26 December 2009

¡NOCHE BUENA! (Christmas Eve)

Bigger, Better, FANTASTIC!
That describes Noche Buena 2009 at Casita Benjamín.

First a HUGE thank you to the MANY who have been praying for this event, and to those that have given to help make this possible. We truly feel God was honored and known through this activity.
I am sure this will end up being a long post, to tell you about our day, but...it will be mostly pictures so I hope you make it through it all!

After taking a lot of our supplies to the Casita the day before, we still had a pretty good load to get into the bus we rented. We got on the bus about 1 PM and went to pick up all of our youth. We arrived at the Casita just about 2 PM.

Before we get started on the pictures I want to tell you just how PROUD I AM OF OUR YOUTH! I cannot say in enough words how great these kids are! They are the hardest working, helpful, polite, respectful, loving kids. For example, when we arrived all I said was "Okay, first thing, we need to decorate". I didn't say any more. I didn't say how, where, with what, this here, that there, or anything. Just, "we need to decorate." 40 minutes later the place looked INCREDIBLE! I am trying to practice some advice I read once and it works 'resist telling people how something should be done. Instead, tell them WHAT needs to be done. They will often surprise you with creative solutions.' It even works with kids.

Planning session & some of the kid's seating outside

Here is what our youth did: Hauled all of the supplies, helped set up tables and chairs, decorated the Casita, entertained the kids, sang Christmas carols for everyone, performed a drama of the birth of Christ, served the dinner, cleared all of the tables after dinner, passed out presents to everyone there, cleaned up the entire Casita after the people left....then.....went to our church and.....led singing of Christmas carols for the church and performed the drama again! And they smiled through it all! They had a blast. God has truly blessed me with the best kids ever!

Felícita, Lucy & Marcos greeting everyone as they arrive and give name tags

This year we also had a band and sound equipment! Big improvement. The band played while people were arriving and also during the dinner.

Band playing carols as people arrive

This year, to maximize space, we separated the adults and children. Adults inside and children outside. That gave the kids room to play before it all started!

Playing before things got started

After the place was pretty full we began with a welcome, a reading from the Bible, then our youth led singing of Christmas carols. We did bring most of the kids inside (wouldn't quite all fit) while our youth were singing the carols.

Youth singing to a full house!

After the Christmas carol singing, we took all of the kids back outside. During this time, the parents received a message on the significance of Christmas, while outside our youth performed a drama for the kids about the birth of Christ! Many of them, as well as others, never believed they would be able to do it....but I did! I knew they could, and they did! They did a GREAT job!

The angel Gabriel talking with Mary

Las pastorcitas (shepherds) arrive

Singing "Away in a Manger" to finish the play

After the drama was over, it was time to eat! The youth headed for the kitchen where there were already people preparing plates to take out. We served a traditional Guatemalan Christmas Eve dinner of: Tamales, pan (bread) and Ponche (a hot fruit drink). The youth served everyone and then went around collecting the trash after. Then they served everyone Sandi's amazing Christmas cookies that the youth had made 700 of the day before!
About half of the kids getting their Tamale dinner!

Scene on one side of the kitchen

Some of the adults getting their Tamales

After the dinner and dessert we had a despedida (goodbye) and as people were lining up to leave we passed out gifts to everyone, kids and adults!
Then, it was time for the youth (and us) to eat our dinner. But...I tried to round up the youth to eat and they were all busy cleaning up the entire Casita! So...we waited and ate after they finished cleaning!
Then we loaded all of our stuff back on the bus and headed to a Christmas Eve service at our church "Iglesia Pueblo de Dios". Just like last year, the bus ride back was so much fun. The kids were PUMPED from the entire day and we let them go wild! We also passed out diplomas to commemorate their service, and gave them each a gift. It was a very special time.

Receiving diplomas and gifts on the bus

A very happy group on the bus!

