Saturday, November 27, 2010

Family Traditions #3: Thanksgiving

"Family traditions give identity and belonging to each member." - James Dobson

1. Growing our Own Pumpkins: Our version of shooting your own turkey! We have seen orange pumpkins here once, but they were $30+ so we didn't even buy one, thus a family tradition was born.
An early shot of our pumpkin patch
This year Jimmy got some heirloom seeds. Next year we will be able to plant them on our own land, but this year they were planted on some borrowed property in front of our soon to be forever house.
They did pretty good, but next year with some adjustments we hope to have an even bigger harvest. We had enough this year to ship to friends. Some of our pumpkins made it into pies in Antigua, Xela, and Sayaxche! Our boys will get to pick their own pumpkins right out of the patch!

2. The Food: An easy tradition but very important especially for Thanksgiving is having specific food for each holiday. Since October, each time I puree pumpkin we roast the pumpkin seeds. We saute ours in butter, garlic, and salt. Then we bake them. They are addicting!
This year some missionary friends in Sayaxche invited us over for Thanksgiving. We got to spend the day with Arlen and Keturah and their family, plus they invited David and Regina who have just moved to Sayaxche. We had a wonderful time!
Keturah made a delicious turkey and between the 3 of us women we had the works, every type of side you could imagine!
In our family I plan on always having turkey, dressing, sweet potato casserole, cranberry something, yeast rolls, and pumpkin pie... no more!
This year I got the dressing, sweet potatoes, and pies figured out and hopefully by next year I will have figured out the cranberry something and yeast rolls (Keturah shared her recipe with me!) Jimmy is in charge of the turkey. My goal is a feast without the stress... we will see!

3. Nothing Christmasy until after Thanksgiving: This is a really important holiday. It incorporates faith, family, and country, so I don't want it to get lost. That means no Christmas decorations or music until the day after Thanksgiving.
Most of our decorations are things God made! I asked Claudia for some dried corn husks since SR had just harvested their corn. She brought me 2 bags!
So those made up our wreath. It's hot and humid here unlike Thanksgiving in the States, so my wreath wilted and started looking like a bad wig after a couple days. I still left it up all month. Our friends got a kick out of seeing corn husks on our door!
Guatemala has beautiful ayotes this time of year that come in all kinds of interesting shapes and colors. I bought 3 (one was on the table).
Unfortunately our fall leaves are only felt and not the real thing, but at least we still had some!
Jimmy thinks he's cute trying to mess up my picture!

4. Thankful wall: In our forever house our great room is going to have a chalkboard wall. During the entire month of November we are going to fill it up with things we are thankful for, that way it surrounds us each day.
Photo found here
This year we had to improvise, so we used refrigerator magnets.
Each year on thanksgiving day we will take a family photo in front of our wall. We can use these photos to make a book, a history book of how God blessed our family over the years.
I learned that it is better to take the photo at the beginning of the day instead of the end when everyone looks worn out! Oh well.

5. Memory Candle: Thanksgiving will always be extra special to Jimmy and I because of Thanksgiving 2008. We saw God in a way that we never want to forget. He took something bad and turned it into something beautiful. It marked our first outreach in Santa Rita, the life of our first baby that we will get to meet in Heaven and God turning a team canceling to our extended family all being in Guatemala together for Thanksgiving! Only the one true God could orchestrate something like that.
Jimmy's Mom sent us a candle that smells like thanksgiving. It fills the house. The smell reminds me of the night we were all there together, celebrating all that God had done. So each November we will light a scented candle to remind us of God's faithfulness.

Our Thanksgiving was a wonderful one! We are so thankful for God's direction and hand on our lives and all of the blessings He has allowed our family to enjoy.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Remember That Place?

No, our wound hasn't healed from getting kicked out of the other guerrilla community we used to work in, I don't think it has even scabbed over yet. We drive by there several times a week and I feel it in my stomach each time we pass by their gates. It feels unfinished.
We keep in touch with a couple people from there. Some stop by our house, like the lady and her daughter above did the other day, some we see in the market, and others still call Jimmy once in a while. Mateo still goes with us to the Bible studies in Santa Rita every week. I'm not sure what the future holds for that place, but I'm thankful that we can reach out to people in there even from outside the gates we have been forbidden to pass!

