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Guatemala Mission, March, 2006

St. Luke's is conducting a return mission trip to Guatemala, from March 24 to April 2, 2006, in Lemoa in the department of Quiché near the highland center of Chichicastenango. Our first mission trip was in March, 2005. Most of the population there is indigenous Mayan. Lemoa was especially hard-hit by massacres and destruction of villages during the years of "La Violencia", guerrilla rebellion and army repression which ended just recently in 1996. We will be working with local people on two construction projects: at the Methodist Retreat Center and at the orphanage in Lemoa.  We will also be running a Bible school day camp for several hundred local children. Look here for the itinerary. See puravida.org for more details about Lemoa.

(Click on any image to show a larger picture)

Our missionaries are (back row, standing) Dave Money, Mark Ely, Gene Branch, Laura Richards, Laurie Gilbert, Joyce Carnes, Cathy Dunwody, Kristine Fong, Betsy Keyack, Kelly Estrada, Mario Estrada, Dawn Branch, Carolyn McIntosh, John Williams, Ken Fong
(front row, kneeling) Jan Stull, Megan Stull, Kristina Carnes, Shelly Richards, Beth Richards, Sharon Williams, Leslie Ruiz, Ken Decker

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March 25, 2006

The team spent all of yesterday traveling from Denver to Guatemala City. Everyone arrived safely. We spent the night at the Semenario Teologico Centroamericano, which we found to be a very pleasant and charming facility. Today, we took our "chicken bus" to Chichicastenango, where we will be staying while working in Lemoa. We arrived early enough to visit the Methodist Retreat Center, where we will be doing construction work. We also picked up many of the children from the orphanage and played with them for over an hour, helping them fly and shoot airplanes, fly kites, jump on pogo sticks, playing ball with them, and giving them piggyback rides.

 

 

Ken Decker helping Juan shoot airplanes

 

Rev. Dave Money helping Luis with a pogo stick

 

Kristina Carnes helping David fly airplanes

         

 

 

Cathy Dunwody helping Carla on a pogo stick

 

Laura, Shelly, and Beth Richards giving Sandra and Yesica piggyback rides

 

Mario Estrada throwing Hector in the air

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March 26, 2006

Today, Sunday, we started by spending the morning at the Chichicastenango market.  The shopping was fabulous and much money changed hands.  After lunch, we visited Sister Helen and Sister Connie at the church in Lemoa, near the orphanage; they are trying to build and improve relations with the people of the area. Then we attended church services at the Methodist Church in Chichicastenango, and bought a few more items at the Ruth and Naomi Project, which helps widows and orphans.

 

 

Betsy Keyack, Dave Money, Joyce Carnes, and Kristina Carnes at the Chichicastenango market

 

Sister Connie explaining the Aztec calendar to Carolyn McIntosh, Megan Stull, and the rest of our group

 

Rev. Dave Money giving greetings at the local Methodist church

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March 27, 2006

Today, Monday, we started work on our construction projects.  Half of the team worked at the Methodist Retreat Center in Lemoa, where we are building four outdoor bathrooms. Today we put together some rebar forms and poured the cement foundation for cinder block walls.

The other half of the team walked to the nearby orphanage, where we are adding a second story to the new classroom building. We built rebar forms and worked on the cinder block walls. We managed to spend time with some of the children, but many were in school.

Everyone is healthy; the most serious problems are a few sunburns.

 

 

Joyce Carnes and Ken Decker building a rebar form for the outdoor bathroom addition

 

Sharon Williams and Laurie Gilbert working on rebar for the classroom building addition

 

Mark Ely shows Kristine Fong how to build a cinder block wall

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March 28, 2006

We started the day by visiting the John Wesley school in Santa Cruz del Quiche. This two-year old ecumenical school, supported by the Methodist Church in Guatemala, currently offers higher-quality education than is available in the public schools to first, second, third, seventh and eighth graders. Many members of the mission team were deeply touched. The team then broke into three groups. One continued work on the bathroom addition at the Methodist Retreat Center, building a cinder-block wall and digging a long trench to connect to the septic tank. A second group worked at the Hogar Del Nino orphanage, continuing the two-story classroom addition and playing with the children there. The last group painted one of the rooms at the Maryknoll Contemplative Community (where Sister Helen and Sister Connie live).

