Friday, October 2, 2009

Samaritan's Feet

Hello friends!
It's been a while! So sorry. We've had a lot going on here lately, but I'm not going to talk about that in this blog! Today I want to chit-chat about Samaritan's Feet.

Sandra's House Mayan Ministry has the opportunity to receive 5,000 pair of brand new athletic shoes to give to Mayan children here in the Zona Maya. This is a HUGE opportunity for us as many, many, too many children in the villages do not have shoes at all! The terrain here is very rocky and I think it's safe to say that every child in the poorest of the poor villages walk to school. Not having shoes, of course, doesn't stop them from going and it certainly doesn't stop them from enjoying their lives. Many of them love to play el futbol (we know it as soccer), jump rope, and any kind of game that involves chasing each other around. Could you imagine kicking a soccer ball, barefoot, while running around on rocks, sticker patches, sticks, broken glass, and anything else lurking around on the ground? I certainly can't!

We will be receiving the shoes from an organization called Samaritan's Feet. We must pay $5 per pair of shoes, which comes to a grand total of $25,000! Holy cow! That's a lot of money! I truly believe that our God is bigger than $25,000 and that the money can be raised, but we are going to need some help. Thankfully we have the great invention of the World Wide Web to get this information out there and get some shoes on the feet of some very deserving Mayan kids!

If you feel led to donate, please send your desired amount to:
Sandra's House Mayan Ministry
P.O. Box. 1668
Monroe, NC 28111
Please make note that this is for the Samaritan's Feet project. We are a 501(c)3 Non-profit organization and all donations are tax deductible!

We love you, we thank you in advance for your help in spreading the word about Samaritan's Feet. Check out their website too; they have other really cool projects too!

Jamie and Jonny

Friday, July 31, 2009

Mr. Pope Head

We have a wonderful woman here, Teresa, who has been teaching in our children's ministry conference. Our week started out pretty rocky with all of the teaching materials being stolen from our vehicle (oh, and along with Teresa's passport), but Satan can't keep us down! Our God is bigger than that! The conference is going well. We have about 28 people attending; teachers and children. I've been translating! This is my first time to translate something so big- and to translate for such a long period of time (yesterday we taught for about 8 hours). That's a lot of talking for me.

I knew there would be some errors in my translation. I really thought it would be my verb tenses, which when in doubt I just use the present tense and they can figure it out! It wasn't my verb tenses that topped my list. It was an explanation of "Mr. Potato Head".

I was determined to give them an excellent description of that silly potato that we all know and love. So I began with "it's a potato", I just so happened to leave out the fact that it was plastic. I went on to say that you can add funny hats, eyes, lips and mustaches to the potato". I notice that I'm getting funny looks. I keep going, thinking that I can really help them picture him. I get about mid-sentence and realize that I had made one tiny little mistake that threw off the entire description: I was using the wrong article.

The Spanish language has two forms of "the", masculine "el" and feminine "la". I forgot that the word for potato can mean something totally different if the article is changed. Had I used "la papa" they probably would have been able to picture a "Mr. Potato Head" a lot faster. Unfortunately, I used "El Papa" which means "The Pope".

I think I've invented a new toy: Mr. Pope Head. You can give him funny hats, mustaches, you can make him wave to you. Your child will have so much fun with his or her Mr. Pope Head. What do you think? Hot toy on the Christmas list this year?

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Back in the swing of things

We are back at Sandra's House after a four week visit to the United States. We really enjoyed the time we got to spend with our family and friends, but as always it seemed to go by way too fast!

Our first week back Miguel took us out to a village to visit a pastor. Please forgive me, I forgot where we went. This village previously had a Video Bible School and Miguel wanted to talk to him about starting another one with a new group of people. We also talked to him about a children's ministry conference we will be hosting in July. While we were there, he and his wife fed us chicken and homemade tortillas! I think they butchered the biggest chicken they had. He gave me a chicken leg and it was gigantic- like turkey leg sized (from the fair...and everything is gigantic at the fair!). The homemade tortillas were the best! They were so thick and chewy. I probably could have eaten a couple of pounds of those tortillas. After lunch, he took us to his backyard where he showed us his mango and avacado trees. He climbed up the mango tree and shook it and sent us home with a bag full of mangos. They were pretty tasty!

