Friday, March 13, 2009

such a thing as smart thieves?

Well, BJ’s truck and two other automobiles were broken into last Sunday while we were inside a rented location for the church baptisms. Unfortunately, the thieves stole his ipod and stereo but fortunately, left the remaining pieces they had to take out to get to such items in very good shape. BJ was able to just pop the pieces left back in place and besides the rectangle shape of the stereo vacant and the key holes on the door jammed his car still looks clean and damage free. My ipod was also in the car along with 75$US in the cubby hole compartment right by the stereo. BJ was more upset over his ipod due to the fact that that was his main source of American entertainment/preaching/music . There are different kinds of thieves and although these thieves did a quick job and broke into 3 cars efficiently they could have made more off of BJ’s money, taking my ipod as well, and taking a little deeper look into BJ’s truck. I say this because a couple day before this occurred BJ and I had made a trip to downtown (yikes-busy busy) down to a government building to register his truck. We had a couple more steps and paperwork to fill out before we could finalize and register his truck. These papers, with all of BJ’s info and history on it, were in the truck under the console in the middle seat! If the thieves had even bothered to look they could have made off with 75$US and a truck (that could be altered to register under their names) and made much more money than they are getting now with a couple of used electronic equipment. Praise God no one was hurt in the process and BJ’s truck was not stolen. This is bound to happen to just about everyone at some point in their lifetime and I am just thankful it was not a bigger or more dangerous issue than this.

Food for Madeline...

We had an unexpected visitor the same night Marc-shoe shiner- had come into the restaurant. Madeline, a cute girl of about 12, came walking up to our table and began to ask if we wanted to buy some bracelets and trinkets she made. She said she needed money for school funds and at BJ’s questioning told us what she needed and about how much. BJ and I were both in agreement that we were not going to just hand over money. We would rather take her to one of the stores and buy her some school supplies. We explained this to her and offered to meet her the next day around 4pm and take her to buy school supplies. I even told Bj to tell her to bring her mother if she wanted. She agreed but still asked for 5Q to take a bus back home. We agreed and she left with a smile. We talked it over as she left and asked each other if we really thought she would come tomorrow. Not many people would just go and buy a child something without ulterior motives. We then concluded that we would be there waiting for her and hope she would show.
About 10 after 4 I saw a girl walk up to a park bench about 15 feet away from us with an older lady and asked BJ if that were her. He wasn’t sure and just hoped that she would look his way so he could tell. She did, he waived and soon she began to tell us that she didn’t need school supplies anymore but food. BJ asked her why she lied and she told us she didn’t lie but that she had been provided the money last night and now just needed food to eat. BJ turned and asked me what I thought. My first thought was that it took guts to come into Antigua (she lives in a suburb around Antigua) and meet with us and tell us this. It cost money to ride into town on top of that. I told BJ my thoughts and he turned and asked the girl if she were lying now and she said no. We weren’t about to give her money but suggested that we take her to the grocery store and buy her some basic foods. As we started to walk we were joined by her shy mother whose named was Magdalena. It was a little awkward to say the least but BJ held the conversation as best he could and found out that Madeline has 1 other sister. There was no mention of a father or a ring on the mother’s hand.
Rice, beans, 3 boxes of cereal, pancake mix, powdered milk, sugar and 1 dozen eggs totaled up to $25US dollars. Magdalena explained that all of this would last them probably 22 days. Madeline was such a precocious child and kept pleading with her eyes and asking if she could get milk, if she could get pancakes, and all the while her mother kept telling her it was too much and to stop asking. BJ would determine what to get and what not to get but never really had to say no because none of the stuff seemed to be anything other than the necessities. BJ shared the story of Jesus in James 2 and quoted the words of Jesus when he said “You have not because you ask not” and told her that he would have no idea what she would need and therefore she must ask for it. It was quite obvious Madeline was the money maker in the family. I don’t doubt she has been used for her cuteness before but I pray it only goes as far as selling goods (not her body) and asking for money. I had begun praying for discernment on BJ’s part (mainly due to the fact that I could not speak the language nor understand as much as he) when we found out she didn’t need school supplies. I do hate to see children used for things even if it is food but I would rather have her ask someone like BJ and myself than to ask someone else who might want something more and vile in return. My one hope as we said goodbye was that they would realize what had been given to them and when they see someone in need like they were that they would help.

Shoe Shine?

