Monday, July 26, 2010

Complete VBS week

video VBS at Dios es Amor certainly keeps everyone busy. There are very large groups of children, and the young ones especially are hard to keep in hand. Thankfully, it was only on the last day that there was rain almost constantly; the other days, although rather overcast, stayed dry.

Sunday was the finale, and many of the more than 200 children who had attended the VBS invited their parents and other relatives to attend. In the church service, we sang the songs that the children had learned, and each age group gave a small presentation on stage. Our pastor spoke briefly, and then the children received their certificates and prizes. The service was very short, and after it ended, everyone went outside for cake and punch.

My sister is visiting for two weeks, and she joined Six, Abraham, and I for the afternoon in Huejotzingo. First, the children played soccer with Abraham, and then we gathered inside for the Bible story and songs. One young girl, Jacqueline, talked with Abraham after the Bible story, and she said she wanted Jesus in her heart. Please pray for her, that she will really understand the decision she made and that her life will be changed as a result. She is one of the children whose parents are in the States and who is living with her grandparents, many cousins, and some aunts and uncles.

We continue to pray for land in Huejotzingo. Please join us as we ask God how he would have us work in the area. There are so many needs.

Monday, July 19, 2010

VBS

Today was the first day of Dios es Amor's VBS. There were about 275 kids and young adults who came, and if the typical pattern persists, there will be around 300 by the end of the week. Abraham is in charge of the games, and I'm helping him. The attendees are divided into six groups: babies, 4 - 6 year olds, 7 - 9, 10 - 12, and 13 - 18. There is also a group of young women who have been attending VBS since they were children, and they continue to come. The hardest group to manage with the games is the 4 - 6 year olds (the babies don't come out with us). These youngsters are easily distracted and often don't understand or follow directions.

Please pray for the VBS. Pray for the volunteers who are in charge of groups, working in the kitchen, working in games, organizing crafts, helping with the booklets, and teaching lessons. The VBS is a big undertaking each year. Pray for the hearts of all who attend, that those who do not have a relationship with Jesus will be open to accepting him into their hearts and that those who do know him would be closer to him.

Yesterday in Huejotzingo, Abraham went to visit Don Ezekiel. It had been quite awhile since we last saw him. The two of them talked for a long time, and Don Ezekiel talked of his rancor toward his father and his anger over injustice in the world. He sees no reason to pardon his father. Please pray that God will change his heart so that he can let go of the burden of anger and accept Jesus into his life.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Our first anniversary (a super long post)

Because we got legally married two months before our church wedding, we can celebrate two anniversaries a year. For our church wedding anniversary on June 21, God provided us with the opportunity to fly to Huatulco, Oaxaca and stay for five days at a four star hotel for a tremendously good price.

Our flight left from Mexico City in the early afternoon on Monday. We arrived in the tiny international airport in Huatulco without any idea of how to get to our hotel. From previous traveling experience, we knew the airport taxis would charge far more than any other transportation, so we asked directions from one of the shop keepers.

Keeping her voice conspiratorially low ("The taxi drivers don't like when I give directions"), she told us where to catch a bus to La Crucecita which we knew was near our hotel. We walked out of the airport, and soon a bus came by. It took us through miles of brilliant green jungle and stopped at the station in La Crucecita.

When we asked how to get to Chahué where our hotel was, the man at the station told us it would be two hours walking. We asked someone else just outside the station and he said no, it would take maybe 1/2 hour of walking to get to the Villablanca.

As we checked in, the receptionist kindly upgraded our room from standard to junior suite. We had arrived during the low season, since the majority of schools are still in session, and therefore the hotel had very few guests.

After leaving our luggage in the room, we set out to find the beach. Because the area is basically jungle and is part of the Sierras and therefore very hilly, the beaches are actually a series of bays, and they can't be seen from any distance. Basically, you know you've arrived when you emerge from the trees.

We came out from the trees to see Chahué bay with its glassy clear water that characterizes all the Huatulco bays. Later on we learned that the bay is infamous for treacherous currents, but the water was peaceful when we strolled along the shoreline that afternoon.

After the refreshing walk, we went to a nearby supermarket to buy food for our meals that week. The travel package we found included American breakfasts each day, so we didn't need to buy much.

The biggest drawback to vacationing in Huatulco is that there are almost no public buses. Only one route passes through the town and goes to a few of the bays. The rest of the bays are accessible only by taxi or walking. We chose the latter option, and so on Tuesday we set out for a bay called La Entrega.

