A change of climate

Originally I had envisioned writing a blog post that played off the term “climate-change”, allowing the reader a brief moment to believe I would expound on the global woes manifest here in Mexico, yet in reality my intention would be to describe the contrast in climate and culture that exists amongst the varied “tierras” in Chiapas, as in “tierra fria; tierra templada; tierra caliente” (cold lands; temperate lands; hot lands).  Although I wasn’t sure that would be so interesting for the the thousands of followers of this blog (hope you can catch the sarcasm too!). As well, recently I spent a few days in a community way up in tierra fria, and the experience proved to be quite memorable for a variety of reasons, thus a change in blog-writing plans.

Unreal view from this house….at 10,000 ft

Manuel with his usual Welcome to Zapotillo smile!

 

 

 

 

 

 

El Zapotillo is a community of perhaps 150 homes, scattered along two mountainsides, approximately 1 km in width and about 500 meters elevation between the highest and lowest homes.  It sits at 2700 meters (~ 9000 ft) elevation, and is certainly a community in tierra fria – December through March it often dips to freezing…. pretty hard to have a bucket shower early in the morning!! It is a land of potatoes, wheat (not as common anymore), apples, peaches, and maize (6 months between seeding and harvest). The air is pure, and on a clear day it is quite stunning how close Volcan Tacana really is (see a January 2012 post for a climb of Tacana I did with my friend Rogelio).  In this area of Chiapas, the climate changes dramatically over just a couple hours of driving.  A mere 60 km to the southwest from Zapotillo and you burst out of the Sierra Madre and into the hot humid Pacific coastal plain, where there is no sign of what grows in Zapotillo, but rather plantations of mango, mandarin, cacao, coffee, and rambutan (kinda like lychee), as well as an increasing presence of african palm (used as a biodiesel).

This particular trip to Zapotillo (maybe the 8th time I’ve gone) was special in several ways: 1) it was the “passing of the torch” from one Swiss volunteer to the next who had just arrived (INESIN also works with a Swiss partner to place volunteers to help teach science and environment classes in a few communities where we also work with the food security project), 2) it was the first time to Zapotillo for my co-worker (Chiapanecan) who began her work with INESIN in May, 3) it would be the first time (of hopefully more to come) that the community group and the secondary school jointly worked/learned together 4) while not completely uncommon, we stayed a full extra day in Zapotillo, thus with little agenda and more opportunity to visit and explore.

Joaquim, Sebastian, me – cool shady stream for a little r+r

Checking out a milpa trial with workmate Lorena

 

 

 

 

 

 

My preferred mode of travel….hangin`on!

For me, definitely the highlight was helping to bring together members from the community group and the students for a time of building garden beds, planting vegetables and a demonstration on how to make good compost. As is common in most places, the youth were a bit shy at the beginning to get involved, but little by little they became more interested and committed to do the necessary work, even building 2 more garden beds on their own later that same day! For me personally, I especially appreciated the approach of the community group members, who carefully and humbly passed on some of their knowledge they have accumulated over many years of caring for the land.  As I recall some of my work back in Canada (and it applies here too), most if not all folks that hold to the value of interacting with the creation in a way that reflects our mandate given in the book of Genesis, also carry a strong desire to pass this value on to the next generation.  The idea of connecting these two sources of community life (school, and community group), now germinated, will hopefully continue to grow and one day produce much fruit in the sense of stronger social ties amongst generations, and a collective appreciation for their land alongside a commitment to maintaining its health and integrity.

Getting started….no fingers lost in the making of this photo!