For anyone thinking of traveling in Antigua be prepared for a different kind of salesmen. Anyone who wears shoes in Antigua are approached by hoards of young boys (all probably under 15 years old) asking if they can “shoe shine” your shoes. A well dressed boy of 14 is among the many young boys trying to make a living. Marc Antonio and his younger brother are sent out to shoe shine daily to provide money for the family. They are told by their parents to not come home until their quota is met.
The other day in Antigua Marc came into the restaurant BJ and I were eating at and asked BJ if he could shine his shoes. BJ told the boy he had met him before in a previous trip to Guatemala. The boy barely nodded probably thinking that he was not going to get anything from us. Knowing this boys story & wanting to talk more BJ agreed to the boy’s offer to shoe shine. The price for a shoe shine is 10Q ($1.25US) & as I watched this boy work on BJ’s shoes I prayed that our money would make the quota he needed & that he would be able to go home. As BJ continued to talk to him in Spanish I just looked at this boy. Here he was washing one of the dirtiest parts of a person- their shoes. I thought about all the sewage water & animal poop BJ & I tried to step over as we walked through different parts of Guatemala. Was this boy affected by the debris & clumps of sewage, gum, & whatever else on BJ’s shoes? Did the fact that he was on his knees or sitting at the feet of men (AND cleaning them) all day long make him feel insignificant?
The cliché “What Would Jesus Do” keeps reverberating in my mind as I write this blog. Would this boy know who Jesus was or would he just walk up to him & ask if he wanted his shoes shined for 10Q? What would Jesus say to this boy? What could I say to this boy? Could I tell him Jesus loved him? But then how does one explain love especially when parents should be the main attribute of showing love & they are the ones telling him to not come home until he has enough money? How can you explain or articulate, in the capacity that he would understand, that God loved him so much that He gave His life for Marc’s sins? As I sat in my seat my mind ran in thousands of directions trying to feel what this boy was going through and trying to figure out what I could say to him that would in some way build him up & possibly witness to him. This was one of the hardest things for me because as I sat there nothing came to mind. I didn’t know what to say to him or how to articulate to him (in a non-cheesy way- to feel my sincerity) I want him to shine shoes for Christ. I want him to feel as clean and bright as he makes BJ’s shoes. We added a couple extra coins to what he charged us for & as he walked away (disappointed that nothing came to mind for me to say) all I could do was pray for him.
I felt as if I missed an opportunity to build up someone else…but knew God is sovereign and knows who Marc is and what he needs. He will provide in His timing and His own way, perhaps by the time I learn Spanish I'll have the words to say and know how to even speak them in his language. :)

Monday, March 9, 2009

People to Learn From

Tikal was probably my favorite part of the trip. Tikal is a city of Mayan ruins reconstructed by local archeological universities and organizations. As we walked through the dirt paths, lush jungle and silence followed us everywhere. The sites were beautifully reconstructed and the parts the archeologists were able to be preserved were fascinating to touch and look at. However, my heart breaks as I realize all of the temples built were for a god other than the One True God-Christ. That women, men, and even children were sacrificed to some pagan god or some king who had no power other than the fear or happy feelings they instilled in people. Furthermore, the temples built by hand, with each piece chiseled away to make the perfect stone to fit in the perfect place, was made by the lost people for the imperfect god. The real perfect God did not exist to them.
I was sitting on top of the biggest temple in the park, overlooking hundreds of miles in every direction and I could not help but ask God why He put us in charge of something so beautiful and created us able to enjoy all of this? We always try to find a way to leave God out of creation and our everyday life. Why? Perhaps is it the constant desire to be our own gods. For the Mayans, I believe it was because there was a constant threat of “believe or stray from the rest of the people- you die” or “my family must live and therefore I will do, say, or believe whatever it is that furthers my family’s existence”. These people care about the betterment of their families and community not themselves as individuals. The proof is in the fact that the Mayan temples were built, sacrifices were made, and people to this day are still following most of the same traditions. There is hardly any mistake in the way of life that they live- or so they think. I desire 2 things. One, that the Mayan culture would continue their desire and passion to put family and community first but with God as the center of it. And Second, that the people and cultures around the world would to start to consider the value of family and community and implement that into their lives. None of this “all for one and one for Me”. God desires to be in your life. How then if a person has “me and me alone” mentality is there any room for God? The Mayan’s are off in their spiritual walk and maturity but the family and community aspect is dead on. Is there not something all nations can learn from each other? How is it that a culture that worships “gods” made of sticks, ash, fake gold etc. have the correct aspect of family first, me second and we, as Christians (knowing good and well that we are to put others first instead of ourselves), fall short of that many times over but profess that we believe and live out the commands of the Bible? The Mayan communities daily live out what they believe- good or bad. Funny, that we try so hard to reach the non-Christians and teach them our ways when, in this instance, we should learn from them- (I quote Alan Hunt) “To live out what we profess to believe”.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Boat Trip....

