Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Why I Believe

There exist elaborate scientific arguments, archeological expeditions, philosophical extrapolations all of which explain why God must exist. But when it all comes down to why I actually believe in the God of the Bible, who sent his son to die for our sins, it’s really not due to any of these things that I believe. The reason I believe in the God of the Bible would have to be due to the testimony of changed lives.
In a world of suffereing and poverty, of gangs and violence, the stories that come from the people are nothing short of miracles.
Let me share with you one of these stories.
Maria Ortiz grew up in Annexo Aguilar of zone 3. Like almost all of the families in zone three, Maria’s family was very poor. Like many of the families in zone 3 Maria’s father was a severe alcoholic, spending what money they didn’t have on his drug of choice, and like some of the families of zone 3 he was abusive in the worst way.
Growing up sexually abused Maria learned to hate her femininity, never wearing a dress, keeping her hair short, and walking with a masculine strut. It was in this manner that she began her life working in the dump even at the age of 7. Like I said in an earlier letter, working in a garbage heap is not all that great for self esteem. Maria told me that she saw her life stretched before her, working her entire life in the dump collecting garbage, only to know more pain and abuse and then one day with as little ceremony as she entered, to leave this world. Her death and life both with no more meaning than the garbage she worked so hard to collect. Poverty can go so much further than just a lack of money. At school it meant a lack of friends, a social isolation and a nickname that labeled you as equal to the trash you lived in. At home it means instability, a lack of a father figure and a stream of abuse. In life it means feeling meaningless in every sense of the word, your whole community not even earning enough to change the rounding in a decimal place of a GDP measured in millions. Growing up, living, and dying in an area so forgotten by the world and so rampant with violence that a garbage landslide which barries and kills nine people doesn’t even make the front or even the last page of the city paper.
It was this meaninglessness that Maria and one of her brothers, Alex, one day decided to avoid at all costs. In a community of love and opportunities, joining a gang may seem absolutely irrational, but when you are surrounded by poverty and hopelessness, gang life seems to offer power as well as a ray of hope. It also offered Alex and Maria a way to make a difference, to make their mark, and gain some power and respect in a world that didn’t seem to care at all what become of them.
Also around this time Maria heard about Potter’s House for the first time. She still remembers her first visit, there was a 15th birthday party held for all the girls in zone three who were turning 15 that year. (15 is like the coming of age year for a girl, it is one of the biggest and most exciting events that a girl of 15 years has had until that point in her life.) The Potter’s House party serves to give the girls in zone three that experience because many of the families can’t afford to do something special for the event. The biggest thing Maria remembers from the day was looking at the cake, wanting the cake, and tasting the cake. It was the first time she had ever tasted something so delicious and she remembers the sensation to this day.
So it was with this past that Maria began to prepare to join one of the gangs of zone 3. Her brother Alex was already quite established in the gang. Selling crack and earning a reputation as the fastest gun maker in Guatemala. Maria also had begun to sell crack and to complete the innitiation rites required in order to go from being a marginal member to being full fledged. One of these “rites” for joining was to be raped by all 3 of the leaders within the gang. One of the rules of the gang was that once you fully joined, the only way to leave was in a casket.
Until this point in her life, Maria had wanted nothing to do with God. Time after time God had presented himself to her through various people but she had wanted nothing to do with a God that would allow this kind of suffering in her life. So it was most odd that, as she was walking home one night only a few days before full initiation into the gang, she felt compelled to enter into a church as she passed by.
Occupying a pew in the back God once again presented himself to her but this time instead of an immediate no, she gave God a chance. She testifies that everything at this moment in the room faded and it was just her and God. She challenged God saying, “God, my life has been horrible, why should I put my faith in you? What have you ever done for me? If you exist, prove it right now, you don’t have a week, a day, or even an hour, you have just this instant.” Then the room became like a movie theatre with her life until that point as the movie being played. Every horrible experience and moment that had happened in her life until that point being recalled. “God where were you all this time? It all hurts so bad.” His answer? At that point it came to her clearer than crystal, “Every thing you have suffered Maria, I have suffered with you. You are not alone and you are not forgotten.”
Then something happened that she will never forget. She had the sensation of a smell like that of something absolute pure and divine, so different from the rotting stench of garbage she had known all her life. And she felt the softest sponge running down her face cleaning her of the filth that had become her life.
Since then, her life has changed completely. A month later she was wearing a dress for the first time. She began praying daily for her family’s salvation and a year later her mother and eventually her older brother who was so high in the gang became saved as well. Brother and sister now work at Potter’s House making a real difference in the lives of others in the dump. Maria shines with a confidence and inner joy that few North Americans have ever found. She is completing her final year of college this year and if you congratulate her she will simply point on the glory to God, and tell you how good He is. Maria still lives in poverty in the shallowest sense of the word. She still lives in zone three bordering the dump in the ravine where she grew up, her house nothing more than a few rotting boards and tin walls. But she is rich in the deepest sense of the word. Enjoying a meaning in life, few ever attain. She daily changes the eternity of children, by raising money for the school of Potter’s House, giving them a chance to escape physical and intellectual poverty, but even more important, giving them a chance to hear about what made the difference in Maria’s life. About a God who loves them so much that he was willing to suffer and die himself in order that we might be saved.
Maria’s story is astounding but it is not the only one. In the end it was not a sandwich or a new house or a job which changed Maria’s life and gave her a reason to live. It was not Potter’s House or a really good friend. It was God, the creator of the universe, beginning a personal relationship with one of his creations. God is, right now, at work in our world. Consistently calling those who consistently reject him. Ready to begin a relationship with you, to give you meaning beyond your house, your job, your family, and even your life. He can give you true riches beyond your wildest dreams, riches that can’t be taxed by the government or stolen by thieves. The real question is not, “Does God exist.” The real question is “Will you put your faith in him?”
*Names have been changed to protect identity

