Friday, November 30, 2012

The Pig Family

The family with the pig

In a place where it seems everyone's name is Carlos, Jose, Maria, Sandra, Perez, Lopez, Hernandez, or Valesquez, etc., it's difficult to remember the names of people.  We visited a couple of families recently  and later I asked Chris about a certain one.  He didn't know who I was talking about and I didn't know their names so I said "The family with the pig living in their house....the pig family". From here on out, they will be known to us as such.  We also have "The Tree House Family" because they live a little ways out of town, up on the side of the mountain, in the woods.  Being there reminded us of being up in a tree house.  There was "The Plastic House Family" because they lived in a home made of plastic.  Sometimes the reference is funny and sometimes not.

This couple, Paulina and Casimiro,  live in a home/area with one of their sons, their daughter and grandson. They sleep on their only bed and Paulina and Casimiro sleep on the floor.  This is one of the roughest homes we have seen - made out of sheets of lamina with gaps at the top where the cold air blows in and probably rain too, dirt floors and of course, the pig right in their cooking area with a few chickens.  Do you know how dirty pigs are?  If not, check out Google because if I go into those details I would be talking inappropriately and I tell my boys not to do that.  It's disgusting, not to mention a health hazard. He's not their only hazard though.  There are the elements they are exposed to and they cook over an open fire on the floor.  Just from meeting this couple, you can tell life has been hard for them and they struggle to get by.  They have a son and his family who live next to them in a small, two-room concrete house.  We have seen this before - kids and their families live "inside" while the older parents basically live "outside".
pila where they wash
the pig 
their stove

where they sleep
their son, daughter and grandchildren
their granddaughter 
guys from Church on the Way bringing food
great guys from Church on the Way

Difficult story but it has a happy ending....they are getting a new home - thank you Church on the Way.  Can't wait to post the update!  The gift giving season is upon us and this family will receive one that will change the way they live and put a little hope in their hearts.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

School is Out!

We've whined and complained for 10 months, but now it's time for a little break - school is out.    Woohoo - we could not be happier!  Jed had a little Prekindergarten program and Jack had a fancy graduation.  Nothing special for Jon other than pure joy.  Here are some pictures....

So excited to be going to our little brothers program

A little toy soldier

The paparazzi of parents

Very proud of our boy!

Jack's cupcake was the only one with blond hair :)  

A Wedding for Miriam

The Tulio Family
We've met many couples who live together and are not married.  In spanish, they refer to each other as "spouse" but we've learned that it doesn't necessarily mean they are "casado" or married - they are "unidos" which means together.  They love each other, are committed to each other, have kids together but never had the wedding.  In asking a few questions, the answer is always the same - they didn't have money for a wedding.  No surprise for people who live in poverty.  Here, weddings are a big deal and expensive. You have to feed and entertain LOTS of people.   The same goes for funerals.  The moment someone dies, the family starts buying food to prepare for all the people who will come to pay their respects - it can be over 100 people.  There is no option.  They will borrow themselves into great debt for a lost loved one.  I'm sure some will do the same for a wedding but not the ones we know.

The happy couple

Marco and Miriam met in their youth group at church.  One day there was a picnic at a park.  They got to talking and here we are, 10 years later. They have lived together for 8 years and have two precious kids - Selvin 7 and Kelly 1.  We met them because they received a 12x12 house - read about it here.  A few weeks ago, we had some friends in town.  We went over to visit and got to talking. They told us about their upcoming wedding at their church. Every 2 - 3 years, the church puts on a wedding for couples who want to get married but don't have the money.  They provide all the food, music, cake, ceremony, etc.  The whole church helps out to make it a special day.  As Miriam was sharing, she told us that they were going to wear their regular clothes, nothing fancy.  Now, if you haven't read about their house yet, they are POOR.  They barely have money to eat and sometimes don't even have that.  We asked them what they needed and they said "nothing" - they never want to ask us for anything and rarely do.  They feel that we have blessed them so much with their house that they do no want to take advantage.  It was like pulling teeth out of a bear to get them to let us help pay for the cake, punch and flowers - at this point we didn't know the event was for 500 people! so we only helped with flowers and part of the cake.  As we were leaving, we were all thinking the same thing - we have to get them proper clothes for the wedding.

At the paca - we found the dress! 
A few days later, we headed to the paca (used clothes market) in Antigua.  If we were in the US, we would have gone to a place like David's Bridal to shop but "Dorothy, we aren't in Kansas anymore."  So where do we go?  The paca.  This is the place that stuff  Goodwill can't/won't sell goes to die.  There are different vendors set up who have tables with piles of clothes to pick through, some have things hanging up and sometimes there are piles of stuff on the ground.  Nothing is in order according to size, etc.  It was a small task to try and find all the clothing this family needed but after a few trips, we got it all - dresses, shoes, shirts, pants, jackets, ties, right down to little tights for baby Kelly. 

