Guatemala Day Five

On the fifth day of being in Guatemala, we were all a little sad and excited to get up that morning because we knew it would be the last time we slept in Guatemala on this trip. I was ready to get home but I had the time of my life while I was there. Also, this morning I was feeling a little moody and like I wouldn’t enjoy or get as much out of this day because I was ready to go. Boy was I wrong. We drove on a bus for four hours to a church. Then, one of the friends of the preacher led us up to the village which was another hour away. Then we rode in the back of a pickup truck to the villages that were further back which was another long drive. Then we took a forty-five minute hike to the homes of the people receiving the blankets. The friend of the preacher that led us was so nice. There were actually two of them. They wouldn’t let us carry the blankets, they gave us umbrellas to hold over us since it was 100 degrees. When we finally got to the homes, they all ran around like they had been waiting on us. Again, a little grouchy I had to use the bathroom so I asked for the banos. A little girl who was very dirty with no shoes on led me to the bathroom. It was quite a walk from their house and when we got there it was, like the rest we had seen that week, a little rough. I opened the tin door as far as I could and slid through t he small crack it made. The toilet was a big piece of wood with a hole in it. I teared up a little thinking about how negative I’d been all day and this is what they have as a bathroom. I told myself that I was going to change my attitude for the rest of the day from then on. I finished my business and walked out and we headed back down to where everyone else was (the little girl waited on me). When we got back down to everyone else, they were all mingling and talking to each other best they could. I went up to a little girl holding her little sister and asked her if I could hold her. She gave her to me but she didn’t let me hold her long before she wanted her back. Oh, I forgot to mention that we were the second North Americans ever to be in this village, David being the first.

Guatemala Day Four!

On the fourth day of being in Guatemala, we painted the upstairs room of David’s house where missionaries are going to stay once it’s done. We got it done pretty quickly and towards the end, I went downstairs and helped Kimberly get the lice out of David’s grand kids’ hair. After that, Andrew, Adam, and James grilled hamburgers and hot dogs for lunch. Then, we went back to our hotel and showered and washed our own hair in the lice shampoo just to be safe. Then that night we went about forty-five minutes away to Pollo Campero (a chicken restaurant) and the mall. Pollo Campero was so good! It tasted like Chick Fil A. Then we went to the mall to buy David a new belt and Vickie some new shoes. After that we went back to our hotel and hung out and went to bed to get ready for our next and final day of ministry!