We knew of a lot of sexual abuse that was going on inside the community. One specific instance involved one of our teens. During the 2 years we were in there she attended our Bible study more faithfully than anyone else. Because of where she lived, there was nothing we could do to get her out of her situation. Well she is 18 now and contacted us the other day and asked for help out of there. Some missionaries in Guatemala City were able to put us in contact with a Christian women's shelter. We got her on a bus and she arrived there this past Friday. She has already started counseling. Because of what she grew up being surrounded by, I'm not sure she even knew it wasn't normal. Please pray for her. This could be a turning point for a new, better life for her. She understands the plan of Salvation, but hasn't accepted it for herself yet. Please pray for our friend.

The other day I had the hiccups. I do this thing where I hold my breath while stretching my neck out until they go away. It works... it always works. Jimmy loves to make fun of me about this. Silas saw us laughing while I was looking up at the ceiling waiting for my hiccups to go away, so he thought that was the joke. Several times a day since then he will catch my eye and then look up at the ceiling with a mischievous grin on his face.
I LOVE IT! It always makes me laugh. He loves to make his mommy laugh.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Forever House #2

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

We had been praying about a permanent place to live for a while. Once the boys got here and we started to envision the consequences of raising them in our current town, we prayed even harder. We knew God would provide a safe place for our family and He did! We have seen Him in each step.

We needed $30,000 to build our house. We could pay for it as we go, but that would not allow us to keep the same reliable trustworthy mason full-time, we wouldn't be able to buy building materials in bulk which significantly increases the price (just with the block that is a $800 difference), and it would take 5 years instead of 18 months. So... we asked God for it and then just watched Him work.

We can't get reasonable loans here in Guatemala and anything through the States would have to be with a cosigner, which we do not believe in. We had an offer for a loan, but just didn't have a peace about it, so we turned it down. Less than a week after that God's best happened!

Jimmy's Grandparents told us that they wanted to loan us the funds and then a couple days later the money was in our account. We will be paying them back over the next 5 years out of our personal fund. We are living where we are at now so that in just the money we saved from moving out of Santa Elena we have enough money to pay back this loan. Of course we heard a drive-by at the end of our street the other night, but at least we have an exit plan now! This is such a wonderful gift. I am so thankful for what this means for our boys.

So here is an update on our progress:

Our wall is almost finished. This photo was taken a couple weeks ago, so the back wall is done now.
This will be our front door.
I think it is interesting how Lico builds his own scaffolding. I have big plans for all these planks after he is done with them. They are going to be nice and weathered.
There is going to be razor wire above the wall. Another added security feature that was common in Xela, was broken glass. Jimmy went to the dump and bought 200 pounds worth of glass for about $10.
It will go on the top of our wall too. The wood below is a form and will be removed later. The glass is concreted into the top. If we would have had this on our wall in Santa Elena it might have prevent our break-in.
There is a travertine mine here in San Pancho. They sell reject pieces too. We bought this pile for about $16. It will go on the inside of walls that get direct sunlight since the concrete block heats up so much. Aesthetic interest that keeps you cool, what more could you ask for!
We are trying to be patient with the landscaping, so we don't have to move a lot of stuff later. There are so many beautiful tropical plants around here and so many plants that you can just break a branch off of and stick them in the ground and they start growing! We have tons of plants in pots since we have been waiting for our own land to put them in the ground. Our yard won't be bare for long. This is by our front door.
You can see the ivy we planted in the back that has started creeping up the wall. It will cover our concrete blocks that we have no desire to paint or cover with a smooth coat.

Sometime after Thanksgiving we plan on roping off our house walls to get an idea of how it is going to sit on the land. This is getting exciting!!

Silas loves hats! This is a hard hat he got for his birthday.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

If Everyone Had a Family That Loved Them...

We have mentioned Claudia before. She has been friends with us from the beginning. She is 15 and has been living with her grandparents in Santa Rita. She doesn't know her mom, but her dad lives in Santa Elena. She accepted Christ a couple months ago and has been attending Jimmy's weekly discipleship class. She also started helping me with the kids Bible study time. She has the sweetest spirit and we have already seen fruit from her walk with Christ.

Well... you'd think we work with nomads or something. As soon as someone start's growing they are moved away from us, the Bible study, and any other Christian influences in their lives. This is what happened with Claudia. She was really upset about it. Santa Rita was her home, where her friends were, where her school was, and where her "home church" was. Her dad decided that he wanted her to come live with him and his wife. She works full time now and other than a room she rents, her money goes to her dad. She's not a daughter, she's additional income.

