Monday, July 4, 2011

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord!

After a bittersweet time of goodbyes and a surprise greeting of my entire family at the airport, I am finally home! This past week was officially the most goodbyes I have said since going off to college, if you don't count the five or six different times some of the same students said goodbye! My last day at school was Thursday since Friday there were no classes. The children were so sad saying goodbye; it broke my heart when they would ask if I was going to be at school on Monday or the next week and I had to say no. They are all so precious and beautiful children of God! Saying goodbye, not knowing when I would see them next, was one of the hardest things I have had to do here. Wednesday as well was difficult as I went out to El Yahlu for the last time. And then Saturday, my last day in Sumpango, ended perfectly with a delicious dinner with the wonderful people I met and got to know in my two months.
A fun dinner with the teachers from Yahlu!

Saying goodbye at school :(

Through all of these goodbyes thought, the Lord has taught me that what is important is searching for His will daily. It's hard to know when I will be back to Sumpango, but I don't need a long-term plan right now, I just need to submit each day to the will He has for me. This is a lot easier said than done! But like it says in Jeremiah 29:11 "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future." This verse is where my hope is these days, in this promise from God, that He has a plan for my life. I don't need to be concerned with that plan daily but I know He does have a plan, and that is what matters.

So as the two months come to an end, it's hard to put into words exactly what I did, what I learned, and what I saw while in Guatemala. I think pictures speak louder than words so here are a few to enjoy. They are pictures from this past week as well as pictures from the weeks before. If you take the time to look closely at each child in these pictures the love and grace of our God can be clearly seen! And although these pictures are nowhere near the beauty of actually being in Guatemala, I hope you can get a small glimpse into what I experienced these past two months.

Friday, June 24, 2011

"Wherever you are-be all there." - Jim Elliot

This quote by Jim Elliot has been my prayer during my time here in Guatemala but especially is my prayer as I go into my last week here. It's easy to lose sight of what the Lord desires us to see when we are too focused on things to come or things that have happened so my desire is to not get distracted and to spend my last week completely here! With that said let's go over what I have been doing the last week or so :)
Playing (and winning) basketball against a church from Wisconsin. I played with Los Olivos! And during the soccer game I even scored a goal! :)

The second typical outfit I got as a gift from Karla and Oscar! 

God has blessed my time down here tremendously, allowing me to experience and see so many new and different things! To name a few I have been able to translate for multiple groups, I have experienced multiple "Teacher's Day" parties, I have run a Guatemalan marathon (which was actually a 4k), and I have seen over 250 children learn English words that they had never heard before I came. But one thing that can never be forgotten is that without our gracious Lord none of this would have been possible, especially seeing children really learn English!
Some of my students at the school :) Love them all!
Perfect view of one of the volcanoes

One thing that I absolutely love about Sumpango is the kindness of the people. I have experienced first-hand what it really looks like to be selfless, to think of others as better than yourself. Here in Sumpango and within Los Olivos the people are truly selfless. With what little they may have they choose to give it to someone else (for example me) rather than asking those that may look wealthier (for example me) for money. They don't allow you to pay either when it comes to trying to buy things on your own, I have learned that no matter how much you offer you are the guest so they will NOT let you pay. It has touched my heart to experience this love and kindness, especially since the people that give give from a gracious heart, not dragging their feet every step of the way. They give out of what little they have and expect nothing in return; just think of the difference it could make if, in the US where we have been blessed abundantly with money, we could learn to give and expect nothing in return! I'm thinking it would do a mighty work for our Savior!
Finishing my "marathon" in clothes that are not mine and shoes that are not mine, but in second place for the women! So clearly there is a long story behind this race, too long for this blog, but I think this picture explains enough... 

So as my time here continues in this beautiful city I am reminded again of just how amazing our God is. Whether it be attempting to sing in Spanish, translating full conversations when a month ago I could barely speak a proper sentence, or just sitting quietly before the Lord listening to the rain I can feel the Holy Spirit alive and working. I can't say enough just how blessed I am and how great God is! Take a careful, close look at the pictures and you too will be able to see the great blessings of our Savior! :)
Some of the students working hard on the finger paintings of animals

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Isn't she precious!!??

"Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth." - 1 John 3:18. As I read this verse I was overwhelmed but the knowledge that this is exactly what the church, Los Olivos, is doing here in Sumpango, in El Yahlu, and in their church. The focus and vision that the church leadership has is not just reaching the needs of their people spiritually and then not showing God's love through actions but rather the focus is on meeting the needs of the people both spiritually and physically. Los Olivos is truly loving God's people with actions and in truth and to be able to be a part of that this last month has been such a blessing, more than I can put into words!
Helping Karla in the kitchen. One of my favorite things to do :)

The teachers at the school got me a typical outfit as a gift for Teacher's Day!  Here I am standing with Olga, she has been a huge blessing in my time here in Guatemala!

