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Archive for the ‘prayer’ Category

I have been thinking and praying for a while about reaching out to the women on the Limon side of the ghetto. Not just the mothers of the kids in the schools, but the women in the community of La Limonada, at large. After a staff meeting last week at Mandarina, my unspoken goals were redeemed. Tita announced that Mandarina was going to start a group for women… exactly the thing that I was wanting to do at our school. I spoke to Tita after the meeting and let her know that this was something that I had been wanting to start for a while at Limon. She told me to go for it. So, this Monday, I announced to the teachers at Limon that I intended to start a group for women on Wednesdays, during our lunch hour. The group would meet for thirty minutes and would be an opportunity for women to come in to the school to talk, pray, and share together. Signs were made and taped to the school’s two doors, inviting the women of La Limonada into our school.

Finally, my desire to reach out to the community with something that I truly care about. I immediately got nervous. What could I share with these people? I’m not biblically educated. I’m a novice in my relationship with God. What could I possibly have to offer? At Tita’s request, I read John 4, the story of the Samaritan Woman at the well. I chose to not take the religious aspect of the story, but the social one. Jesus broke social barriers by being a Jew who spoke to a Samaritan, something that just was not done. By being the first to break the barriers, Jesus was met with hostility by the woman. Eventually, the woman becomes a disciple of Jesus. Barriers have been broken and services to God are honored.

I chose to use this example by twisting it a little bit… using the group as the break down of barriers between the school and the community by welcoming the women into the school. For thirty minutes we kept the door to the class room that faces the street open… something that is rarely done at the school. The cool breeze came through the class room as I shared my thoughts with the women that came to our meeting (and the teachers who chose to stay). I told them that I believe that the women of La Limonada are the power and strength behind this community. I say this because they are producing future generations of children that will grow up here. They are the leading examples of strength and love. The schools are just here to help out. All in all, the meeting went very well. The women were comfortable opening up to us, and I was satisfied with the turnout of three for our first week.

On another note, just after the morning session was released today, the gang members decided to hang out on our front porch. This was our opportunity to go and speak to them. I hung back, as being a gringa, I wasn’t sure of how well received I would be. After a few minutes, I joined the group talking outside. One of the guys asked if he could have my eyes, because he says that they are beautiful. “Ojos de gato” (cat eyes) is a phrase that I hear very often, sometimes several times a day. I was pleased to finally meet the guys who have been hanging around the school. They were very welcoming and respectful. One of them went home to get his infant son to show off to us. Needless to say, he was a beautiful.

It was a very good day.

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The Limon side of the ghetto has been experiencing an increase in violence in the past month. The team at La Limon has decided to start doing something about this. We have decided to begin making home visits more of a priority, after the Semana Santa holiday. Today, I got to go on my first official house visit on the Limon side. The mother of one of our older students had a baby this past Saturday… the name of the child has yet to be determined.

“W” is a tough cookie. He is one of the smaller boys in his class. He is approximately 12 years old. His father is apparently serving a 30 year prison sentence. His favorite name for me (and apparently for April) is “gringa”. Usually, I am acknowledged on the day of English class with a sideways stare that accompanies a snide “gringa” with a head-nod. On good days, he says “hola gringa”. Those are good days in class with “W”. This kid is smart… not only street smart, but is a decent student too. Today “W” gave me the chance, for the first time, to like him. It was a good day.

“W” welcomed us into his home that he shares with his mother, grandfather, and 5 day old baby brother. We were welcomed into the home with hugs and offers of a seat on the beds. The house has no windows. The perforated tin roof has a plastic piece that allows natural light to enter the dwelling. The house smelled of fried platanos and the dog that was hanging around our feet. “W” was mostly smiles… when he wasn’t combatting April with the name “gringa”, and she back with him with the name “little boy” (in English so that he didn’t know what it meant). We visited “W” and his family for a bit and passed around the new addition of the family, with mom looking on proudly. It was a beautiful time.

On another encounter in the ghetto this afternoon, the mother of one of the younger (and probably most adorable kid that I have ever seen) students asked us to pray for her in the alley way on the way to our home visit. She had recently found out that she is 2 months pregnant. However, she had been taking shots every month for birth control. She had the shot last month, and now the doctors are concerned that there may be a problem with the baby. She has been ordered to bedrest. She is the mother of two other small boys, both under the age of 6. This makes it virtually impossible for her to remain in bed. I’m concerned for “R” and her health. She has a beautiful spirit, and a gorgeous family.

