Guatemala – Part 2

Today is Wednesday, but I need to start with yesterday. Yesterday was an amazing day! And so memorable! We started out with breakfast as usual, and got our marching orders to go build a house on a mountainside. OK. we built a house the day before, we are good to go.

Then we try to actually drive the trucks up the mountainside… that was an adventure in itself. We get to the mountain. A truck and a van. We start on a semi-paved road. It quickly turns into a dirt road. A one lane, dirt road that has big divet for water runoff. The truck is in front and it bottoms out but makes it through. The van, it is not so lucky. We all pile in the back and a few push and we make it through.

We are on our way again when we look down and we realize that we have no room for error! It is a long drop! But before we have too much time to think about that, we have another divet in the road. The truck struggles but makes it. The van gets stuck. Real stuck. The drivers switch out and all people in both vehicles pile into the van on the left side while the driver tries to get it out. Success! So we all pile back into the appropriate vehicles. After much more hair raising turns and much bouncing around, we make it to almost the top of the mountain. We meet a herd of cows coming through and then we start getting out the supplies.

It is then that we found our objective…almost straight down. We have to get all the ladders, lumbar, sheets of metal, tools, food, coolers, and more all the way down. But we are up for the task! After a moment of awed silence at the task before us, we get to it. And within 90 seconds, we are all covered head to toe in dirt!!!

You see, the dirt on the mountain is very much like flour. It is literally like it is covered in flour. The dirt even poofs into the air like flour does. So as we start the downward descent, we fall! And every time someone falls, the dirt poofs on everyone else!!! Let’s just say that it was quite an interesting venture to get down to the build site with all our materials!!

But the adventure continues!!! The shopping team (which included myself) had to go find the blind gentleman that were building the house for (and yes, I said blind. How this man moves around this mountain is beyond me!). He is supposed to be at his sister’s house which is somewhere down the mountain. So, the shopping team heads down some more.

There are more falls and slips as the dirt has no traction. We are walking through a lot of foliage and the “path” we are on ends at a small cliff! Alejandra (our team leader from Guatemala) turns to me and points. I look and we both immediately turn and tell the group to stop. I look around and I see an opening in some foliage. If we grab the foliage and swing/slide down, we can do it.

So, I test it out. It works! Thankfully, non of the foliage was poisonous (we weren’t sure at the time, but we are poison free 12+ hours later!). After we all swing/slide down, we take more twists and turns in order to start climbing back up the mountain and then we arrive!!!

Except no one is home. Apparently they already left for the build site! The locals in the area then point to a much clearer path to go back up the mountain (we are more than half way down at this point). So, with much groaning, we head back up the steep, flour covered mountain.

Although we have a path, our thighs and calves are screaming, the altitude plus exertion is making it hard to breathe, we keep falling, and in some places are half-crawling to get up the steep parts. We finally make it back up with almost no ability to talk and ask for water. Thankfully, Josh brought us some.

The shopping team learns what the gentlemen needs for his new house and off we go. But wait! We have no ladders! They were left at the previous house build and the shopping team has to go get them!

We take two house building team members and go back down the mountain to get the ladders from an area in the city. This time, the locals tell us of a different way to drive up and down the mountain. And it is paved! Woohoo! We head that way.

We come upon the paved road and realize that it is almost straight down. Like a roller coaster, straight down. We all pause a moment then we head down. Thankfully we made it down with no incident.

We got the ladders and went back to the mountain. We dropped Alina and Josh off with the ladders at the bottom of the mountain. They were met by local kids to guide them up the mountain. So they had to carry the ladders all the way up the mountain!

Shopping was a lot of the same except that we were shopping for two homes. The one for the blind gentleman, Cesar, and for the house scheduled to be built on Thursday. So picture it, a Guatemalan super market packed with people. Aisles not big enough for side by side carts. Here comes in four gringos and a Guatemalan, covered head to toe in dirt, each with a shopping cart, briskly walking in a line everywhere they go! We were quite a sight!!

It didn’t get any better when we realized that we had the truck and not the van due to the terrain. That meant that we all had to hold down the groceries in the back so they wouldn’t fall our of the truck as we bounced on cobblestone or went almost upright going back up the rollercoaster road! We were quite a hilarious sight, I’m sure!

We made it back to Cesar’s house and the team had mostly finished the house. So we cleaned up, brought in the purchased furniture and groceries, and then blessed the house.

