2019 Faith Vision Team, Guatemala

Thank You! Gracias!
The Faith Vision Trip team is set to travel to Guatemala on March 3rd. We are so thankful for all of those who have supported us! Because of your generosity, through Common Hope, Faith was able to help provide kids with education and health care.
Please keep us in your prayers as we experience the Guatemalan culture and embrace all that God has planned for us.
Your 2019 Faith Vision Trip Team: Pastor Dale, Sarah Peterson, Jesse Bergstrom, Josh Belcher, Deb Shea, Cali Shea, Bill Sites, Kellie Sites, Jill Sinclair, Diane Robinson, Mathew Robinson, Mary, Abby and Katie Fahrenkamp.
10 March 2019   Matt Robinson
This week has been an extraordinary experience. The activities and work that we did this week will stick with me for the rest of my life. Saturday we went to a coffee farm on the mountains with plots owned by a previous employee of common hope. We walked every route we wished in Antigua and met many great people while also getting to know each other. The sights and wonders of the country have been more than just a memory but a place I strive to visit again. I wish everyone the same happiness as this trip gave me and pray that we all keep our hearts open and optimistic, to allow them to expand for our future experiences to find the love in all of us.
9 March 2019   Diane Robinson
We awoke to another beautiful day in Guatemala. The weather sunny and warm, with bright blue skies. It is hard to imagine coming back to the cold and snow. Today was our cultural experience day. We broke into two groups. One group did a walking tour of Antigua. This took them to museums and Jade shops. As they learned about the history of Guatemala and cultural interests along the way. The second group went to Felix coffee farm. Common Hope employed Felix at one time, but with their help, he was able to start a coffee farm on some land that he had. Is now self-employed running his own coffee farm. It was so interesting to hear him tell us how he started from a coffee seed growing the plant all the way to the harvest and fruit processing. As we were standing at his farm, with him holding a coffee tree in hand. I looked up to see a puff of smoke come out of the volcano in the distance. I could not be more grateful then to have this opportunity with this wonderful group. From the planting of the seed, to the roasting of the bean. I know I will appreciate my morning coffee even more! The rest of the afternoon was spent exploring the city of Antigua. Experiencing all the sights, sounds and smells. The beautiful colors of the fabrics in the market. The smells of fresh tortillas and “snacks” cooked from little roadside carts and in the evening the sounds of music from a band in the center town square. It is hard to believe it is our last day in Antigua. I am sad to have this trip end. Praising God for friendships made and a warm heart for the people of Guatemala, and the workers at Common Hope. Looking forward to sharing this experience with family and friends
8 March 2019   Kellie Sites
Today is Friday, the day that we have been working towards.  Yet another sunny day!  Our group is filled with anticipation as we meet with Pastor Dale in the morning.  His message is timely, drawn from the story of the Samaritan woman at the well; that all human beings have the need to be accepted, to be understood, to be forgiven and to be loved.  Each day has been so full, but today is to be one of the fullest – of work and celebrations.   We are glad to be reminded of God’s love for each of us on this earth and our role in showing His love in Guatemala. Each day we have each been assigned work, social visits with Common Hope affiliates and/or a Day in the Life activity to help us appreciate how some people make a living here.   Today a group went to learn about the life of Juan, who make ceramics.  This man learned to make animals from clay when he was 15 and continues to make his living this way at the age of 44.  His painting and creations are amazing.  A different group went to another home to learn about textiles.  This couple re-purpose beautiful Mayan textiles to make new things such as aprons, shirts and dresses.  The group that learned about the textile trade were impressed with their creativity and resourcefulness.  They purchased a beautiful table runner as a gift to be presented at the house blessing in the afternoon.   At 11am, we all reconvened with Claire our guide, to do a reflection.  She had some questions for us to ponder as we think about returning home.  What will we say when people ask, “how was Guatemala?”   She encouraged us to remember that each of our stories is just one story – not the story of the whole country.   We have only been here for one week… but we can tell our story.   Claire recommended the TED talk, The Danger of a Single Story, which seemed like a good thing for everyone to listen to.  We were also asked to think about any changes that we might make in our lives upon our return home because of our time in Guatemala.  We each wrote a note to ourselves that will be mailed to us in 3 months.  It was an important reflection.   Then it was lunch time.  The meals at Common Hope are delicious.  No one is ever hungry and I think we all wish for fresh guacamole every day like we have here! At 2pm we (18 people) rode in the van to the build site – now known as the home of our familia.  The family that we have been building a home for all week has 8 people in it, which includes a baby born last Sunday and a little girl around the age of 2, plus 2 dogs and 2 birds.   This is the first time that our whole Faith vision team is all-together at the site to see the finished spaces – 2 rooms with smooth cement floors, 2 doors and 2 windows and a roof.  This will be a huge improvement for this family. Who are all working hard to improve their lives.   We all contributed to the building of this house as well as the blessing in some way and it was quite moving.  It was clear that this family is so very grateful for this addition to their home.  People of Faith Lutheran can feel good about your contributions that have helped to make this happen.  We enjoyed cake and took many pictures.  Then it was time to say good-bye to our new friends. At 3:30 it was time for another ceremony – the big reveal of the name of the new paved road on the Common Hope campus.   Having this campus road paved will make a huge difference in cutting down the dust and mud for people driving and walking on this main thoroughfare.  We had carried this street sign with us from Minnesota and now it is permanently cemented to the rock wall.  Our team was there along with all the employees of Common Hope and many students who came for the celebration, close to 200 people.  