Thursday, February 16, 2006

...and in the local news

First off, I’ve finally got some photos of my time in Guatemala on the internet. If you’d like to view them simply click the link:


…And in the local news, both of the only two shops that I regularly visit in my neighborhood have been robbed. The peluqueria (barber shop) was robbed shortly before I left to the states for Christmas. The thief apparently used a sledgehammer to break the large padlocks holding down the cage door covering the entrance. He made off with both chairs, the hair dryer, both sets of shears, a 15” tv as well as a limited supply of hair products including the ever popular “Moco de Gorilla” (Translation: Gorilla Mucus, a popular styling gel among children… and yes it is the color green.) Sadly having insurance is not the norm. The owner was closed for three days looking for replacement chairs and some new-used shears. He is currently renting chairs until he, once again, has saved up the money to purchase new hair cutting chairs (according to the internet, that’s the official term). And there is no longer a TV with bad-reception in the upper corner giving customers something to do while waiting their turn for a friendly barber to remove their slender threadlike outgrowth of the epidermis (Definition taken from Webster Dictionary). Even still, life continues and for just under three dollars you can get a professional cut with friendly service (Sorry ladies, men only for this barber).

Just this week the local internet café suffered a similar fate, losing all of its computers to an unknown entity. At a cost of 75 cents for an hour of use, the time required to recuperate lost funds will be very long indeed. The café has been closed indefinitely. Fortunately for the rest of the populace the next one lies just 3 blocks up the road.

As for the news in zone three (the zone bordering the dump, and also the zone where Potter’s House is located), there have been 2 more murders within 3 blocks of Potter’s House over the last month. The most recent was a stabbing and killing of a 17 year old girl who was apparently out late at night in the Piedra Santa Colony (just around the corner from Potter’s House). The killer and motive are (and will likely remain) unknown.

In one of my previous updates I spoke of a 3 or 4 year old girl who was kidnapped. It has now been just over two months since the kidnapping and almost all traces of her existence have faded. No longer, do signs that read, “Girl Missing” decorate rusting walls. And there were reports from an eye-witness who saw the mother whether in happiness or out of an immense sadness, celebrating and drunk on New Years eve. When the eye-witness was asked if the mother was still mourning the loss, the response was, “Why should she? She still has five healthy children, and the lost one was likely sold to an adoption agency to be given to some family in the states.”

