Monday, February 21, 2011

Scrabble Anyone???

A week left until we head to El Salvador. Then it seems as if we will have to start all over again. We still don’t have a place to move into, so we will likely be staying in the hotel there for a couple of days or maybe a week. I can’t help but wonder how the kids will readjust because it seems like they are just starting to “normal out” here.

I keep praying though. I pray that I will hear God’s voice and not just my own (or my children’s). I know he tells us not to worry about tomorrow, but the mother in me has a hard time with that. The kids have done really well with school and it would be nice to get them into school in El Salvador ASAP to get them right into the swing of things language wise. I am really enjoying my lessons. Yesterday we spent our whole lesson playing Spanish Scrabble. My teacher had never played before and I had borrowed it from Ana Louisa who lives at the house we are staying at. First we played in teams against Kade and his teacher, Soledad and Winnie’s teacher Jessica. I came in last. Then I said to my teacher that after the break we should do some work. We did one exercise on Preterite and Imperfect past tense verbs and then she asked me if I wanted to play again! I think she liked it!! We are going to go today(Saturday) and check out if I can find Scrabble to give her as a gift at the end of next week. (Update.. it seems as though there are none in Antigua)

On Sunday we went to the hill of the cross and climbed up it. It was magnificent and an awe inspiring view of Antigua.

Stuart has been having conversations with his teacher about Christianity and using the bible to explain why we are here. His teacher Yoli has been asking some hard questions that would be hard to answer even in English! He has also been having conversations with another teacher at the school whose daughter is a single mom of 3 children and has no place to live. They have been praying for years for a home for her. Finally a piece of land has become available to purchase at a decent price, but if they buy the land they can’t afford to put a house on it. We kept talking about trying to give something meaningful as a parting gift, and this seems like an answer, but we have no idea how the logistics would work.

Today my friend Emily is here from Calgary with her two kids and husband who has meetings with coffee farmers all week for his roasterie, phil&Sebastian www. , so tomorrow and I am going to meet with her and show her all the hot spots around town. Ha, after a month I guess I no longer qualify as a tourist.

I am excited for this new chapter and to see Pastor Jorge and his wife Maritza and their daughter Jackie and her husband Oscar. I am very excited to get connected with the community of people that we will be working with to build houses for and start building relationships.

I am excited to learn how to cook Central American style and give it a go. I might need some prayer on this as well!!

I am excited to have teams and visitors come down to see exactly why we are going to El Salvador. Soon we will send out some information about what you need to know to come down and we will start a calendar with dates of upcoming visits.


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

pop bottle luging

Guatemalan Stickup

so a couple weeks back we went to the beach and met a family from the U.S. - Mark & Gina. carie asked what they were doing down here with a family of 5. turns out they had been involved in ministry back in the States, a few years back started to rethink the purposes of the church, realized it needed to move outside the walls of the church building with its comfy chairs and move into the neighborhoods of the poor. so a year and a half ago they sold everything and moved to the village of Magdelena to serve the poor. they came with little ideas of how to do that, but simply knew that’s where they needed to be...

so this weekend we went out for a visit so see what they were up to. we had a great afternoon chatting, questioning and seeing what they were doing and being in that community. first off, you could see the love they had for the folks in the village and even more evident was the love that the locals had for them. their faces lit up when they saw them as we walked past their homes. it was obvious they spent a lot of time in the village. it seems most NGO’s are based out of the large cities, living in gated communities, coming out to the village a couple times a week to check in on their projects. the difference we saw here was a family who had moved right into the neighborhood. living, playing, working, eating and sleeping right there. cool.

quickly the similarities between their work and our vision became spookily (not sure if that’s a real word) apparent...

they started a home building project, with homes the same size and layout and cost as ours in el salvador

the situation of the folks receiving the homes were in the same state as those in el salvador

they didn’t know spanish, but learned on the fly once here

2 of their kids were isaac & eli

they employ a group of locals to build the homes (one of our main plans)

kids went right into spanish school

host many teams from the states

started their own ministry

rejected the ‘american dream’ to serve the poor

learned what was needed before they started anything

made friends first, created projects second

deepstream is the name of their ministry

12 kids among three families (i messed that up earlier for you keeners)

as we walked and talked thru the village the similarities were laughable. for us it was like a snapshot of us in a year. a huge blessing for us all, even more so for carie and kerrie-lynn i think. they got to see a family living in central america in a home similar to those in san vicente doing the same things and in all likelihood experiencing the same frustrations and difficulties as we will along the way. the kids hit it off splendidly. playing soccer in the street and riding empty 2 liter pop bottles down the street! who knew you could have that much fun on a very steep concrete road and a bottle out of the ditch. it was good to see the kids having so much fun without it being a wii game or some other electronic device. the other couple working with them is building a sports facility and starting a mentoring project for young boys - using sports as an in to teach about life and faith and health and responsibility. it brought to mind a few names of friends back home who need to move down too ;-) all in all, we are so thankful for this family, encouraged by what they are doing and filled anew with hope for life in el salvador.