This week our good friend Dan Meyer from Just For You Ministries of Prague, Oklahoma, came to visit. He brought with him Pastor Tim Emmons from the First Baptist Church of Prague. They brought down 5 suitcases full of children's ministry materials and comentarios for the pastors. They had quite the adventure getting through customs with all of the books! They lady scanning the suitcases at the airport could not understand why in the world someone would have so many suitcases of just books!

We visited three villages with them. At one of the villages, Naranjal Poniente, they discussed the logistics of a construction project on a church. A good portion of the building had been destroyed by a hurricane. They are now in the process of putting in a new wall (or two) and a permanent roof. We are really excited about the progress that will be made on that project!

For me personally, it's been kind of a tough couple of weeks. I think leaving home this time was harder than our initial move here. It's not that I'm not as excited about what we're doing here and what God is doing with us here, but not being able to just drive down to my parents' house whenever I want or go to Walmart with my b-f-f at a moment's notice is tough. I'm still happy to be here, but I guess I'm just still a little homesick. I could probably use some prayers on that one!

I guess that's all I have for now. I need to go plan some English lessons. We're planning 3 week English program for July and I'm starting to get a little nervous. I never really realized how difficult the English language was until I tried to teach it! Agh!

We love you all and we are so grateful for your prayers!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark

A few years ago I learned that the way to knock on doors here is to not actually knock on the door, but say "buenas" in a loud voice as you stand outside their fence or gate, or door. Most people around here have big iron fences or cement walls around their houses, so you can't actually get to their front door to knock. Maybe that's why people just yell at the fence; unless they carry a "knocking" stick...and I've never seen one before (I just made it up...just now). We've become accustomed to this, but because we don't have a fence in front of our house people just ring the doorbell. So when someone comes to our house and yells "buenas" (which is shortened from "buenas tardes"or "buenas noches") it usually throws us off.

That's one of your lessons. I tell you all of that so you can understand the rest of my story. Really, it's a tiny detail that probably could have been left out, but I want you, my dear friends, to have the full Mexican experience!

So this evening Jonathon and I were in the kitchen cooking dinner. We've been getting a really nice breeze all day so we had the front door open to cool off the house. The neighbors were out and their babies were screaming and playing, you know, being kids. We heard someone faintly say "buenas". I kind of ignored it because I thought it was probably coming from across the street. A little bit later I heard it again, this time a little bit louder. I asked Jonathon, "is someone at the door?" (I don't know if he actually heard it or not.) He went to check like a good husband. I heard some guy talking to him and Jonathon was saying "uh huh" like he understood. I was wondering how long it would be before he would say, "uno momento" and call me to come figure out what this person was talking about. He never did. Moments later he invited the guy in and sat him down at the table.

The guy sat down, opened a notebook and started asking Jonathon questions in English. I noticed that he was writing as Jonathon answered so I wasn't quite sure what was going on. My curiosity got the best of me, so I decided to go meet this dude. I sat down and he explained that he is a student at the University in Chetumal and he's studying English. His teacher had obviously given the class some questions and told them to go find a native English speaker and interview them. I got pretty excited because I had to do the same thing for school and it's terrifying! I felt his pain!

In the beginning he seemed a little nervous, but as we got further into the conversation he started to relax and respond to our answers, which is probably what those goofy interviews are designed to do! He was asking us the typical questions like, "how is the culture different," "did you have any trouble getting used to living here," "what do you think about Obama," you know fun things like that. Towards the end he asked us if we knew of any local legends. The only one we could think of was the talking cross. (That's a pretty cool legend, but I'm not going to get into it on this note because if I don't write down what he told me, I'll forget it!) Since that was the only one we knew, he decided to tell us a few. I am super excited to share them. I'm definitely not going to do them justice, but it's interesting anyway!

La llorona, "the crying woman"
I don't know that she's just native to this area; I think she might be all over Mexico. I could be wrong though. La llorona is the crying woman because he husband abandoned her. She decided to take revenge on him by killing their children. She drowned one of them and beat the other one to death. Afterwards she felt guilty and killed herself. She now walks the streets crying saying, "mis hijos, mis hijos," (my children, my children).

