Friday, May 22, 2015

People Come... People Go... Friday May 22-final blog from Guatemala

Collecting my thoughts as we prepare to leave and sitting in the shade of a long Guatemalan afternoon I am gently reminded that we as human beings, if we choose to follow Christ as Christians, are gifted hundreds of times daily. The gift is the real "encuentros" that are given us daily as individual beloved creatures of our one true God. And we can if we choose, witness the rich and infinite images of the God of all creation. The sad fact is that all too often we see others defined by the personal opinions or stereotypes that we are unfortunately "formed" by in our lives.

So while I feel this may be my last trip to the mission; advancing age that causes difficulty in climbing into the trucks, requiring more bathroom breaks, and a once-iron clad stomach losing its iron, I reflect on the beauty and gift that was offered. Responding to gift is always a selfless act or it is no longer gift. Nothing less offered was the gift of Christ himself…the real deal, Christ as known from scriptures and His uncompromising command to love-love though service, love through offering mercy, reconciliation, forgiveness; love by meeting Him in all. To accept Him without conditions is a true gift received. Our Christ wears many faces, garments, and offers words to comfort, challenge, and renew.

I pray to always see in the poor the face of Christ. Nothing should be more desired by a Christian. It is what we long for in our central prayer, our Divine Liturgy when we are so blessed to be in this communion. Second it is to live the command accepted in baptism, love God and neighbor as taught by Christ. I witnessed this in the people who have given their lives to the mission, much better than I could ever do. From the local staff, leadership by long time lay workers and clergy, and the memories that they continues to live as a reminder to why we “mission in this place. Perhaps most of all is the gift of the great folks that we choose to love in the name of Christ, who chose us first. They show that withstanding sickness, poverty, scars still tender from war and its aftermath; Christ is still living in their midst.  May he continue to dwell in us all.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Monday, May 18 2015-Mary Kantner

Everyone and myself (Mary) thought yesterday, Sunday, was a blast. We started around the usual time, had breakfast, then ventured off into the market. Sunday being Mother's Day for the Guatemalans, the market was bustling with people and different kinds of goods from clothes to produce to jewelry to chocolate covered bananas. Though it was busy and many of the people were pushy, we persisted to buy things and wave as we went by. After making a few more stops along the way, we headed back to the mission to rest and spent some more time together.
Around 2 in the afternoon, the pastoral youth began to trickle in, dressed up and with decorations in their hands. They started to decorate the salon with a banner that read "Feliz dia de Madres" ("Happy day of the Mothers"). Two hours later, the mothers began to walk in, dressed up and grinning, receiving a box of matches with raffle numbers attached and a colored daisy by some of our group and other youth. As the night progressed on, they put on skits, a couple clowns did an activity or two, they danced, played games with the mothers, and invited some of us up for a song, thanking their mothers for their love. It was extremely touching to see how much fun the mothers had. I was reflecting to myself how a celebration like this would be in the U.S. and if the mothers would participate with such joy and energy. Sheila told us that this was probably the only big event any of the mothers would attend, especially one that shows appreciation for them like this one does. The children were also incredibly heart warming...some were crying and singing right to their mothers, then making their mothers cry as well. At the end, one son went up to his mother and she fell into his arms and they quietly sobbed together. It made me tear up and miss my mom, and later on in reflection, our group agreed that seeing the intense emotion and love displayed by them was a blessing to witness and something we should never take for granted - a mother's relationship with her child. 
Once the mothers had gone, around 7:30, the youth stayed behind to spend time with us. We ended up dancing for hours. They did the salsa with us, Breanna, Quincy and myself did "the worm", we taught them how to line dance to country music (which was a riot), we swing danced, and they taught us a traditional dance as well. It was both hilarious and a lot of fun. We were sweating bullets and had permanent smiles on our faces when they shouted out "ultima!" which means, last song. We hugged them, and took more pictures than we've ever taken in our lives - we felt famous really, every one of them wanted photos with us. We chatted with Fransisco, Anderson, Marvin, Billy, and some others as they started to leave. After that, we were ready for bed. All of the girls decided to have a sleep over in one of the houses, while James and Kyle rested on their own. 

