All I want for Christmas…..

Settle in…  grab a drink… I have a lot to say today….

Ah, life…. life is funny…. life throws you curve balls… life is hard… life is fun… basically life is what you make it.  The past few blogs when I read them over are so very different and yet I am glad I wrote them.  They are raw and totally capture my feelings the first week here.  Wow, what a ride.  People ask me how I am doing here… hmmmm, thats a bit of a loaded question.  Basically I would say I am happy here.  Are there times I wish I was home?  Of course.  But overall, I am happy right where I am.  It’s been a weird couple of weeks. To go from the ‘normal’ life back in Canada to the ‘new normal’ life here in Guatemala has not been easy.  Funny thing about following the so called ‘calling’… once you get into it, it feels ‘right’ very quickly.  We are all moved in and settled into our new home.  I can describe it in 2 words…. LOVE IT!  We have made it our own already and have settled into a routine of sorts.  Sure there are many things to get used to…. like the fireworks (read: mini bombs) that go off in the streets literally at all hours of the night (today was 5-6am) as people celebrate the coming birth of Christ.  But overall things are good.  We miss family and friends back home and anxiously await our first visitors due to arrive shortly after Christmas!

Speaking of Christmas…. that is a tough one here.  Sure we have our 1 foot tree sitting on our plastic dining table, surrounded by our plastic lawn furniture ‘dining chairs’…. but it simply has been a struggle to ‘feel’ Christmas here.  For me, Christmas has always been a big deal.  I spend months preparing, shopping, and decorating.  Here I have done none of those things.  I bought that tiny plastic Christmas tree at the market for a few quetzals and one piece of blue and silver tinsel to decorate.  That is it.  Nothing else.  There are no Christmas carols playing here… not ones I know anyway.  There are no big decorated pine trees anywhere except the town square.  There is a bit of hussle and bussle of shopping in the market, but for us gringo’s it’s no worse than the normal chaos the market brings.  There is no mall here…no Santa sitting waiting for screaming kids to be put on his lap for pictures… Here, there are those fireworks set off, scaring the daylights out of you all night…. in anxious preparation for the birth of the Saviour.

We have made a family decision here… to pretty much not buy any gifts for each other.  But instead to buy gifts for the Hermana’s at the hospital and the children, both there and on the mountain.  Monday I am braving a trip to Guatemala city to take the Hermana’s shopping.  They need some ‘girl’ stuff and would like to pick out specific things… that will be their Christmas gifts from us and a very kind donor back home who gave a significant amount of money for gifts for them.  During that trip we will buy toys and things for the kids.  Should be an interesting day.  Overall, Christmas has had me kind of in a weird place.  The woman who made Christmas such a big deal back home was taught a valuable lesson yesterday.  People talk about the true meaning of Christmas all the time.. as we bitch and gripe on our way to the mall to do more shopping.  We get our blood pressure up on the crazy drive there, screaming at traffic we don’t have time to be in because we are afraid the ‘perfect’ gift might be gone if we are one minute late getting there.  Then we get to the mall and whine over the line’s in the stores, or the fact that the debit machines are so slow… We chase our tails for weeks before, preparing for an occasion that will be over literally within minutes of waking up on Dec 25th.  Is that what Christmas really is?  I guess it was time for me to learn another lesson…..

Yesterday, we were invited to a breakfast at the hospital.  To meet with Hermana Mercedes about the coming months and work projects etc.   Hermana Mercedes has been burned many times in the past.  People come and people go… People make promises to her and don’t follow through.  Hermana is a brilliant woman with a Master’s degree in medicine and is one tough cookie to crack.  She has always been very ‘guarded’ with us.  Never letting her guard down one bit.  Very nice and polite but waiting for us to bail on her so to speak.  At the end of our meeting yesterday… she made a speech.  One I will never, ever forget.  She spoke of how, ‘everyone in that room was born to serve the poor’ and that God send our family at a time when she was at a low.  When her faith in God was shaken because she had literally no hope.  There was no money, there was no help, there was no hope.  But God sent ‘Angels’ from Canada… and these Angels are spreading the word in a far away country… and sending more Angels… and God, through them have restored her hope…. her faith… and for the first time in almost 30 years she can see her dreams again…. dreams of opening other “hospitalito’s” (little hospitals) for starving children in other parts of Guatemala… Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador etc.  And for our family and the people of Canada she will always be thankful.  Children are being saved from certain death and she will pray always for us…..and thanks God for us.

