Saturday, November 28, 2009

All I Want for Christmas…

What could I possibly ask for this Christmas or any Christmas?  What could any of us ask for really?  We spend every day in warm homes.  We eat whenever we have the slightest twinge of hunger and sometimes when we aren’t hungry at all.  We fill our pet’s water bowls and our children’s bathtubs with clean water…worrying about what we will drink isn’t an issue because we can turn on a faucet and drink clean water.  Those of us that choose not to drink tap water drink bottled water without thinking twice.  We spend a fortune on our children’s clothing and shoes because we always think they need more.  Or maybe we just want to look like more because when our kids are all decked out in new clothes and everyone talks about how perfect they are, isn’t that really a reflection of us?  We talk about how “broke” we are as we sit around a restaurant table that will end with a $100 bill.  We talk on our cell phones and surf on our laptops.  We flip a switch and lights come on.  We claim to be “doers” and “givers” and we are…sometimes…and “sometimes” is good enough for us even though we know that we could and should “do” and “give” more.  We watch TV for hours and pray for minutes.  We thank God for our “blessings” and I wonder….what are we really thanking Him for when we say that?  Do we really feel blessed by the things that we have?  By the things that we do not need?  Or do we feel like we deserve them?

I have my moments of wanting….a new laptop, a new cell phone, new pearls with matching earrings, a bigger house, a new car, new furniture, a bigger TV, art, a watch to replace the one I broke years ago, another coat, more boots, more shoes in general, an ITunes gift card.  You name it and I could probably want it.  We all could, I think.  I am thankful, though, that my moments of wanting come less and less these days and now when someone asks what I want for Christmas, my answer of “nothing” is a lie.

What could I possibly want for Christmas?

I do not want another sweater that will sit in my closet, with the tags still on, until my next yard sale.  I do not want another CD to add to my already out of control collection.  I do not want any knick-knacks that will require me to dust, any gourmet treats that will tip the scale even more or any jewelry to make room for in my overflowing jewelry armoire.  There is nothing that I need outside of what I already have in a God that gives freely of His mercy and grace and that blesses me with every thing that a person needs. 

What I want is very simple.  I want those around me this Christmas to give….something….anything….to just one person outside of their immediate families and friends.  I want us all to bless someone else because we have been blessed.  I want us to give something to the undeserving because we are undeserving.  It doesn’t have to be through AAB, though you are welcome and we would love for you to help us feed a family, meet a child’s basic needs and help us spread God’s love to the children of Guatemala.  There are so many ways to bless others this Christmas and it is easy to do.  I doubt you will have sacrifice anything to do it, though it may take a little effort on your part.  Are you willing to take the time to give to someone in need instead of buying something for me that I do not even want?  There is one more thing that I want for Christmas.  I want those that love me to pray…really pray…for the children and families that we love so much in Guatemala and around the world.  I obviously will never know if my wish is granted, but I do not want you to just say you are praying and then never give them a second thought.  I want you to take a few minutes out of every day to pray for these kids, their families and all of the orphans in the world every day from now until Christmas (and every day after would be great). 

You can call me crazy.  You can believe that I really do want more than this and there is nothing that I can say to convince you that I have enough, that we have enough, that YOU have enough and need nothing else and that’s OK.  I know that gift giving is enjoyable and this is the season of giving.  But I am asking you to consider giving just a little differently this year.  Give to those that need in place of those that do not.  In return, you will be the one that is blessed.   

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Real people. Real lives.

My heart is shattered in a million pieces. It is always like this...shattered...but while going through pictures and trying to decide which ones to post, I can just feel the emptiness even heavier where half of my heart is supposed to be, but isn't. I knew that being back in Pueblo Nuevo in October was going to result in 1 of 2 things...this trip would be the deciding factor...either we would have to start looking for another village to work in after December or serious connections would begin to be formed and I would know that there is no way AAB could leave this village. Obviously (and thankfully), it was the latter that happened. I was talking to a friend last night about this...about how incredibly attached I have so quickly become to every single person in Pueblo Nuevo, whether I have met them or not. Some of them are Christians, some are not. Some of them have fully embraced us, others are unsure about us and want nothing to do with us because of fear. But every one of them, from the youngest orphan to the oldest widow, is someone.

I have been reading a lot this week about something that has been on my mind lately. Numbers are everywhere. Statistics are thrown around more and more it seems. I admit it. I talk about statistics often. When raising awareness about the world's orphan crisis and shining a light on the lives of those living in Pueblo Nuevo and throughout Guatemala, especially when talking to people that have no idea of what is really going on in the world, statistics are necessary.

