Sunday, March 30, 2008

Good Grief

Sorry I haven’t posted a single thing in an entire week...

It is safe to say that I am broken and grieving our return from Guate.  I have cried at least once every day since we’ve been home.  

I can’t stop thinking about the precious souls we encountered at Hermano Pedro (the hospital in Antigua we visited the last day of our trip).  It’s a government owned orphanage run by the Catholic church for orphans with disabilities.  It is very under staffed and short on volunteers...which translates to, innocent  children who are neglected, malnourished, abused and forgotten.  

Here at this hospital/orphanage...just like at the GC cemetery (posted earlier)...the value of life does not exist.  “Bodies” (alive and dead) are literally thrown away and forgotten in this country.

Please pray as we continue to process and grieve everything we felt, saw and heard...most of the stuff we can’t even mention due to the graphic nature and confidentiality. 

I trust that God will redeem all things in His time...


“So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.”  John 16:22

Monday, March 24, 2008

Ha Resucitado el Senor!

He is risen, He is risen indeed!

What a day!  Easter in Antigua. 

During Semana Santa (Holy Week) in Antigua, the whole city focuses on the story of Jesus’ life and last days.  There are parades that happen all over the city on predetermined streets and times.  It is the busiest week of the whole year, in that people from all over the Spanish speaking world come to Antigua.  It has a feeling of Times Square during New Year’s Eve.  All the locals take Wednesday through Monday off from work.  Those who own homes on the streets of the parade routes take hours and even days to make “carpets”.  The carpets consist of sawdust that is of various colors, flowers, grass, palm branches, etc. The parades, or processionals begin at the beginning of March and come to a crescendo during this week.  I have never seen such devotion and focus.  When the processional passes through the streets, everyone walks on the carpets and then a dump truck with workers following behind will scrap up the remains and haul it all away.  Each day the processional adds to the story of final days of Christ.  Some streets are marked numerous times in one day on a parade route and so the people will make numerous carpets during that one day.  The biggest processional takes place on Friday night.  This marks the death of Jesus on the Cross.  There is a big gathering in the Central Park.  It is even heavily covered by the national news.  It felt like there were a million people there.

This city is amazing and the people who walk its streets and call it home are even more so.  Today as we were on our way to meet a new friend, Melissa Scott, we were “interrupted” by the final processional.  I say interrupted because we were late in leaving to meet her and the street we were taking was blocked off by the processional.  I tell you, it was another moment for us all and I am so glad that God put this in our path so that we had to stop and partake.  

All the processionals up to this point have been slow, very smokey (incense), and the floats were being carried by men dressed in either purple or black. or women dressed in black and white.  They had all been led by priests up to this point as well.  The band that followed the huge floats were playing a very slow and moody March (Marches) and everyone’s faces were so heavy with a solemn despair.


But today, it was different.  

Today, leading the processional was a small and beat-up Toyota pickup, circa 1980 with these gigantic speakers and a small generator.  It was blasting “party music” as loud as the speakers could carry.  Right behind were a herd of men, women, and children dancing, singing, laughing, more dancing, singing.....  Then came the processional with another float to rival any of the previous days, but this one had a Risen Christ dressed in white and was carried not by the clergy or people dressed in dark clothing with solemn expressions.  The smiling faces of people with colorful clothes were carrying it and they were C-E-L-E-B-R-A-T-I-N-G! They were waiving ribbons and there were loud fireworks.  The pic above showcases one man that Kristin and I had noticed separately and later mentioned to each other.  He was smiling so big.  He looked so proud.  The whole thing was so incredible!  


I can only say that it brought much gladness to see such Jubilation 

and that’s really the only word that comes to heart.

Later, we met up with Melissa & Madi, had dinner and exchanged small snapshots of our lives and how God has written some incredible stories.  The nachos were good too.  :-)  Melissa invited us to an orphange/hospital here tomorrow morning before we leave to catch our flight home.  We are really excited and leaning into what God has planned for us there.  

