Sunday, December 28, 2008

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to all!
This year we had the opportunity to see how Christ's birth is celebrated in a foreign country.
It certainly was very different than what we are used to at home!
We usually associate Christmas with snow, cold weather, cozy times with family and friends and lots of busy-ness! This year we enjoyed a beautiful, sunny day with just our own family.
Some of the people here put up a tree and lights, but they don't exchange gifts. Mainly they celebrate the day with fireworks! At midnight on Christmas Eve, the sky was aglow with fireworks all over town. We put the kids to bed but got them up at midnight to see the display. It was really exciting-especially because Uncle Nico had his own fireworks for us to enjoy!
Christmas Eve, Wilf and I put together a schedule of events for our family for the next day. After the kids took a few small gifts out of their stockings, we had an M&M hunt, made cookies, played games and read and sang together.
I think we all agreed that for this year, we really enjoyed the warm weather and the quietness of the day! We especially enjoyed being together as a family.

The church had a Christmas Eve service. After the service, we had the favorite festive food....tamales!! Wilf, Nate and Kris had already eaten quite a few tamales that week in the different villages, so they weren't especially thrilled :), but this was my first tamale since we have lived in G. Last time I wrote about tamales, several people asked what a tamale was! So I took a picture to show you.
A tamale is wrapped in banana leaves and you have to unwrap it before you eat it (sort of like a present-maybe that is why they eat it at all celebrations :)).
Inside the banana leaves is a chicken mixture wrapped in cornmeal. The ladies of the church made these tamales and I enjoyed them! Wilf said they they were some of the best that he has had here.
This coming week, we are having a New Year's Eve service. Please remember to pray for the small group here. Christmas seemed to be a discouraging time for many of them as they remembered the church being much larger in years past. We are praying that the service will bring new HOPE and VISION for the people as we begin a new year.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Kris's Overnight Hike with Dad

This past week, Kristen and Wilf took a three hour hike to visit one of the aldeas. Kristen was really excited to be going along with her Dad!
A big highlight for Kristen and Wilf (who are both avid swimmers) is where the creek makes beautiful swimming holes.

After a long hike, these clear, cool pools are lovely for swimming in.

The pools are right below the church building. Wilf and Kristen slept in the church for the night and they said that they can hear the waterfalls as they drift off to sleep! It sounds very beautiful.
That afternoon, there was a service in the church and Wilf had an opportunity to speak. They also had a great chance to visit with the Bible teacher from this aldea and his family.

It has been pretty dry here for over a month now so the river is quite low. The walk Wilf and Kristen took follows the river for a long ways. During the dry season, people take the opportunity to plant crops on the sand bars. In the picture above, some men are burning debris in preparation for planting.
The river is completely covered with algea and the water hyacinth. The hyacinth has a lovely blue flower on it and Wilf said it looks very beautiful. It almost looks like you can walk across it!

What a special time this was for Kris and Wilf. I am thankful for the time the kids can spend with their Dad as well as having the opportunity to see different places, people and creatures :) (as pictured above).
Wilf will be heading out to the different villages fairly often in the next week for
Christmas celebrations.
Please continue to pray for the spread of the gospel in these rural villages!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Vacation Bible School

This past week, we held a vacation Bible school at our church for three days. Tuesday afternoon we had our opening ceremonies-complete with the flags being brought in and the national anthem played! The young people from our church did a good job of decorating the church for the event.
Jen and Lia did a little skit to get the kids excited about vacation Bible school and to introduce our theme for the week-the fruits of the Spirit.

In addition to the young people from our church, we also had a team of six people come from a large Presbyterian church in the capital to help out. Wilf and Nico taught the oldest class-13 and up. All the other classes were taught by the young people.

Each day, they began with singing. Action songs are always popular. The young people all stood in front of the kids to make sure they could all see how to do the actions!

