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Archive for the ‘visitors’ Category

Many people who come to visit us here in Guatemala are affected by visiting families in their homes in La Limonada. This week, I had the privilege of visiting three homes in the ghetto. I think that it’s important to describe living conditions of these families to folks who have never visited La Limonada. Every home is so different. Some homes have just a dirt or concrete floor and a bed, while others are made up of two or three stories and have furnished rooms.

We visited the home of S and A this week, two students at the Limon school. When we entered the home, we found that there was a lot of concrete bricks and pieces of wood lying around. There was a toilet in the middle of the room and a la pila that wasn’t being used. The girl’s mom answered the door and invited us into her home and explained that the family was renovating, and asked us to please excuse the mess. The girls were so excited that their teachers were visiting. They ran around us in their bare feet, stepping over rocks and bricks. We were invited down a new set of concrete stairs to an open area that served as the kitchen, bathroom, and laundry room. Next to this area was one room that the entire family, including the dad (who was at work) lived in. This room was no larger than 12′ by 12′ and was serving as the families kitchen, dining room, living room, and bedroom. The girl’s mother pulled stools from under a table and invited us to sit and talk with her. Beans were cooking in a pot on the stove next to where we sat, making us hungry for lunch. We talked about how the girls were doing in school and how the family was doing. We had the process of the renovation explained to us. The girls happily sat on our laps and showed us the homework that they were doing for the public schools that they attended. All in all, it was a really great visit.

The next home we visited was of a young girl in the Limon school. Her mother invited us into the home where the temperature was at least fifteen degrees warmer than outside. This was due to the mid-day sun hitting the corrugated tin roof that sheltered the home. The walls were made of red and white wrapping paper… Yes!! Wrapping paper was being used to decorate the home, which is not insulated. The paper was merely taped and stapled to the wood beams that held up the structure. The floor was made of dirt and concrete. The home had at least three rooms, all of which had dirt floors. The house was dark, and smelled of lunch being made. We learned that the grandfather, who lived in this house, had fallen the day before while working at his church. It is assumed that his wrist is broken. However, when he went to the hospital the x-ray machine was not working, so he was sent home and told to take something for the pain and to come back another day. The family was worried about how they would come up with the money to pay for the x-ray and medication that would follow… a total of about Q110 (about $13.75). We prayed for this man, who wore a large smile on his face despite his pain. He asked us to pray for him because now he can’t work.

The third home we visited was large and had a full kitchen with a washing machine in it. In this family, both of the parents work. Their youngest daughter attends the Limon school and her public school, while the oldest daughter attends 2nd basicos (8th grade). I was happy to visit this family because their youngest daughter is a wonderful student in my english classes. She’s always very excited about speaking english. The mother told me that her daughter loves english, and she hoped to have her take english lessons eventually. We were welcomed into this home and all given a giant piece of watermelon. We laughed and talked for nearly an hour. We asked the parents what was they were in need of. The oldest daughter is in need of school books. Books are not provided in school here in Guate as they are in the States. So far, the family has only been able to afford 2 of the 4 books that are needed for this school year, and the school does not permit students to make copies of the text books needed. I asked what happens if they can’t afford the books and was told that the student wouldn’t be able to complete assignments or homework and would be graded either way. Wow!!

For children in Guatemala to make it to the 7th grade is kind of a big deal. Public school education stops at the 6th grade here. After that, school gets expensive and books and uniforms are not provided to the children anymore. This creates a huge financial stress to families that are not well off.

Consider the comforts in your home. Carpet. Furniture. Microwaves. Insulation from the cold and heat. Water that won’t make you and your family sick. Privacy. Now imaging your life without these things. For some it seems impossible. This is how people live every single day in La Limonada. I ask that you please keep these families, and the entire community of La Limonada in your thoughts and prayers.

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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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I am fortunate this morning to have some time to reflect on things that I’ve seen and heard in the ghetto in the last two weeks. My mind absently goes back to the unhappy things… while I know that there is joy around every corner. I figure the best way to handle this is to get them all out.

