Friday, December 19, 2014

Merry Christmas!

I’m sitting here listening to Christmas music and imagining that I’m looking out at snow falling and sitting next to a fire and Christmas tree. Somehow it still doesn’t seem quite like Christmas, even though I’ve been living in Guatemala for almost 3 years now. And no matter how long I’m gone, I never cease to miss my family. But I am grateful with where God has me in my life!

The English workshops began two weeks ago in the new classroom. I have been giving classes a few times per day to see which children and teenagers come to classes and who have come and dropped out. That way in January I will have an official registration time and give priority to the students who are interested and committed, and also have more of an idea of how to separate the classes. I will be giving classes along with Emilsa, the other hired teacher here from Guatemala. Through donations we have been able to hire her for more classes; praise God! She is a Christian and is always grateful for the opportunity to work and use her English. We have had full classes during these workshops and even had to turn down students because we ran out of room!
I do wish all of you a very Merry Christmas; to enjoy the time with family and remembering the important things in life. To remember why Christ came; and that after the joyous time of His birth and growing up came His sacrifice and suffering. I don’t ever want to forget how much this means to me, each day. Not just around this Christmas time.  Thank you always for your support; being here would not be possible without you all. May God bless you all!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

New English Training

It is a time of transition! Small Change 4 Big Change will officially have an office and classroom space right in Santa Catarina. This is something we have needed for a while, and God finally provided a space that we will be able to use beginning in December. The plan is to have many more English classes now that we can have a consistent classroom space. We will be able to move things from the office where we are now (in Antigua) into the other during the month of December; but the plan is to have at least the classroom space ready to use the second week.
As sometimes it is difficult to start up classes (in the sense that people begin and then eventually some lose interest) we are going to have what we call workshops. They will be twice per week to see who really is interested in signing up for full courses in January. It will also give us the chance to see who will be able to attend more advanced level classes.
As I mentioned before, the end of the year is coming to a close and for most of ourstudents, the 2014 school year has ended. Unfortunately we have had two students who have dropped out recently; one due to conflict with the University and the other because of not failing his exam at Maximo Nivel (the English language school). It brings great disappointment and sadness, to be truly honest. I have struggled recently with wondering if really what I’m doing here makes a difference. This type of work can be disheartening at times, and make me question if I am in the right place. It has been confirmed to me time and time again that this is where the Lord wants me for right now, but it has been a challenging few months. Please pray for the encouragement in times of disappointment.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Celebrations

The weather here is very cold, it reminds me of fall back in MD! The temperature typically changes around November and December here which makes it feel like Christmastime. On Saturday everyone celebrated All Saint’s Day; the tradition is to go to the cemeteries with food and family to celebrate the lives of those who have passed. People all over Latin America celebrated with enormous kites (in photo) that had been made beginning 6 months ago, festivals, and the traditional dish called fiambre. Fiambre is made of vegetables such as lettuce, cabbage, radishes, beets, and corn as well as eggs and all different types of hams, and sausages.

In better news, we spoke with the Mayor of Santa Catarina who told us that what we had heard about the garden was false, and that he still gave us permission to use the land. It turned out to be a misunderstanding but is also confirmation that we need a piece of land of our own so there is never any complication. We have found a house that will be an office space in Santa Catarina, which is a blessing! We had found out and even put a deposit down, but it didn’t work out with the owner due to changes and additions we needed to be made. This one we have found now will hopefully will be able to be used beginning in January! Please pray for that also; that this is the right place for us and everything will fall into place.

Felix, our student who has been sponsored to take guitar lessons by the church who came in August, began this month. He takes two hours per week at a local church that offers one hour of guitar theory and one hour of practice. It is such a wonderful opportunity for him, as he struggles with epilepsy. He would like to study at the University but due to his condition it would make it hard for him.  (As well as money that the family doesn’t have). He would like to learn and possibly play in his church’s worship band.

Thank you always for all of your support and your prayers for me and for the project.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Back in Guatemala

I’ve been back “home” in Guatemala for about a week now. No matter how long it’s been living here, it’s still sometimes a transition. Mostly due to the fact that I’m used to seeing my family each day and talking with them face to face.

My students are finishing their last month of the 2014 school year! There will be 8 that will continue in their programs, and two that will be newly sponsored to continue in their studies at public school. I know each one is ready for a break. Grades will come out within the next few weeks. We are also going to be having another school supply drive for the 2015 school year. This will give us the chance to provide the school supplies many children in the project and community will need to begin; those who aren’t in the education program. So many children only need that extra help in the beginning of the school year for them to be successful while studying.

In other news, the women’s community garden has now been taken over by the local Muni (meaning Mayor’s office). Through a series of unfortunate events by one of the women who was in the project, it no longer belongs to them and so we are in search a piece of property that can be owned by Small Change for Big Change. This was very disheartening, especially to the women who have made this garden special and taken care of it, along with building relationships with one another. I believe it will make them stronger; they have already begun searching out a new space and were ready to show Lisa when she returned from her trip to the US! Please pray that we find land to have this garden as well as an office in Santa Catarina. We believe that God has somewhere for us; He just hasn’t shown us where yet.

