Chicken Buses

The buses used for public transportation here are fondly referred to as “Chicken Buses” because you never know what you’re going to find inside or on top of them! They’re like our old yellow school buses that have been painted crazy colors and stuffed completely full of people. On Saturday the bus I was on was so full that three guys had to hold on from the outside. I don’t have a car yet, so I’ve had to use them a lot lately each time that I want to travel over to visit Yuli, and it is always quite an adventure. It typically takes three different buses to get over to her town and has taken me between 45 min and an hour and a half. The journey has certainly made me appreciate having a car normally, as the journey would be less than a half hour otherwise. But it’s certainly a very authentic adventure with incredible views of the Guatemalan countryside all the way there. I’ve kind of enjoyed the experience because it’s allowed me to just watch the countryside and get an idea about what each town is like. I haven’t taken any pictures of the buses yet, but here are a few I found on the internet:

chicken_bus_1 chicken_bus_2

Leaving Tomorrow!

Tomorrow morning I leave for Guatemala! I’m very excited that my month long trip to plan for the future has finally arrived. I feel like I’ve been praying and planning for this trip for so long that it’s hard to believe that it’s finally here.

I fly down tomorrow, August 15th, and I will return on Saturday, September 19th. While there I plan to continue updating this blog with everything going on.

My cell phone number in Guatemala is 011-502-5233-6220, but I will also check voice mail on my regular phone. And I can still be reached by email, of course!

I really appreciate all your prayers and support! This past week so many people have encouraged me and it has really been a huge help. Thanks!!!

Quetzales

Resplendent_QuetzalThis post may be a little boring to some, but I find it interesting!

The currency used in Guatemala is named after the national bird of Guatemala, the quetzal, and to the right is a picture of a quetzal in the wild.  I’ve never actually seen one as they are very rare, but quetzales have the longest feathers of all animals.

Here in the U.S. we’re in a recession, and I’ve been asked how that affects countries like Guatemala.  Well, I’m not an economics expert, but I do know that Guatemala’s economy is very closely tied to ours.  A large part of their economy is agricultural exports like coffee, bananas, sugar, and other produce. They also have large number of clothing factories that export here.  But the surprising thing is that the largest source of income is actually from Guatemalans living here  in the U.S. and sending money back home!

So a recession here means that we buy less from them, and also that there are more Guatemalans here unable to send money back.  I’ve been watching the exchange rate between dollars and Quetzales, and since I was last visiting over Thanksgiving, the rate has gone from about 7.5 up to 8.2 quetzales per dollar.  Here’s a plot below of the exchange rate over the last 5 years, and you can see how much it’s risen since last year.

I feel bad saying this when this graph shows that their economy has been having troubles, but it also means that compared to last time I was there, the value of the money that I’ve been saving for a Guatemalan house has risen by about 10%!

GTQ 5 years

1 Week Left!

prayercardTime is flying by, and I’m only 1 week away from flying down to Guatemala for a month to make preparations for moving back down! The week before every trip is always a very busy time as I finish getting everything ready to go, and this one is much more so because of all the plans that I have for this time.  I feel like I’ve been working on preparations for this trip nonstop over these last few months, and I still have so much more to do!  I will be very relieved when I’ve made it through this last week and get down there.

I am mailing out a prayer card to everyone that I have an address for. It’s just a little reminder that I’m doing my best to follow God’s will for my life. Please put this on your refrigerator or someplace that you’ll see frequently because I really need your prayers while I’m away and as I seek God about jobs, houses, ministry, and relationships!  If you want one, just email me your address.

The verse on the prayer card is Jeremiah 29:11 & 13, and it is one of my favorites because it reminds me that God loves us and is in control of all things.  When life and the future seems so uncertain, I can be certain about God! He has shown me time and time again how faithful He is to us, even when we are so unfaithful to Him.  And so it is such a comfort to know that He is in control!

Guatemala’s Weather

One of the comments I regularly get about visiting Guatemala is about how hot it must be because it’s located down in Central America. Well… believe it or not, but it is very cool there. Most of Guatemala’s cities are located in a very large mountain range, and we live at about 7000 ft. So the high for almost every day of the year is in the lower 70?s, and the low is typically in the 50?s. For this reason, Guatemala has been called “the land of eternal spring”.

Because Guatemala doesn’t have regular seasons like we’re use to, they call the summer months from June through September winter because that’s when the rainy season is. It’s still located in the northern hemisphere like us, but because the daily rain cools the days down, that’s winter. And when I visit during the 100+ degree summers here in Austin, Guatemala certainly does feels like winter!

Here’s the current weather near the orphanage:

Tuesday, Dec 14
Fair
Currently: 59?F
Feels Like: 59? F
Hi: 65?, Lo: 42?
Fair

Wednesday, Dec 15
Hi: 69?, Lo: 43?
Partly Cloudy

weather feed courtesy of weather.com – thanks!

Los Embajadores

Here’s another video from when I first lived at Casa Shalom in 2004.  The house of teenage boys is called “los embajadores” which means the ambassadors.  I was living with them and we created this music video together from all the short videos and pictures from our time together.  It’s certainly not professional, but it brings back lots of great memories!

Preaching on Sunday

I’ve been given the opportunity to preach and share my testimony at my church this Sunday! If you’re in the Austin area you should come this Sunday and cheer me on! If you’ve never come to North Austin Christian Church, then you DEFINITELY have to come! We start at 4:30 in the afternoon.

North Austin Christian Church
1734 Rutland Drive
Austin, TX 78758

1 Month Left

There’s only 1 month left until I head back down to Guatemala for a month! This trip will be to make preparations for moving back permanently at the end of the year. So I fly down on August 15th and return to the United States on September 19th. If you haven’t seen it yet, I wrote about my vision and plans for the future on my main website here.
Here are the main prayer requests for this month before I go:

  • Car to borrow while I’m there
  • Job leads to pursue
  • House leads

Thanks for your prayers and support!

Mario Castillo

mario_christmasMario Castillo was the oldest guy that I took care of back in 2004 when I was living at Casa Shalom, and at the end of the year both he and another guy named Edwin graduated from high school.  In 2005 I returned to school at Georgia Tech for my masters degree, and he moved from the home to live in Guatemala City to work.

The following Christmas I was able to spend my semester break with the kids, and Mario came to stay with us each time he got a break from work.  I distinctly remember our conversation together about how the first year was for him away from the home.  He shared about the confusion about what to do in life, the difficulty in adjusting to a very different lifestyle, and the incredible loneliness he felt living away from the home.

It was this conversation that really made a lasting impression on me about the great need to help these guys adjust to life outside of the home.  Praise God that Mario’s still doing well!  But I want to take these lessons learned with Mario and help some of the other guys who are now getting to the point of moving on.

I distinctly remember how much I missed my parents and family during that Christmas visit, but on the other hand, it meant so much to Mario and the other kids to have me with them during the break.  I often take for granted the incredible blessing that so many of us have of a great family to support me and help me. I want to do that for these guys!

Mario is the guy in the middle of the other kids in this picture from that Christmas morning.  Please keep guys like this in your prayers!