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February 2014Stacy Steck, Director, Epic operations RentonThe day started with a bang. A one hour bus ride to the village of Chioya, on the back road since the main road (and I use the term main road loosely) was under construction. My Fitbit was seriously confused; it interpreted every pothole and speed bump as effort on my part and by the time we got there I had 5000 steps on my pedometer. Nevertheless, I have never seen such lush natural beauty and vegetation. The kidney-jarring ride was well worth it. Today was to be our first real day working with the people of Guatemala. It was a day full of anticipation and promise, of trepidation and hope for a fulfilling experience. Could we really hope to make a difference in the lives of these people? Would they receive us warmly? Would a stove really solve more problems than it created? Our gracious partners from Medical Teams International were amazing interpreters and ambassadors. We came armed with a few key phrases in a Mayan dialect and a willingness to share God's love. They possessed knowledge of the cultural norms, an uncanny ability to build a stove in record time, and a great desire to help us learn the process and connect with the people. We thought it might be hard. It wasn't. We thought it might be awkward. It most definitely was not. The children helped break the ice first; the little ones with their toothy grins and the twelve-year-old girls with shy smiles. We attempted clumsy conversation and they blossomed. They posed for photos, introduced us to their dogs, and put flowers in our hair. We blew them bubbles. They sang for us. It was a connection of souls in the truest sense. We didn't always have words. It didn't matter. So today we came face to face with our purpose in coming. The health issues and mortality facing this lovely, cohesive community are immense and these stoves will indeed help. Each of the patriarchs and village leaders expressed gratitude that we had left our families and travelled so far. We realized that the separation from our own families is recognized by these people as a significant sacrifice. It helped us understand the depth of love they possess for their own children and loved ones. When we first arrived in the village, John Roscoe and I walked past a house where a little girl stood in the yard. As he looked at her he quickly recognized her face from his last trip to this same village. He pulled out his smart phone and immediately found her photo and showed her the image. She was dazzled that he remembered her - as was I. After all, how many times must he have gazed at that picture from a chilly office in Portland? How many times might he have studied her face and longed to be back in Chioya again? I can only begin to imagine.
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