Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Trip to Pichal

Pastor Xicara
Several weeks ago I had the privilege to do a short day trip to the aldea of Pichal.  One of the things I miss now that we do not live in Cubulco are the treks to the aldean churches (or at least I think I do).  The treks, although often difficult and tiring, always had an upside which was enjoying God's creation.  The hike to Pichal is the shortest one as it takes 45 minutes by truck, a short boat crossing as the bridge is no longer there, and an hour hike. I had been invited to attend an outreach service there and was accompanied by a family from the central church, Pastor Xicara, a medical student from the States Ben Bloxham, and my twins Nico and Ellen.  We left in the afternoon and arrived in Pichal a half an hour before the service was supposed to start.  Special services hardly ever start on time, and this was no exception. We first had to eat supper so that postponed the service for a while and then it poured for a good hour which also delayed everything since you could not hear a thing.  Also it was supposed to be an outdoor service since it was the dry season and no rain was expected.  But rain it did and everyone scrambled to move everything inside the church.  After an hour delay we started the service.  The service was "lively" and loud which is typical for many churches in the aldeas although my ears would appreciate it being done with less volume.  2.5 hours later the first part of the service ended and we left to go back to Cubulco.  We walked for an hour back to the river, where someone was supposed to be waiting for us to take us across.  They also had left us a phone number to call them in case they were not there.  We called and no answer and after waiting in for a half an hour someone finally came to take us across.  It was around 10:30 PM by that time and from there we drove the 45 minutes back to Cubulco. 
I ask that you pray for the 5 churches in the aldeas and the men that lead these churches.  Pray that God will empower them to lead the church and that the church will respond by supporting them to do that work.

Sunday, May 27, 2012


Several weeks ago I had the opportunity to be in Nicaragua for 5 days doing a similar exercise related to my work with AMG as I had done in Colombia.  Again this trip was sponsored by Woord en Daad Holland and it was a worth while trip.  I spent those 5 days learning about our partner organization in Nicaragua called INDEF.  I learned a lot since I was able to get a better idea what INDEF does and how their programs run.  This information is useful since it allows us to implement new ideas in our own organization. It is also interesting to learn from each other: the things that work, the difficulties and challenges, and the failures.  I really enjoyed my time there and the hospitality provided by the people from INDEF.  
I flew to Nicaragua early Monday morning and I had the privilege of getting a free upgrade to business class.  This was only the second time that I have flown business class, the first time being 12 years ago when I had to fly back to Canada for Lia's dad's funeral. After an hour flight I arrived in Managua at 8:15 in the morning and was welcomed by the humidity and heat.  I was picked up by one of the INDEF staff who drove me to the head office where the meeting had already started.  I did not miss much since they had just started the devotional time.  We spent the rest of the morning going over several studies that where done last year (similar studies had been done in Colombia and Guatemala) and it was interesting to discuss the results and also critique the study tool. It was interesting to see that although the countries are different the context is quite similar.  In the afternoon we had a short seminar on the meaning of PMEL and how to implement it in the organization.  The next 3 mornings were spent doing a PMEL strengthening exercise which help evaluate the organization with regards to how they plan, monitor, evaluate, and learn.  This tool, although lengthy, is quite helpful and gives an good idea as to where the strengths and weaknesses are with regards to PMEL.  Tuesday and Wednesday afternoon was spent visiting different projects that INDEF have.  We first visited a Club that they operate in a school around 2 hours south of Managua.  This Club is a cooperation between INDEF, the local school and local government. INDEF operates a computer lab and a beauty school out of this school and they also provide Biblical teaching.  It seems to work quite well.  The second project we visited was a beauty school in a place called Tipitapa. I thought Managua was hot, but Tipitapa which was only 30 minutes away was scorching. Although the heat was almost unbearable, we had a good and interesting visit as we met with local staff and students and alumni of the beauty school. This school empowers women to make something of their lives by cutting hair, doing manicures, and pedicures.  Many of the women spoke of how they recovered their identity through the program.  Nicaragua, like a lot of Latin American countries is plagued by the problem of "machismo" and "marianismo".  This creates a culture where many men are not responsible in how they are as husbands and fathers and so you find many broken homes, infidelity, and abuse.  Interestingly enough, although it is a problem with men, women are largely to blame since they often are the ones that instill "machismo" in their sons instead of teaching their sons to be different. It is important that through Biblical teaching people understand what the roles of men and women are and that "machismo" is not Biblical, but is destructive.
Thursday afternoon was spent doing a few other exercises and Friday we spent doing some sightseeing.  Initially we were supposed to do some exercises on Friday with another organization but that fell through. I tried to change my flight but it would cost too much so I decided to spend the day looking around. We visited a number of tourist attractions around Managua.  We had a few closeups of the volcanoes that are active near the city.  These volcanoes are interesting since they are quite small in size, but are very active.  
Saturday morning I flew back home to Guatemala and again I was given a free upgrade to business class. Sadly the flight was so short that I could not enjoy it that much.  
I am grateful for this opportunity I had and for the hospitality of the people of INDEF.  Please pray for Nicaragua.  It is a country that is quite underdeveloped where wages are low, but cost of living is quite high due to high fuel costs and import taxes.


