live in peace.   

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

And the Second Year Begins

Soon after Christmas we went to P's wedding. He is one of the first year students. I shared the story about him and his fiancee here,when he asked Jimmy to go and be a witness at his legal wedding. 

For Christians in Guatemala you have a legal wedding and then you usually have one in the church too. I could do a whole separate post about how much money culturally they are expected to spend and how difficult that makes it on many of these couples, so I will save my opinion for another time. 
P saved up for over a year for this church wedding. It was beautiful. He fed nearly everyone in the village a huge meal... even the gringitos that show up.
 We love his wife. He did good... real good. God blessed him with just what he needed! 
P's village was on the side of a mountain. I felt like we were repelling wherever we went but with no ropes. I kept thinking, why would anyone stay in a village that was this hard to get around in and then I remembered that some people in the States choose to live places where it snows, haha! Not everyone in the world gets to live in Florida!
N, his wife, has settled into the farm very well. She is a very diligent student and usually has the highest scores in the first year students classes. 
 We had two men come for this new semester in January, well 3 actually, but one was pretty young and so nervous about being away from home that he went home the next day. I tell you, it is hard to move several hours away from somewhere you have lived your whole life and trust a foreigner that you don't know that you won't starve. These guys in the photo below have a pioneering spirit and are trusting the God who called them. We have several more students arriving in March.

The other 2 men are doing great! One is a single student and the other is married with a son. His wife attends the classes too. 
I will share more of their stories later, but we are so thankful for these guys and their wives! They really seem to have a heart for serving God and a passion to reach more villages in Petén with the Gospel. Please pray for them! If you do not know the purpose of the pastor's institute you can find more about it here.

Like last year's new students they are all a little shy. We are enjoying getting to know them! We are a month and a half into it now and everyone has settled in nice.  Here are some photos from our inauguration dinner and also a cookout we had at our house to kick off the new school year:
{I love how Jonah has his turtle shell on!}

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Family Traditions #29: New Year's Eve 2014

Last year we spent New Years Eve in a hotel in Guate because we were dropping my parents off at the airport the next day. It would be awesome if we could make THAT a tradition! But this year, since it was just us, we picked up with the traditions we started 2 years before, only thing is, the kids were too young to remember them!

I decorated our back door like this while they were sleeping:
{The instagram filter isn't doing any favors for the stains on my couches;)}
Each hour starting at noon on New Years Eve there was a balloon to pop. 
 I don't think Jonah ever actually popped a balloon in this photo. He has always been kind of sensitive to loud noises. E would dramatically act like she was scared and then giggle afterwards, so Silas popped all the balloons for us.
 Once supper time hit, the party started!
It was a night of fondue. We had Teriyaki Beef, potatoes, and green onions. The kiddos think it is super cool to cook their own food. The potatoes take forever, so we decided to dump them in and cook them all at once. Once we spooned them out, it was easy for us to all cook the meat and onions on our own since they cook so fast.  
After supper we watched Davy Crockett. Then we had chocolate fondue. I forgot to buy strawberries, but it didn't matter because we used marshmallows instead and they were super yummy!!!
As you can tell in this video, it was the "Best Night Ever!" Haha! video

Then we played some Old Maid. Eden loves getting the "Old Man" card as she calls it!
Then we watched the old Doctor Doolittle since we had just read the book. I had forgotten how long that movie was!

Then we worked on our little family new years book.
There are lots of ideas online for these, but these are the questions we decided on that we though would be fun to go back and read about each of us as we grow.

We keep them in a little burlap covered scrapbooking notebook. (Side note, I cannot imagine any hobby more stressful than scrapbooking, lol! I would be eternally behind, so the blog and this book are as close as I get.)

Both Jonah and Silas said that the thing they were most thankful for this year was that they are a Christian now! Jonah said his biggest goal was to be able to read a book all by himself and Silas said his biggest goal for next year was to drink pop, lol! Eden probably isn't ready for these questions yet. We asked her what she wanted to learn or get better at this coming year and she said, "at the doctor place". Of course, because that is where you go to "get better"! 

