Friday, June 28, 2013

Guatemala–Part 3

Thursday was quite busy, and after breakfast, we packed up our things in preparation for being gone all day.  Our team was joined by the four men who attend the Bible Institute at the church, some of their family members, a missionary family on deputation to go to Bolivia, and several church members.  There were about thirty people in all.  We packed a lunch and packed into the three vehicles.

Our First stop was in San Martin, a town about 45 minutes away, where there is a fledgling church.  Long story, but Daniel (the missionary) is now pastoring that work, too.  We handed out flyers and tracts all over the neighborhood where the services were to be held that evening, then loaded into the vehicles again.

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Man reading a flyer that he was given

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Ladies at the corner store grinding their cornmeal for tortillas and their refried beans

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Lady with children (one is in the sling) and a basket on her head – just a thought, if you carry your basket on  your head, does it really need handles? :)

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After we passed out all our flyers and tracts, we headed up the mountain to some remote villages.  It was then that we realized our vehicle only had brakes when it was in neutral. Uh-oh!  It was a little scary when we had to turn around and almost went over the cliff!  Thank the Lord there was a large ditch that caught us!  We lost reverse, too, and had to push the car out of the ditch.  We did a lot of praying on that trip! 

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After extricating ourselves from the ditch, we walked up and down the roads in the village, passing out Romans booklets, and inviting people to a service.  We also had a drawing for a soccer ball giveaway, and gave everyone in attendance a toothbrush and toothpaste.

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Samuel, one of the Bible Institute students, preached a Gospel message.

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This young mother was quite attentive, and responded at the invitation, along with several others.

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After the first service, we went to a nearby secondary school, and were given permission to have a service there as well.  The students were very attentive, and though I know of no decisions made, they were given a clear Gospel presentation.

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Leaving the villages, we headed back to San Martin for the evening service.  We had a good crowd, and afterward made banana splits for everyone!

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On the way home that night, Mom and I rode in the Spanish-speaking vehicle (they didn’t want to risk driving in the brake-less vehicle with all of us, so we were dispersed accordingly among the safe cars).  It was a little awkward at first, since I know only enough Spanish to be extremely dangerous, and the silence was somewhat strained.  Then, I decided to speak with the driver, Edwin, who, I found, had been to the states several times, and spoke some English.

We continued the drive speaking “Spanglish” to one another, with lots of “huh?s” and “que?s” and “what?s” sprinkled in among the conversation.  The others must have just been listening to his side of the conversation and laughing at my pronunciation and bad grammar, but they said nothing.  He asked about our political situation, the current president, and a few previous presidents.  Then he asked about the governor – was he a good man?  I was puzzled for a moment, not knowing which governor he meant, then he said, “Schwartznegger!”  I laughed right out loud, and everyone else in the car did as well!  Apparently our politics are somewhat of a curiosity to them.  I can hardly wonder at that, though, since I am somewhat puzzled by the people we elect sometimes, too!

It was quite late when we got back to the church, and I was so glad to finally get in bed after a long and fruitful day!

Thus ended the third day.

To be continued…

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Guatemala–Part 2

One of our goals was to do some huge tract distributions, and the best place to do that is where are the people gather – in the markets!

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We spent several hours stamping the tracts with the church name and contact information.

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Steve was a tract-stamping machine!  We all stood in awe of his ability! LOL

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Clarissa wasn’t too bad, either! :)

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The local market where most of the food is purchased – there are hundreds of people selling their wares.

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It is very congested in the streets of the market, with people, buses, motorbikes, and tuc-tucs (the little three-wheeled taxis for hire). 

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The stores in the city tend to specialize in one kind of item.  For instance, this shop sells bicycle wheels and tires.  It can take all day to run errands, since you must visit a different store for each kind of item that you need.

I am really glad for the convenience of grocery stores and department stores, not to mention the mass-merchandise stores that we have in the USA!

Wednesday was also the church’s regular mid-week service.

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I helped out with the music in the service

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There was a good crowd, and the people were all very friendly.

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Misty taught the children’s class that dismissed after the singing in the main service.

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They were learning about Gideon, and really enjoyed their lesson.

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My new amiga, Debora – she was such a sweet little girl!

Thus ended day two.

To be continued…

Monday, June 24, 2013

Cliff Dwellings

Every time we drive through New Mexico, I see signs and billboards advertising the Gila Cliff Dwellings in the nearby national park.  We have never before had the opportunity to visit until last week.  It was about two hours from where we were staying in Silver City, NM.  The road was narrow and winding, up and down through the mountains, but so beautiful.

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The elevation was quite high as we passed through the mountains!

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Finally, we arrived at the cliff dwellings.

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The cliff dwellings are estimated to be about 700 years old, easily the oldest standing structures in the United States of America.

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Built in natural caves along the Gila River, the dwellings are made with rocks smoothed over with adobe mud.

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Inside one of the living areas was an ancient basket and some corn cobs.

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Peek-a-boo!

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Our whole family at the cliff dwellings.

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On the bridge in the park

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Climbing the steps to the dwellings

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This was one of the most interesting national parks I have ever personally visited.  It was a short hike to the dwellings, but it was worth it!  The kids loved it, and said it was one of the neatest things we have done in a while.  If you ever get out this way, you definitely need to plan a visit to see the cliff dwellings.

The kids were also able to participate in the Junior Ranger program, in which they completed several specific activities, and were accordingly sworn in as Junior Rangers and given a badge and certificate!

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The swearing in ceremony

(I’m not sure what part of “raise your right hand” some of my kids did not understand) ha!