Mexican T.V. shows like to make fun of La Llorona. One of them showed her walking down a dark alley carrying a cutting board with an onion on top of it and a knife stuck in the onion. She was crying and saying "mis ojos, mis ojos," (my eyes, my eyes). On another show La Llorona was sick one night so he had her sister walk the streets for her. The sister walked the streets crying "mis sobrinos, mis sobrinos," (my nephews, my nephews). The local story is that La Llorona walks from the Plaza (the center of town) to the back othe Issste (a mini grocery store in town), which is only a few blocks from our house! I won't be walking that route at night any more!

Ixkavay- I don't know how to spell this one. It sounds like "ish-kuv-eye". I know the "x" is correct because in Maya it sounds like "sh". So, that's how I'm spelling it.

In town there is a gigantic tree. It's the biggest tree I have ever seen. The trunk is so wide; well, I can't even describe how wide it is. I'll have to take a picure and attach it. Anyway, I forgot the name of the tree, but it's a tree that is sacred to the Maya. This giant tree in town happens to be the home of Ixkavay.

Ixkavay, before she became Ixkavay, was a good woman. She never had "relations" with men (which I guess is what made her so good), but she was as cold as ice. There was another woman (I forgot her name) who was a prostitute. Although she was considered bad, she always helped out people in need. When the prostitute died, a beautiful bush full of flowers grew from her grave. The gave off a wonderful scent and it also filled her grave with this scent. When Ixkavay saw this, she was mad and wondered how these beautiful flowers could grow from the grave of such a bad woman. When Ixkavay died, from her grave grew a catcus-like plant. This made her mad so she called upon the dark spirits to bring her back to life.

She came back as a beautiful Mayan woman. She wore a long huipil (typical Mayan dress) that covered her feet because she had a hoof of a pig for one foot and the claw of a turkey for the other and in the back she had the tail of a serpent. So naturally she had to cover that up! She lived in the giant tree and when drunk men stop under the tree to rest, drink some more, or pass out she would lure them to her and then she would eat them! Ooh scary!

My story teller's great-grandfather said he saw her one night. He had gone to a party, and was walking home (a little drunk). On the road to his house Ixkavay came to him and tried to lure him to her. He knew what she was up to so he turned off to take another way home. She grabbed his arm and pulled him towards her. The legend holds that if you take the heel of your shoe and hit her on the arm she'll turn into a snake. So that's just what he did, and she slithered off.

Well, there's your culture lesson for the day. I think I learned more about the culture in sitting with this guy for an hour than I have in the whole year I've been here! How lucky am I? I love my job!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Un viaje a la bella ciudad de Merida

April 1, 2009

Our good friend, Miguel has been invited by our boss to visit the United States. He asked us to accompany him on his trip to the American Consulate in Merida in the state of Yucatan. This was a pretty quick trip; he asked us to go with him on Sunday and we left Tuesday. No big deal; it's only a few hours away. His appointment at the Consulate was scheduled for 8:30 in the morning, which meant we could either get up ridiculously early and drive all morning, or we could stay with a pastor in the Merida area. We opted for the latter, which led to this mini-adventure.

We left about 2:00 Tuesday afternoon. Earlier that day I was trying to figure out how I was going to dress. Because the churches are more traditional here, women usually wear skirts or dresses. That's no big deal to me, it's a lot cooler. My dilema was that we were going to a pastor's house, but it wasn't a ministry visit, it was more social (so I thought). So I opted for the jeans, and stupidly didn't even think to pack a skirt. You'd think after living here for almost 10 months I would be used to suprises and prepare for anything.

About two hours into the trip Miguel says (he hasn't said one word since we got in the car, by the way), "the pastor said that if you guys would like to say a few word or preach...," he laughs and makes a joke about preaching and teaching (those are a couple of his English words). "So do you want to preach?" I'm beginning to squirm for two reasons: 1- this means I have to translate, 2- I didn't come prepared with "church-clothes"! I'm lucky that I even brought soap! Jonathon, of course, agrees. He's not going to give up a chance to talk (and he really is a good speaker- just so you know)! So I figure I've got to get over it because we're two hours into the trip, no turning back, and I'm not going to spend the enitre evening looking for a skirt. They'll just have to accept me for what I am...a bad translator wearing jeans!