I'm heartbroken for her. Visiting her today, she looked all alone. I want to rescue her, but I can't. I want her to have a family, complete with a mom that loves her, but she doesn't. Please pray for Claudia and that she will sense the love of her Heavenly Father; He's the only one from which she can never be separated.

We did put her in contact with Norberto, a Mexican missionary who started a church in San Benito (right next to Santa Elena). Their church van will be picking her up on Sundays. Please pray that God will send her a good Christian friend through that. We plan to stay in close contact with her and stop by and see her regulalry when we are in Santa Elena.

Jonah is not a morning person. This is what he does after his brother wakes everyone up.

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Need Is Great

The other day we got to talk a lot with José and Domingo and update the radio ministry that supports them each month. Here's some of what we learned.
José is on the left, Domingo on the right

- They have started a new mission in Agua Negro (pop. 150 families) about 2 hours from San Luis, Petén. Average attendance is 39. Another mission close to there in Zapote (pop. 300 families) has an average attendance of 110. This month they are going to open a building instead of meeting in a house.

- Three families from the village of Espolóm have been calling the radio station expressing interest in accepting Christ. José and Domingo have never been to this village before but think they saw a sign once. So far there hasn't been time in their busy schedules to go and visit here yet and they do not have time to start a mission here for the new believers either.

- José and Domingo would both like to move to Poptún. Almost every trip they make begins here. They spend 36 hours a month just in travel time to get here from their villages on the other side of Petén, and that's before their several hours of driving into the interior. This also costs them around Q1,200/month in gas, let alone the food and hotel costs. After doing some checking, they could buy a double lot for Q60,000 (around $8,000). They said that if they had help from somebody to buy the land, they would each build their own house on it. They could each get around Q20,000 by selling the land where they now live, which would cover the cost of materials to build their houses. (By house we mean a two room building with wooden sides, sheet metal roof and a concrete floor.) Their wives are also on board because it would give the guys more time with their families.

- They are also looking for a 4x4 pickup. A 1994 Toyota costs around $7,000. They have several missions that they won't be able to visit until March because of the roads.

Please pray for these needs. If you get a chance, click the "prayed for" button below. Thanks!

Bet you can't guess what is on top of this micro...
a DOG! The poor thing wasn't allowed in the micro so I guess someone had the idea to wrap him up in a sack and tie him to the top. I hope he made it.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Do You See a Pattern Here...

Supper on the way to church fail.
It was refried beans.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Present Solutions to Future Problems

Friday we invited Eulalio, Bernabé, Jesús and Rosalino over to the house for lunch.
(They are really happy people, just very serious in photos!)
This actually involves more than just an invitation because when we invite somebody over we also have to go pick them up. It is 45 minutes one way, so it involves a 3 hour driving commitment as well. However, we have found this to be much more effective than for us to go visit their house.
We have lost several people recently due to our showing up at their house. We didn't realize the extent of the peer pressure and opposition to our Bible Studies. Apparently many people sneak to the Bible Studies, but when we show up at their house to visit them, we "out" them to their neighbors or spouses who then refuse to let them attend further.

By bringing people to our house they are much more open and we get a lot more information than people are willing to give under the cloud of opposition in Santa Rita. Friday we found out about a lot of things we didn't realize.

The Catholic church leaders have changed the times of their services to coincide with ours to pressure people not to attend. They have also been trying to get us kicked out before the town council. This is the same exact way the problems started in New Horizon. We have been down this road before.
(Carlos, the mayor's son)
One of those two leaders is the mother-in-law of Mayor Reyes. When I mentioned that her grandson, Reyes' son, attends our Bible Studies, Jesús piped up that Reyes makes him go. Carlos, 9, really enjoys the Bible Studies, but like all kids sometimes would rather play with his friends. He told Jesús that if he doesn't go his dad chews him out and tells him he has to go to learn about the things of God. Reyes has never attended a Bible Study but has always been friendly and supportive of us. It is nice to know that he is not only like that to our faces.