But they are only numbers. From the aritcles and a few blog posts I've read over the last week, it seems that many others feel the same way. It is such a relief seeing others that peel the numbers away to see what really exists.

Walk through the mountains of Guatemala (or anywhere else in the world). Look into the eyes of a child that hasn't eaten in days and unless you feed him, he won't eat for days more. Hug a widow that is so frail and so ill and has just walked for miles, there and back, in the hopes of seeing a doctor at a medical clinic in another village, but didn't make it in time. Hold a child that believes you are there to kidnap him. Provide vitamins to a nursing mother and watch her face as you tell her that those vitamins will help her and her baby be healthier. Give out the most basic supplies...hygiene items and OTC meds...and see hardened faces turn to joy. Tell a father that even though he doesn't believe it, God loves him and his children and that you are there to share that love, no matter what. Visit a family of 6...a mom and 5 children. These are the fatherless and they are everywhere you look. They have absolutely no hope which shows in the emptiness of their eyes.

Once you see it, you know that they are more than a statistic.

To me, they are the other half of my heart. Again tonight, as every day, I am longing to piece it back together. To be there, loving them and working until I am too exhausted to take another step. To be there, with my family, knowing that we will be there until He sends us somewhere else. But for now, I know that this is where we have to be. I always knew that this is how it had to be. Our trips this year and next are for two start meeting some basic needs and to begin building relationships to establish trust. Both are being done. This isn't temporary. This isn't us swooping into a village, taking over for a while and then leaving without saying a word. This is a slow process of getting to know them, of hearing their stories, of learning the very best way to handle their individual situations, all the while beginning to help in whatever ways we can.

And still, my heart aches as we wait for the time when these faces will be the ones we wake up to see every morning... These are pictures from our day of visiting families and distributing supplies in Pueblo Nuevo.

A precious 18 day old baby. She had not been named yet...I can't wait to learn her name in a few weeks. What a blessing it was to us to be able to provide her mom and all pregnant women and nursing mothers, that we spent time, with prenatal vitamins. (Pictured with Kori and the baby is Leddy...wife of Pastor Marco Tulio that leads the children's ministry.)

A typical bedroom. I believe this is the only bedroom for a family of 9-10 (correct me if I'm wrong, girls). Obviously, most of the family has to sleep on the dirt floor.

Oh...this woman is incredible. Her tears of joy as she received a variety of supplies really touched our hearts.

This belly isn't because he has plenty to eat. So many children in Pueblo Nuevo, like all of Guatemala, are suffering from malnutrition. This is a REAL CHILD, not a statistic.

Before the meltdown...seconds later he began sobbing. After a few minutes, we realized (with some translating help) that he believed that we were there to take him from his mom and bring him to the U.S. Proof that the rumors still exist, that the children are being told and a reminder that SLOWLY establishing programs there all the while returning often to prove our reasons for being there is only because we truly love them is a must. (The cautious adoptive mom of a Guatemalan child came out in me here and we left quickly...I am praying that our visit in December will be a little easier for him.)

I have no idea where he had been, but I am almost certain that he had probably been working in the fields instead of attending school. A sad reality for so many children.
Approaching the home of a family that isn't fond of Christians. I was told that this particular family has been persecuted by other Christians in Pueblo Nuevo. They used to attend church occasionally, but they have been mocked and harassed by a number of people in the village because they are among some of the poorest people in Pueblo running water, no toilet, etc. Because of that, they do not trust anyone and stay to themselves, rarely leaving their home in the mountains. We told the father about the children's ministry and asked if he would allow his children to come that evening. We were so excited when they came. They were probably there just because they knew we would feed them, but they heard about Jesus that afternoon, as well. Of course we are praying that this is just the beginning for them. We certainly will not give up and will be visiting with them in December as we provide them with a food basket, more supplies, Spanish Bible story books and shoes along with another invitation to the children's ministry, as we will with as many other families as possible.

Their dad...

So much love! This is a widow that is very sick, severely malnourished and just in overall very poor health, but her spirit is so joyful. I have no idea where she lives because we met her when we were about to leave Pueblo Nuevo and she was returning from trying to see a doctor (which didn't happen for her), but I am determined to find her in December to at least provide a little help for her desperate situation.