The second leg of the trip began on the boat ride to the town of San Pedro. These boat rides can be pleasant if the wind has not picked up. I had been told that in the past a few weeks ago a boat, that hold about 12 people snuggly, had be turned over and 2 people we killed. So needless to say I was already a little nervous about riding in these little boats. (We later found out that the captain should not have been driving the boat at all because he was drunk and that anyone would have been able to notice if they just looked- we looked) The lake sits in a bowl with mountains and volcanoes surrounding it on all sides and with the wind blowing up and down these mountains the lake is tossed and turned and the swells can be very harsh on boats of our size. As we embarked on this journey (in which, at the time, I was feeling more comfortable in the water or swimming by the boat than on the boat) we were not going against the swells but alongside them therefore, the rocking back and forth was unnerving and terrifying for me. BJ calmly held my hand the hold time whispering words of encouragement, telling me the story of Jesus calming the sea, and telling me it would soon be over. (He later told me that our boat rides has him a little unnerved but that wasn’t the time or place to tell me.) I prayed fervently the whole time. I was not about to lose it at that point in time but was getting very very close to doing so. My stomach clenched and churned. I just prayed I didn’t throw up or throw myself out of the boat. The captain of the boat was very well versed with the attitude of the lake and got us to our destination safely despite all. Several people got out and told the captain what a great job he did. I wanted to hug him and give him a million dollars if I could. The rest of the time on land was pleasant but very breezy. I was just so happy to be on land I didn’t mind a little wind. However, the wind was still my enemy…and I was about to find out…

Our last trip back to our original destination was the worst of the three. The lake surprisingly had been larger than it looked. Therefore, BJ and I both knew getting into the boat that our first boat ride, being smooth then, was going to be much longer than 45 minutes it took us at the beginning of the trip and nowhere near as pleasant. We had 15 people total on the boat and still the swells and whitecaps rocked the boat like there was no tomorrow. At first, several of the local passengers laughed at the bumps of the lake and giggle as the water would spray in the boat. As we ventured out farther a water tarp was handed up to the front of the boat and the three passengers at the front held it up in front of them in hopes of shielding themselves (and us) from the amount of water coming in. I was beside myself. My hands were either clawing onto the seat I was sitting on (because the seats had no backs to them) or BJ’s hand, leg, leg hairs, or arm hairs or all the above. We would go up over the swells and slam hand down onto the lake. At times I would laugh so I wouldn’t cry. We were seated 3 rows back and were getting drenched. At one point a couple in front of us (who kept the mood light despite everything) turned around to see BJ and I in our rain coats zipped up with our sunglasses on to shield our eyes of the water spraying in. Pathetic yes… Then, towards the middle of the trips with the swells spewing more water into the boat I realized that the crack in the middle of the boat (that I had seen but quickly pushed out of my mind at the beginning of the trip) was quivering. The boat is made of fiberglass and therefore is made to be flexible. But this was a little too much for me and added to my sense of alarm. BJ noticed it to and at one point yelled back to the captain that the crack at our feet look about ready to pop. I kept praying and praying. BJ would smile my way, try to kiss me (ending up kissing my on my eye or chin due to a large swell and then even bigger slam of the boat) and tell me we were almost there. At times we would just look at each other and burst into laughter. I must say I was happy to be back on roads and land and looked forward to our bumpy yet BJ guided trip home. I could not have done that trip on my own and having a 3 person team was so reassuring. It goes to show you that even in the midst of terrifying situations God has already foreseen the future. I felt as if with every wave we hit that God was saying

“Jenna, just because there are bumps in the road or lake that doesn’t mean you are not to trust Me. You have no control, child, the control is and has always been Mine. So do not fear but know this, I am not done with you yet and you will experience more bumps and be less in control than you are now. But answer me this: Have I ever let you go? Have I ever left you? You may have tried to leave me but I will always pull you back. You are my child and at times your fear and desire to be in control will hurt you. But know this: It hurts me more than it hurts you. For your fear and desire for control is what separates Me from you. Trust me…place your fear and desires in my hands for I love you, Jenna. Love Me too child…follow Me…”