Guatemala Day Three

On the third day of being in Guatemala we had to get up super early! I think it was something like six?! We had to look a little nicer today because we were going to the dump, to feed the kids that are usually at the dump, and to David’s church. David got there to get us and we headed for the dump. There, we saw some eye opening things. We saw a little boy walking in only a t shirt-no pants and no shoes. There was glass everywhere. My heart broke and I was truly in shock. The other kids we had seen so far this week might have been poor but they had what they needed and were happy. This little boy was crying. He wasn’t happy. And all I could think about was why this little boy. Why did he have to live this way. He was also eating something that seemed to be submerged in a dirty bowl of water. We handed out treat bags to the few people that were there. We all walked away with our heads down, some crying; some confused. We started talking with David about what we could do to help. There were two guys there with us from the local church. They called the man over the dump and asked him how much the water tank costs to fill up each week. He said that it’s $5 per family twice a week. We started talking about how we could raise that easily in our church and send the money down for it once a month. When this was translated back to the owners, the price jumped up to $5 four times a week. After thinking about this, we didn’t want to be sending down money for this and the owner still taking money from these poor families so we decided not to do that. We got back on the bus still chatting about what had happened and what we saw. We then drove to the nearby area where the families that are usually at the dump come for breakfast. We pulled up with the windows down and I noticed immediately a little boy in a yellow shirt. He yelled “hola gringos”. Which is a derogatory word for foreigners. Lol.  He was so cute and had the biggest smile! We got off of the bus and went over to the area where the people were cooking. Once again, we sent down money prior so they could buy the food to cook. This morning we served the kids eggs, black beans, tortillas, and bread. It looked pretty good! But of course I didn’t eat any. The owner of the dump(the man we talked to about water) was there and James being James went up to him and asked him how did that change from twice a week to four times a week to which he responded “you just didn’t understand”. He then told James that he had to wash his own plate in the sink. We served the children and when they were done, we handed out their goodie bags and coloring pages. The little boy in the yellow came up to me and said “como se llama?” Which means what is your name? I told him me llama Alex. (my name is Alex) Then he wanted to know Susan’s name and then he introduced us to his brother Carlos. They were such cute, sweet boys. We really bonded with them! All of the kids including Carlos and Oscar kept coming up to me and saying photo photo photo! So we took lots of pictures together! I got to hold one little girl with a little sore on her nose. It really broke my heart because it didn’t look good and it’s nothing a little neosporin wouldn’t fix in the U.S. I would’ve given anything to have had something with me that day to put on it to make it better. When it was time to go every kid flocked around us grinning from ear to ear as they embraced these people that they didn’t even know. I’ll never forget the feeling of their arms wrapped around me. And all I could think of to myself is “I’ve done absolutely nothing”. All these kids wanted was to not feel forgotten and abandoned. I hugged and hugged these kids and David was saying “lets go”. I said David how can I say no to these kids that just want a hug? So I finished my hugs and we all hopped back on the bus and headed to church! We started out my singing in Spanish of course we didn’t sing but we listened and it was beautiful! One of the ladies at the church told me that I was muy Bonita which is very beautiful and I thought that was so sweet! After church David and Vickie had a surprise lunch for us. They took us to a steakhouse that had horses in the back. They ordered for us and we had a potato, black beans, avocado, green onions, steak, and chicken. It was amazing! After we ate, we got on the bus and rode back to our hotel. This night, we had chow mein and since I don’t like Chinese food, I brought Chef Boyardee that I brought with me from home! 🙂 It was fun and Adam shared his devotion this night and he also loved the chow mein! Also on this night, Terry got sick and had to have David take him back to the hotel. When we got back to our hotel that night, I opened my nightly letter and then sat outside on the patio with everyone! I think that might have been one of my favorite parts of the whole trip; was sitting outside with everyone and talking at night. 🙂 After I wrote in my journal, I went to bed!

