December News 2011

Do not withhold your mercy from me, O LORD; may your love and your truth always protect me. Psalm 40:11

Fun Sights in Our Travels Around Guatemala

I liked the dog on the porch and the old shack feel of the house in Livingston. It reminded me of the Old South.

The Hotel River Side (left photo) was true to its word as it looks like the river is right there!
I tracked down this bird because it sounded like a Howler monkey in the trees.
I think it is a
Bare-Throated Tiger Heron and it was pretty large and loud!

This was one for the World of Coke as the delivery boat came up to the dock at our lodge.
It was interesting that the dogs didn't bark at the beer boat but they didn't like the Coke guys! 
These pelicans are not doing a very good job keeping their barge afloat.

The cemeteries are always interesting as you'll see everything from sprayed painted names to fancy crypts.
I never did figure out the significance of the guy on the horse, but it was carried around and pulled back and forth on the rope in the sky all day at the San Tomas Festival. Maybe San Tomas came into town on a horse! They even put fireworks in the base and set them off.


We visited the town of Livingston on Rio Dulce and it was obvious that fish was a main product. We decided the guy didn't need an address and he could tell people to just go until the fish smell was overwhelming and you'd find him! I kept thinking in my head about Dr. Livingston and Stanley but even though the environment was similar, this wasn't their place. On the right is the lodge we stayed at on the water. You can only get there by boat and we had a little bungalow in the back. We saw lots of river birds and it was a great relaxing time.

Celebrating the Festival of San Tomas in Chichicastenango
For eight days, the members of the various organizations parade and dance around town with statues of the various saints. When I say  all day, I mean all day, around and around and then in the plaza for awhile and around again. It was packed with people everywhere and not for the claustrophobic. Most of the activity took place in front of the main church where you could listent to dance bands, a lot of Marimba music, and even an assortment of drunks falling about, oblivious to the fireworks going off two feet away as they passed out, were carted off to a corner, and eventually got back up again.

In the middle of the Saint Thomas's, there were several toros and some knight looking guys that went back and forth as well in the dance. As the various saints were paraded around, the men seemed to drink a lot of rum and the women carried candles and seemed to be the religous ones, keeping their heads covered. The head coverings are all purpose in that they can protect from the sun, carry produce or a small child, and provide some cushioning for carrying various things on your head!


This was the pole for the elusive flying men that we tried diligently to see but were thwarted. Everyone had a different time or day, no time, who knows, and no apparent schedule. We kept looking, but never got to see the event. Maybe some day. Right next to the pole on the left is the fireworks tower which was very cool. It had fireworks in stages that just went crazy as the lights went up the tower. You can see some video at the link as well as video of the fireworks celebrations in Guatemala City.  Fireworks is the business to be in here as they are really into shooting them off for every event.

Christmas Eve was the biggest of all and it was truly the way to announce the birth of Jesus Christ with excitement and authority. Definitely check out the video clips.


In the churches, they were decorated like a trailer home in Georgia, but sometimes tacky and overdone can work. This was on the altar of the church in Chichicastenango. Throughout the church were various platforms where you could pray and light candles for various needs and prayers. I find it easier and more effective to talk directly to God but I have to say, I like the lights and the celebration atmosphere!

You might be able to get an idea of the firework mania as you see this man rolling out yards and yards of what I'll call Black Cats for lack of a better word. For at least six minutes they "pop pop pop" on the steps of the church, all day, and whenever someone brings some out. You can see a glimpse of the aftermath in the pictures below and can probably see the launch tubes for the fireworks on the steps if you look close. Two hundred people would be sitting on the steps and a guy would come and drop in a ball and everyone woudl scramble. It was insane. It would have been easy for a drunk to be buried in the paper as they lay strewn about and not found until cleanup. You think I'm kidding, but I'm not!


This is a poor illustration of the fireworks tower but maybe it will give you an idea of the effect. Be sure to check out the video clip.

