sunday May 13, 2012 The initial culture shock.
It was an early morning. We left our homestay at 6:30. We were told that we would be going to a place called the trash heaps but werent given much information other than that. Naturally my mind was inventing up ideas of what this place waslike but wht i imagined was nothing like what I saw. before we had even arrived I was shocked at the standard of iving in this area of the city. before we even arrived to our desitnation we were greeted by architecturally similarhomes as those in the area we were staying but the actual appearance, upkeep, and general livability of the area was completely different. Honestly speaking, the lower ninth ward of New orleans is a nicer place to live. the small homes were almost competely hidden by the large piles of trash that were built up past the rooves of the houses. some homes had more piles of trash on top of them. I thought we would stop any second at our destination but w continued driving for a few minutes. The further we went into the area the worse it got. We finally stopped outside a tall gate that lead into a dump site where we were going to be ministering and distributing food. We were greeted by a group of people from Manos de Amor and were told that we would be doing a childrens service in the dump. Inside the dump an path wayhas been let to connect and seperate the heaps of trash. since it is the rainy season th path was muddy and speckled with colorful bits of confetti looking trash. The team from Manos de Amor, who were familiar with the area, lead us to w small village built insie of the dump ot of old pieces of trash. The little huts were made mostly of old rusted scraps of tin, tarps, and old advertising banners to help keep out the rain. we stopped towards the front of the village and the group told us to wait while they gatherd the kids. while the Kids first started trickling in there were two little girls who were giggling to themselves staringat us. one pulled a pcket of sweet tarts out of her poket and she and her friends attempted to hide it as they tried to get it open all the while giggling and watching us. Then the taller ran up to me with her clinhed hand trying to give me some, when i accepted and told her “gracias” she giggled with her hand over her mouth and ran back to her friend. They did this a few times. to me, to gabi, and then lastly to josue. It was really cute but at the same time I was touched by their willingness to give out of the very little they had. by this time more kids were trickling in and s we started to play a game with the kids for a few minutes until more came. Once the rest of the kids Josue gave the childrens lesson in spanish and gabi did a few spanish childrens songs with movements that we helped teach them. to wrap up the time we had planned we played a game called parachute. the kids really enjoyed ths game. what kid wouldnt enjoy running under a brightly colored giant cloth parachute before it falls on them? one little boy enjoyed it so much, it didnt matter what color was called he just ran. Part of me, the controlling nursery teacher side, wanted to correct him ont he ruls of the game but the logical side kicked in pretty quickly. Sometimes I feel like I need to be in control of all situations and I dont. It desnt matter ifa 6 year old boy is playing a game in his own way. he isnt hurting anyone by running everytime so it doesnt matter. After our last game we gve them all a few sandwiches and juice and spent time with them. josh was holding a little boy and when he tried to bringhim to get food he refused to take it because he ws afraid josh would put him down. How heart wrenching must it be, to be so deprived of love and affection you would choose to sty hungry than possibly be put down? And then there was a little girl tha, when it was time for us to leave, said ” hate when you all have to leave. I wish you could alljust stay here forever.” but we couldnt and we left. The last shocking moment was when we were standing back outside the gate nea our van, after giving food to a few men who were passing by we were loading into the van whe i realise there was a dead dog wrapped in a tarp. which was sad but did not match the sadness that came when a man stooped down to wash his hands off in the grey water surrounding the dog. My heart breaks for these people.
It is easy to wish these kids didnt have to live in these conditions but feeling horrible for them and wishing doesnt help anyone. I cant adopt all of these children and bring them home with me. However, I can give of my time, I can give of my prayers when I am gone, and I can pray for manos de Amor who are regularly reaching out to these groups, and I can give of the little broke college kid money that i have. Because even at my lowest balance in my student checking bank account I have more than them.
