"...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."

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!

Friday, October 10, 2014

Transitioning Kids (Part 4: Our World Traveler Boy)

From Haiti to the US to Guatemala.  Joseph has lived in three countries since he came home in June 2013.  And he just picks up and goes!  I remember when we first started researching how to parent a VI/blind child.  This is some advice we received:

1.  Be consistent. FAILED.  We've lived in 5 homes since he arrived home 18 months ago. 

2.  Keep the furniture in the same place, all the time.  FAILED  Again, 5 homes in 18 months.

3.  Teach them to walk on smooth surfaces.  FAILED.  We live in a city that only has cobblestone streets. 

4.  Get into therapy and stick with the same therapists.  FAILED.  We had AMAZING therapists and teachers in the US.  We miss them greatly.  Thankfully they taught us some terrific techniques to use!

Oh God's grace is good.  Our life path might be different than the typical family with a VI child but God has given us mercy and Joseph is learning leaps and bounds even without the consistency.

This is how Joseph is adjusting to Guatemala.  This is how Joseph has grown in the last 90 days.  HUGE milestones that make us smile and give thanks EVERY SINGLE DAY. 

After a year and a half, Joseph is CHEWING!  A special thank you to Laurel, Cindy, Barbara, and Kelly!

Joseph is learning more and more signs.  This is a video of him asking for "more music" which means he put TWO signs together!  He is communicating a full sentence!  

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Transitioning Kids (Part 3: My First Baby)

I chose to blog about Sophie because tomorrow she turns 13!  Our oldest child will be a teenager and that is a hard milestone to grasp!  Lately I have been thinking back to those early days when she just came home from the hospital.  Jack was at work and it was just the two of us at home most days.  We rocked, we sang, we snuggled.  As time goes by, we do less and less of those things.  On the one hand it makes me sad and I miss those special times and on the other hand it's a privilege to see her grow into an amazing young lady.

An amazing young lady who is completely honest.  She told me I wear "mommy jeans" the other day.  Sigh.  Am I really THAT mom?  She softened the blow by assuring me I am not the "uncoolest" mom out there.  Thanks.  I guess?

So how has Sophie transitioned?  For sure, she has changed the most in the past 90 days.  My beautiful young lady has blossomed here in Guatemala.  She quickly made friends at school (girls AND boys!) and has gained an abundant amount of confidence in social situations.  She smiles and laughs and it brightens my day when she comes home from school and shares stories with me.

A few weeks after we arrived, Sophie came to us with a plan.  She wanted to work with Joseph one hour a day after school (five days) in exchange for 10Q a week.  That's the equivalent of approximately $1.30 in US dollars.  SIDE NOTE:  Please do not send me messages about child labor.  We call this labor of love.  End of story.

This girl has a heart for special needs kids.  I don't know if she (or any of us) knew it before we adopted Joseph but it is clear to all of us now.  She is patient and loving when most would want to give up.  She works with him on sensory and speech and sings to him when he needs to be calmed.  God has given her a gift.

I hope the world will one day see what I see in this amazing girl.  I hope SHE will one day see what I see in her.  I see beauty, I see love, I see tenderheartedness, I see acceptance and I see strength.

Always willing to help her younger brothers!

Always thinking, that's my Sophie-girl.  This pic was taken on the way to help build a house in a nearby village with a mission team.  

Ava Mae adores Sophie.  She is always giving her hugs.

Here we are in Guatemala City.  Sophie offered to go on the Merry-Go-Round with Jude because he was scared.  Compassionate soul. 

ANOTHER SIDE NOTE:  Do all kids dislike having their picture taken upon turning 13?  It was very difficult to find pictures of her because she doesn't like to have them taken!  Does this end?  I sure hope so because I really want to capture these special moments with her.