While walking through the ghetto from the Limon side to the Mandarina side last week, I saw a boy who was no older than 13 sniffing glue. He was standing over a hole in the walkway, lighting two other bottles of glue on fire while 2 more boys were inhaling the fumes. The boys were maybe 6 years old.

One of the girls that I am close to has been physically abusing her sibling. I learned that, of course, she had been physically abused herself.

During a class yesterday, I realized than an 8 year old boy can’t even write his own name. He was unsure of how to hold a pencil correctly. He can’t read, and when I asked him if he wanted to learn to read he told me that he didn’t. I told him how important it is to be able to know how to read, and he grudgingly agreed with me. I’m going to try to make a point of spending extra time with this child.

On the Mandarina side of the ghetto, there was a baby locked in her house while the mother was gone. When some of the teachers went into the house to check on her, the child was covered in feces and the house (in Tita’s words) was “how pigs live”. All of the children in this home are now attending school at Mandarina, and the baby is being cared for by the teachers during the daytime hours while the mother is working.

We have welcomed a male onto the team on the Limon side. Wade is from Australia, and has been a blessing to us. We are all excited to have him. I love it because he knows less Spanish than I do. He also has a hilarious laugh… (Beth, he might have you beat.)

We have a wonderful team of musicians staying at the Lemonade House, from Colorado. They are full of energy and hilarity. I particularly love that they are so close that they write songs about each other… sometimes not so flattering ones. My favorite was about the bad breath of one of the girls.

On the way to the ghetto yesterday, I saw a man stealing a cup of goat milk… directly from the goat. The owner of the goats was down the street retrieving some strays that got away. By far one of the best things that I have seen thus far aside from all of the dogs on rooftops. (I’m working on a photo collection of the dogs on rooftops for a future blog.)

I received an amazing gift this week from friends at home. I want them to know how much I love them and appreciate them. This was an answer to a prayer that I had been sitting on. Thank you.

My students are beginning to welcome me in English as I get to school in the morning. This is huge, considering how resistant some of them were about having an English class to begin with.

One of my toughest students spent this past weekend with Shorty, and I woke up Sunday morning to find him sitting in our dining room. He gave me the stink-eye. I made him breakfast and we played pinball on Inna’s computer. On Monday afternoon, he ran up to me and wrapped his arms around me and gave me a kiss on the cheek. However, he was very pleased to hear that English class is cancelled this week. I guess you can’t win them all.

Me and Astrid

After a lot of thought and prayer I have decided to sponsor a child in my school. A small sacrifice from my comfortable living for a very special girl. Astrid is 12, and an incredibly bright student who loves to draw. Due to her home life, she is emotionally closed off. Last week, I received a letter from Astrid thanking me for being her “madrina”. She now seeks me out and hugs me almost everyday.

I get more hugs in one day than I can count. Several of the kids tell me that they are my ‘hijos or hijas’… my sons and daughters. My classes are full of intelligent kids who love to learn something new. And of course there will always be that kid who doesn’t care (this is an international problem).

I look forward to everyday that I spend in La Limonada. The happy things, no matter how small, always out-weigh the sad things. I find reasons to smile everyday. But there are also reasons to mourn. Being here has helped me grow in my faith, my compassion, my emotional strength. I am so thankful. I love my life.

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Visiting Team

This week La Limonada is being visited by several teams of missionaries from different places. The Lemonade house is hosting a group of seven from Boulder, Colorado. This group consists of 5 men and two women. In the last 24 hours I have heard at least 4 songs made up about one group or the other… all done in good spirits and hilarity. For example, yesterday’s premier song was about the bad breath of the teenage girl on this team. Tonight, this girl is singing about how bad the Spanish is of one of the guys. I am thoroughly enjoying having my first group of missionaries visit the house. It’s a great experience for me and the rest of the household.

It was interesting to hear the perspective of La Limonada from this group, being first-timers in the ghetto. It makes me remember my first experience a year ago, and the nostalgia just comes rushing back to me. I’m definitely looking forward to hearing more of their experiences as the week progresses.

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