This morning (Monday), some of us were slow to wake up, and spent the morning mostly resting and checking out more of the clinic. Quincy and some others watched some doctors in the lab do a pregnancy test - came back negative if any of you were wondering. We also bought some bags of medicinal tea. Whitney, Elly and myself played with the 5 month old, Juan Carlo, who's mother is very generous and trusting with him, and the rest of us were in and out of our rooms. Lunch was light since most of our appetites are somewhat fading (can you blame us?), rice and chicken...some of us just ate PB and J sandwiches. Around two, those of us who felt up to it climbed into the trucks to head up the road about 5 km to the coffee cooperative. They explained to us how the coffee is roasted and harvested. We all bought coffee, some of us bought mugs and burlap sacks used for the beans. The ride back was beautiful, almost looked like a vineyard you'd see in the hills of Oregon. The crops there mostly consisted of coffee, corn, and plantains or bananas. The mountains were clear, and it was cool today, although, humid as ever, because of the lack of rain for the past 3 days. I also heard that while we were gone, there was an earthquake which is pretty exciting! Getting back from that short adventure, we hung out in the kitchen/movie room, as it finally started to pour rain. We watched a couple movies together and then had a dinner of lasagna. It wasn't as good as my mom's, but it was delicious despite the lack of appetites. Once dinner finished, we all gathered outside to witness the amazing lightning storm where the sky didn't go more than 5 seconds without flashing in enormous light. The power went out, and our generator turned on as we came back inside for a brief reflection of the day.

A lot of us are still feeling ill, unfortunately, but we all are in good spirits and believe we're on the uphill road to healthiness and in time for our trip to Lake Atitlan. Breanna is feeling more of her energetic goofy self, after her full day of illness on Sunday before the Mother's Day celebration, where she spent most of her day in bed trying to keep hydrated. Shannon seems pretty much back to normal after her day and a half spent in our house, and a rough previous night. Kyle is up and laughing - though still not perfectly back to normal, everyone is getting medicine or antibiotics if they need it and all attended dinner, despite our sensitivities. None of us really feel 100%, but its proving to be a blessing almost. As my mom said, "It's not a pilgrimage until someone gets sick", which is proving to be very true. Luckily, we are all sick together and helping each other with whatever we need. In the end, we're able to chuckle at our unfortunate situations together. Sheila has also been very generous and selfless, what with getting us medicine and running around making sure everyone has a gatorade or medicinal tea (made by workers here at the mission) by their bedside. 

We ask for your continued prayers that those of us who feel okay stay healthy and those of us not feeling well to be healed of our illnesses as we venture off to our new destination tomorrow (Tuesday) - a 3 hour drive to Santiago Atitlan. We will be heading off after breakfast around 9 and will be there up until Thursday I believe. We pray that we will continue to grow together, immerse ourselves in the culture, and progress back to health. 

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Saturday, May 16-Breanna Thompson

Another One Bites the Dust.

Overall my Guatemala experience has been very eye opening. I have seen how little people have in the villages; and although poverty is an everyday factor, the culture and love for life is very vibrant.  The people I have met have such beautiful hearts. Even with the language barrier I have been able to connect with the community through soccer, making tortillas, and broken conversations. The generosity that has been given to our little MSU group has been so humbling. I have realized there are many things I can do without in America and still be well off. I have no need to stress over plans with my friends, or whether I am having a bad hair day; because I have made relationship with people who don't know when there next meal will be or where the next day will take them. For this I should be grateful I can make plans with my friends and have the money to get my hair done because I have a roof over my head that does not consist of a dirt floor and am on the path to earning a degree which many of my friends in Guatemala will never have as an opportunity. I am inspired to live life more simply, be a servant to my brothers and sisters of Christ, and be grateful for everything God has blessed me with.

Today was a quite an interesting day. During breakfast we discovered that half of our group had become sick. James was sick two days ago and Mary yesterday, but today Ellie, Jenny, Whitney, and Kyle got sick. Quincy, Sherrie and Lindsey were a bit nauseous as well. Nina, Shannon, Father Val, and I are the only ones who have not caught this bug. People are dropping like flies in sickness! I am convinced I will not get sick (knock on wood) I'll give you an update if I do catch this bug. We decided to paint the salon in the mission which was quite nice to contribute something for these people (Although it does not come close to all they have done for us). We painted the salon walls yellow and the door/window seals red. It was nice to have conversation with everyone in the group that were feeling well. Also this bug only seems to last for 12-24 hours so James and Mary were feeling good.

