Monday, July 27, 2009

The Miracle of 3 Days in Zacapa, Guatemala

It's hard to believe, but the mural in Zacapa actually happened. And not only just happened; it was a really unique and rich time for all of us who participated. The process of painting this particular mural was pretty powerful.
I'll be posting thoughts and reflections in pieces. For tonight, I want to thank the three organizations that provided for this opportunity for creative collaboration. El Barrio 4 Christ is the ministry of Ignacio Sanchez and 4 other Prison Chaplains who work in Guatemala City and Zacapa. Ignacio visits the women incarcerated in Zacapa twice a month. He's an amazing guy with an amazing story about how God can change a life. He's committed to these women among all of the other prisoners he visits: to love them, to advocate for their health and living conditions, and to share with them about God's passion for them. Secondly, Estrategia de Transformacion where Joel Van Dyke is the Director. The ministry seeks to equip the church in Latin America through strategic cohorts from 5 countries to serve high-risk youth and their families in very hard places. EDT works with El Barrio 4 Christ and many other ministries to train leaders and support ministries through networking and sharing of resources. Joel does a fantastic job and is a great networker. Both he and Ignacio love the arts and see art as a powerful communication tool which can travel to places other methods fall short. That's where the third organization, BuildaBridge International, comes in. (See previous post.)

Times are tough for ministries, and these three ministries are serving in very tough places. They believe in the value of each individual person on this planet and stand committed to seeing people live an abundant life through spiritual transformation. I've learned a lot working with them on this project: about my own ministry and calling to work in Hunting Park in North Philly, about loving people, about hope of transformation in God alone. Some really rich moments, and I'm grateful. More later...

Monday, July 20, 2009


Today was a big day. I received photos of the preparations that are being made for the mural in Zacapa. Amazing what a coat of paint can do. I'll be traveling to Guatemala City Thursday night and then on to Zacapa early on Friday morning. I'll be going with one of the interns that is working in G. City for the summer as well as someone who will do translation for us all. I really appreciate your prayers for these three days. Also, today, I spent some time with an employee of Escuela Integrada shopping for materials for the mural which we should start painting tomorrow. Great way to practice my Spanish as he didn't speak much English and most of the folks in the shops don't. ALSO today, I passed my Grado A exam in my Spanish school! On to B which I'll barely begin in my remaining 8 days of class. My teacher was almost as excited as I was. It may not seem like a big deal... but it's so great to feel like I'm learning a little something. To celebrate, my teacher and I talked for the remaining hour or so. I love to talk to her. Today we talked a lot about struggles. Life is hard. In her words: "No hay nada color de rosa." We talked about how it's so easy to forget that God will carry our loads in His hands. We begin to carry them and we get so tired. But when we remember, we can leave our struggles in God's hands and we'll have contentment in our hearts. We were talking about songs that we like that remind us about what is true. She sang this song to me that her daughter sings from their church "oh Jesus, mi mejor amigo. oh Jesus, mi fiel..." It was a special day.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Thursday, July 16, 2009

A date w/ Pacaya

easy tiger...
Originally uploaded by misk77
Antigua is nestled "comfortably" in the midst of three volcanoes. Of course, I wanted to climb them. Then I found out that one is pretty active (Fuego pictured here w/ the smoke coming out of it; the one w/ the visible top is the tallest one Acatenango which is just over 13K!) and they're all over 12K. I've never climbed that high... so I'm sticking w/ the shorter volcano, Pacaya, an hour or so away that

Dios es...

fedelidad o fiel, justico o justo, maravilloso, omnipotente, poder, libertad, integro, magestivoso, mi papa celestial, mi mejor doctor, el dueno de todo, caridad, tolerancia, gratitiude, bondad, fortaleza, micericordioso, comprencivo, amable, consejero, bueno, poderoso (todo), pureza, paz, sabidoria, fe, amigo (mejor), alegria, salvador, salvacion, saliduria, verdad, camino, paciente, amoroso, compania, consuelo, milagroso, perdon, esperanza, fuerza, poderoso, unico, refugio, vida, hermoso, consejero, generoso, temura, umildad, ensenanza, amistad, tranquilidad, tenura, comprensible, honestidad, amor o amoroso, grande, leal, tolerante, libertad, todo, integro, intelegente, divino, bueno, lavida, onestido, rey de reyes, majestuoso, infinito, lindo, guapo, noble, pasion, entretimiento (or entindimiento), mi roca, sureza, sufiente, real, genial, avia, creador