Natalia (Miriam's mom), Kelly, Selvin, Marco, Miriam

The wedding was lovely and the church was so kind in hosting this event.  There were 3 other couples who got married that day as well.  The mayor came and preformed a civil ceremony first followed by a church ceremony and then a big reception.  I've said this before and you will hear it again and again,  it really is a privilege for us to be part of all what  God is doing here.  I don't know how Miriam felt about what she would wear to her wedding or even if she prayed for God to provide something nice but He did.  God has used us and a few of our friends many times to help this family with food, medicine, clothes and now their wedding.  It's not us, it's Him and it's an honor to be His hands and feet. 

Baby Kelly 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Guatemala Education Project

After living here a little while and thinking in terms of what makes a "long term impact" in helping to break the cycle of poverty, we believe education is one of the keys.  If a child can go to school, learn to read and write, and further his/her education by learning specific skills and a trade, their chances of getting a job that pays a good wage greatly increases.  If having a job that can support a person or a family - a house, food, medicine, clothes, schooling, etc.,  then the chances of that person/family living in poverty greatly decreases.  We know countless single moms who can't read or write and countless people who have never gone past the 6th grade, some of those can't read and write either.  How do they support themselves and their families?  They have jobs that pay minimum wage working in fields and tiendas but they struggle and therefore live in extreme poverty.  We've asked ourselves, what can we do and the most logical answer would be to give those people a better job.  But what is necessary for a better job?  An education.  

Here in Guatemala, primaria (elementary school) is free for students to attend. However, students may only attend if they can provide the required supplies and uniforms. The cost of those things is approximately $90 US Dollars. That amount of money is as much as one family might earn in one month here. Many families make much less money than that. Multiply that by 2 or 3 or 4 schoolchildren in a family and it is easy to see why so many kids do not get the most basic education. 

Last month we started an education project that we are VERY excited about. We know so many kids and families here in Magdalena who can't always afford food and who often have their kids work to help support the family. We help these families as much as we can, but now we are helping the kids specifically. We have been working with some folks at Journey Church in Jacksonville to get these kids' school expenses sponsored, giving them an opportunity for an education. It has only been a couple of weeks, but people in the States have already poured so much love and support on these kids! We are thrilled and we are basking in God's goodness.  

Unfortunately it seems we have hit a little bit of a bump.  Getting an education is a challenge but for a couple little guys we know, the challenge is greater.

Meet Kevin and Selvin......

 Kevin 11 and is in 2nd grade. Most 2nd graders are about 7 years old. Kevin isn't like most 2nd graders, though. He dropped out of school this year because he can't read. Last week we took him to a tutor. She said he was "slow" and needs a lot of help - extra time doing assignments, more explanations, help with reading, etc. She recommended he go to a smaller school that could give him more attention. The only problem is that there is no smaller public school. There is no help for him at public school. The only schooling option he has right now is private school. 

Selvin is 7 and is going to be in 1st grade. He has never been to school before. We just saw Selvin and his family last week, all dressed up. They were headed to enroll Selvin in a small, private school in a nearby town because he is "especial". We had no idea Selvin was in need of a special education! What we do know is his family was going there because they heard it was free and it seemed like their only option for an education for their son. But, the school they were going to visit is only free for students who live in that area, which would not include Selvin. 

Both of these families are poor, poor and barely have food to eat and sometimes, even as I'm writing this, not even that. I have given both families food this week. Private school is not an option or even a possibility for these families. 

But I really can't accept that school is over for Kevin and that Selvin will never start. Both of these boys just got a pass to go work in the fields for the rest of their lives and are destined for a life in poverty.  However, God put our family here for many reasons and these boys are two of them.  

There is a small, private school here that's great (affiliated with a group in the US) and takes all kids. ALL kids! This is really the only option that Kevin and Selvin have, but the tuition is around $30/month per child plus supplies and uniforms. After they have been in the school for 6 months, students are put on a waiting list to be sponsored by people in the US. Even after they are sponsored their families are still responsible for 1/2 the tuition- $15/month. It is my understanding that once they are in the school and they get sponsored through the organization, they are set for however long they stay in school, even through basico (middle school). But right now we are just praying that God would make a way for them to be enrolled at the school. We are trusting that He will work out the details. The tuition would be $300 for this year for each boy. School starts in January.

I know it's a lot but it's not too much for God. 

Selvin's family

Kevin's family

Monday, August 20, 2012

Sara and Paula

In February of this year, there was a team of men that came to minister to widows for the week. One of the days they were out looking at a 12x12 house. As they were leaving, Chris saw a  home across the way and remembered a lady who had come to our door looking for help with her house.  Her name is Sara.  He didn't know much about her situation but remembered that she lived in that house so the guys decided to go over and talk with her.  Turns out Sara is a widow.  19 years ago her husband left to go to the US to work and has never been heard from since.  Sarah was pregnant with her daughter Paula at the time and has done all she can to make a better life for them.  Amazingly, Paula is still in school (she works during the week and goes to school on Saturday) and between the two of them working, they managed to buy a small piece of land to hopefully one day build a  house on - one that wasn't made out of plastic and wood slats.  Right there on the spot the men decided to build a house for this sweet lady and her daughter.  Their lives are forever changed.  Not only did they get a better home, they now have running water and electricity too.  What a blessing!

