End of a Beautiful Journey

Hello Again!! Kendall here for the last little wrap up of our trip. On May 16 we started our trek back to Guatemala City. Before we reached our final destination we visited a beautiful waterfall on our way up. Then we began the 3(ish) hours to Anitigua. Before we got to Antigua, (we were about 10 miles out), we got a flat tire. Our wonderful driver, Guillermo, hopped right out and got right to work on fixing the tire. After about 30 minutes we were back on the road.                                                 52046157-E366-478C-BCDB-DB1BBC50541E.jpeg

We arrived in Antigua about 1-1:30 and oh my goodness it was breath taking. The old  churches and the architecture, holy smokes. We were all pretty hungry after the bus ride and got some coffee and food at a little cafe called CafeBarista. Antigua is very beautiful. It reminded me of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies with the old beautiful charm, but had a modern twist in some places as well. I think it is some place everyone should go just once to see the beauty. Although be prepared to be asked if you would like to buy something every two steps. We also visited the market place in Antigua, which was massive!!! We walked in and there is a fountain in the center. Well there were 8 different pathways we could take with shops on both sides and vendors trying to get you to buy their items.                                                                   393F9275-53C6-4486-91FB-643917439122

After the market we went to a few churches that had been in Antigua since the 13th century or so. Just these beautiful buildings that have exposed bricks and iron fences speckled throughout the town.                                                                                                   74DEB5CF-3DA0-4764-B9F9-C6AECDC5D0E7.jpeg

A rainstorm was on its way towards Antigua, so we made our way back to the Cafe to wait for our bus. A few folks toured an old Church nd made it back just before the rainstorm. We boarded the bus and made our way to Guatemala City. I never want to drive there because there are NO rules it seems like. We stayed at the Novo Hostal on a compound, somewhat near the airport.

Wake up was, at the latest, 4:30am so we could get on the bus to make our way home. So as I am writing this I have been up since 4:30am Bozeman time without any sleep 🙂 gotta love traveling!!! We got to the airport in Guatemala City a little before 5am and started our long journey back to the US. Let’s see, we didn’t need to pay an exit fee, which was marvelous! And super duper uneventful. The US customs and such was pretty uneventful as well. We have had long layovers and have been roaming the airports. Some of us have even ventured into getting more beans and rice!             DD65B275-B419-414C-865D-364D608C02C3

To finish off would say that this was a very humbling experience and a learning experience at how much we take for granted. I was complaining about taking a cold shower and after that I thought, there would be many people who would be so grateful to have water to bathe  and to cook with, no matter if it was freezing cold! This trip brought me a mix of emotions, happiness, sadnes, humility, gratefulness, even a little bit of want. A want to be able to live without many possessions, but still being able to enjoy life and find the happiness in the small things, like having water at the ready. There are so many things to be grateful for and I challenge all of us to remember how fortunate we are and to keep in our prayers those who may not have as many possessions as us, but whose lives and happiness are just as important.

 

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Crossing Lake Atitlan

Hello! This is Monica, writing about our experience on May 15th in Guatemala! What an amazing day it was and I’m so excited to share it with you! We started the day with an early breakfast of pancakes and fruit parfaits at our hotel, Posada de Los Volcanes in Panajachel. After breakfast we went down to Lake Atitlan and boarded a boat that took us across the lake to Santiago Atitlan. The boat rides were so fun (and bumpy and wet!), and we saw some beautiful views of the mountains and surrounding villages while on the water. We docked the boat and strolled through the cobble-stone streets and bustling markets before arriving at our destination, Saint James the Apostle Catholic Church.

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This is the church where Stanley Rother, the Catholic priest from Oklahoma who is soon to be the first U.S.-born saint, was martyred in 1981. We went inside the church, prayed for awhile, and admired the monuments and pictures dedicated to Stanley and his life. We were blessed with the opportunity to go into the room where he was murdered and see his preserved blood stains and the bullet that killed him still lodged in the floor. This was an incredibly powerful experience for me and just standing in the room where he gave his life filled me with an overwhelming feeling of faith and I could feel God flowing through that room. I had been looking forward to seeing this church since we began this journey and seeing Stanley’s room was a main reason of why I wanted to come on this trip. His story inspires my heart and it gives me faith to follow God in every moment of my life. Stanley Rother was an ordinary person who answered God’s call for his life and became a saint. I have to believe now that maybe I can do the same.