Community group members describing their “abonos” (composts)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Planting seeds…and planting ideas

Group photo…Zapotillo secondary school, community group and INESIN staff

 

 

 

 

 

 

Similar to most of my blog posts, this one has been strung together over a week of occassional writing.  As a further note to the paragraph above, tonight I attended a forum put on by an organization called Otros Mundos, where our friend and MCC colleague, Miriam Harder, is seconded part time.  In a nutshell, the forum is being held to raise public awareness and provide a vocal avenue for local communities of the reality of REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation), a United Nations International Programme designed to help in the “development” of “lesser-developed nations”, while allowing the continued growth (and emissions) of large industrial economies via mitigation of plantation-forest development in the lesser-developed nations.  Perhaps on paper, in theory, this type of programme could be mutually beneficial – but the stark reality we hear and see in Chiapas is the contrary…more and more families are driven off their land (for reasons such as expropriation of land, deception, land degradation, etc) without another means of survival, and typcially without the attention of government officials.  Maybe I`ll delve into this topic further at a later date, but for now I will just say that, due to our globalized context and often un-noticed interconnectedness, I am left wondering what role do we have (or need to have), we who live in privilege and much comfort, and/or we who profess a faith that compels us to live and walk humbly, to love, and to act with justice and mercy. What does this look like, at an individual and family level, and also if applied at a grand scale? May our informed responses be a more welcome type of climate change.

 

 

Posted in September 2012 | 1 Comment

Ezra’s New School

First Day of Pre-esolar & Primaria

“El Arbol de Viento”   –                               The Windy Tree

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While the kids are in many ways attending the same school as last year, both changes of location and ages have meant a new experience for the both of them.  The post will focus on introducing to you Ezra’s School, still supported by the foundation “Yirtrak” but now called “Colectivo: Semillas de Luz” – Collective: Seeds of Light.

Weekly Schedule

Ezra’s “school” is made up of a collective of 21 kids (ages 6-12) many of them mexican, but also of Australian, Spanish, Israeli, French, German and yes, Canadian background. Each family was able to choose the monthly cost they were able to pay as the school is supported by a system of “padrinos” (godparents, many coming from Spain/Europe) and other supporters of “Yirtrak.” Many of the families are also quite involved in their children’s education at Semillas de Luz – taking part in work projects, regular assemblies, and doing events/activities to gain resources for the school.  One feature that places families in a direct teaching role is the “Taller de Familias” – where parents lead workshops on their areas of interest and expertise! There are 2 European volunteers working at the school this year along with three main workers, Lau, Myriam and Pako (who works part-time with Ezra’s class of 5 kids during the grade 1’s “proyecto”, or project time).  Ezra is doing well – we recognize that one of the challenges of a multi-grade school for Ezra is the need to make new friends with some of the bigger kids.  We hope these friendships are kindled over time. Below are a few more pictures to introduce you to his school and their daily routines.

Morning Welcome/Activity Time

Community Work – Every week Ezra can choose to be in the Kitchen, Garden or Maintenance Group.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ezra’s Group – They will choose a certain project to investigate as they learn, write and read.

Lunch and Recess Time

 

While these pictures highlight his morning routine Monday through Thursday, these days will finish with a different one hour group workshop including music, math laboratory, yoga, art, and whatever other workshop a family brings that week. Friday’s have their own schedule which will largely consist of excursions to different parts of San Cristobal or perhaps even out of town.

Math Workshop

Library – I plan to try to start a reading program as one of the family workshops we offer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The “colectivo” is a unique experience for Ezra and the other kids, not only for its style of education but also in bringing kids of different cultural and socio-economic backgrounds together to try and learn and live peacefully and lovingly together. I find the vision of the school quite exciting, especially in a culture where alternative education opportunities are very few (and most relatively expensive), and governmental schools are quite structured/regimented, and often have large classroom sizes, which doesn’t allow for much creative, diverse or child-focused learning.  However, this group and project is not without its difficulties and struggles.  Please pray for Ezra and all of us as we seek to bring the presence and knowledge of Jesus to this diverse and interesting community.

(While being part of the same project Hilary’s school in a different location which happens to also be where my office is….but more on that later).

Have a good week all,

Jacquie

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Summer 2012 in Canada

For a brief description of our experience continue reading below….for a pictorial look at the places we went and people we saw, follow this link to our “Summer 2012 in Canada” photo album (warning: Rick told me I posted too many pictures, but I couldn’t help myself!).

