ENCUENTRO! When community groups gather…..

There is fellowship…..friendships are born….much food is prepared with much care….culture and customs are shared….laughter and learning come naturally….”first-fruits” are offered….music abounds…..others pass by with curiosity…..guests leave with full hearts and full stomachs…..and families from the hosting group collapse into hammocks……

While the lines above could be representative of many types of gatherings that occur, these are written specifically to describe the happenings of the 2011 Encuentro Intercomunitario that took place in Pablo L Sidar November 22-25.  Participants from all 7 community groups were present for 3 full days of workshops, presentations, games, retreat, and convivencia, that is, fellowship.  The work (MCC project) I am involved in through INESIN values the mutual encouragement and capacity building that takes place when members of like-minded groups come together for shared learning. For folks like myself, working with an organization accompanying these groups, an encuentro such as this also offers a unique perspective into how our work takes a particular shape in each community.

Participants seated around the traditional Mayan offering

Only whole foods here! Fresh tamales eaten later that day as we relaxed by the river










What happened during the three days?

Day 0 – along with an INESIN counterpart, I drove approx. 500 kilos of food in a rental car with little suspension, crossing approx. 85 topes (speedbumps) over a 6-hour route, and then back to San Cristobal = s.t.r.e.s.s.f.u.l.

Day 1 – everyone arrived, presentations of each community, short films on agroecology, followed by marimba and dancing

Day 2 – working sessions on a) the “fruit” or impact of this project, b) historical and current trends in land tenure/management, and the pressures communities and campesinos are facing today, and c) peace-building via consensus decision-making, followed by marimba and dancing

Day 3 – retreat, games and food along a forested stream, followed by workshops on a) SOIL and WATER conservation, and b) PIZZA via CLAY OVEN, then marimba and dancing

Perhaps you noticed the trend there…yes everyone was elated that the families from San Jose Las Palmas came out with their Guatemalan marimba.  It served as a wonderful accompaniment to all the gathering, laughing, and yes the dancing!

Prepping the elote and enjoying the sights and sounds of a big picnic stream-side

Don Ciro and Mariano (and 4 others not shown) soothing the crowd with a rendition of Muñeca Viejo










One of the most memorable moments of the Encuentro happened the morning of the 25th, during the closing time, when all the bounty (harvest, first-fruits, etc) of the ofrenda was shared amongst all participants.  First, three women elders from the host group were invited to divide and hand out all that had been offered – and they made sure that participants were each receiving a portion of the “fruits” that are not so common to their own region (remember Chiapas has hot and cool regions with differing native foods).  Many folks then offered what they could in terms of bags and boxes so all had something to carry home their produce. To me it simply seemed that in the spirit of genorosity the produce, the first-fruits, had been mulitplied – each person it seemed was well-loaded, even over-loaded with gifts, one to another.

Sharing the "ofrenda" amongst all

And then it was over, and those of us from INESIN along with the families from Pablo L Sidar took some time to rest, and reflect.  I am grateful to the group from Pablo for all the work they did, and for the resources provided by MCC and Centro de Estudios Ecumenicos (Mexico City) to make this event possible.

On a final note, I`ll bet that if you happen to pass through Pablo L Sidar (or a certain number of other communities in Chiapas) on the weekend, you may see some signs that say “Se Vende Pizza” (pizza for sale)!

I simply love seeing all this dough! We had a major pizza production using a traditional clay oven.

Pizza was a big hit....thus my workmate Sandra had to ensure the portions are all evened out!









Posted in December 2011 | 1 Comment

On Being a “Service” Worker

This post is based on a portion of a letter written to share with our home church congregation in Saskatoon, SK.

One general theme that has seemed prominent and relevant to me in these past months is the several ways in which we are learning about service – appropriate since our title with MCC is “service worker.” I am reminded of the passage from Mark 10:42-44 – in which Jesus teaches his disciples to not abuse the power they are given but instead to be a servant of all. During our MCC training time in Akron we talked much about the reality of the power we inherently may have due to our race, gender, economic background, opportunity for education, nationality etc. etc….and while we can do little to change this reality we can do much about how we use this power we possess.  We do well to learn from the example of Jesus, as the gospel of Mark testifies, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (10:45).