May 12, 2012 waking up and falling asleep in different countries
The team woke up at 2:30, left for the airport at 3:30 and left New Orleans at 5:30. I have no conscious memories of taking a plane but I do know I was on a plane when I was maybe 3 or 4 years old because I’ve seen the pictures. Being on the plane on the way here was a very nerve wracking experience. Josh, the chi alpha campus pastor at the university of loyola in new Orleans, offered to switch seats with me so I could sit with my friend Gabi instead of being stuck in between 2 strange men I had never met. The moment the plane started moving I nearly jumped out of my seat. Gabi started praying with me and I was holding onto her hand tightly the entire time the plane was gaining momentum, ascending, and then probably another 10-15 minutes after the plane had leveled I finally let go of gabi’s hand. That is when I noticed I had unknowingly grasped her hand so tightly I left an imprint of my hand on hers. I began apologizing repeatedly as she laughed it off and insisted I hadn’t hurt her hand. We started going through the magazines and decided to read an article in Spanish called “que es un gato?” (what is a cat?) first because one of the girls on the team, Austen, LOVES cats, secondly I wanted to work on my Spanish more before we arrived here. We had a 2 hour lay over in Miami, During which time we had breakfast and sent last minute messages to friends before turning off our phones for the time we are in country. Getting through the second flight was much easier. It was longer but by this time I was amazed by the clouds. I feel clouds are one of those things that I just don’t think about. They are in the sky and I think nothing of them. But these were not just the clouds i see in the sky I see way above my head. These clouds were below me. There is nothing holding them up. I don’t know what about them amazes me so much but I am humbled at how big God is and revert to a small child in shock and awe at something so common place but being perceived for the first time in a completely new way. When we first got into Guatemala I was surprised at how easy it was to get into the country. All we had to do was show our passports. No visas. Nothing. Passport, a few customs questions required by the US and done! After that it was just a matter of tracking down our luggage and meeting josues parents and our driver fransisco outside. Here they don’t allow anyone not getting on a plane into the airport so there were hundreds of people outside in a large group just waiting for their people all the while surrounded by Uniformed men with very large Guns. After Meeting Josues Parents and many many Jokes of promising not to litter nor disobey traffic laws for fear of being confronte my armed militia, we were packed into the van and set off for senor Manuel and senora Brenda’s Home where we will be staying during the time we are in the city. As soon as we arrived and gotten our luggage into our rooms Senora Brenda (josue’s mom) had lunch ready for us. and then an hour later she had a snack for us. after a brief period of relaxing we debriefed and planned for the rest of the day. The only event we had planned for today was a youth meeting at one of the churches that is hosting us while we are here. during the meeting we shared our testimonies during an event we call “the freeze.” someone invited our team up to be itroduced and while we were walking up to the stage someone blew a whistle and we all stopped in whatever position or step we were in for an awkward amount of time until the whistle was blown again. Then we all look up and slowly point to one person who then begins sharing their story starting with ”there was a moment in my life when time stood still.” this is a way for us to pin point exactly when it was that we came to chrsit and what our lives were before and after the acceptance of Christ as our savior.It is a really affective tool when on university campus or public areas because it grabs peoples attention when a whistle is blown and a large group of people has stopped moving. it gathers interest and before you knw it a crowd is trying to figur out what is going on. Perfect. Gospel. Sharing. Tool. (this is my way of saying ‘Please steal this idea’) After the initial testimony we broke the group up into 2 groups. by breaking up into 2 groups we were able to all share our stories and allow for time so the youth could ask us questions. A lot of the questions centered around what campus life was like for us and how we dealt with temptation and friends who arent christians. Some of the questions were more personal asking for more information about our own stories an sometimes they were not questions but just a desire to shre with the group what their walk has been like or their own struggles and how they were able to overcome them.I am really impressed with the youth’s willingness to be open in a group of their peers that they may or may not be close with. I am assuming that if you are ina group of 35-40 kids, they arent all your best friends. It is inspirig to see openess in this group when I struggleto be open and honest with people i am closest with.
When we left the meeting Senor manuel and Senora brenda Were waiting for us with dinner. Then it was time to have our first devotional time for the trip and to be briefed on what we will be doing tomorrow. Wake up time is 5 am and we will be going somewhere called the trash heaps.