Finally....Dana. (in red)

Friday, November 20, 2009

Finally...Pictures! I was reminded today that with the exception of children in the sponsorship programs, I never really posted pictures from the October trip. I have to admit...I have been a little scattered lately between having a hard time readjusting to life in the U.S. (this will always be a problem for me) and trying to get ready for the December trip all at once. I did share a few pictures on Facebook and some of the team did as well, but I will post more here. Dana took so many pictures and in the end left me with over 600 photos. Deciding which ones to post is hard because all of them are "my favorite", so I am just going to have to overload Blogger over the next few posts. I will try to keep it organized according to what we were doing at the time. Today's pictures are from the days we held a dental clinic in Pueblo Nuevo.

(Note...Dana was so sweet to create a montage for us and I will share it here whenever I figure out how to upload it. It has a lot of the pictures that I will posting in it, but sharing more than once is OK, right? After our December trip, I will be creating a montage (maybe with Dana's help, but she doesn't know that yet...until right now...hi Dana...did that get your attention? LOL!) with a lot of pictures from October, but also pictures from our other trips, including December, to be used whenever we speak publicly. I am so impressed with how hard Dana worked to capture every little detail of our time in Guatemala. In case I haven't said it before...we love you, friend!) from the dental clinic....

We were so blessed to have the help of a World Race team each day we were there. They were quick to help in any way that was needed, spent time with those waiting in line and ministered to/prayed with children and their families as they waited for their names to be called.

Kasey, our dentist, is incredible. The love she poured into these kids while she worked amazed me. I could go on about her all day, but will just were more of a blessing to me, personally, on this trip than you will ever know. I love your heart! In addition to Kasey, 2 dentists that work with Servants 4 Him also worked at the clinic...another blessing. Without their equipment and their help, we would not have been able to hold a dental clinic so soon.

I love this picture. Kori (an AAB board director) was a huge help during this trip and always. Without knowing it, she did a great job keeping me grounded and having the most organized person I know travel with me really spoiled me because I never have to worry about things getting done if she is around. How I will make it through the next trip without her there is beyond me.

One of my favorite pictures EVER and I don't know why. Every time I felt overwhelmed inside (because with so much going on and knowing so little about dental stuff, it gets a little overwhelming), I would walk outside and see this and begin to catch my breath quickly.

C. was one of the nurses that traveled with us and will be returning with me in December. I cannot say enough about how much watching her fall in love with the people of Pueblo Nuevo meant to me. I will be talking about her much more over the next month, I'm sure. For now, all I can say is C. - THANK YOU! You are blowing me away!

I am so happy that in 3 weeks, this won't be a problem for many children in Pueblo Nuevo anymore!

Sweet Claire...another one of our nurses. I love this woman and her gigantic heart! (I told y'all that you would hear this from me a lot...did you doubt it?) This was at the end of the clinic when we could not see any more patients and Claire went outside to help pass out our remaining toothbrushes, toothpaste and medication and to see what types of needs were left unmet.

This is probably my favorite picture of all from the trip and I can't explain why. I barely know Claire, but I do know her heart and it is beautiful. I can just feel her compassion in this picture and it still brings me to tears.

I will never forget this moment. Many of the children that we met in June had been told that we were coming back and they were expecting us. So many remembered me which really shocked me. Jesenia and Mildre are two of the children that really grabbed the hearts of some of us in June and when they walked up to me on the first day of the clinic like they had known me their entire lives to hug me and to tell me (through a translator) that they remembered me, I didn't know what to think. They both arrived very late the first day and because they were so far down on the list, we were unable to get to them this trip. As the second day came to an end and I realized that we were not going to be able to see them, I began to panic (really...heart racing, on the verge of tears, short of breath panic). Both need dental work badly, but so did everyone else on the list above them. There was nothing I could do at the end of the day, but tell them that I was sorry. Tears and more tears flew when they both came to give me a hug and to tell ME that it was OK. I will never forget what it felt like to have to watch so many people walk away because we could not see them all...and I know that it was just the first of many times that I will have to do that during my life.

And Dana...well, she spent the entire time behind the camera so we have very few pictures of her, but I will be posting a few over the next few days.
I will try to post pictures from our family visits in the next couple of days.

Children in Pueblo Nuevo to Receive "The Jesus Story"

I had the privilege this morning of meeting and spending a little time with Don Hammatt, author of The Jesus Story and Jesus in Me and left our meeting with 300 Spanish books containing both The Jesus Story and Jesus in Me to be distributed to children in Pueblo Nuevo in a few weeks.

Don also created DVDs of the books (The Jesus story is available on their website...Jesus in Me will be available soon) that I was able to watch during our time together. During one of the movies I couldn't help but think of what it will be like to distribute these books and how my learning about Don's books was perfectly orchestrated.

