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Bienvenidos

Sorry sorry sorry…

We have been on the go since we arrived Friday night in Guatemala City where we checked into our hotel, got some tacos at El Mono Loco (the crazy monkey) and went to bed! Yesterday morning, our tour guide, Alfonzo shared with us a social justice tour of Guatemala City. He explained to us the cycle of poverty in the aftermath of the civil war that waged from 1960 – 1996.

We then headed to Resurrection Priory in Coban. We made excellent time and were able to eat dinner with the faithful Pedros y Hermanos (Fathers and Brothers) of the monastery. They gave us a fond and familiar welcome. “Bienvenido a casa,” they said. Welcome home.

This morning, we got to join the monks as they celebrated a special mass honoring the 52nd anniversary of the monastery. Mass was held in the street to accommodate the some two-thousand people there. A bishop from the archdiocese gave the homily in Spanish, then Q’eqchi’, then even gave us humble Minnesotans a shout-out in English. I was blown away. From there, we had lunch at the monastery and got ready for the afternoon. Most of us enjoyed a tour of a nearby cooperative coffee-plantation. A couple of us made the trek to an aldea with Fr. Antonio for yet another mass! On the way back from the coffee farm, many got off the bus in the city square of Coban to adventure their ways back to the monastery. We’ve capped the night off with another delicious dinner from Estela, the official cook of the monastery.

Tomorrow we head into the aldeas to deliver our first filters! Buenos noches!

– Jimmy

Here we are at the fountain in front of the Cathedral in Guatemala City, on the social justice tour and outside of San Marcos for mass in the street.

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You’re My Home.

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As a child, my mother would often say to me, “you’re my home,” as if telling me, “I love you.” She used the phrases so interchangeably that their meanings became intertwined. Home, to my mother, wasn’t the four walls and the roof that sheltered us, but rather a feeling, a sense of family, love, security, warmth, and belonging.

As an adult, I’ve discovered how right my mother was; how home is so much more than a house or a building. It’s obvious in so many different but profound ways. Church is such an example.

Church isn’t a building, or a chapel. It’s not something so concrete. Church is the people. The feeling of community, the sense of belonging and the collective call to a higher purpose.

Church is home.

When you begin to think of home in this way, in a manner that is fluid and flexible, it’s easy to find homes in the most unimaginable places.

This past week, I along with thirty-five other people, worked tirelessly carrying out our mission in Guatemala. We built four houses from the ground up. We delivered 250 water filters to people who haven’t had the privilege of access to clean water. We painted a church and we laid the foundation of another.

It was physically and emotionally exhausting work.

As such, I should have been excited to return back to my home here in Minneapolis. If anything, It meant a return to certain comforts. Here I have drinkable tap water, my own bed, a night of sleep uninterrupted by roosters who have a misunderstanding of time, and I’m not spending every single day on a four hour bus ride across bumpy roads into the aldeas to spend hours carrying cinder blocks.

But upon my return, I found myself homesick nonetheless. Homesick for a place I wasn’t born in, a place I didn’t grow up in. For a place I didn’t really know well until eight years ago. Homesick for Guatemala.

Without realizing it, we found something up there in the mountains. Something so much more than the things we built or did. Though we were detached and distant from everything we knew, in a place so different than the one we came from, we found a home.

Because home isn’t just a place. It’s a feeling. It’s love, security, warmth and belonging.

The food may have not tasted like our own, the places may have looked so different than those we are used to, the language may have seemed incomprehensible, but somewhere between handing a water filter off to a grateful Guatemalan and building a home for a family in need, we belonged.

Soon after returning from our trip in Guatemala, two dear friends of mine got married. At the wedding, they read a familiar reading, one I’ve heard at nearly ever wedding I’ve ever attended.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails.

However, this time, the reading seemed so much more prescient and relevant than it ever had before. There are times today when it’s easy to look around the world and see only violence, hate, animosity. It’s as if, in some ways, so many people have forgotten how to love, forgotten what it truly means to love your neighbor. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians speaks to the love one should have for their spouse, but it also speaks to all kinds of love.

It’s about the kind of love He showed us. The kind of love that makes up a home. The kind of love we bring with us every time we go to Guatemala.

Our time in Guatemala is not just about delivering water filters or building houses. It’s about creating homes. It’s spreading this kind of love, His love, to everyone we meet and receiving it in kind.

That’s why I can say, as my mother often did to me as a child: Guatemala, you are my home. Guatemala, I love you.

 

The people affected by Volcano Fuego, you are my home.

The community of Yiquiche Canou, you are my home.

The families who received water filters, you are my home.

The women who invited us into their kitchens to teach us the art of tortilla making, you are my home.

The children of the aldeas who never tired of futbol and hand-holding, you are my home.

