Saturday, August 27, 2011

Goodies From Guate

First, thank you to everyone who prayed for Candelaria's finger. It has finally started to improve!

We will have to make periodic trips to the capital from now until our baby comes for my doctors appointments. It is a 7 hour drive, so normally we don't go very often. It is perfect timing though now as we are finishing up our forever house. By "finishing up" I mean coming down to the last couple months. If we come across something we need, we can have a much better quality selection in Guate.

Another serious plus is that in Guatemala City there are restaurants full of my pregnancy cravings!

This past trip we had a couple things on our list. The main one for me was my kitchen sink. I have put off purchasing one because I had my heart set on a farmhouse apron front sink. Unfortunately I did not realize how crazy expensive those things are. Beyond that, they do not even exist in this country... I have searched high and low. This is probably a blessing because we ended up finding a metal sink much cheaper. My second choice was a stainless steel deep symmetrical double bowl under mount. We came pretty close! I am very thankful for it. When you make 3 meals a day, your kitchen sink is a big deal. I didn't take a photo in the store and ours is all wrapped up, but it looks sort of like the the photo below. The right side is shallow and smaller than the left. That probably will end up saving us water, which we seem to always be short of.
{Photo found on CSN stores website}

The boys' birthday is coming up, so we wanted to look for their presents. Unless it is Christmas time, there aren't many good/safe toys in Petén, so it's best to plan ahead. In one hardware store we came across a bright yellow slide and some swings. Immediately Jimmy decided he wanted to build the boys a swing set at our forever house. It will look something like this:
Hope he has time to get it done by the middle of October!

I made a joke about Jimmy going to the market in zone 1 for me. He wouldn't ever let us all go because it is dangerous for foreigners. I have only ever been once and that was for only a couple of minutes. I hear it is full of beautiful inexpensive handmade things that aren't sold in the typical tourist areas. Well Jimmy did it! These are the goodies he picked out all by himself to bring back for me!
These are handmade planters. The terra-cotta one is for hanging.

The other items are all light fixtures. We still have lots of naked bulbs hanging from our ceiling since we hadn't found any fixtures we liked. I don't think we will have that problem in our forever house.
{This is a pile of 3}
These are baskets, but I think we will use them as lights.
These are my favorite. They were $5. This is definitely a perk of living here.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011


Over a month ago we found out that Domingo's wife was having some complications with her pregnancy (a subject very near to our own hearts.) He had asked for prayer for his wife and unborn child. We thought it sounded pretty serious but they were just going to stay at home and wait it out. We didn't want to pray and let it go if God was wanting us to act. I remember several significant times in our own lives when we had been praying about something and God brought people into our lives who were willing to meet a need or help us through certain times. God has really been dealing with us lately on praying and acting and we want to be sensitive to His leading. So we insisted that he bring his wife into Santa Elena to see a better doctor and where there were better facilities for the baby than in the town where they lived. We told him that we would pay for everything.

Candelaria was 2 weeks overdue when he and his wife set out for Santa Elena. Well they only made it 3 hours before she went into labor. It was still really good though because they made it as far as Sayaxché, the closest hospital to their house. She absolutely needed to be in a hospital for this birth. The baby was having a hard time breathing and was in the NICU for 5 days (well as close as you can get to a NICU in Sayaxché). It was in a little isolette which really frightened them, but we remember the same feeling. We got to share our NICU experience with Domingo and his wife who were going through something similar.
There were so many nurses and mothers of preemies who were calming and encouraging to us. They worried about the baby losing a little weight at first and were worried it may never learn to nurse, but everything worked out just like it did with our boys. It's a beautiful thing when life gives you the opportunity to return a favor.
They had a beautiful baby girl and named her Candelaria, after her mommy!