We arrived at the pastor's house at about 5:30. They served us this delicious drink made from guanabana (you know the Muppet song that goes like "ma na ma na, doo, doo, doo, doo, doo, ma na ma na"? Any Muppet fans out there? Gua na ba na, doo, doo, doo, doo, doo....maybe not.) They served it like a smoothie, except his wife crushed all the ice by hand! I heard her beating it to death in the kitchen! Anyway, guanabana, can't get enough of it. As I sipped my to-die-for guanabana, I couldn't help but wonder where in this tiny house were we going to sleep.

The house consisted of a living room, to the left the kitchen and to the right what looked like a bedroom. The walls of tiny living room were lined with books. They have a computer desk, a small bench and a chair all cammed together beneath the books in this tiny room (think small storage shed). Hanging on the wall was a neatly bundled hammock. It obviously served as someone's bed. They have at least two children, so one of them must sleep there. While my mind is wandering, I hear Miguel and the pastor discussing our accomodations. Miguel informs him that he brought his hammock, which is customary here (I believe). We've got a million hammocks sitting around the house, had we known that's what we were supposed to do we would have brought a couple! So now I'm thinking we're either on the floor or we're going to displace someone, which I do not want to do.

Miguel turns to us and says, "do you want to see where you are sleeping tonight?" Please. It turns out we're not staying at the pastor's house. We followed him as he zipped down the dark, cramped streets. We stopped in a neighborhood of what we would call "cookie cutter" houses. Some were brand new. We went into the house of a family that attends the pastor's church. They live in a two bedroom house and have three children. They're just as crowded than the pastor! On the inside I was totally freaking out. I didn't want to displace anybody and I was a little uncomfortable sleeping at someone's house (not that I think I'm too good for it, but this girl rarely stayed the night with friends as a's so stupid and bad for my "profession", but I get homesick at night!) After Miguel, the pastor, and the parishoner finish discussing logistics, I guess (remember- freaking out), they said, "do you prefer a bed or a hammock?" We really didn't care and before we could really answer Miguel told them that we were used to a bed and that it would be best. The parishoner said he didn't have an extra bed, but he knows someone with a bed but it might be difficult....and we stopped him there. "We'll take the hammocks!"

It turns out that we weren't sleeping at this guy's house either! Either he, or someone he knows owns the vacant house across the street. That's where we were staying! It would have saved me a lot of internal turmoil if someone had just told me that in the first place... but then it wouldn't be an adventure, right? They brought in the hammocks and almost crammed me and Jonathon into one. It was an extra toasty night (even the breeze was hot) and he's a sweaty boy....not going to happen. We got two.

Now, the art of sleeping in a hammock is difficult to achieve. One must examine others who are successfully sleeping in a hammock before trying it at home. The successful persons I have seen don't sleep in it lenghtwise. They spread it out sideways and strech out across it. If you sleep in it the other way, your arms and legs end up hanging off the sides and you get this big bump between your knees and where your head is. Not only do you sleep uncomfortably, but you also run a greater risk of falling on your face.

I am a pretty wierd kid. I am afraid of things that swing. I had a dream wierd when I was a kid and ever since I can't look at things that swing; I want to stop them (kids on swings, chandeliers, cords to fans, the big signs at wal-mart, all make me crazy). So sleeping in a hammock was difficult for me. I mananged to master the spreading out and getting comfortable, but every time I rocked just a little bit my brain would overreact and think that I was swinging at lightening speed! It's so crazy, I know. I finally managed to get over it and fall asleep. I can't say the same for poor little Jonny. He just could not figure out how to get into his hammock sideways. He saw what I was doing, and we've even had lessons at home (we've got 5 hanging on the roof)! I'm pretty sure at one point in the night he fell out. Needless to say, he didn't sleep so great.

We woke up ridiculously early this morning, before the roosters even. I had forgotten my alarm clock or even a watch, so I was paranoid all night that we would oversleep. We dropped Miguel off at the Consulate and wished him luck. The pastor from the church was kind enough to walk us around town and show us the sights. The city is absolutely gorgeous. All of the details on the buildings are just beautiful (some scary). To end the day we picked up a successful Miguel and took him to the "Plaza de las Americas" for a good ole, celebratory, American lunch at Chili's! I wish you could have seen Miguel and the pastor eating ribs... quite possibly the funniest thing I've seen in a while! Of course, they get tickled at the way we eat their food too!