So what will it be like to go visit Canada after living in Mexico for 20 some months? I had increasingly pondered this question since the calendar turned over to 2012. Now four days after returning to San Cristobal I find myself sorting through pictures, reminiscing of good times…..but also quickly needing to reengage back into our home and life here in Chiapas.  Two worlds….both now familiar, but different; both feeling like home and close to our hearts, but yes far apart in distance.  I remember when we landed in Vancouver, and while walking in the airport Ezra says, “I can’t believe we are in Canada!”. Just a mere five hour flight between D.F. and Vancouver and “bam”, the “Chiapacanadienses”  have returned. I said to Rick on the plane, “I’m glad this is a visit and not our final return, that would have been too short.” My first feelings were how familiar and yet strange so many little things felt, the water bottles being so cold, everyone seemed so tall, and why is everyone speaking English? A few times I started speaking in Spanish to strangers we happened to meet and realized wait…they can’t understand me. I could never quite get over drinking water from the tap, or how quickly and on-demand hot water is available to wash dishes, or how nice it was to take in the view of the surrounding town/country while eating breakfast.  In the end perhaps what struck me most was the ease of things – hopping into your own car, putting dishes in the dishwasher – and the variety of options available whether that be things to eat or snack on, or places to go to play – open and free parks, beaches, pools, playgrounds.

Yes, the Kids had a blast!

And while I know our own families, friends and millions of Canadians have their own real struggles of all kinds, the one word that came to my mind was luxurious – so many of these little things felt quite luxurious.  Yet at the same time I did not feel the need to judge my fellow Canadians – just hope that they fully do appreciate all that so often is available to the majority of who have been born into or chosen to live in Canada.  And the key I felt to really being able to enjoy it is to be content, as the apostle Paul says in Philippians 4:11-13

I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

And so, while it certainly was hard to leave such a fine and wonderful country, along with many of our beloved ones who live there, I also feel very content to return to Mexico. It too is beautiful, it is the place of our home, our friends, its where we have chosen to serve God at this time in life, it is where we are learning much from its people and culture. So thanks Canada, well British Columbia, for a great summer, and thanks Mexico for welcoming us again so openly, we are glad to be back!

Posted in August 2011 | 1 Comment

Should we? Could we? Can we?

I like Dr. Suess – NOT ONLY because I have small children who love to have books read to them early in the morning and before getting all tucked in, AND NOT ONLY because Dr. Seuss himself was a master of playing with words, something I increasingly enjoy, BUT ALSO because the books by Dr. Seuss thrive on the imagination of something greater than the ordinary, or the expected norm.  Who would have thought that the pale green pants with nobody inside them was actually walking around hoping to meet a friend!! Additionally to the creative imaginary element of the story, there`s often a life lesson that gets thrown in free of charge! Remember those Sneetches on the beaches – they eventually understood that, stars or no stars on the belly, they really were all one and the same (and suddenly all a lot poorer too!).

Perhaps you are wondering why on earth I am writing about Dr. Seuss. Can I tie together the literary genius and common sense of Dr. Seuss with a biblical call to be peace-makers in a broken world? A world that is at times fractured along lines that we would assume to be strong…maybe bendable but certainly not breakable.

I am secunded to an MCC partner organization (INESIN), that seeks to build unity and a true peace between and amongst Christian confessions in Chiapas, Mexico.  Yes its sad to see tension, conflict and even violence occur due to misconceptions and deep-seated  historical division in perspectives on faith and life.  But my focus here is not about the unfortunate norm (which we see in every part of the world). I am asking us collectively to think as a child, with Dr. Seuss in hand.

Logo and theme for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, celebrated in Chiapas during the month of May

Recently INESIN celebrated its 15th Anniversary as a civil society organization, and with that came 3 days of celebration, reflection, and motivation to continue the inter-confessional work that has been realized to date (for a summary of that event, see our blog post from mid-May). During those three days I more intently began to ask the question…”are WE (as a whole body of Christ), missing something in God`s kingdom by not venturing outside of our denominational walls (NOT ONLY as individuals, but EQUALLY important as Christian communities)? What could we accomplish, even by focusing a portion of our energies (and/or resources) on building a common, unified (and I suggest, tangible) testimony to Christ`s call to justice and peace.  Undoubtedley I need to clarify that I am not against the concept of a denomination (i.e. confession), which provides its followers a unique perspective on following the way of Christ.  BUT, I will attest that when folks from various confessions come together under a common goal or project, new relationships are born, misconceptions are up-rooted, and the creative imagination of those involved forms richly diverse images (realities) of a new kingdom quite different from our current one……mmmm this reminds me of what Marco saw on Mulberry Street on his way home from school (Dr. Seuss, And to Think That I saw it on Mulberry Street).