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After visiting Saint James the Apostle Catholic Church, we walked through the markets again and got back on the boat to travel over to San Juan La Laguna. When we walked into town, our first priority was finding some food for lunch. Right when we started walking, three guys came up to our group and tried to lead us to their restaurant, we ended up following them for three blocks before arriving at their restaurant that I don’t even remember the name of. We ate a hearty meal of chicken, rice, vegetables and tortillas and it was very good. After lunch we went and visited a textile cooperative in town that is run by women and makes products for the people of San Juan La Laguna. We watched a process demonstration of taking cotton and dying it, spinning it, and stitching it together to make the products. It was neat learning how different colors are made from various types of bark, vegetables and spices and it was nice to see all the finished products on display. After the textile cooperative, we went and saw another cooperative that specializes in chocolate production. We saw a demonstration of how chocolate is produced from cocoa beans  using an ancient Mayan method that is still used today. I enjoyed learning about the history of chocolate production and seeing all the different types of chocolate they can create.

We left San Juan La Laguna and boated back to Panajachel. When we got back, we went shopping in the local markets. We strolled the streets, talked to locals and picked up a few thing here and there. After the markets, we returned to the hotel, relaxed for a while and then went to the restaurant next door and ate Italian for dinner. Who knew pasta in Guatemala would taste so good?!?. We ended the night with a group prayer reflection and made plans for the following day, our last full day in Guatemala.

Today was such an amazing day and it was my favorite day of the Guatemala trip. There was so much to see on the lake and in the villages and towns on different sides of the lake. It was a day of beauty, adventure, faith, friendship, and God. We saw God everywhere we went today and I thank Him for blessing us with this opportunity to see His creation in Guatemala and experience life across Lake Atitlan.

~Monica

 

We Led a Procession?!?!

Hello Everyone!!!

Here is a little update on our adventures in the beautiful Guatemala. On May 13 we woke up an had our usual, wonderful breakfast of pancakes, eggs, tortillas, peanut butter, juice, and beans (lots of beans, which of course are the magic fruit :)). We then went to watch some soccer games, which were a hoot to watch. In the first game, which we saw the second half of, there were so many yellow cards given out and one, or two, red cards. They are aggressive! The referee called the game when it was tied, which was a very smart move. In the second game we watched there wasn’t as many yellow/red cards handed out, but one person did get ejected. That game was a slaughter house with one team winning 5-0. We had lunch at the Mission and then went to the Market and had ice cream and went back to the Mission and chilled.

In the evening we went to Mass, which was breath taking. The  music speaks to me on another level and just, oh man it is beautiful. Even though I do not understttand the language whatsoever, the emotion and power that is put into the music takes me to another demension. Anywho, after Mass we were asked to lead the Procession, which was for Fatima and also for AIDS. We switched places every so often and two of us carried a bouquet of flowers, while a statue of Mary and everyone else followed with candles. What was so breath taking and awe inspiring to me was that people who were driving cars would pull over and turn off their lights. Another amazing thing was that the walk was not easy, we had to climb pretty steep hills and not gonna lie my legs were still really sore from the soccer game two days before (I am not a runner!!) But everyone was able to go at their own pace. We were a melting pot of ages and that was such a beautiful thing to experience. There was singing and prayer along the way as well. We got to a hill where a statue of Mary was and said another prayer and sang more songs. Fireworks went off (which scared me out of my skin) and we all just came together to celebrate.

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I think the most beautiful thing is that even though we are different ethnicities and we had no idea what was being said, we could still feel the Holy Spirit in us with the words being spoken. We could feel God’s presence in us, but also in everyone around us.  Being able to celebrate with the Guatemalan people is something I will never forget. The beauty of these people and their acceptance of us is incredible and something I will take back with me.

Finding the happiness in the small things was my biggest goal for this trip because I get so caught up in what I can or cannot do. One part of the parade that brought me happiness was when the fireworks went off, I gave a little yelp and jumped out of my skin, I just started smiling and laughing and the woman who was standing near me started smiling and laughing too. We just locked eyes and we both had the biggest grins on our faces and that moment I will cherish forever.