Today we also played soccer with the kids around the community. I absolutely love playing soccer with my Guatemalan friends! Its one of the best ways for me to connect since I am horrible at speaking spanish. The players looked around 14 but they were in there 20s! The people are pretty short compared to us Americans, so they look younger than they are. I told one of the 20 year-old girls I was 19 and she was shocked because she thought I was much older. Funny what height can do. We took pictures with the group and talked to a few of the players after the game. They said we played well but I think they were just being nice.

We also went to mass today which was cool to hear in spanish. I love how no matter where you are, going to church at a catholic mass, you know what is happening because of the traditions. It was a beautiful mass. We got to speak with a lady named Lucy who was so excited to be around us because she could speak english! This was the first english-speaking person I had met yet in the community. Her english was very minimal but it was nice to speak in my own language for a while. We took pictures with her as well.

Afterwards we had a great dinner and conversation with the group which was a wonderful way to end the night. Not only am I connecting with the Guatemalans but I am also making great relationships with the students who also came in the group. I am hoping everyone recovers from today in their health and that the four remaining do not catch this bug. I also cannot wait to see what tomorrow brings!

Much love and gratefulness for this trip!


Friday, May 15, 2015

Friday, May 15-James Dilts/Lindsay Langhals

We started the day by traveling to a nearby town to see their market. We all got into pickup trucks and traveled through the mountains and saw some beautiful scenery. One thing I noticed was the political signs and slogans painted on the rocks and trees along the highway. On the way, we stopped at a government clinic and observed their training for midwives. Most of the women there did not speak Spanish or English. Instead, they spoke Q'iche, a local Mayan dialect. During our discussion, we needed to go through two translators to understand them. However, we were able to see their joy and passion through the language barrier. The average age for these women was well over 70 years old, and the oldest midwife there was 90 years old.
When we got to the market, there were so many different sights and smells to see and experience, some good and some bad. We walked through the streets and passed many little stands that sold various foods and some crafts. There were a lot of beautiful beaded bracelets and bags, as well as blouses and other cultural attire. However, most of the food was of poor quality and covered in flies, and there was a lot of trash and stray dogs in the marketplace. Many of us found it difficult to see this, and we had a good discussion tonight about it.
After we left the marketplace, we visited some of the widows of Guatemala's civil war in the 1980s. The mission has helped them to find meaningful work by weaving bags to sell in the market and in the United States. It takes about one month working a few hours a day to weave a bag, for which the weavers will earn $25. The widows live in houses that are about 10 feet by 10 feet, and do not have access to running water or any type of clean sanitation. They seemed very happy to see us, and we enjoyed seeing the talent needed to make the crafts by hand.
After we got back to the mission, we visited the local cemetery, located in the ruins of a colonial church that was destroyed in the 18th century by an earthquake. Most of the graves are located above the ground in a type of mausoleum. They were brightly colored and contained messages written about the deceased. The graves were obviously well loved, and there were flowers everywhere. As we finished walking around the area, it started to rain, and we were soaked. It was enjoyable to walk back town in the rain. Finally, we finished the day with mass held in the chapel in the mission.

James Dilts-Lindsay Langhals

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Thursday, May 14-Nina Hill

¡Buenos noches por Guatemala! Hoy era el secundo día completo en la misión y era plena de actividades y lecciones. Imagine que toda la gente en tu mundo hable un otro idioma, todos los advertidos sean  en Español, y tu no puedes hablar o comunicar con nadie. Es muy difícil a tener relaciones con otras personas y a comunicar con la gente aquí porque la mayoría de nosotros no habla  Español o habla solamente un "pequeñito." Todavía a pesar de los barreras entre nuestras culturas, hay una comunicación mas profundo que las estudiantes aquí entiendan y este es alegría. Todos los estudiantes han mencionado la alegría que se pueda ver siempre aunque estamos rodeados por pobreza extrema y destitución. También nosotros hemos oído mucha sobre la corrupción del gobierno y los próximos elecciones y este es muy informativo para nosotros porque no es algo que nosotros hubiéramos experimentado en nuestras vidas. Sobre todos, las experiencias en nuestra tiempo aquí es muy informativo y muy transformadora. Espero que este párrafo te da una idea de las dificultades que nosotros estamos experimentados en nuestro tiempo aquí y que difícil es a entender y a comunicar todas las ideas que tenemos. 

