Our four sick mission workers were largely recovered
after a good night’s sleep. After a
pancake and fresh fruit breakfast, we said our good-byes to Marina and set off
with Otto to Lago de Atitlán. Our group was
down to 12 as John and Nicholas decided to stay behind at the B&B to rest.
Otto drove us through the Guatemalan countryside –
around and around and up the mountains and then up even further before we
started our descent to Lake Atitlán. As we drove
through the villages and towns, we had to roll up the windows to avoid the
black clouds of diesel fumes from the colourful chicken buses and the trucks
over-flowing with fresh produce. We
enjoyed the two and a half hour drive taking in the beautiful scenery, local
people and the mountains while continuing to share our thoughts and feelings
about the week.
From Panajachel, we took a boat across Lago de Atitlán. The lake was beautiful with small villages and
villas along the shores against the backdrop of volcanoes topped by clouds. In Santiago Atitlán, we walked
through an indigenous market area and visited the church Iglesia Parroquial
which was built in 1571-1582.
of us were then taken in the back of a pick-up truck for a five minute ride
through the very steep streets. We
who is revered throughout Guatemala and is thought to be a combination of Maya
gods, a Spanish conquisitor and Judas.
He is kept in the home of a local Mayan Catholic and moves around
regularly. After a relaxing lunch on the
patio at a nearby hotel, we continued our journey around the lake.
Most of us slept during our return journey to Antigua as
the emotional and physical week caught up with us. We returned to the B&B to pick up our
luggage (the 22 checked bags we arrived with had been reduced to 14 and we had
significantly reduced our carry-ons; three of our suitcases were now full of
coffee for another mission team’s fundraising).
It was another hour through heavy traffic to get to our
hotel in Guatemala City. With plans to
leave for the airport at 4:15 am, we had a quick dinner, a hot shower and fell
into our comfortable beds for a few hours of sleep.
Already we were missing being with the AOJ staff and the
hugs and smiling faces of the children – but we were all excited about the
prospect of the next mission trip.
Our team was absolutely awesome. We started out as a group of 14 individuals
who were excited about the opportunity to go and share Jesus’ love with the
people of Guatemala. But we were uncertain
and maybe a bit apprehensive about exactly what we would experience. Throughout the week we shared experiences and
memories that will last our lifetimes. As
a group, we got to know each other in a way that cannot happen in our normal
day-to-day lives. We return from
Guatemala as a family of fourteen, forever changed by the experience.
We had an early start (7:00am) and were greeted with the sounds of
the school children enthusiastically singing “This is the Day” as we entered
the school grounds. They were led by
Pastor David who was accompanying the students on the new keyboard which we
delivered earlier in the week. We participated in the morning devotions where
Pastor Fred presented the story of Zacchaeus with team members playing the role
of “Jesus”, “the tree”, and the voice of Zacchaeus. The smallest child in the school was given
the starring role of Zacchaeus and was placed at the top of the “Nicholas”
tree. The drama made the children laugh. Pastor Fred said a few words about the
message in the story; you can’t hide from God; the command to be obedient;
readiness to change and be changed by God.
We also had some fun teaching the kids a new song “Peace Like a River”.
There were lots of smiles and laughter as they tried to mimic and keep up with
the actions being demonstrated by the team.
A special presentation, which was a local dance performed by the
grade 4 students was a touching farewell tribute on behalf of the students and
staff of the school to the team as this was our last day at the school.
Following morning devotions the team was taken on a tour of the AOJ
office in downtown Parramos and the construction workshop where the panels for
the homes are made. The workshop setup
was an impressive operation given that the team assembles the walls panels (16
per house) for over 50 homes per year out of this location.
During the remainder of the morning, the team spread out (at the
school campus) to complete a number of remaining activities which included a
photography workshop; a follow-up round
table discussion with the social workers; completion of the craft item that was
started on Day 5, and continuation of the painting of the perimeter wall – the
team completed approx 300 feet of wall
over the 2 days.
Just before lunch team members who were sponsoring children were
able to meet their sponsored child and family and spend some time
together. This was a very precious time
talking with the children (with the help of a translator) learning about the
children’s interests, playing with them and sharing hugs.
