"...great joy which will be to all people."

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."

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Working with My Dad (By Annabelle Joy Townsend)

              Yesterday I went to work with my dad.  We took the van to a village called Pastores.  My dad and I were going to do a check up with some of the people for whom he built houses.                      


Along this road were some of the homes which
 we were following up on.

These are some of the kids I met while in Pastores.
The niña (girl) in blue is Kati and in pink, Sophia.
Though I didn't get the little niño's (boy's) name.

In August I was able to be a part of a team building a house and now I was able to go with my dad on the follow up visit.  It's a great experience and I enjoy meeting new Guatemalans and talking to them in Spanish.  I can't wait to go back again soon.

Friday, December 5, 2014

End of Year Update

Merry Christmas friends and family!  Since Susie does a great job keeping everyone up to date on our family here in Guatemala, I decided our year end video newsletter will update you on the building mission work.  

We have had an incredible five months serving with Iglesia del Camino and look forward to updating you soon on some changes we will be making on the building process in the new year.  Very exciting!  This really is a fantastic ministry to partner with.  We are not just another NGO, we are a ministry dedicated to being the hands and feet of Jesus and sharing his Glory with others.  Lives for many generations are being changed because of clean water, a safe home and most importantly, God's love.

As I mentioned at the end of the video, we really need $8000 to sustain us in Guatemala for the full two years.  I think it's incredible that this is ALL we need!  God is amazing!  Would you consider partnering with us?  $5, $10, $20, $50 a month?  Or would you consider an end of the year one time financial gift?  We would be honored to join together in sharing His love in Guatemala!

We love you all and hope you have a wondrous Christmas.


A Month of Thanksgiving (A little late)

It's easier to jump right into Christmas in a land that doesn't celebrate American Thanksgiving.  :)  We are making it a point to enjoy a typical Thanksgiving and remember to be grateful.

Many people are daily posting what they are thankful for on Facebook throughout the month of November.  I have decided on November 1 to write what I am thankful for and add to it each day and then post it at the end of the month. 

NOVEMBER 1:  God's grace.  Some days I lie in bed thinking of all the stupid decisions I have made in the past.  I know, I know, I shouldn't harp on them but ugh, it bothers me to think I made such horrid choices!  Thankfully I am reminded of God's amazing mercy and grace.  Oh, His love is amazing!

NOVEMBER 2:  If God is first, Jack is definitely the next one to be thankful for!  Readers, I do not know how it's possible but Jack is an even better husband in a foreign land than he was in the comforts of the US.  He is just so extremely kind.  I remember when we were first married I would tell people I knew God loved me because He gave me Jack.  I still feel this way, 16 years later. 

NOVEMBER 3:  My parents are coming in just two days.  I am so stinking excited to see them!  When I feel lonely, it is simply because they are not near.  It has been such a blessing to live near them in NC over the past few years and my children adore them.

NOVEMBER 4:  I am thankful for Ava's never ending chatter today.  She just cracks me up.  We went to the market today and I do not believe she stopped talking the entire time.  Love her to pieces.

NOVEMBER 5:  Today I am thankful the church allowed us to borrow a vehicle to pick my parents up from the airport!  This is just a wonderful day.  Thank You, Lord, for giving my parents the health to be able to travel and the desire!

NOVEMBER 6:  Last week Joseph fell.  His front tooth went up into his gums.  After a traumatizing xray which took 6 adults to hold him down, the dentist decided to give him antibiotics and wait a week to see him because the area was so swollen.  Thankfully he is okay but today I am reminded to thank God for Joseph.  Some days are just so incredible.  I am thankful for his smile and giggle and health.

NOVEMBER 7:  I am so thankful for Annabelle.  She is such a go getter with a future planned out.  She wants to be a lawyer.  I take her to the market because she bargains for me and sometimes she is pretty ruthless.  She says, "walk away mom, that's not the best price," in Spanish and the seller will almost always come down.  Thankfully she has picked up Spanish like a BOSS and enjoys meeting new Guatemalans.

NOVEMBER 8:  I am grateful for my friends in the US.  They often send an email, text or FB message which make me laugh and smile.  I miss some remarkable people and look forward to seeing them again one day.

NOVEMBER 9:  My aunt flew in this afternoon.  She has an active life with her grandkids in Delaware and yet she took time off to fly to Guatemala (by herself!) to visit her niece and family.   This same aunt and her daughter and a handful of grandkids drove down to NC right before we left for Guatemala to say goodbye.  They also came to see Joseph at his surf camp after a long drive.  Stuff like this is just huge to me.  My other awesome aunt and uncle are planning to come to Guatemala for a visit in the Spring.  Today I am reminded how blessed I have been with such an amazing extended family.

NOVEMBER 10:  I am so thankful for my Sophie-girl.  Yes, she is smart and creative but what I love most is her heart.  I look forward to seeing what the Lord has planned for her future.

