Isaiah 6:8 Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?" Then I said, "Here am I. Send me!"

Monday, September 16, 2013

Water filter distribution at El Chico 8/8/13

Our team of 11 went to the mountain village of El Chico to distribute water filters and buckets, one per household. As soon as we arrived, women and children began to gather. We had 100 filters with us but sadly were only able to acquire 53 buckets, so Pastor Noé asked the village leader to choose the neediest families to receive the water filters today. Tim will go back at another time to distribute the rest. Most of the women who came today had 2-4 children with them, and we were able to give each child a small toy, mostly new Happy Meal toys donated by children at the home church of this team.

While we were waiting for everyone to arrive (some walked a very long distance down the mountain), Pastor Noé heard about a 7-year-old boy in a neighboring house who had been badly burned on the legs after falling into a charcoal fire pit, and asked Susan, a physical therapist, to go look at him. Jeremy had spent 15 months in the hospital and his legs are still not healed. He is not eating because he is in so much pain. Susan was able to instruct his mother and sister about how to better care for him and help him to move his legs.
Pastor Noé gave him a brand-new soccer ball as a “hope” gift – something for him to strive for to encourage his healing. This family received a water filter, so from now on Jeremy’s mother can stop cleaning his wounds with filthy river water.
After about an hour of waiting the village leader began calling names and the women came forward one at a time to receive their buckets. Several asked about receiving a filter system for another family, but because the people need to be taught how to clean the filter, only families with a representative present were allowed to receive one. The first step to installing a water filter is to drill a hole in the bucket, which is done by hand-twisting a drill bit through the plastic.
It’s not easy, and I later asked Tim why we don’t bring a cordless drill, and he said when the people do it themselves they are invested in the filter system because they helped build it, so are more likely to take care of it. The whole team moved through the crowd, helping people. Tim instructed them through the rest of the installation and did a demonstration.

In about 30 minutes all of the filtration systems were assembled. The people were very grateful and spent another 10-15 minutes hugging and thanking the team. Several wanted to pose for pictures with their buckets. The water filters will undoubtedly have a huge impact in a village with so many young  children, and we only saw representatives from half of the households. 

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Cimientas 8/7/13

We were busy last night preparing to feed more than 200 kids today. The afternoon was filled with chopping mounds of vegetables. The girls learned how to take all the meat off a chicken and boil the bones for stock. We are making soup in a pot large enough to sit in. The school we visited today, called Cimientas, was a large one: 235 kids and many more classrooms than we’ve seen so far. Our first priority was to get the soup going. The place for cooking was a completely enclosed concrete building with a doorway and one small window cut out of the walls, containing a typical Guatemalan pila (a triple sink made of concrete) and a ledge on which to build a fire. We needed two fires and two huge pots to feed so many kids. The small, dark room quickly filled with smoke and reached a temperature that made sweat run in streams down our skin the minute we entered. It was difficult to stand in there for more than 3-5 minutes.

While the soup was cooking, the team performed our skit three times for groups of kids. We came up with the skit last night when we realized we couldn’t do a craft with that many kids. We acted out Daniel in the lion’s den, with Taylor telling the story in Spanish while the rest of us pantomimed it. 

When the soup was ready, Tim and Tommy carried the huge pots out of the cooking shack and set them on the ground. Most of the children bring a drinking cup and a small plastic bowl to school, but quite a few didn’t even have that. They eat with their fingers. We had made more soup than I have ever seen at one time, yet before we were done serving we did a lot of praying that there would be enough. By the last 50 kids we were digging with ladles and spoons aching to find just one more sliver of chicken, just one more piece of carrot. I had spoons in both hands but I took a mental picture that I know will stay with me forever. In the center I see the steaming surface of the pot of soup, and all around it, as far as my vision goes in all directions, I see hands holding out bowls. The children waited silently, patiently, in an orderly line. But those hands reached out, and the need is greater than my eyes could take in, almost more than I could bear. The need stretches further than any of us can imagine. We were blessed to be able to feed these beautiful children one meal on one day. But make no mistake; they are starving. And all you have to do to see it is open your eyes.

Cuchillo de Paja 8/6/13

Today’s school, Cuchillo de Paja, had the youngest kids we’ve seen so far, ranging in age from four to about 11-12. It was two buildings with two classrooms in each, beside which was the partial remains of a building that housed two toilets and a storage room. On the concrete platform outside there was a low ledge for a cooking fire and a large pot. Noé had called ahead and asked a teacher to make the fire and boil water. We have been saving the bones, vegetable ends, and left-overs from our meals to make fortified soup stock. We had chopped vegetables and cooked chicken at the team house and brought it with us – there was no place to prepare food there.

