LSF Mission Trip to Puerto Barrios, Guatemala
March 07-15, 2008
Travelogue, Reflections and Quotes
Written on Wednesday, March 12, 2008
We have been running non-stop since arriving on Saturday morning! The crew is most certainly alive and well in Puerto Barrios.
Here is a description of the trip thus far. Our flying was terrifically smooth. It was so good, in fact, that on the last leg from LA to Guatemala City (from midnight to 4:30 a.m.) there were only 2 seats in coach but 17 seats in business class for our group, so we upgraded the students! They enjoyed unexpected comfort after a freshly prepared typical Guatemalan evening meal of scrambled eggs and other breakfast goodies.
Our hosts, Rebeca and Karloz de Franco met us at the airport bright and early (6:30 for them) and we were all instant friends. We got from them our first of thousands of cheek kisses and hugs. They are bright and hilarious and completely committed to mission. Rebeca works for Lutheran Hour Ministries in Guatemala City, and Karloz is an organizational psychologist. We love them dearly!
Every piece of luggage arrived without incident, thank heaven. Our first meal in Guatemala was breakfast at a fast food chicken place – The Chicken Farmer – or something along those lines. It was GOOD! Fried plantains and refried black beans accompany most meals here.
We trekked off toward Puerto Barrios, with Timothy our van driver and all of our gear tied to the roof. What a treat to see so much of this gorgeous country! It was along these winding roads that we learned that lane is a relative term, and its occupant at any given moment seems to be determined by who wants it most, who is in a greater hurry, who honks their horn the greatest number of times, or who is trying to miss a pot hole the size of Rhode Island. But it works! Fascinating!
Our hotel here is a delight. It is clean and inviting, with fresh towels and sheets each day. The manager is a lovely Christian man, Winston. We have enjoyed the pool on numerous occasions after long, long days of labor or VBSing. We eat our meals here and are taken with melon juice (liquid cantaloupe), a sweet warm banana drink with cinnamon, and plenty of hearty, tasty food. Our water is safe when it is served to us, but we don’t even brush our teeth with the tap water. Better safe than sorry.
The Sunday morning service was wonderful! Hearing Lutheran liturgy in Spanish, with different tunes, expanded our world in a new way. The congregation got a kick out of our attempt to tell them our names and explain what we are studying or our jobs. Most did beautifully, and the rest of us mangled it! But our sincerity showed through our lack of clear language. Our songs and message were very well received.
Sunday afternoon we changed into work clothes and the whole crew piled in the van to head for the Lutheran Community Center for an afternoon of hard labor. When we arrived, we could see that the center was in disrepair, with a dirt floor almost 2 feet below the desired level. Flooding is an ongoing problem, so we hauled in three dump truck loads of dirt, wheel barrow by wheel barrow, and tamped each layer. It took us just 4 ½ hours, much to the amazement of Juan Lopez, our mason, foreman, and generally fabulous guy! He is a member of Christ the Savior Lutheran where we attended church.
Our afternoon VBS had to be arranged in 2 sessions – smaller children from the neighborhood around the community center from 2:30 to 4, and the older ones from 4 to 5:30. One of the local Lutheran families let us use their home for this, and we appreciated it so much! These groups were small enough that we didn’t have to divide them into smaller groups. They also enjoyed Bible stories, prayers, crafts, snacks, songs, and playing games in the street in front of the construction site. It was completely delightful to be in a home, become acquainted with the family and the way they live, and reach out to the neighborhood children. Each day our numbers increased as news of VBS spread.
And our construction crew? Astounding! In the last three days, they have completely covered the newly raised floor in concrete (mixed in a big pile in the yard by hand, and wheel barrowed in…), and have built a new sidewalk from the street to the building’s front door. Andrew, Danny & Mark have to be three of the hardest working guys on the face of the planet.
Yesterday (Tuesday), Rebeca said we “needed some peace and some rest” so she arranged a phenomenal outing. Right after the morning session at the school, we ran back to the hotel from the school, grabbed our swim gear, flip-flops, sunscreen and cameras, picked up the construction guys, and hopped into a 20-seat aluminum boat. We flew across the bay (at top speed, mind you) and ended up at a beach with white sand, a thatched picnic shelter, two huge ice chests of food & beverages, warm ocean water and blue sky! We had a good long hour and a half to bob in the water, toss the Frisbee, munch lunch, and take a ton of photos. It was beyond our imaginations and we are thankful to Rebeca for her good care of us.
Last night (also Tuesday), she brought in a national dance troupe, complete with skin drums, a horn, a conch, a turtle shell (percussion), singers, and four dancers who are astoundingly great Garifuna “Punta” dancers. This is the group that performed for the inauguration of the current Guatemalan president! They even got us up out of our chairs to try this hip thing that they do. We laughed until our faces hurt!