What a pleasure to experience the final processional on the day before we leave.  It is very bittersweet, but we are sure that God has started something here for us.  Just like the craft we shared with the beautiful children at Hannah’s Hope back on day 1, I am certain as we walked the streets and talked with people, we planted some seeds.  I can’t wait to see what kind of garden or forrest it will all become.  



Thursday, March 20, 2008

The Least of These...

Yesterday, our new friends Ashley Williams (with Hannah’s Hope Orphanage) and Marvin, took us to see the Guatemala City Dump. Here, thousands and thousands of men, women and children live among the city’s trash...literally. They walk from their “home” to the dump, they dig through the daily garbage and find stuff to recycle and sell. This is how they make their “living”....this is the horrible reality of their life. I can’t begin to explain to you everything I saw...or the putrid smell in the air....I can say that I felt the moment deeply and I am still trying to process what my eyes witnessed.

Marvin is an ex gang member who was recently shot in the leg during some crossfire. He now has a relationship with Christ and spends time ministering in the worst crime neighborhoods around GC.
He also loved Mac and his blonde hair...calling him a “chicolito”. :-)
The picture at the top says a whole lot... Ashley told us that the bodies buried in the “tombs” are rented. If the families of the dead cannot pay the rent then the body is literally thrown into the city dump, located 100 yards make room for the new “renters”.

You can see where some have already been “removed”.
We feel very fortunate to have met Ashley while in GC. She is doing many great things for Hannah’s Hope as well as the entire country of Guatemala! Visit her blog, or better yet, sponsor a child there at HH. They desperately need sponsors and you will be making an eternal difference!

Grace and Peace,

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Estamos Aqui!

We are here!

Thanks for all your prayers.

We arrived in Guatemala last night around 9:00 pm local time.  It’s a little confusing because we were told, and everything we had read said that Guatemala was on the Central Time Zone.  But, we are still scratching our heads trying to figure out why they are still one hour behind Nashville time (which is Central)???  We are staying at the Vista Real and it is an amazing hotel.  Our room is very nice (thanks AMEX points!), and the hotel itself sits on the side of a mountain overlooking the City.  

We started out our first full day at the Mercado de Artesanias, which is like an open air market of souvenirs.  

Then we walked across the street to the zoo for an hour or so, which only allowed for us to see a small fraction of the exhibits.  This zoo is so different than any American zoo I have visited.  The conditions that the animals are kept in are nowhere near what American zoos strive for.  Yet, like the people in this country, it’s like they weren’t complaining, but just so happy to be alive and cared for.  There were so many more animals to see than what we are used to and they were easily accessible for our viewing enjoyment.  It just seems so laid back.  Like it was no big deal if you could reach through the chain linked fence and pet the Coyotes.  

The smell of smog is thick during the day.  At night, the air smells of campfires.  To me, G-City doesn’t seem too different from Los Angeles, except for the extreme divide of wealth and poverty.  There is much poverty here and we have yet to see the worst.  We are planning on going to the Guatemala City Dump tomorrow morning with our new friend Ashley before we head to Antigua for the remainder of our stay in the country.  And while I am very curious, I can already feel my heart begin to break over the hopelessness I will witness there.  I hear, there are thousands living among the refuse, competing with vultures for the scraps we throw away.  I am tempted to let the toxic fear, shame, and guilt get the best of me and cancel the visit.  But my heart says, “Come on let’s go”. 

Ashley is the Orphan Care Coordinator at Hannah’s Hope here.  We stopped in today to visit with our sponsor child and “plant a few seeds”.  We brought a craft to share with 14 or so of the kids at the orphanage.  The craft consisted of each child getting a small clay pot with a packet of seeds and soil.  We also brought along some paints and brushes for them to decorate their own pot.  While the kids loved the craft, we were entertained by their joy and enthusiasm over the bubble wrap that we had used to pack it all.  


Emma and Mac fit right in and had a great time playing with all their new friends.  I wish I could bring all of these kids home with me, but more so, I wish I could convey to you how my heart grew what felt like 10 times larger with every smile, laugh, tear, and story each of these kids and adults shared with us.  



