Guatemala 2016 Update – Not Just Another Monday

(Monday, July 18, 2016)

Our family is back at it today in Santo Domingo Xenacoj for a second week in a row.

One of my highlights from this trip is the time I have by myself each morning on the roof of our house.  I can see much of Xenacoj and the surrounding mountains from the top of our house.  And it’s relatively peaceful up there (except for the sounds of roosters crowing, dogs barking, chicken bus horns blaring near the Central Park, and people walking up and down our lane).

Each morning, I start with prayer and time in the Bible.  I’ve been in II Thessalonians and I Timothy so far, but I’ll most likely be transitioning to II Timothy by the middle of the week.  Today, I spent time in I Timothy 5.  It’s interesting to read Paul’s instructions to Timothy regarding widows.  Much of our focus here in Guatemala has been on widows.  I think we need to develop an application process of sorts for the houses in the future.  I’m not exactly sure what that will look like, but there is so much jealousy and fighting among the widows.  We’ve had repeated requests from multiple widows asking us to build them houses.  I obviously want to help, but it can be overwhelming knowing I can’t snap my fingers together and build them a house this week.  I like what Andy Stanley says, “Do for one what you wish you could do for many.”  I need to remember this as we continue building this week and in the future.

My prayer is that the widows and villagers of Xenacoj would develop a passion and mindset for helping each other, but I’m realizing this is a big prayer.

While I’m on the rooftop each morning, I also take time to record a “Rooftop Reflections” video which I eventually have been posting to Facebook (although my video from Friday, July 15th must be too large for the limited band width here in Xenacoj).  These videos have been a great opportunity for me to reflect out loud on my experiences in Guatemala.

I’ve also been reading in the morning.  I finished Adam Braun’s excellent book, The Promise of a Pencil, on the plane ride here, and I just finished Blake Mycoskie’s book, Start Something That Matters.  Both of these books have been inspiring to me as I consider the pursuit of 100 house builds in Guatemala.  I didn’t bring any other books, so I’ll be spending some of my remaining morning times working on my life plan (utilizing the Living Forward book as a resource).  I started this in Vermont a couple weeks before our trip to Guatemala, and this could be an excellent time to finish it up.


This morning, we visited Ayapan again.  I had the opportunity to speak in on of the classrooms.  I asked the kids what they wanted to be or do when they grew up.  A few kids said they wanted to be a doctor, a fireman, or a teacher, but most of the kids didn’t know how to answer the question.  I think they have grown up in a culture where their parents worked in agriculture, their parents’ parents worked in agriculture, and their family worked in agriculture as far back as anyone can remember.  I’m guessing they expect to work in agriculture.  I’m not sure these kids know how to dream or plan for the future.  There seems to be more of a focus on today.  I think some of this is good, but I also wonder what would happen in this culture if they learned to dream bigger.

After speaking in the classroom, I had the opportunity to explore a small part of this rural village.  I visited with a widow who lived up a dirt path.  She was friendly at first.  When we asked if we could take a picture, she said no.  Then she got upset.  She was clearly upset with the road construction, and she was definitely unhappy with the president of the country.  I couldn’t understand most of what she was saying, but I felt the frustration in her voice.  Needless to say, I didn’t take any pictures of the widow or her home.

Upon returning down to the school yard, I was created by a flock of young boys who were simply looking for me to play with them.  I twirled several of them around until I was dizzy.  These kids crave attention.  And they need positive influences in their lives.

Trash was all over the school yard.  Dave Sgro made up a game to get the kids to gather trash into a pile.  Simple things need to be taught to these kids, but it takes time and a little consistency.  I wonder how often there are these kinds of outside influences in Ayapan to be with these kids.

Before we left Ayapan, we dropped off several boxes of food which the school will use in the coming weeks to feed the children.


When we arrived home from Ayapan, we had some down time.  I ended up taking a nap before lunch.  I will miss these naps when I go home.  There is something so refreshing about a midday nap.  Siestas are a normal thing in Guatemala.  Many people take a two-ish hour lunch break to eat some food and take a nap.  Then they go back to work.


This afternoon, we worked on the second house.  Maria is the widow we are working with this week.  She greeted us as we walked up her dirt lane towards her property.  She was so happy to see us.

Maria is clearly poorer than the widow we worked with last week.  Her property is smaller, and it’s tucked in the woods down the hill from Calavarie (I need to check this spelling), a school Hannah and I served at the first year we visited Xenacoj in 2012.

Jose and German worked in the morning installing the three main roof beams in the house.  We spend the afternoon installing the wooden sill above the concrete blocks, installing the wooden boards which will hold up the metal roofing material, and shaving the bark off the wooden planks which will be used on the wall of Maria’s house.

[German and Jose spend time a few weeks ago installing the cinder blocks and concrete floor in preparation for our visit.]

I felt like we were able to make better progress based on our experience last week on Dolores’ house.  We knew what we were doing, and we worked together more effeciently.  At the end of our first work day at Maria’s house, we were clearly further along in the process.  Assuming we go back there tomorrow (and we’ve learned not to assume anything in Guatemala), we should make another big dent in this project.


As we walked back to our house, I had such a feeling of satisfaction.  The temperature in Guatemala had begun to fall as the sun made its way across the sky, and I was happy with our progress.  I love having the opportunity to help others in this way.


One week from today, I’ll venture back into my office in Blue Bell, Pennsylvania after a short night of sleep due to our travel home.  It will be a different Monday.  I won’t be in Xenacoj, but I’ll have plenty of stories to tell and memories to occupy my mind.