Saturday, December 30, 2006

A bus named Norma...

One of the most common modes of public transportation from one city to the next in and around the Panchoy Valley is the "Chicken Bus". Actually this is a term used pimarily by those that don't live here. The common name for Guatamaltecos is "bus". It took a while to figure why they had names like Esmerelda, Oellana, California, etc. The names reflect the different franchises for the "Chicken Bus" industry.

These vehicles are recycled school buses that take on a different life in Central America. In the Antigua area it is common to see the familiar yellow, Superior or Blue Birds still retaining their personal banner of which school system used to own them. Just recently I saw an old Hillsborough County School System bus blazing across the Antiguan cobblestone. At some point in time, these low tech mechanical marvels get an exterior face lift. A paint job which is nothing short of a cross between a tragic accident from "Pimp my Ride" and "The Partridge Family" road coach.

If you have been reading some of the
earlier blogs, you know that my primary mode of transportation is a motorcycle. I was taken by surprise one day. I had become familiar as to which side these rolling pieces of American history blew out their exhaust. I am convinced if these units will start, they qualify as mint condition, highly tuned Nascar buses; as such the cloud of black diesel soot has become the trademark of pride for their respective mechanics or the lack there of. These reminders of my childhood school memories typically exhaust to the right side of the bus. But not this day. Not this bus. Not this moment in time that I happened to be following behind a bus named Norma.

If I were a betting man, which I am not, I would say that she lured me into a false sense of security. Those mysterious short starts and stops. Each one drawing me closer, seeing my reflection in the chrome ladies on the mud flaps grow larger, only to find the entrapment. She stopped and I was closer than what was a good idea. Let's just say the four inch exhaust was now bigger than life on the left side of the bus, my side of the bus. I was pinned, no option, no ventilation mask.

Upon this reality, Norma made her move. To say these vintage modes of transportation take time to ramp up to speed is inaccurate. On this day, Norma was shooting for a land speed record; quick like a bunny, free like the wind. Have you ever seen the result of a big diesel engine flexing its horse power to fulfill the demand of an under payed driver scrambling to make quota? I have. It's not pretty. There was a specific balance in the relationship to the burning of my eyes and lungs relative to the density of the black cloud of exhaust encompassing myself and my motorcycle.

Not long ago I gave a message one Sunday that this little bit of insight became a real life example. Yet another lesson in humility. In Matthew 5:11 Jesus reminds us, "What goes into a man's mouth does not make him 'unclean,' but what comes out of his mouth, that is what makes him 'unclean.' "

As I was wiping my eyes to see if she had actually moved, this sick diesel aftertaste came over me. In that moment I understood in a regretful manner just what Christ was talking about. If any one was within the sound of my voice, they would have caught a glimpse of the darkness I learned about that day. It is times like this that can be either a time for deep self evaluation or a total embarrassment. For me it was both. As a result, I have a new sensitivity for the scent of diesel and a respect for keeping my distance from a bus named Norma.

Monday, December 25, 2006

'Twas the Night before Christmas...

For Christmas Eve this year we spent the evening with the church family. Our services began at 6:30 and was the night for many firsts. It wasn't so much firsts for the church as it was for me and the team.

The music was Katie and myself on acoustic guitars. After the worship the Jovenes performed a mime presentation of the the Christmas story and a practical life application of just what Christ does for us in our lives. This was written by Keren who is the Manager of our cafe. This presentation was followed by Communion and a Candlelight Service. Our sole focus was that God be honored and glorified with the 80 or people in attendance.
We went to bed around 10pm as we were very tired. We heard that there was a fireworks presentation that happened around 12am. It seemed reasonable that this would happen with or without us. We discovered that this thought was accurate with the exception that it included us whether we wanted it too or not. Since we could not sleep we went outside to watch the show; the 30 minute show. Much of which sounded as though it were launching from outside our bedroom window.

This is quite the memory maker.

The homechurch came home...

We have had a great week. A team from Pathways Clearwater came home, if only for a short time. The activities were focused on working with children and related opportunities.

They spent time with a local hospital, Hermano Pedro, in the children's area. The children that stay here have ailments ranging from cerebral palsy, various mental disorders, and other physical ailments. The team helped where possible but most importantly showed love just spending time with the kids. And for all of their infirmities, they recognized team members upon their returns to the hospital.

Through the coordination of Heather our children's director for the church, the team participated in assisting a children's ministry from a neighboring town, San Luis Nuevo Pueblo. A couple we love to support Marco Tulio and Ledy Hernandoz run a children's ministry to this community. The team assited in a VBSish program, singing, puppets, a gospel message, food, etc. As a gift Marco Tulio made wooden logo plaques for Pathways and Iglesia del Camino with the help of his carpenters in training. Seen here are his wife, Ledy, and his young padowans.

Other activities included:
Preparing materials for and divering a water filter. Completing the most recent project house that we have been working on. A Christmas Party for children born so poor they have no identities, they don't exist in the eyes of the government because there parents can't afford birth certificate. A visit to local Myan ruins and discovered that live animal sacrifices still happen.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Monday, December 18, 2006

the seed has taken root...