CLARA Alliance Conference- Guatemala

Several weeks ago we had a CLARA conference here in Guatemala.  AMG was in charge of hosting the conference for this year as last year Nicaragua and Haiti each hosted the conference.  CLARA stands for Caribbean/Latin America Regional Alliance which consists of 3 organization from Haiti, 1 from Colombia, 2 from Nicaragua, and 1 from Guatemala.  Woord en Daad Holland sponsors these conferences in which representatives from each of the partner organization attend to learn, discuss, and plan. Last year we had two conferences but starting this year there will only be one conference a year. Initially the idea of working together as an alliance did not seem to be very practical nor beneficial, but now that we have met together 3 times we are seeing some benefit from working together.  

The 5 days of meeting where held in the tourist and colonial town of Antigua. Although we spent most of the days in meetings from 8:00 in the morning till 5:00 in the afternoon and some times into the early evening we spent one day going around visited a number of AMG projects.  We first visited the head office and the largest AMG school in the city.  From there we went to see the dump and then drove several hours to Balanya to visit a rural school belonging to AMG.  After spending several hours there we went to visit the AMG camp in Chimaltenango where we had dinner and spent time socializing.  
The week went well and the attendants said it was the best conference so far.  The food was great as were the accommodations.  People also enjoyed the fact that they could leave the hotel in the evening or early morning and walk around the town. 

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Special Visit!

Several weeks ago I had the privilege to visit the home of Ana Lucia's parents. She is one of the principals of one of the AMG schools in the city.  Her mom had passed away and we were invited to attend the wake at her parents home in a small village on the outskirts of Guatemala City. Her mom had been ill for some time and the family knew that she was passing from this life. She was in her late 80's and had been very frail. I went along with a few others from the AMG office to pay our respects to the family and spend some time with them. It was a special time. It is interesting that funerals can be special even though there is much sorrow and heartache.  We had the privilege of sitting with Ana Lucia's dad who is a frail old man in his early 90's.  He spoke endearingly of his wife and their marriage of 70 years.  He said that the love of a wife is far better than the love of children. They had 12 children as a couple, and although he loves each of his children and is loved by them, this love is not the same as that which he shared with his wife.  It was refreshing to hear such words, especially in a culture where infidelity and divorce is so common. We spent several hours with the family and had the chance to share God's word of comfort and also pray with them. Ana Lucia's family is very religious and strongly Catholic and this was also evident at the wake. However, several weeks before passing away, Ana Lucia's mom put her faith and trust in Jesus. Ana Lucia's father is also quite frail and has been sick for some time. The family had expected him to die before his wife, but that has not been the case. Please pray for his health and that he feels the presence of God in this trying time in his life.