Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Pueblo Nuevo - Day 2

Day 2 in Pueblo Nuevo was interesting, to say the least. We arrived at Marco and Leddy's home that morning to begin preparing food for the children's program that afternoon. The men spent time with Marco, who is a carpenter and a pastor, showing him a few short cuts to make his work easier. Amanda, Bobbi and I spent time with Leddy, getting things ready to make a type of Guatemalan chicken stew. Even the guys got into the cooking thing and Danny and Joe were the ones that took the job that none of us really wanted....cutting up a very warm, raw chicken. Enough said.

After the food was ready, we all sat down to eat lunch (out of the pot of stew we all helped prepare). I ate only rice as did most of us. A couple of us ate rice with a little of the gravy and Danny? Well, Danny decided to be brave and ate it all...3 servings of it, in fact. No wonder he spent the rest of the trip a little miserable. ;)

Here is where I am going to lay every thing out for everyone to read. It may not be the "smart" thing to do...to give so many details, but I know that there are people reading that are preparing to start an organization similar to AAB and I want to be totally honest here because what we experience and what I feel is REAL and I am not about to hide it to make all of this sound easy and perfect. Remember the post that some people have described as being "desperate"? That post began brewing in my mind on Tuesday afternoon. After we ate, we spent more time with Marco and Leddy before driving a few minutes to Pueblo Nuevo to start the day's program. Before we got to Pueblo Nuevo, I was feeling uneasy about everything....about Pueblo Nuevo, about the people we are working with in the village, about the area in general, about even being in Guatemala. I began questioning every thing that we were doing and I actually found myself wanting to leave the country. I doubted that we would ever be able to help this village or these children and wondered why I ever thought that we could. Village stability and sustainability? Impossible. Ever being fully trusted or ever able to fully trust? Not gonna happen. What was I thinking?

Then the children arrived. They had a Bible lesson (which is incredibly hard to follow in Spanish, but that's OK) and then had craft time.

Because this was an assessing trip, we did not go with the intention of doing any thing more than distributing some supplies and getting to know the people we would be working closely with. Before we can get into any serious, long-term projects, we have to gain the trust of the people living in Pueblo Nuevo by returning again and again and doing small band-aid projects. Only through this will they begin to trust us enough (because believe me...some of them definitely do not trust us and do not want us there) to actually begin big projects which require their trusting us and us trusting them. So we played with the children which was all that we could really do after meetings and touring, listening and learning. Cassie, Bobbi's daughter, taught Jake, Amanda's son, how to do origami, which they both taught to the children. Through the language barrier both of these kids did an awesome job teaching the children how to make origami stars. None of us (the adults) know how to do this, so it was strictly up to them to teach the craft. Those children that did not want to do origami drew pictures and colored and we saw quickly that there is a great deal of talent among these children. Danny was a hit at his coloring table and became a favorite among the children because he was filling requests of drawings that they could color.

After craft time we served them dinner. We were all struck by how quickly the children ate their food. It was then that we realized how truly hungry they are, but not until the next day would it really sink in. After dinner, we all walked to a field (in the rain) while the guys played soccer with them.

Throughout it all my mind was still spinning. Something wasn't right. It all felt very wrong to me. Back at Casa Bella I expressed my concerns to a couple of people and listened to the concerns that they had. No mission trip will ever be perfect. No program will ever perfect. Because people aren't perfect. I spent a while that night going back and forth over the things that were bothering me and praying for guidance because I felt like I was falling off the path I was supposed to be walking. Were we really supposed to be working there...in Pueblo Nuevo? Was there somewhere else He wanted us to be? How could I go from knowing one day, without a doubt, that we were exactly where we were supposed to be to thinking that maybe we weren't? Or were all of these questions being brought on by the evil that tries to stop every thing good? I felt horrible for the things I was thinking. Our answers were made clear the next day.

