Archives For Guatemala

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If you are really thankful, what do you do? You share.

W. Clement Stone

Yesterday, I introduced the Thanksgiving Tablecloth Tradition.  This is a tradition our family started 15 years ago, and it has helped ensure we intentionally reflect on God’s provision in our lives over the past year.  To read more about the tradition, click here.

This week, I’ll be sharing the things I’ll be writing on the tablecloth this year.

On Sunday, I took time to brainstorm my gratitude using the Lighten (mind mapping) application on my iPad, so I’ll be sharing pictures of my Thank You 2016 mindmap to give you a glimpse into my world.

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I’m thankful for 2 weeks in Guatemala this summer.  Our family traveled to Guatemala to help build three homes and to continue ministry to widows and orphans in the village of Santo Domingo Xenacoj.

 

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I’m thankful for Ann Flynn who joined our team this year.  Besides the medical expertise and humor she brought to the trip, it was refreshing to see Xenacoj through her eyes.  One of my dreams is to bring others with us when we go to Xenacoj.  I want them to experience what we’ve experienced, and I want them to develop a heart for the beautiful people we serve.  Ann’s participation in this year’s trip gave me hope that this will happen.

I’m thankful for safe travels, and I’m thankful for the people who helped us out on either side of our trip with transportation and pet care.

I’m thankful for the 3 houses we helped build.  More importantly, I’m thankful for the opportunity to engage with the families of Dolores, Maria, and Carmen.  I look forward to visiting them when we return again.

I’m thankful for Hillary.  She’s visited Xenacoj several times in the past as part of medical missions trips.  This was our first trip together.  She added a lot to our first week in Guatemala, and I’m thankful for her medical support when Leanne fainted on the construction site the first day.

I’m thankful for my mornings in Guatemala.  Each morning I had the opportunity to spend time on the roof of our residence before anyone else woke up.  This was my opportunity for Rooftop Reflections – a daily video blog of my thoughts.  I also did a lot of reading in the morning.  I read through I and II Thessalonians and The Promise of a Pencil and Start Something That Matters.  Finally, I had the opportunity in the morning to walk the streets of Xenacoj while Hannah ran on ahead.  These morning walks allowed me to suck in the sites, smells, and sounds that come with each morning in this village I love.

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I’m thankful for Hope Haven.  This is where we helped out in their warehouse where they build wheelchairs for people all over the world.  We also participated in a wheelchair basketball game.  (It’s harder than you think.)

I’m thankful for Cruz Ayapan, a small village just outside of Xenacoj.  This village and it’s village are clear reminders that God’s love is needed all over the world and there is still much work to be done.

I’m thankful for our widows walk with German.  It was beautiful to see German’s heart as he ministered to the women in his village who are often forgotten.

I’m thankful for the opportunity to meet with Mario Aquino, the mayor of Xenacoj.  This meeting provided an incredible time to discuss a vision for our involvement in the future.

I’m thankful for the generosity of so many donors who helped make this trip possible.

I’m thankful for Oreo, the dog who we adopted during our trip.  He lived outside our house, and he always greeted us with his expressive tail and ears.

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I’m thankful for protection from witchcraft.  I don’t talk about this a lot, but there were people in the village who weren’t excited to have us there.  I’m thankful we stayed safe during this experience.

I’m thankful for our wonderful translators.  Not only did they help us communicate with the locals, but they became our friends.

And I’m thankful for our visit to Antigua.  This is the tourist village about 40 minutes from Xenacoj.  I’ll always remember the rooftop dinner with our team and the McDonalds date with Leanne while our kids shopped for souvenirs with the rest of our team.0img_0303

Stay tuned for Day Two of my Thanksgiving Tablecloth Tradition reflections.

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.  Psalm 118:1

What did you experience this year that merits your gratitude?  Share your thoughts in the comments.

rooftop-reflections-tuesday-july-19-2016

I spent two weeks in Guatemala in July.  Each morning, I woke up before anyone else in our house, and I climbed up the steps to the roof of our house in Santo Domingo Xenacoj.  This is where I started my day with prayer, reading, and rooftop reflections.

Each morning, I recorded a video documenting my “Rooftop Reflections.”  I initially posted these on Facebook, but I realize many of my readers aren’t connected with me on Facebook.  Over the next several weeks, I’ll release these videos to you here on the blog.  These videos provide another glimpse into my experiences in Guatemala.

Here is the ninth installment:

rooftop-reflections-monday-july-18-2016

I spent two weeks in Guatemala in July.  Each morning, I woke up before anyone else in our house, and I climbed up the steps to the roof of our house in Santo Domingo Xenacoj.  This is where I started my day with prayer, reading, and rooftop reflections.

Each morning, I recorded a video documenting my “Rooftop Reflections.”  I initially posted these on Facebook, but I realize many of my readers aren’t connected with me on Facebook.  Over the next several weeks, I’ll release these videos to you here on the blog.  These videos provide another glimpse into my experiences in Guatemala.

