Sunday, December 31, 2006

Happy New Year!!!

Welcome to 2007!!

Johnny and Maria Coker

Monday, December 25, 2006

"...the bombs bursting in air..."

There appears to be a guatemalan tradition of using fireworks during the Christmas holidays. We have heard an increase of fireworks and firecrackers during December, which peaked at midnight last night. Shortly before midnight, we stood on the Lohrenz roof overlooking a large part of Guatemala City. Sporadic fireworks had started at dusk, but at 11:55 (someone couldn't tell time!) the skies over Guatemala City looked like WWIII had started! These were not the little "piddling" fireworks that you see in someone's back yard - no, these were worthy of the Spirit of America fireworks on the Fourth of July!!! Between all the "booms", and the resulting car alarms that went off, it was deafening! There was also the bracing smell of gunpowder in the air! At 6:00 AM this morning and at noon today, there was a repeat, although not to the level of last night! It seems we will get to experience this again on New Year's Eve, but we will have to see if Panajachel can outdo Guatemala City!

I played for two candlelight services last night, then we had the obligitory "Christmas" tamales and ponche (hot punch with fruit). It has been fun seeing the traditions of our new country but we miss the cameraderie of family and friends. We wish you all a Merry Christmas and a joyfilled New Year!

Johnny and Maria

Monday, December 18, 2006

"Christmas" tradition

We noticed last year in November/December that along a certain section of the Panamerican highway, children would sit in groups and wave at the passing cars. At first we just thought they were being friendly, but this year we discovered their true "objective"! In our recent trips back and forth to the capital (6 times in as many weeks), we saw the children on the side of the road, some in groups of 2 or 3, some in groups of 10 or 12. Johnny noticed that cars in front of him were throwing candy to the kids that waved! We have since bought a big bag of candy and Johnny and I have had as much fun throwing candy as the children collecting it! Yesterday, as we returned to Panajachel, there were more kids than ever! I completely depleted two large bags of candy and will have to buy more before we return to the capital on Friday!

As we see the children each trip, it reminds me that over half the population of Guatemala is under the age of 18. Please pray for salvation of the children of Guatemala.


PS You don't know how hard it was to take pictures of the children while trying to throw candy out the window at 40 miles per hour! This is the only one I took that wasn't blurry!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Vacation Bible School

Because November and December are the months of "vacation" from school, it is the perfect time for Vacation Bible School! This is the third day of VBS at the Panajachel church we attend and we help with the Arts and Crafts. Day 1 saw 120 children attend, but on day 2, the total jumped to around 160! Besides helping with the Arts and Crafts, I also am playing for the singing, helping them learn a song about Daniel. It's been fun but I am exhausted after each day! Jan Lohrenz will be here to help me on the next two days so Johnny and John can work at Centennial Camp. What fun (as John would say)!


Monday, December 11, 2006

Music is Christmas

Music has always been a big part of Christmas for me. Whether it is hymns such as Silent Night or The First Noel or Christmas programs performed at church, it doesn't feel like Christmas without music. This year, since we won't be home for Christmas with our family, I agreed to play the music for the Christmas cantata at the Union Church (English-speaking) in Guatemala City. We performed the program last night to a packed house. I was priviledged to play with a large chamber orchestra, which included members of the Guatemalan Symphony, and for the Union Church choir, including a budding opera singer. The final song was a mixture of different songs from The Messiah! It was a highlight of my Christmas! The only glitch was the latin music playing outside that kept getting louder to outdo us!

I hope your Christmas is also filled with music!


Monday, December 04, 2006


Check out our new well and transformer!! They delivered the transformer yesterday with 220 voltage instead of the 110 we thought. And the well is 11 meters (approx. 33 feet) deep with 3 meters of water. We will be working to finish the things inside the house and hope to move in during January. Thank you for all of you that helped with your prayers, financial help and hands. More later!


Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Our first funeral

Johnny and I attended our first funeral in Guatemala yesterday, for the mother of our pastor in Panajachel. In Antigua we lived a block from the local cemetery and had seen many funerals and the following processions. But yesterday, we experienced it first hand. The service was held in Solola, at the evangelical church there. After a moving service (the pastor lost his father 4 months ago), we prepared for the processional. Thankfully, I had worn shoes comfortable for walking because the processional was from the church to the cemetery (about 1/2 mile). For those of you that have been here, remember the brightly colored cemetery you can see as we traveled from the Camp to Pana everyday? That's the one! Everyone walks behind the casket as it is carried by family and friends. The parade we made stopped all traffic (even the buses!) as we spread from one side of the street to the other. The pallbearers stopped periodically and swapped out, male and female alike. Many of the women were in typical Mayan dress but a few of us were dressed Western style. It was strange to see some of the daughters wearing spike heels and carrying the casket! (I half expected someone to turn an ankle). Also the day was hot with no clouds and only a slight breeze, so people would dart into stores as we passed and buy water or soft drinks. After another short service at the cemetery (standing in the sun), all walked back to the church for lunch. It is always interesting to see the differences in cultures and makes me realize how ethnocentric one can become if you are never exposed to them. Things are not necessarily better or worse - just different.


