Sunday, June 28, 2009

Ok, we know no one visits this blog to see our mugs - it's the cute kids that you want to see! But we wanted to share with you a segment we filmed for Channel 27, Guatemala's popular Christian TV channel. This show aired on Thursday night. Like the clips we posted of the children a few days ago, these clips are very low tech. We used our Flip video camera to record the TV screen! If you don't know Spanish, you won't understand a whole lot of what is said, but enjoy anyway!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Alejandra's Quincienera

Tonight was a very special night for Alejandra - tonight, all of Casa Shalom celebrated her quincieinera, her 15th birthday party that marks the passage from girl to young woman. She got a new dress and shoes and had her hair and make-up done by her friends. Enjoy the photos of Alejandra's special night!

The birthday girl in her new dress

Director Jorge Mario played the role usually played by the father, and escorted the birthday girl to her party.

Alejandra's house mother Beatriz, some of her house mates, and director Jorge Mario pray for Alejandra during the ceremony.

Everyone enjoyed a very special dinner of tamales - (L to R) - Celia, Florentina and baby Fatima, Ada and Sonia.

Cesar enjoys his tamales, which are cooked in banana leaves over an open fire.

The candles are lit

The birthday girl and her cake

Friday, June 26, 2009

Party time!

Yesterday, we said goodbye to the Tennessee team that had been with us for the past week. They worked very hard and made many lasting connections with the Casa Shalom kids. As a special treat, they threw 2 parties for the kids - with cake, ice cream, and games! Enjoy the photos of the parties.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Sunday church

Lots of people ask what we at Casa Shalom do for church - do we have church at Casa Shalom or do we take all 60+ kids out to church? Well, the answer is a little of both. Some Sundays, we hold church at the orphanage and other Sundays, we take the children to a church in the area. Tonight, we took the teenagers to a youth service at a local church. The church cooked a meal for us before the service and gave out presents to the kids. Enjoy the photos from tonight's service.
Photo 1 - The teen boys enjoy a good laugh (L to R - Edgar, Cesar, Elias, Vinicio, Hector and Santos) Photo 2 - Juan, Clemente and Vinicio trying to be cool guys Photo 3 - Jenny, who house parents the teen boys with her husband Walter is expecting a baby in November, poses with Clara Alicia, Flora and Eliza. Photo 4 - The view from the church roof Photo 5 - Benjamin being goofy with Edwin and Justin, a team member from TN Photo 6 - The TN team with the kids Photo 7 - Eliza gets tired of being pestered by the boys around her Photo 8 - The TN team leader is Mrs. Jan Waldrop, Casa Shalom's founder! She spoke for a brief time during tonight's church service

Saturday, June 20, 2009

On Thursday, a small team from Tennessee arrived to minister to the Casa Shalom kids. The team has had a great visit so far - they've played with the babies, played soccer, football and basketball with the older kids, and done some hard work! Enjoy the photos we've taken in the past few days. Photo 1- The ladies of the team, Josie, Jessica and Mandy, pose during a day of hard work. Photo 2 - Justin, the only guy on the Tennessee team, has been hard at work mowing the orphanage's expansive lawn. Photo 3 - Cesar enjoys playing with bubbles. Photo 4 - Alex blows bubbles, too Photo 5 - Justin is hard at work pushing 4 little boys on the swings! Photo 6 and 7 - Baby Fatima enjoys swinging

Friday, June 19, 2009

Casa Shalom on TV!

A few weeks ago, we posted that Channel 27, Guatemala's very-popular Christian TV station, recorded a series of programs about Casa Shalom on the orphanage property. The first of the programs aired last night - we aren't very high-tech here in Guatemala, but we wanted to be able to record the program. So we used our little Flip video camera and recorded the TV screen. Laughably low-tech, we know, but we wanted to share a few short portions of the program that featured the Casa Shalom kids. Enjoy the videos!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Back in Guatemala

Late last night, we returned safely back to Guatemala. We were so excited so see the children, after a week in the United States! While we were gone, there was an exciting development in the baby house - a house mother was hired for them! Her name is Doris, and she used to house parent at Shalom. She spent 6 years as a house mother and left to raise her own children. They are all grown now, and when she heard that the babies need a house mother, she asked to be accepted for the job. She was hired last week, and seems to be doing a wonderful job with the children. When we arrived today, they were enjoying a Jello treat that she'd made them! Clara Luz, one of the orphanage's oldest girls who was previously serving in the baby house, will continue to help out in the home. Please pray for Doris as she mothers the babies and toddlers. In the photo Doris, in the black apron, poses with some of the children in the baby house.

On a personal note, today marks one year of our ministry at Casa Shalom. One year ago, we had no idea what was in store for us, but the Lord has blessed us more than we could have imagined. We are excited to begin year 2 of our ministry at Casa Shalom!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

School closings in Guatemala

It appears that the swine flu is making a resurgence in Guatemala, and dozens of new cases have been diagnosed in the last few days. Yesterday, the government ordered the closing of all schools for at least 2 weeks, in order to prevent the spread of the sickness. The swine flu has not affected Casa Shalom up until now - Colegio Shalom will be closed for the next two weeks. Please pray that the Lord will continue to protect the orphanage and all its residents from illness and disease!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

A startling reminder

Jessica is currently in Florida with her parents, attending a Church of God gathering of pastors and church members from all across the state. She would like to share with you the story of a young man from Cuba that she met last night - his story is a reminder to us all to thank the Lord for our personal freedoms and to pray for the persecuted church.

