Sorry! Back to the trip. What a fantastic trip it was and an equally fantastic group of people to share it with. We began in Guatemala City arriving Friday afternoon and staying in my favorite hotel, La Casa Grande. We had Friday afternoon and evening and Saturday free so the group mostly rested up and did some shopping and a little sight seeing. Sunday morning, the real journey began. We left the hotel at 8am bound for the orphanage on three school buses. The drive was a winding bumpy one that lasted about an hour. Unfortunately, the streets of the village weren't made for school buses to travel but where there's a will, there's a way. Our drivers were great!
When we arrived and the gate was opened, the children of the orphanage were all lined up, name tags on and ready to go to the zoo. Unfortunately, they wouldn't allow pictures in the orphanage so you'll just have to imagine that scene.
I'm still not sure how many kids we took. There were 14 orphanage staff who counted the kids and went with us and kept track.........sort of. We were originally told 100 children would go to the zoo. Then the number changed to 130, and then we were told 30 children from each of four different hogars would be going. You can do the math, that would be 120 but when the kids were all loaded on the buses, the assistant director said to me, "100 children". Now if it hadn't been for the fact that we bought 50 bottles of water and told the children two of then had to share one bottle on the way home but we ran out before all of the kids had water, I might have believed that 100 count figure. I'm inclined to believe we had closer to 120 kids.
Our bus carried all boys. One of them asked if we could pray before we left so Gloria led the group in a prayer in Spanish.......the perfect way to start our excursion.
What a day! We started our time in the zoo with Pollo Campero lunch for everyone. The kids loved it! It was really a treat! I had gone the day before and ordered the lunches and paid for them so the restaurant was ready for us and they did a fantastic job of getting the food ready and out to us.
With the food gone, it was off to see the animals. The plan was for the kids to "stay in a line" with the orphanage staff spaced throughout the line and our group also spaced throughout. I'd say the line lasted about................5 minutes max. At first, I panicked. What would happen if we lost one of them?!?! But it all worked out fine. Eventually, we all made our way through the zoo and back to the buses.
The trip back to the orphanage wasn't without incident. One of the buses broke down so the occupants of three buses were combined into two but we snuggled up and made it the rest of the way back.
Before the boys got off the bus, Hector, a 14 year old who was sitting with Kels and Alex, said he wanted to thank us for such a special day. He said he would remember it for all of his life. Of course, I cried. To think such a simple thing, a trip to a zoo, had such an impact on a young man.
We unloaded the buses and had a quick tour of the orphanage, where we got to see our little Nola for a few minutes, then it was back to the hotel.
Monday morning we were off to Antigua. Our plan was to visit Kairos Christian School which was started by our friend Mayra Garcia's family. Mark and a couple of the younger men of our group went ahead to Kairos School while the rest of us received a tour of a public school. Our youth minister Tim did an awesome job of leading in some skits to entertain and educate the kids. We met with several different classes before we joined the guys at Kairos for lunch.
Mayra's 72 year old mother cooks for the children every day and she cooked for us as well.
We spent the rest of the day with the kids at Kairos. Tara lead the kids in some praise songs in English and then the kids sang one for us first in Spanish and then in English. It was Open The Eyes Of My Heart. A serious goose bump moment! Absolutely precious!
The kids leave at 3:00pm each day and so did we. We headed back to our hotel where some of our group braved the downpours and did some shopping. Most of our evenings were rainy unfortunately but it didn't stop the die hard shoppers.
The next morning it was back to work. The guys continued their construction help. Tim's group went to another public school. A couple of the teachers of our group led some English classes and a few of us painted a mural on one of the walls of the school. The students of Kairos had decided on a mascot of a sheep before we arrived. So we painted a sheep on the wall with the first few words of the 23rd Psalm. The painting was hard on a rough concrete surface but it turned out pretty well.
We signed our work with our church logo and the date. Another day done! It was back to our hotel for our last evening in Guatemala.
The next morning, some of us did some last minute shopping before heading back to the Guatemala City airport.
We owe a huge thanks to so many people. First of all to our church, Shelburn First Baptist. So many people gave so generously to make this dream trip become a reality.
Thanks to Gloria from La Casa Grande for getting our buses arranged for our zoo trip and for the correspondence back and forth until we finally got clearance from the director of the orphanage to make our zoo trip.
And another thank you to Mayra. She arranged for our transportation to and from Antigua and our hotel and meals while we were there.
God has blessed us with wonderful friends in Guatemala and He blessed us with an amazing trip!Thank you Lord!
I wasn't able to get a meeting with CNA while in Guatemala this trip. Mayra is going to continue to work on that for me.