May 11, 2012 10pm
Today was one of the hardest days I’ve had all year. I have never gotten lower than a b on a piano test and on my final I got an F! Once I got to our last training and preparation meeting at 4:30 it was just me and Christine and she asked me how my day was and I just broke down crying. I have been sleep deprived trying to pack up my apartment, trying to pack for Guatemala AND try to study and practice for finals. And to have it end with an F on my final, unsure of how that would affect my final grade, I couldn’t hold it in anymore and I just let go. It was actually a really interesting way to start this trip prep time. Christine was really excited because I was showing emotion and actually crying instead of pretending like I was okay. That is my normal reaction to things and this semester has been spent attempting to be open and real with people. So I suppose this is a huge break through. So spiritually and emotionally thi has been a productive semester. Now I am just hoping that my grades follow suit. I dot want to be distracted thinking about my grades while I am in Guatemala. I am praying for peace and focus right now. God grant me your mind and focus my eyes to the needs of your people.
May 11, 2012. 1 am
I’ve bought a journal to bring to Guatemala. Im not usually much of a journalar but I feel God already starting to move in me as I prepare and want to document everything I see hear smell and experience while I am in country.
We leave in a little less than 30 hours. I’m not really sure what to expect but I am excites to see what God does in and through this team. It is hard knowing thtbi am going to have to rely so heavily on people I honestly don’t know to well but I know God will help me overcome my issues with needing absolute control in all situations.
Not only is this the night before my trip but it is also the last night I will be spending in my apartment. I am really sad because my amazing room mate Angelika will be moving back to Austria but at the same time I am really excited to say I finished my first year at the University of New Orleans. Also I am really stoked that next semester I will be meeting new room mates, and living on the 3rd floor so I won’t be dealing with the clog dancers that lived above me this year, nor will I be getting all of the roaches. HALLELUJAH, AMEN!!
It is unreal how this has all come together. It is unreal how God has changed my mind set and attitude just in the preparation for this trip. I can’t wait to see his faithfulness even more.
So there have been many many wonderful things.
I have been home from Guatemala a sufficient amount of time to have finally gotten my thoughts together and processed the information in the journal I was keeping through out the trip. I will be posting one post for every day we were there starting from the night before. So keep following and I hope the story I lived through the people and the country inspire you and move you to action where ever it is God is or has placed you. God bless.
AGH! I leave in 16 days!
So exciting! yet I am so nervous! So much to do. pack up my apartment, move out take finals, tonight is my last concert for the semester. SOOO much and all packed into 2 weeks and 2 days…
I am having trouble wrapping my head around it.
but on a slight change in subject. My pastors are very good at calming me. and I love them very much!
still $542 dollars short of my need. so again. if you are reading this and are able to donate, even if its just $10, please visit www.xanola.com and click the donate button on the right. in note to sender please write “stephanie- guatemala”
Thank you and God bless!!
Plane tickets have been bought and we leave in 27 days!!
But I still have another $600 to raise before I can get on the plane and two weeks to raise it. My faith is certainly being stretched! I can’t believe how fast this time has gone bye!
Again. If you would like to donate to my trip you can go to Nolaxa.com click donate and in the note to seller box write Stephanie- Guatemala or send check to the address in my about me section. Thanks! And God bless.
Post office adventures
Today I rode the bus by myself for the first time ever. Usually I’m with someone who knows where they are going and I’m usually just tagging along on a shopping trip or new Orleans adventure. But today i had to go to the post office, mail out suppor letters and apply for passport. There is a post office on campus but they don’t do passports so I had to go all the way to south carrolton to get this done. I was really nervous about getting on the wrong bus or taking the wrong transfer or missing my stop. The driver on the first bus was really sweet and helpful. But I felt like I was bothersome to the driver of my transfer. So I tried not to ask to many questions. After about an hour and 10 minutes on the bus I got to the right stop (praise God!) but then I got lost because the area was a dead zone an I couldn’t use my gps to put in the address. So I wandered around for about 20 minutes and asked several different people before I finally found the post office (praise god again!)
Have you ever applied for a passport before? You have to swear an oath. Like raise your right hand and repeat after me kind of stuff. I found it kind of silly and old school and couldn’t help but giggle a little through it.
I feel like god worked in me through this trip. He is helping me to be even more dependent on him and more independent from people. Cause I’m going to be honest the idea of taking the bus and getting lost in new Orleans has terrified me since I moved here. Which is why I have avoided using the transit alone. But God really got me through it. I don’t know of it’s possible to really explain how big of a deal this is to me.
So yes. I am that much closer to getting to Guatemala! Passport application? Check!
Letters sent? Check!