There were speeches and the ribbon cutting that Jesse Bergstrom assisted with – thanks to the contribution of the Bergstrom Family for this road, Camino de los Sueños, Pathway of Dreams.  There were over 400 submissions from the students to determine the name of this road.   One of the surprises at this event was that many students were there to share their dreams with us.  They told us their name, their dream and presented several of us with their dreams.  It was a great way for them to connect with us.  This is indeed a pathway of dreams. At 4:30 pm, our group of 14 had a closing time with the team at Common Hope that takes care of the vision teams.   Many people from Common Hope were complimentary of our team, thanking us for being joyful, flexible and hard working.  We returned the compliment as they really supported us in every activity with good direction, grace and patience.   It was a great team effort on all sides. At the culmination of the day, Common Hope took us out to dinner at the beautiful Panza Verde.  The architecture is so interesting and beautiful in Antigua.   Claire and Emily shared stories about the volcano eruption that happened in June of 2018.   We had a good discussion about aid in a disaster situation – when it’s helpful and when it’s not.  Common Hope is very thoughtful and we are so grateful for this opportunity to be a part of their powerful, effective, life-changing mission.  
Thursday March 7, 2019

A Day Gifted to Us and Ending in Fire Today was a fruitful day for many of God’s hands in Guatemala. The house we have been building for the family here in Antigua has been finished!   Many hands helped put all of the pieces together and the construction is complete! Tomorrow the family will move into their new space.  Many new beginnings at the end of a week’s worth of hard work.

Today was the day I was most excited for all week.  Having worked on the house many times earlier this week, I was able to spend the day with the kiddos that the whole mission down here is about.
In the morning it was amazing to watch preschool teachers teach, not know a word they are saying but still understanding everything perfectly.  The 3 year olds I spent the morning with were an energetic group that loved to cook for me and build houses with blocks. All the little ones were fascinated with my large beard and my lack of hair.  The brave ones would come up, touch my beard or feel my head. They are so curious and fun. The unguarded moments are the ones most treasured and nothing beats playing with kids on the floor for a morning… In the afternoon, I got to meet both of the children Jamie sponsors in San Raphael.  Gustavo and Glenda were two of the most beautiful children I have ever met. Gustavo, a couple of his sisters and I played dominoes over and over in their home on a beautiful spread his mother laid out for us.  Glenda had prepared a special speech for her sponsor but was surprised when I arrived instead of Jamie (I get that a lot). She had been waiting patiently and excitedly for Jamie’s return and I just do not meet those high standards.  Nevertheless, coaxed by a ready smile, she read to us the story in the book I brought her and we all enjoyed a few games of dominoes as well. Her mother loved playing and will be a domino shark by next year. Being able to help these children and their families learn and grow is such a blessing and honor it is hard to describe. To top the day off as we were wrapping up our evening activity our firewatcher called out “the volcano is exploding!”  Everyone ran to the back porch and we got to see periodic lava plumes spew from Fuego… it was a gift given for a day and week well spent. Jesse Bergstrom  
Day 4    Hola from Guatemala! Each morning we start our day with group reflection time and some thoughts for the day.   Today we read a poem that offered our thanks and praise for ‘the necessary routine, the sweaty struggle, the high-risk challenge, the impulse to change..’  As we have reached the mid-week point of our experience, each of us has experienced all of these situations.  We’ve found our stride in the necessary daily routine, expect to have dirty clothes and sweaty brows, and felt that this week will change us.  Each day brings new experiences and sights for each of us, and we’re thankful for it. Today, eight (Bill, Mary, Katie, Abby, Matt, Diane, Sarah and Jill) of us travelled to San Rafael, a small, poor community northwest of Antigua, to help with setting up a classroom.  When we arrived at the school, recess in the center courtyard was in full swing and it was a cacophony of children’s laughter and shouts.  The chaotic scene was complete with firecrackers and lit torches in honor of Ash Wednesday and like any holiday celebrated at school the excitement of it all made it seem like the kids would never settle down.  However, when the bell rung and kids returned to classrooms we witnessed students instantly pick up pencils and start to work in their notebooks.  School isn’t taken for granted here. In fact, the principal says the school is too small for the number of kids attending and that more kids from the community would like to attend but it would be difficult to accommodate them.  A problem that seems to be the result of Common hope’s hard work to make education valued.  Back at Common Hope campus, Kellie and Josh helped with daycare, delighting the kids with their goofiness and questionable Spanish.  The panels for the house were also completed in the morning.  Dale, Jesse, Deb and Cali worked diligently to finish the materials needed for the build tomorrow.  In the afternoon, all of materials were delivered to the home site.  It was satisfying to see the piles of housing materials today and know that they become a home tomorrow.  A 10m x 12m steel-roofed, fiberlite paneled home for 6 people and a newborn baby.  There is no running water or electricity on site – they are borrowed from a neighbor.  This home, however, will supply protection and comfort. A few lucky team members (Kellie, Bill, Josh, Sarah, Matt) experienced chocolate making.  The group visited a family-run chocolate making business where they were taught how to make chocolate from scratch and were rewarded for their hard work with – chocolate!  The mother of the family makes the individual chocolates and tablets that make hot chocolate to sell at the local market.  It was a delicious experience. (If you want a laugh, ask Kellie about the Chihuahua) The Fahrenkamps were able to visit their sponsor child this afternoon.  The family was gracious and generous; giving them handpicked fruit and a precious gift from their child.  As we wrapped up with reflection time at the end of a long but gratifying day, we talked about the challenges and risk to come here, but that God grants us a fierce heart and the courage to wrestle with whatever comes.  Adios for today.