José had a baby recently too... only his was a grandbaby!
It was a boy and guess what they named it? Jimmy! We thought that was really sweet. José's friendship means a lot to us.
{Baby Jimmy with his grandma, Candelaria}

Prayer Request: Candelaria, Domingo's wife, is having a problem with her right index finger. No one knows what caused it, but it is very infected and there is concern that she might lose it. Please pray that God would heal her finger. She is seeing a doctor, but it looks very bad and they are not sure what more to do to help her. She is in a lot of pain. Jimmy saw her today and told her "My wife and I are praying for you"... in Kekchi! She only speaks Kekchi, so this is the first time we have been able to communicate to her without Domingo's help.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Kekchi Language

We started Kekchi classes again as soon as we got back in June. We had been having a real problem with finding a tutor who would come more than 3 times. There was always just some kind of scheduling conflict on their part. Domingo and José are very good friends with a pastor in Dolores, a town 45 minutes from us. He has since turned his church over to another pastor since he was brought in just to help save a dying church. He is also a full time elementary school teacher. He speaks fluent Spanish, but is Kekchi. His name on the blog will be Tutor #4. He is the best tutor we have had... and he has been showing up regularly for over 2 months!
{Tutor #4}

We have our classes at 8:30 after the boys go to sleep, which makes for no interruptions. We are thankful that Tutor #4 is willing to come so late. We have class twice a week and go over a chapter each time. It is a lot of material, but the days in between give us time to really memorize it... or at least try to.

Our classes are a little different this time. The following is what I understand from several conversations, so it is as accurate as word of mouth across 3 languages can be: In 2001 the government decided that since over a million people spoke Kekchi it was time to legalize the language. They unified the Mayan alphabet for at least 4 of the 23 indigenous languages spoken in Guatemala. This was supposed to make it standardized with rules that everyone could follow. With the new alphabet it meant that the spelling of most of the words changed. (So everything we learned in the past we need to forget?) Very few adults read and write the language anyway, but if they do they read the "old" way. Everyone who has learned to read since 2001 and will learn to read in the future will be with the "new" alphabet and spelling. So which one do we learn? Which alphabet anyone should use is a very touchy subject in some circles.
Well... we chose the "new, standardized" way. So it is almost like starting from scratch, only more confusing! Kekchi is no longer Kekchi, it is Q'eqchi'. (For the record I don't think that looks easier.)

Since the government legalized the language they also developed grammar books. These books are extremely hard to find around here. It took us over a month and a couple hundred photocopies of Tutor #4's book before Jimmy finally found 2 in a town an hour from here. Unfortunately there are a lot of typos in the book and not a lot of explanation, so we are figuring it out as we go along. If the book states a rule then at least half of the examples below it don't even follow the rule... I just don't get it. Are they irregular? Is there more to the rule that we need to figure out? If it wasn't for my sharp high school French teacher I don't think I would ever be able to organize all of this information in a usable way for me to learn it. I'm so thankful for her!
{Our textbooks}
Beyond the book, in our circles I have met 1 person since being here that understands grammar... as in, they really understood what a noun or a preposition was, it was my Spanish tutor back in Xela. It isn't really emphasized here. They just memorize rote things without many rules. This makes it very difficult to ask questions.

Jimmy thrives in this environment. He just memorizes entire sentences, or random conjugated verbs without ever learning the infinitives. I don't want to learn a conjugated verb until I learn the infinitive and then I want to learn a tense and how to conjugate all the verbs in that tense... is that too much to ask! I'm sure many missionaries have to learn indigenous languages without any books at all, so I shouldn't complain.

I would argue that Jimmy has to be one of the most annoying people to ever learn a language with because he picks stuff up so easily. Our teacher knows it and keeps giving him imaginary gold stars during class when he shows off. The two of them think they're cute. This is my learning environment!