We arrived at the church about 7:20 PM for a 7 PM service, which meant we were only about 10 minutes early. They were planning on our group singing, but I asked what the program was and how much time we would have. I was told there really wasn't a program, how much time would I like? So...we had the youth sing most all of our Christmas Carols (we had a lot) and then, we performed the drama again at the church! And again, they did a GREAT job!

Leading singing at the church

It was fun for them to perform at the church because several of our youths houses were there to watch!

Performing the play again at the church

So, all said and done, it was a wonderful, long day! Most accurate estimate is just about 200 people at the Casita! Plus or minus maybe 15.
And now, a few days of just rest.

Thank you all for your support of this, it was a blessed time for many, many people who otherwise would have had nothing. Literally, many would have had nothing. No traditional dinner. No presents. No recognition of what Christmas really is. BUT..................
Thanks to you for your prayers and support, everyone received a Tamale dinner, a gift, learned what Christmas is about, and most of all, for a few hours, were loved and treated as the special people each one of them is.

If you feel led to help with some of the remaining costs for this, gifts can be sent to:
CAM International
8625 La Prada Dr.
Dallas, TX 75228

Please mark them clearly for: Casita Outreach Events and include the account # 062877
All gifts will receive a tax deductible receipt and will only be used for the Casita events.

May God bless each of you now and in the new year to come.

24 December 2009

Christmas Cookies and NOCHE BUENA


Today is the big day! All the work we have done the last couple of months will come to fruition today! We are very excited and ask for your prayers today for a day that will glorify our Lord and help to make Him known among the nations! We will pick up our youth in a couple hours and head for Casita Benjamín where we are expecting perhaps over 200 people for dinner and a show! We have received an estimate of 158 children, not including adults and teen-agers!

Singing at Kairos House

On Dec. 16, we took our youth to Kairos House to sing Christmas Carols for the people there. It was just about the fullest we have seen Kairos. The people came out to join us right away, and it was very well enjoyed by all!

In addition to the singing, we have been practicing a play 3 days each week that the youth will perform twice today! Once at Casita Benjamín for the kids, then later tonight at our church Pueblo de Dios.
First batch of cookies

Yesterday, we had the youth at our house all day baking cookies and making decorations! We made almost 700 cookies for today's dessert! The kids worked so hard and we had a LOT of fun too!

Why is everyone white?

And of course, just like last year, there seemed to be flour from one end of the house to the other.
I have NO idea how that may have happened, or who would have started it.

Frosting some of the almost 700 cookies

The kids also made LOTS and LOTS of decorations for the Casita and if you could see them all you would be impressed. They were very creative and did a great job at everything yesterday.

Making decorations

I can't tell you how proud I am of all these youth, and I look forward to sharing with you soon how well they do today!

Even James helped with decorations!

The youth are looking forward to today, they will decorate, sing for the people, serve the traditional Tamale dinner, lead a program for the kids including performing a play, while the adults hear an evangelistic message and then clean up after it's all done. Then...we will go by rented bus to our church where the youth will sing and perform the play again. We get started just after noon and will probably finish around 9 - 9:30 PM!


13 December 2009

Getting ready for Christmas!

Christmas Eve will be here before we know it, so we have been busy!
We have been working for weeks on preparations for our big Christmas Eve outreach event.
What it is, is...a dinner and Christmas message more or less. We will provide a traditional Guatemalan Christmas Eve dinner of tamales, Pan, Ponche and dessert.

Wrapping Christmas Presents!

The families that have been invited all live in the neighborhood in Zona 3 right alongside the largest landfill dump in Central America. This is, or is one of, the poorest, most dangerous neighborhoods in Guatemala City. The people here have very little hope, and Christmas tends to be a very depressing time for them. The majority of them cannot afford to have a traditional dinner, and most cannot even have one present for their children.
So, we are going to try to offer them some love and hope on Christmas Eve. We will have the dinner, Christmas carols, a program for the children while the parents hear a message of hope and salvation, and at the end....everyone that attends, child or adult, will receive a Christmas gift! We went shopping last week and bought over 150 presents. We already had almost 100.
We are expecting this year anywhere between 150 and 225 people!

