Lost and Phoned

Remember that Seinfeld episode where one of their cars gets stolen and they phone the car phone and talk to the theif?

Yesterday while I was taking photos of the construction site of a new school and medical clinic, my cell phone slipped off my belt. I discovered two hours later after taking Blaise to the doctor in a neighbouring town that my phone was gone, but figured I left it at the office.

This morning after searching the house, car, office and the medical storage facility I remembered that I had jumped off mounds of dirt at the construction site late in the afternoon. Armed with Amber's phone, I walked around the site, dialing and listening. The good news was that it hadn't rained too much and that my phone was still ringing (it still worked). I covered the whole territory while kids from a neighbouring school covered the same territory during their recess.

Then someone answered my phone.

I hurriedly explained that I had lost my phone yesterday and that the phone they were talking on was mine and how could we meet so that I could get it back. What I could hear were girls laughing and someone speaking way too loud in Poqomchí. This went on for 10 minutes. The two words I did understand were "fifty quetzales" ($7). I pressed them for location details. I pressed them to find someone who could speak Spanish. Then I gave up and hung up.

I phone back 2 minutes later and a girl spoke to me in Spanish and called me by name! She told me that they were in Pansalché, a community on a the side of a steep mountain neighbouring where I was searching for my phone. She told me they would be on the path.

I drove up the road a bit and parked. I tried phoning again, but no answer. Over and over again, no answer. I began to worry that this might be a wild goose chase and I dreaded having to climb this mountain only to descend with out my phone.

But, why not? I dialed four times and on the last dial, half way up the mountain, I heard the familiar shrill ringtone of my phone. I walked up to the store window and said "that's my phone that is ringing."

I got a detailed account of how my phone was found and ended up here. But it was in Poqomchí. You can see the Q50 bill in her hand.

I was more than thrilled about the whole experience. If I had lost my phone though, I would have lost the number everyone has for me, 350 minutes of airtime, and a $30 phone. Oh, and a crummy belt case.


Zaak's Next Five Things

So, I've been inspired by Petra and Adam and 8 other bloggers to make a list of five things that I want to do next - not necessarily big things, just a list to get me moving. And with it a new blog (when I have 10 blogs on the go, please take my computer away). So, without further ado, here are my next five things:
1. Learn the Spanish verb Haber
2. Learn one movement of Bach's Lute Suites
3. Finish the five books I've been reading for two years
4. Do daily push-ups for 30 days
5. Investigate adoption possibilities (go/no go)


Two Books Affirm my Faith

I finished a book today: Adventures in Missing the Point: How the Culture Controlled Church Neutered the Gospel by Tony Campolo and Brian D. McLaren. I've read both authors before and both have beefs with the church* just like me. So, maybe I'm not challenging my thinking by choosing to read their diagnosis of the church, but it sure is refreshing to be affirmed in my thinking when nearly everything I come into contact churchwise doesn't feel right. I also lately read a book by Rob Bell, Velvet Elvis, that speaks on similar issues and was very encouraging.

In my years growing up in, studying in, working for, receiving counsel from, teaching for, and being a missionary for the church I've gotten to the point where I've nearly had enough of the church. Virtually all church programming is loathsome to me because it just doesn't seem real or honest anymore (or ever). I'm not saying I'm leaving the church. Those are just my thoughts and feelings at the moment.

What I desire in a church, both in giving and receiving, does not seem to exist in the current church. Strong questions aren't being asked. The mystery isn't embraced. Issues like poverty, justice, human rights, materialism, the family, homosexuality, and other faiths don't see the light of day. Though I've been able to voice my feelings on a few occasions with some close friends and some adventurous short-term missionaries, I don't sense that the existing institutions are going to make a relevant impact on the world.

As I ponder my future service in the world, I've got some questions that need answering by the church which will then define how I will continue to work within or without it.

Everything that I read from Donald Miller, Philip Yancey, Tony Campolo, Brian D McLaren, William M. Easum and Rob Bell suggests that the true church will emerge from para-church, casual, micro, cell, groups of believers. When people think of these people they will think of what I think of when I think of Jesus. And then the Kingdom will grow.