After some time walking in the heat and humidity, mostly uphill, we came to a look-out where we could see the bay below us. How dismaying to see that the road looped off away from the bay before arriving several kilometers later at La Entrega. We could see that cutting through the jungle straight downhill would take us to our destination and save lots of walking.

Anyone who has ever contemplated shortcuts knows that they're usually a bad idea. This time was no exception. As soon as we left the road and plunged steeply downhill, whiny clouds of mosquitoes enveloped us, hungrily feasting. Their constant bites drove us faster downhill, so it did not take long before we arrived abruptly at a tiny bay off to the side from La Entrega. We ran into the inviting water, and the salt soon soothed our multiple bites.

This bay has a reef, and people can rent snorkeling equipment at La Entrega in order to better see all the brilliant fish. The water is clear enough, however, that even people without masks can easily see much of the ocean life below. Waves lap tranquilly at the shore, hardly disturbing the surface.

We stayed, talking for awhile with some tourists from America who had swum from La Entrega to the mini-bay. And then we stayed some more, reluctant to return by the only route available - back up the "short cut" through the jungle. It turned out to be worse on the way uphill, because we couldn't find our way to the road, and the mosquitoes continued to bite with abandon. After about 45 minutes, we finally heard a car passing, and that guided us out to the road. Whew! On the way back to our hotel, we turned aside to the bay of Santa Cruz to ease the itching of the bites in the ocean water.

On Wednesday, instead of hiking to another bay, we went downtown. Huatulco is very small compared to Puebla. We browsed through shops, admiring the handiwork of local artisans displayed in a museum/shop and talking with one of the artisans as he worked on an alebrije.

Abraham had never eaten a tlayuda before, so when hunger struck, we began looking for a place to order them. In the zocalo at the hotels the costs were prohibitive, but leaving the main square, we found a small family-run place where the wife prepared our tlayudas and also offered tips on where we should visit during our stay.

Thursday we set out for two bays further away. Just as on Tuesday, our walk took us primarily uphill in the humidity and heat. After about an hour of walking, we arrived at the entrance to the first bay. El Arrocito is almost as tiny as its name implies, but it is lovely and peaceful, worth the long, steep walk the winds through luxury housing.

After some time enjoying the water and beauty, we hiked back out to the main road to continue to Tangolunda Bay. Unfortunately, we didn't have sunscreen with us, and most of our walk was in full sun. I began to sunburn, and both of us also felt very thirsty. We also didn't have any cash, so we had to find a place that accepted credit cards and had sunscreen and water.

Our first attempts failed. At one place they didn't accept credit cards, at another they normally did, but their system wasn't working. They directed us to a small plaza, and finally we found much needed sunscreen but still no water. At a coffee shop, we got water, but it wasn't enough.

We crossed the street to a hotel on Tangolunda Bay, looking for a place to buy water. Once we entered, however, we saw there was no store, but someone directed us to a restaurant, and there they gave us as much water as we wanted. Wonderful.

From there, we went through the hotel to the beach. Tangolunda is one of the most developed bays in Huatulco, but that does not mean it's very developed. In Huatulco there is a law that the hotels cannot be more than four stories high, which means that all development is low-key. The bay is surrounded by luxury hotels, but they are not presumptuous.

The bay is not as serene as in the other bays. The waves crash with some force against the beach, but the water is just as clear, and we saw schools of fish swimming in the breakers, darting back just in time to avoid being thrown on the sand. We strolled along the bay, crossing the full extent in about fifteen minutes. Because we had entered through a hotel, we didn't know how to leave by way of the public entrance, so we entered another hotel at the edge of the bay.

Just as we entered, a guard asked if we were guests at the hotel, and when we said no, he told us we weren't allowed in the hotel. Instead of making us leave though, he showed us the hotel's pet iguanas and their little swamp, and then opened a coconut for us to drink. After that, he directed us the to proper beach exit, and we set out on the long walk back to our hotel.

I was too sunburned the following day to want to be out in any sun. We stayed at the hotel most of the day, leaving only after the sun had set to visit downtown again.

Saturday was our final day, and it was the only day with any rain. Because Santa Cruz Bay is close to the hotel and easy to get to, we walked there after checking out of the hotel. We had time to enjoy the waves one more time before we had to leave for our flight back to Mexico City and from there the bus ride back home. It had been a marvelous vacation week together.