Carmen & Sonia wrapping gifts

We have been involving some of our youth in all of this. Some of them will not be here for Christmas, but we have about 12 that are committed to doing everything with us. For weeks we have been practicing Christmas Carols. We have written our own version of the Christmas story and the jóvenes are all taking part in performing it as a play for the children! I have made arrangements for costumes for all and am excited about seeing them perform. We have less than two weeks to go, and need LOTS, and LOTS of practice! But....I have great confidence in my youth and they will do fine. The youth will also serve the dinner and pass out presents.

Maria, Priscila, Sharol & Hugo

After our program which will be held again this year at Casita Benjamin, we have been tentatively invited to visit a church in Zona 11 to sing and possibly perform our play. We'll see what happens.
We've solicited lots of help and it has been wonderful how people have responded. I have rented a bus for the day to get everyone there and back. We have good friends that will come to help and bring a band for music and Benjamin will give the message for the adults.
I have invited the pastor of a church called Antorches Incendidas, which is close by this neighborhood, to come and meet the folks and invite them to his church. He is planning to come with a few youth and elders from their church to get to know the people!

Jackelin, Magalí & Irma

Please be praying for this event, that many of these folks that don't have much hope in this world would learn about the true hope that is only found in our Lord and Savior.
We still have lots of work and activities to do over the next 12 days. This coming Wednesday evening, we will take our youth to Casa Kairos to sing Christmas Carols for the people there. Casa Kairos is a home for children with cancer and their families.
We also have people arriving during these days. We had an intern, Megan Goodwin, arrive the 10th who will be helping until she leaves on Christmas morning. James Wirrell arrives for a couple weeks the 16th, and out daughter Felicita will arrive on the 18th!
Busy, but very, very fulfilling!

27 November 2009


We took a day off!
After spending our Thanksgiving Day at a graduation, we took a day off Friday and went to Monterrico, a quiet little spot on the Pacific coast of Guatemala. (For those who didn't know, Guatemala actually has coast on both the Pacific and the Caribbean)

Main Street of Monterrico ends at the beach!

From our house, it is about 1 hour and 15 minutes to drive to the coast at San José, then almost another hour to drive along the coast to Monterrico.
My guess is that it was about 80 degrees there, in other words, pretty close to perfect!

Sandi & Maria head strait for the waves!

We explored around for awhile before we found a little place for lunch, then we walked the beach.

Almost had all the beaches to ourselves!

It was a wonderful day together just relaxing and doing pretty much nothing! The beaches were virtually deserted, it was almost like we had our own private beaches! Well, that's enough talk about that, now just enjoy a few pictures!

Several small beachfront hotels

Sandi wanted fresh fish for lunch, so that's what she got!

Maria had a blast in the waves!

Sun and surf

Volcanic sand beaches

Our beautiful Maria

Thanksgiving Gladys Graduates!

We spent Thanksgiving day attending another graduation! This should be the last one of this season (although last night I was invited to another one today but had to decline due to another commitment). It was a wonderful graduation ceremony for Gladys Lanneth Puluc, another of our girls at the casa juvenil.

Gladys Puluc

Gladys was one of 12 graduates from Colegio Brown, which teaches a pre-med program. All of the graduates will now go on to University to study in some medical related field. Gladys plans to become a Doctor!

Gladys with her 'gringo' parents!

We picked Gladys up in time to get to the club where the graduation was being held about 10 minutes later than she was told to be there, which meant she was still the 2nd graduate to arrive! It was a nice graduation and many of the students teared up at the prospect of not being together any longer.

Class of 2009 Colegio Brown

After the graduation we took Gladys out for lunch and of course a celebratory ice cream!

BIRTHDAY and Thanksgivings

Birthdays, anniversaries, they all just mean another year has been added to your age!
I just had both actually.
November 18 was the anniversary of our arrival to live in Guatemala 3 years ago! In one sense it seems we just arrived recently, in another sometimes it seems we've been here a long time.
I am so thankful to God for leading us to Guatemala, there is NO WHERE I would rather be.
This is home and I couldn't be happier in any other place.