When talking about what happened in New Horizon, Jesús mentioned that nobody spoke up for us because they weren't really our friends. He said that's not the way it is in Santa Rita and that there are many who would speak up and defend us. One of these people is Aaron's son. He is another that is very friendly yet does not attend yet. He has a very strong voice in the community and is apparently frustrated that people won't be real. People who say their Catholic don't attend that church either and while they say they fought for freedom they want to limit people's beliefs about God.
(Fabio aka Lucky)
Fabio has no wife or children and so when he is sick, Bernabé takes him food and takes care of him. He mentioned to her that he is frustrated with the community for many reasons, one being their treatment of us. He is worried that we will be kicked out of the house we are now using and in that way be forced to leave. Fabio said that when that happens he is going to give us his land next to his house for us to build a "Prayer House" that can be there permanently. Fabio is saved but last month spoke to me about reconciling with God. He said that he is mad at the town council right now and doesn't want to get right with God until he finishes the sins he has planned. I think he is referring to just being angry and using a few choice words during the meetings, but who really knows? He attends very faithfully however and is always the last one to leave.

Also of interest is that some people in Santa Rita are now selling off their partnerships in the Co-op. For $6,000 you can buy a share of the land (about 60 acres/shareholder) and become a full-fledged partner with voting rights. This may be plan C or D if we get kicked out because they can't kick out a partner. We hope to never have to go this far, preferring the town council to eventually change the laws of the village and allow there to be a church.

Before they left Eulalio asked for prayer. He has been sick for several months now with several problems including a hernia. I am looking to get him a consultation and hopefully surgery for this.
I just adore Bernabe, she is the most loving person. She is always honest with us and worries and fusses over me and the boys like she does her own children.

Please pray for Eulalio, this family and our work in Santa Rita. Click the "Prayed For" button below when you do!

CRAZY ITEM OF THE DAY: Since rainy season started it has been impossible to get down the dirt roads in Santa Rita. We have gotten stuck several times just trying to make it to our Bible study building. During the dry season Jimmy drives around announcing it is time for our services to start, which in this easy going culture makes a big difference.

When we walk around the village it is a mess. The mud is super sticky and you get taller with each step.
We were really excited last month when they finally laid down gravel. It changed the look of the entire community and we knew it would make our time there much easier. Well...
it only lasted one week. They soon dug impassable trenches on each street to lay down drains! It's been like this for a month now!

Friday, November 5, 2010

First Service for a New Work

Last month was the first large outreach in Poptún for the Kekchi people living there. There was great attendance in the main square and a large interest. Then the hard work began for pastor Mateo Botzok.
He followed up with the 9 families who expressed serious interest in the new church only to find out that none of them live close enough to the actual location to attend. During the day they said they could make the trip, but they would not be able to attend at night because of the violence in that city. That didn't bode well for the next church activity, a showing of the Jesus film at night in Pastor Mateo's house which will also be the church meeting place. He also visited all of his Kekchi neighbors and received a number of verbal commitments but those don't mean anything here, people are very polite.

Last night I arrived along with Domingo and José and we set everything up. The service was supposed to start at 6pm with the movie starting at 7pm. At 6pm Mateo's wife promptly served supper to me and the guys. At 6:45 still nobody had arrived. I was giving my "we had it rough at the beginning too" encouragement speech when the first few arrived. At 7:15pm we started the movie with 14 in attendance. 15 minutes later there were 35 and by the end of the movie 56 people were sitting and standing around shivering (it got down to 70 last night so everybody had out their winter coats.) It was then that Mateo welcomed everybody and announced further the plans to start a church. 3 more families received Bibles after expressing strong interest in this church.
Shelley and I are excited about seeing and being a part of an all Kekchi work from the ground up since that is what KBI will be training men to do. This will be a great learning experience for us. We have seen new works started before, but this one we will be attending regularly to learn and help out as much as possible. Since it is only 45 minutes away it makes taking the boys much easier especially since on Sunday nights we have our services in Santa Rita 45 minutes the other way from our house.

Please pray for Pastor Mateo and his family as they keep working to start this church. We four guys were talking last night about the difference between a city ministry and a village ministry. In a village we have the only electricity after dark and a movie is the only thing going on so everybody shows up, even if only to not be sitting at home in the dark. In a city everybody has their own TVs with their soap operas on, so for somebody to come to a movie means they have real interest that goes beyond curiosity.

Mateo is renting his house for Q400/month. He is a carpenter and has his own shop there out of the house that he uses to support himself.
Pray also for José and Domingo. They really want to relocate to Poptún. Almost all of the villages they visit are on roads from Poptún. Every weekend they drive 9 hours round trip just to get the roads that take them several more hours into the interior of Petén.

*We added a "prayed for" option under each blog, so if you read this and take the time to pray right then we would love to know about. It will keep track of how many people brought this specific prayer request before God.*

CRAZY ITEM OF THE DAY: This is why I am constantly finding little holes in all of our clothes.
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