Guatemala Day Two

On the second day of Guatemala, we had to be ready by 6:30 A.M. It seems that every morning it got earlier and earlier. 😉 As we were walking to the truck, We went to the village of Pinalito. While we were there we helped install two water tanks to two different families. One was the pastor of the church village. The other was just a really nice family. We had to drive to the church and then hike to these two houses which were miles apart from each other. Adam hiked to the first one with us but got sick and a little boy led him back to the truck wile we went to the next house. While we were at the first family’s house, they dusted off their stump seats for us to sit down. We waved “no, no. It’s okay” but they insisted. They treated us like celebrities or royalty. It was hard to see that. I wanted so bad to tell them, we’re just like you!  While at the second house they also gave us chairs to sit in while some of the guys installed the water tanks. They gave us oranges off of their orange tree and it was the best orange I’ve ever had! Also while we were there, they ran out of the kitchen offering Andrew and I corn juice and bread, which we respectfully declined.. But it was so sweet of them to get so excited to bring us something to eat! After that and taking some pictures with them we headed back down to the mountain to the church. There, David insisted that we eat lunch before serving the kids. As we got out our sandwiches, they all gathered around us and climbed on the truck and watched us eat. I told David that I wouldn’t be able to do that anymore. I couldn’t sit and watch a child watch me eat that hadn’t eaten. Jesus first. Others second. Yourself last. After we ate, we all went into the church and one of the people who lived in the village brought out the food. We sent the money in advance and they bought the ingredients and prepared it! They made a chicken gumbo with white rice and three tortillas each.  We served all of the kids and the parents too! Also in Guatemala, it’s part of their culture that when the children turn five, they start taking care of their younger siblings. I noticed that when I looked around to make sure everyone had a plate to try to avoid what happened the day before, there was a girl feeding her little sister. I also noticed that her little sister had Downs Syndrome. Anyone that knows me knows that that’s where my heart is. I love all special needs people but something about Downs Syndrome kids just melts my heart to pieces and I want to take them home with me! The older sister was probably anywhere from eight to ten while the younger sister was anywhere from ten months to a year old. The older sister selflessly fed this little girl. Most of the other children feed themselves a bite and then their sibling and so on. This little girl had her food set to the side while she fed her younger sister. A mixture of things ran through my head but all of a sudden the Lord told me “Alex go feed that girl so her sister can eat”. Being the stubborn person that I am, I of course didn’t listen at first. I though yeah right and how embarrassing will it be trying to ask her if she needs help when I can’t speak a lick of Spanish. I proceeded to walk around making sure everyone had food. I looked up and saw that sweet girl smile at me, still feeding her younger sister like it was no bother at all. I felt it again, go feed that little girl. So I went up to David and asked him if he could ask the little girl in Spanish if she wanted me to feed her little sister so she could eat. She accepted, and while her sister was hesitant at first, she smiled at me with those big brown eyes and went in for a bite. Every time I look at either of them, they smiled so big! I sat on my knees for forty-five minutes while she ate and enjoyed every bit of it! When she was done, I walked away with her plate. Her mother ran up to me and asked if she could take it home for later. Of course I gave it back to her. That little girl taught me so much about selflessness and putting other’s first. I will always remember both of them! After they ate, we watched them sing all of their songs they’ve learned. David wasn’t kidding when he told us that they would sing every song. But I loved it! Then we stood outside of the church while the preacher’s wife made a list of all of the kids and announced their name and they came out and got their goodie bags. Their faces just lit up! Something so small meant so much to them! Even us just being there made their day. And ours too! Then the preacher’s wife announced the parent’s names and they got a blanket and we also had some women’s flip flops to hand out! When it was time to go I held the little girl that I got to feed and took a picture with her and her sister. A lady came up to Susan with her baby and wanted to pray with her so I also got to hold her baby! She was beautiful or as I told her, muy bonita! 😉 Then we told them all goodbye and drove away with broken yet joy filled hearts. This ride was also twice as ride as the day before and we were happy to eventually get back on solid ground. Adam unfortunately didn’t make it to dinner that night as he was still sick but we had meatloaf. And after that, David took us back to our hotel to prepare for our next day! And we had to get up even earlier.. 😉