Pinguinos Work Day

In some ways coming into Mexico with much Spanish to learn has been a natural way for me to learn about service as I have been more limited in my capacity to speak or to take a more assertive role in my work or other life situations. This reality has also forced me to more often sit and simply listen to others – here I really need to focus on understanding before I can speak! While admittedly frustrating at time, I’m realizing anew how important simply listening can be in developing a servant attitude. Again our MCC training time reminded us we are not here simply to be givers of our resources, as if we have no needs or things to learn ourselves. Instead, we are here to walk alongside others, to listen to their visions and dreams of peace and justice, and then perhaps offer our skills and abilities in ways that empower them to reach these goals.

While we can learn from positive examples we can also learn from negative examples of what it means serve. I am continuing to learn that Mexican/Latin American history is rich in stories of foreigners coming to this land, believing they have the answers and ability to develop/enrich/better the lives of the people already present. Whether that be Spanish conquistadors, some missionaries/development agencies, or foreign government intervention…all seem, at times, to disrespect the voice of the people, give little credence to listening/learning/serving and seem fixated instead on control, power and superiority. While some of these groups obviously do not have the aim to “help” the Mexican people. Often even those of us coming with good intentions struggle to get past our own agenda or ideas of how we may want to give (and receive), and if so, might fail to empower those we have come to serve.

Lastly, I am realizing that many of my MCC colleagues or co-workers come with much more experience or education in living cross-culturally, working in some type of peace, justice, or development work and speak more Spanish than I. So I find myself needing to be patient with myself, my abilities, and looking for meaningful ways I can contribute that more than often are not in a leadership role (not that leadership does or should negate being a servant). Yet, what I am called to is faithfulness in serving God, my family and my community as 1 Peter 4:10 says: “As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” While wanting to share some more of my experiences with you all, I also hope that my reflections on this aspect of my time here in Mexico can be an encouragement to you all as you continue to serve each other, in your families, in your church, in your work and in your communities.

Posted in November 2011 | Leave a comment

Photo Gallery Update

Well after 6 months of failing to update our photo gallery I decided to commit some time yesterday and today and have added over 50 photos from April to these past weeks.  I hope you enjoy seeing different aspects of our life here in San Cristobal, although you may notice an absence of Rick’s work photos, which he’d rather display in his blog posts in order to do more justice in providing the context of photos of life in rural communities.  Our pictures have come full circle as we have now completed one year in Mexico – so as you peruse the main photo gallery (not the subset of pictures under the heading San Cristobal de las Casas) you will know you have come to the end of my updates when you reach the one of a carved pumpkin.

Enjoy! Jacquie

Posted in November 2011 | 3 Comments

Peace: A Gift to be Received

Here begins a post Jacquie wrote for the MCC Latin America Advocacy Blog – to finish reading it follow this link:

Are we for peace? Are we at peace? These are good questions. Henri Nouwen begins a work entitled A Spirituality of Peacemaking by quoting a psalmist: “Long enough I have been dwelling with those who hate peace. I am for peace, but when I speak, they are for fighting” (Psalm 120:6-7).

As an MCC volunteer serving in MexicoI admit that I am still growing in my sense of what it means to be someone who advocates for peace….

Posted in October 2011 | Leave a comment

Grandpa Tilitzky

I write this post in memory of my Grandpa Abram Tilitzky who passed away last Tuesday, October 4th in Abbotsford, BC, Canada at the age of 91.  Grandpa T was born in Russia and moved to Canada at the age of 5, a story not uncommon among those of Mennonite cultural heritage.  He met my grandma at 19 and they were married for 67 years! He was a great businessman and throughout life remained committed to serving the church and his community.  Even though life was not always easy for Grandpa, he was a faithful follower of Christ, and was at much peace to pass from this life and be with his heavenly Father. Although I did not return to Canada for his funeral, thanks to technology and my sister Michele I have been able to listen to various audio and video clips of family gatherings and the service that took place this past Tuesday, as well as have some memorable phone conversations with my Grandma.  As I think back on my own memories and listen to those of my uncles, aunts and cousins, my heart is enriched by the love my Grandpa had for his family and others as well as the deep knowledge he had of God’s love.

