Archive for the ‘Foreign Exchange’ Category


Pretzels and Prayer (by Rachael)

June 21, 2010

Even though this has been a relatively “easy” and relaxed week compared to some of our other trips, I’m exhausted.

Thankfully, this morning was somewhat restorative.  We went to one of the bigger churches here in Guatemala City, Casa de Dios.  And when I say “bigger,” I don’t mean 1,000 people.  I mean 25,000.  We spent the first 50 minutes of the service singing and praying.  Nate commented that it was great to be able to break away from thinking about this past week and the upcoming week and just focus on worshipping. 

Believe it or not, this was the first time we’ve been to church in Guatemala.  We noticed that the congregation worshipped in a very passionate and focused way.  On an unrelated note, we also noticed lots of people wearing winter coats while we were breezing ourselves with makeshift paper fans.  Apparently, 70 degrees is cold (not even cool, cold) by Guatemalan standards. 

Another fun part of the experience was that we had ear pieces that allowed us to hear an English translation of the service.  It saved us a lot of frustration and allowed us to participate more fully.

The church is close to Hogar Solidario, so we decided to grab some fast food and head straight there.  We were still eating when we pulled into the compound, so we locked ourselves in and finished our food.  While we sat there, 10 boys circled the bus, banged on the window, and tried to open the doors.  We said we felt a bit like we were in a Zombie movie or being circled by sharks.

Once we escaped, we headed to the multi-purpose room where the boys were listening to a Bible lesson from a local church.  Note to self: Sunday probably isn’t the best day to visit.  The boys get lots of “church” on Sundays.  Since the boys had been sitting for so long already, Nate quickly adapted his plans.  He had the boys stand up and copy him as he lead them in exercises and stretches. They loved it.

Ever since we prayed with the boys in small groups in April, Nate has been wanting to talk and teach more about prayer. Just for fun, we started the “lesson” by passing out hard pretzels and sharing about how the pretzel pattern was originally meant to symbolize how early Christians crossed their arms to pray.  The pretzels were given as treats to good little boys and girls who memorized their prayers. 

Guess what?  None of the boys had seen or eaten a pretzel before.


Next, Nate broke us into four smaller groups and led us in a few different types of prayer.  We repeated Nate as he prayed for the group.  We prayed silently for the person next to us.  We prayed through the different themes in the Lord’s Prayer out loud and all together.  Last but not least, we had the kids write out their prayers and prayer requests on a huge poster for us to take back to the people at our church.  Our hope is that we can hang it up and encourage our congregation to pray for the specific needs of the kids.P1090041

Poor Nate felt terrible most of the afternoon.  His group prayed over him and his sickness.


Unfortunately, before his group had the chance to pray, Nate had to make an emergency run to the bathroom. Whatever this sickness is, it seems to have hit Nate the worst.  However, Chris and I have felt lots of gurgles and general stomach weirdness.  Are you sick of hearing about our digestive problems yet?  I’m sick of writing about them.  I think we need to follow the advice our friend Adam Pomfret included in his comment to our last post: maybe it’s time we  stop trying not to get sick.

After our prayer time, we started the insane process of passing out 100 candy bags.  The Foreign Exchange “Amigos” from our church put together packets of their favorite, all-American candies for the boys—Blow Pops, Sour Patch Kids, Skittles, Gushers, and Pixie Sticks!  I knew it would be crazy and lots of boys would try to get extra candy, so we recruited Chris to be the bouncer.  Once a boy got his candy, he had to leave and not come back inside.  Chris and his muscles were there to block anyone who tried to sneak back in for a second helping.


P1090004One interesting and unusual thing we’ve failed to mention so far is that the place has been buzzing with activity in preparation for tomorrow’s visit from Guatemala’s president and first lady.

The boys have been busy painting, moving in new furniture, setting up flower arrangements, hanging signs, moving in catering equipment, and practicing the songs and dances they’re going to do for this most-important couple. 

The place looks gorgeous. 

But, as Christy pointed out, it’s sad that it takes something like this to really fix the place up.  Why isn’t this home always tended to with such care and concern?

Berta mentioned later that she is worried for the kids.  Hundreds of new kids have been moved to Hogar Solidario but no new staff workers.  We briefly saw Joseph (our friend who gave us the gorgeous baby booties last time), and he looked frazzled.  He asked us to pray for strength, because he’s so tired he just wants to go home.  The workers from the girls’ home (Manchen) and the baby home (Casa Alegria) expressed similar sentiments.  They’re exhausted.  And no wonder.  Berta said there are 2 women caring for the 44 children under 4—just think how much work and time it would take to keep up with all those dirty diapers! 

