By Grace, Through Faith

Wow! Another week has flown by in San Juan! Es muy rapido!
This past week has been filled with many different adventures such as climbing Volcan de Pacaya, helping in our service projects, and continuing to learn Spanish. We have been super busy and learning lots!  Out of all of these incredible activities, my favourite part of this week was getting to play with the children at an after school program called “Niños del Mundo”, for children who don’t have the best support at home.

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My small group was the first to visit the children on Wednesday. We have been studying the book ‘What’s so Amazing About Grace?’ by Philip Yancey, and were looking forward to understanding a deeper meaning of the term grace as we interacted with the kids. As we entered, we had no idea what to expect, only that we had a little over an hour to love these kids.
We met about fifty smiling children, ages five to twelve, who enjoyed playing games such as musical chairs, tag, and Pato Pato Ganso (duck duck goose). The time with them flew by! It was a phenomenal day and we looked forward to returning.
On Thursday, all twenty of us got to go to spend time with the kids, bringing along with us cakes and piñatas. This time there were many more kids and way more chaos, but still a wonderful time of getting to reconnect with our friends from the day before and meet new ones.

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As we spent time with the kids, the theme of grace kept appearing. We had to have grace for each other in the overwhelming chaos of screaming kids, we had to have grace for the kids when they plunked themselves down on our lap then proceeded to snot and sneeze all over, and the children had to have grace for us and our very broken Spanish. One of my favourite quotes from the book I mentioned earlier is “Grace means there is nothing we can do to make God love us more and there is nothing we can do to make God love us less.”  God’s love for us and for the children is unconditional. And we were blessed to be able to share that this week.

-Kari on behalf of Guattatown

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Service Learning in Panajachel

                Hola amigos! On January 27th,  we had the opportunity to make our way to Panajachel for our very first build project! That’s not the only thing this week had in store for us though: we went zip lining, learned how to use our bartering skills in the market, took the plunge into the beautiful Lake Atitlan, and learned how to make our own tortillas (NOT as easy as you might think). This week was one full of learning and growing, much like most weeks on Outtatown. 

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Day One of the Build Project at the Job Site

                We worked with an organization called Solomon’s Porch to begin the process of building a house for a single mother and her daughter who have not had the easiest life. The mother, Natalia, and her daughter, Alaina, are the only ones left of their immediate family. There were two other children who unfortunately passed away, and the father has deserted them. Natalia has severe arthritis and is bed ridden for the most part, and twelve-year old Alaina has just completed grade one. We arrived at the job site eager to work, serve this family, and show them God’s wonderful grace. The first day we worked hard, and made good progress, however, cousins and friends of the family steadily started showing up, and so a few people took some time off their jobs to play with the children. This pattern kept continuing throughout the days, and meanwhile we were completing jobs faster than they could give them to us! By the last day we had children show up, and almost no jobs left, so we took time off to entertain the kids. At first I felt a sense of guilt, like I should be working more, doing more. However, missions work isn’t just about trying to build a house as fast as you can, by moving more cement blocks, or making more of the foundation. Its also about the relationships that are built on the job site. It’s just as important to communicate with the family, take time to know them and love them, as it is to do the manual labour involved with the job.   While the family needs the house, they also need to be shown God’s love and mercy as well.

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15-Day-Old Puppies Joined Us! 


                While this week was somewhat tiring, it was one where we had the opportunity to give rather than receive. Too often while doing things for other people we don’t put as much focus on giving as we do on what we will receive, how we will be seen, or what we get out of the experience. Philippians 2: 3-4 says ‘Do nothing out of selfish ambition or of vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interest of the others.’ This explains very well the posture which we are to take on during service opportunities.

 

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Kayaking on Lake Atitlan

All in all, this past week as an excellent learning opportunity for all of us. Thanks so much for your support, and prayers.

 

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The most incredible view!

Adios!

-Cassidy on behalf of Site 1, Guatemala

Seeing God through Service

The word routine isn’t used very often in the Outtatown world. As a group we pride ourselves on being spontaneous, flexible, and always on the move. Yet somehow this week the Guattatown students found themselves settling into the daily routine of life in San Juan.
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Walking the streets of San Juan.

We started off our second week with our host families and spent Monday through Thursday morning at Spanish school. We were all shocked to look back on the last week and realize just how far we had already come with our Spanish. We are all trying to have conversations at home, practice our Spanish on the streets, and listen closely to any Spanish guide we have! Our first evaluation was on Thursday morning and we are all excited to get our results back once we return from our week away.
One of the new aspects of this week was Tuesday afternoon service projects. Our team was split into four groups so we could head off to various locations in the surrounding area. One group was sent to The Grandpa House, a retirement home in Antigua. The students got to play games and practice their Spanish by interacting and speaking with the residents.
The second group was thrilled to meet the students they will be helping to learn English. This group also got the opportunity to meet the mayor of Santa Catalina Barahona and have lunch with his associates. The restaurant they went to was not like your typical Canadian, or Guatemalan restaurant though. Each student got to pick a live fish from a pond and then have it fried to perfection.
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Adam and his lunch.

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Kari and her lunch.

The third group, who will be doing some construction and community service, is planned to start up during our next week in San Juan. In the meantime the students were able to join the other groups and help them out.
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Taylor and her lunch.

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The group + Louis Carlos + the Mayor.

The final group got to go to a local hospital where the majority of the residents have Cerebral Palsy (CP). The hospital building itself was beautiful. It was built last December and we heard that it is a huge improvement from the previous small location in Antigua. All of us students who went there got a tour of each floor and got to chat with some of the residents. People of all ages are currently at the hospital; from young children to abuelas and abuelos (grandma and grandpas). After our initial tour we were set free to interact with the kids. At first all of us were slightly overwhelmed. Spread throughout two rooms, over thirty kids were lying in their individual cribs. Since most of these kids have little to no mobility and speech each child required one on one attention. The majority of our group had never worked with kids who have disabilities or in any kind of medical setting. It was easy to wonder where to begin. We so desperately wanted to love on all of them but at the same time, there were only six of us. Despite the overwhelming situation we all jumped right in and set out to love, serve, and play with these beautiful people. Whether it was going for a walk in the sunshine, giving out lots of hugs, helping feed someone their dinner, or just having a simple conversation and sharing a laugh, each child got some love from our outtatown community. By the end of our three hours at the hospital we had set the foundation for what looks to be some wonderful friendships.
In situations like this, it can be easy for us to question where God is. All of these beautiful babies are left in a hospital with a limited number of caregivers. They don’t receive what is considered a typical childhood. A lot of them have families that just don’t have the means to look after them. At first, it looks like a heartbreaking situation. But if you look closer you can see God at work. We saw Jesus through the kind volunteer coordinator, the hardworking nurses, and the other volunteers we met. We got to see the joy that our kind words and time can bring. We got to experience the diversity of God’s design for human life.
Overall we all feel that God is at work not only in the CP hospital but all throughout Guatemala. As we prepare to leave San Juan and head into our new week in Panajachel we are eager to see what God will do through us and for us!
– Steph on behalf of Guattatown