Overall, good trip, Merida= beautiful and hammocks= not good sleep.
The end.

Is a $20 cure really worth it?

March 27, 2009

One evening my sweet hubby began complaining of severe stomach and back pain. We really just thought he had pulled a muscle or something until we went to and freaked ourselves out. On you can punch in your symptoms and all of the possibilities of what you could have pop up. Of course we immediately click on the most severe illnesses such as kidney failure and organ-eating ulcers. He didn't match up with all the symptoms so we decided that if he was still sick the next day we'd call our doctor friends.

Neither of us slept well that night and finally decided to end our misery at 5:00 am. He went into the kitchen to get water and didn't come back. I went in to check on him and found him back at webmd and freaking out. (He thinks I didn't notice, but I'm a better wife than that...) He was looking at appendicitis. Since webmd made us think he was going to die, we decided to go over to the hospital and get this checked out.

Fortunately for us, the local hospital is only a block away from our house. In his impaired mental state, Jonny decided that it would be a good idea to walk to the hospital. Probably not a good decision, but I'm not going to argue with a sick man. We made our way over to the "Urgencias" (emergencies) side. Through the door we found 3 benches and a Mayan woman. The reception/cashier's area was locked and dark. There were two doors; one for "emergencies" and the other for examinations. The "emergencies" door said "Urgencias, 24 horas por dia" (24 hours a day). So we tried the door; it was locked. Awesome. Did I miss Spanish class the day we went over medical terms? Does "urgencias" really mean "maybe it's possible that it could probably be an emergency, but only when the door's open"?

We asked the sweet, Mayan lady what we were supposed to do. She told us to talk to the person in reception. Since there was no one in there, we took a seat. About 20 minutes passed, a family came in and sat down, a janitor passed though, and finally the lights came on in "reception". The guy sat down at his desk, arranged some papers, and just sat there. Never opened his window. Finally the janitor said to us, "Are you here for an emergency?" He pointed us to the guy in the reception box.

At 5:30 in the morning I can barely speak English, and my Spanish skills barely exist. The man in reception asked me a bunch of questions and all I could get out is, "My husband is sick. We need to see a doctor." He said, "that will be 60 pesos. Knock on that door," and pointed to me to the "urgencias" door. We knocked on the door, nobody came. We knocked louder, not knowing who or what was behind it. Finally a lady in an old-school nurses uniform answered. Behind the door was an examination room, where she sat Jonathon down, took his blood pressure and temperature and left saying "someone else is coming." Seconds later a young lady in jeans and an oversized lab coat (her hands inside the sleeves) came walking in. She didn't look happy to be at work that early in the morning (I wouldn't be happy about it either.)

Jonathon says I got lucky the first time I ever had to visit the emergency room in the U.S. My doctor was really nice and would smile and pat me on the know stuff sick people like (or maybe it's just me- I'm one of those huggy kind of people). Anyway, this girl was all business. She said, "who's sick and what's the problem?" She was so intimidating that all I could do was point. Finally I was able to explain his symptoms. I thought I was in the clear, until she started the follow-up questions. There was one simple question that she repeated four times before it finally dawned on me what she was asking! After repeating it twice she got frustrated and wouldn't slow down. Once I got her question answered, she said, "puedes ir," and pointed to a door going out the back of the room. I know "puedes ir" to mean "you can go". By pointing at the door I thought she meant, "you can go through that door." What she really meant was, "you, the sick one, can lay on the examination table." I guess I don't speak Spanish afterall.

Finally, she gets him diagnosed, writes his prescription and wants him to go to the lab. She gave me the crazy instructions for the lab and asked me if I understood. Fortunately I did. She said, "good, I don't have to explain it three times." She kind of laughed, but it was more like "you're an idiot" kind of laugh...not like "your 5:00 am Spanish is endearing" kind of laugh.