I have no proper end to this post, other than to say that I am in the midst of pondering this concept, and thanks to MCC and INESIN, have opportunities to be involved in inter-confessional partnership.  I can “see in my head”, though just a portion, the imagination of family, friends and colleagues who have laid exemplary and tangible pieces for this type of work, and those who have the potential to offer their gifts and abilities to construct much more.  I “see” communities (this includes churches, towns, organizations, etc) in areas where I have lived…..here in Chiapas, in Saskatchewan, and British Columbia – logical and sometimes illogical partnerships that are melded through the creative force of the Spirit.  I also see God`s handiwork, his lasting image, when I see the wonder, creativity and imagination of children…..yes at times engaged in a good round of reading Dr. Seuss.

Posted in June 2012 | 1 Comment

Righteousness, Peacemaking and Advocacy, a bibical reflection

As I continue my search for what it means to be a peacemaker, and what role advocacy has within the realm of peacemaking, I find myself returning to scripture…seeking guidance, seeking for understanding.  A few months back I came across, or was introduced to, two significant and applicable verses. The first, James 3:18 reads: “The seeds of the fruit of righteousness are planted in peace by those who are making peace,” and the second, Psalm 85:10 says, “Loving-kindness and truth have met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other.”  While these verses may not speak directly to the idea of advocacy, my thoughts and reflections related to the biblical concept of righteousness have led me to see a strong connection between the two.

While not neglecting the belief that ultimately it is God who brings his kingdom (as we so pray in the Lord’s prayer), we are also called to seek his kingdom, live righteously, and thus be salt and light in this world.  While a modern definition of righteousness might refer generally to individual uprightness, or living by a set of standards…In biblical usage righteousness is rooted in covenants and relationships. For biblical authors, righteousness is the fulfillment of the terms of a covenant between God and humanity or between humans in the full range of human relationships.[1]

 For example, a description of a righteous person in Psalm 15 includes: speaking truth from one’s heart, not doing wrong to neighbor, fearing the Lord, keeping an oath, lending money without usury and finally, not accepting a bribe against the innocent.

Reflecting personally on the aforementioned biblical description of righteousness, I sense that I have often focused more on a personal, ethical sense of righteousness or justice (another translation of the same Hebrew and Greek word).  As well, perhaps too often I have been overly concerned about fighting for my own rights while turning a blind eye to the abundance of injustices done to others in this world. While the desire to live an upright life is honorable I think it important to ask ourselves if such actions are embedded in a true love for God and neighbor which is a central theme in both the old and new covenants.   After all, that which God requires from us is “to act justly, to love mercy and walk humbly with our God” (Micah 6:8)… again I ask myself, is my righteousness rooted in mercy towards others and walking daily with God?

With this sense of righteousness I return to the first two verses quoted above, both of which involve a key linkage between living righteously and living peacefully.  In the first we understand that godly acts of righteousness/justice are sown in peace by those working for peace. The context of this passage is a description of a godly wisdom, a wisdom comprised of peace-loving, submission, mercy, love and impartiality.  Again all of these words, as we saw with the biblical concept of righteousness, have communal implications.  In this sense righteous living calls us to “ask how God’s Shalom is being inhibited or what obstacles exist for God’s Shalom to be real everywhere in the world.” [2]

 In the second verse, the context of which is a description of the salvation of God, we learn that God’s righteousness is found together with peace.  If we are to have the same understanding of salvation as God we are called to seek and build relationships/communities of love, truth, righteousness and peace. As one author has summarized, generally, the righteous man in Israel was the man who preserved the peace and wholeness of the community, because it was he who [preserved] fulfilled the demands of communal living.[3]

 Beyond these two biblical texts I also continue to be inspired and challenged by Jesus’ example of righteousness and peace building. The following is a quote from Henry Nouwen:

 Jesus…hungers and thirsts for uprightness. He abhors injustice… His whole being yearns for people to treat one another as brothers and sisters, sons and daughters of the same God.  With fervor he proclaims that the way to the Kingdom is not found in saying many prayers or offering many sacrifices but in feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and visiting the sick and the prisoners (see Matt. 25:31-46). He longs for a just world. He wants us to live with the same hunger and thirst.[4]

With these biblical texts and examples in mind I ponder what I have absorbed so far about the meaning and role of advocacy, and offer this basic definition: Understanding the struggles and plight of others, how and why they occur, and from a faith perspective, collectively finding ways to work towards positive change. Or perhaps to put it another way – being an advocate involves hungering and thirsting for people to be treated rightly and/or justly, and taking actions that bring peace to the lives of others.

And so with these reflections on righteousness, peace making and advocacy, I am left with this conclusion: Our righteous God, calls all people to faithfully cling to the ideals and desires he has for his creation, and of utmost importance to him is the need to live lovingly, honestly, and compassionately with our “neighbors”, which to me implies working towards and advocating for the holistic well being (shalom type peace) of us all.

 



[1] Butler, Trent C. Editor, “Entry for ‘RIGHTEOUSNESS”, Holman Bible Dictionary,
http://www.studylight.org/dic/hbd/view.cgi?number=T5354 (April 2012).

[2] “Advocacy: An Invitation to MCC Service Workers,” Rebecca Bartel, April, 2010.

 [3] Art Kratz, “Righteousness in the Old Testament”, http://artkatzministries.org/articles/righteousness-in-the-old-testament/ (April 2012).

 [4] Nouwen, Henry J. “Bread for the Journey: A Daybook of Wisdom and Faith,” (New York: HarperCollins, 1997) entry for May 27.

Posted in May 2012 | 2 Comments

Celebrating 15 Years of Constructing Peace

Greetings all,

Recently the organization with whom I work celebrated its 15th anniversary, and while I am in the process of writing a blog post reflecting on peace-building via inter-denominational cooperation , here`s a really great summary of our celebrations this past weekend, written by MCC SALTer Kelly Miller (thanks Kelly!).  You`ll find the article posted on INESIN`s website (see link below).

INESIN Blog (English)

Peace to you……

 

Posted in May 2012 | Leave a comment

Serving as a Family

Sometimes I`m just plain tired.  Sometimes it seems that the day`s or week`s agenda is a bit too crazy. And sometimes it seems that the sticks, cards, ropes and other play toys just can`t stay in their boxes…….hence there you have it, life as a family, strewn about.  If and when I think more critically about this, I fall to the trap of comparing our normal routines to that of the MCC utopian experience, which I like to describe as combining all the wonderful elements and positive experiences of MCC workers over decades and packaging it up into one family’s 3-year term…….certainly not realistic I know but hey, I`m still prone to dreaming.

HOWEVER, as a family serving with MCC in Chiapas, through our regular routines, conversations, and even one-off experiences, there is a particular dynamic that occurs in serving as a family unit. I deeply appreciate MCC`s vision and willingness to send families as volunteers. Yes it can open doors to understanding a new culture, and yes it closes doors too due to family committments and time constraints. And while in no way am I trying to compare the service of MCC workers who are single to those who are in immediate family situations, I wish to summarize a few thoughts and experiences that have significant meaning for us as a family.  So, in no order of importance, here`s a smattering of  photos and comments that reflect the more sublte side of our time to date as service workers.

Through a broader approach to our specific work assignments:

  • Combining strengths….in this way everyone wins, and we have opportunities to expand our horizons and perspectives.
  • We have to at times do things that could appear as chores, but also could appear as learning opportunities
  • Sometimes we get some spoils!! and enjoy things we didn’t necessarily have to work for!!

At times we all enjoy helping out at Rick's INESIN garden - Rick has developed this space which has allowed INESIN to demonstrate some technical aspects of the community workshops in their own backyard.

An experiment in soap making - perhaps its better to try something yourself first before trying to teach others!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jacquie and the kids joined Rick in one of his communities to do a pizza and banana bread workshop in March.  Only two of the participants had ever tasted pizza – and what an experience for us to bake in a clay oven! In the end we all were able to learn something new.

