This afternoon, I completed a major project that I've been working on for several months off and on: a handbook for managing the child sponsorship project with Impact Ministries. As I will be leaving Guatemala in 3 1/2 months, I will also be leaving my duties as manager of the sponsorship program. This handbook is meant to ensure that I don't get 10 emails a day with questions about the program after I leave.

The handbook has 50 pages with 17 sections in it, complete with step-by-step procedures, policies, examples, and screen shots.

Emergent Christians

On this last team, I met Chris, my fraternal twin. He's 4 years my junior, but the similarities are uncanny: same taste in music, trained as teachers, worked at summer camps and as youth pastors, Oilers fans, Mac users thus multimedia creators, guitar players, etc.

What was even more uncanny were the similarities in our belief systems: politics, education, Christianity. We managed to snag a few hours to discuss our thoughts - an encouraging time for certain. We also traded books. What I got was The New Christians: Dispatches from the Emergent Frontier by Tony Jones. It is an introduction to the recent movement of Christians seeking deeper commitments to God, Church, the World, and to One Another, but outside of mainstream Christianity.

When I read Brian McLaren's book A New Kind of Christian 3 1/2 years ago, it affirmed dozens of sentiments and thoughts that I had been carrying for several years, but thought were rebellious. Thoughts and sentiments such as:
should Christians be so insecure about other Christians salvation?

why do I disagree with so many political views that other Christians push?

why do denominations fail to work together?

should Christians be spending so much money on church buildings and self-interested projects?

why do Christians necessarily have to interpret the Bible in such a literal sense? why isn't there a taught distinction between fact and truth?

where is the emphasis on serving the poor? the infected? the refugees?

why are so many people leaving churches? why are youth pastors, in particular, not attending church anymore despite a declared faith in Jesus Christ?

there must be some truth in the world religions because God wouldn't have abandoned the cries and search for truth of billions of people just because they haven't been calling to Him in Jesus' name, right?

why must strong lines be drawn on issues like creation/evolution, homosexuality, politics, end times prophecies, alcohol, etc.
In essence, why is there no room for discussion, no room for disagreement, no room for cooperation, no room for new conclusions and no room for new combinations of beliefs? (there isn't one denomination that teaches all of the beliefs I hold)

This emergent movement is extremely encouraging to me. Critics call it a slippery slope to pluralism. They are entitled to their opinion. I think that this is a fearful response to a people who are genuinely seeking God (insecurity). I think denominations fear an eroding base to support their bureaucracies. I think a decentralized faith is necessary and possible (with the Internet providing the platform for much of the networking and discussions). I think believers will be better able to deepen their relationships with God and people when there aren't a list of stock answers to their questions.

What do you think?


Switching to New Runners

I have an affection for comfortable runners that will last over a year. Particularly Fila runners.

I got my first pair of Filas in Old Hazelton, BC. They were in a bargain bin while Amber was showing me around Old Town. They were bright red and lasted me 2 years.

My next two pairs were bought in Edmonton, blue then black (pictured). The black pair was bought just before flying to the east coast of Canada before our move to Guatemala.

The beige pair was found in Montreal before flying home after the film fest in Montreal. These ones have been particularly awesome and comfy, but they have holes in the toes.

I managed to find some Filas in Guatemala City this past Monday. The hard thing now, as always, is to let go of the old pairs. I always make the excuse that I could use them as work shoes, but I rarely get in the mud or paint anymore. We'll see. I sure won't be bringing them back to Canada.


My Daughter, the Canadian

Picked up Acadia's citizenship card yesterday at the Canadian embassy. It only took 7 months. Next step is a Passport. Note too that her last name is just Robichaud, not Robichaud Reding.

Hopefully, she can pose for her passport picture like this. . .

. . . and not like this.


drawing by Matt Carmody

CHENEY: On the security front, I think there’s a general consensus that we’ve made major progress, that the surge has worked. That’s been a major success.

RADDATZ: Two-third of Americans say it’s not worth fighting.


RADDATZ So? You don’t care what the American people think?