Grandpa T, Hilary, Jacquie and Ezra - Summer 2009

While I did miss sharing memories with my larger family, I was thankful for my own moments when I took time to remember, to think, to pray, to sing, to talk to my children about hope and the new heaven and earth. In particular I was drawn back to a portion of scripture in 1 Corinthians that was an encouragement to me  a few years ago when a good friend died tragically. In Chapter 15 Paul focuses on the truth and importance of the resurrection.  While there is an interesting development of thought regarding past and future resurrections what I find most inspiring is the last verse, which highlights Paul’s conclusions about where does all this talk leave us, in other words what are we to do in light of the hope of resurrection? I quote: “Stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain” (1 Cor 15: 58).   These words became my prayers for all of my Grandpa’s family this past Tuesday as they met together remembering him and I sat in that little Mexican church far away in body but not in spirit.

I was also thankful for God’s providence in having chances to both hear and sing one of my Grandpa’s favorite songs in these past days – How Great Thou Art. In particular the fourth stanza brings much emotion and so I quote it below in the way I hear it here:

Cuando el Señor me llame a su presencia, al dulce hogar, al cielo de esplendor, le adoraré cantando la gradeza de su poder y su infinito amor.

As a way to share a more personal memory of my Grandpa T I leave you with a tribute I wrote and which my father in Canada read for me during a family sharing time last week.

This past week, perhaps like you, I have been pondering the significance of Grandpa’s passing, the change it means for us and especially for Grandma and also to some extent the sadness I feel in not being able to be with you all today. In this midst of these thoughts I remain thankful for the grand gift of eternal life Grandpa is experiencing now more fully and smaller spiritual gifts such as me hearing How Great Thou Art in the street here in Mexico the morning of Grandpa’s passing. I have had some good times remembering Grandpa this past week – as a child Grandpa and Grandma’s house was always a loving and fun place to come home for holidays, especially Christmas, and since we didn’t live in the same town visits from Grandpa and Grandma were even more special, even if it meant them telling us our rabbit had died or giving us strawberry flavoured medicine. One thing I also knew about Grandpa is that he was praying for us and especially in latter years we could count on those special phone calls where we heard his wonderful voice along with Grandma’s wishing us a happy birthday. I also am so thankful for the love and generosity he showed to my husband and children and we all remember fondly those good breakfast’s together at De Dutch. For all of these memories and more – Grandpa, I say thank you, thank you especially for your faithfulness to God, to your wife, your family and to me, your granddaughter. We love you and will miss you.

Jacqueline Leigh Block, October 8th, 2011




Posted in October 2011 | 2 Comments

El Otro Lado

“We crossed through the desert….its three days walk, and all you bring is 3 gallons of water, and your money to pay the coyote…..I lived in Phoenix for 3 years, doing landscaping, and had a really good time – some people however, had bad feelings toward Mexicans, especially when John McCain lost the election….I worked for 7 years in Playa del Carmen doing construction, the pay is good, even in American dollars…..my husband left for the US 4 years ago, and last year told me he had gotten married out there, now I am left to care for our 2 little girls alone……the Guatemalans that come make it hard for Mexicans to to find good work in this area, because they work for vey little pay…….its hard for all of us in the family to have Ricardo back home, he doesn`t want to work with his dad anymore, and has already spent all the money he earned in the US…….

The phrases above are translations of the many pieces of conversations regarding migration I have in the communities where we work (and often via our travels enroute).  Understanding the issues within and around migration is complex homework, and little by little I see another facet of a social force that has shaped this state significantly, and certainly the entire country.

