Tuesday, August 31, 2010

A Very Interesting Date

Jimmy asked me out on a date last Friday. He had seen a new sign up advertising a hotel/restaurant close to the turnoff to Tikal. It belongs to the father of the owner of Maya International (another hotel/restaurant we eat at), so we figured there was a good chance we wouldn't get amoebas... our expectations really aren't that high.

We drove down this long dirt road to a not very attractive gate that was locked with a chain. There was a guard there who let us in. At this point I was thinking, "Great... this is going to be closer to creepy than quaint." Then we drove down another long dirt road. This is when I said to Jimmy, "If it's one of those joints where they kill what you're eating after you arrive, we're leaving." For some reason Jimmy was still hopeful, so we went on.

This is what we pulled up to, it's the hotel lobby.
Unfortunately we got there at dusk, and while holding a 10 month old I didn't take the time to check my photos or adjust my camera, so these photos don't paint as pretty a picture as our experience.
These are the rooms. Our groups probably won't ever stay here, but we are defnitely going to bring them here to eat. The entire place is just breathtaking. It is very quiet because you are surrounded on 3 sides by jungle and the other side is lake Itzá. It is a memorable experience.

For dinner I picked a table close to the lake. There was a small patch of grass that separated us from the lake and a wobbly looking chain link fence. The waiter started throwing pieces of bread into the lake, so I looked down into the water and saw this!...
Can you see his eyes?! He said that there are 3 crocodiles that hang out there regularly waiting for food... haha!
We had a wonderful time and our food was delicious! It was a perfect date!
For some reason I think the normal childhood thrill of feeding the ducks is going to be lost on our little boys!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Handmade Home #3

We found some handmade solid wood highchairs in Santa Elena. They were a lot prettier than the plastic options available and happened to be 1/3 of the price too. The only problem was that they didn't have any safety straps.

Here are our homemade ones:

They are made out of...
leftover white linen from the boys' curtains
white ribbon that their receiving blankets came wrapped in that I saved
stuffing from an old pillow (they don't sell fiberfill here)
a clear plastic tablecloth (they don't sell oilcloth here and I wanted to be able to wipe it off)
black clips that my mom bubble mailed me... Thanks Mom!

They are Jonah and Silas mauled tested and approved!

While we are on the topic of the boys' mealtime, here is our freezer full of homemade baby food squares. Those 4 bags in front are Güisquil, Carrots, Apples, and Sweet Potatoes.

When Jay was here he asked us how much money we were saving by doing this. We had never figured it up because our motivation had been nutrition rather than savings. Well that got us curious! We were shocked. Here, with twins, we are saving $250 a month! Not bad!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Since the Day We Met

I remember meeting Macaria on ladies day during our first outreach in Santa Rita back in November of 2008. She was easy to talk to and always smiling. I felt a connection with her right away. It was the same with Claudia. I didn't know what the future held for either of them, but I knew God had put us in that village to share the Gospel with them and I was thankful for that.
Here is a photo from ladies day. Macaria is in the purple. Her daughter Maria is to her right and Claudia is the girl on the end... and that's Jimmy's mom giving her a pedicure!

We would see Macaria off and on over the next 2 years. Just recently ever since the ladies outreach we had while the interns were here, Macaria has started coming to Jimmy's Bible study regularly with her daughter. Macaria is in the green in this photo below from our ladies outreach this past month.
Her son Jaime has just recently started to get reconnected since we've been back too.
This is him receiving a Bible over a year ago,
and this is him (in the blue) during our church activity to Tikal last month.

Her daughter Maria (girl in white) got involved right away!
Here she is in the pink on the bottom row at our purity talk girls outreach at our house.
For the past four weeks Jimmy has taught on Galatians. This week in chapter four everybody was discussing the difference between slaves and sons. Each week there has been a clear gospel message and he was afraid some people might even be getting bored with it. At the end of each Bible study he asks if anybody has any questions. This night was like most where nobody raises their hand. He said he was glad now that nobody there has an excuse. Everybody knows how to become God's child and how sad would it be if they all know how to go to heaven but don't ever ask for that free gift. We don't have invitations, but he always says that if somebody would like us to pray with them, then to just let us know.

Claudia came up while everybody was leaving and pointed towards the back. "That lady wants to accept Christ," she said. Jimmy asked if she wanted to do it there or at her house. She came back with the response, "In her house."

When Jimmy got there he was greeted by Macaria. They sat down in the living room and Jimmy asked, "Would Maria like to accept Christ too?" She left and a minute later Jaime and Maria both walked in with their mom. They all sat around listening to Jimmy explaining again and each one individually expressed their desire to accept Christ. They all prayed together at the same time in Kekchi (each with different words but it's not like we would be able to understand them anyway). After Jimmy asked them again what they had done. Macaria had tears in her eyes and wanted to know if we would always be here doing the Bible Studies on Sundays. She then lectured her kids in Kekchi (which they translated for Jimmy) that now God isn't just watching them from heaven, but is with them everywhere they go.

