Saturday, January 27, 2007

Clearing Space...

Last December, IDC was approached by two woman, Rita Maria and Leticia, from the pueblo of San Lorenzo el Tejar. Their vision was to save the next generation of street kids in their community. There are children that are born into poverty and do not exist in the "system of government". By the time they reach 10-12 years old, they have had no education, are typically involved in a variety of vices such as sex, drugs, and alchohol. Their hope is to provide an education to these children.

They have aquired space in the local public school as their classroom. As well, my friend the Mayor of Pastores has given them access to some of his property, now they can grow crops. The Clearwater team helped to provide seed money. Their plan is to not only provide food for the families, but hopefully sell some of these crops and generate income to perpetuate the needs of the school.

Yesterday, Nancy, Amber and I were witness to the clearing of the land. This first step in preparing the farm was coordinated by Rita Maria (who is approximately 8 months pregnant) and Leticia and facilitated by most of the moms and a few of the children. The initial reward for these families is some firewood. Watching the diligence of these women and children is an inspiration to what can be done if you want it bad enough

This farm is not readily accessable to the beaten path and traversing the path requires strategic planning at best. When we arrived we found the wooded area almost cleared with the exception of remaining debree in the field. Woman, children, woman with babies strapped to their backs, whacking and hacking the trees and branches; it is very impressive to witness this less than OSHA approved methodology.

The seed planted in providing a little bit of resource to this community has the potential for generational change in the lives of this next generation. We will be tracking this outreach project. By God's grace we have been put into a unique position to offer a hand of help. Time will tell when we can touch the hearts for Christ.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Renovation is Possible...

This vintage stucture is a piece of work that dates back to the early 1600s. I would like to say that I spent hours compiling the vast historical detail that I am about to share, but that would be a lie. This information is a paraphrase from a local historians book written by a woman named Elizabeth Bell.

As the story goes, this facility was established with the name of "Colegio de la Compañia de Jesús" when two Jesuit priest came to the city Santiago (the former name of present day La Antigua). This first Cathedral for this religious order was dedicated in 1626.

At its highpoint this one one of the most impressive religous structures in Santiago. At one time this complex covered an entire city block. It included a church, monastery, school and a house for spiritual exercises. As well it included cloisters, libraries, classrooms, assembly rooms, kitchens and a variety of other spaces. The school awarded a variety of degrees.

In 1767, there was an anti-Jesuit movement that rooted in Spain and all Jesuits were ordered to leave the boundaries of the Spanish crown. The building remained empty for the next 100 years or so until it eventually housed a textile factory. In 1912 the property became the location for the market of Antigua. It suffered heavy damage in the earthquake of 1976.

In the late 80's and early 90's renovation began. The property is on loan to the 'Cooperación Técnica Española'. They have been the movers and shakers in the amazing renovation of this very old building. At present, this building is used once again as a educational facility for corporate and private training.

Given time I suppose any restoration is possible.

Cathedral Parque...updated

During the past couple of weeks, Nancy and I have had the opportunity to "tour" Antigua. One of the more visible sites to see is the Main Cathedral on Central Park or "Parque Central". By many measures this is an incredible structure of man. As with many of the ruins in this city, this church has been built, shaken by earthquakes, rebuilt, shaken by earthquakes, and rebuilt... you get the idea. This location has housed a church since 1543 when the nations capitol of Santiago de Guatamala was relocated to this spot of present day La Antigua.

From the front of this structure you see a beautiful facade facing the park. It has several cement statues representing the different saints and such. I just found out this week that the statues in the front facad are a continuation of the polytheistic worship that dates back to the ancient Myan religion. There are those who have grown up in Antigua that have been taught that if they could not afford to attend the services in the Cathedral then they should worship the statue/idols that are placed in the front of the facad. This follows a more strict tradition during the time of Antigua's colonial heyday. This is the main entrance to the present day chapel that houses many religious artifacts that date back to colonial time periods.

While this magnificent wonder of construction is amazing, it is only a fraction of its previous glory. The present Cathedral does hold regular mass. But the structure that at one time consumed an entire city block; included several cloisters, offices, housing, etc., is now almost the same city block full of old brick and mortar, and a few city offices and shops that have encroached into the space. Today you can go into what was and see remarkable architectural designs and construction. It is unfortunate that man's designs could not and did not stand up to the ravages of a regular cycle of "natural disasters".
You can see what colonial religion may have been like. There are several burial chambers to visit as seen with Nancy in the right side of the frame.

This little excursion brought to mind what it means to work so hard in the mind of man, only to become a monument of what was. I know that sounds kind of heady but think about. From the side of Central Park you only see a magnificent structure maintained and looking pretty good for 400+ years old. (I can only hope to look so good at 400. I can only hope to live to be 400 years old). On the backside, you see the results of the wear and tear of continued physical abuse and damage.

Isn't that how many of us have dealt with ourselves. From the front we always have the smile, but behind the facade, in our hearts, we are empty ruins with evidence that something happened in our space. Isn't it great that through God we don't have to carry the emptiness of our past. And what may have been a devastation leveled to us through our sin can become a point of healing and growth.

It is not my intent to "spiritualize" the "Antiguan" experience. This is one of these random thoughts that correlated to the sites we saw. But a very simple comparison to the fact that men with many gifts in structural design and artistry have come and gone thtough the years as has their work. All of which honors the God that has been there the whole time and more.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Quite the party...

January 9th 2007, the Tourist Police had a party! They invited churches, the general public, and other police precincts. In total about 300 people were there. They had a band, speakers, and a loud sound system that let anything within 1 mile know they were there.