-Kendall-

Somebody Call the Exterminator

During travels such as these, team building and trust is a vital component. Your team members will be next to you through times of uncertainty, love, prayer, and times of fear-especially when have unexpected visitors in your living quarters!

The first night at the mission I walked into my room exhausted from the last 2 days of travel and ready to roll into bed. As I walked through the door my eye immediately caught a dark, creepy, crawly creature on the blue and white floral curtains. Yes, my unexpected roommate was a cockroach! These creatures are commmon in Guatemala and are incredibly sneaky. My mind started racing-I had dealt with these before during my last Guatemala adventure and knew if I was going to get rid of it I’d have to be creative and quick. I quietly unzipped my bag to grab my tennis shoes in hopes to not startle my unwanted roommate. As I pulled my shoe out and prepared to aim..it was gone! I panicked. I immediately moved all the furniture, pulled apart the bedding, and checked though every crack with no success. With pure exaution setting in, I rolled into bed feeling defeated and prayed my way to sleep in hopes my roommate was long gone.

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After awakening from a heavy nights sleep, I was pleased to find no cockroach in my room. The team all laughed as I told them of my endeavors the night before. Day 2 at the mission was filled with more adventure and laughter as noted in our blog. That night I entered my room once again exhausted and ready to catch some ZZZZ’s. I found no cockroach in my room that evening as was able to fall asleep peacefully. Deep into a nights sleep I suddenly heard a BANG POP BANG from the village. I was startled awake at 3AM to families setting off firecrackers to celebrate Mothers Day.  Not the wake up call I was ready for. As I settled back into bed and began to relax again there it was…the cockroach! On my curtains again! As if my adrenaline wasn’t already running from the fireworks, my heart felt as if it was going to pound out of my chest. I knew I wouldn’t be able to catch him by myself and I would need reinforcements but 3AM is not the time to wake your sleeping team.

The next day, I asked my team for help. I could hardly sleep and I think for fear of a cranky Team Lead they agreed to help me. I had no idea what we were about to encounter. Once it was dark that night, Andrew, Emily and Antonio came to my side fully equipped with headlamps and determination. As we entered the room the search began.

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We quickly located the cockroach hiding behind the door. I only wish I had words to correctly describe what happened next but I will do my best. Without trying to giggle too loudly we slowly moved the door so we had access. Our weapons involved a book, the butt-end of a screw driver and of course our shoes. Andrew was bound and determined to catch this thing. With the screwdriver in hand Andrew aimed and went to strike. No success. I’m sure the amount of laughter in the background did not help! He struck again and several more times just missing the target. The next few moments were a complete blur of laughter and screaming. Somehow the cockroach ended up on Andews pants. Fear and confusion immediately came over his face as he tried to not only to throw the insect off of him but kill it at the same time with Antionio’s help. Emily and I meanwhile had leaped on to the bed laughing hysterically while witnessing the battle. The cockroach scurried off Andrew and with its natural abilities swiftly escaped out of the cracked door.

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This entire battle was caught on video but unfortunately we are unable to upload it to this blog. We will find someway for you to catch this video.

Needless to say I have an incredible appreciation for this team. Not only were they there in my time of need but the kindness and love they have for life and their faith radiates from everyone of them. The prayers and conversations we have together are challenging, supportive and eye opening to our faith and the culture around us. We have all been touched by this place and the people we met. We are hopeful to continue to embrace the unconditional love we see here amongst the Guatemala people. Thank you all for you continued prayers for this amazing team!

Ashleigh Buckner

Fútbol Friday

Today was the day of our big soccer game against the Clinica Maxeña team.  The game was scheduled to start at 2 pm so we had time to go visit some more of Guatemala.

We started out by going to the government-run medical clinic a little drive away from the mission.  It was similar to our clinic at the mission in Santo Tomas but it specialized in child delivery.  We got to see where the babies are born and how the native Mayans would deliver.  They do it a little different than we do in the States.

After that we headed over to another clinic in the back of our truck.  The road to this one was a little more bumpy and steep so we really had to hold on the the railings.  It was a lot of fun bouncing around in the back of the truck.  At this clinic we got to see a large map of the area that this clinic was in charge of servicing.  It was a large area with a small staff (around 6).