As the different teams from the US have been helping here in Sumpango (today the team from Faith Free arrives!) I have been able to be even more a part of serving God alongside both the church from America and Los Olivos. This past week we headed out to El Yahlu to do a VBS for the children each afternoon. The last day we ended up with about 530 students from the village! We barely all fit in the building out there! The children absolutely loved it and the helpers from the visiting church and from Los Olivos worked side-by-side to make it all happen. Just to see the joy on the children's faces as our bus pulled up was amazing. Again I was reminded how loving our God is when I saw those smiling faces each day.
Singing during VBS out in El Yahlu

Just look at his beautiful smiling face! How can you not see the love of God there!

In the school I have been able to finally incorporate more games and crafts for the kids! A retired teacher from the last group was wise enough to think to bring some necessities for Meagan and I to use and let me tell you we have used them! With so many children and so many classes I was struggling to think of fun and different games that used no supplies, but now with the paper and other things she brought I have been able to teach more through arts and crafts and games, and the children absolutely love it! Even something as simple as a balloon has turned out to fill the entire class time with fun and believe-it-or-not a little learning too :)

Playing a game with the balloon!

So as I venture sadly into my last two weeks here in Guatemala I am praying the God completely opens my eyes to all He has to show me. He has already shown me so much in my time here, but just by looking out at His vast creation I know that there is plenty more my eyes and heart will be opened to :) I am just excited to see what it is He has in store!
It was Marta's birthday this past week! We celebrated with delicious cake!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

The wall we built the trench for 4 years ago!!!
So exciting to see the finished wall and all of the other progress in person!

Busy does not even begin to describe life lately! But at the same time, fun does not even begin to describe life right now too! The first group from the U.S. got here on Tuesday so the time has been filled with either school, house visits (during which I team interpreted with Marta), or any other activity the group may have scheduled to do. But whether I am helping in the kitchen, teaching in the school, or attempting to interpret for the team, the Lord never ceases to surprise me!

Me with some of the boys in one first grade class
My Spanish still needs quite a bit of work, but I finally am feeling comfortable enough with it to carry on conversations that go deeper than "What is your name" and "How old are you," which has been such a blessing! Things at the school are going great. I have learned that our God loves to throw curve-balls in our direction every-so-often, just to make sure we are fully relying on Him. This past week I got quite a few at the school. I had the opportunity to have a few of the women from the team help me teach, which was amazing, so I planned out each day with activities they could help with. Little did I know half of my teachers were gone Wednesday and Thursday so I didn't have those classes, and Friday there were parent-teacher conferences during the morning so those classes were put behind schedule. Needless to say it was a little hectic switching which classes/grades I worked with and when, but I think God just wanted to remind me that He is always there so I might as well give up trying to control everything and just trust in Him :)

As we prepared for the teams we had to go and buy 3 weeks worth of food for over 50 people!
We kept Emily busy during the long shopping day with lots of photos :)

Chocobananos!!! So delicious!

The most common question I have gotten from the team members here working is what has touched my heart the most so far. I've thought about this question a lot, and still have not come up with an answer. If I could, I would say everything. The children, the youth, the adults, the school, the streets, everything. We just have such a loving God and through my time here He has been showing me that love. My prayer is that all of you who are in my life and sharing this experience with me will see that love too. It is something that is so easy to miss out on, but is something that is so life-changing we cannot afford to miss it. God loves us so much that "While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Romans 5:8 Don't miss that! Don't miss that love! The people and children I have met here may not have the designer clothes that we have, and they may not have the beautiful houses we do, and they may not even have the three meals a day that we have, but what they do have is worth so much more than all of that put together. It is the freedom of knowing that this is not our home, that Christ loves us and is preparing a much better home with Him in heaven. This knowledge is what keeps the followers of Christ so joyful and loving here in Guatemala, and this joy and love I have been blessed enough to experience daily during my time here.
The teachers I have been going to El Yahlu with. Can you believe how tall I have gotten ;)

One of the best ways I utilized the helpers from the groups from the
US was by having them snap a few photos for me!

So as another week comes to an end and another week shortly begins I sleep well knowing that the love of out Creator surrounds me and that His Spirit lives within me. Never forget how loved you are! Just look at this picture and think that the Creator of all of this loves you! :)

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Queremos paz! No mas violencia!