Mark & Gina’s ministry website is if you care to check it out!

trent & kerrie

Sunday, February 6, 2011

The tip of the iceberg

Well 2 down and 50 (give or take) to go. No, I’m not talking about the demise of our children (although some moments feel a little bit like we’re running an elementary school), I’m referring to weeks, to time (don’t worry, no children were hurt in the writing of this message . . . yet). And time is a different thing in Antigua, Guatemala; it feels a bit different then time back home. It’s hard to describe but the moments feel a bit thicker here, a little more robust. Sometimes it feels like time is being stretched, and then compressed, and then stretched again, as if we are in the bellows of an accordion. These two weeks have been filled with an eternity of moments passed by in a blink. Maybe we’re just allowed the opportunity to be a bit more present in the time, in this place.
And what a place this is. I’m enchanted by many things here; the culture, the people, the history, the geography, the climate (sorry about the foot of snow and minus 30 temperatures in Calgary this week), the food, the sights, the sounds, even the smells (well most of them anyway). They all weave together to create a tapestry for the senses. I know that there is a newness to this all, and some of this will likely wear off after this honeymoon stage, but I already feel my heart planting and rooting itself in this place.
As most of you are aware we are in Antigua to take Spanish lessons for a month. Our minds are being poured into, as we attempt to let ourselves be moulded around a new language. And we feel that this shaping is imperative, for as Kerrie-Lynn has said, she hopes to be able to understand the hurting and be able to offer encouragement and hope. I echo this sentiment. Often we are very tired at the end of the day, with feelings of having been challenged. But everybody is making progress, and most of the kids do not even realize the amount of information that they have sponged up. This year is going to be good in many ways and for many reasons.
On the subject of learning, I feel that I am being taught, and not just in my classroom. For those of you unfamiliar with Antigua, it is quite a beautiful city, actually a bit of an anomaly in Central America.  

Road Map of Antigua Showing our house to the school

The bulk of the city fits within a 10 x 10 city block square of cobble stone streets and old colonial buildings and churches. Due to an earthquake in the late 18th century, many of the massive cathedrals were destroyed, but left as ruins; icons of a long-past era. A moment in time preserved in broken stone and concrete.
 For those of you unfamiliar with trying to get eight children to school on time in the morning, it can be a bit of circus act. Most mornings we get everyone off with bellies filled and snacks, books, and clothing attached. But it can be a whirlwind process. Walking to school also takes to the days I spent in arcades playing ‘Frogger’. I am grateful everyday that we don’t become the target of a bus, taxi, or motorcycle as we cross the streets on the way to school.
Between these two things, the beauty of the city and the busyness of our lives and tasks, it becomes very easy to miss the world around me. And I think that this has been my first true lesson over the last couple of weeks. A couple of days ago as we were shuffling ourselves toward school in the morning, we passed a little boy. He was 9 or 10 by my best estimation and was carrying a small black box. This box held his equipment needed to shine shoes in the city’s central park. His clothing and skin were stained from the shoe polish, and as I looked at him and said, “Buenos dias” to him the only reply I got was a blank stare. As we passed the boy, he reached down and picked up a long, thin scrap of plastic out of the gutter next to the sidewalk. He turned it over in his hands, scrutinizing it. The interesting was that this piece of plastic, probably from the top of a chip or cookie bag, oddly resembled a folded Quetzal (the currency in Guatemala). That was the extent of our interaction as we passed the boy, and continued on our way.
This was a seemingly unimportant moment in my day, but I have been pondering that moment for some time since. Questions have been ruminating in my head. Why was this boy not in school? What kind of family situation does he have that he needs to shine shoes to live? Does he have a family at all? Who will shine this boy’s shoes... or heart? Why didn’t I? The first lesson that I am being taught is to look for the story beneath the surface. I can easily become preoccupied with things that prevent me from becoming enamoured and involved in the stories happening around me. (But don’t worry; I will still be watching the traffic as we walk our kids to school). 

This Saturday was spent as are most of my Saturdays in Canada (I hope you can sense the sarcasm in my writing). We left in a van at about 8 am and travelled to the small town of San Francisco de Pacaya. From here met our guide and proceeded to hike about 3km up through a forest to the Pacaya Volcano. There are 35 volcanoes in Guatemala, with 3 that are quite active. Two of these are within a couple of hours from Antigua, and Pacaya is one of them. In fact there was a major eruption here last May. Once we made it above the tree line (I was extremely impressed with the ability of our kids to make it up the steep trails) we entered an area below the crater devoid of life. There was an eerie beauty to the petrified lava flows and sulphur stained rocks. The crater loomed above us with gases and smoke spewing out in bursts. Apparently in the past, people could walk beside rivers of lava flowing down the mountain but this changed with the eruption in May.

The heat is still sneaking out of a few caves in the hardened lava on the side of the mountain, and we were able to roast marshmallows and cheese by holding them over an opening in the rock. The bottom of the hole was indiscernible, but we were told that at night the red glow of lava can be seen through the opening. We trekked across the recently formed peaks and valleys and then hiked back to the bottom. We arrived back at our house by supper time tired, hungry, sore, and covered in dirt, but what a phenomenal experience and view.

But this leads me to my second lesson. And in many ways it has connections to the first. On our descent from the volcano we passed a small cross embedded in the lava in the distance. Last May as activity increased around the Pacaya Volcano authorities evacuated about 1650 families from nearby towns. Yet one fatality was reported. Anibal Archila was a television reporter for a Guatemalan news agency called Noti 7. On May 27th, 2010 Anibal was trying to get footage of the exploding Pacaya Volcano, when he was crushed by falling boulders and lava. This was all the information that I could find about this 32 year old man, and I feel sorry for that. All that I have to remember him by is a small cross in the rocks. Lesson two is that I need to truly know the people around me so that I can tell their stories. And these stories must be told.