Saturday, November 25, 2006

Things we miss

I just read the Brannon blog and was struck by Shay's list of things missed. So I thought I would give a list of things we miss:

* fellowship with Christians in English
* sermons in English - FBC and online sermons help!
* singing in English!
* safe and consistent mail service
* good, safe highways
* convenient shopping (groceries, in particular)
* central heating
* water pressure
* pecans (here but very expensive)
* Southern pork sausage (like Jimmy Dean)

Just a short list off the top of my head! As much as we are ready to move to the Centennial Camp house, we are enjoying having internet in the house and cable TV (Johnny's watching the FLA/FSU game as I write this!). I may have a much longer list when I get to Centennial Camp!


Friday, November 24, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving to all! I wanted to blog yesterday but have had trouble with the internet. We spent the day in the capital with the Lohrenzes and 53 of the CAM-Guatemala missionary family and friends. We had the typical turkey and dressing with CRANBERRY SAUCE! (We don't get that often) Many thanks were given by all for the blessings God has given us during the past year. For us in particular, we are thankful for the recent visit home with our family, good health, progress on the move to Centennial Camp and good, cool "fall-type" weather (the picture was taken yesterday, note the turtleneck!). We hope your day was filled with blessings of being with family and friends or, if nothing else, rest. Thank you, faithful friends, for your prayers for us, particularly as we spend the holidays away from "home". God is blessing us with His peace, knowing we are where He wants us.


Oh yeah, Happy Birthday to me!! (yesterday)

Monday, November 20, 2006

Meet Eric and Carmen

I have mentioned this family before...friends we said goodbye to when we left Antigua. Thankfully, we have had continued contact with them and the First Bible Church team, Jonathan Moore in particular, built benches for Carmen to climb the hill to her home (which she uses daily). This family are new Christians who now attend the church we attended in Antigua. Eric and Carmen are the parents and children (L-R) Jose, Eric Jr., Rosario and Maria Elisa. They are a loving family without many resources. Carmen was diagnosed several years ago with a faulty mitral valve in her heart. In the last year since we have known her, she has gone downhill healthwise. Recently, Eric took her to the hospital here for heart conditions and she is in the process of obtaining valve replacement surgery. She is very nervous about the surgery and has pumped Johnny for information about his heart surgery. Eric called two days ago and told me that she is looking at about two more weeks of preliminary tests and lab work and also for six pints of blood to be donated for her. Please pray for this family. As I mentioned, Carmen is apprehensive of the surgery but she is dying without it. Pray for the blood to be donated, lab work to be completed, the wisdom of the doctors and the money for the surgery. Even though the work will be done in the national hospital, the doctor must be paid. He is requiring fifteen thousand quetzales up front (a little over $2000). This from a family that has little resources. The church in Antigua is helping and coming around this family. Also pray for blessings for this church! Thank you for your prayers for this family. They have become good friends and we would love to see Carmen healthy!


Wednesday, November 15, 2006

We almost didn't believe it!

We are hosting a team this week that is working at the Camp. We knew that the government was widening the highway in front of the property, but they were taking the land from the camp side of the highway, not the house side. What we didn't know, but found out Monday when we arrived at the Camp, was that they dumped all the dirt from the excavation on our side! Also, the guy that owns the cornfield behind the house decided that he wanted to build a house on his cornfield and asked that dirt be dumped in his field. As you may can see, the drainage work that was done on our property is now moot - his field is now about 20 feet high! We are very concerned about what will happen when the next rainy season hits! The dirt between us and the highway (about 4 feet high) will be moved to level the area between the house and the entrance and make a football (soccer) field. We were sorry for the trees we lost, but many of the cedars lining the highway as a buffer are still there. One picture also shows the opposite side of the highway (camp side) and the area that was taken there.

The team here from Visalia, CA, is reroofing the house and the well digger came yesterday! Things are progressing and we may be in the house by Christmas. That would be a nice Christmas present!!

Please note the change in the email address:

Friday, November 10, 2006

Thank goodness God answers prayers!

Living in the U. S., I had a habit of depending on myself and the things I could do to solve my problems. After nearly 2 years of living in Guatemala, I have discovered that there are many times that I can't depend on myself for or that there is nothing I can do. In these times you have to have a total dependence on God. Such was last Sunday! After the morning service at church, the pastor asked us (in front of everyone) if we could carry some people to a distant village that afternoon to visit the dying mother of one of the church members. We agreed and met back at the church at 2:00 for the trip. What a time not to have my camara! Our poor Suburban was loaded with 17 adults and an infant and off we went! At the first major hill, most of us had to get out and walk. This was not looking good and it didn't get any better! The road went from pavement to gravel to dirt. About a third of the way down one mountian, driving in first gear due to the steepness, first gear began making an awful racket. Johnny had to ride his brakes to get the rest of the way down. At the bottom of the mountain, before climbing the next, we stopped to let the brakes cool. During the cooling process, most of our passengers struck out walking, arriving at the house just before the woman died. After cooling, the Suburban was off and running again with just three of us. When we arrived, there was a short "service", attended by a good 30 people. We were all sitting around the walls of the woman's bedroom with her lying, covered, in the bed. (Don't forget, she died about an hour before!) The service lasted for about 20 minutes and off we went again heading home. Now, I knew that we had gone up one mountain, down the other side and up another mountain to get there. So, with little brakes, no first gear and a very noisy second and third gear, here we went, heading back to Panajachel! At one point, going up the last steep place, we were moving about 1-2 miles per hour. We had already sent everyone that we could back to Panajachel in the back of a pickup, but we still had 5 or 6 people in our truck. I think we had angels pushing from behind to get us up that mountain! I had my head bowed and was urgently praying for those angels and I don't think I was the only one! God was gracious and answered our prayers to get us over the summit. We made it back in time for the evening service but I think the Suburban has had it! This was one of those situations where there was nothing we could do except depend on God. It taught us a valuable lesson which I don't think we will forget anytime soon!