Recently I attended a 2-day workshop at INESIN on the issue of migration in Chiapas – I appreciated learning from the perspectives of those who have worked supporting migrants en route, the folks who are working from a human rights perspective, the pastors who support the families that stay behind, and of course the voices of those who have migrated in the past, and have returned back home. To talk of migration in Chiapas means not only those that leave to go to “El Otro Lado” (The Other Side, meaning the USA), but it also entails Chiapanecans who migrate internally in Mexico in search of work (i.e. Maya Riviera), the stream of migrants from South and Central America who use Chiapas as a gateway into Mexico (and the coyote system) to reach the US; and migration here also means the Guatemalans who migrate seasonally along the frontier to work in the corn fields and other manual labour jobs. To give you a sense of the scale of out-migration in the state, there are currently more than 400,000 Chiapanecans living in the US.  Another sobering stat shared at the meeting was that there are more than 600 Guatemalan children under the age of 12 living on the streets in Tapachula, a city in southern Chiapas bordering Guatemala.  For further informative reading on issues such as migration and other hot topics that LINK the concerns of Latin Americans with the lives of Canadians and US citizens, please refer to the MCC Latin America Advocacy blog, at http://lacaadvocacy.wordpress.com/2011/08/07/voices-from-the-americas-a-friend-to-migrant-women-caught-in-the-sex-trade/

Hence the issue of migration in Chiapas is very real, very complicated, and very ripe for illegal (and immoral) profitting via abuse, trafficking, and extortion of men, women and children.  The workshop included two films representing the plight and vulnerability of migrants, which was an eye opener for me, to grasp a sense of the level of organized crime that exists for the purpose of exploiting migrants.

We also discussed the realities faced by families whose fathers, sons, brothers, and increasingly mothers and daughters, are leaving to find work, to find a more “prosperous” life, far far away from home.  If and when these family members return, often after several years, their acceptance back into their home communities is often very difficult – they come home with different ideas, values, practices.  Often they come home with more money, and while this is typically used in building equity (renovated home, or start of a business), it can also act as a wedge within the family.  Finally, we spent time thinking through what it means to be a migrant settling in a new land, and the challenges that exist, not so much the practical, daily living challenges, but moreso the cultural identity challenges that each person must navigate to attain a balance between what they keep and hold from back home, and what they embrace and adopt in their new home.

Quick note on the photos – I have taken all of them, none are of current migrants, or actual migration in process – the pics simply illustrate people on the move, and a bit about their context.

Leaving their beloved "milpas" (corn fields)

Leaving their families, their communities










Wonderful to see youth bucking the trend and developing leadership skills in their communities

Many candles lit in vigil for those far off, or whereabouts unknown








So, all during this workshop I couldn`t help but ponder….”I am a grandson of immigrants, who also migrated, this time due to social upheaval in Russia nearly 100 years ago”.  What was migration like for Mennonites at that time?  Were the dangers similar, was there corruption and exploitation?  What has changed?  I also like to ask, in a retrospective way….Who helped us years ago (as mennonites), and why?  I think the answer to that question can be a reminder that as settled and naturalised Canadians, we would do well to maintain a conciousness to consider those who are in a similar or perhaps even more difficult (dangerous?) situation.   One example that I am proud to highlight is the work being done through MCC Saskatchewan with committed families from the Zoar Mennonite Church and other families in my hometown of Waldheim, SK, where Colombian refugee families have settled and I believe there may be more to arrive.  I encourage them all to keep up their work in helping families displaced from their homes due to conflict and violence find another new, different, but equally blessed life in a new land.

In closing I`d simply like to reinforce that through our experience working with MCC, we begin to understand the complexities of what migration entails, including ourselves in a historical way (and currently as Canadian MCCers in Mexico!).  We look forward to learning and engaging more in the realities of our brothers and sisters here in Chiapas.