*There are 33 letters in the Kekchi alphabet and they don't use "d", "f", "g", or "v".
*The Kekchi language itself is really very beautiful... as long as an "x" doesn't fall next to a "q", then something crazy happens in your throat, that only a little phlegm could help resolve.
*Question marks are not used.
*It is very descriptive and gives a lot of insight into their culture. Like the word for a big truck, "teken ch'iich". It literally means a large metal ant.
*"Paabank", which means both to believe and to obey. I thought that was really a neat way to describe your faith. They are one in the same.
*The verb "utz'uk" means both to smell and to kiss!
*The word "kaxlan" means stranger. So bread, like we eat, that Kekchi people would not normally eat is called "kaxlan wa" which means the stranger's tortilla. The same way with a light (in a house). It is called "kaxlan xaml", or the stranger's flame and a soda is "kaxlan ha' ", the stranger's water.
*James Yoder is the one who explained to us that Kekchi people are not very publicly affectionate, so they don't say "my husband" or "my wife". Instead they use other words like "the person I travel with" or "my partner in words" since it is the person you discuss everything with.

Kekchi is tough, but we are very motivated to communicate better with our friends and all the people that we want to personally share Christ with. Please pray that it will stick in our minds and especially pray for our pronunciation!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Saying Goodbye

A couple days after we arrived back in Guatemala (so back in June... I'm that far behind) Keturah and Arlen hosted a missionary get together since they would be leaving on a year long furlough soon.
We really enjoy the times we get to visit with other missionaries. I don't think any of us are very good at making time for that.
It was also Ty's, Arlen and Keturah's youngest son's birthday!
Silas had a go at the piñata, he was not bashful about it!
Ty, the birthday boy!
This was the boys' first piñata experience. They did pretty good picking up the candy. They weren't in any rush though. I think this was the longest amount of time any candy has spent on the ground in Guatemala haha!
After lunch this is where I found them. They had gotten into their toys and found a bench to chill on.
I really am going to miss Keturah. She has been here a lot longer than us and always had all kind of insight. We can keep in touch, but now she's a yankee, not a Petenera!

While we were there we found out that all 3 couples have decided to start transitioning out of Petén. There were many reasons involved, but for 2 their major reason was for their children and the other, whose only been here a couple months, is being transferred by the IMB. I respect all of their decisions and know that they all desire to be in God's will, but it still makes me sad. These are all great people and I will miss the fellowship and having people who can relate to the same triumphs and struggles. Who knows what the future holds for them, some might end up back here again in a couple years. As for us there is one other couple that lives close to us for now that we are focusing on trying to get to know better. Maybe you will see them pop up in a blog soon. Our gringo friends are dropping like flies!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Forever House #6: My Scavenger Hunt to Find Electricity

...our journey to rent free living, all the entertainment minus the headaches.

Sometimes we feel like we are living one big scavenger hunt to get anything done:

Last month a technician from the power company stopped by our land and told Lico that they were putting up posts in our neighborhood. We are not connected to the grid yet but were told by the Mayor (who we just happened to meet and become friends with) that everything was paid to bring in posts all the way to the corner of our property. This technician told Lico that it wasn't coming all the way to our property, but that if I would go to the power company office and pay Q80, they would put in a post just for me.

So the following Monday I headed off to the office. I wasn't sure what paperwork they would need, but I took everything I had: passport, DL, Deed to property, water bill, receipt for property tax payment... anything that had my name attached to the property. I arrived on Monday to find a line all the way to the street. After 2 hours of waiting I finally made it inside the building where after waiting another 20 minutes the nice lady told me that I didn't have what I needed. Apparently, in addition to the paperwork I had brought with me I also needed to go to the Mayor's office in San Pancho and get an authorization for right of way for the company. I also needed to find the closest neighbor with electricity and bring a copy of their bill.

So the next Wednesday I set out to do all of this. First I went to the Mayor's office (a new Mayor since our friend is running for congress now). After waiting in the land development area I was told to go talk to the Secretary. He told me he could write up what I needed, but first I had to get authorization from the Mayor. Once I was finally able to speak to the Mayor, he had no idea what I was talking about and just flipped through my papers. I told him that the Secretary knew what to do so he said, "Ok, tell him it's approved." I walked back over to the Secretary's office and said, "He said it's approved." He didn't even get up from his desk to check. He typed up my letter to the power company and 15 minutes later signed it and I was on my way.