In 2004, I was exposed to the possibility of putting a computer into a a small school in Guatemala. This project grew to a computer lab in the city of Pastores. During September of 2005 a team of men from Clearwater, Florida to Pastores and installed the infrastructure for the 36 computers donated to the city from St. Petersburg College (SPC) in Florida. This included tables, electrical support, network wiring, and a DSL satellite for internet connectivity. Due to import glitches the computers were not released and the lab was not finished until March of 2006.

This lab was an experiment with potential for enormous gain or enormous losses. The project itself cost more than expected, had opposition from many directions and until now has been merely a seed waiting to grow.

Sunday the 17th of December, I was priviledged to participate in the first graduation for the Computer Training classes of the City of Pastores. The number of graduates totaled 40 students. 30 or so children ranging in ages 10 - 15 and the rest were adults.

When we had recieved the invitation it was for the staff and only to attend. With all that has been happening it was only realistic for Nancy and I to be there. Once we arrived I was informed that not only was to attend but also make a few comments and help hand out the diplomas. No one in the room spoke English. My friend the Mayor of Pastores, Miguel Lopez, put me up to this and was laughing while I gave my presentation... in Spanish wthout translation.

One interesting fun fact is that the Ministry of Education for the Department of Sacatepequez; the government agency that the Pastores Educational system is responsible too; had to figure out how to credit these students with their certification. You see no other school in this department has a computer lab. For this part of Guatemala, at least at this point in time, this is the only computer lab of its kind; filling a niche.

Once again God demonstrates that he uses unlikely people in unique situations. It will be interesting to see just what this seed grows into.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Tuesday, December 5, 2006

la Policia came por la noche...

God once again made something happen that does nothing but restore my sense of awe in what He can do. Every fiber of my body tells me that these things just don't happen.

The Bible Studies that I have had the blessing of doing with the Tourist Police is actually in a rotational schedule, every Monday and Friday. I am with one team of officers then a shift change takes place and then with another group the following week.

During the month of December, the shift rotation is five days on and 24hrs off. Both shifts are in town on Monday. The meeting space we have at the Tourist Police Precinct is very small with a maiximum of 12 people that fits comfortably. Depending the shift, we have as many as 17-20 people meeting in this space. To have both shifts in one night meant we would need another alternative, "pronto". And what an alternative it was.

Last night 30 men and women from the Police came to Iglesia del Camino for nothing less than a church service. When I realized that they were coming, I let the church team know; the worship team came and played the Sunday Morning Line-up; the Prayer Ministry that had been praying for the needs of these individuals stayed a little later; Nancy, Amber and Heather rocked the coffee and deserts; several others who had heard they were coming joined the party and welcomed the men and women dressed in black uniforms. The sanctuary was nearly as full during any of our services as I have ever seen.

We had church. The house was rockin'! These men and women can sing. Katie led a mostly Spanish worship set and then we closed with 2 songs that they had been learning, Breathe and Magnificent God in English. By the time I got up to share the word, the message had already been communicated, they were in a church that welcomed them and loved them.

Check back on about a week or so. As soon as I can get the video and audio links you will be able to hear and see that God is doing amazing things here in Antigua.

Sunday, December 3, 2006

Visions can come true...

On my first visit to Antigua, in December of 2004, the team and I were taken to a small village outside of Pastores, by the name of el Tizate. On this tour we really saw Guatemala. This was a city of dirt roads, pathways that were very dangerous to walk and life situations that were very dificult to observe; all the while knowing I would be returning to my home comforts back in Florida. This past week I had an opportunity visit this same community.

One specific aspect that we saw was undeveloped house on the side of the mountain that was planned to use to start a Christian school for the community. This place was a rat hole at best. Of all the possible projects we saw during that visit, this seemed nearly inconceivable that it would or could happen. Several team members, were thinking "Yea, right. Good luck with that...", myself included.

Jesus looked at them and said, "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible." - Matthew 19:26 . This is one of the many scriptures that smacks you between the eyes in light of my lack of faith.

A local Guatamalean missionary by the name of Marcos Estrada was the tour guide for the team two years ago. He was my tour guide again. His motto is that his ministry is transforming Guatemala on community at a time. He is helping to do just that.

These images demonstrate that visions can come true. The school is beautiful. They have completed one year of education at the kindergarten level and will grow one class each year. The facilities now include not only the main building and patio but a back building for classrooms, satellite DSL, a great room, and housing for staff. A group from Canada locked on to this vision and made it theirs. God has used them in a most amazing way.

Friday, December 1, 2006

Learning to Blog...

I have never been that great at journaling, but God has been stretching me in many ways to do more than what I thought I could. It is my hope to be able to better communicate just what it is that God is doing here in Antigua, Guatemala. Not only for me and my family, but kingdom stuff as well. I know that God is busy not only here, but where you are as well. Please take a minute or two and reflect on the many things that God is doing for you. and share them. This is my purpose for starting this "blog".

I am getting into the game a little late and hope to back log the events of the past several months as we move into the future.

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