Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Opa and Oma's Visit

At the Zoo!
Before Christmas my parents came for two weeks.  It was nice to have them come and visit for a while.  This was their third trip to Guatemala.  I spent a good portion of the time they were here working even though the AMG office was closed for two weeks at the end of the year.  My parents arrived on Saturday the 17th at noon.  On Sunday we went to the Presbyterian church and on Monday we headed to Cubulco for a few days.  Lia and the kids stayed behind in the city since they did not want to go twice during the Christmas break.   We spent four days in Cubulco and my parents spent most of their time relaxing while I had meetings to attend and work to do in preparation of 2012.  The end and the beginning of a year are always the busiest times because budgets need to be prepared, reviews need to be done, and planning needs to take place.  Then the new plans need to be implemented and people hired, etc.  
After our week in Cubulco we were able to head off for 3 days and we visited Panajachel and Xela.  Lia and the kids came along for this trip but we did not all enjoy our time because several of us became sick.  It started with Tristan on the first day and the following day passed on to Lia.  When we got back home little Nico got sick and then finally I did.  Regardless of the sickness and the busyness we had an enjoyable time.  Apart from visiting Panajachel and Xela we went to the zoo and spent a half a day in Antigua.  Mom and dad left for home just before New Years.   It is a real blessing having parents who love and care for you and most of all who love the Lord.  We hope that they will be able to come down and visit us on a regular basis.  That invitation is also for any one of you who reads this blog.  You are more than welcome to come down and visit and see what Guatemala is like and what the mission work is all about.


Thursday, January 5, 2012

Teacher Training- Day 3

Today was our third consecutive day of training.  Although I have been part of the previous training sessions today was my turn to presents my lesson which was on "integrating Christian teachings into the national curriculum".  I was asked to teach a seminar on this topic in November for the teacher of AMG.  I must admit that when I was asked to teach on this subject I said that I was not quite sure as to what I should teach.  I was told that I had some good ideas as to this subject and therefore am qualified to teach on it.  I guess that during my visit of the schools and talks with some of the directors I had asked questions, made comments and suggestions regarding teaching holistically.  My comments got me in trouble since I must have sounded like I knew what I was talking about.  I prepared my material and gave the 4 hour seminar and thankfully it was well received.  I focused mainly on the importance of having a Biblical worldview and what is a Biblical worldview. I only touched briefly on how to incorporate Biblical teaching in each subject.  Interestingly enough the following week ACSI came to AMG and gave a more practical seminar on exactly what I only briefly touched on.  Their seminar complemented mine in a perfect way.  It is amazing how God works since I was not aware as to what ACSI was going to speak on (I did not even know they were coming) neither were they aware of what I had taught on.  God orchestrated everything perfectly.
Anyhow, I decided to do the same seminar today with our teachers and it we had a good time together and had some good discussions.  We also did some practical work where the teachers had to take an object lesson from the national curriculum and combine it with what the Bible say and come up with an object lesson that is holistic.  My prayer is that the teacher shift their way of thinking in order to teach Biblical based lessons.  Our teacher currently teach the national curriculum in their schools and also a separate Bible class.  The purpose of the training today was for them to begin taking the national curriculum and combining it with what the Bible teaches in order to provide a lesson that teaches the subject from the Christian worldview.  While this sounds easy it can be quite challenging especially when you have never done so nor have been taught how to do so.  My prayer (I ask that you pray for this with me) is that our teachers begin to prepare their lessons and include Biblical ideas into them.  They might not do it very well at first but with time and more training and experience we hope that they will be able to do so more fully in the future.   

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Teacher Training- Day 2

Vilma the Director

Yesterday was the second day of training for the teachers.  We are working through a book titled "Principles of Christian Teaching".  While the book is focused more on a teacher for Sunday school there are many things that apply to teaching in general.  The response of the teacher has been good.  We had a number of good discussions surrounding the first lesson which was on the "Law of the teacher: knowledge" especially on the topic of spiritual maturity from Hebrew 5 where the Bible speaks about elementary doctrines and teachings and comparing it to milk. The writer of Hebrews exhorts believers to mature and move beyond these elementary teachings and doctrines like baptism and the end times, etc. It is interesting to note that often amongst believers even today these elementary doctrines are the focus of many of our discussions and disagreements.  Please pray for the teachers that they may mature in their faith and walk with God.
Julio Cardenas- Director of the Hospital
We also had Julio Cardenas the directors of the hospital in Cubulco come in to speak briefly on the services that hospital offers. We want to partner more with hospital in promoting healthcare and its services in the communities where our teachers work.  We also will be partnering with the hospital with regards to services for students who attend our learning center.  It is a real blessing to have the AMG hospital in Cubulco and to be able to partner with them so that we can work together to advance the kingdom of God here in Cubulco.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Teacher Training- Day 1