Then I had to find an electric bill from my closest neighbor. This I did by driving around looking for wires hanging off of a pole. It's farther away than you would think. They didn't even know who I was nor where my house was, and EVERYBODY knows that. The problem here was that they didn't want to give me the bill because they hadn't paid it yet. They didn't have any past bills apparently because their power was cut off for a few months and this was the first bill since they reconnected it. This bill also included the cost of installation. I offered to pay it for them if they would give me the money, but "fijese" their check hadn't come in yet this month. So the only way was to offer to pay it for them and let them pay me back later. This cost was $40 and I hold little hope of getting it back.

With all of my paperwork now in hand I headed to the office where the wait was only 40 minutes this time, but with only one lady working everybody behind me had to wait another 20 minutes for my paperwork to be done. The truth is that very little of what I had was necessary. They took down the client number from my neighbor's bill, glanced at the right of way permission, took my name off of the passport photocopy and asked me for $10. Then I was told that within 3 months they would hook up my electricity but since the guys were there working already it shouldn't take that long. We shall see.

Update: As of last week the guys installed the posts. We are going by our land today on the way to meet Domingo for a new Kekchi village outreach. We will see if there are any wires yet!

Friday, August 12, 2011

The First Time We Saw You

So I haven't been posting lately because I have been sick as a dog and when the boys sleep, I sleep.

One day a couple weeks ago I slept all the way home from Santa Elena in the micro and then once we got home I fell asleep again in the boys' room (Jimmy was in there playing with them too.) That wasn't normal, so the next morning I decided to take a pregnancy test. Since it took us a couple years to get the boys, I quit buying home pregnancy tests long ago. We found out about the boys through a blood test. I had taken a home pregnancy test when we got pregnant the first time and it was a very faint line, which made me very worried. Then when we were in Wichita this past May I had a chemical pregnancy over Mothers Day weekend and we bought one to test and see if there was any hCG still in my system. So, I associate these sticks with loss, not with life.

The only tests I still had were very expired. For some reason I took one of them and it showed a very bold positive line. I had never seen that before... so I took another one and the same thing happened. Stink! I still couldn't go tell Jimmy and put him on this emotional roller coaster with very questionable expired (and possibly halfway melted in this Petén heat) tests. So then I had to go get a new one... I found a fancy digital one where you can actually read the result. I hurriedly took the test and the word "pregnant" popped up. Crazy!
{Sorry if this photo is a little gross, but it means a lot to me, so I'm letting it fly}

I ran into the boys' room where they had just woken up and yelled, "I'm pregnant". Jimmy said, "What?!"

We were so thrilled. We want a large family and decided to start trying again over a year ago. I still can't believe we got pregnant this soon! After our chemical pregnancy (which was a life that we cherish) we were broken hearted. Each night since we've been back in Petén we have prayed together as a family asking God to bless us with another member... and He chose to answer that prayer this time with a yes!

A couple days later I started spotting old blood. I thought the baby was gone. I had thought the same thing about the boys at 7 weeks when it was bright red blood and a lot more of it, so I really am a basket case when it comes to pregnancies. We went in to see my OB/GYN in Santa Elena. He is a really nice man, but I don't think he has done that much to stay up to date on things and I honestly don't know who is older, me or his sonogram machine. He said that the sac looked small and that I was having a threatened miscarriage. Then he told me to take progesterone tablets. The whole experience really irritated me. He was talking politics with Jimmy the entire time, I thought the sac looked great, and I know for a fact that progesterone tablets are worthless, you have to take a shot or suppositories to get any benefit. I had been in that same room at 5 weeks with our first baby and its sac didn't look as good as this and he had told me that time everything was fine. I don't think I'll ever go back. I realize that threatened miscarriage is a generic term they have to use at this point when there is no way of knowing what the outcome will be, but it is very scary to hear.