 

 

Gene and Dawn Branch at the John Wesley school

 

Carolyn McIntosh and Dawn Branch putting up a bathroom wall

 

Putting a second story on the orphanage classroom addition

         

 

 

Laurie Gilbert with Julian at the orphanage

 

John Williams with Luis at the orphanage

 

Kelly Estrada entertaining some of the orphanage children

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March 29, 2006

Today, we spent the morning on construction work and the afternoon running a Bible Camp. Half the team worked at the orphanage, continuing the second-story classroom addition. We added cinder blocks and prepared for the pouring of more concrete. The other half of the team worked at the Retreat Center on the trenches connecting the bathroom addition and the septic tank, and prepared for the Bible Camp. After lunch, we hosted about 200 children from the Lemoa area. We played with a parachute, jumped ropes, told the story of Noah's ark, sang songs, helped kids draw on a graffiti wall, presented a puppet show, put tattoos on the kids' hands, gave them crayons and coloring pages, and played ball and sack races with them in the nearby field. The entire team was highly energized by the interaction with the children.

The team's health continues to be generally good; there are minor sunburns, blisters, and gastrointestinal problems, but nothing too serious.

 

 

Jan Stull helping with the graffiti wall

 

Shelly Richards and Dawn Branch under the parachute

 

Rojo, the parrot (Rev. Dave Money), biting a child

         

 

 

Kelly Estrada narrating the puppet show

 

Ken Decker helping with the sack races

 

Betsy Keyack closing today's Bible Camp

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March 30, 2006

Today, Thursday, we continued our construction work in the morning and running the Bible Camp in the afternoon. Half the team hauled sand and added cinder blocks to the orphanage addition. The other half of the team hauled sand to raise the floor of the bathroom at the retreat center.

We estimate about 300 children showed up for today's Bible Camp. We repeated many of the same activities as yesterday, with slight modifications. The missionaries particularly enjoyed the free time before and after the formal camp activities, since we get to interact with smaller groups of children then.

We took up a collection a couple of days ago, to purchase corn, rice and oatmeal. Today, we delivered the last of these supplies to Sister Helen and Sister Connie at the Maryknoll Contemplative Community; they will be distributing this food to needy members of the community.

The team continues to enjoy all the activities, but some team members are beginning to tire from all the physical labor and the frantic pace of the Bible Camp.

 

 

Sister Connie with the food donations from our mission team

 

Caroline McIntosh helping with the graffiti wall

 

Betsy Keyack reads to children before the start of the Bible Camp

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March 31, 2006

On our last work day, we visited the local public elementary school in Lemoa (located between the retreat center and the orphanage). We were touched by the children and teachers, and how much they're able to do with what they have. The classrooms are crowded and supplies are limited; we're glad we were able to donate crayons and 3 white boards to the school.

The team poured concrete posts at the orphanage and prepared for the Bible Camp. About 400 kids showed up for the final day of the camp. Mass chaos reigned as we ran out of toothpaste at the teeth-brushing station and all the yarn for today's craft got tangled into one huge ball which couldn't be untangled. But we improvised and the children had a good time.

Tomorrow we begin our journey back to Denver, with an overnight stop in Antigua on the way to the airport in Guatemala City. It's been a wonderful, enriching mission trip, and many are already talking about a return trip next year.

 

 

Megan Stull and Laura Richards visit with children in the Lemoa public school

 

John Williams teaches the children how to brush their teeth

 

Sharon Williams saying goodbye to Sandra at the orphanage

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