Hilary loves any and all textures: dirt and sand, flour, sugar, laundry soap, water, scrap of satin cloth etc. etc. Here in Mexico, everyone loves Hilary's green eyes and blond hair!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Through community and church activities

  • Taking part in children’s activities is a fun way to connect with other adults and revive our imaginative side
  • We participate with the masses, in order to identify and better understand a people and culture we did not know before
  • We worship in ways that are familiar in order to feed our spirits and maintain our vision.
  • We try to lend a helping hand where and when needed, and we participate with our communities to help build a more just society and a healthier world.

Students, teachers and parents of Pinguinos school at a local park to video-tape the pre-schoolers yoga routine

We joined the crowd in the nearby barrio to honor Good Friday as we observed a reenactment of the crucifixion of Christ.

 

 

 

 

 

Picnic, roasted meat, stream-hopping.....very natural way to deepen friendships!

Jacquie singing in our church's Easter choir

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Through participation in areas of interest and passion (recently, at a Kid’s Bible Camp)

  • We step out at times to practice leading and facilitating, in an effort to learn, grow, share and contribute.
  • We strive to care for the earth in a way that reflects Biblical values
  • We open our hearts and make friends!

Jacquie leading a morning devotional - "The Heaven's declare the glory of God" - Ps 19:a

Ecology Class - Rick focused on learning about trees, here the kids are measuring out the girth of the largest Mexican tree.

 

 

 

 

 

Hilary is still saying how much she misses her "amigas"

.

Rick also had all the kids make name-tags out of recycled material and the next day adopt a tree

 

 

Posted in April 2012 | 1 Comment

Cuaresma

“Cuaresma” or in English “Lent” came quickly this year, perhaps because I am still learning to think ahead in these 40 some days before Easter.  Living in a Latin American, still predominately Catholic, country has seemed a good time to develop more firmly such traditions in my life and with my  family.

Admittedly I had failed to prepare for lent before it actually arrived and so those first few days following Ash Wednesday (Feb 23) I prayerful considered how to give credence to these liturgical days of the christian calendar.  While I do think the more common tradition of depriving oneself of something cherished during this time has its merits I had wanted instead to add something to my life that might allow God more space to speak to me anew. Perhaps this is due to the book I read last  Lenten season in which the author understands the idea of penance as a time to “to change one’s heart.”

My prayers as to how to utilize this season were clearly answered one night while I washed that day’s dishes.  I had been enjoying listening to a Jon Buller (and other artists) CD labeled “A Hymn Project” on other occasions and returned to it once more .  While listening to a number of well know hymns including “I’d Rather Have Jesus” the simple answer given to me was – Jesus, add Jesus.  I give you two of its’ verses and its’ refrain written by Rhea F. Miller in the 1920’s.

Family Project to Read and Learn from Stories of Jesus
  1. I’d rather have Jesus than silver or gold;
    I’d rather be His than have riches untold;
    I’d rather have Jesus than houses or lands;
    I’d rather be led by His nail-pierced hand

    • Than to be the king of a vast domain
      And be held in sin’s dread sway;
      I’d rather have Jesus than anything
      This world affords today.
  2. I’d rather have Jesus than men’s applause;
    I’d rather be faithful to His dear cause;
    I’d rather have Jesus than worldwide fame;
    I’d rather be true to His holy name.

While I do not negate that Jesus has been an increasing part of my life since I was a child I still desire to grab more a hold of Jesus, to know who he is and how he calls me to follow him, to learn how to live in and give more of his love, and to understand in heart and mind the greatness of his life, death and resurrection.  My hope is that during  these weeks that God will continue to change my heart and allow me to more fully say and live these powerful words, “I’d rather have Jesus than anything This world affords today.”