We were hungry again by the time we finished all these deep questions, so we ate more fondue! This time it was cheesy bacon fondue with homemade bread!
 I was a little worried that once it got real late, the kiddos would turn into whiny messes, but it never happened. Maybe because of all the sugar! Any other night of the week you can tell what time it is by the attitudes.
 Sometime between 11:50 and midnight, Eden fell sleep... so close!
We had a fun evening together as a family. I love the family God has blessed me with so much and am thankful for all the special memories God gives us together!

Monday, February 9, 2015

A Little Helpful Dose

This past month we went over 2 weeks without the city turning on the water to our neighborhood. The transformer blew up that runs the pump connected to the well for this area. The town normally turns the water on twice a day for a couple hours. Everyone around here uses an outdoor sink with a cistern in the center that probably holds about 15 gallons. They usually just leave the facet on all the time and if water overflows it isn't a big deal since it is outside, but that way they never miss an opportunity to fill up their cistern when the water comes on. (This cultural trait of always leaving faucets on has flooded things in our life more than once, haha!) If someone has a little more money they have an additional barrel that they keep full for incidences like this one!

Our neighborhood looked like the photo above for awhile. After about a week, the town started hiring a water truck to come around and fill up everyone's buckets about ever other day or so. People kept their front yards lined with every empty bucket they could find. The one above even put their wheel barrel out there.
 We have a spare cistern (110 gal), that is 1/6 of the size of the one attached to our house. In our world a spare cistern gets used a lot! Plus we had a 55 gal barrel. The first week Jimmy was driving to a well and filling up this spare cistern in the back of his truck when we would run low. Just to put it in perspective, the average family of 4 in the States uses almost 400 gallons of water a day. Jimmy was sharing this water with our neighbors too because they don't have pickups to go get water, let alone a large cistern to put it in. Are you seeing how hard it is to complain in this country?! Once you leave your gate, you look around and can't really say anything. Even silent I feel kind of like a spoiled brat for getting frustrated. Petén is like an instant cure for the grumbles, just go outside and let reality slap you around a little bit.
{Jimmy would pump the water from outside into our house cistern.}
So Jimmy was burning hours on this water situation, hours that he did not have because it was going on the same time as the new students were arriving and classes were starting. One Saturday he made several trips right in a row so that I could catch up on laundry. See... I am spoiled. 

The power company would have immediately been able to come and fix the problem, but the town was several months behind paying the power bill. Then to fix the problem they would have to purchase a new transformer plus wire. Once I heard that, I figured it would be months until we had water again. How were they going to get that money?

Then one day Jimmy got a call asking if he would help pay for the new transformer and wire. We have been paying our bill, but we didn't want to set a precedent that we would pay to fix problems, so Jimmy said "no". So then I REALLY thought this situation was hopeless.

And then the day after the phone call, SURPRISE the water came back on. I have no idea how, but I am SUPER thankful that we have water again. Each time I do laundry I remember just how thankful I am! Water makes me smile just looking at it coming out of the tap. 

Poor Silas. I had been on him about flushing the potty for that last several months and he was getting really good about it, until this water situation. Each time he would flush we would all yell, "NOOOO!" So here we go again, from scratch!

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Handmade Home #14

A while back I had asked Jimmy to make me a laundry cart when he had time. I had an old one of which I really liked the design, but it was too small and kept falling apart. I asked Jimmy for a sturdier version with 4 bins instead of 3. He decided that was what he would make me for Christmas.  
Our laundry room is pretty open to the rest of our house, so I was excited about getting rid of my other junky cart. Besides that I don't really find any other household chores relaxing, but I love doing laundry. It is a big stress reliever for me. I hang a load of laundry on the line every morning. It is part of my routine. I'm just saying this was the perfect gift and affects my life on a daily basis. 