Since early this year I have been looking for an inexpensive source for Spanish children's Bibles. During our June trip, we noticed that only one child in the children's ministry has a Bible. It was obvious that some of the other children also longed for a Bible. That led me to search even harder when we returned to the U.S., but finding affordable Spanish Bibles (or at least affordable to us in the large quantity we would have to purchase) was difficult and by September I was giving up on the thought of being able to distribute Bibles during the December trip. Key words...I was giving up.

God wasn't.

During a chat with our Bible study leader, he mentioned a children's book that was also printed in Spanish that his mission team was taking on a mission trip to Puerto Rico. He brought one to church the next week to show us. PERFECT!! It wasn't an actual Bible, but it was the perfect book for children...2 stories in 1, easy to get them to Guatemala in bulk and only $1 each! We heard that the author lives in Baton Rouge and his daughter goes to our church. And so began my excitement (again) about being able to not only share the love of Christ with the children (and their parent(s)) in a number of ways while we are IN Guatemala, but also being able to leave them with these books that have helped lead so many children to Christ around the world.

Thanks to all that have contributed to the purchase of these books! If you would like to purchase one of these books for a child in Guatemala, you may do so by clicking "donate" on the side bar and contributing just $1.

To learn more about these books or to purchase them or the DVD in English or Spanish, please visit their website HERE.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Pueblo Nuevo - Christmas Food Baskets and Community Feeding Program

As I have mentioned before, many children throughout Guatemala are severely malnourished and that includes many of the children living in Pueblo Nuevo. We know that most of the children in Pueblo Nuevo eat only 2 or 3 actual meals a week. If they eat in between those meals, their food consists of tortillas and an occasional serving of beans. I have personally seen children eat a couple of pieces of candy in place of meals simply because a piece of candy is much cheaper than a meal. We all know that there is not a lack of food in Guatemala...that isn't the problem. The problem is that people cannot afford to feed their children what will keep them healthy and are forced to feed them whatever they can which is rarely what they need.

The need for nutritious food in Pueblo Nuevo is as great as every other area of Guatemala. We know the need exists and believe that meeting this need in as many families as possible must be a priority.

To launch this long-term community program, we will be distributing Christmas food baskets to families living in Pueblo Nuevo in December. Each basket costs $25. Included in each basket is a variety of well-balanced ingredients to provide meals for a family of 6 and necessary items to make tamales for Christmas Eve. Each child pictured below and their families are in desperate need of this gift. Please prayerfully consider providing them with food this Christmas season by clicking the 'buy now' button at the top of the side bar. If you would like, you may indicate the name of the child and his/her sponsorship number during check out that you want to provide a basket for. If no number is listed, AAB will select a family on your behalf.

After we receive your food basket donation, you will receive an email asking if you would like to consider monthly sponsorship of the family you are providing a basket for. Feel free to make this a one time gift, but we ask that you consider sponsoring a family for $25 a month. Through monthly sponsorships in 2010, you will provide children of Pueblo Nuevo and their families with more consistent well-balanced meals. You will also be a part of our 'chicken program' as we begin organizing and carrying out the distribution of chickens and feed to families that want to be involved with the program and are able to care for chickens. This program, as part of the community feeding program, will provide a source of protein to all family members through the eggs that are produced and meat as well as provide supplemental income for families that are able to sell eggs. Through this sponsorship program you will receive photos of the family you sponsor and updates about them several times a year as well as a Christmas card from the family (beginning Christmas 2010). If you become a monthly sponsor, you will receive a sponsorship package with more information about your family in the days following Christmas.

The children below are just a few faces in the sea of faces that we will see when we return to Guatemala in a few weeks. Many other children and families in Pueblo Nuevo are in need of food baskets and we are working to obtain sponsors for as many baskets as possible. The number of families in need of sponsors continues to grow and as families are sponsored, we will continue to add others. If one of these faces grabs your heart, please do not ignore it.

(Please excuse the layout of photos...Blogger doesn't want to cooperate tonight. All names and ages of the children are listed to the right of their photo.)

Astrid, age 15

Marcos, age 10

Angel, age 6


Yenifer, age 10


Jaquelin, age 8

Maria, age 10

Doris, age 8

Keny, age 10

Jesenia, age 9

Yoni, age 10

Samuel, age 10

Rutman, age 7

Carolina, age 10

Lucila, age 12


Jairo, age 10

Edy, age 10



Paola, age 11


Wuendy, age 9

Julio, age 7

Nancy, age 8

Mildre, age 8

Oscar, age 9

Oswaldo, age 11