A few of our friends at Casa Kairos!

This being Thanksgiving time, I do want to first, thank God for everything! He has blessed me beyond anything I could ever have imagined. I am blessed with a wonderful family with kids I love and they love me! I also am blessed with an 'extended' family here in Guatemala. God has connected us with many youth that don't have the blessing of family like I do. Because of the love God has shown me, I can love these youth. They, in turn, are learning to love. They have become like our "2nd" kids! I do love them as though they were mine. Thanks God!
Our many other friends here in Guatemala, the Valdez family, Martinez', Melendez' and Ávila families, to name a few. The ministries God has granted us, the people we have met in Zona 3 by the dump...on and on and on.
I truly, truly feel like I am the most blessed person on the face of the earth.

On November 25th I celebrated another year of being! It was my birthday and after a nice dinner out with Sandi and Maria, we took 3 girls from casa juvenil and went to spend some time with the people at Casa Kairos, the home for children with cancer and their families.
We sang some songs with them, and of course ended with Feliz Cumpleaños and then lit the candles on two birthday cakes to share with them all!

Singing 'Feliz Cumpleaños'

There just happened to be one of the largest number of people I can remember at Casa Kairos that night. But, we had plenty of cake so everyone was happy.
I can't think of a better way to spend my birthday than with the people at Casa Kairos, and they enjoyed it a whole lot too!

21 November 2009


So, most of you should know that I have been teaching the Woodshop at Christian Academy of Guatemala. For those who didn't know that, very early in this current school year, the man who was the teacher, and his family, had to leave Guatemala basically overnight. This happened like two weeks into the school year. The school was in a bind, there was a High School class two days each week, and a Middle School class, two days each week.
So, I am filling in as woodshop teacher for this semester. I have already informed them I cannot continue after this semester ends at the Christmas break. I have too many commitments to have a block of time each afternoon taken up.

BUT, for now, I am having a BLAST! The high school class has ended, there were only two students and one was just there one day each week, and he hadn't showed up in three weeks at all, so we decided to cancel it. Maria was my only High School student and I will help her finish her projects at home!
The middle school class, on the other hand, has been AWESOME! So much fun!
There are 10 students in my MS class. All are in either grade 6 or 7.

Start of Round 2!

Our current project has been making pinewood derby cars! Yesterday was RACE DAY!
My car was clearly the fastest, no contest, however, I disqualified myself. Yes, it was a very noble thing to do. Besides, the class made me do it. My car was so fast it continually flew off the track! I never made it to the end. Oh well...................
But, I had bought trophies for them, and we had a FUN class out in the sun. There were three trophies, 1st place, 2nd place, and one for Best Looking Car, which was voted on by the class.

My class minus two students.

The class has just began our next project, we are making picture frames! It will probably take us until the end of the semester to finish, there are only 6 more class sessions. Tuesday, class is only 45 minutes long, and Friday it is 1 1/2 hour.

I will miss it, I really am loving it and the kids, I know, middle school, but I guess I kind of fit right in!

17 November 2009

Gloria y Marta Graduate!

Friday the 13th.....was a GREAT day! We attended another graduation Friday. Two more of the young ladies that live at the casa juvenil of SOS Las Aldeas were graduating and asked us to go as 'family'.
Gloria and Marta were both graduating from the same colegio (private school) and invited us to be a part of their big day! So, we picked them up at 9:00 AM with a couple of the other girls that live with them, and we drove out south of Antigua to a place called Antigua Gardens.

Marta y Gloria

Antigua Gardens is a beautiful place with some housing, a small coffee plantation, and a community building with pools! As you walk up the long entry you look at the lovely community building with Volcano Agua (water) towering directly behind it!

Volcán Agua over the community building

Then, when you get up to the entrance, by the pools, you turn around and see just across the road, the ever erupting Volcano Fuego (fire)! We were the first to arrive so we had the time to explore the beautiful grounds around the central area.

