Centre of Hope

Today, Tuesday, we did 2 clinics. The first, La Hermita was a small village that had been displaced in a land slide several years ago. There are approximately 110 residents in this village. It is located in a lovely setting at the edge of a cliff. We set up in their church that had a beautifully decorated pulpit to welcome us. This is a very impoverished village without running water, that only receives shipments of water every three days. We assessed and gave medications and did teaching with people of all ages. As usual there were a lot of sore throats, coughs and headaches. Some of the children had a great time playing soccer with Jeff as they waited their turn. A few of us had to use the washroom and one of the residents welcomed us into her very meager home to do so. The people were very dignified and grateful for our help.

In the afternoon two nurses and a translator went back to the Centre of Hope to do a premature baby workshop with nursing students. They learned how to assess the gestation of babies since due to some prenatal care some mothers don’t know how far along they are when they give birth. They also learned about the special care late preterm babies may need even though they may look similar to full term babies. The students shared some of the challenges they face in the hospital systems around labour and delivery.

The rest of the group went to San Lorenzo for the afternoon clinic, where they saw 137 people. There were a lot of expectant mothers and young babies as well as large families. We saw more than usual cases that unfortunately we were unable to do as much as we would have liked to help. For example an elderly man who had a stroke and now is unable to raise his arm. A 5 year old who broke her leg a year ago and it was not set properly so she has lost much use of her leg. This is frustrating and heartbreaking but we focused on the ones we could offer treatment to. As usual, the people we met with today were so happy to see us and grateful for our attention and help.
Today was International Children’s Day.  This day is celebrated in Guatemala. The city of Parramos, where our clinic was had a huge celebration.  The clinic today was in a church. The health issues that were commonly seen were parasites, diabetes, cold and coughs. The team saw a total of 307 patients.
We had a great lunch at the Centre of Hope. The children who were in school loved seeing us to practice their English. It was very nice to see all their smiling happy faces. These children all looked great in their school uniforms. On another note, one of our translators, named Jose Luis, is not only a translator but a tailor and singer. He has his own tailoring shop that he runs with his wife. He also was the star at a benefit concert for the survivors of the volcano eruption. Wow, amazing!
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Early this morning we toured around the town of Antigua taking in some of the local culture. We then left the Hotel for the day. Our first stop of the day was at Valhalla, a macadamia farm, where we were given a tour of the farm by Tony, a very friendly and funny local. After the tour we got to sample some of the delicious products grown, manufactured, and sold at the farm. After the tour and the samples we sat and chatted as a group and enjoyed delicious macadamia nut flour pancakes with macadamia nut butter and blueberry spread, we also enjoyed a cold glass of hibiscus flower tea.
We then travelled to our clinic for the day at the Centre for Hope. We were able to see a total of 186 people with a range of multiple  ailments and complaints. There were lots of children today. Most people were wearing tradition Guatemala outfits. The colours and patterns are so beautiful, words can not describe. While some of the children were waiting they played soccer in the school yard or played on the jungle gym. Everyone was so thankful for what we were able to provide for them today. The smiles on the children’s faces could light up a room.
After the clinic, we drove through and stopped in Pastores, where a lot of leather products are made. Most of us decided the ice cream was more fun to enjoy after a productive day. At supper, we talked about how people seem to think the more “stuff” we have we will be happier, and looking at today’s group of patients we were able to help, they seemed so happy and thankful with the little we were able to provide for them.
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Today the children at the school started with singing  the Guatemalan national anthem.  The devotional dealt with fraternidad between brothers (and sisters) and friends.  They sang a song which took me a moment to recognize as Barney the Dinosaur’s “I love you, you love me” song.  After prayer they went to class.
I went to help Jose the English teacher again. After getting pictures with my sponsored children last week, I printed a copy of a picture of me with both of them.  I gave them the pictures during class today.  Antony ran to his backpack to put the picture away.  Lincy hugged the picture tight, then ran to show it to her friends.
In the preschool class, my mom’s sponsored child, Carlos, warmed up to me and got over being shy.  He sat on my lap during most of English class.
After lunch, I installed a cabinet for the defibrillator that was donated to the school.  Then I wrapped some presents and did a few miscellaneous tasks before heading back to the hotel for dinner.

After a day off on Saturday, today was the big day – the reason I had to make this trip for May of this year.  Today we celebrated Enma’s quinceanera.

We arrived at the Centre of Hope early in order to get pictures and prepare for the celebration.  Seeing Enma in her dress was amazing.  It made her look like a princess from a fairytale.  We took some pictures and sat talking while we waited for the setup to be ready.  Enma gave me a picture and letter she had written me in English.  I had some time to practice my Spanish with Enma, her parents, and her sisters.