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The four newest Junior Rangers with their badges and certificates

On the way home, we could plainly see the smoke from the forest fires that are sweeping across New Mexico.  The state is in the midst of a ten-year drought, and things are so dry!

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What is your favorite national park or historical site?

Friday, June 21, 2013

Happy Birthday, Pixie!

Those were not the first words out of my mouth this morning, but they were the first ones my little pixie-girl heard from my lips!  Yes, another birthday at our house.  She is now seven.  This little bundle of energy, joy, sunshine, and giggles is growing up way too fast for my liking.  She already has boys standing in line to marry her (three at last count).  I know why, too.  She is such a sweetheart!

I am ashamed to admit it, but this was her first official birthday party.  We have always tried to have a special meal and cake, but when your birthday falls during the week of camp, or the week of moving, it tends to be less than expected.  She has uncomplainingly endured for all these years, and I believe she deserves a little praise for her sweet attitude.

Today was extra special.  We took a trip to a really cool place that I will post about later – been wanting to visit there for years.  Are you wondering??  :)

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Here we are, driving down the road (well, Paul was, anyway – we were just along for the ride).  You can see she is wearing her special birthday scarf made by Grandma! 

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Here are all the kids sitting down to a delicious birthday dinner of hamburgers and green beans.  Yep. That is what she asked for.  Of course, we had cake and ice cream, too.  Chocolate.  That’s my girl!

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She wanted cupcakes, so that’s what I made.  Yummy!

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I had left all my cake pans at home, so I had to get a little creative.  Plus, the oven in the trailer is not working for some reason.  Thank goodness for the toaster oven!

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Mmm, mmm, good!

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Then the opening of gifts.  Such unspeakable delights!  Sour Patch Kids from Daniel!

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Socks?!?  Okay, there was a really awesome clearance sale at Wal-mart the other day! :)

There were a lot of other miscellaneous items from all of us, and she had a wonderful time opening and exclaiming over them all.  It was a very fun day for our whole family.

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And a new outfit for Polka-dot Baby (that is actually the doll’s name, and yes, I do fear for my future grandchildren!  Other dolls have been named Little Italy, France, and Mrs. No-Head).  Hopefully, the name choosing will improve with age.

Happy Birthday, my sweet Esther!  I love you!  I am so thankful that God gave you to us seven years ago!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Guatemala Trip–Part 1

I am back in the good ol’ USA, and very thankful to be home again.  I am so grateful for the opportunity to be able to visit Guatemala.  It was extra special, since my cousin and her husband were the missionaries we went to visit.  It was wonderful to see her again (I think we had not seen each other for seven or eight years).  Needless to say, she was quite surprised to see me!

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Mom caught Misty’s expression when she saw me!  Great shot!

The day we arrived, things were pretty hectic, getting everyone and their luggage situated, and settling in for the evening.  We were all quite excited, but rather tired from the long day of travel.(We began our day around 3:00 a.m.)  We ate dinner and all sat around talking and getting to know one another better.  We were a rather diverse group, but we got along so well – it was a blessing to spend time with such a joyful group of Christians.

Our first activity was to visit Parque Nacional Volcan Pacaya, where we hiked up the active volcano, Pacaya.  It had been bubbling and hissing for several days, and just before we arrived in the country, the lava had flowed for several hours, causing consternation amongst some of the members of our mission team.  However, it was not dangerous at all, thankfully. 

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Volcan Pacaya from a distance, with a scarf of clouds about its shoulders.

The hike up the volcano was the most arduous I have ever made.  It was quite steep, most of the way, and rather than a dirt path, it was slippery lava shale from previous eruptions (the last big eruption was in 2010).  In addition to the difficulty of the trail, we also had to contend with altitude.  Pacaya peaks at roughly 7,500 feet above sea level.  Most of us were coming from 15-20 feet above sea level, and if you have ever made a hike in high altitude, you know how hard it is just to breathe normally while doing any kind of activity.  I felt like my lungs were going to burst!  As the hours went by, we took frequent rests along the trail, and our bodies gradually acclimated to the difference in altitude.

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Our guide and some team members.                                                      Me during a rest break.

We finally reached the top of the volcano.  As we looked around, we sang “How Great Thou Art” and marveled at the power of God manifested in the scenery.

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Here we all are at the top – still smiling despite the workout!

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View from the volcano.

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View of the top of the volcano (see the steam?)

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Me sitting down inside of a volcanic crater.  It was hot and steamy in there, from the volcano’s activity.

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Our guide, Marvin, roasting marshmallows in a fissure of the volcano.

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Store on top of the volcano – notice the “World Famous” sign.  Cracked me up!  They sold jewelry made with volcanic rock and ash.  It was pretty neat.

After we hiked back down the mountain, we ate a late lunch at a local restaurant, and headed to Antigua, where we visited the market and shops.  They sell all kinds of produce, as well as souveneirs.   We were able to pass out several hundred tracts as we walked about.

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The cobbled streets of Antigua, Guatemala

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Three little Guatemalan girls holding tracts – notice the one in the traditional sling

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Market produce – everything is so fresh and beautiful!

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People in the market shops – many of these received tracts.

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The artisan shops, where you barter for everything.

The rule of the market is bartering, whether for food, souveneirs, or services.  Bartering is quite an art, and we were instructed to pay asking price for nothing, since the locals typically quote a price three times the value of the item in question.  It was like a tennis match – back and forth, the vendor lowering the price, and you slightly raising  until both come away satisfied.  It took a lot of time, but I became adept at figuring the exchange rate in my head and coming away with a good deal. 

After darkness fell, we headed back to the church, where we ate dinner, and then collapsed in our beds, exhausted.  Thus ended the first day of our mission trip. 

To be continued…