Please note the change in the email address - CAM is dropping the "email" before caminternational. We will still receive email from the old address also, until everyone is changed.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Renewed and Refreshed!

While I fully intended to blog at least once during our visit to the States, I never seemed to find the time! We are back in Guatemala after a whirlwind trip of 1500 miles and travel to 3 states in 2 weeks. We saw both daughters and their respective husbands, Johnny's sisters, aunt, uncle and a couple of cousins, my mom, brother-in-law and nephews and a host of friends in Decatur. Traveling to Nashville, TN, gave us cool weather and beautiful color in the trees, something we have really missed. Travel to Tallahassee, FL, prepared us for our return here with gorgeous sunny days in the high 70's. I enjoyed playing the piano during the services at First Bible Church one Lord's Day, although I didn't get to visit folks as much as I would have wished. And, praise of praises, our house finally sold and we were able to attend the closing! This was a bittersweet time, in that we loved the house we raised our girls in, now no longer a "safety net" to fall back on, but we don't have the expense of a house we aren't living in. God's timing is great!

The rest of today will be a "rest day". Tomorrow and Thursday are holidays, but we will have to be hard at work preparing for the workteam that arrives the 11th. And we are looking at moving once again at the end of the month, so we prepare for that also. Pray that the Camp house will be ready for us to move into!


Friday, October 13, 2006


We are quickly trying to finish last minute things here in Panajachel before we head to the States next week! Johnny will spend tonight and tomorrow at a men's retreat in Chimaltenango while I work on packing. We are so excited about spending a couple of weeks with family and friends! Please pray for safety as we travel and for a refreshing time with those we love. When we return, we immediately jump into preparing for a team from California. We will also have to deal with another impending move. So pray we rest up while in Tennessee, Alabama and Florida!


Monday, October 09, 2006

Some of our recent wanderings...

In the past few weeks, we have traveled over some of the area where we will be working. It is harvest time here, as in the States, and we have seen much broccoli, potatoes, carrots, and soon, corn. At present, land is precious, and the corn is planted right up to the houses. You can see the roofs in among the corn plants. Very soon, the corn will be harvested and the plants cut. Then the houses will be exposed until the next planting season.

Since Panajachel is in a valley and the Camp is on a mountain, no matter where we travel, we always go either up or down. And the beauty of the volcanos and the lake never fail to make me want to take "one more picture"!

A recent trip was across the lake to Santiago with Beth and Steve Kennedy. They are currently the host/hostess at Las Buenas Nuevas (LBN) and hail from Apple's Chapel (church) in North Carolina. They are also great friends with Jess and Janet Montegudo of First Bible in Decatur!

A recent trip to Sta. Lucia, not far from the Camp, included a stop at Morada de Dios and its school El Mesias. This is the CAM church there and one of "our" churches. As you can see, kids are kids everywhere and love to have their pictures taken. The little girl with the pink shirt and hat grabbed my hand and escorted me through the school. She only let go to get her picture taken!

Below is Ana, who lives in Santiago. She is displaying some of the work her family has for sale. She said she did not stitch this herself, her mother did, but she is learning to do the embroidery also.

While I attended the Women's Retreat in Antigua recently, there were several ladies there doing their weaving, which, of course, we had the opportunity to buy! This is just one picture of several that I took showing the involved work of weaving cloth. The majority of the textiles you see from here are hand-woven and hand-stitched. It is amazing the work that is put into these "works of art"! But the old ways are beginning to die out. The newer generations are not being taught to do the weaving and stitching. They are also losing the Mayan languages, since the children are taught Spanish in school. I have talked to several young ladies in their late teens and early twenties who cannot speak the "old " languages of their families, even though their parents speak it, Spanish is used in the homes.

I hope you have enjoyed seeing a little of our recent wanderings! Many of you have asked for pictures, so I will continue to post them until you get tired of them!


Friday, October 06, 2006

The Promises of God

I'm sorry to all of you that say you check our blog daily for news and have had to put up with nothing new until now! I didn't want to send out anything until we knew for certain our plans.

In recent postings, you have read of our very nomadic existence. continues! But we have until November 30th to get out of our apartment, not October 31st as previously thought. We found out late yesterday for sure. So now we are focusing on getting the things at the Camp ready for us to move there. A man from the power company has been to the house about the transformer and a team from California will replace the roof on the house in November. So things progress.