We have always had the philosophy that ministry is about relationships. This is one of those times we can look back over 21 months and see God working through each outreach. We are excited to look at the many faces in the pictures we have taken and know that not only is God still writing their stories, but we get to be a part of them.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Church Activity

We had our first activity for the faithful folks that attend the adult/teen Bible study in Santa Rita. These are the ones who bring their Bibles each week, turn in their devotional sheets, and memorize verses.
Jimmy took them all to Tikal. Everyone fit into 2 micros, there were 34 of us!
This is Eulalio and his family, Rosalino, Jesús and Bernabé. Only Jesús has accepted Christ so far, but they come every week! Please pray that the rest will come to know the Lord soon.)
The ones with the most points even got to go on the zip lines!
Afterwards we all went to Cristina's house, El Encantadero. She cooked hot dogs for everyone. It was a lot of fun. This wasn't an outreach, it was a get to know you better and just have fun with those who want to learn more about God. We loved it and so did they!
It was exciting to look around the room and see people who knew nothing of God before we came. Their lives are changed because God led us to come here! So thankful!
I love Bernabé. She is always checking on me and the boys.
Before we left we worshipped together and had a brief testimony time.
We are going to have to plan another activity soon. I loved having everyone together!

CRAZY ITEM OF THE DAY: The majority of our people had never been to Tikal. Jimmy has been over a dozen times. Guides are expensive, so after reading up on things, he is the guide for our groups. He got some looks this time though. It's normal to see a Guatemalan leading around a bunch of gringos, but not a bunch of Guatemalans listening to a gringo! It probably was a first.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Update on José Xol

We received support from a lot of different places for José and for the entire amount that he needed! Tuesday I was able to take the money that people had sent and visit him personally. When I arrived at his house, he gave me a big bear hug and through tears he said, "Brother, I'm so sad." After a long time he let go and we sat and talked. I explained where the money came from and all the people that had given and were still praying for him. He was very grateful that so many would want to help him in this time of need.

He already sold his truck because he could no longer stand the thoughts and memories it brought back up. He also mentioned the death threats he has been receiving even now. Monday they signed another agreement with the family in front of the Ministerio Público of that area. Legally he is responsible to pay the money, so this agreement and paying the Q50,000 frees him of any future responsibilities or extortion attempts. Even during the process they were still verbally abusive. Several times now different vehicles have made slow trips in front of his house while staring. While that could be any number of things, in this situation you can't be too quick to brush things off as coincidence.

With everything going on, José has been counseled to move, if only for a few years. His wife doesn't want to, but understands the risks to her and her daughters if they stay. They are seriously considering buying land in San Pancho, close to us. Since we are building we have had several people talk to our mason about land for sale and the prices are cheaper than most places.

This would put José the same distance from the church's headquarters, but 2.5 hours closer to the villages where he works each week. It will cut down considerably on his costs and travel time. Please pray for wisdom and opportunity for him to do this.

Thank you so much to all of you who have been praying and especially to those who gave and sacrificed to help our friend. You know the difference you made in his life and that of his family's but you may never know the number Kekchi people who will accept Christ because José is still around to minister to them.

Sometimes we look back at our ministry and see those times we've been able to encourage another national pastor or missionary, or make a small difference in the life of somebody here when there wasn't anybody else around who could help. While we would like to think and believe that God has even bigger plans for our ministry, sometimes we wonder if maybe we were here just for those moments, where we could keep somebody going so that they can do abundantly more than we can. One thing is for sure, God had us in the place He wanted us to be and through no effort of our own met José's need when he was looking at the impossible.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Check These Out!

Two of the interns that were here last month believe that God is leading them to Petén. They each have started their own blogs to keep track of their journey.

Jay's goal is to be back permanently in 2013. His blog is here. He will be focusing on church planting.
Becca will be getting her master's, so she will return in 2015 to start a school for the deaf. This will open up so many villages to the Gospel. Her blog is here.
On one of the last days the interns were here they went to San Francisco (San Pancho, our future hometown) for a special olympics event. It was for all the special needs schools in Petén. (None of which specialize for the deaf, so Becca will be meeting a big need here). She was able to make so many great contacts and meet many deaf children. You can read about that day here.
Please keep Jay and Becca in your prayers. We can't wait to see what God is going to continue to do through both of them. We have seen their heart for people and are excited about having such awesome individuals on the Lord's side here in Petén!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Handmade Home #2

The Daytona team needed 2 young boy puppets for a puppet skit that they wrote for their outreach in the Kekchi villages. My home church in Jax bought 10 beautiful puppets for us a couple years ago. I had picked out ones that I thought looked Guatemalan. Half were males, but what I didn't realize was that 3 had mustaches (plus one was a grandpa)... so they wouldn't pass as kids! I decided it would be easier to give one a haircut than a shave. So here is the girl puppet I started with:

It ended up being a little more complicated than just cutting hair, but I was very happy with the results. Just for the slim chance that anyone needs to know, these kind of puppets wear size 0-6M baby clothes. (Thank you to Jonah and Silas for sacrificing a pair of pants for this project!) Not sure what happened to his tan, but it's the same puppet, I promise:

We have been living in this house for 2 years without fixtures, just energy saver lightbulbs hanging from the ceiling. I didn't care. They were less offensive to me than the gaudy and pricy fixtures available around here.