Today after breakfast we toured the community land that the mission supports and we learned about their composting system and the sustainability of the plants and the ecosystem here. It was absolutely fascinating that they are able to grow plants that have a higher level of protein than a pound of meat in just a couple of leaves. After that, we returned to the mission (via the back of the truck express) and toured the medicinal gardens. We had an amazing cookout followed by a lively game of futbol with the staff members at the clinic. We clearly had the advantage because we are from the US and have little to no experience playing soccer. The struggle was real. Afterwards, we returned to the mission for some downtime (aka shower time) and then celebrated mass at the mission. We had some amazing tamales for dinner. Reading back on this I'm realizing that it sounds like I'm only here for the food. I promise I'm not just here for the food... We ended our evening with a video on the life of Father Stanley Rother, a Guatemalan martyr in the 1980's, and later this week we will be visiting Atitlan which is the site of his martyrdom. There will certainly be more to follow! God bless!

Nina Hill

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Wednesday, May 13-Quincy Mears

Hola from Guatemala, it's Quincy here. Today was a fun-packed day. The sun came up around four in the morning, so I pondered life while watching the sun peak around the mountains. Soon after, a mango fell off of the tree I was sitting close to. It was a great morning snack.
We started the day with touring the clinic. They serve many people throughout the day with needs such as ophthalmology, natural pathology, emergency room, pharmacy, and lab. I was very interested with the natural teas they use to treat their patients. I'm very excited to observe the naturopath appointment in action.
We continued on to touring the school, Asunción. It was humbling to see their excitement of being at school. They go to school for subjects specific to their future careers. They sang a song for their mothers as well as all of ours. Mother's Day is taken very seriously here as they celebrate it the whole month of May. A couple of us played a basketball game with some of the girls. I was pleasantly surprised with how well they played. We called ourselves the Equipo de Gringo. I think the score was around 2 to 20. During mass I sat next to some of the girls going to school. The singing and participation was great and inspiring. I often times got confused and would ask to find the right song. We ended the night with dinner with the nuns, Father Kevin, and all the students who live at the school. The children were very forthcoming to talk with us. I taught a group of kids how to say the sign of cross in English. They were very excited about this.
In the end, many of the group members have commented on the poverty here. I was a little confused because this wasn't something that came to my mind when considering what I have taken from the day. All that came to mind was their joy. This is the kind of joy I want to strive for not only every day for the rest of my time here in Guatemala; but also, when I return back to the United States. Everyone here is extremely friendly and willing to work with me, even when I accidentally said words in Portuguese.

Quincy Mears

Monday, May 11, 2015


Well above 10K feet to connect to WIFI, we are en route to LA.  Spirits are great with our group and all are anticipating arriving in Guatemala City in the morning.  I always like to begin by asking why do we go here each year?  Unlike other Church-sponsored "mission trips", we do not go to build a house, provide much needed medical care, install water purification systems, or even teach classes in economics, parenting, even religion; we go to experience our sisters and brothers in the faith where they are; to learn and be ministered to by them. To see that the Church is truly CATHOLIC-universal in belief, and for the most part the expression of our faith as we enter into the liturgy. To experience the ancient call of Christ to "go and make disciples of all nations", we enter communion with the disciples already made. I look forward to sharing with you our group and their own reflections on a daily basis.   I also hope you may respond in kind with any replies  but more importantly with your prayers.  Paz!

Fr Val

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Goin Guatemala!!

Monday I will accompany a  group of parishioners to the diocesan mission in Guatemala.  You can read about it here:  Check out the individual pages on this link.  It is an amazing and faith filled community in the mountains.

I will try to blog some of our experiences and invite other do do the same.  Feel free to follow us at this blog.