As is quite apparent, violent crime has been on the rise ever since the end of Guatemala’s 35 year civil war. The war was begun and maintained in large part with the help of funds from the US government and support from the CIA to prevent possible socialistic or communistic governments from maintaining power. However, the result was that a dictator government with power invested in the military pushed big business and economic growth at the expense of the poor which generally happened to also be the indigenous people of Mayan decent. The result is that the gap between the rich and poor has grown extremely wide. The poorest 10% now garnering roughly 0.9% of the national GDP. With a year 2000 per capita GDP of $1670, that comes to about $150.30 per year for the lowest 10%, far too little to live on. Since 2000, Guatemala’s national GDP has enjoyed a positive 4% gain per year, however the average per capita income among the poor continues to decline. And out of that hopelessness comes the ability to do the extreme, even commit atrocious acts in order to allow you and your loved ones to survive. (Data from www.countriesquest.com)

On a lighter note, the new school year has begun and over 200 students now attend Potter’s House’s primary school. Additionally, the computer lab has been finished and a computer teacher is able to teach children valuable computer skills that may one day allow them to find a job outside the garbage. Also, an English teacher from the states fluent in both English and Spanish has volunteered a year of her life, and so students will begin down the path towards being bilingual, giving them a leg up in the job market.

Another highlight, is that this year the education department will begin offering adults without high school degrees the opportunity to continue their own education in the comfort (or lack thereof) of their own home. By broadcasting classes over a localized frequency adults in zones 3 and 7 will be able to take the courses required to earn their high school diplomas.

As for the weather, we are officially more than half way through the summer season (roughly October through April). To mark the occasion we had an absolutely astounding display of rain. October through April is known as summer because during these months it generally does not rain (This rain was the first that I remember since November). However, the temperature is on average a little cooler, the coldest month being December reaching average lows of 54 degrees and highs of 73. The winter runs from May through September and it will generally rain daily during these months. May being the hottest with lows of 61 degrees and highs of 84 degrees.

While, during this time (right now) the clouds in the sky are scarce, clouds of dust roam the earth in abundance. Within the dump a new flying specie now competes with the vultures for domination of the skies. On windy days plastic bags of all sizes and colors float amongst the dust for all (except those who work within the dump) to enjoy. Yet the dry season has one huge advantage over the rainy season. The stench has been greatly lessened. Also, your house is much less likely to collapse due to erosion or mud slides.

And finally, on to personal news. For those of you who were praying for my grandfather, thank you for your prayers. My grandfather passed away early Christmas Morning. While the event of death is a sad one and we are all definitely sad to see him go, my grandfather lived a good and full life of 91 years. He had a loving wife and a loving family as well as a host of adoring friends. I was blessed with the opportunity to attend the memorial service and to see over 300 of these friends and to hear some of them speak and to listen as others gave their talents in honor of him. He was and continues to be greatly respected and loved by all. For those of you who were praying for him, I ask that you’d redirect your prayers now towards my grandmother who has just lost her husband of over 67 years. Pray that she would find comfort and encouragement from the Lord in this time and that she would know that she still has many on this earth who love her very much.

On another note, even though I delayed by 10 months, Allstate has graciously allowed me the opportunity to work for them and I plan on starting with them late summer.

That’s all for this segment of News in Guatemala, I hope you’ve enjoyed it. I’d love to hear from you personally so write me at Enoch.Hill@gmail.com.

God Bless,

-Enoch Hill

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Merry Christmas

Dear friends and family,

It’s been a while and there are many stories I could tell since my last letter.

I could tell of Maria, a 4 year old girl who was kidnapped from her family on December 1st, I could tell you that when something like this happens in zone three, that actually nothing happens, there are still children smiling and playing in the street, the newspaper continues to print stories of soccer, and only a mother with a broken heart and a child who’s life will be forever affected will note the first of December 2005 as a day forever infamous.

I could tell of the second most commonly celebrated December birthday in Guatemala. How on December 7th, millions of fire crackers serenade thousands of bonfires while hundreds of devil piñatas are thrown in to celebrate his (the devil's) birthday by symbolically throwing him into hell.

I could tell you of the Christmas celebration held yesterday for 150 children from the colony called New Sunrise, made possible by a volunteer group from the States. I could tell of the excitement as many received the only tangible gift they will get this Christmas.

I could tell you of how the money came in for Lorena to buy her house in answer to prayer, thanks to some very generous people.

But it is not about these events that I wish to write today. Today I want to write about what’s been happening internally.