After lunch the Clinica Maxeña workers gave us jerseys for the up coming game.  We looked pretty good.

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We took a short ride through town over to the soccer fields.  Since we were all uniformed up we got even more looks from the people we passed than we normally do.  At the field, they clinic workers told us that we would be playing for two hours with ten players on the field.  We only had ten players so we weren’t going to have any subs.  After a bit of bartering over the length of the game and number of on-field players we came to the agreement that we would still play for two hours with ten players on the field, but we could take as many ten minute breaks as we wanted.  Seemed fair enough.

Our strategy of the game was to stack the defense with our strongest players for the first quarter, so we could get a feel for how Clinica Maxeña would play and then make adjustments from there.  They started out playing a little soft with a similar set-up to ourselves but they weren’t anything that we couldn’t handle for a little bit.  The problem was the two hours of play time.  We were going to get tired before that time was up. After a little while of playing we started getting a little tired so, thankfully, they gave us some of their players to keep the game alive.  With these additional players we were able to keep playing the entire game and have two subs for breaks.

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The game ended up playing out to 12-11 in our favor!  Not really any of us thought we would stand a chance but we went out there with some amazing players and had a great time.  This trip has been so much fun and very enlightening.  I so glad that we had this opportunity to come down here and experience Guatemala and its people.

-Andrew (8:30 pm 05/11/2018 in Guatemala)

 

Day Four

55D98E4E-AFB3-438A-B0A0-9B84B8F21940Demiri posting here, and am still reeling from the fact that we are in Guatemala. It is insane to be in another country, and one with such a different culture than ours. The day started off with a change of culture, having to shower in cold water, which I would only willingly do-never. Our days seem to be filled with so much, yet at the same time not enough. We went up to the coffee cooperative, by our handy dandy pickup-truck, going up some paved roads, but more than not they were dirt and had huge trenches in the road where water would normally have run off during storms. Once we get there, Sheila, our guide, gets out and has a conversation with the people. They don’t have any coffee for us to try. Oh well, I don’t like coffee anyway. But, this coffee co-op was right next to a beautiful Catholic church that was still under construction. We go up to look inside and see two of the native Mayan people kneeling in the main aisle, looking upon the altar. They were in such deep amazing prayer, they didn’t even notice our presence, nor that of the workers all around them. They were captivating.

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Our next stop was the La Asuncion School. We tagged along as Deacon Michael Seipp viewed their infrastructure damage from the earthquake in September of 2017. They had surprisingly already begun lots of repairs on the place, and it was cool to see what they have accomplished with all of the money from the Diocese. At one point, we sat on the ledge of one of the buildings and at that same time, Deacon Michael was learning about how this was the most damaged part from the earthquake. Nothing broke while we were sitting up there, thankfully.

The people of La Asuncion School were so thankful for our presence there and gave us a mini celebration. They introduced the various staff members of the school, which included the 17 teachers and other staff. One girl said a beautiful poem (in Spanish) and after that, her fellow students accompanied her with a response to the poem. Michael was awarded a plaque for being a director of the Mission, and you could tell how thankful all of the staff members were for his help in everything. We also got serrenaded by two girls on recorders playing Celine Dion. After this, the soccer match began.

It was a kind of spur of the moment decision to some of us, and to them, not so much. The whole entire school (about 300 students) came to watch our defeat against them. Thankfully though, they gave us two of their team members to help us not lose as badly. Antonio was a goalie, and myself a seeker. I would think that they would have immediately scored on us, but we held our own for a couple of minutes, with Antonio blocking them of their attempts. But, it did not last, and we, alas, were scored upon. 0-1. By the luck of God though, it began to pour rain and all of the students ran across the field to the buildings for shelter. The game was over, 10 minutes in. Everyone was drenched when we walked in, but there were smiles on all faces. It was a great experience.

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The adventures are still going on, and we have another soccer game to play tomorrow, a more daunting experience against the Clinica Maxeña team. I am so thankful to be experiencing this, and am looking forward to telling everyone about Guatemala when I get home.

My second day in Guatemala

Aldo Videa (9/May/2018)

I started the day waking up super early, although we did not sleep well the previous day because we flew overnight. My roommate thought I did not even spend the night   in bed, because I went to bed really late; he did not see me getting in and out of the room. This reflected how excited my soul was to be rubbed by this experience!