Coming back from lunch break this afternoon, Monika (one of the teachers at La Limon) took us on a tour of another barrio… the one where she grew up. I was excited to check out this new and unexplored barrio. This barrio has a public school, a private school, several churches, and wider roads. I was confused as to how this area seemed so advanced over the Mandarina and Limon areas. I admit that I was excited at the prospect of a new escuelita being built in this area, someday. I would really like to further explore other barrios in La Limonada at some point.

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For the past couple of weeks, the team serving at La Limon has been dealing with difficulties on our side of the ghetto. There has been a surge of violence. Families falling apart. Increase in gang activity. Various family problems with different students coming to surface. All of these, and more, have been weighing heavily on our hearts and minds. I find myself waking up in the night to think about this kid or that one. Why was “A” crying in class today? What happens to little “C” when he goes home tonight?

Today we were blessed with a time of release… all of the teachers and staff members at Limon were brought together for a time of prayer. The amazing group of folks from Origins Church in Boulder, Colorado gave us the chance to let it all out. For about an hour today, the group of seven sang, prayed, talked, and comforted the staff of La Limon. The staff of Limon went through an emotional rollercoaster of thoughts and feelings. I was emotionally exhausted at the end of the session. I know that all of the teachers and staff at Limon appreciated having this time to reflect.

Thanks to everyone who visited from Origins Church… you have been wonderful guests.

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The last 24 hours have been a roller coaster of emotions. I started yesterday morning with the news that Cherie had purchased my plane ticket home to visit my family in May. I was so happy… not because I want to leave Guatemala, but because it’s been over 3 months since I have seen my nieces, and I miss them so much.

After a productive morning at Limon, I made an unexpected house visit with Tita, Inna, and April. The visit was to the sister of a person I work closely with at Limon. The family issues that this girl is taking on are amazing. Her father left the family to be with a prostitute, who is also practicing witchcraft (the evil kind, not the happy-hippie-nature-loving kind). The father says that he wants to return to the family, but he feels drawn to the prostitute when he is not around her. The girl has also decided that she no longer wants to go to college, which would most likely be her only way out of the ghetto later in life. She has started dating a gang member.

I ended up getting the story behind one of the most intelligent students that I have met… who also happens to be in my favorite class. She’s been beating her sister, who is two years younger than she is. I asked Sofi if I could sit in on the conversation that was going to take place with this student. I needed her to know that she is so bright and beautiful. She has so much potential. She cried. She cries at the school because she doesn’t cry at home. Her mother has left her and her sister with a relative. Her father is dead. Before her father died, he beat her. Once, dragging her from the shower to do so.

On the walk from the Limon side to meet the rest of the team on the Mandarina side, I saw a boy sniffing glue. He couldn’t have been more than 14. Not only was he sniffing the glue, but there were two bottles of glue in a pothole that he was lighting on fire so that the smaller boys could sniff the fumes.

During the Life of Hope meeting last night, I watched Shorty talk to the gang members in a small house on the Mandarina side. About 6 gang members showed up for the meeting last night. It was as if he were speaking only to them. One of the gang members was so into the message that Shorty was delivering… his face lit up, he was smiling and laughing. He was consumed with what Shorty had to say. It was an honor to watch this transaction between Shorty and the members of this community.

I went to bed exhausted, at 8:00 pm. Emotionally drained from my day. My sprained ankle acting up, as I haven’t given it a fair chance to heal… I just keep going. That’s what I’m here for.

This morning I received an email from home. A good friend is in her 7th (I think) month of pregnancy. The baby hasn’t grown since the last doctor’s appointment, and she now has water on her brain. Her survival is not looking so good. This may be the third baby that my friend has had to deliver that will not survive. I can’t stop thinking of her pain.

All of these situations need our prayer and support. Please take a moment today to send happy thoughts, prayers, good juju, whatever you’ve got.

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Just like every other person on the planet, I go through highs and lows. I just have to remember that this is normal… although I think that Americans like to pretend that things are ‘great’ or ‘fine’ all the time.