"Can you live in peace? The answer is in your hands."
It's June! Crazy! I am quite convinced that time goes by faster here in Guatemala than it does in Wisconsin, but either way, everyday here has been such a blessing from God. The students continue to say "hello" and "goodbye" every time they see me, although I'm not too difficult to spot here with my blond hair and white skin! I absolutely love teaching in the school and seeing the love and joy that the students have no matter what their situations may be. Everyday I am showered with gifts of stickers, erasers, and many many kisses! I can only pray that the students are learning as the classes are huge and I only have 35 minutes in each class. Each day I am learning more and more about how to be a more efficient, successful teacher; experience really is the best teacher!
Some of the students hard at work :)

One day a student came into the class with a baby bird in a cup!
They never cease to surprise me!

This past Friday I participated in a walk for peace with the school. The students joined with two other schools to walk around Sumpango chanting, singing, and waving banners about peace. It was so fun to be part of this walk and such a blessing to see the students so involved! Although, in all honesty, not every student was chanting the correct words as we walked. The third grade boys decided it would be funny to chant, "Queremos queso!" (We want cheese!) or, "Queremos agua!" (We want water!) instead of "We want peace!" like they were supposed to chant. It was quite entertaining until their teacher heard them, and then that was the end of that fun :) But overall it was a great reason for the students to walk and ended up being a very successful day!
Walking the streets promoting peace in white shirts!
The children love posing for the pictures, but don't have the
patience to hold the  pose until the picture is done. 
The first graders carried balloons!

As for what the Lord is teaching me I can't even put it into words! He has shown me so much about His love, grace, power, everything really! As much as it may seem that I am here to teach the children our gracious Father is really using the children to teach me. As I walked around the room in one of the classes today my mind wandered from the task at hand to how little each of these children have in terms of material objects and in terms of education. The amazing thing is that despite their lack of education, their lack of resources, and their lack of stability in life they have the faith and love that God desires each one of us to have. "And he said, 'Truly I tell you unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.'" Matthew 18:3
Notice the blue teeth! :) 

Some of the beautiful girls I have been blessed to teach!
So as I venture into my days here I am filled with the love of Jesus Christ and with the love of these beautiful children. I can't wait to see what the Lord has in store as I continue my teaching and my time here in Guatemala!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

"It is by GRACE you have been saved!"

"But because of His great LOVE for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions - It is by grace you have been saved," -Ephesians 2:4-5 And what a loving God we do have! Throughout my time here God has showed me His love in countless ways. Whether it be a safe trip on the chicken bus, a hug from the students, an understanding ear in my Spanish speaking, or a beautiful sunset from the Chiquito rooftop, God's love never fails to shine through!

Some of the students working hard at drawing fruits!
Used the timer to get a shot of me with the students, luckily the had the patience
to wait for the picture to take in this one :)
I have finally gotten into more of a routine here, spending every morning teaching in the schools and every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday afternoon helping out in El Yahlu. Tuesday and Thursday I am then able to spend time at the house resting, hanging out with the family, and preparing what to teach which is always a blessing! This week the main English lessons I taught were fruits, vegetables, and colors. The students love when I take out my camera, maybe a little too much because it's difficult to get any good pictures! But here are a couple of the students learning, playing, and laughing at me a lot as well!

Playing a game with colors in English
In one class that is especially hyper I had the students run to the end of the field
and back just to get their energy out.

The second graders are learning "Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes,"
the flutes have come in handy to make their learning more interesting!

In El Yahlu I am just there as a helping hand, but I love going to just see how God is working there. It's hard to see the children without shoes and with ripped clothes, but their love and joy is overwhelming. They are willing and excited to learn and even more willing and excited when we play them in basketball. Those games have been quite exciting! All of my years of practice and games come in handy and my "perfect" form almost always produces a swish ;) 
Praying before the lesson in El Yahlu

This little boy has captured my heart. He has a difficult time walking, needs help in almost all he does, and has a smile as big as the sun! You know you want to be a special education teacher when you go to a different country and the ones that grab your heart the most are the ones with clear disabilities and beautiful smiles :)

The weekends I have been blessed enough to see more and more of Guatemala each weekend. This past weekend we headed to Guatemala City to see the "White House" of Guatemala, which is actually a green house but is the same concept. I really enjoyed the time there learning and seeing more than I ever thought I would! I even got the opportunity to walk around the beautiful university that Oscar studied at! This weekend we'll go to another part of this beautiful country. 

Making tomales, a food traditionally eaten at Christmas

In front of the "White House" of Guatemala

God has been teaching me a lot through all of these experiences, but the most important is to always rely on His strength and not my own. Whether it be in controlling a class that doesn't understand my Spanish or in looking out of the bus window to a straight down drop or in trying to communicate whether I will be walking in a protest tomorrow or walking in a demonstration of peace (know worries it's just a walk for peace) relying on the God is what I'm learning to do. "Trust in the Lord with all your heart lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight," -Proverbs 3:5-6