Posted in September 2011 | 1 Comment

Our Days at Pinguinos

A Pinguinos Community Excursion

Well the kids and I (Jacquie) have started our days back at Pinguinos this week. I’m not sure if I have ever done a good job of explaining this place where the kids are learning/playing and I am volunteering. Pinguinos (aka Penguins) is an alternative/holistic school for children ages 18 mos. thru grade 5 which is a part of a Integral Community Development Center run by an organization called Yirtrak.  (Read that again and hopefully it can make some sense.)  The school is quite multicultural and strives to have kids from a variety of socio-economic backgrounds learn together in efforts to  bring equality and peace in a unjust society. This is done in part through the financial support of madrinos/padrinos whose contributions allow for scholarships to be given to about 12-15 of the 55 (or so) students.  The school is open 8 hours each weekday which is very rare in San Cristobal and allows single mothers/families to have a good and loving environment to bring their children and still work to support their families. The teachers and workers themselves are also quite diverse coming from Mexico, Spain, France, Italy etc. and bringing with them lots of good innovation and experience in education and in what Pinguinos calls “Playful Training Methodologies.” In the 7 years since the school started they have developed their own curriculum gleaning ideas from other alternative schools such as Waldorf, Montessori, etc. This developing curriculum guides their formats, teachings and evaluations as they seek to develop the whole child.  Words which seem foundational to their philosophy include: Love and Respect (of Diversity), Freedom, Culture of Peace, and Gender Equality, Sustainability and as a whole the community practices and desires to teach the children principles of Permaculture (follow link to learn more).  While Pinguinos is the key to the Community Center the organization does and continues to look for ways to provide holistic development for all the families and workers/volunteers and others who want to be involved through workshops and community events and also provides extra support and programs for the mothers/families in vulnerable situations whose children attend the school.  The desires and dreams of the school/community are lofty and like any place ideas are not always lived out perfectly, but as I have said many a time … it is a very good place for us to be.

So that is my more formal introduction….but what is it like to be at Pinguinos on a daily basis? And what have I been doing at the school as a volunteer? Well words that first come to mind from a Canadian MCCer perceptive are: organic, alternative, loving, simple, fun, resourceful, creative, spiritual (perhaps more on this at another time) and challenging (after all this is a new community where for the most part Spanish is spoken).

El Pasillo - Corridor

We as a threesome are always warmly welcomed with many buenas dias, como estan? and kisses and hugs to go with these greeting words when we come each day at 9 am. The day starts off sometimes as an entire community in a circular assembly or other times just in the kids individual classes with a time of singing songs, talking about how the children are feeling and welcoming each child by name.  Ezra and Hilary’s classes both also have a simple “breakfast” time and a fruit time throughout their day which goes until 2 pm.  Other times in their days may include story telling, crafts, yoga, physical education, kitchen workshop, playing with games, dance, regletas (a way to play and introduce math concepts), cleaning their class, working in the garden, and yes free time to just run, play and swing!

"Cooking Class"

One of the methodologies at the school is to revolve some of their daily activities around a certain project for several weeks at a time. For example last year Ezra’s class studied both Birds and then Animals of

Ezra's Class

the Sea which meant that many of the stories times and crafts included something related to this underlying topic.  Ezra also has homework some weekends – this weekend we need to decorate his own hanger to hang up this belongings! While Hilary happens to be in Ezra’s preescholar class of 15 students (ages 3-6) for the next six weeks she typically is in her maternal class (ages 18 mos. to 3 years)  with about 6-10 little ones which she attends the days I am volunteering.  Her activities are somewhat similar but also simpler and include time for more basic life skills We have been blessed as their teachers Claris, Ester, Pilar, Marie and others demonstrate incredible love, patience, care and creativity in working with them individually and in their groups.

Ezra and Ester

While both of the kids are understanding most of the Spanish in their classes speaking in Spanish whether that is in play or in response to a teachers questions still is not very easy.

You can maybe see from some of the pictures that the school really tries to make good use of the materials they have whether that’s shown through the building structures or just in the more simple supplies the teachers have in their classrooms.

Jardin aka Playground

When Rick’s brother Trace (a teacher in Canada) visited this past July he commented that its amazing how teachers can really do a good job of teaching even without so many more up to date supplies and technologies but perhaps needing at times a bit more creativity (at least that is how I recall his general statement).  Then again I would also add that it definitely seems the children here in Mexico are much less accustomed to being stimulated at the pace and with the diversity that occurs back in Canada.