Some of the new year traditions here include eating 12 red grapes at midnight and making a wish/desire/hope with each grape you eat. You are also supposedly to turn on all the lights in the house along with making a lot of noise to really welcome the new year and scare out the bad of the old year. A lot of the traditions are similar to those in Asia with the cleaning of the house, buying a new broom, and hanging up coins. I hang my hopes on God as He knows the plans He has for me, "plans to prosper and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11

On our trip to Rio Dulce, we got to see the old castle, San Felipe, that was used to try and keep out the pirates in the old days. I think I read that the pirates burned out the local folk and took it over for a while, and later, it was used as a prison. At the end of Rio Dulce is Lake Isabel, a large lake that is used for recreation and fishing. It was a very relaxing and tranquil place to have lunch after our waterfall and river adventures.


Our first stop was the waterfall at Finca Paraiso. It is a hot water waterfall, better than any shower I have ever owned. The water comes from a hot spring and flows hot, and the water in the river below is cold. It is quite the sensation. They are little cave like caverns under the waterfall where you can swim under and hang out as well. The only thing we lacked was some soap and shampoo. After, we went a little farther up the road and got in a canoe and were paddled through a gorge up a river.  The current was strong but we challenged ourselves to swim up through the rocks which was cool. (Even though you don't see me since I am usually taking the pictures, I swam farther than Steve.) It was the perfect day and a great trip. I made a page for Travel Guatemala if anyone wants specifics of where we've been and stayed at

One of the other trips we made was to a nature reserve for hiking and birdwatching. It was the first time we saw an actual big snake out on the trail in nature (above). Look close and you'll see its tail and head. We had a great guide who was spotting things like a golden retriever. We could literally stand in one place and see 20 different birds. Below are the Arasha Toucans which we hadn't seen before.

At the reserve, they have a working coffee finca so you can see the coffee being picked, sorted,and dried daily, as well as just pretty pictures around the farm. After four years of living in Colombia, Guatemala is the place where Steve has started drinking the occasional coffee.


The guide said they had about 70 families that lived and work the farm. They also grow and sell ornamental plants and some fruits.  In the heat of the afternoon, there would be various familes out under the trees sorting the picked coffee beans. There were various trails you could take to see the variety of nature they had to offer, as well as a quetzal tour that got you to the right altitude where you had a chance of seeing them.

Psalm 105:1-5  (NIV)

1 Give praise to the LORD, proclaim His name; make known among the nations what He has done.
2 Sing to Him, sing praise to him tell of all His wonderful acts.
3 Glory in His holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice.
4 Look to the LORD and His strength; seek His face always.  5 Remember the wonders He has done...
As we start another year, I have been reflecting on some thoughts and messages I have been reading about the purpose of missions. I think we often do what makes us feel  good at the moment but and does seem to help someone at the time, but does it really accomplish the greater purpose of the Great Commission? I think we need to be more intentional, more relationship building, and more focused on being instruments of change. We usually try to find a local church to hook up with but I have been thinking we could be more useful as a house church for others that are searching, and provide an outlet for information and discussion in a small group environment.  As you head into the week, let the light of God's presence soak into you and equip you to face whatever the day brings. Bring your mind back to God and away from today's plans and problems for a little while to be refreshed and renewed. Time spent with God is never time wasted!

Steve and Cathy Carpenter

Prayer Requests

- opportunitites and open hearts to those around us
- for my friend to hear God's voice in her life
- setting up a house church and discussion group for those around us
- good second half of the school year
- God's guidance for our nieces and nephews
- health issues that continue for the pastor's wife, Fabiola, in Guayllabamba
- Just for Kids ministry in Valle del los Chillos in Ecuador - continued growth of the school, sponsorship of the kids in the orphanage, financial needs met
- a focus on God in our lives to guide our actions and words

  Praise Reports

- successful surgery for my aunt and good recovery
- continued good health and minimial car troubles (we would like a check engine light that doesn't keep coming on)
- safety in a somewhat unstable country at times
- good jobs that allow us to live and work in different realms of influence
- a friend continuing to seek God and look for that connection in her life
- continued contact with teachers and students in Colombia and chance to influence their lives for Christ

This year I started my nacimiento scene that I always wanted to do after seeing them in Colombia. You can see Jesus in the nativity in the back left corner, as well as all the crazy villages and scenes mixed in. There is a lake in the front corner, a coffee finca, village, and even a mariachi band. Look for bigger and better additions next year!

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