While Sarah prepared the soup, the rest of us helped the kids through the Isaiah paper eagle craft, and then played with them. These kids were very loving, showering us with warm smiles and touches and hugs. Every one of us got one-on-one contact with kids today, which was heart-melting. Guatemalan children are incredibly beautiful. They all have huge brown eyes and black hair. All the girls have long hair in ponytails or braids. Sadly, because of malnutrition and lack of dental care, their teeth are often missing or rotten. But they will look at your face for a long time and just smile.

 The team pooled some money and sent Noé to buy soccer balls this morning, after seeing the huge impact at yesterday’s school. We brought two balls and a bag of jump ropes, and the kids had a fantastic play time. This school was too poor to have a courtyard, but they had a large open field that the kids could play in.

Today we got to see poverty and malnutrition up close. One girl was slumped against a wall and wouldn’t engage or speak. Sarah sat with a boy who wouldn’t speak, and we learned from his teacher that the boy’s father is “machismo” and won’t permit the boy to speak without his permission. Nearly all of the kids we met today had rotten/missing teeth. The school itself had almost nothing. After we left the school we drove further up the mountain in search of another school a farmer had mentioned. It turned out that there was no road to the other school, so there is likely desperate need there but we couldn’t reach it. But on the way back down 30-40 minutes later, some of the kids we had played with were still walking up the steep mountain toward their homes (which are barely shacks).

La Puenta School, Cabañas 8/5/13

Last night’s rain made the roads up to the mountain villages impassible, so instead we went across the valley and over the river to the town of Cabañas, to a school called La Puenta. On the way we saw several huge ruts in roads carved out by the sudden rush of water off the mountain from that one short downpour. The school had two out of four classes meeting today. The teacher, Karen, spoke some English and told us that four of her students are now in the hospital due to malnutrition, and many others come to school but their parents can’t provide paper or pencils for them. The kids only attend school for half a day.

 We came prepared with a bible lesson on Isaiah 40 and a paper “eagle” (airplane) craft for the kids to make. The kids loved flying the planes outside and then playing with the jump ropes and soccer ball we brought for them.
When the kids went back inside to finish their lessons, the team ate our lunch in the school courtyard. After a few minutes a small, 10-year-old boy appeared and asked for permission to play with the soccer ball the other kids had returned to us. He was the right age for this school but obviously didn’t attend; his clothes were filthy and too small on him. It turns out he lives across the street with his grandfather. We asked why he’s not in school, and Noé said “something is wrong with his mind.” 

Taylor asked Chepé his name and offered to share our lunch with him. He was delighted by the food and wanted us to photograph him holding the soccer ball. He was friendly and chatty, and hung out with us until the school kids came out again and he was forced to share the soccer ball. He seemed an outcast among the other kids and his mood quickly turned. When they went home a few minutes later, he was happier, but kept asking for the soccer ball, which had been put away by the teacher before she left. Sarah asked about giving him the rest of the food we were carrying to take home, and Tim arranged for that to happen after we were gone. None of us will forget Chepé, nor will we forget that we weren’t supposed to be there today. God brought the rain and changed our plans. A couple of team members had some tears back at the house this afternoon as the head knowledge of what we are doing here migrated down to the heart.


August team's visit to Rio Chiquito school

 The school is two concrete, one-story buildings that face each other over a concrete walkway with the “little river” running beneath it. To enter we had to be let in through a solid metal gate that is kept locked from the inside. Each building is divided into 3-4 tiny classrooms, all open to the outside. (None of the buildings here - except the team house - have glass in the windows; there are just openings cut into the concrete.) One class was meeting outside under an overhang. The principal gathered all the kids (45 or so) into a single classroom – the kids carried chairs, some with desks attached, from the other building to have enough seats. Taylor did an amazing job teaching a bible lesson on Matthew 19:14 in Spanish. She was very natural, and the kids were paying close attention to her words.

Then we all helped small groups of kids with the craft: cutting a large circle into two paper plates and gluing a piece of cellophane in between, which the kids then colored with markers to hang as sun catchers. The kids really enjoyed the activity and were proudly showing us their creations.

Then it was play time! We brought jump ropes and sidewalk chalk, and the kids were quick to grab them and play with all of us. The whole team took turns jumping rope with kids, drawing with them, and playing. Ben entertained a handful of kids with rhythm games, singing, and rapid-fire hand gestures. Several were imitating him and he was teaching them his tricks. 

While we were playing, Tommy was high up, balanced on a narrow beam, attaching a metal roof to the play structure Tim built for the kids. It is worth noting that a mob of kids was rocking this structure while Tommy was balanced on top, drill in hand. We had a fantastic time, ending with hundreds of hugs from all the kids.