Guatemala 2016 Update – A Busy Day In Xenacoj

(Friday, July 22, 2016)

This morning, we headed back over to Maria’s house where we discovered that the house was all cleaned up and ready for the installation of the doors and windows (which happened later this afternoon).  Tomorrow, we will dedicate the house for Maria.

All of the excess wood had already been moved to the street outside of Carmen’s property, so we walked over to Carmen’s property to assess the situation.  We prayed together, and we got to work.  We moved the wood just outside the gate to her property, and we began cutting and nailing boards to the make shift wooden posts in her “house.”  The sun was unusually hot without a lot of shade which meant my energy level was extra low (especially given my poor nights sleep the night before), but we persisted.  Before long, we had completed half of the back wall of Carmen’s house.

After a break which included cold sodas and crackers, we worked until we ran out of wood.  We were able to complete two of the three walls that needed to be completed on her house.  She’ll have some work to do to finish things up, but this should put her several days ahead of where she would have been otherwise.

It still blows me away that many people in the world today live in these kinds of conditions – dirt floor, pieced together walls and roof, and no plumbing.

While we were there today, we learned that her daughter had been sexually abused in some form or other by some older boys or men in the community.  Apparently, they are facing criminal charges, but it saddened me to know that a 7 year old girl had been violated in this way.

Carmen was extremely thankful for our donation of wood and our efforts in helping to construct her house.  Before we left, we purchased a couple of table runners she had made, and she gave us a few hand-made cloth napkins as a gift for our part in her house.

I left feeling thankful that we had done what we could to help Carmen, but I also left kind of sad wishing I could do more to help.

(Our family is hoping to help by providing some of the roofing material she will need to keep her house dry.  We’ll have to take care of this tomorrow.)


After lunch, I took a nap.  My energy level today was not very strong, and the siesta was a welcome break from the day.

After my nap, our family walked through Xenacoj in search of a specific shop that dyed their own fabrics for making the various textiles for which the community is know.  After much searching, we found the place, and we made a small purchase after getting a tour of their facility and how they dye their yarn.

On the way back to our house, we stopped for vanilla milk shakes at an nice cream place on the central street that runs through Xenacoj.  We haven’t had milk since we have been here, so while the milk shake itself wasn’t very think, it was great to taste cold milk (with a strong vanilla flavor).


When we arrived home, we met German Espana who took us on a fairly long walk around Xenacoj to visit with some of the widows in the community.  German has a passion for helping the widows here, and he makes every effort to make sure they receive care and regular visits.  He’s in the process of helping to set up a Widows Association for all the widows in Xenacoj to help them meet each other’s needs and to help them get more recognition and support in the community.

Our first stop was Lola’s house.  Lola is a 96 year old widow.  Her husband died when he was 101 years old.  She was the care taker for her son until he recently passed away.  And from the sounds of it, she doesn’t receive many visits from her grandchildren.  Lola lives by herself on the edge of Xenacoj next to the community soccer field not far from the Xenacoj city gate.  She cooks her own meals.  While her face and hands are full of wrinkles, there is an amazing beauty that radiates from her face.

We took time to visit with Lola.  We prayed with her, and German sang to her.  We gave her three bags of fortified rice and beans as a parting gift.  It was a beautiful experience.

Next stop, we walked through the city gates and onto a small hut on the side of the mountain where a widow lived with her mother and son (Alfonzo).  From what I could figure out, her 17 year old daughter lives next door with her 54 year old husband and their two young children.  The daughter is expecting their third child any day.  We learned that the mother is the cousin of German’s wife, Suzy.  They don’t communicate very often.  We met with them in their hut where they cook and sleep.  Like most older houses in Xenacoj, there was a strong smell of smoke in the building which made it hard to breathe.  While they just had a stove installed in the hut that will exhaust the smoke through the roof of the hut, they still choose to cook over an open flame inside the hut.  The bottom side of the roof is coated in thick black residue from the smoke.   I took a picture of the lightbulb hanging over the fire.  The lightbulb wasn’t typical white.  Instead it was more brown, and it looked as thought it had been dipped in honey.

The grandmother wore a typical Mayan dress, and she walked next to the hot coals of the fire in her bare feet.  Her feet looked like leather.  When she smiled, her grin quickly clued us in that she had probably never seen a dentist.  She had one “tooth” on the lower part of her mouth.  The tooth looked like a rotten piece of black rice.