All of our recent moves had me insecure and unsettled. Many of you knew of my homesickness, partly due to not having a "nest". But last weekend was spent at a women's retreat that focused on the promises of God. During the personal meditation time, I was convicted of my sin of not trusting God. Our family is happy and healthly, we are safe and comfortable and God has been good to us. In the "grand scheme of things", moving a few times is not worthy of so much distress. After turning everything over to the One who takes care of us, I am content with anything He brings us, knowing He will be there through it all. Thank you for your prayers on our behalf. We ask for continued prayers for Centennial Camp and the house we are trying to complete. Also for travel as we head to the States for "Christmas in October" with our family.

"But blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. He will
be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does
not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year
of drought and never fails to bear fruit." Jeremiah 17:7-8

Trust in the Lord. He who holds all the universe in His hands will never leave you.


Friday, September 29, 2006

Here we go again!!

This is a first- Johnny blogging instead of Maria! Maria usually handles the blog but she is at a ladies retreat this week-end. Good time for her to relax and fellowship (in English!) with the women of Union Church of Guatemala City. So- bear with the second string.

Just when we thought it was safe to unpack- Today we got word that our apartment has been sold and we have a month to move. Actually, we only have two weeks because we leave for the States Oct. 17th. After the initial scream of frustration, we could only grin (and laugh a little) and bear it. We have been so nomadic over the last few months we are ready to buy a camel and herd of sheep. As Maria said, we can't sell a house in Decatur and can't keep one here. Fortunately, there are some other apartments available in the same building that are not for sale, so we will start the process over again next week. At least we have the process down. God is helping us remain F.A.T.- a wonderful acronym taught to us by some visiting Alabama nurses- Flexible, Adaptable, and Tolerant. Pray that we maintain this attitude because this does take away from our ministry responsibilities. We are preparing for a team coming in November and time is essential. Pray also we manage our time wisely.

That's all for now. Maria will resume the regular blog duties in the next couple of days. I know my limitations and don't want to push this too far.

Looking forward to seeing everyone in October,

Johnny for the Cokers

Friday, September 22, 2006

Centennial Camp

Several of you have asked what is going on with the Centennial Camp house. This was taken two days ago. As you can see, this year we have added a fence around the property, placed an underground electric line from pole to house, added the sewer and field lines, graded the property and completed the garage (except for doors). Things that can't be seen are the kitchen cabinets and new wiring for the house. All we lack is the electric transformer and to dig a well. At present we are waiting on the people that are to do these things.

This is a glimpse of our new apartment. You can tell Guatemalans love color! There is one bedroom, a storage area where we put up metal shelving for our clothes and 1 1/2 baths! We are very comfortable here and plan to stay until we can move to Centennial Camp!

Kitty loves the balcony. She is three floors up and has nothing to jump to so we feel pretty safe with her going out there, although we do keep an eye on her and close the door when we are not here.

Hope this helps you "picture" us in our setting! The Lord has blessed us with a place where we feel settled, for now. This has really been a year of dependence on Him, but we have both grown in our faith because of it. Thank you for being a part of His work in Guatemala.


Monday, September 18, 2006

Feeling more at home

It's funny how living with your own furniture, towels and such can make you feel at home. Once we got the apartment "fixed", we are feeling much more at home and settled. Being on the third floor, the bugs (mainly spiders and ants) haven't found us - or maybe they don't want to climb 3 floors to get to us! Suits me! We had a "dinner party" night before last with the couple that took our place at Las Buenas Nuevas, Steve and Beth Kennedy. Those of you from First Bible may have met them when they were there for the TEAM missions conference several weeks ago. Steve and Beth are great friends with Jess and Janet Montegudo and we discussed the great sadness in the Montegudo and Barthel homes over LSU's loss to Auburn last weekend. Yes, we got to see the game on television!!!! Don't know if we will get to see Alabama play, but Auburn and LSU were ranked high enough for them to be televised on national television on CBS, one of the stations we can receive. (We have cable and internet at the apartment and are taking advantage of it because we will lose it all when we move to Centennial Camp.)

We understand that many of you are beginning to have fall weather! As we end the rainy season, it rains more of the day and is a little cooler. But we miss the color change in the leaves. Many of the area trees are pine and the temperature doesn't change enough for the leaves on the hardwoods to change. Other than that, the area of the Camp feels much like North Alabama!

Thanks for all of your comments on the blog - I'm glad that we can connect in this way. I am occasionally surprised at the different people that read about us and many of you commented on the pictures. I will try to post plenty of pictures so you can "picture" us in our new setting!


Friday, September 15, 2006

Latin American Independence Day

Today, September 15th, is Independence Day for most of Central America. We are a half block off the main street in Panajachel, so we were entertained for an hour or so this morning with all the surrounding schools' bands in a parade. We could watch the festivities from our balcony and could hear it from anywhere in the apartment!

We have had an interesting first week in the apartment. First, it is on the third floor, so we are losing weight carrying things up the stairs. Second, the hot water heater blew up on our second day here. Actually, it was an intake water pipe that managed to spew water everywhere after the big boom! After two days of repairing, we finally have hot water today - with the lights on! We are settling in and feeling more at home.


Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Moved in

We have completed our move to an apartment in Panajachel! As I mentioned before, unfurnished here means more than no furniture - it also means no stove, no refrigerator and, in this case, no cabinets. So, we made a trip to the capital this past weekend for shelves to store clothes and food and to pick up the fridge and stove we had previously bought. Last night, we discovered a "little quirk" about this apartment - when you turn on hot water, anywhere in the house, the overhead lights flicker and blow a breaker! Imagine Johnny's surprise when the lights went out during his shower! We hoped it was a fluke, but it happened again this morning when I ran the water to wash dishes. Just a "little quirk" that I hope can be fixed!

I'll post pictures later!!


Sunday, September 03, 2006

Just where do you live?

For those of you that still have problems figuring out where we live, here is a pictorial to help! Check the map for "Antigua Guatemala" - not to be confused with the island of Antigua! The town of Antigua is land-locked and is a beautiful
Spanish colonial area. This is where we first lived
when we came to Guatemala for language school.

We now live in Panajachel, a small town on the side of a mountain, next to Lake Atitlan. Look westward on the map for the lake and Panajachel is on the northeastern edge, right under Solola. We will be moving this week to an apartment in the town, but have been living in a house on CAM's property there.

This is our ultimate move - Centennial Camp. On the map, it is about at the "z" in Santa Cruz La Laguna. This is our house, which still needs an electrical transformer and well before we can move in.

Hope this helps!

Happy birthday to our son-in-law Micah today! Wish we were there to help you celebrate!


Saturday, September 02, 2006

An interrupted nap

Her favorite spot in a sunny window - the better to watch the world go by...when she's not sleeping!

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Thank you for your prayers...

Thank you to all who have been praying for us and our housing situation. God answered your prayers with an apartment here in Panajachel that we can rent month-to-month. It is small (no problem) and comes unfurnished. Unfurnished here in Guatemala also means no stove, refrigerator, cabinets or anything. There is a kitchen sink and fixtures in the bathroom. That's about it! But it is a place we can stay until the Camp house is ready. And, short of a disaster, we won't have to move again until we move to the Camp.

The homesickness continues, but is better with thoughts of not having to move an indefinite number of times. Besides, an upcoming trip home always helps! Thank you for your prayers, emails and calls in this regard. And thanks for allowing me to have a "pity-party" online!

Johnny has worked for the last week and a half at the Camp, almost completing the garage. We still need garage doors and an interior door, along with a few other minor things, but it looks great! I have also started planting bouganvilia along the fence, which will be beautiful, not to mention colorful, as it grows.

I'll post pictures soon!


Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Prayer needs

Thanks to Arlene Grimm, I now have to keep the blog up-to-date!!! Seriously, there are several folks out there that keep up with our blog faithfully, our daughters included, so that's incentive right there. Thank you for caring enough to want to check on us.

I read the First Bible newsletter online this morning and got homesick again. (It's happening alot lately!) We are looking so forward to our visit home in October. It will be a whirlwind of travel, but we will be having "Christmas in October" with our family. We will be visiting Lindsay and Micah in Nashville, then a brief visit to Decatur (sorry guys, it will be brief), then on to Sylacauga/Birmingham for visits with my mother and family there, and finally to Tallahassee to visit with Jennifer and Andy (first time to see the new couple since the wedding). We can't wait!

Please pray for us. Part of our homesickness is our "nomadic" lifestyle of recent weeks. Having just settled into Las Buenas Nuevas the first of July, we now have to move again. We knew it would be short, but were hoping that we could move to Centennial Camp from here. Unless there is a miracle out there, we will not have an electrical transformer or well finished by the middle of September. Things move slowly here - good in some cases, not good in others. Unfortunately, this is one of those cases that we really could use some speed! So we move again the first of next week for two weeks only. From there...who knows? Pray that the house at Centennial Camp will be completed enough to move into (ideal) or that we find a place for the next 4-6 months.

Thank you for your prayers and support. It helps knowing that there are folks back home that care.


Tuesday, August 22, 2006

A difference or two...

As I write this, the power has gone off a couple of times, and with that, we lose the internet connection. We are getting used to coming home and finding the alarm clock blinking, a sign the power has been off. A time or two, we ate supper by candlelight...romantic if there is just two of you, but twice now, it has been with teams of 20 or so! We adjust to the outages, although I have discovered a need for a battery powered clock - something to reset all the electric ones by!

Sunday, we went to church by boat - 45 minutes across the lake to the CAM church in Santiago. (See the volcano in the background? We went around behind it.) They have a thriving church with many daughter churches and a missions program that supports 8 missionaries! This is unusual. Most of the churches barely support themselves, let alone missions. But the Alpha y Omega church has taken the Great Commission to heart and are thriving because of it!