The team from the capital slept at the mission office, but they joined us for all the meals. Lia, Jen and I took turns cooking for them. In the mornings and the evenings they did some different activities. The first evening, we had all the young people here and after Wilf did a devotional, he organized a rousing game of "perro ama al gato", or "cat loves dog". It was a great hit!! Thankfully we had a large group come from our own church-many who we haven't seen in a long time. Wednesday morning, they all headed out to hike to a woman's house from our church.

Nate, Kris and Brad went to VBS every afternoon, but they love to be included in all the events!

Thursday afternoon, we had a short program that we invited all the parents to. Each of the classes performed something they had learned. Unfortunately, our camera doesn't take great indoor pictures, so the pictures aren't great. But they give you a bit of an idea anyways!
Above is Brad's class singing a song they learned.

Kristen was the only white kid in her class. She really loved going every afternoon, even though she can't communicate very much.

Nathan was part of a skit his class put on about the Good Samaratan.

There were a lot of people at the final program! We had at least a hundred kids at the VBS and quite a few parents came as well.
After the closing, the young people all came back here for a campfire and hotdog roast. Again, we had a large group and Wilf had a wonderful opportunity to really challenge them to live for the Lord.
We had a great week and we thank the Lord for this new opportunity. We pray for the young people in our church, that they will continue to have a zeal for good things. And we pray for the kids and their parents who heard the Word of God this week.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Vistors-Part 2

We made a trip out to the bridge with the plan of visiting one of the aldeas. We certainly got a good idea of what it is like for Wilf to hike to these villages!! We chose to hike to the closest village-a hike that takes Wilf about 45 minutes. We started off wonderfully....after we crossed the bridge that is! I think Mom and I were the most nervous :)
I had Lauren on my back and I was pretty nervous that she would jump out somehow!

It was a beautiful hike, but of course a lot of climbing! We started out under a cloudy sky, but when the sun came out, it sure got hot! And this is the coldest time of year. Most often when Wilf hikes, it is REALLY hot and a lot of the hiking is in the bright sun.

This is a look back at the bridge. You can see the road we came in on on the left. The bridge is over the river, which is a bit difficult to see because it is totally green! The river looks almost solid on the surface because of algae and a water hyacinth.

After an hour of hiking, we were only halfway, so we elected to have a picnic lunch on a hill top and head back. Not a bad place for a picnic hey?

I took this picture and the one following, to try to show the trails that Wilf takes to visit some of the other aldeas. It was amazing to get an idea of how far they travel! It is difficult to see when the pictures are this small, but you can see the trails leading through the hills if you enlarge the pictures!
It is just amazing that people live in such remote places.
Nate having a little snack :)
This was my first time hiking with Wilf and it was exciting for me. I would like to go with him more often, but it is diffiuclt with little ones. Wilf carried Ryan on his back and marched along, while the rest of us struggled behind him :) Actually, I should say that Nate and Kris are marvelous hikers and easily beat us all back to the truck!

Mom and Dad made it!

Monday morning we headed back to the city to show Mom and Dad a few last sights before they headed home on Wednesday. We went to Antigua on Monday afternoon.
In the artisan market. I think I took this picture four times and every time one of the kids was doing something funny. This one was the best of the lot :)

This place was a highlight for the kids. This is the ruins of an cathedral and monastery. They were destroyed by an earthquake years ago. It was a marvelous place to run around and explore!

It is pretty awesome to see how the Lord can shake the earth!

Although she is still a Mommy's girl, Lauren did love her Oma as well!
And her big sister!

Tuesday we went to the zoo. The kids were so excited to show everything to Oma and Opa. It was so special for us all to have them here!

These hippos were fascinating and an awesome reminder of a wonderful creator.

We finished off with a little train ride through the zoo. Afterward we headed back to the seminary we were staying at for a farewell dinner.
A special thank-you to my parents for making the trip down. And for the help around the house, cozy coffee times, words of encouragement, and endless games, love and attention to our children. It was such a blessing and encouragement for us to have you here!
Any other visitors are welcome :)