I saw God today.  :)


Sunday, March 16, 2008

Please Pray

The countdown has begun... in less than 15 hours we will board the airplane for Guatemala!!!  I am beyond excited!!!  I cannot wait to arrive there and be immersed in a culture and country that I’ve waited so long to experience.

In my excitement, I am also very fearful.  Please pray for our safety as we travel.  Pray for the people we are supposed to meet.  Pray for the children we are going to hug.  Pray for us to have open hearts and eyes.

As Jeff Helton (our Pastor) said this morning so beautifully, we are going to Guatemala with two “Assignments”, 1. Availability and 2. Love.  I’m hopeful and excited to watch God show up!

Here’s the hotel in Guatemala City that we will be staying in...(see mom, it is safe!).  We actually got this hotel for FREE (thanks to AMEX points...and the goodness of the Lord).  :-)  We will be arriving Monday night at 7:00pm and staying here for 2 days.

This is the orphanage that we will be visiting first in GC.  Pray for our time here...we get to lead arts and crafts!  Yay!

Darrell or I will try to continue updating our blog daily...please bookmark this site because we may not always send out an email.  We would LOVE to hear from you as well!



Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Good Friends, New Memories

Today was a beautiful day in many ways.  But the best was getting to spend some good time with friends we haven’t been face to face with for a few years.  Jonathan, Alicia, Samuel, and Elsie, collectively known as the Sheumakers (See Pics).  The kids played and Emma mastered the monkey bars.  Mac and Sam shared tractors and got put in time-out for throwing rocks.  Elsie smiled and smiled, and smiled some more.  Kristin & Alicia were basking in the glow of a beautiful early spring day, beholding their families, and enjoying a great friendship, and all Jonathan & I could do was stand back and watch in marvel.  Beauty Divine.

Proverbs 31

28 Her children arise and call her blessed; 
       her husband also, and he praises her:

Saturday, March 8, 2008

The Hills Are Alive...

There’s nothing like a snow day on a Saturday in March in middle Tennessee.  We had so much fun hoofing it through the 3 or so inches of white powder all the way over behind our neighbor’s house situated at 1 o’clock in the cul-de-sac.  There are hills back there.  I mean big ones.  Hills that make you wish you lived in....well, a cul-de-sac, I guess. Seriously, the hills are about ten to twelve feet high.  But on this day, they were mountains.  Now, normally I would dislike “wasting” a snow day on Saturday, which I consider a free-day.  I like my snow days on weekdays, like they were made for.  I can buck the grown-up responsibilities and keep Emma home from school. 

I so want to approach this life like a kid, the way Jesus talked about.  I want to hope for hope’s sake, like I don’t have to worry about damage control on the front-end to lessen or better manage the pain on the back-end.  And if I don’t realize or attain all that I hope for, I want to grieve it like I will never have hope again.  I think for me it’s about living in the here and now; knowing myself, knowing God, and then being able to know others. 

Our friends, Mac and Kelly from down the street walked over to the hills to join us with their kids.  What a great surprise.  It was fun to have a small community even if it was only for what seemed like a moment and it made me glad to share the time with them. 

Oh what fun it is to ride......

Here’s to blogging,


Friday, March 7, 2008

Why Guatemala?!?!

So, I was at the salon earlier this week...and, like any “good” southern woman at a salon, I was gossiping with my sweet friend (and talented stylist) Chadd.  At one point in the conversation, Chadd asked me about our Easter plans...(like an excited 12 year old) I said, ”we are going to Guatemala!”  Chadd immediately paused, cocked his head and asked “Guatemalughh...why Guatemala?!?!”  I loved his honesty...I laughed out loud and said, “that’s a great question!”  Truth be told, I have no idea.  I do know that God has given me a love for a country (and a people) that I know nothing about.  I also know that I am given one life to make a difference.  Therefore, we are going.  We are going to put our feet on the ground... and walk the streets with the “ eyes of Christ”.  God is changing my heart...I desire to step out of the gate and “be the Mercy”.

More to follow,