NOVEMBER 11:  I am so thankful for my fruit truck men!  I know I have mention this before here, but I absolutely love getting to know these fine gentlemen and speaking Spanish with them! 

NOVEMBER 12:  Thank you, Lord for blessing me with parents who don't mind traveling in a Spanish speaking country with their non-Spanish speaking daughter!  Today, my parents, aunt and I traveled to Panajachel and took a boat on Lake Atitlan to a small village named Jaibilito.  My family totally let me plan this short trip.  We are childless (Jack stayed home to babysit) for the next 3 days.  Thank you, Lord, for this time of rest and rejuvenation.

NOVEMBER 13:  I am so thankful for my dad.  Today the two of us took an unexpected, wild hike to get to the town of Jaibilito.  Our caregiver said it would take 15 minutes for us and only 5 for him and we laughed at him.  We told him we were runners!  We could do this!  Ummm, it was a CRAZY hike.  Like sliding on rocks, out of breath in the first 5 minutes and passing little girls with machetes and really no path at all.  It was awesome and I am thankful I got to spend the morning with my 75 year old dad who is still in such excellent shape!

NOVEMBER 14:  Today I thank God for Pearl.  It's fun to watch her personality develop.  She admires her sisters dearly and plays nicely with her brothers.  She's becoming a cute little hugger too.  She is the first to run and hug Pop-Pop and Grandma when she sees them.

NOVEMBER 15:  My Grandma Sara is 98 years old and going strong.  I am thankful for the many years she lived near us in Wilmington.   She is a spitfire! 

NOVEMBER 16:  So thankful for my little boy, Jude!  He is a sweet, sweet boy and loves his grandparents so much.  I am so grateful for their special relationship.  And now that they are here, he climbs into THEIR bed in the middle of the night instead of ours!  ;)

NOVEMBER 17:  The local river is brown here.  When I walk by it, I see people cleaning their clothes, cooking food, living aside it.  People, the water is so extremely dirty and this is drinking water for many.  Today I am so thankful that I grew up in a land where I didn't have to worry about disease infested water.

NOVEMBER 18:  I really miss my sister, Michele, and her family.  Every summer my sister and her kids spend nearly a month in NC.  It's such a wonderful bonding time for us, as well as the cousins.  It's been a difficult transition and I am especially going to miss her during Christmas time.  I am so thankful for her friendship and look forward to her texts.

NOVEMBER 19:  I also have a wonderful brother, Rick.   We also see his great family during the holidays and it's a week of playing cards, putting puzzles together and eating!  He makes me laugh and I am thankful for his friendship.

NOVEMBER 20:  I am thankful we found a turkey in Guatemala City.  I am thankful my aunt brought a few cans of pumpkin down with her.  It may seem trivial, but I am grateful to celebrate a traditional Thanksgiving meal with my family this week.

NOVEMBER 21:  I love the market!  I am so thankful I have learned enough Spanish to buy our groceries at the market.  A wonderful friend showed me who to go to and now I don't even need to bargain anymore!  It's a joy to bring a few of the girls with me on market days and I am thankful for this time to interact with Guatemalans.

NOVEMBER 22:  This morning I thank God for so many wonderful new friends here in Guatemala. I never anticipated being greeted so quickly by individuals who were willing to help us adjust so quickly.  I am so blessed and although I think about naming names, I wouldn't want to leave anyone out.

NOVEMBER 23:  I was blessed with my very special Grandma Chando who died way too soon.  The memories I have are such a gift and I find myself sharing them with our children.  I miss her so much and sometimes it hurts.  I thank God for the many years and memories we made together.

NOVEMBER 24:  This evening I am reflecting on how many opportunities I have been afforded.  I walk by so many people every single day who struggle with addiction, poverty and homelessness.  I am so thankful for so many things I have always taken for granted, such as food, a home, an education and so much more.

NOVEMBER 25:  Again, I am thankful for my mom.  Man, I hit the jackpot with her.  She is extremely supportive, even when our decisions might not be the easiest or most popular choices. Today I thank the Lord for my spectacular mom.

NOVEMBER 26:  There are so many people to name but I am so thankful for all of our supporters, both financial supporters and prayer warriors.  This journey is incredible and I am so glad called us to Guatemala and allowed us to work with an amazing ministry but it could not happen without the many churches, families and individuals who made a commitment to come alongside us.

NOVEMBER 27:  THANKSGIVING DAY!  So extremely thankful for the relationship I have with my Savior.  Surely I take this relationship for granted but He is my Friend, my Father, my Love and my Salvation. 

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Change for Change

Just a day after we posted about our financial need, a friend sent us a very loving email to check in with us.  Then the following day, she sent this email and three pics:  

Hey Susie and Family,

I promised to send this yesterday, but got distracted by visiting family.  I want to share with you something that our family has done for the past few years.  I am sharing this with you not because I want to "toot my own horn," so to say, but because this is something that I believe that most any family in the realm of people that we both know could do if they were to commit to it. 