So Jay and the team were here by this time. And I continued to spot off and on from week 5 to week 8. It was always old blood (just in case some other frightened pregnant lady googles these same symptoms like I did). I felt bad for the team because I'm sure they could sense our concern for our baby. That was part of the reason I didn't go with the team to the villages.

During these weeks, several times our Kekchi friends got together and prayed for our baby. I am so thankful for these men and their prayers. Their favorite joke was that this time we were having twin girls. Everyone came up with the same joke and would giggle after they would say it.

This whole time though, I was getting sicker and sicker and my middle was getting thicker and thicker. Morning sickness is very comforting... especially when you have it all day long! Something inside me was growing and my hCG levels had to be going up.

We were supposed to go right when the team left to Guatemala City to see my OB/GYN there who specializes in high-risk pregnancies but then our vehicle broke down and we had to wait several days for a new part (crazy story for another blog). Finally at 8 weeks 3 days I got to see my favorite OB/GYN, States doctors included (*Other than Dr. G, the best RE ever of course*).
{Dr. Najarro (a photo from 2009)}

I am so thankful for Dr. Najarro. He is a God-send. He comforted me so many times with the boys, I knew I could trust him this time too. We went in and told him I was pregnant. He was very excited for us. We shared my symptoms, he looked a little concerned.

Then we began the ultrasound. I had a hard time sleeping the night before worrying we wouldn't see a heartbeat and then if we saw 2! When the sac first popped up there WERE 2 blobs in the sac. First I was thrilled to see something in the sac this time, but then I thought two...??!! Then he moved the probe a little and we both (Jimmy and I) realized it was just the yolk sac... our silly fears. Dr. Najarro was laughing at us! My next thought was why can't I see the heartbeat flickering. About that time he flipped a switch and we heard it! "What a blessing" I said. Dr. Najarro said, "Yes, it is."

He continued to measure everything. He thought for a long time and checked a couple more things. Then he said that he was so happy with how the baby looked that he wasn't even going to consider this a high-risk pregnancy. What an answer to prayer... the answer we wanted!

There are a couple of explanations for why I was bleeding, but I will spare you. You could still see blood in my uterus on the ultrasound, so there might be more spotting. He told me not to worry and to take it easy. He kept looking at the boys when he would say that! When I was pregnant with Jonah and Silas he would always tell me not to eat too much. This time he kept saying, "You are so healthy!" I think he was surprised because he thought the boys were going to destroy me. Those little guys ate every ounce I gained during the pregnancy and then some, so I can take no credit for that.

Our date to meet this new little life is March 19th. This time since it is one baby we will give birth in Guatemala City. We will have to live there the last month. My uterus only made it 7 months last time, but it was holding 15 pounds of baby stuff, so we are confident it will make it to 9 months with a singleton.

Only God can give life and we are so thankful for Him choosing to bless our family with another child. We are overwhelmed with joy!

We tried to explain the baby to the boys, we weren't sure how much they would understand. As soon as Silas heard he came over on his own and kissed my belly. They both kiss my belly several times a day. Whenever Silas finds something neat he comes over and lifts the bottom of my shirt to show the baby. He is very excited about it! We asked the boys what they wanted. Jonah says a sister and Silas points to Jonah each time so I think he wants another brother like him.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Ministry Day 2

For this team we needed a 4x4 vehicle for 10 people. The only thing available to us was a Mitsubishi 5 passenger truck (5 inside and 5 outside). That is what we used for our three days of ministry. The map above shows our route on Day one. The one below is zoomed in a little bit more and shows our route for day 2. You may not believe it, but we were traveling by truck for more hours on Day 2, even though it was a shorter distance. First, we left the hotel around 7am and drove to San Francisco and down the dirt road past our house. 3 hours into our trip we met Domingo (the yellow route). From there we followed him one hour to our first village.
That village was one we had visited last summer where the first person to accept Christ there has been attending our Pastor's training sessions. He could not get anybody to come to see the program, so after eating breakfast with him and his family, we prayed and continued on another hour down the road.