After a little over half a year in Guatemala and working adjacent to the dump, it’s hard not to realize that the fullfillment and happiness promised by the American dream is a sham. Don’t get me wrong, I can’t wait to get back home to start renting a comfortable apartment North of Chicago, to have internet 24/7 as well as a hundred other luxuries you hardly notice until you go without, and I’m more excited than I was at 16 to have a car again and the luxury to decide when I come and go. But in the end, the ultimate and final prize the American Dream has to offer is money, and that’s it. Happiness and fulfillment are a completely separate issue. They say the best things in life come for free, they were a little off. The best two things in life cost more than money could ever buy. The first costs time the second costs life but it is true you don’t need a single cent in your pocket to take them home with you.

Just as it is not riches that keep you up, it’s not poverty that keeps you down. Poverty can and is being overcome daily. It’s broken families, abuse (verbal, sexual, and physical), drugs and gangs that keep people unhappy and hopeless, and I refer both to the rich and to the poor. If the dream of the 20th century was a second car in every garage, then the dream of the 21st should be a second parent in every home. The first thing that costs no money is the love of others and the currency for which it is paid for is time.

I am convinced that

neither poverty (though perhaps wealth) nor lack of education

neither infirmity nor inability to read and write

need separate a child from the love of a parent.

Furthermore I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God

That blessed love which came in the form of a man. The only man to hold true throughout his entire life, without sin. On the true Christmas day Christ took the first step towards what would be the most costly payment ever paid for anything in the history of the world. The death of a deity.

Through this payment the path was raised up or rather lowered sufficiently for us to be able to enter upon it. The path that leads to heaven and eternal life. Still, difficult it proves to accept, for to accept this gift one must give up trying to earn it for oneself. We must give up the façade we keep up so well primarily to protect ourselves from the reality that we cannot achieve perfection, communion with God, or much less true happiness, peace and satistfaction on our own. We need the payment of the death of our Lord, Jesus Christ. For the wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. He paid the penalty so we don’t have to. To us the gift is free but gifts cost the giver.

While physical poverty definitely exists and is an evil to overcome, I have learned that there are many types of poverty and physical poverty is neither the most evil nor the most widespread. Giving a man a fish or even teaching him to fish will not cure him from the wound his father left when his father left. And more importantly it will not cure him of our true emptiness and the lack of a purpose in life without God.

Merry Christmas

-Enoch Hill

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Hope part 2

Contrary to the Bible, and in addition to presenting my prayers and petitions to God, I have been anxious for everything, at least to know the results for these three students.

Additionally, shortly after their round of interviews, I learned that one of the staff was also applying for this scholarship. Lila is a Bilingual receptionist at Potter’s House. Her parents are both full time in the ministry and their only source of income in addition to Lila’s is tithes from their home church.

Guatemala is one of the few remaining places in Central America where the Indegineous culture remains separate from the Spanish influence to a significant degree. In addition to Spanish some 22 languages are still spoken today by people living in the rural parts of Guatemala. Most are descendants of the Mayans. Yet remaining separate comes at a price. The indigeneous people are often descriminated against and for the most part remain very poor. Unable to receive education in their native tongue. Lila is currently learening Quetzekel in hopes of one day becoming an effective educator to those speaking a language from antiquity.

One of the women who work at Potter’s House also happens to be a past recipient of the Walton Scholarship and additionally serves on the first round interview selection committee. So I at least had some idea of how the students did after round one.

Everyone was impressed by Farley, his confidence and gunuinely heartfelt answers had brought something out in the judges and he had received a perfect 60 out of 60. Eulolia did quite well, however, most of the students applying for the scholarship had received significantly higher grades in highschool and she received a 2 out of 10 in this category making it questionable whether she would pass to the next round. Alfredo and Lila both were very nervous in the first round, Alfredo giving mostly yes or no answers, and failing to prove both his English and to adequately describe who he was to the judges.

Saturday took an eternity to arrive, 28 of the original 68 would pass to the second round and 10 of those would receive the scholarship. Saturday morning I called Gabi to learn the results. Unbelievably, all 4 had passed, Lila receiving the 28th spot and Farley the first. I was thrilled. However, first round interview scores were taken into account in the second round.

