Thursday, December 31, 2015

Day 6 - Lake Day

Today those of us who have not been to Guatemala before (roughly 14) went in an excursion on the lake and visited 3 towns.  We supported the local economies well.   The rest of the group continued work on the building and much  progress was made.  Tonight should be wild with New Year's Fireworks and celebrations.  

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Day 5-Bldg begins & stoves

Today was a very long and hard day of work.  Many stoves were completed and the building arrived in San Lucas Toliman.  It was unloaded from the cargo container then loaded on a truck and taken to the site, then unloaded.  Significant progress was made today.  

Day 4 - Morning Update

There was a small earthquake here last night. All is well.  The blue dot is where we are and the red dot is the epicenter.  About 90 miles south of us.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Day 3 - A long but good day of work

Today we split into 2 groups.  

The first group return to Terra Santa and continued to build the stoves.  Several were finished today.  I heard lots of stories about the children who came and "helped" in each home.  I do not have any pictures of this group today, as I was in the 2nd group.  

A friend of mine in ministry taught me the unwritten beatitude several years ago.  It is: "Blessed are the flexible for they will not be bent out of shape."  This is especially true here in Guatemala.  

The building that the 2nd group is supposed to be putting up as a Medical Clinic is in country but has not yet made it way from the port to our location.  So today, our group went up to the town where the Medical Clinic will be located and helped at the site where an Evangelical church will be built.  We broke up an old concrete pad, hauled it up the hill to the dump site, dug a trench, took down a cinder block retaining wall, and disassembled some rebar that had rusted ties.  We had some young boys who came and worked with us.  We couldn't have done it without them.  

Without exception we all worked hard and are going to bed early.  

Tonight we were also blessed with sone time with the spoonmakers project.  Their handmade works are amazing and part of the proceeds go to support Sr Citizens in San Lucas Toliman. 

The great news is that the building will arrive early in the morning and we can begin to assemble tomorrow.  

Monday, December 28, 2015

Day 2

This morning we toured Tierra Santa and learned about the stove project.  We saw various current stoves and one like we will be building.  

During the afternoon those of our group who have been here before stayed and started building stoves.  Those who have not went on a tour of various ministry projects, including the Women's Center, Coffee project, the hospital, and the school.  

The building for the medical clinic has not yet arrived at the work site.  Our best guess is that we will see it tomorrow and start construction on Wednesday.  

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Travel Day

We had a very long travel day.  One of our crew had some stomach issues, but we have arrived in San Lucas Toliman and are hitting the bed early tonight.  Work starts tomorrow. 

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Kingswood UMC - It's a Wrap!

        At this moment as I sit in the passenger seat of a Honda Civic traveling south

towards New Orleans, I find myself drawing parallels and comparing different

aspects between this country of the United States and the one I was in only a few

days ago, Guatemala.  The most obvious difference between the two being the mode

of transportation used.  In Guatemala we were shuttled from the airport in a stick

shift bus, us inside with the windows open for a breeze, with our luggage tied to the

top.  I now sit in a full cushioned chair, air conditioning and my luggage in the trunk.

While this difference in transportation is seemingly small, and relatively is,

it’s also fairly indicative of the different lifestyles and how weird it can be to go so

quickly from one to the other.  Step back a week ago and I was bartering with a man

on the street of a town off the water of Lake Atitlan, for a handmade blanket that my

brother Carter, and I ended up purchasing for our parents.  Take another step to

yesterday as I looked into my wallet about to purchase a shirt from J Crew and saw

Quetzales, (the Guatemalan currency) and suddenly had the strange feeling that I

should “Cut the price in half, and not pay more for it than I feel is appropriate” as

close to Candace’s advice as I can remember.

        Of course there is another side to this weirdness, and that is and was for us

on the trip, adjusting to Guatemala.  Just as it was weird to readjust to our society

here in the States, it was weird and interesting to do our best to assimilate into the

culture and lives of the people we interacted with on our journey to Guatemala.  We

had eight full days and ten total to get as much out of the trip as possible and to

adjust to the culture.  At the end of those ten days, myself and I have the feeling that

everyone else on the trip, were pretty comfortable with our new surroundings.

Great!  But now what?  Our trip’s over.  Our learning experience has come to

an end and the world to us would rapidly change in a matter of hours as we traveled

from Antigua to Guatemala city, and then back to Huston in the United States of

America and finally to Chicago Illinois.  Our “trip” ended at that point.

What I really hope you realize as the reader of this blog is that this was not

just another trip, or vacation.  This was truly a perspective-changing trip, which I

don’t know if I’ll ever have the words or the means of explaining.   I don’t think that

it is even possible to give you a fully comprehensive explanation now that I think

about it.

      What I can say though is, when you meet or talk to someone who was on this

trip, give them the time to explain how they feel about it and what they saw and

learned.  I’m betting that you will: one, hear something new from every person you

talk to, two, hear similar themes from each person, and three, learn at least one new

thing throughout the process.  This is important to REALLY give them time because

as the new ambassadors of this experience and more importantly the people with

whom we built relationships with in Guatemala we feel obligated to spread the

word of our experience.  So just as we have given our time to these people to help

build stoves and improve their style of living, it is just as important for you to give

us the time to tell you what we have received ourselves.

     I thank you for your time in reading this article and the time you will give

others in our group so that you may learn as we did.

-Taylor Baretz

Friday, July 31, 2015

Kingswood UMC Day 8 - 7/31/15

This morning, we began our day like we always do--with a time of devotion and prayer. As you have seen in previous blogs, we hear a scripture three times and reflect more deeply each time to connect with the scripture and our life. Today, we read a portion from Mark 12 which told the amazing story of Jesus watching people donate their money into the temple treasury.  Many persons with wealth gave money to the offering but Jesus was especially moved by a very poor widow and her offering. She gave two coins which only amounted to a penny, but Jesus called his disciples together and shared that out of all the givers, this woman gave all she had. She gave generously even though she lived in poverty. Her gift was so powerful.

The story of the widow and her gift connected with us all week as the residents of Porvenir gave so much of themselves to us with a deep sense of welcome and hospitality.  Yet today seemed to bring the reality of their generosity and gifts to me most profoundly.  As we completed our second stove and began our third, I experienced the great gift of my team (Ryan and Taylor) as well as the amazing patience and wisdom of our mason, Santiago.  I realized he could easily have done the project more quickly and efficiently by himself, but he gave the gift of himself to us each day and especially this day so that we might learn new things, build a relationship with him and our families, and leave Guatemala as more faithful people.

I experienced the deep gift of generosity each day as our host families (those receiving the stoves) purchased drinks and snacks for us a twice a day--even though they live with so little and struggle to support their families every day.  Yet today, that generosity became even more apparent to me as our families gave each of us a very beautiful gift. As I opened the gift this evening, I was moved to tears as I realized that this simple gift was far more generous and beautiful than any gift I had ever received in my life. The story from Mark 12 became alive for me in the final party with our dear friends in Porvenir.

As we drove away in the back of two trucks and left our friends behind, I realized that I have indeed left a part of myself behind.  I have been transformed by the living Christ who is so present here in my friends in Guatemala.  I think I can say that is true for all of our team.  I pray that we will live our lives with more generosity and embrace our faith with a heart that befriends and empowers the poor in all places--even in our own community.  Again, the widow offered the most generous gift....and the world was never the same. May it be so.

God’s Peace,

James Preston