Common Hope log for Tuesday March 5, 2019. Dateline:  Antigua, Guatemala. We all had breakfast around 7am… another day of morning sunshine and temperatures around 58 degrees. A nice cool start to the day.  There was some ash coming out of the top of one of the distant volcanoes. 745am: morning reflection with Pastor Dale. Activities today included pouring the concrete for the floor of the new house we’re building this week, social work visits (Pastor Dale, Abby, Mary, Josh, Bill, Cali, Jesse, Deb), painting a large gate (Diane, Jesse, Cali, and Deb), varnishing wood for the home we’re building (Abby, Kellie, Pastor Dale, Katie, and Sarah), daycare volunteers (Jill and Katie) and sponsorships visits (to visit with sponsored children/families: Jill, Diane, Matt, Dale and Sarah). By 9am’ish, the temperature rose into the pretty hot and muggy side, with not much breeze in the enclosed lot for the new home.  It was pretty toasty (we tried to find a Minnesota-like word here that described misery while being grateful and not complaining, but ran out of time and creative energy!) and sunny for this group of folks from Minnesota. The rise in temperature seemed to occur as we began shoveling the rocks, sand and bags of powdered concrete that would be used for the concrete floor, which was about 10 feet by 20 feet. After moving the materials around into their rightful places, and getting nice and warm, we piled the sand and concrete mix and rocks into a large volcano structure.  Then we shoveled the large volcano into about a dozen smaller volcanos, and then shoveled them all into a big volcano again.  Then we flattened it and evened it out, built a mote around the perimeter of the big pile, and filled it with lots of water… from three 55 gallons drums. Then we took a break and let the mix have a rest.  After that Edwin and Rinaldo (Common Hope carpenters/builders) began mixing the concrete and moving it into place with shovels, rakes, and their feet.  We all helped provide more water, rock, and sand, and helped rake the mix into place. We also helped level it.  Edwin and Rinaldo did the finishing. It was cool that this big pile of raw materials was worked and molded into a nice looking concrete floor.  This activity took LOTS of teamwork.   The team members were Mary, Josh, Kellie, Matt, Sarah, and Bill.  Showers were mandatory after this activity. Lunch was on site and was fabulous with fish, salad, tortillas, and the best red Kool-Aid. Ever. The breeze returned in late afternoon and temperatures dropped back into the pleasant range. 5pm:  we had a reflection activity with Claire, our point of contact this week for all things Common Hope. We considered the privileges and support we were raised with, and surrounded by, and sort of took for granted.   Then we thought about ways we could use these privileges and blessings: giving (time, resources, compassion, or maybe just making eye contact and saying “Buenos tardes”), supporting, having a grateful heart, helping others that may not be able to help themselves or stand up for themselves, etc. 630pm dinner on site.  Kellie’s improv exercise was postponed so we could just watch a movie, relax, and reflect on the day’s events, ideas, and thoughts. 9pm’ish:  we all nodded off with full and grateful hearts and sore muscles. Fav quotes so far:  speak fast and with confidence and people will believe you.  Don’t pet the dogs. Rocks are heavy.  It’s just 4 more blocks. Donde esta el bano? At any moment I am ready. Things to google:  Elijah and the chair and door open a crack,  3 main cultures in Antigua, highest mountain in Guatemala. Pastor Dale’s book “An Alter in the World” by Barbara Brown Taylor.  Everyone should probably just buy this book
March 4
Today our team did a variety of activities from packing food baskets, building walls, day care help, social work visits, and cleaning the ball court floor! We all had very different experiences throughout the day, but we were put into the places and around the people that we were meant to experience. God truly has a plan for each and everyone one of us! As a group we have had some great times today and we are all excited to see what the morning brings!

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