Entering Into the Homes

We arrived at the community at our gathering point, just outside the three classrooms of the school building, creating a bit of a commotion as some of the children burst from the classroom to greet us. We have become more efficient in prImageeparing to go into the homes, with a group effort to cut the wire mesh that wraps the stovepipes to create a barrier for inadvertent touches by little fingers. Our team was excited to learn it our destination was going to be our first turn in the upper reaches of the community. The walk in to the first home became a hike, with ever increasing effort required as the trail became steeper. It was a marvel to see the steep fields of corn and marvel at the effort it must take to cultivate and harvest the annual planting cycle of corn and beans.

We arrived at the home after our strenuous climb, gazing across the valley at the splendor of the valley of the community. We have come to determine the relative wealth of each home by the little nuances: the siding of the home was either very uneven or had close tolerances, the presence of a little garden or not to create a variety of food, the evenness of the dirt floor, and the number of occupants as measured against the space available in the home. Our first home today was a home of little material means, consisting of an older man, his unmarried 25 year old daughter, and the two children she had cared for since her sister had died some years before. The siding was uneven, the dirt floor required a lot of work to create a level spot for the stove, and there were very few material possessions evident.But we were enthusiastically welcomed as members of the community with a god in common. We went to our by now familiar work, brick by brick, piece by piece, climbing what passes for a ladder to cut a hole in the corrugated metal roof, sealing the hole around the pipe, and topping it off with a “sombrero” cap. Our interpreter then gave instructions about the stove, building the fire as she talked while the open table cooking fire of the day still created a smoky environment inside the home.

We ended with prayers offered by the residents and our team. The father thanking god to deliver us to them and present them with this gift, and we offering that our little gift couldn’t measure the gift of welcome this family had offered us today by welcoming us into their home. Then up the hill some more, on to the next home, and continue our journey.

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Day 2

Today was our second day in the village, which also represented a second opportunity to rekindle our new friendship with the community. We looked forward to seeing the same faces that filled our spirits and hearts the day before – we were not disappointed when we heard the names Marco, Aim, Alejandro, Mateo coming from our new friends. After a quick game of soccer, we traversed our way through steep 12 foot corn fields to be welcomed into the homes with warm welcomes. Knowing the stoves would be essential tools of daily living, we took great pride to ensure both the small things like the dirt ground being level to the caulking around the stove pipe water proof. We were humbled by the expression of gratitude as we would leave the homes – prayers, hugs, kisses, prayers, and as well as a live chicken. As we were leaving the village today, we heard a voice translated to say – we hope you never forget us or our village. There is not a chance any of us will ever forget this time for this is a time we have grown in understanding about us by looking into the eyes of others.

First day of work

The team broke up in to smaller groups and, joined by a group translator and stove installation expert, we made our separate ways to the homes of families set to receive a stove. The 20 minute trek from town to the homes of families was a journey past banana, palm, and long-needle pine trees, through a forest maze of 12 foot high cornstalks, along deep chocolate walkways, that rose and fell against almost impossibly steep hills. Everything felt lush and overflowing and alive, but nothing compared to meeting people—families with children of all ages and extended families—in their homes. It quickly becomes obvious that, while the purpose of the work is to install the stove and transform the space of cooking to create a healthier environment for the family and reduce the risk of acute respiratory illness, the real work has very little to do with stoves and has everything to do with the relationship between us as guests and witnesses in the lives of this family in this moment, on this hillside, above this valley… Learning the names of children, struggling to speak a few broken words of hello, thank you, what is your name in Q’eqchi’, all the while transcending the limits of different languages to meet each person where they are, in their home. Many of us shared our thoughts afterwards and talked about engaging with our eyes as well as our words, with our hearts and our hands. Each visit ended with a prayer of shared thanks giving.Image

Arriving in Chitepey, Guatemala: An Extraordinary Welcome

ImageLet’s just say, we survived the drive to Chitepey. Our driver was very skilled and the roads were narrow mountain roads that jumped and bumped and turned quickly. In this valley town, our welcome was ext

raordinary…a genuine community event to welcome our team. Everyone gathered around the schoolhouse to meet and greet the visitors. A small group of men played drum and flute, and the notaries of the town spoke very kind and prayerful words about our visit, the importance of this work to the community, the people of Chitepey, and about the fact that while we are different people from different places, “we share the same God and this God blesses us all.” The young girls lined up and sang songs, the men mingled, there were fireworks, and the young boys played soccer. It was heart-felt and heart warming and was an expression of the soul of this community. All this was followed by more soccer and gato-gato-perro (or duck duck goose). A real riot of fun for the kids and lots of laughter from everyone else. Play and laughter are part of the fabric of what it is to be human.