Saturday, June 16, 2012

Video Clips of Trip to Pajales

Here are a number of video clips of the trip to Los Pajales. Although the quality is not good I do hope it will give you an idea of what the trip is like.

Trip to Los Pajales

One of my goals for this year is to visit most of the churches that we have in the aldeas (mountain villages) at least once if not twice.  I have been to several of the closer ones a few times already, but have not been able to make it to the furthest away ones. This past week I finally had a few days to be able to visit some of these churches.  My plan was to go to Xeul on Tuesday and then to Los Pajales on Wednesday. Xeul is roughly a 3.5-4 hour hike without stopping for rest while Los Pajales is a 2.5-3 hour hike. You can hike it quicker if you do not plan on spending the night anywhere, but for overnight trips it takes longer because of the extra things you need to carry like a sleeping bag, food, and extra clothes. 
Tuesday morning we were all ready to leave when we received a phone call cancelling the trip because of the swollen river in Chitomax. Chitomax is a small community at the end of the road where the 276 meter suspension bridge used to be that was built by the mission and missionary pastor Ken Herfst. This bridge was destroyed 2 years ago during tropical storm Agatha and since then the only way across is on a small flat-bottom boat.  It had rained exceptionally hard the previous night so the water levels rose substantially as well as the volume of water coming down. No one was crossing so we had to cancel the trip to Xeul.  On Wednesday, however, we were able to cross the still swollen river and hike to Los Pajales. I was accompanied by Pastor Edgar Xicara, my son Nico, and David Manring a medical student who is doing his practicum at the hospital in Cubulco.  We left at 7:00 am and drove 45 minutes to Chitomax. From there we crossed the river, and hiked (mostly uphill) for 3 hours to Los Pajales. We took our time and rested a few times along the way and arrived in Pajales just before lunch time. Although we left fairly early it was quite warm as temperatures surpassed 30 Celsius. Also because of the recent rains it was very humid and we were drenched in our own sweat. 
After lunch we went to the local river to cool off and wash the sweat off. At around 4:30 we held a service in the church and also celebrated communion. One of the good things of having a Guatemalan pastor who visits the churches regularly is that the Lord's Supper is celebrated quite regularly. This was not always the case in the past especially when there was no pastor for a number of years and I believe that also contributes to a weak church. After communion the church also celebrated the giving of the first fruits by the woman of the church. Apparently the men had done something a few weeks earlier and now it was the turn of the women. It was an interesting experience as the women brought piglets and chickens. Thankfully, they took the piglets out of the church shortly afterwards since they were a little noisy. Seeing this makes me wonder what it would have looked like in the Old Testament times as the Israelites brought animals and produce to the temple. It must have been quite a sight. One of the things I have noticed working in Guatemala is that the OT and many of the laws is in many instances much more relevant to the people here. 
After the service we were served a delicious chicken soup with tortillas. We spent some time chatting with some of the members of the church and then bedded down for the night. We slept in the church on the benches. It was not too comfortable and I can not say I slept great, but was able to get some sleep. The following morning we had breakfast (fried egg with tomato and tortillas) and after spending some more time talking we returned to Cubulco over the same trail we came in. 
We arrived back in Cubulco at around 1:00 pm where we could shower up and get into some fresh clothes. The next day, all of us started to feel a little off in our stomachs. It appeared that we came back from Los Pajales with unwelcome company. My son Nico, became quite ill with fever, diarrhea, and vomiting. I felt a little off, but it was nothing serious. Since Nico was in bed all day not wanting to eat, I decided to take him to the hospital to get him checked out. I decided to have myself check out as well and sure enough we both had picked up amoebas. Amoebas do a number on your digestive tract and can be quite painful, but with the right potent medicine it can be cleared up quickly. People often say that we should not expose ourselves to these kinds of things, but we feel that it would be rude to refuse food that the people offer us and have lovingly prepared for us.  
For me the trip was good though and I was glad I had the opportunity to visit one of the farthest communities and do one of the more difficult hikes. The last time I had been in Pajales was over 3 years ago and it was good for me to see that the people are following God faithfully and that the same people are still there. Please pray for the churches in the aldeas and for the ones that lead the church. There are many challenges and obstacles in the rural areas.

I tried to "film" part of the trip on my camera and I will place the videos in the next post.  The quality of course is not great and is a little shaky especially the clips when I am walking. However, it will give you a general idea of the scenery and what the trip was like.