I want to tell you a little about Cesar as he truly blessed all of us. Cesar was not born blind. One day, God blinded him (according to Cesar). That’s when Cesar gave his life to Christ. He is a man in his late 40’s who teaches kids, takes care of his nephews while his daughter works, sells and delivers propane (by foot), tries to translate books into Braille for others to use, ministers in his community, and about a million other things. All of this on a mountain where people who are younger and with vision are falling all over themselves trying to navigate the mountain. When we were praying blessings over him, his family, and his house, he returned with prayers over us and our families. It was truly Body of Christ communion. It touched us all.

After we were done, we had to get the remaining tools and supplies up the mountain a bit to get it back in the truck. Then it was off to do water filters, on the mountain. Thankfully, there was no more falling and getting dirty (not that it would’ve made any difference at this point!) and the terrain was better.

Well,… mostly better. But we will get to that later. First, we went to a house and demonstrated the filtering systems to two families. They were very welcoming and we had great prayer time with them. They were open with their prayer concerns and I was humbled to be able to pray with them over their issues.

When we climbed up to the truck and van, the van got stuck on one of those divets,… again. Except this time, it was stuck stuck. We all piled out and pushed. I was on the side of the van pushing when all of a sudden the van started moving. That was a good things, except that all of a sudden I was running with the van next to a cliff!!! And I was quickly running out of places to put my feet! Thankfully Meghan hollered out and catastrophe was avoided.

We continued on to do three more water filters and then it was off to … play soccer! But there was no time to clean up! So here are all these gringos, covered head to toe in dirt, aching everywhere from all the mountain hiking/falling, stopping at the park to pick up the boys in the park who shine shoes for a living, are clean, and play soccer WAY better than we do! We all pile in and head to the soccer field.

We play soccer, and of course we lose, but we had a great time and so did the Guatemalans. Some even felt bad for us and switched sides!! We ended soccer at midnight.

But let me tell you, the next day, we were ALL feeling it! We were late getting home, but then we also traded cleanliness for sleep! So we were all tired! To give you an visual about the mess… I took my shoes outside to get the dirt out of them. Just by dumping them (no shaking or forcing out more dirt), I filled two dustpans to the brim. Before, when I walked in the shoes full of a dirt, it felt like walking stress balls!

So getting to today, we woke up and headed for Casa Jackson. This is a malnutrition center. When kids get taken to the hospital for whatever reason, if the doctors feel they are malnutritioned, they are sent here. They are required to stay there until they are properly nourished. The moms come visit and are able to stay, if they can. Sometimes, the kids are given up for an orphanage.

When we first got there, we did chores around the center so that the staff wouldn’t have to. I was on the team that cleaned the wrought iron. It is everywhere throughout the facility. Because the kids can touch it and play on it, we have to clean it in order to keep sicknesses from spreading.

After we were done we got to play with the kids. I had a boy named Steven and he was one and a half years old. However, he couldn’t crawl or walk yet. So I worked with him on his fine motor skills. He LOVED my earrings! We played with them and clanked them together.

The funniest story was a boy named Saul (Sah-OOL). He was 9 but had the body of a 4 or 5 year old. He was a ball of energy! The first time he saw Jonathan, he yanked him away. If Jonathan got tired, he would move to Mark. Then Luke. The boys were exhausted! This kid climbed everything, knew how to work all the doors, and was just always running. All of a sudden, I look over the balcony to the grassy area and see Saul playing. One of the nurses told us he was not supposed to be there. I see Luke come out, with Mark behind him. I tell them. Luke’s immediate response was “Well I didn’t let him out!” We died laughing!

After returning the children, we headed to El Club, a place for kids of all ages to come. Similar to an after-school program in the US. I was on the coloring team. So I taught the kids a Bible verse in Spanish and then let them color. They were allowed 3 crayons per kid and had to trade to get a different color. It is hilarious the lengths these kids would go to get more crayons! While in front of me, they would stuff them in their pockets then ask for more. When I caught them they would quickly hand them to another kid and then say they didn’t have any! They were cracking me up!

After all the kids rotated through our 4 stations, we all got together and sang and then had candy. The van got locked and Madelyn had to climb through the window to unlock it! Of course we could’ve waited for the driver and the key, but why do that?!

For dinner we went to a food court and had fantastic Guatemalan food and donuts! Our devotional time that night was also great. We told stories and laughed for about 35 minutes or so. We had good scripture and testimony. It was great to see the team coming together like that. Afterward, most of the team went to get crepes. I called Clay and got ready for tomorrow. Why? Because we are getting up early to go hike up to the cross.

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