Monday, June 29, 2015

Team Guatemala and Gratitude

I previously wrote about the amazing team of women I was privileged to work with in Guatemala.  I was thinking about the diversity of our group… in age, background and the unique qualities that we each brought to our week at Casa.   So often in life, we want to be with people who are like carbon copies of ourselves, but it is the diversity that makes life so interesting. 

Because our exits were quick at the airport and I didn't get to say goodbye, and in my “spirit of more gratitude” I sent each one in our group an e-mail. I thanked them for their special quality and told them how much I enjoyed getting to know them.   From the quiet one who spoke rarely but when she did it was with such wisdom and clarity that everyone stopped what they were doing and listened, to our four younger ladies, whose laughter was contagious and whose strength of character gives me hope for the future generation.  I thanked some for their amazing talents that contributed to painting the dorm murals, and of course to our group Chef who kept us so well fed that I gained 2 pounds!   (Who gains weight on a mission trip?)  Then there were a few that I realized, with regret, I really did not get to know as well as I would have liked to after spending a full week together.  Next time I will be more conscious of listening and learning. 

Who do you see in your everyday life that would benefit from a kind word?  More likely, who wouldn’t?  

I remember as a girl scout we were to always leave someplace better than we found it… it’s the same with people.  

Think about the sacker at the grocery store, the quiet one at the office or the person next to you on the church pew.  Maybe the guy who just cut me off on the road lost his job this morning, or he was running late after tending to his sick child.  In the spirit of making gratitude a habit, I know I am going to look for the good and then take it just one step further and find something good to say (even if I’m alone in my car)… who knows, it might just make their day better… I know it will make mine better… and that’s a good thing.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Antigua, Guatemala

Antigua, Guatemala

After a intense / joyful / emotional / amazing week at Casa Aleluya, a couple days of R&R in Antiqua was in order.

Founded in 1543, Antigua, meaning "Ancient" was the third capital of Guatemala.   We stayed at the historic Don Rodrigo Hotel with it's beautiful courtyards and panorama rooftop view. 

Before dinner we met up with the men who had been working on a construction project all week in Uspantan and shared stories over Pizza and Lasagna!   Saturday we played "tourista" and visited the ruins of colonial churches, the Mayan marketplace and their Central Park.   We were even treated to a parade! After dinner at the Hotel we all gathered to celebrate and share our favorite moments of the week.    

On everyone's mind was going home... so we were up early Sunday morning to get loaded up on our busses.  We made our way to the airport and headed home to be greeted by our loved ones!

Casa Aleluya 2/2

When I reflect on the week I spent at Casa my heart swells!   I knew it would be emotional, but I didn’t anticipate the range and depth of emotion. 

 The highs were incredible.  The pure joy on the faces of these kids as they played and hugged and laughed. I took notice of the camaraderie of the girls taking turns and welcoming new arrivals to play, whether it be on the soccer field or jump rope.  If one fell, they stopped and helped each other.  I never witnessed an attitude of “me first.”  

The simplicity of their lives demonstrated gratitude and happiness… and love. 

The lows were gut wrenching.  Although they all played and laughed, there was a clear need to be held, to be listened to as an individual, to be remembered.  Several on our team had been coming to Casa for years and were clearly remembered.  Not just recognized, they knew our names, our kids, and remembered what we had done with them in the past. 

Then there is the honor of serving with this team of 15 women     The bond of our team, although most of us had never met before preparing for this trip, was something special from day one.  We share a love and commitment to being part of something so much bigger than any of us.  We laughed and cried and FELT so much just being together. 

 "Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ."
1 Corinthians 12:12.

Each of us had a special gift to bring into the group.  Leaders, cooks, cleaners, painters, teachers, and so many more… and one with the special and much needed gift of being bilingual!


And of course I fell in love.  My daughter Katie, who took this journey 4 years ago that you don’t worry about meeting the kids, that somehow it just happens and bonds will form.   So true!  These girls stole my heart.


Although this range of emotion was hard, it felt really good.  I realized that my life at home hangs pretty close to neutral, good days and bad days, but manageable…easy.  The highs and lows were at such extremes I realized that it touched my heart in places that had become dormant.  Time to wake up those recesses and live life more fully.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Casa Aleluya - 1/2

Once again, I go to serve and to “give back” and the blessing was mine!

After a long day of travel on Friday we arrived after midnight in a downpour.  But the next morning we woke up in our brand new (hot water only 3 hours before our arrival) dorm… to sunshine and smiling faces.. so happy to have TWUMC return for their 18th year!

Mike and Dottie Clark

Casa Team June 2015

At the helm of CASA are Mike and Dottie Clark, known by all as “Poppi and Mommy” who have had the remarkable vision and faith to build what has now changed over 5000 tender lives in the past 26 years.   These kids arrive under the worst of circumstances… abandoned by their families, by court order due to abuse, neglect and worse…  for protection and medical needs.  What they get is LOVE, unconditional love, safety and security and to be part of the biggest family imaginable. 

The “Blue Building” is the center for all organized group activity… meals, church services, programs given by volunteer groups, weddings, christenings and funerals.  And then there’s free time!   At the center are the playgrounds.  For the little ones, swings and slides, the open area has jump rope and game activities while the soccer field is in constant motion.  All their needs are met inside this campus of CASA… from educational to meals to medical needs.  There are at least 8 dorms scattered throughout, boys and girls sides divided, and then by age group.  Even a “transitional dorm” for those attending university but still wanting the “home” they’ve grown to love.  In recent years a ministry to “dialysis kids” has grown, and the first phase of a hospital will be complete by December.

School property for Pre K thru High School

Hospital under construction, phase 1 due to complete by December.

We had 16 of us in our group and our days were busy.  We had an early rise for personal devotional time before gathering at the foot of “the bridge” to greet the kids, on their way to school.  Hugs were in abundance for the kids although a few of the young boys tried to sneak by those “loco ladies!”   Breakfast as a group and then off to a task… for me it was organizing the repainting of a dorm with colorful murals filled with inspirational scriptures for the girls of Esperanza.  
Greeting the kids each morning as they went off to school!

"Anyone who is in Christ is a new creation."
2 Corinthians 5:17
"Humble yourself before the Lord
and He will lift you up"
James 4:10

After lunch we shared a group devotional time and then split into smaller groups to pray over the special needs of each dorm and building.  In our few short days many prayers were answered and the power of prayer affirmed.  The afternoons were free for “play time.”  And each evening we spent time with the kids.  For the older girls, a craft night, pizza and game night and “journey” night.  For the boys… they like to eat!  Hot Dogs for the younger boys and Ice Cream Sundaes for the older ones… some had 4 helpings!!   We’d all gather in our dorm to re-cap our days before falling into bed at night.

"We prayed for you today"

Pizza and Game night with Dora, Gabriella and friends

This just highlights what Casa Aleluya is but doesn’t begin to scratch the surface of how it feels… more on that tomorrow.

Marisol, 9 and her little brother Jonathan, 3