Luke 2:10 Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

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Saturday, October 18, 2014

My Better Half



So what's Jack been up to?  It doesn't matter what country he is in, he works at only one speed.  BUSY!  Is that a speed? 

Over the past two weeks, Jack has had the opportunity to make follow up home visits to families who have been blessed through the Iglesia del Camino's building ministry. 

It's been a great opportunity to fix any house issues, share the love of Christ and pray with the families.  Six women heard the Gospel and were saved during the past two weeks.  How awesome is God?!

Friends, this is where Jack's heart is.  It gives him pure joy to make these follow up trips.  Whether he is building or fixing or talking to families in his Spanglish, he is serving and doing exactly what he believes God has called him to do.  Nothing is better than walking the path God has laid out.



 Jack's friend/coworker, Luis, shares God's love with families. 




 Jack enjoys getting to know the children while they make home visits.  Many of these beautiful kids have seen/heard of an ipad/ipod, Wii, etc.  They often play with one precious toy, perhaps a ball or truck, and take great care of it.  The "lucky" kids are sponsored and are able to attend school and others will never step foot in a classroom. 





Jack and two other men make the follow up visits and they take time to look over the building.  It gives them an opportunity to evaluate what works, what doesn't and how they can improve the structure in the future.  




Overall, the metal/steel homes are withstanding the constant, pounding rain during the rainy seasons and the infrequent earthquakes.




Unfortunately, many families in Guatemala do not have strong male figures.  It's rare to have a father/husband sit down and hear the message.  Thankfully, below, Luis was able to talk to a father, who is blessed to have a job three days a week.  He works in the village of Pastores, where they are known for making good quality, genuine leather boots. 




These are pictures of women, men and children who are strong.  Many are widowed and living with 8-10 people in a one room house.  



As I mentioned above, six women heard God's Salvation message and believed.  To God be the glory!  Please, please pray for these women.  We need to stand in the gap for them.   Most do not know how to read or have a Bible to read.  Most do not own a car to travel to church to be fed.  They live in a culture steeped in Catholicism and Mayan rituals but they heard the message and they turned their hearts to God.  Matthew 18:20 encourages me to pray together for these women, "For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them."






Friday, October 17, 2014

New Address






Jack and Susie Townsend
C/O Iglesia del Camino
6a Avenida Norte #33
Antigua Guatemala, Guatemala




Already 90 Days?!

Where has the time gone?  This week we celebrate living in Guatemala for 90 days.  Time is flying by.  As always, I wish I could slow it down a little.

As an expat living on a 90 day tourist visa, we have two choices to extend our visa.  The first option is to apply for a two year residency which can take 6-9 months.  This option is a little expensive for our family of 8 at $600 per person, therefore we opted out.

The second option is to visit the Guatemalan Immigration Office and apply for an extension.  You provide them with every important document you own (birth certificates, adoption decrees for those that don't have US birth certificates, multiple copies of passports, marriage license, copies of credit cards and many more!) and leave your passports for up to a week.  Hopefully we do not have an emergency and have to leave the country in the next week.  ;)   During this time the Guatemalan Immigration Office will stamp our passports, giving us another 90 day visa.  They will do this one time for a fee per passport but at our 180 day mark, we must leave the country for 3 days.  So to break it down, we arrived in July, applied for an extension in October,  we will leave the country in January, apply for an extension in April, leave the country in July, etc.

Our plan for leaving the country will be taking a 6 hour bus ride to Tapachula, Mexico and stay for 2 nights and 3 days.  Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Nicaragua have a pact (CA-4) which allows for open borders so traveling to those countries, even if they are closer, won't give us an extended visa.   

We are extremely thankful the church allowed us to borrow one of the vans so we did not have to rent a van to go to the city.  The chicken bus was always an option but taking so many important documents on the bus would not be smart.   God has really blessed us with good friends who traveled with us to apply for the extension.  We would have been a little lost, not knowing the language.  The Guatemalan Immigration Office is a bit like the DMV in the United States.  When our friend explained we had 8 passports, the worker rolled her eyes and shook her head.  ;)



Sitting in the van, ready to leave!  No car seats available, no seat belts available.  When in Rome...





This city is so beautiful and rich.  Early morning view of Volcan de Agua!



Driving in Guatemala City was a new experience for us.  Though it's a grid for the most part, the streets are one way so it felt like we were going around and around after getting lost a few times.  ;) 




Waiting patiently at the Immigration Office. 





So thankful for my friend, Nancy, who translated for me.   





For real, goats in the middle of the city.  Only here.  





Time to head home!  We will be back in the city next week to pick up the passports with our extended stamp.





And we will return to the city on Tuesday to pick up our passports!  

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Day Trip to "Guatee, Guatee"

A few weeks ago, we decided to take a day trip to Guatemala City.  Friday afternoon we were talking to some friends who have lived here a long while and they were telling us how they used to travel to the city by Chicken Bus before they owned a vehicle.  The next day we decided to pick up and go! It was time to get out of our area for a day trip.