Sarah is one of the nicest and most talkative Guatemalans we have met.  These gals are great and it's neat to see God answer the prayers they have been praying for so long.

Add caption

Monday, July 16, 2012


15 stoves arrived 

To date, we have put in over 50 stoves!  What's the big deal about a stove?  The primary benefit has to do with health and safety.  There are lots of little ones running around and we have seen first hand the burns a fire can inflict upon a small child - falling into it or pulling scalding liquid onto themselves.  It's horrible.  Most people here cook over some sort of open fire.  Some use blocks with a grate, the top of a 50 gallon drum, or just a plain old open fire on the ground.  Alot of times we walk into a home or kitchen and have to walk right back out because of the smoke. Many people here suffer from eye and lung problems due to the smoke they inhale from cooking on a daily basis.  If you have ever been here, you know what I'm talking about.   These stoves burn the smoke so there is less smoke and a chimney for ventilation.  The secondary benefit has to do with efficiency.   They use 60% less wood which means less trips up the mountain.

Last summer there was an article in a local magazine about ONIL stoves made by Helps International. We bought a few as a team project to see if they would work well for the people here.  They worked great!  Our friends from Word Fellowship Church, New Jersey and Church For The Beach, Florida saw the need and have raised funds for more stoves.  Between these 2 churches and a few donors, LOTS of families are cooking safely and more efficiently.  We are also able to provide work for our friend, Arturo, who installs each one.  He's got a wife and family.  It's a blessing for many!


After - much safer for these guys

Church For The Beach and Arturo 

Word Fellowship

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Rain and Cold

The rainy season is in full swing here.  There is a nice tropical storm hanging out over Guatemala - last year we had one hang out for almost 2 weeks.  Not only does this make me seasonally depressed but sad for many of the people around us.  Here, rain = water in the house, soaked bedding, clothes on the line that don't dry, pneumonia, mold, mud and misery.  There is no drainage system so some people literally have water running through their homes. Not only are the living conditions rough but it's prime time for pneumonia.  The average temperature with rain is 60 degrees.  With the dampness and altitude, babies and young children can get pneumonia so easily and several babies in the 12x12 families have died since we moved here.  Life in the rain is difficult, especially for those who do not have adequate housing.

Been Awhile

We live in the clouds
Yikes!  It's been almost 2 months since a post here - sorry!! Lots of things happening, as always, but lacking the inspiration to write about it.  I have started several blogs about different things but can't seem to finish them.  The hardest part has been to share something. Here is a little something about what's been going on with us and hopefully there will be more to follow sooner rather than later - say a little prayer that we get out of our duldrums.  :)

Several weeks ago, everyone but me (I can't afford to get sick, ever) got typhoid fever.  It was rough but not as bad as I had imagined typhoid would be.  It was something I meant to have us all get vaccinations for but was never able to get to the health department before we left.  I've heard stories of people getting really, really sick and being in the hospital for weeks and sometimes dying so I would say that it was on my list of greatest fears.  Thankfully, God is merciful because I didn't know what the boys had until the worst was over and they were on the right medication.  Had I known, I would have been in full panic mode.  It made me very thankful that we don't live out in a jungle somewhere where there are worse things to get!

This is Jon with a bad tooth.  Last summer the poor guy had an accident and broke one of his permanent front teeth in half - not good for him on many levels.  He has endured a painful root canal and 3 replacements.....and it's still not right.  This has been a small ordeal because after the root canal experience, Jon doesn't ever want to go to the dentist again in his life.  We found a dentist in the city (an hour away) who can correct the root canal and replace the resin part of the tooth.  "Good" dental care, by US standards, is expensive here and requires a trip to the city and a little Valium for Jon because  there isn't any laughing gas anywhere in this country.  By the time we are done with this tooth, we could have fed a family in need for a year.  I am adding dental care to my list of things I took for granted when we lived in the US.

Jon, Jed, Hannah & Victor help build a kitchen

We've had a couple of visitors recently.  We love when people come, it really lifts our spirits and gives us lots of encouragement.  Plus it gives us a break from life here and lets us be and do "normal".  This is a shameful plug for guests but who needs Disney or North Carolina when you can come to Guatemala?  If you come here, we promise you will have the experience of a lifetime and pictures to prove it!   Not only that, but you get to hang out with the crazy Steed boys - never a dull moment. :)

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Jed is 5!

Our last pic together at 4 

On April 9th, Jed turned the big 5 and we can't believe it.  It's good for him to be 5 because there was way too much in that brain of him to stay 4, not to mention all the questions he asks.  I don't know what it is about the 3rd or last child but they are smarter than ones before them.

He LOVES Miss Sylvia and talks to her in Spanish!
These are some pictures from his party at school.  They do preschool parties a little different here.  In the States you can bring in cupcakes and call it a party but here, it has to include invitations,  lots of food, goodie bags AND the kids all bring presents for the birthday child.  It's crazy and I feel bad for the child who had the first party because we didn't send in a present.  The teacher kindly explained the custom to us.  :)