*By church, I mean all protestant western Christian churches as the body of Christ - I'm not discounting churches outside of this definition, I just don't have any strong feelings towards them as I haven't had much to do with them.


300 Posts

and still going strong. Almost 800 comments from nearly 50 different people.

I'm curious. Could I have everyone raise their hand if they read my blog. Add a little comment stating "present" with your name or online handle and at the end of next week I'll scope out how many regular readers I have. If you're reading this on facebook, please leave a comment here.

Thanks for following my blog, and, if I'm writing properly, my thoughts.


Flooding in Tactic

This is what we woke up to yesterday morning.

This is the 6" goat poop soup in our little goat shelter.

It's been raining every day and nearly every night for the past ten days and the forecast is calling for more rain. Fortunately, we are dry and our goats are dry too.

Our ministry director, Les Peters in an email:
Yesterday, when our evening church service ended, it began to rain. The downpour that followed quickly filled the creeks and rivers. The heavy rains continued through the night and many homes located in the valley were flooded. As the rain saturated the hillsides the soil became heavy with water, incredibly destructive landslides destroyed anything that stood in their way.

The president of Guatemala declared a state of emergency. Highways were flooded and blocked by landslides making travel impossible. Livestock crowded onto the highest spots in the fields that became islands as the waters rose. Schools and community halls filled up with those left homeless.

As I am writing this, the rain continues. Roads, bridges and retaining walls are succumbing to the pressure and force of the water. Whole neighborhoods are in danger.

Our home is on stable ground and we are safe….others are not so fortunate. Tonight, more people will lose their homes and more lives will be in danger.

Please pray for our community and our people. Please pray that our small congregation of new believers will be moved with compassion and minister to the many needs during this time of crisis.


This is the inside of the church in Pasmolón that was destroyed in the landslide.
Photo by Les Peters

This is one of the houses that was flooded in Tactic, a two minute walk from my house. The waters have already receded two feet when this photo was taken yesterday.
Photo by Les Peters


So, in Canada we didn't really have to worry about exterminating bugs in our home. There were screens in all the windows and the patio door so mosquitos didn't take over and that was about it.

It's different here; we're not quite prepared for the fight. We've fought cockroaches, silverfish, red ants, black ants, flying ants, houseflies, spiders, bedbugs, mites, fleas, and these crazy-miniscule-hard-shelled-pre-historic-armadillo bugs that are impossible to kill. Things get really bad when it's rainy; it's been rainy for 10 days straight. Everyone is looking for a dry place to park their hungry selves.

I don't mind the spiders so much. They've encamped in every corner of our home, catching and feeding on many of the other visitors. I suspect they might be biting us at night too, but I'd rather blame the legendary bedbugs and less savory beasties.

The dirty webs that hang on our rafters, in our door frames and in the corners may be ugly, but I welcome them if it eases our battle with other foes. The enemy of my enemy is my friend.


Murder: Canada vs. Guatemala

605 people were murdered in Canada last year. That's 1.81 murders per 100,000 people.

5885 people were murdered in Guatemala last year. That's 46.23 murders per 100,000 people.

The difference is primarily due to a culture of impunity in Guatemala. The BBC article says that last year the murder convictions were in the single digits. Murders aren't really even investigated in here. The police, judiciary, and politicians are extremely corrupt. No one has been prosecuted for crimes against humanity from the 36 year civil war in which 200,000 people were killed.

I'm more than apprehensive everytime I visit the capital city. Most of the killing in the Tactic area is revenge or drug related.

If you want to murder someone, come to Guatemala.

I guess that's what you get when you put a gun on your national flag.

Simpsonized Robichauds

I guess the charm is that we are not supposed to look real. At least Amber's hotness shines through and Blaise was able to name each of us.

I'm looking forward to watching the big blockbuster 2-D movie one day.

Simpsonize you.


Prevention Prevention Prevention

It's the middle of the night between day 2 and day 3 of a medical clinic in Pansalché. I think it's fair to say that medical clinics are the most exhausting jobs I do here: supervising a pharmacy, managing drop-ins (patient lists are pre-arranged, so we don't accept many drop-ins, so basically it means saying "no"), occasional translation for the doctor, and the biggie: handing the medication to the patients. I have to explain how to take or apply each medication from vitamins to antibiotics to creams and eye drops.