We were honoured with a beautifully prepared and presented lunch at
the AOJ Kids Restaurant. We were served
by the children who wore traditional clothing.
These children are in training as waiters and waitresses and were
enthusiastic in showing us their skills, while serving with pride.
After lunch it was time to gather our stuff together and to bid
farewell. (final team pictures, and
hugs from the children and the staff.) We left with mixed emotions - we had
accomplished all of the planned activities, but we know there is still so much
more to do and will miss the wonderful children and staff that we met.
In the evening the team and members of AOJ went to dinner for to
thank the leadership of AOJ for a wonderful week and to share the highlights
experienced by each team member.
Today was a full day of work at the AOJ School, and in the workshop. Most of the team spent the day painting the concrete wall surrounding the school grounds. The 10 foot wall ensures safety and security for the children while they attend school. At times it seemed there was more paint on us than on the walls we were painting. We did manage to complete approximately 150 feet of wall. What a difference a little bit of terra cotta & white paint makes in further transforming the school grounds into a warm and welcoming environment for learning and playing.
Some members of the team went to the workshop to build house wall panels with the construction staff that will be used for the next build team who arrive in May. The group enjoyed getting to know Julio and Rudolfo and gaining an appreciation for the work and preparation that goes into building a home. This group was able to build a total of 16 panels (over a day and a half) , the exact number needed to build one home.
A visit to the Community Library where team members brought bulletin board sets, seasonal decorations and miscellaneous stationery items were welcomed by Janet, the Librarian. Students from the local public school across the street from the library helped to decorate – they were very helpful and friendly. New bulletin boards, a community calendar, a birthday board and several other items provided a boost of colour and excitement for the children of Parramos who use the Library. In the afternoon, Pastor Fred shared an encouraging message of God’s Love, with 30 young children as an introduction to the movie “The 10 commandments.”
A Craft workshop led by members of team was held in the afternoon and attended by members of the school staff where a new craft (embroidered pin cushion) was shown. AOJ looks for handmade craft ideas that students can make and are items which could also be sold in the AOJ kids market which goes toward supporting the mission. This activity gives the students an opportunity to learn new skills and provides additional product ideas for the market. For this craft, the students learned basic embroidery. A number of other craft ideas were discussed that would sought after and valued by Mission Teams and other visitors to the school. Students will be shown this craft on Friday.
Team members were worn out by the end of the day, but were pleased with all that was accomplished in support of the AOJ Children's Mission.
What a day it was today! This is when Sport Stacking hit Guatemala for the first time. Today was a day of fun at the AOJ school. The school has close to 500 students from JK to Grade 6. Half attend school in the morning and the other half in the afternoon. They are all adorable and very enthusiastic.
We treated the staff to lunch today and dined alfresco with lovely white cloths decorating the tables on the basketball court. Lunch was delicious and we later found out that the meal was prepared over a wood stove.
The students were all excited , the older ones wanted to go at ‘rapido’ speed…they need some more practice and who knows who will emerge as the Guatemalan champion for Sport Stacking. We played a variety of games using the sport stack cups including relay games, speed games and games promoting agility. The great thing about Sport Stacking is that language is not a problem, as this sport is very visual. We only needed to know the words for uno (1), tres (3), seis (6) and diez (10)
The afternoon also gave one of our team members an opportunity to do a workshop with the social workers. What was evident was that many of the challenges facing families in Guatemala occur in Canadian families. This eased some of the pain that the social workers see every day as they feel they are not alone in the issues they face daily. We have heard many times of those who are referred to as the “forgotten” who live in this region. The ‘forgotten” live in isolated villages and it is easy to marginalize them and the needs that they have. We bore witness to the distances and challenges that face them every minute of their day when we built homes on Monday.
Another team member shared time in the kitchen with the school cook and they shared some cooking tips and prepared Canadian style pancakes and served it complete with Canadian maple syrup. This truly was a pioneer meal, as it too was prepared on the wood stove.
An honorable mention should be made to those of the Amberlea team who rose to the challenge of a basketball game against the AOJ staff. Sadly, it was not Amberlea’s day despite some good plays.
It was truly an uplifting day as we all engaged in time with these very special people. The smiles are infectious and the love was contagious. The hugs and the greetings from the children are too numerous to count and we have all been touched to our core.