Warning...picture overload. Sorry, I went a little crazy. :)

Monday, June 29, 2009

Pueblo Nuevo - Day 1

Our first day in Pueblo Nuevo was an incredible day. We left Antigua and traveled about 30 minutes through the mountains and several small communities to meet the Tulio family who is currently living about 5 minutes outside of Pueblo Nuevo. On our way there, I was a bundle of nervous energy and cried off and on during the entire trip. Fortunately, there was one person there that kept telling me that I wouldn't be able to talk if I were sobbing (Jeff!), which made sense so I was able to keep myself under control. But I was so happy to have arrived at that point that crying happy tears and keep praying was all that I could do. When we arrived at the Tulio's home, we were welcomed by Pastor Marco, his wife Leddy and their three children. From the moment we first introduced ourselves there was an instant connection for most (if not all) of us and we knew almost immediately that we were exactly where we were supposed to be. We spent the morning talking with Marco and Leddy (with the help of Marleni with Servants 4 Him) about their personal needs, their ministry needs and the needs of children and families living in Pueblo Nuevo. We learned quickly that one of the biggest problems of children in the area is malnutrition (as it is in most of the country) and many of them eat only when they attend the children's program which is held 3 days a week. This means that many children in the village eat only 3 out of 21 meals a week. We knew this before we arrived and it hit us hard when we heard it from the Tulio's, but we would not be able to imagine the severity of the issue until the next day.

After discussing every thing that needed to be discussed, the Tulio's showed us around the community they are currently living in (which is also an area in great need) and then we went to spend time in Pueblo Nuevo.

My heart sank the moment we arrived. It is a very quite village...much different than the loud and lively Antigua that we had all grown accustomed to over the last couple of days. And it is a dreary place. Dirt roads lead to tiny tin and cement block homes built on the sides of mountains. Stray animals that are skin and bones wander the streets in search of a morsel of food. At first glance, nothing appears to be beautiful. There is no color. There are not many people spending time outside. Few cars and trucks are driven through the streets because only a handful of people own vehicles. There are no children playing and there is no laughter. The people that do walk by do not smile. Stores are closed and the few that are open have no business. There are no restaurants and I suppose you could call the one or two small shops that were open grocery stores, but it doesn't matter because no one has money to shop anyway. Unless you travel the dirt paths through the hills of Pueblo Nuevo, you would think that the village is dead. Life and laughter hides there, in the hills, in the mountains, under lush greenery of flowering plants and trees.

We found life in two young boys that were playing on top of a tin trash can. This is their one and only toy. They are shy children, but full of laughter and they love to play by climbing on and off of the trash can. Their clothes were filthy and their shoes are worn to the point of being useless. Just as many other children in Guatemala, they are malnourished and rarely eat any thing more than tortillas and beans. We found life in a teenage boy standing against a wall. I do not know what he was doing there or what he was thinking, but he just stood there, with nowhere to go and nothing to do. The Tulio's know him and they spoke with him for a moment. They reassured me that he was OK, but I had my doubts as we walked away. We found an elderly couple working hard on their home made of tin and a widow washing her clothes. We found life as we walked down a steep hill to meet a family which consists of three mothers and seventeen children. This family lives in a home that consists of 3 tiny tin and cement rooms....two are living quarters, one is kind of a kitchen/eating area and the sink and bathroom are outside. We spent a little time with this family and while we could not believe that so many people (especially children) were living in the condition they are, we know that this is all they know and that they are happy, regardless of being hungry. We would see several of the children the next day at the children's program. While we made our way back up the hill God made it very clear to me that in that moment, nothing else mattered. He could have told me that making sure only of those children eats throughout her childhood is my reason for breathing and that would have been OK with me. I have never said that we are trying to save the lives of children and I never will because I firmly believe that we are not saving their lives...He is and for all that we do He will receive the glory. I have said that I want to work with children around the world, but for the remainder of the trip and even now, He could give me the revelation of purpose in working with just one child, one person for the rest of my life and I would gladly do it because just as during my time in Guatemala in 2007, I looked into the eyes of these children and saw Jesus. He is never more clear than in what I hesitantly call "the least of the these". We saw Him that day in hungry children, in a sick widow, in a fragile elderly couple, in a mother that has lost too many children, in a pastor that is trying to bring people to Him, in mothers that work harder than anyone I know and that is without going to an actual "job" and in fathers that all but non-existent. We saw Him and I am sure that I am not the only one that asked herself, "What are we going to do for Him?"

I spent that night reflecting on the day's events with the confidence that God knows what He is doing and that He led us to the right place to begin our outreach program and ministry. Anxious to start the next day, I finally drifted off to sleep. Their faces filled my dreams. Their laughter filled my soul. I began falling in love with a village of children that day and it began really sinking in that night as I slept. Life. Love. Happiness. You may not be able to see it there at first, but if you dig a little, look closely and listen carefully, you will find it and it is so powerful that it is overwhelming. Next post....details from Day 2 when life comes out in the open in Pueblo Nuevo for the children's program.