 

Posted in March 2012 | 2 Comments

Up, down, and around Guatemala

 

After a lengthy hiatus from any form of blog communication, we finally found enough energy and time to put together a smattered reflection of some of what has kept us on our toes and out of the blog world for the past 6 weeks.  During this time we experienced two significant events that we had either known about or dreamed of…..interestingly both occurred in Guatemala! I (Rick) rang in the New Year with my good friend Rogelio by hiking up Volcan Tacanà, a non-technical climb that reaches just over 4000 m.  While we left the trailhead in Mexico, our route (surprise!) took us over the border into Guatemala  for the remainder of the ascent…an enjoyable border crossing without a single request for documentation!  Then, about 10 days later, along with Kelly and Miriam (MCCers here in San Cristobal), our family travelled to Santiago Atitlàn (central Guatemala) to participate in a week-long MCC regional retreat (Mexico and central American countries). Whether it was travelling, hiking, retreating, or a host of other activities in which we were engaged, it gave us an opportunity to learn more about our southern nieghbours and similar culture (Maya) with distinct regional characteristics.

Visiting Guatemala for the first time left me with a couple of impressions……………………….. 1) while I only experienced limited geography of the entire country, the region around Tacanà as well as the route through the highlands to Lago Atitlàn could be described as either a mountain bikers dream, or a road-builders nightmare.  The ruggedness of the terrain was impressive, yet not as much as the local folks who navigate the trails and roads daily on foot, by donkey, bicycle or truck.  As Rogelio and I often struggled to catch our breath due to the altitude and the ascent, we would meet local folks (who live on the mountain) going up and down with the same ease that one walks to the nearest tortilleria on a Sunday afternoon.  Our trip to  Santiago Atitlàn also impressed upon me the resourcefulness and resilience of the Guatemalan people, many for whom life on rugged, only somewhat arable land was not their choice, having been forced off their fertile homelands due to civil war, and government and big business interests.

2) colour colour everywhere!  The persistence of Indigenous highland culture was very evident, as much perhaps if not more common than here in Chiapas.  Whether it was the finely woven dress of both the women and men in town, or the tarps that offered a night`s shelter in the crater of Tacanà, vivid colours were commonplace.  In terms of language, certainly the local Mayan dialect (sorry I forget how its spelled) was more commonly spoken, with fewer Spanish-speaking folks.  And while the food was very good at our retreat location, I did miss the variety of salsas and range of flavours that I have become accustomed to here in Mexico.  We also noted that we are a tad spoiled in San Cristobal, with convenience stores on nearly every block that carry a wide range of food and, well, conveniences! – this was not the case in Santiago Atitlàn.   But not to complain…..because I can say without a doubt that the beans (with a bit of onion too) and tortillas that was served on a small plateau on Tacanà at 13,000 ft  was some of the best and most needed nourishment I can recall. 

Rugged terrain of the Guatemalan highlands seen from mid-way up Tacanà

Local textiles on display in Santiago Atitlàn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fresh tortillas and beans at 13,000 ft? Buen provecho!

Not the type of volcanic crater I was expecting....

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Our MCC retreat was focused on exploring the topic of Life and Work in a context of violence.  Perhaps like many areas of the world, Latin America has its spectrum of friendly, hospitable people and communities, and also individuals and regions where peace and security are hard to come by.  There are lots of stats, there are lots of stories, both positive and negative, but to share these is not my purpose for this post.  However, for really enlightening and stimulating reading on the latin american context, I encourage you to bookmark and regulary read the official MCC Latin America Advocacy blog, at lacaadvocacy.wordpress.com – recently one of the MCC workers from Guatemala posted a well-written summary of much of the content of our retreat.I want to share a more personal (family) perspective.  It was very good to connect with MCCers who are working in similar contexts (including service workers that have small children).  It was good to connect with MCCers who are from Canada, the USA, Colombia, Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Honduras, and Costa Rica….MCC has a truly global family of workers, congregations and constituents.  We were reminded of our work that has taught us that those who are often called “poor” have an immense resiliency to live in the midst of conflict.  We visited an MCC project that provided much needed relief and support for infrastructure development after Hurricane Stan devasted parts of the Santiago Atitlàn area in 2005 – and continues to support a group of families focused on community development initiatives. We were richly challenged by Latin America Director Daryl Yoder-Bontrager to be very conscious of the power dynamics that exist in the work MCC does (do we still call it “development”?), and to strive to minimize these dynamics by identifying with others in solidarity first and foremost as God`s children.  Daryl left us a short poem written by Jorge Luis Borges that speaks to the delicate nature of constructing just relationships……..
 