The first day, some people did not eat their whole meal for dinner. But the second day, for breakfast, everybody ate everything-you could attribute this to people being very hungry or that you get used to any type of food to survive. Personally, I ate four dishes, the meal was great. I might be biased since I already am from Central America.

We went to the clinic (Malaxeña), it was founded by American volunteers in 1966. Back then, it was in the middle of nowhere, now the population has grown incredibly. It was a bit above 5 million back then, now, Guatemala has a population of above 16 million people (2016 figure). What impressed me the most of this visit was to see how busy people are! It came to my mind that if they were doing the same job in the United States, they would earn a fortune, dotors do! But, being in the medical field is not about making money. It is about saving people’s lives. This is the Catholic teaching; I am impressed that the Holy Church manages 26% of the health care facilities worldwide!

“I am Catarina, and I am a cancer survivor”

A proof of the efficiency of the clinic that has successfully serve the community for more than 50 years, is that a lady approached when we went back to our rooms and she wanted to share her experience: “I am Catarina and I am a cancer survivor!” This lady wanted to just come and expressed how grateful she was, because although, the clinic does not provide treatment for cancer, it does give diagnosis and transportation for the people to receive their treatment in the capital city. This is only possible thanks to the amazing job the volunteers do, the prompt support of the Mayan people and the spiritual and financial commitment of the Diocese of Helena. Our team leader, Deacon Mike Seipp, was moved to hear that Catarina was very grateful that he gave her his blessing for an appointment she was going to have in a few days. On behalf of the amazing things I witnessed, I want to transmit all the gratefulness I perceive to the people of Montana, whose heart allows them to be generous with all their support and prayers for this mission.

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Deacon Mike giving his Blessing to Catarina

“Sometimes, respecting other people’s dignity is about being friendly and open to other cultures”

Today was Mother’s Day in Guatemala! We went to an event for the Mayan mothers called First Infancy, arranged by the Bishops of Guatemala, where they shared about being responsible mothers, waiting until marriage to have kids and teach cathechessis to the mothers and kids. We were blessed to eat cake with the children and communicate in three different languages: English, Spanish and Quiché. We learned how to say a few words; including this: Dios ketukanik (God Bless You). The people were very happy to hear us say some words in their native tongue. Sometimes, respecting people’s dignity is about being friendly and open to other cultures. Anyway, we are all the Lord’s image, we are sensitive beings who are touched by feelings and receive blessing through our deeds; we are all made equal in the eyes of our Creator.

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Mothers and kids celebrating Mother’s Day

Coming here has definitely been fun! We have had funny moments. Like some Mayan girls calling Cody guapo (handsome) in the market, he is one of the full Caucasian, blue-eyed, white, blonde hair team members. We laughed so hard, of course, he was ashamed. We used a pick-up as our mode of transportation. Everybody was very excited because the streets made the ride bumpy and so many kids called us gringos, we laughed because everyone may perceive it is an insult, but for the innocent kids is just an adjective used to call any white foreigner.

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Mode of transportation in Santo Tomás

The Sun in Central America easily burns skins. I do not enjoy it. What is interesting here, is that it my be the sunniest day in decades, but within minutes, the sky darkens and rains as though the sky cried out all the sins committed by man on the earth. Before the rain, we played soccer and kickball. We accidentally threw the ball to a river whose bottom would be around 20-feet below our level, plus the tall vegetation (around 4 feet), and our fear to encounter a snake made us desist from retrieving it. Nevertheless, a Guatemalan neighbor saw our situation. He and his daughter offered to go for it. They probably spent round 15 minutes looking for it, but they found it. This, my brothers and sisters, is awesome! They just left with a smile and happy to have helped.

As I am writing this blog, and drinking this beer, branded gallo, the most popular beer in Guatemala, I feel happy and grateful with the Lord. There are some other stories; we also went to a botanic garden where they teach people how to grow their own medicine plants, that are native of this land. But I do not want to extend more for now. Finally, I want to share this Scripture passage to all our readers: “For you know that whatever good each one will do, the same will he receive from the Lord, whether he is servant or free.” (Ephesians 6:8).