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St. Luke's is conducting a return mission trip to Guatemala, from March 19 to March 28, 2010, in Lemoa in the department of Quiché near the highland center of Chichicastenango. Our previous construction mission trips were in March, 2005, March, 2006, March, 2007, March, 2008 and March, 2009. 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 to construct adobe homes for widows and orphans, building chicken coops to help widows earn extra income, and will also be spending time with children in Bible school programs. We may also do some work at the orphanage across the street. We will also spend time at the John Wesley School in nearby Santa Cruz del Quiché. Look here for the itinerary. See puravida.org for more details about Lemoa.
You may contact the missionary team while they are in Guatemala by sending email here.
(Click on any image to see a larger version)
March 20, 2010
Our entire team arrived safely in Guatemala City yesterday. The expected significant snowfall in Denver did not turn out to be a problem. We spent the night in SETECA, a seminary in Guatemala City.
Today, we drove in our "chicken bus" to Chichicastenango, where we will be staying until next Saturday. We visited the Mary Knoll sisters in nearby Lemoa, where we will be working. The sisters, Helen and Connie, spent time explaining the history of the civil wars in Guatemala, which left many widows and orphans. They took us to the work sites of the two adobe homes we will be helping build this week. Adobe 8 will be for Maria, an orphan, and her children. Adobe 9 will be for another Maria, a widow. It's been a tiring couple of days, and we haven't even done any work yet! But everyone is energized by thoughts of the week ahead.
March 21, 2010
We spent a relaxing day in Chichicastenango today. We started by spending half a day at the world-famous market, shopping for various Guatemalan goods to take home. The center of the market is mobbed with local and tourist shoppers, and walking through it is a truly unique experience. Many of us were also able to visit the colorful cemetery in the nearby hills. Some of us spent the afternoon putting together picture frames to be used at the bible camps later in the week. Then we visited the local Methodist church and attended Sunday evening services. We closed the day with devotions, led by Chris Wilterdink.
One of the things accomplished at the market today was helping some needy families in Chontala (where we will be working on Friday). The local pastor there, Jeronimo, asked us if we could help 7 families who currently don't have enough to eat. We passed the hat and bought 500 pounds of corn, 100 pounds of black beans, 100 pounds of rice, 100 pounds of powdered milk and some candy for the children. We'll deliver the food on Friday.
March 22, 2010
We spent our first day "working" today. Most of the team split into 2 groups; the "dads and daughters" group went to Adobe 9, and the other went to Adobe 8. Both teams put up quite a few courses of adobe blocks; the process consists of putting down mortar (mud) on top of and between the blocks in the previous course, laying down adobe blocks, and repeating. While you get filthy dirty doing it, comments were made that it isn't quite as difficult as it had been made out to be. We had a great time interacting with the families who will be moving into these homes and playing with all the local children .
Five of the team spent the morning at the John Wesley School about half an hour north in Santa Cruz del Quiche, getting ready for tomorrow's bible camp. We were impressed by the many improvements made at the school since last year: the reconstruction of the administrative wing, the addition of the new computer lab, and the refinishing of the outside of the school. We took and printed almost 250 photos of students, to be used in one of the craft exercises. We also were able to visit with the seven sponsored students supported by these five missionaries.
A few of the missionaries are suffering from sunburn, but everyone is excited about the work we are doing.
March 23, 2010
We had a great day today. We spent the morning at the John Wesley School in Santa Cruz del Quiche, which offers quality education from preschool through the twelfth grade. The students greeted us with cheers and balloons and performed singing and dancing for us. Then we conducted a Bible Camp for all the morning students. This included making picture frames for the photos of each student we had taken the day before, coloring, tattoos, a bible story, and recreation in their large open area (basketball, jumping rope, blowing bubbles, rockets, parachutes). The camp was slightly chaotic at times, but overall was a great success.
Then several team members met with the students they are sponsoring and exchanged gifts. Some of the students attend the John Wesley School, but several came from smaller villages as far as an hour and a half away. We were tired but exhilarated after leaving the school; many team members have a strong emotional bond with the John Wesley School.
In the afternoon, we continued adding courses of adobe blocks to our two adobe homes. We should be able to start on the roof tomorrow at both homes.
Sunburns continue to be a problem, but otherwise everyone is healthy.
March 24, 2010
We had another great day today. The work at the two adobe homes was somewhat sporadic. We are at the beginning of putting up the roof structures at both houses. Much of the work now can only be performed by skilled labor, so there were times we had nothing to do. We filled in the time by visiting the nearby orphanage, visiting with the owner of one of the homes we built last year, and spending a lot more time playing with the local children.
Ken spent the day shadowing Moises, one of the John Wesley School eleventh graders. He videoed much of Moises' daily activities, in preparation for a video about the day in the life of a John Wesley School student.
The pastor from one of the outlying towns came by our hotel in the evening to pick up three suitcases full of children's shoes that were donated by members of St. Luke's.
Most of the team is getting very tired, but everyone is feeling great about the trip so far.
March 25, 2010
Today was a good day but also a sad day; we said good-bye to the people we've been working with here in Lemoa.
We worked on and off during the morning on our two adobe homes. We jumped in whenever simple tasks, like handing mud up or handing adobe blocks up, were helpful to the construction workers. We also did some chores for sisters Connie and Helen, and we visited the orphanage again.
We started the afternoon by visiting one of the homes that we built last year. It was very interesting to see how it had been personalized by Jacinito and his family, and we were impressed by how clean and orderly it was. It was good to catch up with people we had worked with a year ago.
Then, along with the construction workers, the new home owners, the two sisters, and Amilcar and Fausto from the John Wesley School, we blessed Adobe 8 and Adobe 9. It was sad to leave all of our new friends.
The Chichicastenango market is open on Sundays and Thursdays, so a few of us did some last minute shopping.
March 26, 2010
Today did not start out well; three of our team are sick with gastro-intestinal problems. They stayed at the hotel to try to recuperate.
The rest of the group went to the small village of Chontala, about 20 minutes from Chichicastenango. In the morning, we split into three teams, each building a separate chicken coop. These coops allow local families to participate in a micro-loan project, borrowing money to buy baby chicks, raising them, and then selling the grown chickens. The posts and roof of each coop were already built for us. So we spent a couple hours putting in a concrete floor and finishing the coop with chicken wire.
In the afternoon, we conducted a bible camp for the children in the area. It started small with about a couple dozen children. But children continued to arrive throughout the afternoon. Plus many parents and grandparents showed up when they heard we were taking photos and giving away prints of them. It was chaotic at times but very rewarding.
Then Pastor Jeronimo used the rice, corn, beans and powdered milk that we had donated to make up food kits. He gave those out to needy families in the area.
We finished the day in Chontala by visiting with several students that various members of the team are sponsoring.
We had a farewell dinner in Chontala and said goodbye for now to Sisters Helen and Connie, and to Amilcar and Fausto from the John Wesley School.
It's off to Antigua tomorrow, for a little down time and maybe a little more shopping before we fly home to Denver. With the exception of today's illnesses, it's been a fantastic mission trip. We've accomplished everything we had planned. We've given of ourselves to the people in this area of Guatemala, and we've gotten back even more in return.