On our way home from Antigua yesterday, the traffic was awful. Once we got closer to the accident, we realized why. There on the highway, a man on a motorcycle was killed. His body lay uncovered on the street, with a line of blood leading away from his head. The gawkers in traffic made this an especially long and drawn out process of moving past the accident, even with the police trying to move the cars ahead. The man was young, probably in his early 20’s. I realized that I hadn’t ever seen a life taken like that before. Yes, I worked in the gross lab at Palmer for a year… but that was different. I don’t think that I ever saw the cadavers as people. I don’t think that I ever thought about who their families might be or if they were leaving kids behind. I closed my eyes as we passed the accident and prayed for this man’s family.

There has been a lot of violence happening on the Limon side of the ghetto in the last two weeks. I have been hesitant to blog about it, up until now. After writing an email to Ed, my pastor at Evergreen, I realized that I have been keeping the emotions that I have been feeling about these situations bottled up… causing nightmares and some unnecessary anxiety. No more.

Two weeks ago, while on the top floor of the school we heard gunshots. Big ones. Later that same week, I was assisting a teacher to the playground with her class and there were gunshots close to the playground. We herded the kids to the other end of the playground, as there is only one way in and out of the playground. I was worried about the safety of our kids, as they are the 4 to 5 year olds. Last week, there were two shootings on the street where one of the teachers from Limon lives… one at night, and one during the lunch hour when kids would be heading home from school. This was the day that amazed me… as when we walked to the bus that day, people were sitting in the streets just talking to each other, as if at some kind of reunion. The other night, a young man (not active in gang activity) had his throat slashed on his way home. The mother of one of our teachers heard the screams from this man at her house, as they live close to the Campo where the man was killed.

For the first time in my life, death and violence are all around me. We live a very sheltered life as Americans. We never realize that people, amazingly beautiful and special people, have to live with this violence every single day. Everyday I get to get on a bus, and drive to a safe, gated neighborhood. I get to leave the backdoor open in our kitchen while I cook dinner after dark. I am not afraid.

We drove into the ghetto last night to bring home a young woman, who joined us on our day in Antigua. ‘T’ is in her mid-20’s and is paralyzed from the waist down. All of her older brothers have been killed by gang members. ‘T’ was shot in the back 7 or 8 years ago, causing her paralysis. Later, an infection developed in one of her legs causing it to be amputated. She is mostly bed-ridden. But when I saw her yesterday, she had done her hair and make-up for her day out. She was beautiful. She was proud. Her smile was courageous. The visiting team made a point of giving her a great day out. I was grateful to get to meet her. As we drove into the ghetto to bring ‘T’ home, I realized that some of the members of the team I was with were nervous about going into the ghetto so close to dark. Tita’s van was in front of ours, and I heard a little girl yell “Mama Tita, Mama Tita”. It was then that I felt calm, knowing that I’m part of something that is so respected in this area. I feel safe.

We are fortunate to have some guys on the Mandarina side of the ghetto to work with the gang members. This is so amazing to me. My housemate, Donnie, was out playing basketball (or was it soccer) with the gang members last weekend. He came home charged up and smiley (he is usually pretty smiley). We have plans in a few weeks to climb a volcano with some gang members. Who gets to do this stuff? This is so amazing.

We are hoping and praying for a man to come to the Limon side of the ghetto to do the same work with these gang members. The change in attitude on the Mandarina side, due to the outreach seems incredible to me. I would love to see it on the Limon side too. While I haven’t been here long enough to see the impact on a lot of the community, I know that I am welcomed every morning with smiles and hugs… greetings from men and women in the streets, appreciation from the homeless who come to the school for their meals. These are the things that are affecting me. These are the actions that I see. I want to see the beauty of this community, and I do. I want to see the potential of these children at the schools, and I do. I want them to know that their situation doesn’t define them, and I tell them that.

Yeah, yeah, yeah!
How can you be sitting there
Telling me that you care –
That you care?
When every time I look around,
The people suffer in the suffering
In everyway, in everywhere.

Say: na-na-na-na-na (na-na, na-na!):
We’re the survivors, yes: the Black survivors!
I tell you what: some people got everything;
Some people got nothing;
Some people got hopes and dreams;
Some people got ways and means.