We finished up the afternoon by playing games outside with the kids.  Chris threw his football.  Nate grabbed a Frisbee.  The two pregnant ladies headed to the baseball diamond.  I’m sure our doctors and midwives would be proud.  🙂



I have mixed feelings about leaving tomorrow.  On one hand, we need rest.  We need these last few pre-baby months to be calm and restorative.  We need sleep, silence, and time to chill. On the other hand, I’m not sure I’ll know what to do with myself without another Guate trip to look forward to this year.  I’ll miss the kids.  It’ll hurt to not fly down with Jody and her team in August.  I’m trying to set some goals for myself (e.g. learn more spanish) that will help us when we come back.  Like we told the boys, we’ll come back.  We always come back.  It’s just that next time they’re will be three of us instead of two!



June 8, 2010

A few weeks ago, Scot Longyear asked our team from April to share a bit about our Guatemala trip with the rest of the church.  The main question he asked was, “What kind of return did you see when you invested in this week?”

It took Nate awhile to warm up to the question.  He tends to think of words like “return” and “investment” in a financial sense.  In the financial world, you pour in resources with the expectation that it will benefit your bottom line.

But our trips to Guatemala aren’t about personal gain, even though the personal gain is great.  Every time we go, we see God differently, love His people more passionately, and pray more desperately.  We have fun, grow closer to each other and God, and receive the blessings God gives when we seek to follow and serve Him.  However, if these “returns” were our motivation for going, we’d burn out quickly and be frustrated more easily when the “payoff” wasn’t what we expected it to be.  It wouldn’t work.  It shouldn’t work.

As Nate and I talked about it more, we started thinking of Scot’s question as being not so much about personal investment and gain, but what our investment of time, energy, and service could mean to the kids.  As Nate told the congregation, if even one of the boys sees Jesus more clearly or knows God more completely because of our visits, these trips are worth everything we can possibly pour into them.

For my part, I shared a story about a boy named Erick.  Throughout the week, Erick and I connected by making ongoing jokes about the baby in his belly.  I’d ask him how the baby was, when it was due, and what its name was.  As we were getting ready to leave on the last day, Erick was walking beside me, laughing, and rubbing his belly.  It was the same old joke, and I didn’t think much of it.  Fortunately, one of the translators was walking with us.  She told me he wanted to know if I loved him.  Somehow I had missed the serious turn in the conversation.

“What?” I asked.

“He wants to know if you love him,” she repeated.

I stopped and looked him in the eye.  “Yes,” I told him. ” Yes, of course we love you.  We love you very much. We come to visit, because we love you.”

Of all the moments of the week, this one probably hit me the hardest.  I imagine all of these boys have this same question, but few are brave enough or able to verbalize it.  This is why God has called us to Guatemala.  This is why we do the work for Foreign Exchange.  This is why families send silly gifts like sunglasses to the boys.  We do these things because the boys are desperate to see, hear, and know that someone loves them. And, although the investment on our part seems minimal, the payoff is great.

On that note, we’re excitedly, anxiously, and frantically preparing for our last, pre-baby trip to Guatemala.  We leave one week from today (June 14), and Nate’s sister and brother-in-law will be joining us! We need your prayers. Have you heard what has been going on in Guatemala lately?  A quick Google search will tell you about the eruption of Pacaya Volcano (the same volcano we climbed last June!), the floods and landslides that came with Tropical Storm Agatha, and a sinkhole the size of a city block that opened up on the outskirts of Guatemala city.

On top of all that, both Nate’s sister and I are pregnant.  Christy will be well into her first trimester, and I’ll be well into my third.  The midwife is a bit concerned about how traveling will affect the swelling in my legs and it feels like I have a stress fracture (again) in my left foot, so we’d appreciate your prayers for good circulation and plenty of places to kick up our feet and rest.

While we’re there, we ask that you’d invest in us, these kids, and these trips by praying for us each and every day.  The return will be far greater than you could imagine or hope.


Trip 2 of 2010

April 12, 2010

We’re here! Today was a remarkably easy and peaceful travel day.  It was so remarkably easy that it’s almost too boring to write about; however we wanted to let everyone know that 1.) we made it and 2.) we have Internet access so we will be updating the blog. 

Jody will also be blogging.  I believe her posts will show up on the church website: MCC in Guatemala 

If not, check her personal blog: Elsblogger

Tomorrow morning we’ll visit one of Buckner’s new Community Transformation Centers.  In the afternoon, we’ll be going to “La Ciudad de los Niños” (City of the Children) and see what’s changed since we watched the boys move in in January.  We’ll be passing out the 400 cards that people made.  I almost wrote, “the people at MCC made,” but that’s not entirely true.  Although MCCers contributed the majority of the cards, a class at a local middle school, a Girl Scout Troupe, ArtReach, and a Spanish class at St. Mary’s all contributed as well.  Cool, huh?