The celebration was to take place at the restaurant next to the Centre.  The dining area was laid out beautifully with balloons and flowers.  Next to the restaurant building was a setup that reminded me of an outdoor wedding.  To reinforce that thought, Enma walked in to a musical processional as we stood and cheered for her.  She and her parents were introduced and sat facing the crowd as the ceremony was opened with prayer and special singing.  Then there were some Bible verses and speeches.  The singing and speeches were lovely and I could feel a tear trying to fall from the corner of my eye.  As I watched Enma, I wondered if her makeup would last through the tears of joy.

They called me up front for a gift presentation.  I gave Enma a necklace with a cross inside of a heart, which I placed around her neck. Then it was time for the sermon.  It was in Spanish, of course, so I wasn’t able to understand everything, but the major part of the message was keeping God’s word in your heart that you might not sin against Him.

After the sermon, there was more special singing and speeches, and I was called up for the preacher to thank me and pray for me. Then we all lined up to hug Enma and she was given many presents by those in attendance.  We took more pictures before heading in to the dining area for lunch.

Lunch was a traditional Guatemala meal that I could not even pretend to be able to spell.  I did recognize the drink as Rosa de Jamaica, which I had drank before at the macadamia nut farm here. After the meal, we sang Happy Birthday to Enma, she blew out the candles, and we had a lovely three tiered cake.

As the crowd began to slowly leave, we gathered up her presents and took them to Alicia’s car and said our goodbyes. The letter I have from Enma thanks me for what I have done for her family and fulfilling her dream (the quinceanera).  I can’t help but have tears in my eyes, knowing what this celebration meant to Enma and how I was able to play a part in it.  I believe this was a day that neither one of us will ever forget.

The annual Loving Arms Spring Tea is fast approaching and space is running out! Please consider joining us this Saturday for this special event to raise money for classrooms at our Colegio Cristiano Esperanza at our Centre of Hope. Please click the poster below to find out more information.

Special guests this year include a representative from the Guatemalan Ambassador to Canada, as well as team members from Connexus Church and Chartwell Church who will share stories from their time in Guatemala!

This week we were blessed by a short visit from Kelsey and Marie Madeline along with 16 missionaries from the United States. The team took part in several activities with the children in our School.
Thanks to the talent of one of the team members, we were able to offer a painting class to mothers of our students who greatly enjoyed this workshop.
We thank the team for their missionary work and for the donation of school supplies, tennis equipment, and back packs, all of which will be thoroughly enjoyed by our students.
Our children were very happy to see Kelsey and Marie Madeline again, both of whomhold a very special place in our hearts.
We hope to have the opportunity to have you again and we remind you that the doors of our organization will always be open to receive you.
Hasta pronto!
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This week has been a very busy one but it has been fun with 29 sets of hands and hearts eager to collaborate. The Connexus team has given its best service to Guatemala and the most needy. We thank the leaders and youth members for their service and sharing their heart with others.

Thanks to their help we were able to make many improvements in the Centre of Hope such as continued construction of the 3rd grade classroom, painting of walls, carpentry projects, and construction of a wooden fence for the perimeter of the property. They came together to make bags of food for the March distribution . Thanks to the donations they brought we were able to distribute clothes and shoes to the families which is part of this program. They also brought school supplies for our children at school.

We are very fortunate to have been offered their help. And we thank them for their diligent support, hard work, and love, showing others their love of Jesus.

Looking forward to having them next year!

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On Saturday, March 10th we held our monthly food distribution. All of the families that are part of this program from Corrales, Parrojas, Paraxaj, Chitaburuy, and Parramos attended this month’s distribution at our Centre of Hope. This month we were joined by the Connexus Team. They helped packed the food and some members of the team even shared their own testimony.
The team also prepared games and a skit for the children.
While the children were with the team the mothers received a nutrition workshop provided by Dr. David Perez. He spoke to them about the ways they can make good use of the food they get every month and the importance of a good nutrition.
After food distribution every family got the opportunity to select clothes and shoes that were brought by the team. We want to thank our sponsors that allow us to help these families in such an important area such as nutrition. Every month sponsored families receive their food packages and we were blessed that we got to share our March offering with the Connexus Team!
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On February 25, we had the pleasure of welcoming a team from Canada. We were so pleased with their hard work and the support they provided to Loving Arms and the families in the community. In only one week the eight members were able to accomplish many things at the Centre of Hope. They made a noticeable difference in the life of an elder by building a new home for her. They started the construction of our 3rd grade classroom, did a shoe and clothing drive, ran a women´s workshop with 100 women in partnership with Days for Girls and gave two training workshops with our newest women’s sewing Co-op.
Muchas gracias Brian, Jamie, Stephen, Marg, Barb, Lois, Kathy, and Linda. It was wonderful to have you in Guatemala! Looking forward in having you next year.
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