I'm wiped at the end of the day. Yesterday evening, I read Blaise his 2 books before bed and then fell asleep right there on the bed - 7:45 pm. So now I'm eating grapefruit and going "ga-ga" over the new iMacs.

As to the title topic, prevention, it is so frustrating having to give medication for the same ailments over and over when these same ailments are easily prevented.
  • HEADACHES: because people don't drink water and they spend a lot of time in the sun
  • HEARTBURN and REFLUX DISEASE: because people drink heaps of coffee and other stomach irritants
  • SORE EYES: because of all the smoke in the home from their open fires
  • STOMACH WORMS: because food is prepared alongside live chickens, dogs, dirt floors and because the water is not purified up to standard
  • CHILDREN'S MALNUTRITION: because of appetite killers such as coffee and candy being fed to children from ages 0 and up
  • SHOULDER and BACK PAIN: because people are not doing simple stretching exercises before and after long days of strenuous work
That said, these aren't actually all that easy to prevent considering some of the situations people are living in with no potable water, open fires in their kitchens, dirt floors, long work days, and super low incomes.

The cases that are really heartbreaking though are the ones that aren't preventable. For exampe, the man we saw whose feet were run over by a tractor 5 years ago and has a hard time walking (I thought he might be drunk), but lives at the top of a mountain and works in the valley pulling carts of garbage, only half days because the pain is too much.


In the Pouring Rain

It started raining at about 5:30 pm while church was on. Lightly at first, then a downpour. The things of church quickly left my mind as I began to think about my pour goats, tethered out there in the pouring rain.

So I drove home, put the goats into their brand new home and drove back to church in time for hot tea. When my tea was done, I drove Amber and the babies home, in the pouring rain, then shot over to the medical clinic, which was being cleared out so that sewing could be taught there this week.

The main things that had to go were 3 boxes of vitamins. Two boxes are 700 lbs and the third is at least 1000 lbs (good cardboard!!). So there were a dozen guys from church there waiting for the pick-up truck that had to make 2 trips. We managed to load and unload the vitamins in the pouring rain.

I had to load some 20 boxes of medicine and other things into the Toyota van to bring to a church where we are putting on a 3 day medical clinic with a team that arrived today. In 30 minutes, a couple dozen men are going to meet me at the bottom of a mountain and then carry all this stuff up to the top where the church is, in the dark and in the pouring rain.


So, when I got there at 8:30 PM, I waited 15 minutes for the first person to show up and then another 15 for the last 5 to show. I, with the authority of my boss, made an executive decision to cancel the effort. The team can do it tomorrow morning. When it's not raining.


My buddy René and I drove out to Salamá and surrounding areas looking for two milking goats. We're told that there are heaps of them in a place called Rincón. There was one. So we looked some more and there were a few here and there. We ended having to drive through a river to get the first one, which came with two kids. The second one came from her neighbour who was understandably not willing to part with his 3 milking goats, but did sell us a pregnant one (we believe she's pregnant anyway). She's due in December (we think). They are nubians.

We brought them home, cleared the laundry off the lines and tied them up under our car port for the night. You can see Blaise here, licking his lips.

This is Cappuccino Surprise, the pregnant one. She's timid and a very slow eater. The name comes from Amber and Blaise: Amber thought she had cappuccino colours and when we asked Blaise what we should call her, he said "surprise" because that's what we called the goats before we took him out to see them. My addition is that anyone drinking a cappuccino with goats' milk in it will have a surprise.

This is the nanny of the two kids. I'm letting René name her and her two kids.

This is the 3-month-old billy.

This is the 3-month-old nanny. We're going to wean them as soon as we have time. Their mom isn't giving a lot of milk right now so they might already have started weaning.

I milked her this afternoon to try and empty her udder and got a measly 80 mL.

We're not in a hurry to have huge production, but in time we'd like to each get at least 2 L between the two nannies.

This morning René and I went and bought wood and sheet metal and we built a shelter for our goats. It is complete with feeding trough. René's brother Horacio helped a lot. My hands are really sore from using the handsaw all morning.

Blaise is living my dream.