Volcán Fuego venting steam and ash behind us

The graduation ceremony was small, there were 6 graduating from the school, and also honored around 20 others that were being promoted to new levels.
After the ceremony there was a nice lunch provided and we enjoyed it outside under the palms sitting by the pools! It was fantastic, well worth having to wear a tie! I might add that the girls absolutely LOVED my tie with Tigger, Winnie the Pooh and Eyore on it!

Sandi and I with Gloria and Marta

There were several of my youth that also came because four of them also received diplomas for advancing to the next level. This brought a van full (23) from Las Aldeas, the home where they all live. The four receiving awards were: Irís, Juliana, Lydia and Magalí.

Magalí and Lydia

We also had all but one of the girls from the Casa Juvenil. After lunch we filled our car with a few more than we brought and returned to the city. We then celebrated with a ¨movie night¨at the casa juvenil and watched Era de Hielo 3 (Ice Age 3)!


Most of the girls from the casa juvenil

12 November 2009

Water of life

"Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life." John 4:13, 14

The people who drink the water from the filters we are giving them will get thirsty again, and when they get thirsty they will be able to drink SAFE, clean, pure water! We also hope that each time they get water from their filter they will also think on the living water which is Jesus Christ, in whose name they received the filters.

Our daughter Kimberly and her boyfriend Sergey were just in Guatemala for a short one week visit and they brought with them 20 more water filters provided by several of our amazing supporters! THANK YOU ALL ONCE AGAIN!
I truly hope that through these blog reports about giving the filters you can get the feeling of just what a huge blessing they are. Each time we give one away I am struck with just what it means to the recipient. This time Kimber and Sergey got to experience that also.
We began by spending an evening at the casa juvenil with the 10 ladies that live there painting some of the buckets we will use for the filters.

Kimber, Sergey and Sandi painting buckets

This is another one of the blessings provided through these filters. The girls at the casa juvenil LOVE getting to do this. They live in a situation where they are always on the receiving end of help. Now, they get to do something to help someone else with less than they have! It is awesome to see the joy they have getting to help.

Some of the girls painting (even Mike gets to work!)

On Wednesday, Nov. 11th, the day before Kimber and Sergey returned to the States, I had the opportunity to take them with me into Zone 3 to give a few of the filters. Loyda Monroy, the Director of Casita Benjamin had contacted a few families for us to meet with. This is another part of what we want to do through giving these filters. We want to connect the filters also with Casita Benjamin, so people in the neighborhood will associate the Casita with helping the neighborhood. Hopefully in the future, when there are needs here, people will look to the Casita as an avenue of help.

Eugenia, her husband and baby with their new filter!

We met with three families, Thelma Cochijil Gutierrez, a single mom with two children. Mirna Angelica Chamale Lopez, a widow with 4 children (her husband died two years ago). Eugenia Rogel and her husband and their little baby! They live in one room, with his dad and sister living in a second room. They will all share this wonderful gift of clean drinking water!
All thanked us and also gave thanks to God for the blessing these filters will be for each of them.
All of us had tears in our eyes as Mirna cried as she thanked us for providing agua pura for her children.

We were in one of the houses near the center of this photo.
This neighborhood is directly alongside of the dump, just to the right.

Sergey remarked after we were done, "we need to get more of these filters."
He knew when they brought them down that they would be a blessing to someone, but sitting in someones one room home and hearing their story before we pray with them gives it a whole new depth. I wish each of you could come here and experience the blessing of giving away these filters.
So, once again I say thank you to everyone involved with the gift of these water filters. Again I am so humbled that I get the incredible blessing of being able to meet these families and pray with them. I do know you will all be rewarded for your help, and pray you may have the opportunity one day to perhaps come visit us here in Guatemala and meet some of these people God has led us to in Zone 3.

This photo is for all of my contractor buddies!

Well, you have to get power to those houses you saw in the above photo. So, here is where it comes in. And, as many of you can imagine, this is a pretty good set-up compared to some.