Na-na-na-na-na (na-na, na-na!):
We’re the survivors, yes: the Black survivors!
Yes, we’re the survivors, like Daniel out of the lions’ den
(Black survivors) Survivors, survivors!
So I Idren, I sistren,
A-which way will we choose?
We better hurry; oh, hurry; oh, hurry; wo, now!
‘Cause we got no time to lose.
Some people got facts and claims;
Some people got pride and shame;
Some people got the plots and schemes;
Some people got no aim it seems!

Na-na-na-na-na, na-na, na!
We’re the survivors, yes: the Black survivors!
Tell you what: we’re the survivors, yeah! – the Black survivors, yeah!
We’re the survivors, like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego
(Black survivors),
Thrown in the fire, but-a never get burn.
So I Idren, I-sistren,
The preaching and talkin’ is done;
We’ve gotta live up, wo now, wo now! –
‘Cause the Father’s time has come.
Some people put the best outside;
Some people keep the best inside;
Some people can’t stand up strong;
Some people won’t wait for long.

(Na-na-na-na-na!) Na-na-na, na-na-na na!
We’re the survivors
In this age of technological inhumanity (Black survival),
Scientific atrocity (survivors),
Atomic misphilosophy (Black survival),
Nuclear misenergy (survivors):
It’s a world that forces lifelong insecurity (Black survival).

Together now:
(Na-na-na-na-na!) Na na-na na na! (Na na-na na na!)
We’re the survivors, yeah!
We’re the survivors!
Yes, the Black survivors!
We’re the survivors:
A good man is never honoured (survivors)
in his own country (Black survival).
Nothing change, nothing strange (survivors).
Nothing change, nothing strange (Black survivors).
We got to survive, y’all! (survivors) ~~ Bob Marley

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Iglacia de San Francisco

Directly across the street from our apartment is la Iglacia de San Francisco, a massive church built here in Antigua in the 1700’s. At 6 am every morning the church bells ring… and wake me up. My host-mom, Marta Julia, took me on a tour on the first day that I was in Antigua. The church is enclosed by concrete walls. Within the walls, vendors sell traditional Guatemalan crafts to tourists.

When I arrived in Antigua, I was spiritually exhausted. I arrived in Guatemala City on Saturday (01/16/10) and came to Antigua the very next day. (more on this later)

Every morning, after breakfast, I pack my backpack with my laptop and study materials and head to la iglacia to pray. I have decided to dedicate the first 15 minutes of each day to God. As San Francisco is a Catholic church, it’s traditional to use the kneeling benches in front of each pew. Upon arrival, I get on my knees and thank God for the day that I am about to embark on. For those of you who know me well, this is a massive thing for me. I have (literally) never done this before. After a few minutes of thanks, I sit with my eyes closed and palms extended and hand all of my worries from the day before to God. I try to remember the lesson in ‘centering prayer’ that my friend Elaine gave me.

For today, I gave my anxiety of not picking up the langage to God (apparently, I’m not doing badly)… as well as my homesickness, heartburn, and heartbreak for not being able to hug my nieces. I know that I am blessed with this opportunity. I’m so grateful for everyone that made my being here possible.

Directly across the street from our apartment is la Iglacia de San Francisco, a massive church built here in Antigua in the 1700’s. At 6 am every morning the church bells ring… and wake me up. My host-mom, Marta Julia, took me on a tour on the first day that I was in Antigua. The church is enclosed by concrete walls. Within the walls, vendors sell traditional Guatemalan crafts to tourists.

When I arrived in Antigua, I was spiritually exhausted. I arrived in Guatemala City on Saturday (01/16/10) and came to Antigua the very next day. (more on this later)

Every morning, after breakfast, I pack my backpack with my laptop and study materials and head to la iglacia to pray, before heading to La Union. I have decided to dedicate the first 15 minutes of each day to God. As San Francisco is a Catholic church, it’s traditional to use the kneeling benches in front of each pew. Upon arrival, I get on my knees and thank God for the day that I am about to embark on. For those of you who know me well, this is a massive thing for me. I have (literally) never done this before. After a few minutes of thanks, I sit with my eyes closed and palms extended and hand all of my worries from the day before to God. I try to remember the lesson in ‘centering prayer’ that my friend Elaine gave me.

For today, I gave my anxiety of not picking up the langage to God (apparently, I’m not doing badly)… as well as my homesickness, heartburn, and heartbreak for not being able to hug my nieces. I know that I am blessed with this opportunity. I’m so grateful for everyone that made my being here possible.

Iglacia de San Francisco

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