We found the church services were in the evening, so we attended Sunday School instead. The women and men were split, so Mike Stephenson and Johnny went one way and I went another - alone. Most of the lesson was taught in Tzutujil with a little Spanish thrown in for good measure. I could keep up with the lesson from the Spanish words and the Bible references the teacher gave. But I must have missed something - I heard the teacher say that the "sister didn't understand anything!" (He said this in Spanish) I announced that I did understand...all the Spanish parts! Although most of the people of the church speak and understand Spanish, all of the classes and sermons are done in Tzutujil. It reminded me of when we first arrived in Guatemala and didn't understand anything said in church. We opted to come home and put in a CD from First Bible Church that afternoon. The music and teaching was so comforting!

On our way back across the lake, we met Andrea, a 10 year-old from Santiago. She was curious about us and talked much of the way back, until the rocking of the boat lulled her to sleep. (She's looking at Johnny who is making faces at her to get her to smile!) Pray for the children of Guatemala. Since 70% of the population of Guatemala is under age 28, they are the future of this country.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

How can anyone be homesick with beauty like this surrounding you? As we went to the Capital on Monday, here is a little of what we saw:

Beautiful flame trees at one of the lookouts on the mountain. If I'm not mistaken, several of the ladies from First Bible did some shopping here. (Oh, was I not supposed to tell?)

A view of the lake (Lake Atitlan) from above Solola. We get to look at this everyday, only from a little lower.

A great view as we climb out of the valley of the lake. No, Mother, I don't get too close to the edge!

Combine all this with some of the best coffee and the friendliest people in the world! A great place to spend your retirement! Come visit us!


Monday, August 14, 2006

A day of music

Yesterday was a busy day for us - we attended the Panajachel church for Sunday morning, then a quick lunch and an hour drive to the Pamezebal church for a "musical event". Getsemeni (Pamezebal) has a worship leader that was trained in music and yesterday was the program for all the groups. There were several groups, but the men's quartet was great! They could not rival Bruce and the guys at First Bible, but they were good! (I want a group to come and sing in this church!) During the children's songs, there were three little boys on the second row acting up and paying no attention whatsoever to the director. Being around 5-6 years old, I figure we will see them at the Camp one day and they will be our mischief-makers! Two other songs of note were "Shout to the Lord" (in Spanish) by a ladies group and "The Hallelujah Chorus" by the church choir. It was an enjoyable afternoon!

Then we were off again, another hour back to Panajachel to the church there for a musical group from the States and Canada. These were late teens and early twenties kids that are part of a ministry named "Carpenter's Tools" and sang in English and Spanish. They were excited to hear us speaking English and we had a nice chat afterward. We finally got home around 10 o'clock and fell into the bed with the rain and thunder pounding outside.

After all the rain, we awoke to quite chilly temperatures this morning. Knowing that Panajachel is warm compared to Solola, I can only imagine what the temperature was at the Camp this morning! I need to collect up sweatpants and sweaters when we are home in October!

Before closing, I want to tell my new son-in-law, Andy, Happy Birthday! We heard from them this morning and they made it to Tallahassee yesterday, after an enjoyable trip cross country, a visit with Lindsay and Micah in Nashville and a lunch at Bib Gibson's in Decatur! Andy really liked the ribs at Bob Gibson's!


Thursday, August 10, 2006

A couple of cuties...

Remember when I mentioned taking a group from the church and picking pine needles two weeks ago? Well, this little cutie, Lilliana, joined her family in the outing. As you can tell, she was adorable, even if a little messy eating black beans with her fingers! Mom kept her very neat and clean, though, I have photos of her in three different outfits that day!

This is for Candie - here's your little angel, Jacqueline. We got to see several of the babies again that we first met when we worked at Eagle's Nest with the First Bible team. An amazing 85% of these children are already spoken for - even the ones with disabilities and deformities! The orphanage is run by an American couple with a foundation in the US. The place is one of the cleanest I have seen and it is obvious that the girls who take care of the children love them as if they were their own. It is touching to see a family get to claim their child, but there are as many tears on the side of the workers as there are with the new families. Pray for the orphaned and abandoned children of Guatemala. There are many in less desirable orphanages and many who still roam the streets.


Monday, August 07, 2006

God is good

God was gracious to us yet again. We dropped off the Hastie family yesterday evening for them to fly out today. This morning we got up to car problems. Two praises: 1)no car problems while we were transporting the team around, and 2)an excellent mechanic here in the capital that also speaks English! Some things we just don't have all the vocabulary for yet.

As we traveled around this past week with the Hastie family, my car was the designated "Hill" vehicle. Shelley Hill is the granddaughter of George and Mary Ruth Hastie, and she, her husband and two small children made the trip with the family. My car had seatbelts (with shoulder harnesses) in the back seat for the two kids. Problem was that the shoulder strap hit the kids across the face! What do you do when confronted with this problem? You flip over the buckets bought to wash dishes in and use them as booster seats! We can get creative when we have to!

We made great contacts in the Solola area churches for the Camp ministry and future projects. I made contact with a choir director at one of the churches and he wants to do a "concert" with me! (Bruce, I continue to get in practice but I wonder if he will be as demanding as you?) We are excited to be beginning our work, even though we are not living at the Camp yet. Pray for our preparation of our "casita" there for our final move.