The monks who show us grace and humility in all that they do, you are my home.  

The thirty-five who took the unforgettable trip to Guatemala to serve His home, you are my home.

You, who are reading this, who have supported us in prayer, you are my home.

 

Mi hogar está en Ti. (My home is in You.)

Por los siglos de los siglos (forever and ever.)

Yacleen (Jaclyn.)

love never fails.

por los siglos, de los siglos. amen.

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Greetings from what will be our last post before the long voyage home! Monday morning, we packed up the coasters and took an 8 hour ride to Antigua. Our drivers had some thoughts about a “shortcut” that led us through an arid part of Guatemala that I, for one, had never seen before. I think we took a wrong turn somewhere and ended up on a windy dirt road for a couple hours which took the short from the cut. We kept our spirits up with weird bus dares and debating hypotheticals. At long last we got to our hostel here in Antigua where I currently sit on the rooftop typing this post and hoping that Volcan de Agua will poke its head out of the clouds.

 

Tuesday, we all got up, enjoyed some continental breakfast and more Guatemalan coffee and headed out to the Antigua Canopy Tours to zipline through the mountains. It was the perfect day for it. I think I got some good GoPro video footage so I’ll try to post that this Summer. Then, we headed back into town and split up for lunch, and exploring of the tiendas of Antigua. In the afternoon we had our last large group time. We crammed onto the little roof of our hostel and sang together and praised and thanked God for this wonderful trip that Jaclyn and Nicole work so hard on. Then we heard beautiful last words from Jaclyn about taking our experiences home with us and all headed up to take some prayer time at the cross at the Cerro de La Cruz which overlooks the city. I noticed how the cross is there watching over us and thought about a song we sang this week called Your Hands. The chorus goes: “When my world is shaking, heaven stands. When my heart is breaking, I never leave your hands.” After that we took LOTS of pictures together in front of the view and headed back down to celebrate the beauty of this trip and the connections we made with pizza at Al Macarone and salsa dancing.

 

That brings me to this morning on the rooftop of the hostel with the church laptop looking back on this life-changing trip. This trip changes hearts. We become one with the beautiful people in the Aldeas. We see the hardest working people we have ever met, living in poverty because they have little or no access to everyday needs. At the same time, we see a people so happy and so proud of their communities and what they have. I pray that we take Guat home with us, see the poverty at home differently, and be ever grateful of our opportunity and the support from our loved ones. And may we all make it back to the monastery in Coban!

Jimmy

Crossing the finish line

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Hola a todos!

Michelle here again, reporting on our activities of yesterday. We were back out in the sun  for some more work. We ventured to a new aldea, closer to the monastery. Our busses pulled off onto the side of the road where we were greeted by a pickup truck. We then had a truly Guat experience and rode in the bed of the pickup truck (more fun than scary I promise) and were deposited in front of a half-finished church at the top of a hill. We helped them move more rocks and cinder blocks (we’re basically pros at this point) as well as haul bucket after bucket of dirt to level the floor of this church.

After an hour or so of work we were ushered into an old wooden building, which is their current church. We were then served an amazing spread of fresh fruit, pineapple juice, tostadas with beans and more fresh fruit. They were so eager to share what they had with us and seemed so grateful for our help. At this point we are pretty used to being a spectacle wherever we go (picture a group of sunburned, gringos, taller than your average Guatemalan, with dirty clothes and backpacks). Yet, it never gets old that watching us eat fruit is worthy of pulling out their camera phones and snapping some pics.

After returning to our work for another little while we took another food break and then took a hike through the jungle to a soccer field, where most of our group showed off their skills alongside kids from the aldea. We held our own with the kids, except for when Shannon slipped and took a little mud bath and Joe dove head first into some bushes after missing a ball.  After a close game, we trekked through more jungle to head back on the pickup to meet up with our bus.

With a bit more free time before dinner, we took to the streets of Coban for snacks, cold cokes and exploring the festivities of the impending marathon. I feel very lucky to be back in Guat as a leader after having been a part of the inaugural college trip 8 years ago (oof that makes me feel old). Being able to witness the beauty of this country again, and through the eyes of these college kids that I have had the privilege to grow alongside, has been such an amazing gift. We have a few more days together but I’m already getting choked up thinking we won’t all be together for bus rides, exploring Coban and nightly club time with Jimmy leading us in singing.

 

Hello everyone!! Sarah here! Just popping in to share some of my favorite experiences and thoughts from the beautiful country we’ve been able to call home for the past week. I say this because everybody here really has made it feel like home. The people of the aldeas are so eager to welcome us into their communities, and are so willing to share, no matter how much or how little they have.