When I looked up, when she was done speaking, I saw she was crying.  You have to know Hermana Mercedes to know this is an incredible thing.  All the other Hermana’s were crying just seeing her cry.  Of course that made me cry… I reached my hand across the table and she very hesitantly she took my hand.  I looked in her eyes and said… “we will always be here to cry with you, to walk with you and to follow wherever God leads right beside you”….  That was all I could manage in that precious moment.  Fernando, Geoff, my boys, all the Hermana’s and me and Hermana Mercedes… all teary eyed…. all together… united in a goal… a goal that God has put on all our hearts.  A goal that my family will see through until the end….

After that incredible moment… we parted ways.  It was time for us to go to a village about 2 hours away.  The village of San Juan Las Brisas.  This village is in the Santa Rosa region of Guatemala.  A lush, green area that is famous for growing coffee and sugar cane.  A region that is also famous for their earthquakes.  Back in July they had over 500 small earthquakes in a 30 day period.  Imagine living there… imagine being poor there.. no where to go.  Simply accepting your fate and knowing that a big earthquake could hit at any time and you could simple vanish from the planet… and no one in the world would know but your village… you are the forgotten… obscure little blips on this big blue ball. Guatemala is full of them.

A big one did hit… 3 big ones to be exact… back in September.  Fernando called us.  The village of San Juan Las Brisa’s was decimated by earthquakes.  The rains were heavy in September and they were cut off from help by the fact that the one and only bridge to their village was under the river so there was no way in or out.  People were dead and the ones left were cold, thirsty and starving.  We immediately sent money down for him to buy water, blankets and some food for this village and Fernando and his father delivered the supplies once the water had receded enough to get help to them. Yesterday was the day we were invited to meet the people we helped face to face.   We loaded ourselves, a pinata, some stuffed animals that were donated, some blankets and knitted hats that Geoff’s mom made into the truck and off we went.

To make this short and sweet, it was an incredible day.  We met Carmen and her sister… Together we toured the devastation and with heavy hearts went back to Carmen’s home where all the village children had gathered to see the white people.  Everyone knew we were coming and they were all dressed in their best clothes and had prepared a meal for us.  Fernando explained that we could only eat the meat they had prepared because the parasites in anything else would be very dangerous to our health.  Carmen brought out a 2L bottle of pepsi.  I have to explain… the amount of meat they had prepared and a 2L bottle of Pepsi costs more than they make in a month.  But for us, they sacrifice.  Drives us banana’s to think they won’t eat much now for the month… but its part of life here.  Give, give… give… give…  It’s crazy.  Would any of us back home share our last cracker if that is all we had to eat for a week?  If that is all we had to feed our kids?  Think about it… would you?   Anyway…. we ate… and we set up a pinata.  The kids were so incredibly happy… we found out after they had never had a pinata before and had no idea what to do.  After some instruction and after the first piece of candy fell… they knew.   Once it broke it was instant chaos.  So fun.  Many of these kids had never tasted ‘dulces’ (candy but literally ‘sweeties) before.  Then we handed out stuffed animals, hats, blankets etc.

I sat in a chair after it was all over and watched the kids.  They all had mouths full of dulces and were clutching their stuffed animals… some were happily playing all over the dirt with their new toys.  My heart was full…. full to bursting.  Bursting with the knowledge that I am where I am supposed to be.  Then suddenly a tiny little boy came up to me… He threw his arms around my neck, kissed my cheek and said … “muchas gracias” (thank you very much)…. then ran shyly away.   My eyes filled with tears…. and I put my head down so no one would notice…. When I lifted my head once I had composed myself I saw an incredible sight… a line of children… big, small, male, female…. each and every one of them threw themselves at me with arms wide open… hugging and kissing me and saying in Spanish…. “Muchas Gracias”…  One by one they came… they went to each and every one of us after me.   My heart almost burst… and I realized something…. THIS is what it’s all about… This is why I am here… This moment and the one I shared earlier in the day with Hermana Mercedes and the others is all I want for Christmas…..

The bridge that connects the village to the rest of the world....it was totally under water during the earthquake cutting off the village from help.

 

A temporary shelter for 12 people after earthquakes destroyed homes

Zack & Fernando with a gift for us from the village

Earthquake destroyed all homes in this village.... had it happened at night many more would have died.

Fernando, Luke and Gabe with the village kids

Breaking stuff is so fun... especially pinata's full of dulces!

Once they figured out dulces was in that pinata it was pure joy & chaos!

The little guy coming to give me my hug and say thank you...

About ritadoppenberg

I am a wife, mom, missionary.... generally a human being who along with God, my family, friends and Commission to Every Nation (CTEN) Canada, seek to "Be The Change"...

Posted on December 18, 2011, in Guatemala Missionary, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Wonderful! well written, thank you for sharing this adventure, and being honest with the changes…especially at Christmas! you are in our prayers! 🙂

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