Please pray for Jennifer and Andy as they begin their cross-country move from Seattle, WA, to Tallahassee, FL. They leave today, hoping to arrive in Nashville to visit Lindsay and Micah on Friday night, then on to Birmingham to visit Jennifer's mother, before settling in their new apartment in Tallahassee, close to the FSU campus. Andy will begin law school there on August 16th.

We are always thankful for your prayers on our behalf. God has been gracious and, even when we are tired, gives us a renewed spirit. We have continued affirmation that we are exactly where God wants us to be!


Saturday, August 05, 2006

Another work week draws to an end

This week was spent with the Hastie family of Texas. The work we completed included the floor of the garage and the field lines for the sewer. More digging!!! But it all looks great!

Lunch one day was provided by the La Cienega church. The ladies supplied not only us, but the
extra workers we had for the day. It was a good day.

We had so much rain that the gravel truck had to dump part of his load to be able to get out of there!

Included in the plans for the week was the baptism in Lake Atitlan of one of George and Mary Ruth's granddaughters.

Of course, we visited the Eagle's Nest Orphanage again and worked for the day. Some of the older girls liked to help.

Besides getting fed by the La Cienega church, we had supper at the home of Juan Aju, parents of Ruth and Santos. It was a joyous evening, if not a little tight!

I'm still working on how to get everything to look "professional" on the blog, but haven't worked out all of the bugs. Bear with me as I learn!


Monday, July 31, 2006

Happy 50th Birthday Johnny!

We celebrated Johnny's 50th birthday yesterday - amid a whirlwind day of travel with the Hastie family! We are currently hosting a couple of retired CAM missionaries and their 4 generations for the week. They have played "old home week" for the last two days but we grounded them today and they are working at the Camp for 3 days.

Thank you for the birthday greetings to Johnny! He is trying to forget the day but I won't let him!

Love to all,

Monday, July 24, 2006


For the past week, we have been on the go constantly. Most of it has been physical, especially for Johnny. He spent 3 days last week digging a 75' long by 2' deep trench for a field line for the sewer. He will finish up this week, all in preparation for a team that arrives this Friday. Then, after spending two days in the Capital shopping for the food for the arriving team, we returned to Pana to spend Saturday working at the Camp with local youth. It was physical work, and that was after trekking 500' up the mountain! Sunday was spent in church in the morning, where a church-wide work day was announced - for Sunday afternoon! So we spent all afternoon painting and building at the church before a quick shower and returning to the evening services. I had to play the keyboard again, which was no problem since I knew what the songs were in advance this time! (Not that I had time to practice!) Then, at the evening service, the pastor announced that Johnny would be taking a group of voluteers to the Camp on Wednesday to cut pine branches. (He is??) All this as we prepare for the team on Friday. Besides all the physical work, almost everything we do now is in Spanish and we have to concentrate to catch what is being said. The more tired we are, the less we understand. Please keep us in your prayers. We sat for 2 months in Antigua and I couldn't wait to get to this area. Now that I am here, I wish I could just sit for a few minutes! Pray that we would not be discouraged and would be dependent on the One who sent us, not on ourselves and our strength. Thank you.

For an idea of what different missionaries around the world deal with, read Beth Moore's Voices of the Faithful. It is a daily devotional book - we received one for Christmas from dear friends last year and I have been using it. Many of the entrys are so encouraging that I read more than the one day's devotion! It makes me feel petty, after reading how some of the missionaries live, but it also lets me know that I am not the only one to feel discouraged or petty! It is an eye-opening insight to missionaries and how normal they are!


Sunday, July 23, 2006

Youth Workday

Yesterday was a youth workday on the top of the mountain, cleaning around the completed cabins. Next week they plan to have a department-wide youth campout. It will be rustic, as there is no electricity yet; some will sleep in cabins, some in tents outside, and there is a "one-hole" latrine up there! But it will be used! Johnny worked with the youth clearing the land while I bought pizzas and drink and hauled it up there for lunch. "Haul" is the right word! Anyone who has walked up the 500 feet to the cabins knows how straight up it is! I had a 5 gallon bottle of water, 6 pizzas, a bag with cups, napkins, etc., and three "haulers" (young men with strong backs and weak minds). The guys swapped out carrying the water and pizzas and I carried very little. Still, I thought I would die before I reached the top! And we took it slow! Coming down was much easier and I will have to work on climbing the hill without having a heart attack!

The kids were great, though, and made a point to introduce themselves and tell which church they came from. The hard part will be remembering all the names - I have a hard enough time in English with names! But we felt very welcome and were glad to be a part of the workday!

Today in church, I had to play again due to the regular organist having a broken collarbone! Thankfully, they had set up a small keyboard for me to play, although I am having to learn to play standing up! I did much better since I had a keyboard with all the keys working and I asked what the songs were ahead of time. The whole morning went much smoother!

Take time today to reflect on the goodness of God.


Friday, July 21, 2006

New "old" house

Several people have asked to see pictures of our "new" house. It is rumored to be a Sears catalogue house, built around 1920. It reminds me of the house my grandmother lived in. Most walls are lap siding, painted white. In most rooms, the floors are painted wood too. Unfortunately, wood doesn't hold up well over time here and the house is held together with paint and the termites holding hands! Here is a picture of the dining room - the cat loves all the open windows! And the Guatemalans love the tablecloth - one I picked up at the First Bible Missions Closet! Whoever donated it - thanks! It is bright and cheery and I love doing my Bible study at the table with my coffee every morning!