Once in Panajechel we walked through town, into the markets, and emerged a while later at the lakes shoreline and made arrangements to ride the boats to several of the towns across the lake only accessible by boat. The water seemed clear and the first leg of the trip was very smooth. Our first destination took us to a Mayan town that has a very different religious belief. “Maximon” is the god that most Mayan’s worship. This god is a carved out of wood. He is said to love smoking, booze, colorful stuff, money, and being worshiped. He does not stay in a church but stays in appointed homes of followers. As a tour guide walked with us through town, explaining the Mayan ways, I became a little worried as he took us up to a somewhat less populated street and ushered us into one of the buildings. I soon found out this was the home in which Maximon has chosen to stay. We entered and saw several men sitting around a table. These men are the appointed brotherhood of monks who sit with Maximon. They have several “jobs” which vary from offering the gifts/offerings to him from the townspeople, staying with him at all times, to helping him chose the home in which he stays for the year. They never leave his side and most of the offerings tend to go “missing” or “used” by Maximon but somehow these monks are constantly fed and drinking booze. My eyes finally settled on this god and a part of me wanted to laugh, another cry, and another wanted to scream out “you idiots! You worship this?!”. Here is this wooden thing with elaborate scarves, dumb farmers hat on its head, a half burnt cigarette in a hole drilled between his lips, melting candles at his midsections (because he is only carved from the torso up), a money plate in front of him, 40oz. booze bottles, and fanta drinks lined up before him. BJ and I were able to witness a ceremony of family that had come to pray and offer offerings to him. Husband, wife, and children are all participating, all bowing, and kneeling before this god, Maximon. The husband gives portions of his salary for the week and bottles of booze and liquor. His wife bows and bows, kissing the floor, gives soda, her best candles, and more money. The children kiss his scarves, offer coins to him, handmade dolls and toys and then sit to watch their parents worship this thing. Then the husband lays his hands on each of the children asking Maximon specific things for the children. He then pulls out a folder with papers of some sort and lays it at Maximon’s feet and prays over this binder.
I don’t understand how people can openly and honestly worship such a thing. This astounds me. In my mind the idol worship in the bible was of golden calf’s, towers sized gods, actual living kings. Things that actually had some sort of purpose, symbolism, or command to it. Not of some dumb piece of wood that looks like an over decorated piñata. In fact that was what I wanted to do. String this Maximon up and beat him with a stick and see if he fought back, or have a hotdog eating contest and see who eats the most, or have a race because gods are supposed to be fast, the best, and never lose. Right?
People from this town come and worship daily, weekly, and monthly and give away precious time and effort not to mention the amount of money they give. Money they could save if they realized this thing is not alive and does not eat, drink, or smoke. Is the giving of money and gifts bad? No, in fact the bible does teach us to tithe. But the difference is that these people are giving in hopes of getting/persuading/bribing Maximon to give them what they want. Whereas we, as Christians, are giving gifts as thanks. Maximon cannot get anything- the people have to get him everything. Jesus Christ can get anything He desires after all He made it all. Therefore, our gifts do not matter to him. They do not keep Jesus Christ alive. Our gifts do not further His Kingdom. Christ Kingdom would survive with or without us. The bribes given to Maximon are to further his well being his “kingdom”. Without the bribes/gifts/offerings Maximon would cease to exist because his power would not be relevant. But how do you respectfully tell these people that what they are doing is wrong? How do you tell them that their whole lively hood, that of their family, is not decided by a piece of dead wood but by a God who does not need their money, candles, scarves and silly hats? That this God I speak of only desires to love you, teach you, guide you, to call you to Him and call you His own…

Panajachel part 1

Panajachel… let me start with this. I have labeled several areas in Guatemala in relation to what they mean to me. For example, there is a stretch of street that I call “The Drive of Hell/Death”. I thought that with buses, car, motor bikes, bicycles and people threading in between MOVING traffic and coming within inches if not centimeters of your car, the most exasperating and the most stressful experience I had and would ever have. I was sorely mistaken and found that out in Panajachel- “The Waves of Fear and Control”

Panajachel is a beautiful lake surrounded by glorious mountains and breathtaking volcanoes. The descent down to this beautiful place was terrifying and nerve-wracking but I feel I took it well and with only a few “OH MY GOSH” ’s,” AHHHHH TRUCK” ’s, “WHAT IS HE DOING” ‘s and “GET IN YOUR OWN LANE MORON” ‘s said during the trip. I figured the worst was over and we would have a fun experience here. As we made it into one of the small towns leading to our final destination we became stuck in traffic for a few minutes before we realized the reason for it. There was a funeral procession going on down the main street. These funeral processions are not like any in the states. Here you have several family members, friends etc. hoisting the coffin on their shoulders and proceeding down to the church or burial site. Along with these people carrying the coffin is close to if not all the people that have ever come in contact with the deceased. As they made their way down trucks were honking their horns, cars were trying to pass through the throng if people. I was a little disturbed by the lack of respect but then again the culture here sees death all the time. It was sobering to say the least and I made the last leg of the descent in a thoughtful silence, a prayer for the grieving family and one more for protection of the people walking in hopes they would not get hit.