I highly recommend you click here to check out a website to learn more about the Guatemalan Chicken Bus.  Lots of neat information and also a short video clip, which really is a true representation of the actual speed of a chicken bus!
 



Quick picture of the kids at our house before we left.   After telling the kids of our plans the night before, they excitedly set out their clothes and woke up early ready to go!  We left the house before 8:00 am.





We took a short walk from our house to the market where we picked up the bus.  To find a bus, we had to listen for the ayudante (bus helper who collects money and hangs on the door most of the ride) who yells "Guatee, Guatee," to let travelers know the bus is heading to Guatemala City. 




You really do have to hold on tight, especially as the bus makes turns on the mountains.  Jude kept yelling, "we are on a roller coaster!"  To get to the city, you go up a mountain and back down so the weather changed.  First it was warm, then cool and then warm again.  The breeze from the window was nice and Joseph especially enjoyed it! 



It was a strange feeling to visit Guatemala City.  Essentially it had been two and a half months since our entire family spent a day in a city with stores, highways and wealth.  I recently learned Guatemala City hosts 95% of Guatemala's wealth.   In a country where 75% of it's inhabitants are below the poverty level, it is difficult to see an affluent city just a few miles from impoverished villages. 




We have met two types of expats and gringos.  Those that ride the bus and those that will never, ever ride the bus.  I should make it clear we were extremely cautious.  We left early and returned well before dark.    I am so grateful we decided to take the day trip.  Thankfully the kids were terrific travelers and we all made memories we won't forget.  The girls continue to ask when we are getting back on the Chicken Bus! 

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Transitioning Kids (Part 6: Firecracker Girl)

Annabelle is always on fire.  She is very passionate about her beliefs and feelings.  She loves hard and can debate twice as hard if she feels resolutely towards something.  She is extremely loyal and when someone is hurting, she hurts with them. 

Recently a boy, who has a crush on Annabelle, told another girl Ava Mae was ugly and Annabelle was beautiful.  Annabelle firmly told him, "Mi hermana es fea, yo soy fea.  Yo soy bonita, mi hermana es bonita."  Translated in English as, "if my sister is ugly, then I am ugly, if I am beautiful then my sister is beautiful."

Annabelle is probably the child I was least concerned about transitioning to Guatemala.  When we stayed in Guatemala for a month two years ago she picked up Spanish rather quickly and school has been a great place for her to deepen her understanding of it.  She makes friends easily but she does have one special friend in the states that she misses mightily.  I strongly believe they will pick up their friendship right away when they reunite.



I am pretty sure she is comforting Pearl here.  Annabelle is going to be an amazing mama one day!



Queen of the selfies...

 


Enjoying a festival at school!




Wednesdays are pretty special for us because the fruit truck guys come.  Annabelle helps me translate.  She's fantastic!


Annabelle really enjoys going to the villages with daddy and helping him build. 





She's a firecracker whether she's working or playing! 

Transitioning Kids (Part 5: My Sunshine Girl)

Ava Mae cracks me up.  Every single day she brings a smile to my face.

I used to watch the movie "Summer School" when I was a kid.  Looking back, it is probably completely inappropriate but I watched it all summer long and memorized most of the movie.  A short recap, it's about a bunch of troubled kids taking summer school and the teacher rising to the challenge of teaching them to pass the final so they can graduate.  At the very beginning of the movie, there is a jock who comes to the first day of summer school and asks for a bathroom pass.  He doesn't show up until the very end when they are about to take their final exam and says, "my zipper got stuck."  The joke being that he was in the bathroom the entire summer.  And of course this guy does very well on the exam! 

That is my Ava.  She's been going to school for two months and rarely has homework and seldom talks about her classes.   Don't get me wrong, she loves going to school!  She's a social butterfly who will talk all day long about her friends and activities but we infrequently hear about her actual schooling.  Just a few short weeks ago I asked Ava what she was learning in math.  She twirls her hair and responds, "I don't think I have that subject."  What?  No math?  Of course you have math.   So as final exams approached this week, Jack and I were a little nervous.  What on earth has she done for 2 months to prepare for this exam?  In typical Ava Mae fashion, she comes home with her bright smile yesterday to tell us she got a 100 on her math exam.  Yes, MATH exam.  The class she couldn't even tell us she was taking.  Friends, I absolutely love this about her.  Some might think she's a little ditzy, she's extremely loud when she talks, which makes you wonder if she can hear a thing you say, but SHE IS LISTENING.  She's really a very smart cookie.


So how is she adjusting?  Very well!  Here are some recent pics:



Ava Mae's recent $6 hair cut.  Score!  Flor, the daughter of a coworker of Jack's, came to our house to cut hair.  It's a lot of fun because she speaks NO English and well, you know I don't speak Spanish yet so we find ourselves laughing at with each other.




My biggest concern for Ava Mae was leaving her BFF, Munchie.  They've been friends since they were just over a year old and they are EXACTLY alike.  We are very thankful for the opportunity for these two goofs to Facetime one another.  




Ava Mae loves the food here, just like the rest of us! 




She really is our sunshine girl, who brings laughter and joy to our lives!