CHENEY: No. I think you cannot be blown off course by the fluctuations in the public opinion polls.
He's right, you shouldn't completely stall a project if it is all of a sudden unpopular. But, I don't think there has been much fluctuation on this one. You can watch the video here.

His puppet, Georgie, had some flowery words about his war too, on the fifth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq. He seems to be quite pleased with how things have been going.


A Public Service Announcement

I drove to Lanquin today with a group of 25. When we arrived into town two young men rushed our vehicles and told us that our vans would not make it to Semuc Champey (our destination 9 kms beyond Lanquin). We should hire them to take us there. One of them jumped onto my ladder to the roof rack.

We drove a little further into town to a gas station to check our water levels and look for washrooms. The washrooms were a block away at the municipal building. I asked an official there what the deal with the road was and he said the roads were too slick if you didn't have 4X4 and that he sent some guys to the entrance of the town to tell incoming traffic that they wouldn't be able to make it.

Turns out that our vehicles would not have made it. We rode in the back of a truck that barely made it (80 minutes to drive 9 kms on the return trip). Good times.


I'm 100000

I've gained one more digit in binary today. It'll be another 32 years before I get another and it took 16 to get this one. The fact that 2 X 2 X 2 X 2 X 2 = 32 makes 32 a better number than 30 (or 31 for that matter). Interesting note on a couple of alphanumerical systems L = 30 and B = 2 so LB = 32. I would have thought - different alphabet, different amounts for each letter. The Mayan representation (3 dots over 2 lines) is counter intuitive to how you might imagine it to mean: the top dot represents 20, the next two dots represent 2 and each line represents 5. Notice how the Roman, Egyptian and Babylonian (bottom right) are so similar.

The merging of culture and mathematics.

Thanks to all my birthday wishers and especially my wife and spawn who are making the day super special. You're a kind bunch.


Reverse Logic

At my cell group last night, we were given sheets to fill out - like at a seminar. The sheets had verses followed by sentences with blanks. We were supposed to fill in the blanks according to what the verses said. This was an example that I didn't particularly like.
Every scripture inspired of God is also profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction which is in righteousness.
2 Timothy 3:16 (ASV)

1. In what does the Bible teach us? (Justice)
2. The Bible is completely (true).
3. It is the highest (authority) that exists.
4. The Bible tells us of all the knowledge and the purposes of God (that we need to know in order to live in victory with God).
5. The Bible teaches us what is necessary of the plan that God has to save the sinner.
As a Christian, I have strong affection to the Bible, without it, my faith in Jesus Christ would make no sense (some say it makes no sense even with the Bible - other discussion). I do not however adhere to statements 1-4. I think they are an affront to my intelligence. And none of these statements is supported by this verse in Timothy!

I have a serious issue with making claims based on the Bible that can not be validated. There is plenty of truth and discussion in the Bible without a necessity to make outlandish claims.

I'm not going to comment on my feelings towards finishing sentences based on readings as a manner of teaching.


for want of a shelf

I realized that many of the books that I have obtained over the past year have not been added to my catalog. I use Delicious Library to track my books, CDs and DVDs so that I can easily browse them and ensure that I know who I lend items to.

What's great is that I can use my video camera as a barcode scanner and the program collects the information (picture of the book/disc, artist/author, dates, reviews, etc.) from the internet. I even sync the lists to my iPod.

The pain of my current circumstance is that 98% of my books are in Canada. Even if I were in Canada, I keep half of them in boxes because I don't have shelf space for them all.

This is what I dream of. . .

one abused and neglected child

On Saturday, while bringing a group of 24 Canadians to meet a sponsor child in San Antonio Panec, I was invited by a woman to come pray for their family. One of the cases in the home dealt with an 8-year-old boy who has massive sores all over his bottom. I almost burst into tears when I saw the sores, they are that bad. We prayed for him, his drunken father, and his older sister who was having bad thoughts about her husband.

While praying, I decided to make him an appointment and personally take him to the best local doctor I know. A friend of Amber's had sent money to help a needy family. Last night, their project director dropped the little guy off at my house with his 13-year-old sister (one of 6 siblings he lives with). I drove them up to the clinic and went into the examining room with them.

