The system is up and running! Praise God! The first water produced was shared with the community and we had a lovely dedication service complete with a downpour that significantly shortened the sermon but left enough time for our team to sing “Alaberé;” up front with video running. Unfortunately, I am pretty sure that we have gone viral on facebook in Jeréz based on all the giggling going on. The courtyard was full of people for the outdoor service, but they just gather up all the electronics and head into the church, reassemble and continue on.
Now! I apologize for not keeping up with the updates; but between the heat, the motion sickness, and the busy days with 200 children, I have just been too tired to post anything. And, honestly somewhat overwhelmed (in a good way). The people are so warm and welcoming and the children are so curious and full of energy. I think I have had more hugs in the past few days than during a year at home. They are really good kids too (for the most part). We never had to lock the van or worry about the kids getting into our backpacks left lying around, or the teaching supplies laid out each day. The crayons and markers were definitely a hit and quite a draw, but the children would just stand and look and look, never touching. I was completely impressed by the respect they demonstrated. It was pretty hard to hold their attention during the education, but as soon as Ann played a few notes on the keyboard, they all snapped back to attention. We might have been the first foreigners the children had experienced because the really wanted to hear us speak and even a simple “gracias” from one of our mouths caused lots of giggles. By the 2nd day, they were trying to learn a little English and teach us a little Spanish. I was afraid that 2 rowdy little boys had gotten me to say a naughty word based on their laughter and running away as soon as they got me to say “sapo.” Turns out that is just “frog” and I am still perplexed as to why that caused so much mirth. The women were busy most of the day preparing food for their families and snacks for us. Their hospitality and concern for us was really overwhelming coming from a community with so little. They were so willing to share completely with us and seemed so happy to have us here.
So, again, I am so sorry to have fallen behind and will summarize each day with some additional posts for each day.
Sunday, we had the privilege to worship at Belèn Presbyterian church. The prescence of the Holy Spirit was strong and the voices of the congregation loud and clear with worship and praise. It is powerful to sing our old familiar hymns together in unison even though the language is different and WOW, does this congregation sing out. Mucho gusto. It sounds wonderful! The women of Jerez served lunch after the service and we all got started with the work at hand, right away. By the end of the day, the installation team had completed the parts inventory and mounted the board, right on schedule. Only one small part was lost somehow, maybe during TSA inspection. The education team met with the teachers and reviewed the general plans for the week. An unsuccessful stop at the hardware store, a visit to the supermarket, and dinner a couple of blocks from our hotel finished off a very long day. Our first day on site was very good, but it is SO HOT and HUMID.
Next post will cover the project days and pictures of the children.
All of this luggage was strapped down to the top of the van this afternoon for the trip to Reu. Pablo and Luis provided excellent care with the packing and driving. Traffic is crazy. There must be only one route in Guatemala everyone uses which creates long lines of traffic and someone is always in a hurry to pass. It is really scaring to see the motorcycles weaving in and out to get ahead – oh some cars too – and kids standing in the backs of pickups. It seems like one missed speed bump would create quite a disaster. And there are a lot of those speedbumps. It does solve the trouble of “optional rules of the road” by making a physical barrier. It was very suprising, actually to see the large numbers of semis on the road. We made the trip to Reu in record time with no stops, arriving just before dark with just a bit of motion sickness setting for a couple of us. Everyone was glad to get out and check in to our new home away from home for the next 5 nights.
Before the road trip, though Mary, David, and Cindy hiked a volcano. Actually, David did the entire hike and Mary and Cindy invested in horse taxis for the ascent, and then walked down the mile and a half trek. It was much harder than it sounds, but well worth the trip. The view from the top was completely hidden with the clouds, but how often do you get to walk in the clouds and roast marshmallows on hot lava.
The rest of the team went shopping at the huge Saturday Markets after having breakfast with a family from New Jersey in Guatemala for their 5th family vacation building homes for families outside Antigua. We hope to see them when we are back for our last night to share stories.
Everyone is feeling good and we are excited to get started and meet the Belēn community. We did end our day having dinner with Pablo, Luis, and Rabeña. What a great team!
Today was Guatemala immersion day, or at least Antigua and Maya education day. After a hearty breakfast served in the courtyard of our hotel, we headed out to meet our tour guide in the central square. We spent 3 hours walking with Elizabeth Bell, a local tour guide, archeologist, and expert in life in Antigua past and present. We felt an immediate connection with the city as she explained how the past mayor had been jailed for corruption, and that the Internet and Facebook were making significant changes to a country that had been isolated for centuries. The current mayor is a woman and is really cleaning up the corruption in the city government. There is a strong sense of community here with people committed to looking out for each other that is a longstanding characteristic of the Mayan people. 6000 years of history is a lot to cover in 3 hours, but we all felt we got a good glimpse into the culture and history of the area complete with an introduction to the Mayan calendar. Antigua is a surprisingly old and beautiful city that had been abandoned for many years after a devastating earthquake. Evidence of that past destruction is still evident in the ruins throughout the city.
After lunch and a little downtime, the education continued and the team split up between a cooking class and a Mayan Sacred Fire for a glimpse into Mayan spirituality. We got a few extra prayers of thanksgiving for our project.
Oh, and David carried an umbrella all day that successfully warded off the expected rain, although we did hear thunder in the distance toward the end of the day. Hopefully good weather will continue during our journey.
Words for the day. Peace, community, goodness, caring for God’s creation.
We made it! Although, at one point this morning, we were not certain if we would make it out of Chicago. So, even though planning is essential, plans really ARE useless. What happens when the plan breaks down is the true test of flexibility. Today, we got to experience what trouble an embargo can really create. Apparently, every summer and winter there is an embargo against certain types of bags into Central America. A quick taxi ride to the local 24 hour Walmart, and a repack of our two specially purchased trunks resulted in success getting all 12 of our bags checked in. Unfortunately David and Jac did not make the 6:00 AM flight due to all the baggage commotion and caught the next flight out. Their mad dash through the Miami airport caught them up with the rest of the team as American Airlines held the flight for the late Chicago arrivals.
Miraculously, all the bags except one made it to Guatemala City and we were really happy to have a van waiting to drive us to Antigua. We have had a wonderful meal, gotten cash, had a quick look around the city square, and are all settled into our rooms for some rest. The plan tomorrow is to relax a bit, see the city and learn more about the culture here before we head out to Reu. Anyway, we are praying that we will be refreshed after a more restful day. Oh and, hopefully the missing bag will be delivered as promised.
Words of the day. “It will all be fine.”
For the season of Christmas (December 25th-January 5th, the 12 days of Christmas!), the blog will be on a holy rest. Regular blog action resumes on Epiphany (January 6th). Enjoy these holy days!