Tuesday, July 14, 2009


(wall for future mural)

Escuela Integrada: Yesterday, I conducted my first activity for the kids in Spanish. It was really hilarious. The kids got a real kick out of trying to figure out what the heck I was trying to say, laughing and then repeating back how I should have said it. I learned a bunch of new vocabulary from them! Well, miraculously, with the help of my teacher, I was able to get some ideas across and it went really well! These kids are really quick. Today was the 8th graders. I’ll do this intro activity with 7th, 8th, and 9th, and then do the 2nd activity with each grade later this week. This mural is still being designed, but here’s the basic idea: One of the themes that the teachers in the school wanted the mural to address was the value of each person; how God values each and every person. I’ve got the reIMAGE theme bouncing around in my head for our work at Ayuda next year, so this project will display how we are all created in the image of God and can reflect the Lord to each other. We are each individually essential for this reflection b/c we each have a very unique “face” of the Lord to reflect to others.

Activity #1: The students complete the statement “God is ______.” Then the students are paired up and complete the sentence “My partner is ______.” They fill in the blank with qualities they appreciate about their partner, ways that they may help them, things they admire… We then gather all of the words describing the Lord on one side of the board and the words describing our friends on the other side. As you may expect, there are many similar words. We take time to circle them and comment on how we all have an opportunity to reflect the qualities of the Lord to each other. We discuss Genesis 1:27 and 2 Corinthians 3: 18 and talk about how the more we gaze at the Lord, He will make us more and more like Him. You know... all in Spanish! HA!

As I was walking home, I felt like it was my birthday and I’d received the coolest gift from these kids. When I got home, I looked through the papers of the 17 students in the 8th grade and counted 60 different words to describe the Lord! Many words were repeated among the students, and each time I came across a new word, I was struck, “yes, the Lord is also this…” It was a gift to see the Lord through their eyes and I was reminded how vast, how true, how beautiful, how big, how faithful

Activity #2: Each student will choose two words, one describing the Lord and one describing their partner, and create symbols for each word. Next week, we will make stencils with their symbols and they will create the mural. Or... something like that! I’ll keep you posted!

wall at zacapa

Monday, July 13, 2009

"Yo soy lo que soy; no mas."

(candles at Santa Domingo candle workshop)

Day 1 of Week #3: Update on Zacapa.
My trip to the prison in Zacapa last Thursday was an intense day. My friend and I arrived in Guatemala City late Wednesday evening and left at 5AM to meet up with J and the bus. I realized then that this was going to be a very important trip. The families of the women incarcerated in Zacapa do not generally have the money to make the 3 hours bus trip for visits from G. City. J and the prison chaplain had gathered all of the families of the women and provided a school bus for them to be able to visit their loved ones. Many children were among the group; two said they hadn’t seen their mom in 1 & ½ years. Also along for the journey was a group of folks from New Life Church in Philly! That was a cool surprise; though I didn’t know any of them before, we will be able to meet up when I return to the city. The trip was amazing… too many thoughts to record here. One thing I will say that the women there were VERY excited at the idea of getting together in a couple of weeks to paint a mural. I’ve been in a few prisons in the states, but I’ve never seen a prison like this one. Prisons are quite different in third-world. The rough physical space that is the home for these 15 women is a prime place for a redemptive mural. Wrestling with my worries about finishing a mural in three days, I’m also reminded that the most important thing is not the mural; it’s the relationships, interactions, and show of love that can occur when people are truly present with each other. (Thanks N.) The Lord has taught me this time and time again through my neighbors in Hunting Park. I will be spending three days there (July 24-26) working on the mural. Please pray for the Lord to be present with us as we dialogue and paint together.