As the doctor interviewed the boy, I learned that he isn't one of the siblings, but rather a nephew, a son of the oldest brother who works in the north of Guatemala. His aunt, the girl, explained further that his mom used to hit him a lot, lock him up in the house alone day and night, and rarely fed him (when she did, she would put hot chilis on the food). When he was a toddler, his grandmother (now his adopted mom), went to court to have the child taken away from his mom. He still looks severely malnourished, weighing only 50 lbs.

The physical exam revealed that all of his lymphnodes were badly swollen signifying that the infections from the sores had spread through much of his body. We got a prescription for meds and I drove them home.

Driving home, as I wound my car by a stray horse, drunks, people on bikes and other vehicles (with no headlights), I was reminded once again how incredibly broken these people are. This boy barely spoke a word the entire evening even though he was in pain, hungry, wearing the only set of clothes he has, itchy from all the scabies he has, tired, and perhaps a little anxious from having his first doctor's appointment. He did say "gracias" before shutting the car door at his path.

It's tough not thinking that I could adopt this boy and other children I meet with such difficult circumstances. I need to remind myself that they would be happier with their own families and that I can't adopt from Guatemala.

I have no point to this post. I was moved, that's all.


I'm blogging more than Heber!

Comedy is always depends on context. In Spanish, the sound of the "B" and the "V" is indistinguishable and the "H" is silent. "Heber" can be pronounced "Ever." Heber happens to be one of our friends here in Guatemala. The double entendre in this case is
"I'm blogging more than Heber/ever!"
This brings me to my point on context. I laughed for a good long while last night as I kept on making quips about Heber/ever, but there is a limited amount of people who can find this funny: They need to understand both Spanish and English while knowing Heber.

How many other things do I say with the intention of comedy that most people respond to by just kicking the sand and by staring obliquely at stray dogs because they aren't relating to the context of my joke. And conversely, how many times have I responded blankly or negatively to other's humour because I simply did not know where they were coming from.

Incidentally, I really like Heber's name.

SE7EN things

Amber tagged me. She's my wife. I must obey.

1 - I've always been north of the equator
2 - I've never been pooped on my a seagull
3 - I've never pooped on a seagull
4 - {ditto 2 & 3 for pigeons}
5 - I've learned to count to ten in nine languages, but I've forgotten all but three

Now everyone knows. Amber, I declare myself untagged. If someone wants to tag themself, go nutz.


Day Tripping to Rabinal

My buddy Shane decided to stop into Guatemala for 5 days on his way to Belize so I decided to take him and my family to Rabinal for the day yesterday. I had never been there before.

Salamá is on the way, so we stopped in and walked around the central park.

We got to shop around a book sale where we picked up some sweet deals (all in Spanish): A Hundred Years of Solitude, Guatemalan Mayan Dress cards (61 in total), Guatemalan Cooking, Never Again (about the Guatemalan Civil War), and My Clinical Observations on the Lemon, Garlic, and Onion.

On our way from Salamá to Rabinal (30 km), we were stopped by a roadblock put up by people who were upset by an incident between two bussing companies in San Miguel Chicaj.

Because of inflating fuel prices, one company wants to increase fare prices while the other doesn't. So one guy flipped another guy's van over. With people inside (no one seriously hurt from what I was told).

The delay was about 2.5 hours. We returned to Salamá for lunch and eventually got through.

Rabinal is on the other side of a mountain from Salamá. The road is very windy (not air windy, lots of turns windy).

I visited with these two guys on the right in the central square. The told me about the peanut farms of Rabinal and how rich the soil is. I would have liked to have visited a peanut farm, but our traffic delay prohibited that. There are also some nice pools that we were thinking of swimming in too, but alas, it was not meant to be.

Then we visited the market where we bought some of the famous native pottery and some local fruits (grenadinas, coconuts and mangos).

I thought this skinny puppy was dead, but it was only sleeping.

We stopped into a couple pottery factories and Edgar gave us a neat demo of the wheel and explained how their kiln works.

Our trusty car got us there and back unscathed (except for a little nausea. . . ).

thanks to Shane for photos 4, 8, 11.