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St. Luke's is conducting two return construction mission trips to Guatemala. The Week 1 trip is from March 11 to March 20, 2011, and the Week 2 trip is from March 18 to March 27, 2011. The work will be centered 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, March, 2009 and March, 2010. 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 and 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.
The Week 2 team consists of 31 members, including 2 holdovers from Week 1.
Click on any image to see a larger version.
March 12, 2011
We flew through Houston to Guatemala City on Friday, March 11. We spent the night at SETECA, a seminary in Guatemala City. This morning, we took a "chicken bus" to Chichicastenango. Then we visited the Mary Knoll sisters Helen and Connie in Lemoa. Sister Connie leads the adobe home building program and explained who we would be building homes for during the next two weeks. We drove by one of the home sites. The building is farther along than we had expected, which may limit how much work we can do on it.
March 13, 2011
The morning was spent at the world-famous market in Chichicastenango. Much bargaining and buying took place. After lunch, we visited another famous Chichicastenango landmark, the Cemetery. We visited the grave of Margarita, a student who had been sponsored by Bob Utter. She died when a mudslide destroyed her home in the village of Paquixic. One of our projects starting tomorrow will be to build a replacement cinder block home for her family. Then we attended Sunday evening services at the local Methodist Church, where Rev. Janet Forbes was asked to give an impromptu sermon.
March 14, 2011
Today was our first day of work, and we split into multiple teams. One team went to Paquixic to work on the replacement cinder block home for Margarita's family. Meeting Margarita's family was an extremely emotional event. The work was very fulfilling; the concrete foundation was finished and the work on the cinder block walls will begin tomorrow.
Another team went to the John Wesley School in Santa Cruz del Quiche, to take photos of all the students for tomorrow's bible camp, and to meet some of our sponsored students. Another team began work on the "Lemoa 1" adobe home, and the final team began work on "Lemoa 2." Several rows of abode blocks were added to each home. In the afternoon, some of the team members also visited the Hogar del Nino orphanage in Lemoa; they played with some of the younger orphans and taught English to some of the older ones.
It was a very good day, and everyone is upbeat, tired and healthy.
March 15, 2011
We spent the morning today at the John Wesley School conducting a Bible Camp for over 250 kids, from preschool through sixth grade. The kids made picture frames with photos of themselves, made bracelets, listened to a bible story, and did recreational activities in the school courtyard. We closed out the camp by handing out hearts that said "Jesus loves you" in Spanish, and with a closing benediction given by Janet Forbes. The bible camp occasionally seemed choatic, but the kids enjoyed it and overall went very well.
In the afternoon, we split up and worked at multiple locations. The "Lemoa 1" group continued putting up courses of adobe block and began on the roof structure. The "Lemoa 2" (now called Wisteria Lane) group added several courses of adobe block. The Paquixic group added several courses of cinder block. Another group distributed the "lightly used" shoes that had been donated to the children at the orphanage.
Some of the missionaries also were able to meet with their sponsored students in Santa Cruz del Quiche, Patulup and Lemoa.
We had one injury today, when a heavy concrete pylon was dropped on a finger.
March 16, 2011
Today was our first full construction day. One team worked at Lemoa 1; they got almost all the bricks up and the ceiling rafters up. They should be starting the roof rafters shortly. The second team worked at Lemoa 2 / Wisteria Lane and are almost at the same point as Lemoa 1.
The third team worked at Paquixic and have now completed 5 complete courses of cinder blocks. Their next step will be to pour concrete for the bonding row that will tie all their work to date together.
It was overcast all day and rained a bit, but not enough to really hamper our work.
We were again able to connect with some more sponsored students who came to visit our various work locations.
One missionary didn't duck quite enough and ran headlong into the end of a wooden beam. There was a lot of bleeding at the top of the head, but the wound was not serious enough to warrant stitches.
March 17, 2011
We started the day by visiting the home of Pastor Tomas, who is the pastor of the church in Paquixic. This helped us better understand how people in rural Guatemala live. We were shown one of the two looms that he owns. He makes woven goods that he sells to support his family, since pastors in the Guatemala Methodist Church need outside occupations to support themselves.
Then one group went to the Paquixic building site, where they completed pouring concrete into the bonding row and corner columns, plus adding a sixth row of cinder block. The other two groups worked at Lemoa 1 and Lemoa 2 / Wisteria Lane. Those two homes are at the point where most of the work can only be done by the skilled local workers. So we helped by moving adobe blocks around, but weren't able to do much more. We did spend a lot of time meeting with additional sponsored students.
We closed the day by dedicating all three homes. Lemoa 2 / Wisteria Lane was dedicated by the 4 missionaries from Lakewood United Methodist Church, who raised the funds for the home. Lemoa 1 was dedicated by Janet Forbes and Laura Richards. The Paquixic home was dedicated by Kayla Boos, representing the Utter family (who donated funds for the home) and Pastor Tomas.
There were no new serious injuries, but gastrointestinal problems and sunburns have begun affecting a few of the team members.
March 18, 2011
We started the day by driving up a very narrow road to the very rural village of Pocohil I. The road was so narrow that our "chicken bus" had to stop at the bottom of the last hill and its occupants walked the last quarter-mile (our smaller 15-passenger van made it all the way). We split into 4 groups and each finished a chicken coop, by pouring a concrete floor and adding chicken wire. With the coops and money from us, 4 families in Pocohil will be able to supplement their income by buying chickens, raising and selling them, and repeating the cycle.
In the afternoon, we conducted a Bible Camp for over 100 children at the Methodist Church in Pocohil. We did photo frames (printing photos of everyone on-the-fly), bracelets, tattoos, stories, and recreation. The camp went very well. We also printed lots of photos of the children's mothers.