The next round interviews fell on Thursday and Friday of the following week, however the kids were gone at an English school which had been provided with free tuition for 2 weeks. They had to leave early, and arrived home Tuesday night. We practiced 8 hours on Wednesday, allowing them to practice answers for most of the likely questions. Eulolia went first of all applicants Thursday morning, Farley and Alfredo wanted to continue practicing so they came with me on a work assignment and we practiced interview questions in the car. At around 10 we received a call from the Walton committee saying they wanted to come visit Potter’s House and specifically the houses of the three applicants. I was blown away!..until I talked with Gabi and found out that the first round committee generally visits the houses of those who don’t make it to give them some assistence buying books or something to attend classes in Guatemala. Still good, but I really wanted and continued praying for them to make it all the way. We had also learned some other dissettling news. Of the 10 original scholarships 5 had already been taken from Guatemala and given to other countries because the applicant pool was so strong in those countries. After the first round Gabi was out of the decision making process and we were free to talk, hope and pray to our hearts content. At this point we realized that rationally only 1 or 2 could possibly make it.

Friday arrived, and we learned that it had been the directors who called, not people from the first round, this had to be a good sign right? However, Eulolia and Farley had both scored in the 60’s on a grammer exam taken immediately after their interviews, 80 was the minimum allowable in order to receive the scholarship.

When Gabi spoke with the directors, she learned that there were many good applicants and the decision was a hard one. Probably not going to be made until February of 2006, until after they had seen the applicants from all the countries to decide who would actually make it. I felt like I was going to die, I hadn’t been able to sleep in anticipation.

Just try to think for a minute what this would mean. Your whole life lived within a single zone in a single city. A few hundred meeters from one of the worst places on earth. Your streets are lined with trash, drugs, and signs of death. Amazingly you’ve just finished high school, but it’s time to start contributing to the family. This opportunity is beyond ones wildest dreams, I’ve had conversations with people who dream of escaping to the states in the tire wells of airplanes, and even should they get there they don’t have money or much of a chance. To live in a different country, to get a first rate education, to have the opportunity to tell your family, “That’s it, you don’t have to live here anymore.” To be able to actually start living and saving beyond the next meal.

These were the thoughts running through my head as Gabi and I went to pick up the directors. I sat waiting for the interviews to end on a beautiful leather couch in an extremely nice hotel. I couldn’t get over the contrast.

We finally got the chance to meet the three directors who held the future of our kids in their hands. They told us the decision they had arrived at and I was finally able to breathe again. We got in the car to drive to Potter’s House where all 3 of the kids whose houses would be visited had been waiting since 2 (and Alfredo when he returned from his Interview). When they got to Potter’s House after a brief presentation by the staff. The directors told the kids the results. Contigent on receiving an 80 on the English exams which they will take in April. All 3 will have the chance to begin classes in the fall. Farley at Harding University, Eulolia at John Brown and Alfredo at Ozarks University. Additionally, should they do well in their studies, this will open the doors for Potter’s House and future students of Potter’s House will have the opportunity to study in the states.

God is good, beyond our wildest expectations. 3 of our 4 applicants were able to receive a chance to do something they could never dream of or provide for themselves. They were told immediately, the only three in Guatemala to know before February. Plus, should they do well, the way will be opened for future students.

Pray for

  • PRAISE for the opportunity these 3 kids have and Diligence in studying for Alfredo, Eulolia and Farley
  • That they would receive at least an 80 on their English exam in April
  • A woman in zone three is a single mother and she must pay off her house by the end of this month. She had the money saved, but then she hurt her leg and now she doesn’t have a penny of it left. She is a widow and after the fire in February her kids are no longer allowed to help her scavenge and she is unable to walk to the dump. Should she be unable to pay she will be evicted. She needs just Q5000 to pay for her house. (between 600-700 dollars)
  • Many children are unable to go to school because they have to work all day. This week I leanred about a 5 year old who sits in a room cleaning out plastic bottles all day long. She works in the dark because her parents don’t want to use the money for electricity and she is not allowed outside to play unaccompanied because they fear for her safety.
  • My grandpa’s salvation and continued health

Thank you so much for your prayers and emails

Tuesday, November 08, 2005


Dear friends and family,

In the midst of it all, sometimes I wonder whether what we do is really making a difference. Crime is at an all time high, just the other week the guard who watches the dump overlook was shot. Broken families are still the norm, and there’s no shortage of passed out or drug abusing men adorning the streets. Yet just the other day I had the chance to see hope in the form of three teenagers, and what a blessing it was.