Quiriqua Ruins and Asquipulas

I have been able to grasp a deeper understanding of the culture and traditional as I visit churches and Mayan ruins such as the Quiriqua Ruins. 65-70% of the people here are of Mayan descent. Knowing the background and reasoning behind many of the traditions has allowed me to learn of the proper etiquette, religious traditions, and some general ways of thinking to be aware of. Quiriqua Ruins was a sight to behold. The ancient ruins we somewhat small in comparison to other ruins (or so I am told) but the way they lived was very similar. Death was very much a big presence as it is now- maybe even more so. I say this because there were games played much like basket ball only more brutal of a game and a player was killed at the end of the game. Can you imagine the NBA sacrificing a “Michael Jordan” just for the loss of a game? Do you think our players would have such a bad attitude if we did that? Just a thought….

Asquipulas was a little disappointing. We went to “behold” the Black Jesus. Yes, that is what it is called and by no means did I write that offend anyone. The city of Asquipulas thrives on this tourist attraction. I am not sure what I was expecting up but as we walked into this ornate church building it seemed to be like every other catholic church I had seen here. The black Jesus turned out to be a black/bronzed Jesus. There were walls adorned with written praises, plaques, personal jewelry, flowers, and all kinds of paraphernalia used to thank this “Black” Jesus for the miracles he has performed. Needless to say BJ and I found it a pleasant trip and the time we spent together was well enjoyed. However, we both agree we would not recommend it. The Questions I now ask myself is do the local people visit this statue, pray to this statue, offer gifts to it just because he is the “black” Jesus? Do they pray to the idol or do they know he is a symbol? Are the “miracles” performed actually real? And does the faith that they have save them and do they realize it if not?

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Casa Bernabe Visit's

It’s been a few days since I have blogged but several important things have been accomplished. Casa Bernabe would be first on the list. Tim Nelson, a new fellow employee of World Orphans, connected BJ to Casa Bernabe (I will refer to it as C.B.).

As we drove down the bumpy road into C.B. the first thing I noticed was that it was not in a remote location. Furthermore, there were no manicured lawns (other than the obvious soccer field), no massive doors with barbed wire fences, or guards guarding the entrance. Instead it was replaced with a sense of welcome and openness. We were met inside the entrance of the main house by Matthew Howe and his son Isaac. The meeting we had was very beneficial for me to hear the heart Matthew had and the overflowing desire to help World Orphans in any way they could think of. We were able to tour the grounds, see some of the homes on property, some children’s projects, and my favorite part, meeting the house parents and hearing their stories. Many of the employees at C.B. where once orphans themselves being brought up (some even taught by Matthew and his wife) in the same homes and grounds that they now serve. The children’s projects were also a neat thing to see. Workshops, gardens, cooking classes and bakeries were a few of the projects that the children are able to take part in and are very proud of. We left for the day with a promise of meeting up the next day to see a project that might have been of some interest to World Orphans…. God has certainly blessed Casa Bernabe with able people, generous hearts, and wonderful place do build into the lives of the orphaned and abandoned. The speed in which things were accomplished this week with C.B. was such a blessing.

The second meeting I was not able to attend. I had my first real harsh migraine the day after our first meeting with Matthew. Although I was not able to go I was able to get more info about the project and prayed for the meeting while they met. BJ, Matthew, Isaac, and Pedro (the previous director of C.B and now pastor of the church that meets at C.B.) met early that morning to tour a project in Guatemala City. A few years ago an orphanage, housing close to 1000 children, lost its funding and were forced to close down, send the children back into the streets. A 60 year old woman now runs a daily feeding program through her church for 100 of those children, more if she has enough food. This woman also has a house she is renting, currently vacant, that she firmly believes will be filled with orphaned children one day. Here we have a woman who has her own children, her own job, her own house to pay for, her family to feed and yet feels the calls to aid, defend and rescue orphaned children. She spends close to 12,000Q. a month to feed the hungry. She spends 4000 Q. to rent the home (currently empty) to house the homeless. That comes to about 2000$US a month to feed 80 kids who are not her own. Would you be willing to do that and have faith daily, as she does, that God is going to give her more children and provide in every way?

Today BJ and I were able to return to Casa Bernabe to speak to the board about World Orphans. It was a beneficial meeting and hope that with the connections we made we will be able to do more with them. I am always astounded how God works…