When we arrived at the second village (another pastor who attends our training), the turkey soup wasn't ready yet. We actually saw how much time was left because one of the ladies in the mission was still butchering the turkey in the river.
While we were checking out the river and the makeshift ferry used for cars during the rainy season, Abelino mentioned that on the other side was a village where three families had accepted Christ, but almost nobody visits there. Knowing we had time before lunch I asked how to get there. From one side we could see a truck parked on the other bank. It was a 4x4 and even though the owner wasn't around, there was somebody there who could rent it to us with a driver to take us to El Chilar. To get to the other side the boy below could paddle us across with our chairs, puppet stage, puppets, speaker, but in small groups.
The canoe was extremely wobbly so of course I waited until the second group.
When I got on I asked the owner how often he tipped over. He smiled, shrugged, and said, "Sometimes."
I was really hoping for a "never" but at least it wasn't "lots".
Once we were on the other side we all climbed into the back of the truck. Some of you may not know that Guatemala has a law about how many people can be in the back of a pickup truck. Without the cattle rails the limit is 6 people but with the rails you are legally allowed 16 passengers. We were well under the limit but we still had a hard time finding room for our last Gringo...
What was supposed to be a 5-10 minute drive was actually around 30 minutes. That's ok, because I know that Domingo either can't tell time, or purposefully tells me what I want to hear and not the true time.
Upon arriving the people there were thrilled. One of the new Christians there is also the mayor of this small village and he expressed how happy he was. This was only the fourth visit ever by a Christian to the village. They heard about Christ through the radio ministry.
In the skit Amy wrote about the "Sin Chair" Andres would sit in the chair and bungee cord himself in. In this way he couldn't escape after getting caught in the trap. Everybody always enjoyed seeing his friends try and get him out.
After everything else failed, then Jesus (played here by Jay) would come and free him and offer him his hands so he could get up. Andres was great for this part because he was so animated unlike most Guatemalans that are somewhat shy and reserved.
After about 45 minutes we left and headed back. The turkey soup was ready (I think it's my favorite Kekchi dish), so after lunch we set up the puppet stage and did our program again.
After this village we had to make a traveling decision. We could leave the way we came (4 hours back out to the highway, past the hotel from where we had left and then 1.5 hours in) or continue on the road that passed the next village but cut through a private farm. The trick here was that on both sides of the farm the gates were locked and you had to talk to the families who lived on the farm and had the keys, and hope they would trust you to cut through the farm or even that they would have the keys with them. Knowing it was riskier, it would also save us 5.5 hours of traveling time so I decided to go for it.
Thankfully, Domingo is well known and the people did not have a problem letting us in. This farm belongs to a very wealthy Guatemalan with over 7,000 head of cattle. It was a very impressive drive.
Our last stop was San Miguel Alto Uno. They had fixed chicken soup so we sat down to eat first. This was one of our first Kekchi villages to visit several years ago when there were no Christians. Now there is a large group that has organized a mission, is holding weekly services and is about to begin construction on a building. Along with that, they have invited us to their first Baptism service on August 24th.
We set up in the same house we first showed a Kekchi movie in 2 years ago.
The place was packed and everybody really enjoyed the entire program.
After a long day the team caught their second wind and did a great job. After the skits almost everybody shared their testimonies with the village, and then the mission leaders took turns welcoming us to the village and thanking us for coming and sharing with them.
1.5 hours later we were back at the hotel. 9.5 hours total in the truck with everybody switching between being in the back and riding in the cab with the air conditioning (that only sometimes worked).
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