Category Archives: Guatemala

2011 Elections

There are presidential elections in Guatemala this year, and they’re always fascinating to watch.

  • There are LOTS of political parties (I think that I can name 14 different parties), so there are lots of people in the running to be president.
  • Here’s the poll results from June showing all of the potential candidates:
  • There are two phases of elections, the first round is on September 11th. (I have no idea why they picked that date!) And there’s a runoff election in November for the top two from the first round.
  • The current president’s wife, Sandra Torres, decided she wanted to run for president this year, but there’s a law that says that no family members of the current president can run. So she divorced him a few months ago! The electoral committee has denied her name from the ballots for fraud, and the Supreme Court is currently deciding if she can run. CNN has an article about it here. There’s a lot of manifestations going on right now protesting that she’s not on the ballot. We couldn’t drive to Casa Shalom today because they had blocked all the roads out of our town.
  • A pastor, Harold Caballeros, has also been denied running because of a law that prohibits a religious minister from running for president. He’s also in the process of appealing the decision because he stepped down from pastoring a church in 2006. It’s surprising because Guatemala’s had a former paster as president in the past, and the current president is also a Mayan priest!

The elections here are always fascinating, but they’re also very serious. Guatemala needs a lot of prayer! There were approximately 50 murders associated with the previous elections in 2007, and fortunately it’s going better this year. Corruption is a huge problem here, and it touches every governmental department and position.

But the biggest problem the new president will face in the coming years is organized crime. This year drug cartels from Mexico have been moving down here in large numbers. We now regularly read about clashes between them and the police in different areas of the country.

Guatemala needs lots of prayer during these elections. We need a good president who will fight the corruption and violence which is threatening the country!

At the Movies

A movie theater in the city invited all of children of Casa Shalom to come and watch Cars 2 this afternoon. We had a great time, and I really don’t know if they enjoyed the movie or all the popcorn more! (fortunately Viviana and Sarai made sure that I ate enough) The theater was dark, so the pictures aren’t very good, but we sure had a fun time together.

Santos & José

Santos & JoséSantos & José are brothers that Yuli and I got to know in Casa Shalom.  Their grandparents won custody of  them this past year, and so in October they returned to live with them.  They don’t have much money, but they’re so happy to be home.  Fortunately for us, they live on the outskirts of Chimaltenango, which is the same town where we live.

We’ve gotten to visit them a bunch, and it’s great to see them so content to be with their family. But we also saw that money was really tight.  They we’re looking to get them enrolled in a nearby school, but education is expensive here.  As we mentioned in our previous newsletter, we decided to help out and pay for their schooling.

We enrolled them in a nearby middle school, where Santos is in 8th grade and José is in 7th grade.  Here’s a picture of them one day after class.  It’s been so much fun for us to stay connected with them and continue to build a relationship. They also now join us for church every Sunday, and we’re just so happy to be involved in their lives. We would appreciate your prayers as we continue to work with Santos and José.

We would also appreciate your prayers as we continue to meet with other kids who have many needs.

Celia, Anna and Marcelino

Brent & Celia Celia, Anna and Marcelino are three siblings who used to live at Casa Shalom, but returned to live with their parents a little over a year ago. Celia is remembered by about everyone who meets her as being one of the sweetest girls ever.

Since the three returned home, my friend Matt and my sister-in-law Veronica have made a few trips last year to visit them to see how they were doing.  They had been sent to the orphanage due to poverty, and so Yuli and I decided to also go check-up on them.  Celia’s going into fourth grade, Anna into second, and Marcelino into first grade this year, and so we got them some backpacks and school supplies to get them ready for school.

We didn’t have a phone number, and they live in a small village, but we headed over a week ago in hope to see them. We were sad to find Anna home alone, and she told us that her mom and the others had been at a coffee plantation working for the past two weeks.  They were due to return the following Monday, the same day that school started. We walked with Anna over to another family member’s house and got a phone number to call and made plans to visit again in a week.