Here is the eighth installment:

rooftop-reflections-sunday-july-17-2016

I spent two weeks in Guatemala in July.  Each morning, I woke up before anyone else in our house, and I climbed up the steps to the roof of our house in Santo Domingo Xenacoj.  This is where I started my day with prayer, reading, and rooftop reflections.

Each morning, I recorded a video documenting my “Rooftop Reflections.”  I initially posted these on Facebook, but I realize many of my readers aren’t connected with me on Facebook.  Over the next several weeks, I’ll release these videos to you here on the blog.  These videos provide another glimpse into my experiences in Guatemala.

Here is the seventh installment:

rooftop-reflections-saturday-july-16-2016

I spent two weeks in Guatemala in July.  Each morning, I woke up before anyone else in our house, and I climbed up the steps to the roof of our house in Santo Domingo Xenacoj.  This is where I started my day with prayer, reading, and rooftop reflections.

Each morning, I recorded a video documenting my “Rooftop Reflections.”  I initially posted these on Facebook, but I realize many of my readers aren’t connected with me on Facebook.  Over the next several weeks, I’ll release these videos to you here on the blog.  These videos provide another glimpse into my experiences in Guatemala.

Here is the sixth installment:

ROOFTOP REFLECTIONS Friday July 15 2016

I spent two weeks in Guatemala in July.  Each morning, I woke up before anyone else in our house, and I climbed up the steps to the roof of our house in Santo Domingo Xenacoj.  This is where I started my day with prayer, reading, and rooftop reflections.

Each morning, I recorded a video documenting my “Rooftop Reflections.”  I initially posted these on Facebook, but I realize many of my readers aren’t connected with me on Facebook.  Over the next several weeks, I’ll release these videos to you here on the blog.  These videos provide another glimpse into my experiences in Guatemala.

Here is the fifth installment:

ROOFTOP REFLECTIONS Thursday July 14 2016

I spent two weeks in Guatemala in July.  Each morning, I woke up before anyone else in our house, and I climbed up the steps to the roof of our house in Santo Domingo Xenacoj.  This is where I started my day with prayer, reading, and rooftop reflections.

Each morning, I recorded a video documenting my “Rooftop Reflections.”  I initially posted these on Facebook, but I realize many of my readers aren’t connected with me on Facebook.  Over the next several weeks, I’ll release these videos to you here on the blog.  These videos provide another glimpse into my experiences in Guatemala.

Here is the fourth installment:

ROOFTOP REFLECTIONS Wednesday July 13 2016

I spent two weeks in Guatemala in July.  Each morning, I woke up before anyone else in our house, and I climbed up the steps to the roof of our house in Santo Domingo Xenacoj.  This is where I started my day with prayer, reading, and rooftop reflections.

Each morning, I recorded a video documenting my “Rooftop Reflections.”  I initially posted these on Facebook, but I realize many of my readers aren’t connected with me on Facebook.  Over the next several weeks, I’ll release these videos to you here on the blog.  These videos provide another glimpse into my experiences in Guatemala.

Here is the third installment:

I’ve only flown first class one other time in my life.  A unit manufacturer in Missouri wanted me to come to their facility without a lot of notice.  To “sweeten” the request, they flew me and one of my co-workers first class.  I remember loving the pampering we received on the flight, and I loved the extra space.  Standing at nearly 6’6″, the extra leg room was especially appreciated.  That was 16 years ago.

Fast forward to today, and I’m flying first class again on our initial flight from Newark, NJ to Miami, FL.  We worked with a travel agent this year, and she arranged for one of our four flights to and from Guatemala to be first class at the same rate we would have paid otherwise.

It’s quite a contrast from our previous flights, and it’s an even bigger contrast from the conditions we’ll be experiencing while we’re in Xenacoj.  We enjoyed hot towels to wipe our hands before breakfast served on the plane.  We enjoyed a hot breakfast on real plates and with real silverware and glassware.  And we even enjoyed fresh fruit.

In Guatemala, we’ll be treated well, but we won’t enjoy these luxuries.  Our meals will most often have some type of rice, beans, and corn tortilla combination.  There will be some fresh fruits and vegetables, but we have to be very careful when it comes to consuming these things.  (Our bodies don’t like the bacteria found in these areas.)

So far, everything has gone smoothly.  Because of our first class seats on our initial flight, we went right by the long check-in line when we first entered the airport.  Our first class tickets also allowed us to take a shorter security check line, and we were even able to board the plane before anyone else.

This experience reminded me that we are privileged.  We are privileged to live in our country with all its wealth and opportunity.  We “privileged” to be white (this isn’t meant to be racist – I just don’t think we realize how our skin color often impacts our opportunity).  And I am “privileged” to be a man (in a society that often undervalues women).

As I think of heading back to Guatemala, I want to have a healthy mindset.  I want to have an open heart.  And I want to have hands and feet that go and serve.