Then... one day I had an idea. I had picked up 4 placemats in the States while thrift store shopping with my mom. I never planned on using them as placemats, I just liked the texture of the twigs. To make a light fixture I needed something to reinforce them. Knowing my dilemma, Jimmy came home one day with bicycle rims for me... he's so thoughtful!
So here they are. I had some leftover fabric from the curtains to cover the chain and wire.
Try to peel your eyes away from our neglected lovely ceiling... I know it's hard. I like the spokes!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Only God

Our dear friend José Xol (pictured above in the white worshiping with the Daytona team) was on his way to one of the villages where he has been ministering Monday afternoon when a 9 year old boy ran out from behind a stopped microbus (taxi) and in front of José's car. José slammed on his brakes but he couldn't stop. Evidently the mother was distracted while paying the micro driver. José loaded the kid up in his car to rush him to a hospital (1.5hr away), but the boy died on the way there so they turned around. By the time they got back to the village a large mob had formed ready to burn José alive. This is very typical in these rural indigenous areas where the mob rules. They take their own "justice" very quickly. If there had been police there, there would have been nothing they could have done to protect José.

Monday while all this was going on José called Jimmy weeping, saying that he had killed a boy and asking him to pray. Jimmy asked José if the people were going to kill him and he said, "Only God knows."

When Jimmy spoke to José yesterday he was still weeping. Through his tears he said, "Only God could have saved me." More than fearing for his life, José is completely broken over hitting this child. I don't know how you recover from something like this. Even though it wasn't his fault there will not be a day in his life when he does not think about this family whose lives were changed forever as a result of where he was at that moment in time.

There is no one we know, gringo or Guatemalan, with a bigger passion for the lost. José is a modern day Paul to the Kekchi. I don't understand why this happened... especially to José. Please... please lift up José and this family who lost their son in prayer. Only God can work in a situation like this.

There is much more to this story. The family is demanding $6,300 for José's life. He has 15 days to pay it. This type of extortion is completely legal in Petén. You can read more about this part of the story on Jimmy's blog here.

That night José was supposed to return to the village of Esquipulas for another service. There was a man who said he was ready to accept Christ. I think this is just more evidence of the strongholds Satan has in these unreached villages. He doesn't want the Gospel there.

We will keep everyone updated on this situation. We have already seen God working through this. PLEASE KEEP PRAYING!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

4 Years in Guatemala!

Today was our 4 year anniversary of moving to Guatemala and starting our new life!
It seems longer than that, just because it is hard to imagine living anywhere else now. We LOVE what God has called us to do and are so thankful for all the ways we get to see Him work every day. Our life is a perfect fit to what God placed in our hearts many years ago. Thank you to everyone who has supported and prayed for us along the way. I hope you are as excited as we are about what God is doing in Petén... although we are the ones with the front seat view!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Ladies Outreach

Last Wednesday we had a ladies outreach in Santa Rita. Some of these ladies we already had a relationship with, some we only knew through a family member, and others we met for the very first time.

Becca brought down beads and I had some leftover from other outreaches, so the night before we sorted through hundreds of beads and organized pairs by color. If you have a personality like mine, it's a great stress reliever, you should try it!

The ladies were very creative. I think they really enjoyed making them.
The woman in the white is José's wife, Maria. They are the couple who just lost their son Lucas. José comes faithfully, but this is the first activity she has ever been to.

I am talking to Maria in the back. I have been trying to get to know her for a while now. I love her daughter Vilma. Her entire family comes to our Bible studies, but she has just started to get involved!

We passed out invitations in the adult and kid's Bibles studies and told them it was for ladies 20+ or ladies with their own families (some start very young here). Many of the teens and kids proudly brought their moms!

I met Mercedes mom for the first time. She has been in Mexico for several years and had just returned that day!

Auda with her mom Sophia!

Ana with her mom, Cantalaria! She comes to the adult Bible study with her husband sometimes. She doesn't speak much Spanish.

Jonah and Silas were there with their Santa Rita "nannies"! They love Mercedes and Blanca, I am so thankful for them. They are always a big help and the boys are very comfortable with them. (You can tell Jonah propels himself pretty good in his bouncer, he is a blur.)

Bernabe showing off her finished earrings.

Albina and Cantalaria... Albina is very shy!

Here is Marta, Marcos' wife. She just gave birth to their 9th child! It was a girl, but they haven't named her yet.

Our 3 interns left this weekend. During the month that they were here, the power was off a lot. The most frustrating thing I think though was the fact that the water pump broke at their hotel. They went without running water for 3 days.

The hotel was very concerned... they let them dip gallon jugs and buckets out of their pool to flush the toilet and to wash with. Here is what their pool looked like at the time:
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