Today we hoped to return to see all of them, but no one was answering the phone these past few days.  Finally this morning before leaving we got a hold of Celia only to find out that her family had gone to a new coffee plantation, and they would be working at the plantation for about a month.

We are very concerned for Celia, Anna and Marcelino. It looks like their family is really needing money, and this is hard work that doesn’t pay very much at all.  We also don’t know if their school will take them so late in the year when they return.  Please pray for them: That God would protect them, that He would provide for their needs, and that He would give us wisdom how to best help the family.

Our First Anniversary

On December 26th, 2009 last year we were joined in marriage before God, our family and our friends.  We are so happy together!!!

We marvel at how God has worked to bring us together, how He provided for all of our needs with the wedding and visas, and how He has blessed our past year as we went to the US and now have returned here.  If you haven’t seen our wedding website, you should check it out!

We also spent time planning and praying for this next year. We would appreciate your prayers also as we get adjusted to our new life here and get into ministry.  We know that God has great plans for us and we’re excited to be used by Him to share His love with others!

Merry Christmas!

Christmas is celebrated very differently here.  The major day is Christmas Eve where they wake up early to start making tamales.  I tried to help out with the whole process to learn how they do it, and I’ll post a few pictures later.
Towards evening people make small fires on the curb in front of their house and everyone hangs out around it and says hi to neighbors. At midnight the whole country goes crazy with fireworks.  It’s an amazing sight! Everyone then eats tamales and drinks a hot fruit punch drink. After that they open presents and then play games and talk until everyone’s too tired to stay awake. We were up until 4!  On Christmas day everyone sleeps late and just relaxes.
We hope that you have a merry Christmas!  It is a great time of the year to reflect on how wonderful God is to us and how incredible His love and blessings are for us.
Coco with sparkler Edwin & I with fireworks Heidi & Manuel with fireworks Midnight Tamal Veronica & Edwin Coco opening present Yuli & me Coci & Cristi Heidi & Masga Veronica with present Mama Serbelia with Shawl Looking at photo book

The drive to Guatemala

We made it! Driving through Mexico was an experience we’ll never forget! We left Austin, TX on Thursday morning and on Monday, five days later, we arrived in Chimaltenango, Guatemala.  Our poor little car was packed completely full with everything we needed and wanted to bring to start our new life here in Guatemala.  It was so full that we couldn’t see out the back, and it drove sluggish.  But we were blessed to make the journey without any real problems and the car made the trip just fine.
This is how full our car was, and we also had the space for Yuli’s feet filled up too.
Driving across the Rio Grande from Laredo to Nuevo Laredo.
View across the river to the USA from the place where we got our passports stamped and our car permit.
The first two days we drove through north Mexico.  There were very impressive mountains and LOTS of cacti.
As we left the city of Puebla, we saw this snow covered volcano. I think that it’s called Citlaltépetl.
The third day definitely had the greatest views as we entered a mountain range surrounded by clouds.  It was this little winding road along the sides with bridges to span the gaps.  It was about impossible to get a picture that captured how high up we were, but this one looks back on a bridge that we had gone across.
And the road had three tunnels cutting through the mountains.
At least we got to enjoy the fine cuisine of Mexico.  Here Yuli’s enjoying the enchiladas and I’m trying out the local mole.
One hotel we stayed at had the sink in the shower!
On the fourth day we came down from the mountains to the pacific coast where there were hundreds of windmills.
Boy, this sign got us excited. we were almost there!
Finally, we’re leaving Mexico…
…and we’ve made it to Guatemala!
We still had 5 more hours to go, but they were all roads we’ve been on before.  What an amazing trip! But we were really, really exhausted and happy to make it to Yuli’s family’s house.  Now we get to rest and relax for the next few days and enjoy celebrating Christmas with the family.

Route through Mexico

Driving through MexicoDriving through Mexico is about 1,350 miles long and takes about 24 hours to do.  We’re mapping out the course and planning to make the whole drive from Austin to Guatemala in four days.

It seems like there’s so many details to prepare for with crossing different boarders and figuring out the best routes to take, that it feels a little overwhelming at times. But it will certainly be a trip that we’ll never forget!