Sunday, July 16, 2006


Today we went, again, to the CAM church in Panajachel. I was asked to play for the hymns and, having a hymnal with notes, I agreed. I was escorted to an old organ, complete with two keyboards and an octave of foot pedals. Now, there is one thing I have never learned to play and that's the organ! A keyboard is a keyboard, right? Uh-huh! Especially one where a third of the keys don't play! After delivering a quick prayer, I sat down and was given a hymn number. OK, so here I was, in a Spanish church, playing an organ I can't play, playing a hymn I don't know with keys that don't play. I made it through the first song and turned the organ over to someone else - out of the six hymns we sang, I actually knew only one of them. After a successful career playing the beautiful grand piano at First Bible Church, I was thoroughly humbled today.


Tuesday, July 11, 2006

All moved in...sort of

We've been so busy trying to get things organized in our new location that I didn't realize that I haven't written in a week! The house is almost in order and we know where most things are. The cat is happy because the windows are open most of the time and she sits and watches the birds. We have to use our Spanish (except with each other) and it takes alot of concentration. In church on Sunday, the pastor had us come up and introduced us as the new directors of the Centennial Camp. Then he handed the microphone to Johnny to speak. What was worse, he handed it to me afterward! Any Spanish I may have known suddenly flew out the door! But we made it through that service and then had to repeat it again that evening. And he offered to let Johnny preach one Sunday! (Johnny gently declined that offer!) So goes our first week!


Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Happy Fourth of July!!

Of course, the 4th of July is not celebrated here - except for the Texas teens staying here in LBN who lit off firecrackers last night about midnight! But we will celebrate today with chicken in Bob Gibson's BBQ sauce (white, of course) and Corn Casserole, made with Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix! All thanks to great friends in the US!

We got moved into Las Buenas Nuevas (LBN) in Panajachel, finally, on Sunday evening. We found they were painting the floors of the house we were to live in, so we have moved all over the compound in search of a place to lay our heads. The cat has adapted surprisingly well. She has moved into three different places in the last week but still purrs when we are around. When we first moved to Guatemala, she stayed under the furniture for 2 weeks, so this is a pleasant change.

Our house here is a Sears catalog house, complete with lap siding, windows with screens that open and ceiling fans. It is all wood and the termites love it! For all the strong rain we had when the rainy season hit, it is hot and dry right now. You can see the volcanos across the lake clearly and sunrise is a gift from God to those who brave the early morning hours! See future postings for pictures of the area. All in all, the move was uneventful and we are pleased to be in the area we are going to be working in, even if we are not in our final resting place.

God bless each of you as you celebrate our nation's independence with your families.

Love in Christ,

Happy Fourth of July!!

Of course, the 4th of July is not celebrated here - except for the Texas teens staying here in LBN who lit off firecrackers last night about midnight! But we will celebrate today with chicken in Bob Gibson's BBQ sauce (white, of course) and Corn Casserole, made with Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix! All thanks to great friends in the US!

We got moved into Las Buenas Nuevas (LBN) in Panajachel, finally, on Sunday evening. We found they were painting the floors of the house we were to live in, so we have moved all over the compound in search of a place to lay our heads. The cat has adapted surprisingly well. She has moved into three different places in the last week but still purrs when we are around. When we first moved to Guatemala, she stayed under the furniture for 2 weeks, so this is a pleasant change.

Our house here is a Sears catalog house, complete with lap siding, windows with screens that open and ceiling fans. It is all wood and the termites love it! For all the strong rain we had when the rainy season hit, it is hot and dry right now. You can see the volcanos across the lake clearly and sunrise is a gift from God to those who brave the early morning hours! See future postings for pictures of the area. All in all, the move was uneventful and we are pleased to be in the area we are going to be working in, even if we are not in our final resting place.

God bless each of you as you celebrate our nation's independence with your families.

Love in Christ,

Saturday, June 24, 2006

A week of goodbyes

This past week has been one of goodbyes and next week promises more of the same. After saying goodbye to the First Bible Church team from Decatur, we have been making the rounds, saying goodbye to friends here in Antigua. Next Thursday, we will be relocating to Panajachel. For those of you that don't know it, it is one of the most beautiful places on God's earth! (Just ask Ronne or Candie Harvell, I think they took pictures of every flower on the place!) It was after seeing CAM's property in Pana, in 1995, that I told Johnny "I had found the place for us to retire!!". Johnny said no, but it's funny how God works - that is exactly where we will be living!

We completed our oral language exams (by phone) and passed! And we have done lots of practicing Spanish as we said goodbye to several families that we have gotten close to in our time here.

The Andrade family is on the left and the Carrillo family is on the right.

Next week, we will meet with several more folks and finish packing. You would think that in an apartment as small as ours, we couldn't have collected too much "stuff"! Wrong!! This next week will determine how good a packer I am (getting stuff into boxes) and how good Johnny is (getting all the boxes in the two cars)! I'll keep you posted!