Thank you to all of you who were so supportive when I was home as well as supportive of my family.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

An Update at Home

I’ve been home for about a week and a half now, and it always takes some time to adjust. It is such a blessing to be able to spend time with my family, and have the ability to do that. It becomes a different kind of business than that in Guatemala, as there is always a lot in my house to do. I thank you for your prayers, and for those of you who have been so supportive from my church as I have had some tests done due to some health issues. Thank God, literally, so far everything has been good. I meet with a doctor on Tuesday to find out for sure what my next steps are; and that might even mean that everything is alright. I can understand how people might feel during this time of waiting for results, and how tough it might be if it is something serious. God gives peace and comfort; I think we just have to allow Him to be there with us. We let our worries and fears take over completely and begin to trust those more than the Lord.

My Dad has recently been listening to a song from the Disney movie “The Odd Life of Timothy Green.” It is about a boy who becomes part of a family but only has a certain amount of time with him; he belongs more to the earth than to them. At the end of four seasons, he disappears. There is a song at the end of the movie called “The Gift” that has spoken to my Dad’s heart as well as mine. The words are very thought provoking, and I am putting them here so you can read them and interpret them as you would like.

This gift will last forever
This gift will never let you down
Some things are made from better stuff
This gift is waiting to be found

Your heart's in wide receiving
Been too long buried in the sand
Some things require leaving
This gift will fall right in your hand
Just try to understand...

If you long enough
And you don't give up
If you're strong enough
And you don't give up
And you...

You'll be no harbor to the sorrow
Just let it go.

Don't hang your head in sorrow
Don't give up just before you win
Don't wait around for tomorrow
Open up your arms and let it in

This gift will last forever
This gift will never let you down
Some things are made from better stuff
This gift is ready to be found
Just you believe it now

This gift will last forever
This gift will never let you down
Some things are made from better stuff
This gift is ready to be found
Your heart's in wide receiving
Been too long buried in the sand
Some things require believing
These things just fall right in your hand
Just try to understand...

Friday, August 29, 2014

A Visit Home

First I want to thank everyone for the birthday wishes! Time goes by so quickly and I love just looking back at the year and seeing all of the amazing things God has done and how He continues to move in my life, even though I don’t deserve a single part of it.

Life has been back to normal for the past few weeks since the Iowa team left. Their church it seems is interested in sponsoring us to buy a piece of land in the area near Santa Catarina Barahona. This is HUGE. If we could have a place as an office and meeting space there in town, as well as a place for teams and volunteers to be hosted, it would be an incredible blessing. We see God at midst in this and Bill, who is our third board member from that church, will be coming down to help look at piece of land and buildings to buy. Please pray about this!

I also will be coming home as sort of a “surprise” visit in a few weeks. I am mentioning this here because I am well aware that my Dad has mentioned it in church, for those of you who go to CUMC. I have some current health issues that need to be taken care of. It is nothing serious I don’t believe, but something that should at least be looked at. I will be buying a one-way ticket with every intention of coming back when I can! But as you know, Doctor appointments and matters regarding health don’t always go as planned. This way I don’t need to be worried about doing everything within a certain amount of time, knowing I have a date to come home. I thank you all for your support and prayers always, I look forward to seeing some of you very soon!

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Iowa First Presbyterian Church Mission Team

It is 5:30 in the morning, and the Iowa Mission Team of 66 people just left a little while ago. I tried to fall back asleep but was not able to! It has certainly been quite a week, and as most mission trips go, went by very quickly.

They team came last Saturday and were already separated into 3 groups. Each group rotated two to three times during the week between Hope Haven (assembling wheelchairs and a distribution), ImagininGuate (constructing a house), and smallchangeforbigchange. With Lisa, they were installing stoves and with me we had a VBS of up to 100 children. The majority of the team was youth from the youth group and had never been out of the country before. It was certainly an eye opening experience for everyone to not only leave the US, but to see the way people live who are living in poverty. Most of them had the opportunity to go inside at least one family’s home and saw the seriousness of the way families are living here in Guatemala.

The team who built the house worked with an organization called ImagininGuate that I mentioned above. It is a team of 4 guys from the very same community want to make a difference and whose passion is house building. They start from essentially nothing, the ground, and construct a home in one week. This was also a wonderful chance for the group to start a project so big and see it finished at the end of their time here. Each day the groups were separated in yet more groups for lunches in the homes of our most special families. This gives the women a chance to not only work and cook traditional food for visitors but also relationships to be built and for the groups to have a chance to talk with them and hear their stories.

Lives were touched, both for the Guatemalan people here but also with the huge team from Iowa. Many tears were shed as it was time to say goodbye yesterday and promises were made to come back. God was at work this week; keeping everyone safe and moving in our hearts.