Today we said hasta luego to some of the dearest children you’d ever have the privilege to meet, and to Juan Lopez and the other masons. We were thanked for quite literally changing lives. That is why we came, and it was good to hear that we had fulfilled God’s plan and purpose.
To close, I wish to thank you for your prayers. We can feel them, and the love and protection they have provided. Aside from a couple of easily remedied passport scares, and some blisters and sore muscles, we are being enriched by the moment on this journey! These students are truly amazing in their depth and their faith and their incredible work ethic. It is my honor to be here with them. Our complementary gifts have proven to be inspired by God Himself, when He envisioned this trip. Praise God from whom all blessings flow!!
We all send love and thanks for your part in making this a reality. We are forever changed!
Serving Him with enthusiasm,
Ann Summerson & the LSF Trippers
Written on Sunday, March 16, 2008
¡Hola! Buenos dias from COLD, COLD Pullman!!
Thursday night found us sitting in the dark, cool evening air around the courtyard fountain, sharing our changed hearts with one another at great length in stories, songs and prayer. It was a touching, meaningful and lovely time together.
We were able to spend a bit of time in the public square – a hub of social interaction, and planned as just that. It is the place folks gather to chat and enjoy the fresh air. Since it is nearly Holy Week (HUGE in Antigua), visitors are flocking to the area. A full brass band was playing from a large stage there, and the President of the country was present to make a speech, which meant armed military personal at every turn. What an interesting evening! We even experienced a Guatemalan dance club (after a dinner of tamales) before heading home early to pack.
We are ever grateful to Lutheran Hour Ministries for their incredible support and oversight of this trip (especially Andrew Fitzgerald and Jeanne Lawrence), to Thrivent Financial for GivingPlus and employee matching funds, to the home congregation of each tripper (especially Concordia, Pullman), and to every relative and friend who parted with hard-earned dollars so that this group could follow God’s path of service and discovery. As for Rebeca and Karloz, we have all mutually adopted one another as family for all time! Their role in our trip was invaluable as they offered layers of depth and growth. It was a joy beyond description to share this experience with them!
Blessings to all!
Ann & the LSF Trippers
Concordia Lutheran / Pullman LSF Mission Trip to Puerto Barrios, Guatemala
March 07-15, 2008
We cried that night because we had nothing left to give that place. It’s true - we had sweated through numerous T-shirts, gotten dirty from the holy ground of Puerto Barrios, swam and played in the bathwater sea, yelled “Hey-O’s” from the top of our lungs, laughed till our cheeks couldn’t take it, and looked into the eyes of children full of the Spirit. How could anyone look at this place and this people and not remember the words “It is good”? For it was good, and it is good. And we will keep holding on to that place like those children held on to us.
“At the construction site on Sunday, I was astounded that the community was helping us out. Kids were climbing on the dirt piles, grabbing shovels…they wanted to be a part of that place.” –Andrew
“At the afternoon VBS, by the end of the third day word had gotten out to the whole community. The children wanted to know the Message and what we could give them.” –Melissa
“I knew that the kids really wanted me to be a part of their life. The first few moments of fear turned into a life changing experience that you just can’t question.” –Rachel
“The first day of VBS when we were split up into groups for the first time: the stampede of children clawing and hugging me as if they had known me their whole life.” –Janessa
“The overwhelming friendship and love- they cared even when they didn’t know you.” –Anna
“The people here I don’t believe were ever strangers to us.” “After a few minutes of trying to tell her that I didn’t speak Spanish, she just took the cross off and put it over my neck. With no words. None necessary.” –Ann
“This whole trip has been about being open to God’s love. I am absolutely amazed at what we got done at the community center. I’m an old man, and I have a lot of respect for the way you guys worked and I was proud to work with you.” –Mark (to the construction crew) “If we had daughters and they brought you home, we would be happy.” –Ann
“Because I was involved so much with the planning, I was a little nervous about how we would pull it off. But it was really easy to adjust- I felt like everything was under control.” –Amy T.
