Dawn:  We woke up to bedrooms which had cooled off overnight from a nice breeze and the help of some very loud fans.  Then we discovered a rooftop balcony with views of the 4 volcanos around us;  Pacaya, Agua, Fuego, Acatenango.  The air was thick with moisture, and the mountains were visible as though viewed through a foggy mirror.   Fuego appeased us by choosing that moment to have a minor expulsion of soot and ash from the peak; some of which rolled down the mountain like a foggy river.

Who needs seatbelts.   13 of us and a few boxes of food all piled into a combi for a short ride into Santiago Zamora, just outside of Antigua, Guatemala.   My half of the group spent the morning learning how to mix cement and properly build block walls for a new room.  Fernando showed us how to do things, and my rusty Spanish met his broken English.  We laughed a lot as we made mistakes and then fixed them to his satisfaction and ours.  I showed Fernando a photo of my mother (taken over 10 years ago) who had come to this town several times to work at a Lutheran school in town; she had brought eyeglasses and the expertise to hand the right prescriptions out for those who needed glasses.   He looked at the photo and said, those are some of my wife’s aunts!  What a small world.  That school has since closed, and then reopened.   We agreed that nothing in life is perfect, we all make mistakes, but all we can do is the best that we can at the time, and let God help us finish the task to his satisfaction, whether that takes 10 minutes or 10 years!

Colt: After nearly eighteen hours of travel yesterday from Salt Lake City to Guatemala, the team was really looking forward to getting after today’s activities. As Dawn mentioned above, we piled into the van and headed down the road about fifteen minutes; we met up with the local family who would be guiding us through both building additional structures and participating in community outreach.

Our group (Dawn, Kelly, John, James, Jeremy, and myself) first met Fernando (a local mason and pastor) and Wilmer, one of his three sons. They introduced us to a local widow, Luca Maria, and one of her daughters who we would help by building her a cinderblock living-structure. Fernando first led us through manually screening rocks out of part of the dry mixture for mortar… think of holding a window screen with short wooden sides and 1/4 inch openings in the screen to prevent any larger rocks from passing through into the wheelbarrow. We then combined the dry mixture with water by mixing it in a slight crevice in the ground using shovels.  Meanwhile, Wilmer and I cut and nailed pieces of wood together to construct vertical supports for the long pieces of wood that would later be used for scaffolding to reach the top parts of the cinderblock walls. We broke for lunch in the early afternoon and Fernando’s wife made the group some amazing chicken Chuchitos (traditional Guatemalan-style tamales) and a very picante salsa verde (very spicy green salsa).

After lunch, our group went with Fernando’s other two sons, Luis and Rene. We met at a location where they normally host a soup kitchen on Wednesday nights, and we grabbed some foodstuff items included dry ingredients, cooking oil, and a dry soup mixture that we would later disburse. Luis and Rene explained what was to come as we then walked a few blocks past countless dogs, motor-scooters, and 90s Toyota pickup trucks to visit a few families. Among the families we visited were Elliana and Maria, two elderly widows who are also sisters of Luca Maria who we helped earlier this morning. Luis translated back and forth as our group communicated with them about their lives, our faith in Christ, scripture, and how blessed both parties are to be serving in His kingdom. As a token of their appreciation, they all either gave us fruit or poured us ice-cold cups of “water” (in Guatemala, water means water… but most of the time, water also means Coca-Cola). Either way, it’s a very humble offering that we gladly accept and consume as it is our way of accepting a very kind gesture from them. That basically brought us to the end of our first workday, and both groups piled back into the van and headed back where we are staying.

It’s so difficult to imagine what life is like here on a daily basis. But it’s certainly a blessing to be working in God’s Kingdom to help in any way with a great group of people.