Guatemala 2016 Update – A Broken Heart

When I arrived in Xenacoj, Guatemala nearly two weeks ago, I said a prayer:  “God, let my heart break for the things that break your heart.”

Today, my prayer was answered.

It’s hard to know exactly where to start, so I guess I’ll start in the middle of the day.

After lunch, our family ventured over to Maria’s house to continue with the construction.  The house is almost finished.  Jose was installing the electric in the house.  Leanne and I put up the last few pieces of wood on the front of the house.  And we worked together to put up filler strips of wood on the inside of the house to close up the gaps left by the uneven pieces of wood.

As I was hammering up some of these pieces, I wished that we had used the same wall material on Maria’s house that we used last week on Dolores’ house.  At Dolores’ house, we used fairly even, milled planks of wood.  It made the construction easier, and it looked great when we finished.  At Maria’s house, we are using long pieces of wood that is flat one side and unfinished on the other side.  In other words, one side of the boards used for Maria’s house still has bark on it from the tree.  The planks of wood are not completely straight, and Maria’s house looks like a log cabin.  I want the houses we build in Guatemala to look good AND provide suitable housing for the widows who are receiving the houses.

Maria’s house will definitely be suitable housing for her for which I am very thankful.

Midway through the afternoon, German asked Dave to go visit another house site with him, and I immediately jumped in.  As we walked over, German explained that there was another woman who needed a house.  She had been living with a friend, but she was asked to move.  Somehow she gained access to a property without any shelter.  She was looking for construction material in order to build a “house” on the property.

When we arrived at the property, we were greeted by an older gentleman, the woman, and her mother.  They welcomed us into her yard, and we started looking around.  The property had corn growing in neat rows in one corner of the property.  Part of the property was full of weeds.  And there was a “structure” going up right where we walked in.  The structure consisted of six or seven tree trunks and/or branches standing vertically.  They supported smaller pieces of scrap wood which were constructed to hold up roofing material.  Underneath the “structure” was a dirt floor.  And in and around the structure laid a mixture of scrap wood, pallets, and rusted roof material.

We began to ask questions.  We discovered that the ladies’ name is Carmen.  Her husband abandoned her.  She has two children, Evelyn (7) and Jose (4).  And she lives with her mother.  She earns money by making and selling napkins, tablecloths, and table runners.  She rents the property for 300Q (~$36) per month, and it will take her 20 years to own the property at the rate she is paying.  (That’s 3,600 Q (~$432) per year for 20 years or 72,000Q (~$8,640) total.). It takes her 6 days to make a table runner that she sells for 40Q (~$6).

You do the math.

This lady needs help.

We have extra wood at Maria’s house, and we’ll be able to bring it over to Carmen’s house tomorrow.  The wood we will provide will make a huge difference in the “house” being built on her property.  In essence, we’ll be building three houses in Guatemala this trip.

I ran back to Maria’s house to get Leanne, Hannah, and Isaac.  I wanted them to be part of the decision to donate wood to Carmen’s house.  We all agreed that donating the left over material to her house was the best use of our resources.  We met her children, and we prayed with her family.  Carmen cried as she kneeled down in the center of our makeshift prayer circle, and I could hear German’s tears as he prayed over this family.  He first prayed in Spanish.  Then he prayed in Katchiquel.  And he finished by praying in English.

As I opened my eyes at the end of the prayer, I could see tears in the eyes of Dave Sgro, our missionary contact here in Xenacoj.

We walked back to Maria’s house, and I explained to Maria what we were going to do with the extra material.  As I talked, I began to cry.  I explained that our family kept coming back to Xenacoj to help widows like her and to share the love of Jesus in a practical way.  It’s our hope that this love would spread to those we serve and that they in turn would share Jesus’ love with others.

Maria seemed grateful for our families support, and she seemed willing to help Carmen however she could.

We are so blessed to live in the United States where we have so many material items, and we have access to so many resources.  Carmen is not unlike a majority of the people living in this world.  So many people struggle to find food, shelter, and clothing.  And so many people miss out on the love of Jesus.

Today, my heart breaks for Carmen.

Pray for Carmen, Evelyn, and Jose.  Pray for provision for their basic needs.  And pray that they would know the love of Jesus.


This morning, we went to two schools.  First, we went to Cruz Ayapan where we visited two previous times.  We had the chance to feed some of the kids and to play with them during their recess time.  The kids seemed even more comfortable with me this time.  They talked to me, and some of them climbed all over me.  As I was hanging out with these young kids, I noticed a few of the kids were cross-eyed, and many of them had severe dental issues.  I’m guessing the vision problems could be repaired with surgery, glasses, and eye strenghening therapy.  These kids will most likely face challenges for the rest of their lives as a result of their vision problems that could be addressed now.  And the dental issues are a result of poor nutrition and inadequate at-home dental care.

I wish I could simply snap my fingers together and fix all these problems, but it’s not that easy.

There is so much work to be done.

After Ayapan, we drove over to El Cavalerie where we had the opportunity to play soccer and basketball with some of the kids, and we had the opportunity to poke our heads into some of the classrooms.  Some of the kids at this school knew a tiny amount of English, and they were excited to share it with our family.  El Cavalerie was the school where Hannah and I spent several afternoons playing with kids the first time we came to Xenacoj in 2012.  SInce then, the school has grown and experienced some dramatic improvements.  It was satisfying to see these changes.


Our time here in Santo Domingo Xenacoj, Guatemala is over soon, and I’m starting to feel like I’m straddling two worlds as I start to think about heading home on Sunday and as I long to hold onto the experiences and relationships here in Xenacoj.

There is still much to do, and I plan to return.

And since I still have two more full days here, I’m going to make the most of each moment.


I didn’t sleep well after all of these events from the day.  I ended up waking up around 1AM (Friday morning), and I tossed and turned until at least 3AM.  My brain was spinning.  I kept thinking about Carmen and her family.  I kept thinking about why our family comes back to Xenacoj over and over again.  And eventually, the concept of God’s love for me came to my mind.  I started to recite verses in my head about God’s love that I had committed to memory years and years ago.  I realized I needed to write a few things down to get them out of my head, so I turned on the flashlight on my iPhone, and I looked up ‘love’ in the concordance at the back of my Bible.  Here are some of the things that came to my mind in the early hours of the morning:

This is how we know what love is:  Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.  And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers (and sisters).  If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother (or sister) in need but has no pity on him (or her), how can the love of God be in him?  Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.  I John 3:16-18

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God.  Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.  Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.  This is how God showed his love among us:  He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.  This is love:  not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.  Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.  No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.  I John 4:7-12

God is love.  Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.  In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgement, because in the world we are like him.  There is no fear in love.  But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.  The one who fears is not made perfect in love.  I John 4:16-18

We love because he first loved us.  I John 4:19

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.  John 3:16-17