I promised that I might post some pictures from our time in Guatemala with GRACE Project.  Our leader was Dr. Genelle Grant and faithful sidekicks were myself and member Helen Dixon, who has worked with other fabulous folks in our congregation in support of the healing and solidarity work of the GRACE Project.

First of all, one of the great and silly things about me is that I try not to have expectations when engaging in adventures such as these.  My main hopes for the trip were to

  • get to know my fellow traveling companions,
  • study Spanish with one-on-one tutoring,
  • learn more about what Genelle does so that we can weave together how GRACE Project and similar projects can become more integrated into the church’s ministry
  • and also discover where there is synergy- where am I being called or guided in this journey of life? Why did it feel right to go to Guatemala?

But I was open and ready to see what was in store…

It seems that the journey began some years ago when I took a class with Professor Claude-Marie Barbour.  The class was about ministering to survivors of human rights abuses.  The subject was near and dear to her own life experience and to her heart, and she shared her heart with us.  I came to learn about the School of Americas and then went to the protest for the first time in 2005 at the gates of Fort Benning in Columbus, Georgia.  Those experiences are left to another blog entry.  But I will say that there more connections were made and I began to understand more deeply the U.S. involvement in terror and torture, as well as hear more stories of suffering and pain due to U.S.-backed military police operatives in several centro-american countries.

I wanted to go to the SOA protest last year, but I was not sure who the local contacts would be.  I found an FGCU student’s myspace page (which provided her phone number) and, after the shock of a total stranger having her name and phone number, she gave me a contact number at Interfaith Action of Southwest Florida.  Now I serve on their Board!  It truly is providential how these connections are made, so I find it important to look back and weave together the threads or see how life has woven them for me.  I was fortunate enough to travel with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers- which planted a seed for me that I needed to learn Spanish.  I love to talk and know what folks are talking about.  I knew I was missing out.

What I later learned was that some of my traveling companions were in the same situation as me- some spoke only broken Spanish.  Instead of their native tongue being English, the mother tongue was one of the 23 (or more!) indigenous Mayan languages.  This is why learning Spanish in Guatemala is great.  Lots of folks there speak Spanish as a second language, so it is clear and at a slightly slower pace.


yo y mi maestra Stephany!


I studied Spanish at Ixchel Spanish School. Mi maestra was a fabulous gal named Stephany.  We had fun and liked to joke around.  One difficult thing to do in a foreign language is to make jokes.  Luckily I can make many silly faces to get a laugh, along with wild gesticulation.

We also made two trips- one to a rural area further up outside of  Jocotenango to a big school and then to the Rigoberta Menchu’ Tum Foundation in Guatemala City.  Now if I seem vague, let me remind you that my ability to process was limited by some language issues and simply forgetting that I ought to document this journey.  It is a gift to be a follower and not always a leader.  The big school (ask Genelle!) boasted a huge campus.  Many things were going on that day- the campus bustling with middle school and high school age kids, all in uniform with the exception of some young women in traditional cortes or huipls.  That day was some kind of big regional gathering day, so when we went to the main oficina it took the administrators a while to figure out where we were going.  We ended up in the cafeteria, which had part of it partitioned off as a library and computer lab.  The computers were a big deal!  Helen and I played the part of teaching assistants that day.  We met up with Genelle’s colleague Amilcar, who was doing great work in his local community to create more resources for children’s education.  He was from Mixco.

Genelle, Amilcar, y muchos livros

Genelle, Amilcar, y muchos livros

Our “audience” that day was a group of high school students who were studying to be teachers themselves.  As an experienced teacher, Dr. Grant was able to share techniques with them that would maximize the brain power of the students.  Simple strategies like  breathing, drinking water, having a peppermint, using both hands to stimulate both sides of the brain, were all shared in fun ways.  Genelle also shared the EcoBingo Bilingo game, an easily reproduced bingo game that builds bilingual vocabulary.

Helen (in turquoise) loves giving out prizes! By now the whole room has been won over!

Helen (in turquoise) loves giving out prizes! By now the whole room has been won over!

    Dr. Genelle Grant demonstrates the EcoBingo Bilingo game to future teachers

Dr. Genelle Grant demonstrates the EcoBingo Bilingo game to future teachers

And what did I enjoy?  Well, I got to sit in a little chair and feel like a student myself.  I was so impressed with Amilcar and with Genelle’s passion and dedication.  And I roamed around the classroom to help with various parts of the workshop.  I helped teach how to fold peace cranes (las grullas).  And I got some lessons in Spanish, Mam and K’iché from the teens.  In exchange I offered French.  From what I heard in Mam and K’iché, they were very different from one another and had such awesome glottal plosive sounds.  So beautiful.  This group is beautiful!

Please know that we explicitly asked for permission to take pictures and that these pictures would be used to share our experiences with "the public."

Please know that we explicitly asked for permission to take pictures with the knowledge that these pictures would be used to share our experiences with "the public." I would never post them without permission. The camera was an inspiration to all to sit up straight and keep the hair in place. 😉

EcoLingo Bingo! y mi Grulla

EcoBINGO Bilingo! y mi Grulla

This workshop was definitely a highlight, because I love teenagers!  And the vision that dominated the whole workshop was one guided by working towards peace, justice, and loving the earth.  Gorgeous.


if you can see, some students are holding blue earth globes they were all given, "because the world is in your hands."

I will post more later!