“To see kids have such spiritual wisdom… I knew that I’m not just here to teach you, you teach me.” –Lindsey
“There was a little boy named Steven in a wheelchair, and he and I were the shark in the game together, chasing the other preschoolers around. There was pure joy on his face even in his situation. He has hope.” –Shawn
“This was special to them because they’ve never had this experience before. That’s why it’s so emotional- we haven’t ever witnessed kids being so enthusiastic for God.” –Gary
“The kids were screaming as I was playing and I was like, ‘Okay.’ I didn’t know what I was coming into, but now I can’t imagine it being any other way.” –Erik
“This little boy that I had never met squeezed me for two minutes- the biggest hug ever. That hug showed me you never know whose life you’re touching by what you do.” –Jessica
“Music is universal- it doesn’t matter what language you speak, we all knew that those children were singing songs to Jesus. And that was all that mattered.” –Sarah
“Working on the construction site was full of emotional swings. One minute you’re ready to take on another dirt pile, and the next you can’t imagine lifting that tamper one more time. But then the kids would show up- their energy is contagious.” –Danny
“The joy in their face, ready to learn about whatever we would teach them- we’re like someone they have known their whole life.” –Cara
“Seeing that type of poverty you ask yourself, ‘How would I have any hope?’ Then you look at the children and listen to them singing ‘I’ll serve you Lord forever.’ To hear the praises to God being lifted up in that place was amazing.” –Sara
“It was amazing to see how they lived, how they made their home the best it could be. They did everything for us.” –Amy P.
“How hard it was to say goodbye to those little girls. They said not to forget them, and I looked at them and thought, ‘There’s no way I’m ever going to forget you.’” –Rebecca
“I see inside of all of you a sweetness. Some of you it is harder to see because you are like an orange peel- some are thicker than others, but I know in my heart that you have sweetness to share to the people in this place.” –Karloz
“I want to live on Earth like I will live in heaven.” –Rebeca
So that is why we went. For those children and for that place, and to us it was just like the heaven Rebeca talked about. So thanks. Your prayers matter, and God’s work matters in mission. All of our lives are fuller because of what this place meant for us, and we have all been given new life through the promise of God’s continuing mission. How blessed we are.
How to Help
Interested in partnering in this life-changing event by donating to the project costs? Please make checks payable to Concordia Lutheran Church in any amount! Mail to:
The team will be spending the majority of their time in Puerto Barrios, which is on the east coast of Guatemala. The team will be partnering with Christ the Savior Lutheran church in Puerto Barrios and its pastor Byron Paz. The team will also spend two nights in the city of Antigua, which is just outside Guatemala City.
ARRIVAL AND DEPARTURE TIMES (see itinerary)
Current anticipated arrival date is Saturday morning, March 8, 2008 and departure date is Saturday March 15, 2008 – Guatemala City airport.
Arrival – March 8 @ 6:21am – Flight # 227 (Delta)
Departure – March 15 @ 7:30am – Flight # 228 (Delta)
The local ministry director, Rebeca de Franco, will meet the team at the airport with necessary transportation. Rebeca will be traveling with the team for the entire trip.
The projects are a combination of Vacation Bible School (VBS) at Christ the Savior Lutheran School for three mornings, VBS at a community Lutheran Center for three afternoons, and a construction project at the Lutheran Center. The team will be split into a construction group and a VBS group. The whole team will spend one afternoon helping with the construction project.
VBS at Christ the Savior (Monday-Wednesday March 10-12 @ 9AM-11AM):
There will be 250 children involved in these VBS sessions – 90 from 3-6 years and 160 from 7-13 years. The team will hold VBS with four groups of children simultaneously between 9AM-11AM. Translators will be also be with the teams during these sessions.
VBS at the Lutheran Center Puerto Barrios (Monday-Wednesday March 10-12 @ probably 2-4PM):
The second set of VBS sessions will be held at the Lutheran Community Center in Puerto Barrios. There will be 40 children and 10 youth.
Construction at the Lutheran Center Puerto Barrios (part of team Saturday-Wednesday March 8-12 – the entire team will help with this project on Sunday afternoon). The team will be laying a concrete floor in the main room of the Lutheran Center in Puerto Barrios and fitting some new doors. The community center serves the local community in Puerto Barrios, especially a group of people called ‘Garifuna’. Pastor Paz would like to formalize the center into a church at some point in the future.
30-minute presentation at Christ the Savior Lutheran Church Sunday March 9: The LSF team will prepare a presentation to share with the congregation with the message of God’s love and grace.
Breakfast, lunch and dinner will be provided in Puerto Barrios and Antigua.
The team will have ample time to visit the UNESCO Human Heritage site of Antigua. There may also be an opportunity for a ferry ride in Puerto Barrios.
Front row: Jessica, Amy T, Sara, Anna
In Guatemala we call the people who live in Puerto Barrios Garifunas and Mestizos.
Weather: humid, 38°C, some rain.
Lutheran Center - Antigua
GUATEMALA CONTACT INFORMATION
Cristo Para Todas las Naciones
P.O. Box 234
Guatemala City 01.004
Senora Rebeca de Franco
If calling from the U.S. use 011 before the 502 area code.
April 11, 2008