In regards to my involvement – as a part time volunteer I am going to the school roughly three mornings a week (9-2) and while my job description focuses on administrative help I have appreciated the openness by MCC and Pinguinos to adjust, learn, observe and grow into my roll.  Last year I was helping  to develop a new administrative plan and I also did a variety of tasks to help organize spaces in the school, prepare report cards, care for children and build relationships with other workers/parents.  While last week we helped clean and paint the school these next weeks I am working on organizing the small schools library while also building relationships with other member of the team (a group of about 20) and helping the kids adjust to being back at school.  I am thankful that slowly my conversations in Spanish come a bit more easily (ugh still so much more to learn) and I’m learning to be more bold in connecting with others and be proactive in finding my place within the team of workers. Again, the work I am doing is not lofty, but I am thankful for a good place to serve, learn together, build relationships, and care for children in a educational place which is striving to create a greater sense of peace and justice.

So there you go … perhaps a bit too wordy but I wanted to try to provide a good picture of our days at Pinguinos.

Posted in August 2011 | 2 Comments

What we hope will be said in 20 years…..

Over the past few months I have become particularly fond of the community group in Pablo L Sidar (or PLS for short), a community of about 7,000 people on the leeward side of the Sierra Madre mountains in southern Chiapas.  The group consists of 20 families, 5 of which come from another small village about an hour`s walk from PLS.  Several characteristics (or norms) of the group impress me…one is definitely thier committment to monthly meetings – our time together has that flavour of “quality time” that is evident when people have been intentional in planning both agenda and logistics.  The group is also a wonderful example of progressive social development; with Catholics, Baptists, Pentecostals and Presbyterians all coming together, under the banner of Christ and his call to love our neighbour, to strive for healtheir families and community relationships, and a life in closer communion with the gifts of creation.  Personally I can say I feel well “adopted” here, and can easily wander about getting to know others in the community (I have begun playing basketball there in the evenings when I am around).

A few months ago, my colleague and I did a short presentation on the various facets of “reforestation” (many campesinos think it means that government agencies simply want to plant-over your cornfields with trees).  The follwing month when we visited PLS the group had decided its community had some issues/opportunities for a reforestation project – in particular to reforest the area around a local primary well to give more shade and improve water quality.  After presenting their ideas to the local comisario (town council), an agreement was established that the comisario would put funds and labour in to erect a fence around the water source, while the community group would be in charge of the design and labour in planting the trees.  The trees were donated through a state government program, along with other trees donated by one of the community group members who propagates all kinds of seedlings.  In all there were about 230 trees to plant throughout an area approximately 1 hectare. Once all the trees arrived the group notified me and we made plans for a date at the end of July.  It was a wonderful experience joining the group in their furtherance of community leadership and vision.  My mostly-office-hands enjoyed the pain of blisters through that day….and I never downed my pozol (a refreshing corn drink) so fast.

Eloina Espinoza Cruz holding the "Primaveral" seedlings that will one day provide shade and protection to the water well

Primary water well and fenced area at Pablo L Sidar







Jorge Morales showing one of 20 2-yr old guaya seedlings that were planted

Isaias Roblero de Leon and Juan Wanerjas Gonzalez Galvez enjoying the walk back into town










As we were resting in the shade after completing the work, I asked the group if they could respond to a couple of questions I had been thinking about, which were…1) what did folks in PLS say 3 years ago about your group, and what do they say now?, and 2) how do YOU feel about the work of your group?  I listened and tried to absorb and understand all I could for the next 45 minutes…I was disappointed I had not brought a recorder in order to better capture their thoughts and emotions. In a nutshell here, while their still are naysayers in the community, many including the comisario have taken notice of what this group is doing.  Another common response was that the new generation of landowners and farmers are very complicit to apply a heavy agro-industrial approach in their method of production.  My comment on this……while yields can be very good (meaning cash), planting corn year after year with high chemical inputs takes its toll on land quality.

It was very clear to me through this group conversation that their development and capacity to create change is an important process that MCC strives to support. They have become advocates in their community, even in their region (they are also helping to replicate a similar community group in a town nearby)…..advocates for a cleaner, healthier, more peaceful and less-divided community.  My hope and prayer is that in 20 years many in this town will speak of the impact that this group made over the years, in terms of how land is managed, and how a deeper level of understanding and peace was reached amongst the various Christian confessions in Pablo L Sidar.