Last night, while attending a post-church service reception, I met Omani, a 33-year-old pastor from Cuba. As Pastor Omani doesn't speak a lot of English, I took advantage of my ability to speak Spanish, to give him a chance to have a good conversation. He began to tell me about his coming to the U.S. - he tried for nearly a year, and was finally accepted on a 1-month visa. He's being hosted by a pastor here in Florida. He told me that as a pastor in Cuba, he can be put in jail for the slightest infraction, as the government closely watches him and his family. According to Pastor Omani, the only churches that are officially allowed to exist are those that were in existence before Fidel Castro's rise to power in 1959. Home churches, he says, are allowed but groups cannot grow larger than 12 people or the church members will be jailed. He says that pastors' sermons are closely monitored and that he has many friends have been beaten and jailed for years for saying things the government disliked.

Pastor Omani says that the Cuban government strictly controls not only religious freedoms, but day-to-day life in the average Cuban's home. He received permission to build a small, one-room addition onto his father's home, where he, his wife, and their 2 daughters could live. But it took over 6 months to get a permit to buy cement, and they were not allowed to construct a kitchen. The pastor says that when his oldest daughter turned 7, the government told him and his wife that the little girl was too old to drink milk and their permit to buy milk was revoked. The same thing happened with his younger daughter, except the government took her milk away when she turned 2.

Pastor Omani makes a salary of roughly $17 per month, an amount chosen as suitable by the Cuban government. He is delighted to have been able to recently purchase a 1948 pick-up truck, with most of its parts from Russia or China. It was the only car the government would allow him to purchase, but he feels fortunate to have it.

The conversation with Pastor Omani affected me deeply. I rarely think of Guatemala as privileged country, but I see that despite the country's overwhelming poverty, Guatemalans are still free. They are free to worship as they choose, they are free to live where they choose, and their children experience personal freedom in a way Cuban children do not. Please join me in praying for the persecuted church in Cuba, and around the world. Please pray that the Lord will bless the church in countries where the people cannot freely worship, that the Lord will bring an end to their oppression, and that one day, they would know what it is like to praise the Lord when they want and how they want.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Headed to the U.S.A.

This morning, we are leaving for the U.S. for one week. We will be visiting our families and Josh will be speaking about Casa Shalom at LifeChurch in Minnesota. We ask that you keep our travel plans in your prayers.

We would also like to present another prayer request to you - many of you will remember Sarai, a special 3-year-old girl who lived at Casa Shalom until recently, when her father was awareded custody of her and removed her from the orphanage. While we are usually happy to see the kids reunited with their families, it was difficult to say goodbye to Sarai because her father struggles with alcoholism and cannot hold down a job. Late last week, director Jorge Mario visited Sarai and her father in their one-room shack on Guatemala's coast. He reported that while Sarai is in good health, she has been acting up and her father says she wants to return to Casa Shalom. Jorge reported that Sarai's living conditions are very poor and that the home has no furniture and very little food. He encouraged Sarai's father to ask a family court judge to please return Sarai to Casa Shalom.

We ask that you please keep this precious little girl's situation in your prayers - that her father makes a decision with her best interest in mind and that the Lord's will is done in her life.

Photo: Alejandro, 14, chews on a very realistic mouse-shaped toy!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

This afternoon we took the babies and toddlers to Pollo Campero, a local fast food restaurant, to enjoy some chicken, a playground, and time away from the orphanage! Enjoy the photos!

Ana gets a crown from Pollo Campero employee.

Even baby Fatima got a crown!

The babies got not only crowns, but balloons too!

Antonio, Ana and Evelyn enjoying their chicken.

Angel loved the ball pit!

So did Alex!

Ana had so much fun playing.

The sign reads "For kids 4 - 12 years old"

Jessica and Fatima

Jose Marcelino and Evelyn

Josh played with Fatima in the ball pit.

Alex loved the hat that came with the kids' meals.

Angel and Cesar climbed to the plane at the top of the playground.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Tuesdays are our day to work in the baby house, so we spent a good part of the morning helping them get ready for school and making breakfast (egg and cheese omelets and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches). And we spent most of the evening there playing and making dinner (spaghetti with meat sauce). We have such a fun time with the babies and toddlers and wanted to share with you some of the photos we took today.

1 - Before dinner, Cesar and Jose Marcelino pray for the food.
2 - Anggie put a pair of boy's underwear on her head and insisted on wearing them for most of the night.
3 - (From left) Alex, Evelyn, Cesar, Jose and Jorge enjoy their dinner
4 - Fatima enjoys scooting on her blanket
5 - We are working on manners - Evelyn shows off her dinner

Monday, June 1, 2009

Great news about Rio Bravo!

Those who have read about our efforts to support the breakfast feeding program in San Jose Rio Bravo will be excited by the news that the program will soon be expanding to help more children in the impoverished Guatemalan costal area. Now serving approximately 140 children breakfast 5 days per week, the program will very soon be expanding to serve 100 more children each day, thanks to a generous donor with a heart for the program. The goal is to expand the program to serve 400 children in the near future - the increases will happen in steps, as the area's neediest children are sought out and invited to attend. We made a trip to Rio Bravo today to bring some clothes and a brand new, larger stove to help the program's cooks prepare breakfast each morning (thanks to our missionary friends Bob and Georgette for their generosity in providing the stove).

Speaking of the cooks, we were also happy to be able to bring a small donation to bless the 6 ladies who cook the breakfasts for the children. We recently discovered that the 6 ladies, who arrive at the feeding center at 3 a.m. Monday - Friday, have worked for over 7 months without receiving a single cent in return! That level of dedication is astounding and we were happy to be able to give them a small offering, thanks to another donor in the United States. Please keep Rio Bravo's feeding program, as well as the very needy kids it serves, in your prayers. If you'd like to get involved with making a difference in the lives of the kids of San Jose Rio Bravo, email us at

Photo: Bob, a local missionary, and Hugo (right), a worker at Casa Shalom, unload the new stove.