My heart has never been so full. From being rushed into a small hut where I was then sat at a table where a plate of meat and tortillas were placed in front of me, to children excitedly whispering my name when they saw me from across the street as I sat and enjoyed a coke at a small tienda, I am constantly being reminded of the beauty that surrounds me. The beauty that is not only in the surrounding landscapes, but more importantly in the people. Every single day, I feel so lucky to be leaving the village so full. A belly full of fresh fruit and tortillas brought by the people of the aldea, and a heart full of love that comes along with it. Another huge thanks to everyone back home for the continued love and support that made it possible for me and everyone here to share this incredible experience!

As always, thank you for your support, comments, prayers and love!

Michelle and Sarah

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Patux!

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Hi all!

Caitlin here again. I’ve also recruited some assistance to share a few of the inexplicable experiences we’ve been having here in Guat! First off, I want to say thank you for the outpouring of love and support we’ve been receiving from back home. It means the world to us! Also, your comments have called me to send a quick hello to all of the dogs that have been missing us. So Dilly, Cooper, Brooks, Dolly, Gwen & May, Addie, Shannon & Stella, Camo Trigg & Jacs, Crosby, Libby, Lucky, J.D., Teddy, Sammy, Cooper, Scout & Boone & Dallas …… we miss you too!!! Family, friends, of course we’re missing you as well and can’t wait to answer all of your questions, and tell you about the amazing experiences we have been having.

Now onto the updates. We headed out to Yichiche Canau for our final day. The houses were almost completely finished when we arrived. The masons at each of the worksites worked tirelessly each day, before and after we arrived. Their persistence in getting the job done and coinciding patience with our group was truly remarkable. As was the work of Keith, the volunteer coordinator from Constru Casa. He had the tasks of organizing the entire building process. This included simultaneously attempting to satisfy our large group, the masons, and the families. All of whom had the same end goal, but different roles and expectations during the process. I would imagine that our lack of manual labor experience, and minimal acclimation to the climate or elevation, made this task significantly more difficult for him. However, Keith somehow pulled it off, and did it with a smile.

If you told me at the beginning of the week about the depths of the connections that would form among everyone involved in this project, I may not have believed you. This goes to show just how much God works in seemingly unbelievable ways. We were the first group of “gringos” that had ever been to Yichiche Canau. These people had never had a single outside group come into their village. Now, imagine two Coaster busloads full arriving on a Monday morning. We were greeted with blank stares, hesitant looks, and the occasional nervous laugh. While we were still welcomed graciously, it was nothing compared to what was yet to come.

Today, I had the privilege of running from one worksite to the next, to take Polaroid pictures of the families in front of their finished homes. The smiles on their faces made all of the week’s heavy lifting and Mt. Everest climbs well worth it. Each family member took turns looking at the tiny printout with laughter. They clung to these photos, holding onto them tight, and showing them to anyone who came into their presence. In running from one site to the next, I not only feel ready for the Coban marathon this Sunday, but also got the chance to experience a glimpse of the connections formed between each of the four families, and the group of us they had worked with all week. I was amazed at the bonds that had formed, and how welcomed I instantly felt upon arriving at each of the other 3 sites. Picture this: me running (honestly a slight hobble after all of this week’s work) across the village, bright blue polaroid camera in hand. Moderately asthmatic and out of breath, sweaty and dirty, a stranger to some, showing up to these people’s homes. These families were un-phased, and welcomed me as if I had been there building with them all week. At the final home, I was instantly summoned inside to make tortillas with the women. I arrived a stranger, which only lasted a split second as I was immediately invited inside to prepare food with them! These did not seem to be the same people we encountered on Monday morning. But then again, neither were we. We have all significantly grown in our faith, our dedication to serve, and in our understanding of the unique lives these people live, and do so with such gratitude. Each day, we were greeted with more and more eagerness. The hesitant stares turned to smiles, laugher, and enthusiastic shouts of welcome. One family invited all 36 of us into their home to share a meal, that they prepared for us. We think the food of choice may have been inspired by our limited knowledge of Q’cheqi’and Kaitlin Enriquez’s frequent shouting of the word “patux (pat-oosh),” Q’cheqi’ for duck. Molly “Moby” DeVoe, assisted in the whole meal preparation process as if she had lived in this Aldea her entire life. This was also the second time in a single day that I was invited into someone’s home to (attempt to) prepare tortillas! This time I even got to do it alongside mi hermanita Sarah. Let us tell you, it’s not as easy as they make it look. The women confidently spoke Q’cheqi’, as if we could understand it. We confidently nodded and smiled along, as if we did understand it, but all in all words weren’t necessary. The simple joys of cooking handmade tortillas over an open flame, unable to communicate in words but communicating nonetheless, is just one of the moments that goes to show just how connected we have become with this village. It was five days of amazing transformation, both within ourselves, and in our ability to connect with those around us. While our time in this Aldea has come to an end (for now), the impactful memories and experiences we’ve had will last a lifetime.

