Guatemala 2016 Update – Finale

(Saturday, July 23, 2016)

Today was our last full day in Xenacoj.

I wish I could say I enjoyed the day to the fullest.  As I type this at the end of the day, I’m exhausted.  My stomach has been a little uneasy the past day or two (which isn’t bad considering we’ve been here two weeks and I haven’t experienced any stomach issues up to this point).  I picked up a cough, and my voice partially left towards the end of the day.  And I experienced some minor migraine symptoms earlier today.

I’m not saying this to complain.  I’m just realizing how much I poured into preparing for our trip and into actually being here.

Our family did a lot of things, we experienced a lot of things, and we will fly home tomorrow with full hearts.

This morning, I woke up to perhaps the most beautiful of mornings we have had since we’ve been here.  I spent time on the roof of our house refleting and rejoicing in what I’ve experienced and in how I’ve seen God act during the past two weeks.  I then enjoyed walking the streets of Xenacoj as Hannah ran on ahead of me.  This is a ritual I’ve come to enjoy, and I will miss it greatly when I go home tomorrow.


After breakfast, we walked over to German and Suzy Espana’s house to help out with the feeding program at their house.  Every Saturday morning, they welcome widows and their children into their home to feed them a meal and to pray with them.

We were greeted very warmly when we came into their house, and it was our pleasure to serve them a meal.

The kids were excited to sit with me as they ate their meal.  A few of the kids we knew through our building projects.

After the feeding program, we rode back to our house in German’s car (don’t let me forget to tell you about German’s car).  We loaded five single beds on top of the van, and we drove them through the streets of Xenacoj to Maria’s house.

When we arrived at Maria’s house, the place was buzzing with activity.  German’s father-in-law was putting the final touches on one of the doors.  Maria’s family was helping to decorate the house we built for her, and they were making corn tortillas for our lunch together later that day.

We deposited the beds in Maria’s house, and we said hello to some of the kids who were hanging around all week.

One of the girls said to me (in Spanish of course), “I wish I could have one of those beds for me.”  Again, my heart wanted to burst.  I wish there was something I could do to help all the kids in Xenacoj.  I’d love to give them the opportunity to sleep in their own bed in their families warm, dry house.  I’m sure this girl’s wish is similar to many of the wishes other children in Xenacoj have.  I must remind myself to do for one what I wish I could do for everyone.  Our family has done what we can do for now.  I hope to come back, so we can do more.

German dropped us off at the market, so our family could do some shopping for some groceries and other gifts to help welcome Maria into her new house.  We picked up four pounds of beef, cooking oil, brown rice, black beans, soap, a cake, a pineapple, squash, and a dozen peach roses.

We walked back to our house and enjoyed a few minutes of downtime before the afternoon festivities began.


When we arrived back at Maria’s for the dedication of her house and the celebratory lunch, there was an excitement in the air.  The family had covered the floor of the house in some type of long pine needles.  It appeared as though Maria had installed a dark green carpet over the concrete floor.  Balloons hung inside and outside the house.  And inside the house, three tables were setup with Guatemalan table coverings.  Two beautiful boquets of white flowers decorated the tables.  We placed our gifts on the tables, and we set up a buffet line of sorts in the “hallway”/”kitchen” outside the house where we had debarked planks of wood with machetes earlier in the week.

German and Suzy brought food for lunch.  They brought rice, mashed potatoes, chicken, tortillas, and a red sauce.

When everyone gathered in the house, Hannah kicked off the dedication by reading a note (in Spanish) from our family to Maria.  I gave her a Spanish Bible from our family and said a few words (in English).  Then our family gave Maria the other gifts we had purchased earlier at the market.  Maria then spoke for a few moments.  She thanked our family, and she said she could never repay the gift our family had left for her.

Before we took several group photos, I took a few minutes to pray.  There is something beautiful about praying in English while multiple prayers are being offered up in Spanish and Katchiquel.

When the dedication was over, we feasted!


On our way out of Maria’s house, we ran into Carmen’s mother.  She walked us over to the house where Carmen has been staying with her children, and they proceeded to give us a few gifts.  They also spoke with Dave about developing some type of business which would allow her to purchase the property where she is building the house.  It was good to hear her thinking this way, but it will be challenging to make it work.  The average woman (or family) making fabrics (table cloths, table runners, napkins, etc.) makes very little money selling their products which they spend hours making.  The money they make selling these goods barely covers their time and expenses much less provide any margin for living.

I felt bad that we couldn’t offer more of a solution at this time, but it reminded how important it is for these women to find a trade that will support their lives and their families.  Making a few dollars a day just doesn’t cut it.


This afternoon, our family used our open hours to visit a few of the families we have come to know in Xenacoj.  We visited Dolores and her family.  We visited Zully and her family.  And we took a walk down to Betty’s house.  It was our opportunity to say our final goodbyes before our departure tomorrow morning.  These families have all become a special part of us, and we look forward to seeing them again some day.


Tonight, we journeyed over to German and Suzy’s house for a final feast/celebration of the two weeks here.  Dave cooked up filet mignon, shrimp, and a couple of other wonderful dishes.  We feasted and enjoyed each other’s company as the skies opened up.  While we were eating, it sounded like God was repeatedly dumping out huge buckets of water on German and Suzy’s metal roof.  While this is the rainy season here in Xenacoj, we hadn’t experienced rain like this in our two weeks here.

After dinner, Dave showed us a highlight video he had put together using our photos to help recap and remember the experiences from the week.  My heart smiled as I looked at the pictures which were set to music.  Our lives are fuller, because of the lives we’ve touched these two weeks.  The people, the places, and the things in these photos all represent the love we experienced this week.  Our trips to Cruz Ayapan where we played with children.  Our trip to Antigua where we enjoyed a rooftop meal with our team members.  Our trip to Hope Haven where we helped build wheel chairs after a rousing game of wheel chair basketball.  Our trip to Santa Marie to clean out the ears of several residents.  Our days at Dolores’ and Maria’s houses where we worked together to provide homes for two widows in need.  Our morning at Carmen’s house where we had the opportunity to expand our ministry to a young mother in need.  Our widow walk with German where we had the chance to provide physical and spiritual nutrition to women who are typically forgotten in this society.  Our meeting with the mayor, Mario Aquino, where we saw a glimpse of what God might be doing in the future through us here in Santo Domingo Xenacoj.  And the smiling faces of our team members who chose to use their vacation time to help others.  This trip deeply touched me.

While I’m ready to go home, I will miss it here.  I will miss my morning times of rooftop reflection.  I will miss the constant smells of burning fires through the community.  I will miss the sounds of roosters at all hours of the morning (never mind, I may not miss this).  I will miss the sporadic explosions of fireworks in the Xenacoj air as villagers celebrate milestones in the lives of their family.  I will miss the friendly smiles that greet me as I walk the streets of Xenacoj.  I will miss the afternoon siestas.  And I will miss the relaxed pace of life.

Tomorrow, I head back home.  I have duties and responsibilities to attend to.  I have a job to go to on Monday morning.  I have items on my calendar for later that week.  While I have to jump back into life in Pennsylvania, United States of America, I will do my best to hold onto Santo Domingo Xenacoj, Guatemala.

My heart is full.