Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Just Another Day at HGCH

I'm sitting here at the coffee house, preparing to return home next week. Many of our regulars are leaving in the next day or two in order to be home for Thanksgiving. It feels peaceful here right now.

At the table next to me, Diana is working on her paperwork for her mission. She has been here a year and a half and comes in often for a medium latte and to chat and catch up on her work.

Next to her is Scott - he is checking his email and missing his grandchildren. He and his wife Linda have been here with their daughter Tracey and her boyfriend Matt for about a month now. They come in most mornings and order waffles, pancakes and an egg sandwich. Scott and Linda are coming back in 6-9 months to do missions work permanently and have been looking at the different possibilities available - of which there are many! This family has become very dear to us. A few weeks ago, Matt proposed to Tracey, and it has been so much fun to be a part of all the wedding plans and ideas!

Another table over Linda is teaching Sierra how to knit. This will be a great thing for Sierra as she needs something to do with her hands to keep herself out of trouble! I wish I had a camera because it would be so cute. Edilma is sitting at the table with them, watching carefully.

Over in the corner Elizabeth is reading "Blue Like Jazz" - you might remember that I wrote about that book a while back and have been raving about how awesome it is. She decided she would read it and I can hear giggles erupting from the corner occasionally, and then she scoots over to share with me a particularly funny part. We started out having a women's group to go over the book, but several of the ladies weren't able to follow through for one reason or another, so Elizabeth and I discuss it informally.

In the other room (the one I affectionately call the Garden Room...such that I would like it to BE a garden room...) Pablo is napping on the couch. Yes - Pablo is out of the hospital! He is walking around - rather slowly - with the help of some arm-brace canes. Luis was here with him for awhile, and had his shoe shine chair and kit in the corner while he sat with Pablo. However, the sun is shining and there might be some work at the park, so he left a few minutes ago.

The lady from the restaraunt across the street - Cherisimos - is coming through the door with our lunch. They have a lunch special every day for 20 Quetzales (20 Q), which is about $2.75. For this you get meat, rice, salad, tortillas and fresh juice. The special is different every day - today it is orange chicken and looks very good! We get lunch here several days a week, and now many of our customers do, too! They bring it over to us and I joke that this is their second restaraunt now.

Florecita is cooking in the back - she is one of my dear friends here. Edilma is her daughter. We laugh and talk and work together every day and I will miss her so much. Right now she is cooking lemon pound cake, and after that gets out I will need to put in a turkey to start getting ready for Thursday, when we will have about 50 people for Thanksgiving.

Last week a guy named Alex asked if he could hang some art on our walls and sell them on consignment. The art is very "Catholic" in nature, particularly what is called "mystical Catholic" and has caused some bit of controversy, but it does add some color! It waits to be seen what will come of it. Alex is an interesting guy in that he has loads of weapons that he offers to sell - mace, pepper spray, a tazer and one of those police batons. I don't know if he's just really paranoid or well prepared. Some of the ladies have been interested in these things after all of the violence that has been happening.

Crazy Dave is hanging around, looking to see where he can jump into a conversation and begin telling us how every version of the Bible is incorrect and has been translated wrong and that we are only (sick, tired, diseased, in pain, etc) because we believe it and if we simply didn't believe we had (illness, disease, etc), we wouldn't have it anymore. He always adds some life to the party.

So, it's just another day here at the coffee house. It's quiet for now, because most students are in class. I'm going to miss this place.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

A day in the life at HGCH

HGCH is Higher Grounds Coffee House, the coffee shop I'm working at in Antigua, Guatemala. Most days it is pretty mellow around here, but today we had some happenings! Haha...

Well, first of all, we had a customer come in who was concerned about a dog that was sitting outside the door. The dog had a deep gash in it's front leg and was obviously not doing well. She is a dog lover, and wanted to help. We weren't quite sure what to do as there are a lot of stray dogs running all over the place. We found a vet, but no one could really take responsibility for the dog long term, to care for the stitches and whatnot. Someone thought to call the tourist police, so one of the guys took off to find them. Then we found a number for an animal shelter and called them to see if they could help.

The poor dog was terrified and shaking. Someone had hacked at her with a machete, and that is how she got cut up. About the time the vet, the tourist police and a good crowd had gathered around, she figured she'd had enough and took off running down the street. So much for everyone trying to help!

Later a few of the guys who hang out here, Alex and Jhonatan, decided they'd have some fun making music videos in the back. Abner is the one videotaping. I love it when these guys come into the coffee shop and play guitar - it's my favorite part of the day! I would put up the video, but for some reason it is not uploading (wahhh).


On All Saints Day, many people in Latin America flock out to the cemetaries to visit the graves of their loved ones. They spend the day there, thinking of those who have passed on, having a picnic with the family. They decorate the grave sites with marigolds, candles and pine needles. I had learned in Mexico that the marigolds are thought to have some sort of mystical power that attracts the soul of the deceased.

Another thing they do here in Guatemala is celebrate the day with barriletes, which are kites. They believe that as they fly the kite high overhead, the spirit of the dead person is reached and comes down the string to visit the family. If you go out to the graveyard, you will see hundreds of kites flying overhead.

We figured this was a good opportunity to pray for people and to try to get some conversations going, so we headed out to Santiago, one of the biggest places where this goes on.

