We’re taking a two week vacation today to visit my family in Florida. My brother’s graduating with his Master’s degree, and we’re very excited to go hang out with his two kids for a few days.
One of my primary jobs lately has been to tutor math. Topics from this past week include: fractions, solving square roots, algebra, plotting equations, logarithms, and trigonometry. I think that there was only one day this past week that I didn’t help someone out with math. I’ve actually decided that I enjoy it much more than tutoring English. English seems like it should be easy for me to teach, but because I learned it as a kid, I have trouble explaining the rules. Yuli, on the other hand, is very good at explaining English, and stays very busy tutoring it. But math is much easier for me, and I’m enjoying tutoring the kids a lot.
These past two weekends Elias from Casa Shalom has come over to our house because he’s currently in high school and specializing in computer programming. We’ve had a great time together, and I really enjoy helping him out with it. It’s fun to have one of the guys that I use to take care of now interested in the same subject as me! He’s in a very good and challenging school, and it’s exciting to see him grow. His brother Benjamin also has been coming over to stay with us on the weekends after he finishes his own classes. Yuliza and I have really enjoyed having our house more and more filled with people every weekend. It’s definitely the highlight of the week for us!
Today we celebrated Santos’ 18th birthday with him and his brother José. They’re the brothers that have returned from Casa Shalom to live with their grandmother, and we’re helping them out with their school. Santos’ birthday is actually in a week, but we’re going to be away for it.
We had a great time hanging out with them, and we’re so happy to see them succeeding outside of the home. I forgot to take a picture, (oops!) so here’s a picture from 5 years ago when we hiked up a volcano together. Santos is on the far right in a green jacket. He’s grown up a lot since then!
With school out this week for Easter, our schedule has changed a bit, and here are some of the highlights:
Clara is a girl who grew up at Casa Shalom along with her brother and sister, and Yuli use to be her teacher. She’s now living on her own, and we’ve had her stay with us in the past. Unfortunately Clara got pregnant last fall, and the dad doesn’t want to help out. But we’re happy that she gave birth to a healthy girl last week, and on Friday we were able to bring her siblings over to see her and meet their new niece.
After the death of their mom, Clara took over the role with Flora and Carlos. Young, unwed pregnancies are a huge problem in Guatemala, and it’s sad to see Clara in the same situation. Earlier this year were hoping to get her enrolled in school this year because she only needs one more year to finish high school. We would appreciate your prayers for Clara and her new baby. We’ve given her some baby supplies, and we’re praying about how else we can best help her out.
Then last weekend we had our friend and fellow missionary Elizabeth stay with us. She works with Yuli’s sister at another orphanage called La Senda. We had a big sleep over with a bunch of Yuli’s family and enjoyed each other’s company. We also met up with Santos and José (the boys we’re sending to school) and helped them with some school projects.
Guatemala has a bunch of traditions for Holy Week, and my favorite is the foods! On Wednesday I drove with Yuli’s dad over to his hometown of San Cristobal, Totonicapan. It’s about 3 hours away, and every year her dad likes to visit there in order to buy a special bread from there. This year the date fell right on his birthday, and his brother and sister and two grandkids joined us for the journey. I got to meet a bunch more family, and they gave us a wonderful lunch of ribs and Guatemalan sausages. The highlight was definitely that I got to see where they grew up, and it also let me spend a really fun day together with my father-in-law.
So on Thursday morning we ate the bread with hot chocolate, and lunch was a chicken and vegetable dish. Today we had a fish dinner. It was all fabulous! But the weirdest thing I ate was a sweet syrup made with garbanzo beans. (not one of my favorites)
This weekend we’re having our buddy Edwin over again to stay with us for Easter, and then on Monday it’s back to Casa Shalom!
The seasons in Guatemala are very different than in the USA. There are basically just two here: the rainy season and the dry season. The rainy season starts in May and goes until October. Because the rain and the clouds keep the temperature cooler, they call it winter. The rest of the year is called summer. So even though we’re still in the northern hemisphere, the season names are swapped!
This week is Holy Week, and the kids all get off from school for it. Also, because it’s one of the final weeks before the rainy season starts and cools the temperature down, this week is especially referred to as summer. Throughout the year, the temperature doesn’t change that much, though. (the highs during their winter average around 70 degrees, while the highs currently are around 85 degrees)
The kids at Casa Shalom were ultra excited yesterday to be starting their “summer” vacation. Some get the chance to spend the week with their family, while the rest of the children are visiting a few supporting churches in Guatemala and are also going to the beach for a few days.
Edwin turned 15 in March, and Alejandro turns 15 in May. So we brought both over to our place for the weekend to celebrate their birthdays. Neither one has any siblings at Casa Shalom or family that visits them, and so we wanted them to have a special time with us.
If you haven’t noticed, we celebrate a lot of birthdays! But we feel that it’s so important that each kid comes to know how special they are to God. Like David wrote in Psalm 139:13-16, He created each one of them and has a plan for each one of them.
For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
Yuli’s family has also been such a huge help and blessing with these celebrations. Veronica was their teacher before and enjoys hanging out with them. And Yuli’s nephews Christian and Manuel had a great time playing soccer and goofing off with them.
Most of the children at Casa Shalom are not “true” orphans because they still have some connection to their family. But they are at the home because of poverty, abandonment, or death of their parents. So the last Sunday of every month is visitor Sunday where their families can come see them. We have a short church service in the morning, and then they spend time together, typically eating a picnic lunch that their families brought them. It’s a great way to keep the kids connected to their families.
Unfortunately, this day is not so fun for the kids who don’t have any family or whose family doesn’t come to visit. We’ve made a decision to come every visiter Sunday to hang out with those kids. Yuli makes a bunch of sandwiches for them and we play games together all afternoon. Here’s a picture from this Sunday.
Our message to them is simple: “No matter if it feels like everyone who should love you has abandoned you, God hasn’t forgotten you or abandoned you. He loves you and cares for you, and He sent us to show His love for you.”
We would appreciate you praying for Alex as he gets sick very frequently. He’s gone through a bunch of tests to make sure that he’s ok, and so far they haven’t found anything wrong with him. They’re also concerned because he hasn’t grown at all in the past year. It’s a little harder to know because he has no parental history.
Alex is such a joy to have in our house with us, and it’s a blessing to get to minister to kids like him!