While their presence is more rare these days, the Ceiba tree, standing tall and elegant, still holds much cultural significance.


Posted in August 2011 | 4 Comments

Summer time….family gathering

There is a sweet sense of summer that we Canadians feel each year, come late June and early July.  Get outdoors, go on vacation, soak up the sun (albeit nowadays with SPF 1000!), and of course see the relatives (especially for us mennonites).  This July, for us at least, has been like tasting a tamarindo treat for the first time….sweet, but different.  Our first summer having kids out of school, first summer in Chiapas (we were pleasantly surprised by the recent 2 week spell of warmer, drier weather), and a nearly month-long visit from my brother Trace and his wife Tracey and their children Parker, Carter, and Kaci.

I am not sure if I can express via blog how meaningful their visit was to us.  Time for us to reunite over food and drink, time for the cousins to play, time for contributing hands-on work to our assignment, time for us all to explore new places in Chiapas, time for laughter over mis-pronounciations, time for sharing and learning more of each other (and this night after they have left, time for sadness-in-the-moment and also joyful reflection).  In particular I want to acknowledge all that their family did during their time to bless the places where we work – bringing donated items from Canada to Pinguinos school, and spending 6 half-days working at INESIN in a variety of maintenance/improvement jobs, (things like re-painting walls and staining window frames, developing a new garden so INESIN can eat more home-grown food, bagging seeds for my trips to the communities, and even doing a baking workshop with Jacquie). As described by INESIN staff, La Familia Block showed a spirit of commitment, hard work and friendship that was most evident.  A few pictures below show some of the results of their hard work at INESIN.

Tracey and Camila (student at Pinguinos school) enjoying play time

Trace (now known as Santiago) re-furbishing window frames at INESIN







Kaci baking muffins at INESIN

Working hard to get all the grass out for another garden bed (queen size)







Not all was work though, we had time for playing and exploring. A few of our traveling highlights included a day-trip to Chiflon, Tenam Puente and Comitan, exploring the Cañon del Sumidero by boat, and other days to nearby places of interest.  During July there are many festivals happening in San Cristobal, so often we`d stroll down to the Centro and catch the sights and sounds (lately a great clown duo that the kids love…he really does swallow his sword!).  A few times we also got together with other friends from San Cris in our homes (or other meeting places) for food and fellowship (a sure success for the mennonite traveller). As always, the getting around was part of the adventure, whether by foot, colectivo, taxi, horse, boat, or all 9 of us packed into a Jeep Cherokee.  I can certainly  say that their family spent many miles on foot, and embraced the countless moments to learn and absorb Chiapanecan culture.

Exploring Las Cascadas El Chiflon

Classic photo spot for Cañon de Sumidero






Top of the pyramid at Tenam Puente

Parker with INESIN colleague Abi at final bbq






Horseback riding at Rancho Nuevo (I think Carter was hoping for more of a gallop!)

Santiago and I.....Chiapas 2011










As we have said in the past 8 months, we are loving life here in San Cristobal, yet a notable gap in our lives has been the absence of family.  Thankyou Trace and Tracey, Parkr, Carter and Kaci for a wonderful month being together as family, one we will fondly remember. Interestingly, earlier in the month I had a very good conversation with a friend and colleague at INESIN, in which we mutually acknowledged the gift that comes from having spiritual family close to us, to be with us along the way.  And so while time with our natural family must come to a close, we are blessed to be supported by many brothers and sisters in Christ who have welcomed the forgeiner (now us!) into their land, their city, and their homes.

Posted in July 2011 | 2 Comments

Check us Out Over Here!

While there is not a new blog post specifically from us on this site – I (Jacquie) wrote a post for a colleague’s MCC’s Latin American Advocacy Blog entitled “Peacemaking: Contemplation and Action.” (Just clink on the link to get there). If you go to the site I encourage you to read a few more articles or mark the page to read later.

Posted in July 2011 | Leave a comment