Better later than never. Here are a few more shots from our trip to Arches, The Grand Canyon and Mesa Verde.
Driving in the desert is a different experience. You have time to think. I feel free and relaxed. I marvel at the amount of space and beauty this nation has. I think about the people who moved west on covered wagon or horse back not too long ago and how much harder their life must have been. I learn to appreciate what I have. It's strange to see people living in such poor conditions in the middle of nowhere. I think they may have lost their dignity and joy to be satisfied in living this way. Most of the Native Americans we met did not seem happy. They surely have not been treated well.
Below are a few saint dolls that I (Isabella) created over Christmas break. I made about 30 of them. Can you guess who they are?
Also, if you are interested in purchasing a saint doll for yourself, I have decided to accept orders. I love to research the story of the saint and figure out how to draw them.
The cost? $8 for one, or $21 for 3 saint dolls (plus shipping).
Saint dolls will be made to order, and if you want one that you don't see below, you are welcome to request it! You are also welcome to request that certain details be painted on or left off the doll. Saint dolls make great, thoughtful gifts for births, baptisms, confirmations, or just for fun! They are also a wonderful way to learn about the saints' lives and celebrate their feast days. Dolls are made with acrylic paint and sealed with shellac. Their name and date finished are printed on the bottom. They are 2 1/4" tall.
Working or volunteering in developing countries is not an easy task, not just because of the difficult conditions, lack of common tools, infrastructure, cultural and educational barriers. During every mission trip I have taken, there have been times when I have felt inadequate and worthless and others when I have felt powerful and different. Both these approaches are natural, but also improper, I believe.
When you experience poverty first-end, you realize that there is not much you can do to change the situation. It may feel overwhelming because need is everywhere and relentless. Poverty was around 2,000 years ago when Jesus walked on this earth, it was around even before that; it has been around during every period in history and is still around now.
As I reflect about poverty and realize that Jesus actually lived is whole life as a poor, as somebody who did not own anything, then it becomes clear that poverty is here for a reason and I think it is here to stay.
In fact, Jesus said that: "the poor will always be with you". Yet, this cannot be an excuse not to work hard toward solving of some of the world's most pressing problems. Whatever we do for one of the least of our brothers and sisters, we do it for Jesus. But not only that, whatever we do for one of the least of our brothers and sisters, makes a difference for that one person. If we can bring a smile on the face of somebody who has not smiled for years or provide better food, shelter or water for somebody that needs it, then we cannot feel inadequate.
During this last trip, we have had enough cash in my wallet to provide a whole meal for a family living in marginal conditions or to pay for a brick oven for an old woman that has always cooked on the dirt with rocks and sticks. And we did. In such circumstances, there is a tendency to feel strong and different. There is a tendency to feel invigorated by what "I can do". In doing so, I felt different because, even if I experience poverty first-end, I will never really know what it means to spend my life sleeping on the dirt or what it means to not knowing how I will provide some corn and beans for my family tonight. I have felt strong because I have the "power", or better the "ability", to help the situation change for these people.
I don't like these emotions and feelings.
I don't like them, because they do not represent the truth. I am not strong and I am not different. I just happen to have been born where there was money and opportunities for me to learn and grow physically healthy. Many others did not. As for the reason, it is a mystery and it will always remain as such.
As Norine told our sponsored family upon our tearful departure: "please do not feel ashamed, do not feel we are different. We are all the same. God loves you as much as he loves me and He cares about your struggles as much as He cares about mine. That is why He came, that is why He was born in a stable and died on a cross."
I have had a hard time wrapping my head around all the experiences and emotions that resulted from the trip. One of the challenges is that life continues to move on and it's hard to find the time to stop, reflect, write notes about how it made me feel and what I/we should do next. The author of a blog I follow suggests to take a break at the end of each calendar year. Leave for a few hours or a couple of days and spend some time in isolation (for me it would also mean in prayer) and summarize what went well and what did not go so well during the past 12 months. I still have a couple of weeks before the end of 2013 and I really want to do that.
Taking time to reflect and pray
The following question has been surfacing into my thoughts several times since I have been back: "What was the hardest thing(s) that I experienced in Guatemala?". While there are many that I could enumerate, I want to reflect on a specific one today: potable water availability. I have heard many times about the lack of clean water for billions of people around the globe, but even though I have tried to take short showers, turn the faucet off while brushing my teeth, limit the watering of the yard in the summer and drinking from reusable water bottles, this trip reminded me again how insignificant some of these efforts are compared to struggle for water in developing countries. "Agua Pura" was constantly on my mind in Guatemala. Do no drink from the faucet, use bottle water to brush teeth, keep the mouth shut under the shower, do we have enough clean water to make dinner tonight, does everybody have enough water in a screw-type water bottle for the daily outing, are the plates we are eating on and the utensils we are using completely dry? Water is a continuous concern. This is because, while most places we visited had water that reached the house, in one way or another, the quality of the water is not good enough for consumption. Bacteria and parasites abound. Yet, a lot of locals do not have enough money, education or resources in order to have regular access to clean water. The result is sickness and, at times, an uncontrolled consumption of bottled drinks like coca-cola. Neither of our two sponsored children and their families regularly drink potable water.
Even when water is available it is not hot water, but only cold water. One of the houses we stayed at, had installed a water heater and pump. So, when water pressure was available from the local municipality, usually somewhere between 7AM and 3PM, it was possible to take a warm shower, even though the insatiability of the pump and heater made the water change abruptly from very cold to scorching hot and back within about 30 seconds.
typical water pipe in rural villages
potable water in one of places we stayed
COSTS OF SOME OF THE PROJECTS WE SUPPORT
- Build a stove for a family currently cooking with wood and stones: $200 - Cost of running the Hands of Hope clinic for one day $200 - Blankets for a family of 6 living in corn stalk house: $36 - Diapers for Amor del Nino Orphanage: $25 for 250 diapers (10,000 are used every month) - Provides corn, beans and rice for a family of 6 for 1 month: $50 - Doctor's annual salary for clinic in Monterico: $8,000 - Approx. monthly cost of diapers for orphanage: $1,000 - Monthly cost of special medication for diabetic child: $110 - wooden bed frame (allows children and adults to sleep off the dirt floor): $50