Guatemala Day One

I went on my first mission trip this past year. I went with a group from my church to Camotan, Guatemala. We have a church member, David Byrd, who is a missionary there. We flew out at 8:00 A.M on December 29. This was the longest that I’ve been away from my mom or my nieces and even though I knew it would just be a week, it was hard. Especially with my mom having just beat cancer this year. But anyways, we landed in Atlanta at around 9 A.M. Our layover in Atlanta wasn’t bad. We just went through security and some of us ate breakfast before we got on the plane. The plane ride from Atlanta to Guatemala was three and a half hours. Which isn’t bad compared to traveling to some places. When we arrived, I exchanged $40 that my boss gave me and told me to exchange it for quetzals to hand out to people. Then David and his wife Vicki were there with the bus. The bus was really nice inside. My whole family joked before we left that it wouldn’t have a top on it and would have rusted out seats. But it was much better than that! We even had a driver! The bus ride took about 5 hours but we stopped for McDonald’s on the way there. I’ll be honest, I was extremely nervous to eat it but it was better than our McDonald’s here! I ate a double cheese burger and fries and it was amazing. When we got close to David and Vickie’s house, the bus driver took us to our hotel which was surprisingly nicer than we all thought it would be. It was called Hotel Ramirez in Jocotan, Guatemala. It was a gated hotel and all of our rooms had air conditioning. After checking out the rooms, we all went to David’s for supper. This night was a Thursday and we had homemade chicken soup. We also got to meet David and Vickie’s grand kids this night. Brayden is 7, Brent is 6, and Brianna is 3! They were the sweetest things and definitely helped with me missing my nieces. Then we were all tired so David took us back to our hotel and we took showers and went to bed. I also had a different letter to open every day from my friends and family. They were super special to me as it felt like a piece of home. My sister Kirstie put that together for me and I loved it! My first letter was from her and my mom. Also that night we realized that our hotel had wifi so I could Facetime my mom and nieces! The next morning, we had to be ready by 6:45 A.M. That wasn’t too bad for me because I’m usually already up. When David got there to get us we walked out to the street and saw his pickup truck sitting there. As we all just kind of stared in confusion he said “well, hop in!” We stood in the back of this pickup truck(luckily there were bars around the bed) as we drove up a mountain. But it was also pouring down rain and only one side of my shirt got soaked for some reason. But when we got to the village of Pastor Israel none of that mattered. The looks on his children’s’ faces were completely and totally worth it! They smiled just because. They didn’t need a reason. I think this was the first time I’d ever seen true happiness. Like just happiness just because. They didn’t even know that we had brought them gifts. After the preacher and his family had cooked, all of the kids in the “children’s program” came to their house. They had a chicken and vegetable soup and tortillas. Some kids were scraping their bowls. Then I happened to look up and notice a little boy standing by the gate that goes into their home. I looked over and asked James why he wasn’t eating. He said I don’t know but I’m going to ask. He came back over and said that he couldn’t eat because he wasn’t “part of the children’s program”. That just really tore mine and James’ hearts in two. I don’t care if a child is “part of a program” or not. I’m not gonna stand there and watch him watch these other kids eat not knowing when the last time he got to eat was. And neither was James. He marched right back over there and said well it’s a special occasion and he might not eat when I’m not here but I am here so he will eat. And by golly that little boy ate! And he didn’t leave a drop either. I don’t think I’ll ever forget that about James. He has a true heart of gold and would give anyone the shirt off of his back. After we served the kids, we quickly downed our sandwiches as we were anxious to get back to these kids, some of which were huddled around the room watching us eat because they’d never seen a sandwich before. We then headed right down the road to the church and set up for our puppet show. The kids loved it! I was the daughter, Lucy. Adam was the dad, Kimberly was the mom, and Andrew was the son, Raul. The puppet show was called I love you daddy. When we finished the puppet show we made the puppets sing to entertain the kids while Kimberly got the next activity ready. Which was giving the kids their little treat bags and blankets! The kids sat at their seats patiently while we compared our flip flops to their little muddy feet to make sure they would at least somewhat fit them. The giggles as they opened their little goody bags was worth everything in that moment. I remember thinking back to the countless nights of working two jobs to get there and thinking it was worth every single second. I’ll have the sound of those giggles in my memory forever. Something I’ll never forget.. There was one particular boy who had big chocolate brown eyes, a striped collard shirt, and patches on the knees of his pants. He was a cute little thing. Susan came over to me and said we forgot him. I said what? She said we forgot him and he was just sitting there without anything. My heart just broke even more. In most of America, a little kid who was left out of something would be sure to let someone know right away. But this little boy just sat there. I still wonder what was going through his head. Was he thinking why am i different? Why am I the only one who didn’t get one? Or was he thinking that it was normal? Or did he not even know what to think because maybe he’s never gotten anything like this? I still think about what if we hadn’t seen him? Would he have just ran home smiling with the other kids still beaming with excitement that someone came to see him? That is a moment I will never forget. But I do love the picture I keep in my head of his glowing face when he saw his blanket. It made me think of the kids who open clothes or maybe even a toy they didn’t want on Christmas and just toss it to the side as the family laughs. But this little boy got a blanket. A tool to keep him warm and he made the same face I made when I got a motor scooter for Christmas when I was little. That very moment changed how my kids will view Christmas. They will be very aware that not every child has the things they do. And I don’t plan on giving my children every material thing that they want either. So after the kids got their treat bag and blankets James and a little boy whistled at each other as they all ran the opposite direction that we were driving. Those little feet just running as fast as they could, dust flying as they were just dying to get home and play with those little toys or snuggle up with their little blankets. It was a heart wrenching day that was full of emotions but it was an amazing day at that. After that, we drove back down the mountain in the back of the pickup truck and went back to our hotel to take showers and get ready for supper. That night we had lasagna and it was amazing! Then had our devotion which I believe was Andrew’s night and played with the kids. Then David took us home to rest up for our next day!

 

This is one of Pastor Israel’s sons!
This is one of Pastor Israel’s daughters. I think she’s just beautiful!
This is the little boy that we accidentally skipped. I’ll never forget that look on his face!