Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Update Part 2

We also had a number of memorable moments this year. At the beginning of February, we received a visit from our former principle of the high school Lia and I attended in Chilliwack. Mr. Jim Beeke came down to do an evaluation of a school that Word and Deed North America (WDNA) supports in the town of Monjas, Jalapa, Guatemala. This school is run by AMG and I had the privilege of spending several days and working with Mr.Beeke on parts of the evaluation. It was a neat experience and it is not every day that one can work with a former teacher or principal. Corney Les, John Otten, and Rick Postma also came down during this time and it was nice to work together and see what God is doing in Guatemala.
Dinner at Fridays with Mr Beeke.

Intermissions Conference in Panajachel, Guatemala

Hotel on the shores of Lake Atitlan
During the second week of the visit of WDNA I also had the privilege of working for 2 days in an AMG project in the small rural community of Matochos together with Pastor Tyler Thompson teaching the leaders of the church. I first worked with Pastor Tyler in November of 2013 and we hit it off well. My primary role was to translate into Spanish, but he gave me the freedom and encouraged me to elaborate on things as we went along. I really enjoy teaching and it is something that I miss doing since I do not do a lot of it any more.
The 3 Dutch Ladies at the Conference
After this visit at the end of February we had the privilege of attending the annual missionary conference in Panajachel for 3 days at the end of February. It was nice to see old faces and meet new people. It was nice to connect with different people and encourage one another. Also the workshops and the seminars were uplifting and encouraging. The kids also loved Intermissions as they can be with their friends and enjoy activities that are set up for them. The only time we see them is at meal times and when it is bed time.

Several days after the missionary conference (end of February-beginning of March) I had to go to Bogota, Colombia for a week of seminars on monitoring and evaluation. The seminars were intensive as it was from 8:00-6:30 each day for 5 days. Thankfully, we had a weekend in between which allowed us to recuperate and digest what we were learning and gave us a few days to "relax". We spent one day in a salt mine that is still active, but parts of it have been turned into a tourist attraction. It was neat to see and allowed us to experience something quite unique.  Although the course was intensive and we were bombarded with a lot of information it was also quite practical and we were able to return to our respective organizations with practical ways in which to implement what we had learned. I enjoyed Bogota and the weather there as it reminds me in many ways of BC with the mountains, the rain, and the farmland.
At the end of March we had the annual father-son camp-out at the school. This over night event is a highlight for myself and Nico and Jesse as we get some time to be together and share our hearts. The boys also love the fact that there are a lot of games and they get to go to bed late.
Downtown Bogota
Sculptures made of salt inside the salt mine

Friday, August 1, 2014

Family Update Part I

It has been a while since we last updated you on our family and our lives here in Guatemala. So much has gone on and there appears to be so little time to write it all down in a post. I will try and enter a few posts over the next few days so that you have a better idea as to what has been happening here. However, before writing about the work we would like to update you on what is going on with our family. This is part 1.
Over the past 8 months most of us celebrated our birthdays: Tristan in November, Lia in December, Myself in February, and Ellen and Nico in March. Jesse's birthday is the only one still to go, but that is in August. Thank you all for birthday wishes and cards that we faithfully receive in the mail from different ladies societies and people. 
The kids finished their school year at the end of May. They had good grades and we are very thankful for that. We are happy with the school our children attend. There is a strong focus on the spiritual which is good. Nico and Ellen "graduated" from elementary school and next fall will be going to middle school (grade 6). Jesse finished grade one and will move on to grade 2. Tristan still has one more year to wait as his birthday is past the cut off date. We are also involved with the school as much as we can. The school actually requires parents to volunteer in different ways. I helped coach the middle school soccer team for 2 months in the fall. Because of my work I could not be there all the time, but I tried to make an effort to be at most practices and games. I am currently serving on the school board. I was asked in September if I was interested in serving on the board and before I knew it I was not only on the board, but filling the position of VP. I agreed to be on the board to be more involved with the school and to gain experience. I must say I feel quite green, but grateful for being able to learn and experience something different. Thankfully the commitment as member of the school board is not too demanding as there are only 10 meetings/year.    
Health wise we are doing quite well, except for the occasional bout of the flu. As some of you know, I had a cancerous spot removed from my neck a few days after my trip to Colombia (March). I have had this spot for over a year, but never had a biopsy performed on it. I had gone to a skin cancer specialist a year ago who did not think it was cancer. He prescribed me a topical cream which healed the spot temporarily. However, it returned, would heal and disappear for a while and then return again. I went and saw another specialist and she did not think it was cancerous either. However, she did perform a biopsy which came back positive as cancer. It did not surprise me considering the amount of exposure to the sun I have had in my time working in Guatemala hiking under the blazing sun for hours to visit the churches in the aldeas. Thankfully, it was one of the most common and curable forms of skin cancer which especially affects fair skinned, blond, blue eyes people (that is me). The cancerous tissue was removed and the wound healed nicely. Thank you for praying for me and for your concern.  
Spiritually, it is hard to say how we are doing. By looking through human eyes we could say we are doing fine. However, our eyes are rather dim and our vision distorted and we need to see things through God's eyes. We know as well that we are not what we should be. The older we get the more we see our weaknesses and imperfections... our sinfulness. When looking at our children this become altogether more apparent as we see our sinfulness often reflected in them. The Christian life is a struggle to remain on course as our fervor all too often wains. We find ourselves spending too much time and energy on the things of this life and not on the things of the life to come. Thankfully, God has not given up on us and continues to mold us into the image of His Son.
Related to this we have found a church where we are happy in and growing. For the first two years we were attending a Presbyterian Church, but our kids were not really happy there. They were having a hard time fitting in and connecting with other children. We started attending an English speaking church and we are all very happy there. Lia is involved with teaching the occasional Sunday School. Related to church, we also had the privilege of attending a Korean Presbyterian Church. Our school has a large Korean population (37%) and our children have many friends and classmates who are Korean (9 out of 21). They also spend time at their houses and so we as parents have been getting to know the Korean community little by little. The Korean's are a close knit group, but when we attended their church we were received with open arms. Language was somewhat of a problem although we could get around with our Spanish and English. The service was really nice and it was moving seeing them worship. Lia was quite emotional as it brought back memories of her missionary life in Asia (my eyes were watering a little as well, but I think it was the dust). After the service was over, we were invited to stay for lunch which consisted of various Korean dishes. A few days after the service we were invited over by a Korean couple for dinner which was very nice. They had wanted to invite us over in the past, but they did not know if we would be willing. They were concerned about how we would communicate because they assumed that we could not speak Spanish very well. It is nice to get to know the parents of the friends of our children.