There were thousands and thousands of people! We took the bus into Santiago, and had to walk a little over a mile to the cemetary. The streets were packed with people making their way, with all sorts of stalls selling everything you can imagine to people. It was like a street fair. I had expected a sense of spirituality or solemnity, but there was none of this. Instead, it was more like going to the fair to see what was happening. I learned that while some people do still believe the things about the spirits, most go out to honor their loved ones and to celebrate a memorial day.

The kites were fantastic!! They were every size you can imagine, from tiny little ones only a few inches wide up to some that were over 60 feet across!! They are handmade with bamboo supports and tissue paper. I looked up close and saw that each peice of tissue paper is painstakingly cut out and glued together by hand - hundreds of hours of work! The designs are breathtaking and so very intricate.

As they would fly (or try to fly) them, kids would run through the crowds, trying to get up enough momentum to get the kite up into the air. It seemed strange to see people running and walking over grave sites! We eventually got over it and sat on some raised concrete sites ourselves, but it did feel very strange!

Sometimes the kites would go up, up, up and then just as quickly come down, down, down - right into the crowd! Then people would scream and run and babies would cry and everyone would laugh and whoop and holler. It was crazy!

In the end, we weren't able to get any conversations going with anyone, but we were able to have some good ones amongst ourselves about all of these traditions and how tradition can sometimes blind us to the lies that we are embracing. It was a good opportunity to pray for people and for this culture, where so many are decieved by their traditions.


When I was younger, I definitely was one of those people who thought they were invincible. I always figured I was strong enough to save myself from just about any scrap I got into. Because of this mindset, I did a whole lot of things that were pretty stupid! I do not suffer from that delusion any longer.

Age has a way of humbling you and helping you to realize that, in fact, you can and will die. So, despite these misgivings, I agreed to take 3 teenage girls up a live volcano to look at hot lava and roast some marshmallows. That's right - we roasted marshmallows in the lava!

We thought this was Pacaya, but it wasn't....

What was I thinking?? Wow - it was hard! And we took horses most of the way! I remember horseback riding as something fun and comfortable - I remember wrong. My rear end and thighs were hurting! We climbed up most of the way, but had to walk once we got to the lava rock. It was really steep and unsteady and I stumbled and bumbled my way up, thinking the whole time "why am I doing this??"

Sierra, Alicia, Destiny and Dayna on our horses

Me wondering why on EARTH did I agree to this madness?

The view was incredible, and while we were up there, another volcano (Fuego) erupted and we were able to see it. The lava rock is fascinating - it is so light and yet very strong. As the lava flows down and cools, it breaks into smaller pieces, so the walking is extremely unstable. This was hard for me because I have a lot of problems with my ankles anyway, so I was holding on a lot. The rock is really, really sharp. As you get closer, the rocks get warmer and warmer and even get hot enough to melt your shoes.

We finally made it up and got up close the the lava, which was burning hot. We roasted some marshmallows and reveled in the beautiful day and the awesome view. Sierra stuck her stick into the lava and pulled a chunk of burning lava out, then poured water on it to cool it so she could bring it home. She was surprised that she had to actually push her stick into it pretty hard and that it wasn't smooshy, like she figured it would be.

Roasting marshmallows and relaxing

hot lava - don't touch!

We climbed back down, and got our horses for the ride down the volcano. The girls' were way ahead of me and were racing their horses when Destiny's horse bucked her off and dragged her a bit, stepping on her leg. She was a litle shook up, but none the worse for the wear. See what I mean about thinking you're invincible? Ah!!

We had a great time, although I don't know that I'll be doing it again any time soon!! I might have to practice a little more first! =D


The Coffee Shop set up for the Halloween outreach

On Halloween night, we had a pretty cool outreach. We invited people to come to their own funeral. We began handing out flyers and invitations a few weeks before the big event, and then on Halloween night we "ran the devils" - you might wonder (as I did) what this means!!

Bailey, Sierra, Destiny and Alicia dressed up and ready to "run the devils"

Well, Sierra and the other kids dressed up as devils and demons and went out around the community to invite people to their own funeral. Sierra did so great - she pranced and jumped and snuck up on people, putting the invitation into their hands with a snear. Many people screamed and several ran away! One girl burst out crying at Bailey dressed as a demon.
Sierra handing out invitations to people
Bailey handing out invites

The idea behind the funeral was that people would hear the gospel message and die to their sin and be born again into new life.

At the coffee shop we had a fog machine making everything thick and smoky, with creepy music playing. All the lights were off and there were just a few candles sitting around. At the front we had an open coffin and candelabras on each side. If people looked into the coffin, they would look into a mirror and see themselves. Once the devils came back from handing out invites, we locked them into a cage, where they grabbed at people - symbolic of the enemy wanting to pull us down with him.
The devils in their cage

We started off by me giving my testimony. I spoke about how I had struggled with fear for so many years and how God rescued me from that. After, Mark shared with the people there about being dead in our sins, but the opportunity for new life. He did such a great job! He really comes alive when he shares God's truth.
Me sharing my testimony
We had about 30 people show up, and of those 14 people raised their hand at the end to receive salvation. It was awesome!! After, we prayed with people and got them information on how to connect into a church and then we had worship for the rest of the night.

It was definitely a different way to do things! However, the glory goes to God because people were drawn in to hear about Him and as a result, people were saved. The kids had fun, but more importantly they understood the gravity of what they were doing, and did it for God's glory and not their own excitement. Overall, I'd say it was pretty successful!