We met the 31 people in the Week 2 group at dinner and had communion together. Unfortunately, it was our only time together.
We're off to a day of rest, relaxation and shopping in Antigua tomorrow, and then we fly off to the US on Sunday. Everyone is healthy; it's been a terrific mission trip.
March 19-20, 2011
On Saturday, the Week 1 Team drove to Antigua and did some shopping and sightseeing. On Sunday, most of the team returned to the US. Ken Fong and Jeff Suntken flew to Tikal to visit the Mayan ruins.
The Week 2 Team visited Lake Atitlan on Saturday. On Sunday morning, they shopped in the Chichicastenango market. In the afternoon, they attended services at the local Methodist Church and sang for the congregation.
March 21, 2011
Monday started with a visit to the John Wesley School in Santa Cruz del Quiche. The students at the school gave an hour-long presentation in honor of the team, including a performance by their marching band. The team then distributed wooden toy cars which had been donated in Denver. Some of the missionaries visited with their sponsored students.
In the afternoon, Ken Fong and Jeff Suntken rejoined the team and we began our work projects. One team went to work on Adobe 1, which consists of two small buildings. We are laying some of the lower courses of adobe blocks, and spending a lot of time playing with the young children in the area.
A second team is working on Adobe 2, which is relatively far along. The roof structure is being constructed, and much of the work can only be done by the local skilled workers. The missionaries mostly moved adobe blocks and hauled water, and there were periods when they had to wait for more to do.
The third team is continuing work on the cinder block home in Paquixic.
We also visited one of last week's projects, Lemoa 1, which is now finished.
One of the missionaries hurt their knee today. Or at least that's the reason they're giving for no longer carrying adobe blocks.
March 22, 2011
One of the groups of missionaries returned to the John Wesley School today to paint two of the upstairs classrooms which were finished at the beginning of this year. They also began work on forming a "booster club" for the school's marching band. Apparently, a marching band is very important for a school of John Wesley's size. The band is in desperate need for band instruments, so an effort has begun to raise funds to purchase those instruments.
We had teams continuing to work at Adobe 1 and Paquixic. At Paquixic, the two side walls are now as high as the back wall. There was not much that we could do at Adobe 2 today, so we started adding a courtyard wall to last week's Lemoa 2 / Wisteria Lane project, which was finished after the Week 1 team left.
Several of the team members also visited the orphanage at the end of the day, to play with the children there.
And we were able to meet with more of the students sponsored by members of the team.
There were no significant injuries today, but sunburning may be a problem soon.
March 23, 2011
The John Wesley School Band Boosters Club was founded yesterday. Today, several members of our team went to Santa Cruz del Quiche to help the Club make its first purchases of instruments for the school's marching band. Thanks to generous donations from 10 member families, we were able to purchase 11 trumpets, 4 trombones, 2 tri-toms and one bass drum. Now the marching band starts the process of learning how to play the many new instruments, a process with which Jim Ramsey will be assisting.
Part of the team also continued the painting at the school.
In the morning, due to a miscommunication, 3 sponsored students arrived in Lemoa in the morning instead of the afternoon; consequently, work on Adobe 1 and Wisteria Lane went slowly in the morning as several families spent time with their students. Adobe 1 has two rooms like the other homes being constructed, but they are separate buildings. Courses of blocks were added to both buildings. We added courses of blocks on the wall at Wisteria Lane until we ran out of blocks.
Quite a few of the team members spent the afternoon at the orphanage, playing with the children there.
In Paquixic, the walls are now up to the level of the back except for one row on the wall in the middle of the house. The window openings have been completed. The doors have been framed and are ready to have the concrete columns around them poured.
After our devotions tonight, Pastor Juan from one of the local villages stopped by and picked up some of the shoes that had been donated in Denver.
The team is experiencing some mild gastrointestinal problems and some red skin, but otherwise is healthy and in good spirits. Week 2 seems to be less accident prone than Week 1.
March 24, 2011
All of a sudden, people are starting to get sick with various ailments. That, plus a heavy homework load, caused 5 people to stay at the hotel today. The rest of the team started the day by traveling to Paquixic to visit the home of Pastor Tomas. It helped the team better understand what life is like in rural Guatemala. After that, everyone worked on Adobe 1: we moved adobe blocks and hundreds of clay tiles which will be used for the roof. Isabella, the future homeowner of Adobe 1, generously purchased soft drinks for the entire team.
After lunch, we dedicated Adobe 1 and Adobe 2. We gave a cross to the homeowners at each location. Then we took more shoes to the Sisters and to the orphanage, before saying goodbye to Lemoa.
March 25, 2011
They were dropping like flies, today ... must be something in the water. Many of the team members were getting sick on and off all day today. We definitely had more health problems (mostly gastrointestinal) than during week 1.
Our first activity of the day was building four chicken coops in the rural village of Chontala. Some of the team members chose the chicken coop site closest to the church ... and its bathroom.
The community offered to prepare a chicken soup lunch for us. This turned out to be an extremely generous offer; the lunch turned out to be more of a feast than just soup.
After lunch, we conducted a bible camp; we had prepared for 100 kids. Chaos ensued when about 250 children showed up. We ran out of supplies. We finally had to cut off taking and printing photos of each child after 2 1/2 hours. With the exception of a few mothers whose children didn't get crayons or toothbrushes, everyone (children and missionaries) seemed to have a good time anyway.
Then we donated bags of food to individual needy families in Chontala, working through Jeronimo Mateo, the local Methodist pastor and our host.
In the evening we had a wrapup devotion. Tomorrow we go to Antigua, to begin the process of returning to the real (?) world. One of the team members summarized the feelings of many by saying that they couldn't have imagined this year's trip being even better than last year's; but they were wrong.