I thought all day about how I’m so not the best person to do this mural! I can’t even really communicate with the ladies; my Spanish is so slow coming… it was pretty overwhelming and humbling simply to be in the space let alone try to talk about painting a mural together. But those walls are their home. And we will work together for 3 days to create something that will redeem this space to speak of home, hope, self-value and significance; all that the Lord will bring to our souls which we all so desperately need. When I communicated some of my apprehension about my language abilities to my Spanish teacher, she said to repeat to myself, “Yo soy lo que soy; no mas.” I am what I am; no more. Insufficiencies are the crux of life. (Thanks D.)

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” - Jesus (2 Cor. 12:9)

“God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things – and the things that are not – to nullify the things that are…” (1 Cor. 1:27-29)

Monday, July 6, 2009

A Quick Update

Lake Atitlan
Originally uploaded by misk77
Saturday and Sunday I travelled with 3 other students from my Spanish School (CSA) to beautiful Lake Atitlan. We arrived on Saturday morning after a crazy drive through the mountains. I'm from West Virginia; I thought I knew what a "hair-pin curve" was... I've never seen anything like the mountain roads in Guatemala. Quite fun! We took a boat across the lake to see San Lucas, Santiago, and San Pedro then returned to Panajachel where our Hotel was. See the Lake Pix here. We saw a lot... I want to see as much as I possibly can while I'm here. This is my first time leaving the US and I'm astounded at how BIG the world is... how many people... how different our "normals" are... I'm learning more than just language here. The poverty here is much more severe than I have ever experienced. It's difficult to be a "tourist/student" here. I am very uncomfortable and not sure what to do with those emotions... not really ready to put it into words, so, onward.

Spanish: I've begun week two and I'm amazed that anyone actually can learn an entire new language... it's a crazy idea! There are just too many words to learn and too many tenses to imagine that may require new spellings and so on... Needless to say, I'm finding it difficult. However, I'm keeping in mind that my primary goal for learning Spanish is for conversation; I want to be able to talk to my neighbors and the parents of my kids who speak no English. I try (pitifully at times) to converse as much as possible with Guatemalans but what I'd heard about learning in Antigua is proving to be true: Muchas Gringos! With so many foreigners here, I hear and speak English quite often. Good for meeting fun people, bad for learning Spanish. I'll just keep pluggin away... The best thing is my teacher. As we do the lessons, we get off on many topics... families, politics, music, education, poverty, war, and today she talked to me about her family fleeing Guatemala in the 80's b/c of the vast oppression and murders of the government (all in Spanish, mind you. I understand much more than I could ever speak!) She is close to my age and we laugh alot... it's a wonder we get any Spanish done!

Work Projects: Things are not quite set in stone for the work projects, but I have really enjoyed spending time at Escuela Integrada and hope to paint a mural with the 7th, 8th, & 9th students. More to come one that... As for Zacapa, I will be traveling up to Zacapa on Thursday with the ministry from Guatemala City as they are taking up families of the women in prison there. I will get a chance to meet the women, see the space, and talk to them about a possible mural. More to come on that as well...

Family: As I speak to other students in Antigua, I realize that I have a very fortunate host family situation. The details are very comfortable: enough food (and it's delicious), warm-ish shower, comfortable room, inexpensive internet, and now a desk (I moved into one of the other rooms after a fellow student left b/c she had a desk). Beyond that, the people are very friendly and encouraging in my Spanish, especially the mom, Adita. The two older sons speak English very well, so again, there's an out to just default back on my English words if I get stuck. They're very hip and tell me where good places are for the night life. :) The youngest son Brian is 8 and again, we laugh alot. He's my favorite.

I'm happy. Last night (Sunday) the normal blues set in and I missed Philly and familiarity... to be expected. But I am just amazed that I'm here doing this! I feel that everyday I am at the mercy of the Guatemalan's that I am interacting with to feel generous to have patience with me and spend time trying to converse. The people here are kind. They have the most beautiful smiles. Every day I am pretty helpless; very humbling and remarkably beautiful to experience. I am asking the Lord everyday to help me to have open eyes and ears. There is so much to take in and I want to be as present as possible. So I'm going to get off this computer and do some homework. Adios!