With the metal he had on hand, he only spent about $12 to buy wheels and some hooks. I used some old sheets to make the bags. Pretty good price for a custom heavy duty laundry bin! The top lifts up when needed and I can even roll it around the house if I want, haha! I love it!
We thought we had Eden's present taken care of back in the first of November. It is really hard to find decent toys in Petén. They are super expensive and don't usually last very long because of the quality. So you have to plan ahead and try and buy presents for Christmas and birthdays on furlough unless you plan to make them. This year when we were in the capital we found a good quality play kitchen we could order for E. They said it would make it in plenty of time for Christmas, so we did. Well less than 2 weeks before Christmas after WE called them, they said, "Nope, middle of January." So there we was no present and no refund any time soon. 

I had picked up her birthday present in the States, it was a couple pieces of doll house furniture. We were planing on building her a bookshelf style doll house (but not in a week). 
Anyway, Jimmy got on that too! Again, we had some wood on hand, so all he had to buy was the plywood for the back piece. My mom and I had picked up some pretty paper from Michael's for the wallpaper while on furlough.
Here it is, ready to be painted. 
We hid it in the guest room while we painted it and told Eden we were making her a baby Spiderman for Christmas.  I don't even know how that got started, but she was excited and it kept her from getting mad at us for not letting her in that room.
I spent a couple nap times working on the accessories. All the light fixtures can be moved around and the wall art is velcroed on, so it can be swapped out too. I'm sure one day, E will want to make her own stuff.
I really wanted to make the walls magnetic, but they don't sell magnetic paint in Guatemala that I have ever found. But seriously, that would have been awesome. The furniture that looks homemade is, haha! The rest is Hape and Plan brand pieces that I am really happy with. An almost 3 year old cannot destroy them. MaG brought her down some pieces too and lots of dolls to go with it... even 2 twin brothers! 
 Eden's favorite color is pink, so I really tried to embrace pink! The pieces came pretty gender neutral, but I don't think they look like that now.
 I knew the nursery would be the most important room to her so I spent the most time on it. The first thing she grabbed was the shelf of baby toys. Yay! The little baby gets played with the most.
{I want ikat pillows on my couches!}
So at the last minute, Eden ended up with a pretty spectacular Christmas! It has room to add to it over the years. The empty room on top is supposed to be an open balcony, so maybe some patio furniture next year. The other room will be a kids room. Fun fun fun! Nice to be around some girl toys after years of superheros and weapons!
Eden loves it! We leave it in the living room for now so that she is with us when she's playing. 
My lovely friend Bonnie brought me these a couple days before Christmas. I love entertaining and I have already used them several times. I love handmade things and these are beautiful!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

The Curse of the Big Goat

 We have a billy goat at the farm that is hilarious. He has a very mischievous personality. The other day during my class he kept going into the room next door and eating the corn that the students had spread out to dry. Henry would get up in class and go shew him away, but he would just go back as soon as he left. Henry eventually got busy doing his work and tired of shewing him, so the goat got mad. He stopped eating corn and walked into our classroom, like "where are you, can't you see I'm eating your corn?!" That dumb goat probably doesn't even like corn.
This goat's little Mrs. had twins and ever since she started producing milk Jimmy has kept him away from her since the male goat makes the milk taste bad and Jimmy wants to use the milk for the kids at the farm. No wonder he is so naughty. Poor lonely goat.
The other day a lady came to the farm asking for some hair from this goat. Her kid had gotten sick soon after coming to the farm with her to buy eggs. She had done what many people do here, she had taken her sick, feverish son to a Mayan witch (there are a bunch of witches in the village next to the farm). He said that our goat gave him the evil eye while he was at the farm. (Totally believable with this goat!) Now they needed some of his hair to remove the curse. (Not as believable.) Jimmy told the students to give her the hair, but then later go to her house to pray for her son and witness to them. This family has never been to our church. Many live in fear here of evil spirits. Please pray for this new church plant in the village of Zapotal, that it will bring the Good News of a loving God to so many who are bound by fear. 3 more people from the village accepted Christ this past Sunday.
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