This is the kicker. This event was celebrating the start of an official church at the Tourist Police Precinct. The stage was full of Pastors, and a jammin' worship team. The entire evening was worship and praise before God with an evangelistic thrust. People were dancing, singing, and praising God. 3 people accepted Christ as their Savior. God has done it again.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Run for the Border...

Every 90 days, since we are all on Tourist Visas, we must do one of two options with our passports. If it is the first 90 days then we have to go to the city immigration office and get our passports renewed. If it is the second 90 day period then we must leave the country.

This particular 90 day window Amber returned to the state for doctor's visit, Matt went to the city to visit Ale and her family, I had to leave the country, and Nancy joined me because she could.

A gentleman in our church, Dick Rutger, had offered to "show us the ropes" and take us to the border. The original plan was for Nancy and I to take a couple days of R&R in Mexico and we declined the offer. The best laid plans that we had were changed up at the last minute because of a simple detail that was not reviewed until the night before we were headed out. This was a matter of the Car Rental and the Mexican border. God's ways are higher than ours. We went with Dick's help to the border.

Dick is a full time volunteer retiree serving as a Wheelchair technician in GUA. He works with Hope Haven Ministries distributing wheelchairs to those who need them in this country. For some time he has wanted to get me out into the remote areas of Guatemala and see what he does.

At first you would think that a trip to the border would be the excitement. In fact, it was only a blip on the excursion. Getting stamps in our passports went incredibly smooth, without issue. The remainder of this two excursion was nothing short of awe inspiring.

He took us to the border by way of CA1 a highway that runs from one side of GUA to the other. It takes you through mountains in the clouds. We hit one pass at 1pm in the afternoon. The sky was mostly clear and blue except for the cloud sitting on this one mountain.
We stayed in the town of Huehuetonango the first night. The next morning we got in and out of the border details. Then he took us up in the high country to a home where lived a boy by the name of Ernesto. Out of respect for the family we are not showing images of the house and family, but here is the view from his mountain. The little white line in the lower frame is the road we took to drive to that point.

To get to the house he drove to a point on the mountain and then took us up a trail, by foot, that he had mapped with his GPS. What a rush. I am glad that I have had several months to acclamate to an altitude of 5,000ft. We now were doing advance hiking at about 8800ft. Ernesto suffers from Muscular Dystrophy while living in the middle of a corn field here in the mountains. As we neared his home the children were running in and out of the corn giggling and gawking at the giant Gringos. It was an ear-ry feeling to say the least.

Once we arrived Dick gave Ernesto's wheel chair a good once over and then we needed to make our way back down the path. I know for me I was hoping and praying that I wasn't going to provide these children the entertainment of 250lbs sliding uncontrollably down the steep, muddy hill.

The work being done by Dick and his team is nothing short of phenomonal. They work to provide life improvement through wheel chairs. Each year they host "camp" for children and adults bound to life inside a body that doesn't work. He and his team spend months on the road seeking out those that live in remote areas such as this giving them hope. Returning to repair the chairs as needed. And doing large scale distributions through out GUA.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The Fountain in Parque Central...

This unique landmark in Antigua typically becomes quite the conversation piece. The fountain as we see it today dates back to only 1936. The first fountain while the central plaza was twice replaced. The original fountain dated in 1555 when the first water main was brought into the plaza. This was placed off center to provide space for activities such as bullfights, executions and other activities. The fountain was rebuilt at its present location in 1738. During the next 200 years, the fountain statues suffered from earthquake damage and vandalism. 1936 brought the current fountain that we see today. The original 200 year old mermaids on on diplay in the Santiago Museum in Antigua.

This fountain is the center piece of Parque Central (Central Park). This part of Antigua has a rich history of activity over the last 450 years. During the Christmas season, the park is decorated with lights in the trees. This is an area of the city full of diverse activities ranging from romancing and other illicit activities to street evangelism.

Friday, January 5, 2007

Feliz Año Nuevo...

We, as the body of believers Iglesia del Camino, are in an exciting time. For the last two years, what has been known as Caminos, that which was began by my predecessor and his wife, Eddie and Cary Valdes. It has been operating primarily as a place of English education and a Bible study. In December of 2005, the first official church service was held and in the past two years has grown to include not only the English classes but also two worship services, one Spanish and one English.

One of my purposes for coming to Pastor the church is to move it to the long term goals. Establishing it as a self sustaining church operation, the third campus of Pathways Community Church in Clearwater, FL. For the past two weeks we have been in meetings as a group of believers working through the process of establishing the by-laws for incorporation in Guatemala.

These meetings have gone well. There has been a great deal of discussion ranging from the reasons for membership, and the future direction of the church. There is much work to do and your prayers are needed as we move into this New Year with the new direction.

Monday, January 1, 2007

New Years Eve is a Blast!

The News Years celebration for the Panchoy Valley is quite the big bang. For the past month the Mercado has been expanded to accomodate the influx of additional vendors selling nothing but fireworks. I don't believe the Firemarshal or OSHA rules apply here. It is safe to figure that you don't want to have a spark near this place. I think the blast zone would be significant.

For about a month prior to the holiday celebrations of Christmas and New Years, there are an abnormal amount of private fireworks displays in the valley. These range from kids running with and/or running from splarklers to 6 and 8 inch mortars that explode in dazzling display.

At 12am, the start of the New Year, a fireworks display ignites into a 20-30 minute celebration. The presentation covers the valley, a simultaneous orchestration of brilliant lights stretching as far as the eyes can see.

As a church we had an informal get together for whomever chose to come and watch "A Wonderful Life" in Spanish Audio with subtitles. We had a group of approximately 25 that came to see the New Year arrive. A good time was had by all.