After we left "not-so urgent urgencias" we headed off to the lab. Unlike hospitals back home where the lab provides the testing materials, we were instructed to go to the pharmacy across the street and buy a cup for a urine test. It was 6:00 am and the pharmacy didn't open until 8. Great. So we walked back to the house, got the car and drove around looking for a pharmacy that was open. We found one. They had no pee cups, but they did have his medications. We drove around town for a bit before we finally gave up and went back home. We walked back over to the hospital (by this time there was nowhere to park) to find the hallway to the lab packed.

We went to a little window, showed them the lab papers and they said, "knock on that door." We knocked on that door, expecting the room behind the door to be empty like the first one. Someone faintly said, "enter". We didn't hear them because the hallway was so loud. By this time Jonathon was in a lot of pain and ready to fall over, so he knocked pretty loudly on the door. The lady beind the door yelled, "pasa!" We opened the door to find a very irritated nurse taking a patient's blood. Oops. Another nurse took our papers and said, "wait out here and we'll call your name." So we waited. A few minutes later she came out and said (in very good English) "you need to go to the cashier's and pay first."

So we found a window that looked like it would be the cashier's office for the lab and got in line. Right beside it was the hospital's pharmacy. Thinking I had again misunderstood, I asked the man in the pharmacy if they had pee cups (I'm so grown up, aren't I?). He said no, but the pharmacy across the street does. Of course. I then asked him where I was supposed to pay for the lab. "Oh you go over to urgencias to pay for that." Great! We trudged back over to urgencias to pay for this stupid lab. At urgencias, the guy looked at my paper and said, "you need to go to the lab for this." "I know, the lab sent me here to pay," I reliped. He said, "they didn't give you an appointment? You need an appointment. Go back and have them write the date on this." Right.

After that, we decided to just go home.

And that's our $20 Mexican hospital adventure.

A very important lesson

August 29, 2008

Oh how wonderful are the sites of Mexico: ancient Mayan ruins, white sandy beaches, magnificent hotel resorts and a naked man standing on his front lawn.

We travel a lot down here, and I'm always the only female. Lately we've been traveling with this group of pastors from Chetumal and our pastor, Miguel. Jonathon always drives, the older pastors in the back snooze, and Miguel engages in thrilling conversation with whoever is in the seat with him. (I would pay attention, but they talk really fast when they get all excited.) So I usually end up zoning out until we hit a town, and then I like to look off to the side of the road and check out the sites. On this particular day I saw more than just huts and dogs.

We made a trip to Coba to talk with some pastors about our upcoming Christmas gift distribution in their area. Coba is somewhat of a trouristy town that has an amazing Mayan ruin site, a lagoon filled with crocodiles and of course, the typical hammock and pottery shops lining the main road. Touristy areas are notorious for their gigantic speed bumps. The crosswalks are actual raised platforms; I guess so you actually see the pedestrians (not a bad idea). As we were leaving town and heading down this main road, busy road, full of souvenir shops- oh and school children- we met a crosswalk.

I was checking out the side of the road as usual as we waited for the car in front of us to cross the enormous speed bump. I happened to look to my left and saw a strange scene taking place at a house. What caught my eye were the reverse lights on the car and I thought "good thing there's a median" (people like to back out into oncoming traffic). That thought was immediately interrupted when I saw a man standing near a small tree, a few yards from the car. He was shirtless and kind of squatting. At first I just thought he was wearing really short shorts, but then I noticed that there were no shorts and the only thing between my eyes (and the eyes of those school children) and his- um- nakedness were his hands!

You know those kind of scenes where you really, really don't want to look, but you just do? That's what was happening. It was like a train wreck. So as I was trying to pry my eyes away from this sight, I couldn't help but wonder what was so important that the conversation between the person in the car and the naked man had to happen right there on the front lawn- while he was desnudo. My first impulse is to say he got "caught in the act" and he was trying to convince his other "significant" other that it wasn't what it looked like. Then I thought, well that's not fair for me to assume that he's a cheater just because he's naked and crouching behind a twig, and there's a car about to back out of his driveway. It could be that his wife was on her way to the store, he was chillin' in the house naked, he forgot to tell her he loved her and so he ran out the door (forgetting his pants, of course) to tell her before she left.

I'm not quite sure of his reasoning for being naked in his yard (it has been really hot here lately), but I did learn a very important lesson that day: the sites on the side of the road are free and you usually get what you paid for.The end.