Y Uno Aprende                                                                                                                     
Despues de un tiempo, uno aprende la sutil diferencia entre sostener una mano, y encadenar un alma….
 
And One Learns                                                                                                                          
After a time, one learns the subtle difference between supporting a hand, and enchaining a soul….      
 

Team MCC Mexico - January 2012

Ricardo and David (Nicaragua), nervously joking about going cliff diving

 

 
 

 

 

 

 

While on a project tour, Ez and Hils couldn`t help but add to their collection of volcanic rocks that float!

Jacquie with one of the daughters of a family who is part of the MCC-supported cooperative in Santiago Atitlàn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nuff said….may we share His peace within our communities……..

Lago Atitlàn, from Panajachel looking south

 

 

Posted in January 2012 | 1 Comment

Christmas 2011

Well with the arrival of December 1st we began the advent season. One special memory of this time was the day our family acted out the Christmas story complete with Shepherds, Angels, Mary, Joseph and the Wise-men. Magically at the right moment a ray of light shone in the window…

Our Little Shepherd Girl

And suddenly there was an Angel...

During these days we also joined in the festivities of the Dia de La Virgin de Guadelupe on December 12th.

Iglesia de Guadelupe

Rides to Celebrate Dia de La Virgin de Guadelupe

This, our second Christmas in Mexico, we felt much more settled and enjoyed many good times with friends, giving small gifts to neighbors, had celebrations at church,  INESIN, a “Posada” at Pinguinos, and hosted a playgroup Christmas party -we are so thankful for the community God has provided for us here in San Cristobal. Pray with us as we continue to allow God to work in and through us to build relationships, serve in the name of Christ, and walk “into the way of peace” (Luke 2:79).

Celebrating our 2nd Christmas in Mexico

Christmas Party at INESIN

And then another set of festivities began with the arrival of the Gingras family from Vernon, BC – Robere, Michele, Luke, Caitlin and Oliver (who celebrated his 3rd Bday Mexican style).

The Gingras' Travel to Mexico

It was great to be able to reunite with one of my sisters after more than a year…we visited, shopped, laughed and yes when she left we cried.

They rented a house close by in the barrio of El Cerrillo and we spent much of the 10 days together walking around San Cristobal, playing at the cancha (bball courts), trips to San Juan Chamula and Rancho Nuevo, but perhaps more importantly simply visited in our homes and enjoyed good mexican food!

11 am - gotta have that pan dulce

Christmas Day shoot-around

We all celebrated a memorable Christmas Eve on the 23rd at our church where Jacquie sang in the choir.

Noche de Paz, noche de amor, todo duerme en derredor; entre los astors que esparcen su luz bella, anunciando el ninito Jesus, brilla la estrella de paz, brilla la estrella de paz.

For the 24th we headed out to Rancho Nuevo and took in caves, horseback riding, the big slide, some good eats, and the ladies snuck in a bit more Christmas shopping.

Oliver´s First Love - Mango

Weeeee!

Christmas Eve we took some time to sit around the tree to share the Christmas story, exchange gifts and in good Mexican style headed out to the street to set off some firecrackers.  While I didn’t include a picture to prove it, we also worked hard Christmas day to put together a yummy Turkey dinner.

Thanks for the gift Cuz

Everyone got into the Firecracker Action

Earlier in the week we went on a tour of Pinguinos – a great experience for all but especially interesting for the big cousins and Robere (a teacher) to see a very different school setting.

Visiting Pinguinos

For our last couple of days we headed to lower altitude and even hotter sun to enjoy two really relaxing days together in Tuxtla, including a trip to Zoomat, a zoo dedicated completely to flora and fauna of Chiapas.

Poolside in Tuxtla

the boys checking out the iguana

Walking at the Zoo with Auntie

Yes, it was a full and wonderful time together, great for siblings and cousins to have time to play and reconnect and for the Gingras to see life here in San Cristobal.

Day Hike at Moxviquil

 

Posted in December 2011 | Leave a comment