We prayed with the family, and we gave them three bags of the fortified rice and bean mixture and two copies of the Nuevo Testamento (the Spanish New Testament).  German invited them to his house on Saturday morning where he and his wife Suzy, regularly provide Saturday morning breakfast for widows and their families.

As we left this home, we cut through a couple of properties on our way back to the streets of Xenacoj.  We stopped at a couple more widows homes to say hello and to drop off rice and beans.  In each incident, German invited the ladies to his house on Saturday morning.

We then walked by El Fuelso on our way to German’s parents house which lay on another edge of the village.  El Fuelso is a school we’ve visited several times in the past, but GO Ministries is not longer doing ministry there.  Apparently, the principal wanted GO Ministries to pay for the school to put concrete over their dirt playground.  When GO Ministries refused to help with this request, they were told they could no longer bring their feeding program to the school.  The school now has a concrete playground, but the school apparently does not have a great reputation in the community.

When we arrived at German’s parents we met his mother and father.  His father is wheel chair bound due to a few strokes.  The property where they live is beautiful.  On a clear day, they have an amazing view of the three mountain peaks outside of Xenacoj.  Their backyard was full of chickens, firewood, and rows for corn.  German visits them every day, and he is finishing up a kitchen addition to their small cinder block house.

When we left their house, we headed for Angela’s house.  We built a house for Angela two years ago.  (I wrote about it last week.). I wish I could tell you more about our visit to Angela’s house, but we had to cut our visit short due to the onset of a migraine headache.  As we were talking to Angela, I suddenly couldn’t see very well.  I let Leanne know, and we quickly left, so I could make it back to our house to take my migraine medicine.  I’ve had a few of these incidents here in Xenacoj.  The altitude may have contributed, but I think I most likely wasn’t hydrated appropriately when these occurred.  (You would think I would learn my lesson).

Honestly, I didn’t feel well most of the day after not sleeping well the night before, and I didn’t pay enough attention to resting and drinking water.  Oh well.


We quickly stopped at home.  I took my migraine pill, and I grabbed Isaac’s sunglasses before we headed off to city hall to visit with the mayor of the village, Mario Aquino.  German helped to set up this meeting, and I didn’t want to miss out on this opportunity with or without my migraine headaches.

When we arrived at the city hall, we had to wait outside for a few minutes as the local police made sure we were welcomed into the building.  In a few minutes, he came back and let us in.  We were then escorted to Mario’s office.  Mario and German sat on one side of the room, and our family sat on the other side of his office.  Hannah explained to Mario (in Spanish) why I was wearing the sunglasses, and we proceeded to talk.  For the first half of our discussion, I couldn’t see a thing.  The migraine medication hadn’t kicked in yet, and I was left to see blurry editions of the people in the room.  Despite the vision problems, we had a very interesting (and hopefully productive) conversation.  I shared with him about my vision to build 100 homes for widows in Guatemala.  I thanked home for welcoming our family to Xenacoj and permitting us to serve in this way.  I told him that I was interested in seeing how he might be able to help us engage the community in achieving this goal.  We talked about the importance of the community partnering with us to make 100 houses happen.

Hannah did an amazing job translating as we talked back and forth. 

Mario was very intrigued by the idea, and he asked when we would return.  He promised to have a proposal of some sort to my by Wednesday.  And he asked if we could build five houses next time we were here in Xenacoj.

Before we said our goodbyes, we took pictures of the assembled group.  I feel like this was a monumental meeting.  For one, I know Mario is typically very busy, so it was an honor that he would carve an hour out of his busy schedule to talk to our family.  I believe Mario cares deeply for his community, and he seems to believe in the work that German is doing for the widows.  Only God knows what the future holds, but I’m praying we will look back on this meeting with Mario as a monumental step in building homes and demonstrating the love of Jesus to many in Xenacoj.


Before dinner, Leanne and I stopped by the Internet cafe for a few minutes to post by video and blog post and to check Facebook and email.  While we were there, we briefly connected with my parents via Facebook Messenger Video Chat.  It was so great to speak with them for a few minutes.  They seemed excited to talk to us.  My mom, who was diagnosed with Early Onset Alzheimer’s Progression this spring, seemed fantastic.  While this interchange only lasted a couple of minutes, it was one of the highlights of my day here in Xenacoj.


We closed out the day with a fire on the roof of our house.  We enjoyed roasted Guatemalan marshmallows.  Dave picked up Hershey’s chocolate and a sweet cracker.  He also found white chocolate for me.

This was such a great way to end a busy day in Xenacoj.