Today was our first day of training for the teachers which we held in one of the classrooms at the church.  This is the first year that we are starting the year with some training.  Today we started off by getting the teachers to write briefly what they would like to see happen in this coming year.  Many stated that they would like to be stronger in their faith and also work better as a team.  Each teacher was given a chance to share his/her "dream" for the year and afterwards we told them that they should "meditate" on it in their own time and once they are happy with their dream to print it neatly on a page and keep it with them during the year as a constant reminder.  At the end of this Pastor Xicara led the teachers to the sanctuary for a time of reflection prayer, and dedication.   Afterwards we had the teachers split off into small groups and act out part of a Psalm 1.
In the afternoon the teachers were taught how to do personal devotions.  What was interesting and alarming to observe was that many of them were not sure how to do personal devotions.  For most of them it consisted of simply reading a portion of the Bible and pray. They did not realize that they also needed to meditate on what was read.  The word "meditate" in Hebrew in Psalm 1 is the word used when referring to a cow who is chewing his cud. For those who understand the digestive tract of a cow realize that a cow eats grass and swallows it and the grass goes to the first of four stomachs.  When it is resting it regurgitates the grass and chews on it some more.  It goes through this cycle a number of times until the grass is fully digested. The Psalmist wants us to do the same with God's Word.  This was an eye opener for many of the teachers and it reminded me not to take these kinds of things for granted and expect people to know how to do these things.  One of the things I have learned during my time in Guatemala is to not assume anything.  Many people have a very shallow Biblical background even if they have grown up in the church.  Once again I ask for your prayers for each one of the teachers:  Vilma (director), Alex, Lucero, Arturo, Rosendo, Desiderio, Gloria, Juan, Mario, Salvador, Efrain.  (You can find a picture of each one of these teachers in a previous post on the FRMI blog titled "Introducing the Education Team".  Click on the Guatemalan flag to go to the FRMI blog.)  One of my goals this year is to spend more time praying for each one of the teachers and I hope you will also join me.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Teacher Interviews

We are starting a new year which means that it is time to hire teachers for 2012 school year.  Each year we hire teachers to teach in the learning center and in 6 aldean schools.  The school year in Guatemala runs from January till the end of October although classes usually do not start until the middle or end of January and usually end the beginning or middle of October.  Our practice is to lay off our teachers at the end of the school year and rehire those who performed well the following year.  This saves us from having to fire those who did not perform too well.  We simply do not rehire them.  Often when there are issues we do not find out about them until the school year is almost over.  It is easier therefore to let them finish the year instead of firing them and having to find another teacher to replace them for a month or two.  Only in severe cases do we decide to terminate a contract before the year is up.

This year we will most likely be rehiring all the same teachers as last year since we had no major issues with any of them.  Most of them did their work well and not only worked in the schools teaching the regular subjects but also taught Bible and supported the Reformed Churches in Cubulco and in the aldeas.  Even though we know these teachers well, since most of them have been working with us for a number of years, we still felt it was important to interview each of them.  We had each teacher answer a number of questions and most dealt with their spiritual life.  After this Pastor Xicara, Vilma (education director) and I spent 30-45 minutes with each of them talking about their spiritual life.  Pastor Xicara spent a lot of time exhorting each teacher with the Word of God.  We feel that we need to focus especially on the spiritual not only because FRMI (Free Reformed Missions Int'l) is a Christian organization, but because this is the key in ensuring that these teachers do not feel that this is simply a job, but a ministry.  Our goal in having teachers has always been in the first place to minister to the children in our communities. We need our teachers to feel the same way and therefore we need their spiritual life to be in order.  The rest will come later.  "Seek first the kingdom of God and all these things shall be added...."   Of course not all are at the level that we would like.  Many of them struggle with a lack of spiritual maturity, but through this interview process we made them aware that we will be there to help them stay the course.  We will pray for them and we will monitor their spiritual life.  We will also spend more time in training them with Biblical teaching.  We ask that you join us in praying for the teachers of Cubulco. 

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year!

We want to take this opportunity to wish all of you a Happy New Year.   We pray that God and His kingdom will be our focus for 2012.  We pray that you will continue to support us especially through your prayers in 2012.  Our plan was to be in Cubulco for the New Year but because of the flu hitting several members of the family we have had to postpone our trip so that we can get better.  Driving for 4 hours along very windy roads is not pleasant when you feel fine.  It is torture when you are sick.  Having said that it was nice to be in the city for the New Year.  We went to the roof of our house and watched the fireworks erupt all over the city.  It was not as big as Christmas but it was still impressive.