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Everything went smoothly with our travels until…

…Until we walked out of the airport in Guatemala City.  We expected to see our missionary partner, Dave Sgro.  Since we didn’t see him immediately, we assumed he would be in the cafe to the right of the airport exit.  We walked over to him, but couldn’t find him.  Okay, maybe he’s running a little behind.  In our previous visits to Guatemala, Dave has always been there waiting for us, so we were a little surprised when we didn’t see him.  We waited for a while, and then we started to get a little nervous.

It’s not smart or safe to stay in Guatemala too late in the day, and we weren’t sure how to connect with him.  I tried texting and calling him, but I didn’t get a response on his United States number and the Guatemala phone number I had was obviously not correct.  I have unlimited texting on my phone, so I decided to text a friend (James Cook) back in the States to see if he could help us track down Dave.  One thing led to another and we discovered that Dave ran into car problems on his way to the airport, but he was on his way.  We were told he would be there in 40 minutes, but 40 minutes in Guatemala does not equal 40 minutes in the United States.  40 Guatemalan minutes could mean two hours (as we soon found out).

When Dave eventually showed up, he was driven by a hired driver.  We loaded our luggage on the roof of the rented van and we began our trip up to Santo Domingo Xenacoj.  On our trip, Dave told us the story behind his delay.

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We eventually arrived in Xenacoj, and I felt like I was home after two years away.  We unloaded our luggage and proceeded to check out our digs for the next two weeks.  After dropping our bags off in our bedroom, we climbed the stairs to the roof where we could look over most of Xenacoj.  The air was crisp.  The smells of cooking fires wafted through the air and mixed with the sounds of local churches conducting their Sunday afternoon/evening services.  I took in a deep breath.  As I exhaled I smiled to myself.  What a blessing to be in Xenacoj.

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After dinner, we wandered into the streets to take in more of the sights and sounds.  As we walked by the houses and stores, we were greeted by stares and hellos from the local residents.  Now, we were the ones who were out of place.  I heard a few people say how tall we were.

We walked down one of the streets from the Central Park, and we found ourselves knocking on a familiar door.  A few seconds later, the door opened and we were eventually welcomed into the house of Betty.  Two years ago, we built a house for Betty, and it was so good to see her and her family again.

As we looked at her house, we discovered that there had been some modifications made to the structure we initially put together.  Three layers of cinder blocks had been added to the house, and a new room had been added to the back of the house.  Apparently, the abuelo (the grandpa) had removed a few layers of the siding we had put up when we built the house and replaced the wood with more cinder blocks.  We were told it helped firm up the house from wind and rain.  THe family seemed happy to see us, and we promised to return later in the week (perhaps tomorrow).

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Heading back to our house for the next two weeks, I’m exhausted.  The two hour time difference and the early morning are good reasons to turn in early tonight.  We’ll see what tomorrow brings.

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Special thanks to Denise Wiggins for arranging such amazing travel for our family.  While it felt a little strange to be traveling first class on our way to a missions trip in a third world country, our family will always remember this experience.

Special thanks to James Cook for helping us hook up with German Espana and Dave Sgro.  God puts special people in your life everyday.  Two years ago, I met James when I was in Guatemala with my family, and I’m so thankful for this friendship.

Special thanks to German and Suzy Espana for graciously providing dinner for us

(Wednesday, July 13, 2016)

Many of you know that I have a goal to build 100 houses in Guatemala before I die.

Some things this goal is crazy.  Sometimes I wonder if the goal just isn’t enough.

One thing I know for sure, building 100 houses happens one house at a time.  And building one house happens one action at a time.

This morning, I expected to get to the job site and see immediate progress, but it didn’t happen quite like this.  It was much more of a deliberate process.  We assessed the current state of the house.  We discussed our next steps.  We broke up into teams.  And we started to work.  Isaac, Rafael, and I worked on finishing the sills for the house that rest above the concrete block.  Leanne and Hannah moved the corrugated metal sheets for the roof closer to the building.  And Jose worked on getting the roof structure ready for completion.

In the morning, things seems to drag along.  I wanted to see progress.  But it just seemed so slow.

For lunch, we walked over to German and Suzy’s house in the pouring rain for lunch.  They’ve been working on their house since last time, and it was cool to see what they have done to their place.  The sun came out, and we walked back to our house for a few minutes of siesta before going back to work on the house.

When we arrived back at the job site, there seemed to be a greater sense of urgency and purpose as we proceeded.  Jose and Rafael worked on a gutter system for another structure in the house, and the rest of us started working on the walls.  Before long, we completed the back wall of the house and part of one of the side walls.  It was great to see such progress.

We are scheduled to go back to the site on Friday, and I’m fairly certain we should finish up the house in time for a Saturday dedication.

By the way, today was my 20th wedding anniversary.  Leanne and I celebrated a couple weeks ago in Vermont, and we celebrated again in Guatemala.  20 years has gone by in a flash.  When we were married, I never would have imagined spending our 20th anniversary in Guatemala on a missions trip, but I’m thankful for this experience.  I also wonder where the next 20 years will take us.