Now onto my accomplices to hear more about the amazing time we’ve had:

 

Hi! Jamie here! Another beautiful day in the wonderful country of Guatemala. We arrived at our work site to see the professional had nearly completed the house while we were sleeping. Seeing less else to do, we ventured into the current home where the women were making tortillas. Through broken communication in three languages we managed to ask, and be taught how to make authentic corn tortillas. And boy, do I have a new-found respect for every tortilla-maker in this Aldea. The women (and when I say women I mean the teenage daughters) make it look so easy. The family couldn’t get enough of our small, oblong, lumpy, tortillas (Nicole’s were the best, obviously). Our failure at a seemingly monotonous task was VERY comical to the family. As time went on, more people gathered to watch and laugh at our sub-par tortilla-shaping skills. Though no one spoke the same language, the laughter was universal.

(p.s. Mrs. Burley, Shanny is thoroughly embarrassed and we look forward to the jokes – keep ‘em coming!)

 

Hello everyone! Kate Here!! Hope all is well back home. Today was our final day in the Aldea we have spent the week in. Our group had the opportunity of working with a family who had a large extended family that we have come to know and love over the past 5 days. Their smiles and efforts at communicating with us were endless and we enjoyed every second of it. Today they greeted us with dead ducks in hand… little did we know they would later be serving us those ducks. We watched the process from start to finish, and when I say that I mean starting with the head being taken off and ending with it being placed on our plates, an organic feast to say the least. They showed us such generosity when they had so little to give. At the end of the day it was hard to say good bye, especially to my favorite little guy, Darwin. His toothless smile, energy and eagerness to be with us definitely kept our group going throughout the week.

 

Thank you for reading and keeping up with our journey. We so greatly appreciate your continued love and support. Keep the comments coming, they make our days even brighter!!!

Gracias a todos, y mucho amor,

Caitlin, Jamie, and Kate

The Power of Guat

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The past three days in Coban have been filled with a lot of early mornings, sweat, waterfalls (sorry Mom), concrete blocks, and of course so much joy. We have spent our time serving the people of Guatemala while at the same time having the capacity to learn so much about ourselves and the reason we all came to this beautiful place.

This is my second time in Guatemala. Coming for a second time comes with a lot of expectations and on the first day on our work site I learned to leave all those expectations on the bus, but soon learned to not leave the little amount of stamina I had on there too. The work site my group was at was a little challenging to say the least. Imagine a girl who has never played a sport in her whole life walking up a hill to find out she has to then help carry 150 concrete blocks up that hill. And when I say a hill I mean it might have been Mount Everest. I might have had to stop four times on the way up and suffered premature cardiac arrest, but we did it. My relationship with this mountain represents a lot of our past days on the trip. But the most important part is that at the top of the mountain I made more connections than I ever thought I would. The funny thing about our struggle was that it was the catalyst for the next days of continued laughter, support, and friendship. And this didn’t just happen in my group, this spirit transferred throughout the fellow 35 brave souls that endured their own mountain every day.

Today the funny stories, lasting memories, and impactful times in the Aldeas didn’t end even in the face of our tired minds, sore muscles, and 6:45 A.M. wake up call.

The day started when my group arrived in the Aldea to see a sea of kids so excited to see us. They even asked where Emma Nelson was, little did they know she was on her own journey with the other half of our group falling off the side of a waterfall in hopes to find the true climber in her that never really arrived. This group handed out the water filters, traveled to this obviously slippery waterfall, and managed to walk down the wrong side of a mountain. The day was obviously confronted with challenges, as always, like pushing sand up the side of our Everest-like mountain. This challenge was also confronted with the unwavering help of every other member of our group at the Aldea today, they had no pressure to help us but as the hours passed we saw more and more of our peers come up the mountain ready to help.

This is the power of Guat. The power of every member of our group supporting each other no matter the size of the mountain or the weight of the bricks. The power of Guat is the unwavering generosity that pours out of the members of the community. Today, the people of the Aldea showed this generosity by making one of the groups “American Sandwiches”, this was a gesture to show how appreciative they were of us, but in turn this gesture showed us the pure power that is Guat and the pure genuineness and gratitude that fill the hearts of all the Guatemalans we are lucky enough to serve and even more lucky to make connections with.

Glory Adios to the power of Guat. To the people on this trip that have shown me unwavering strength, commitment, and their own love of God. To the kids who greet our bus every morning with more smiles than the day before. To all of you back home whose words of love keep us going on these long hot days. And to the people and the place of Guatemala, that show us the power of God at every early morning and late night.

Grace White

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PHOTOS!!

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