We have an average-sized glass pitcher, and we all put any loose change from around the house, car, found on street, etc. into this pitcher daily.  Amazingly, it gets full a couple of times a year.  We call it our "Change for Change" and as it is filling up, we pray about who we will give it to when it starts to overflow. We have found that God clearly shows us who to give it to before the time comes, every time.  This time, we knew that it would go to your family.  We never know how much will be in there, but it's usually around $100.  

So, yesterday {son} and I took the change to the cool, free coin counter at the bank.  You can take a guess at how much is in there before it counts it, and {son} guessed $110.58.

I have attached some pics of this (yes, the bank ladies thought we were crazy) and the final amount.  This amount will be donated today for your family.  

Again, I'm telling you this only because I believe that if any of your friends and family members were willing to do this, it could make a great impact for your ministry in Guatemala.  We are the ones who are blessed by it, every time.
 Much love to all of you.

"Change for Change" is such an encouragement to us.  Love, love, love this! 

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Frutas de Pickup

Meet our friends, Jose, Daniel, and Jorge.  These three gentlemen drive through the country and purchase produce from different farms and then travel over two hours every day to sell fruit to our area.  As soon as Jose parks the car, the boys jump out and begin cutting fruit open for us to sample. 

The fruit and veggies are amazing but most of all, I really like the fellowship I have with these kind men.  Daniel (wearing a black shirt) is a young man who never went to school but has a strong desire to learn English.  Together, we fumble through our communication, teaching one another a second language.   

After our friends leave, we begin the washing process.  The produce sits in a bowl of water with one cap of bleach for 15 minutes. 

We really enjoy fruit & veggie day!  We buy A LOT and it rarely ever goes bad.   It is a blessing to have them come straight to our door every Wednesday around noon.  Not only does it save us money, but it saves us from walking multiple times to the store and carrying such a bounty on our backs.   

The yellow fruit above, called Nisporo, is my favorite!  It reminds me of a sweet/sour apricot.  It has the prettiest brown seeds inside.  I am drying them out, trying to figure out what I can do with them.  The red prickly fruit on the right is called a Lychee.  You peel off the skin which reveals a sweet juicy white center, which tastes like a pear.

Wednesday afternoons the girls help me wash, cut, chop the veggies to prepare meals for the week.  I usually puree a ton of food for Joseph and freeze his meals for the week. 

For a few hours the kitchen is a mess but it's so nice to open the fridge and take out fresh produce whenever we want!  It is so tasty!

Our family loves fresh guacamole!  It's Ava's specialty to prepare.  She mixes avocado, fresh garlic and lime.  Yummy!


The only produce we don't purchase from the fruit truck are limes.  No need to because we have a lime tree in our backyard.  The kids love picking them!  Here's a goofy picture of them picking limes.  ;)

Don't be fooled, we don't only eat veggies and fruit.  I will post about the yummy Panaderia (bakery) across the street sometime in the future...

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Our Need

Well, of course this is a difficult post to write but it is a topic that has to be addressed.


Two years ago, when we started funding to serve in Guatemala, we immediately felt the Lord telling us to embrace the financial challenges with a positive spirit.  Jack and I agreed we needed to find peace in fundraising when our flesh felt nothing but humility, which isn't necessarily a bad thing either.  God has provided from the very beginning and we have been so blessed on this journey.

If you are one of our dear supporters who has committed and started to support us financially, thank you for your faithfulness.  We are aware of the financial challenges Americans are facing and we understand the huge sacrifice your gift is and we appreciate you.  It would be impossible to build homes without your support.  Guatemalans would not have clean water without your donation.  People are hearing about the Gospel because of your contribution.  Our family is safely living in a third world country because you chose to step out in faith and support this ministry.

Thank you. 

The reality is, three months have gone by and only 75% of our $1400 committed monthly funding has begun.  Currently we need $350 more a month to sustain our living expenses.  If you would like to join us on this journey, would you consider making a monthly donation for $20, $25, $30, $40, $50, $100 or another amount the Lord puts on your heart?  There are four ways to support this ministry, outlined on the sidebar on this blog.

In addition to that, we need to raise $8000 (one time) for our second year of funding.  This will include $4000 for flights, $2000 for Visa Extension fees/trips and $2000 for medical/therapies.  If we receive additional monthly donations above the $350/month, this number will be lower.

We are so thankful that is ALL we need!  Just six months ago we were not even close to being funded for a second year.  God has provided generously and we are so grateful to have charitable supporters! 

If you have any additional questions regarding our budget and financial needs, please feel free to email us at townsendguat@gmail.com and we would be glad to answer any questions!

Thank you for taking the time to read this post.

(As you can see, Sophie is missing here!  Hopefully I will get a group picture soon!)  

Sunday, October 19, 2014



Have you checked us out on Facebook?  

Click here to "like" our page, To Guatemala with Joy on Facebook.  

Please share it on your wall and invite your Facebook friends to "like" it! 

Thanks again for following along with us! 

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 a mix of paganism, 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!