Sometimes worse than the poverty itself is the monotony. You work unbelievably long days simply to provide food to survive, and you survive it seems simply to work. When you can’t save and you don’t have extra, there’s not all that much to look forward to. When an entire lifetime is contained within 8 or 10 city blocks, even hope becomes just a dream. However this Saturday was an event that oozed purpose in a world of such seemingly meaningless wandering. While for a majority of us in the states, finishing a year of school signifies nothing more than summer break, and graduation from high school is almost a given, for many of those in the dump it’s nothing short of a miracle.

If hope is to be found anywhere here, it’s in the kids. Maybe that’s one of the reasons people have so many. Saturday was a chance to reap that hope in tangible form. Saturday was graduation. Regardless of grade completed, all students are a part of the event, and almost double that amount of supporting family members. For a brief hour or two everyone forgets the myriad of problems that exist and we just enjoy the celebration at hand, admiring the achievement for what it is.

For three very special students, this is the last graduation at Potter’s House they will ever celebrate. Farley, Eulolia and Alfredo have completed high school. They are each the first in their family to have EVER gotten this far. But they aren’t finished yet. While attending school, in their spare time, with the help of volunteers, donations, and a scholarship to a language school, they have each learned English. On Friday I had the chance to coach them on interviewing and on Saturday they interviewed in the second round applying for a full scholarship to one of 3 colleges in the US. Having the chance to hear their stories has been one of if not my favorite moment that I’ve been here.

Farley is the oldest of 7, tough and confident while still reserving a smile for everyone, he’s a natural leader and while his English is the worst of the three, his answers are the best. Eulolia is both smart and beautiful, she’s extremely shy one on one but is an excellent speaker in front of crowds. She gives a wonderful speech at graduation and has already finished specialization as a bilingual secretary. Her father still works in the dump, searching for tires that still have a bit of life left in them. Alfredo is outgoing and always looking to be helpful. Recently, his father has been able to find work outside of the dump and now makes and sells piñatas. Surprisingly, and quite revealing, is the fact that all three of them live in two parent homes. And none of their fathers drink. All three of them share a common goal. To go to college in the states in order to bring back their skills and help their families and communities escape life in the dump. Eulolia puts it best when she says, “I want them to see that life is more than garbage.”

As we practice interview, it’s evident that these kids are smart. Apart from the actual content of their answers, they could be kids from any US private school. Their posture is good, and although they speak a bit slow, they are understandable and well-spoken. Additionally, they constantly give thanks to God for making all these opportunities possible. Their faith is astounding.

They find out if they advance to the next round in 2 weeks. I can’t think of a time I’ve wanted anything more badly than for them to be able to have this opportunity. Should they receive the scholarship, and should they keep their grades above a 2.5GPA. They will receive four years tuition, room and board, books, 2 round trip tickets per year (Christmas and summer), health insurance, and a $125 stipend monthly. Expanding their known world from a few miles to a few thousand. Thankfully, the applicant pool is small this year, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Of 68 applicants only 10 will receive the scholarship. Hope is there, but it has retained its slender figure.

Prayer Updates and Requests:

Hurricane Stan: Thank you so much for the support and prayer in response to my email. While here in Guatemala City we were relatively unaffected, Guatemala itself was hit worse by this Hurricane than any other country, suffering over 600 deaths and many more missing. One village was officially declared a mass graveyard by the government after days of searching only revealed bodies. While the initial damage has been done, the suffering in Guatemala continues, as houses need rebuilding, and much of the crops have been destroyed. In a country where many people live at a subsistence level, any disruption of the inflow is a matter of life and death. Please continue to pray.

As far as the dump, while the City experienced unusual amounts of rain, the dump was not closed, allowing work to continue as normal. Thanks for your prayers

Stan Hill (my grandpa): I was absolutely overwhelmed by how many people are praying. Thank you so much I continue to covet your prayers. My grandpa is doing a little better physically. So Praise God for that. He has had the opportunity presented to him to accept Christ, and now the choice is between Him and God. But please continue to pray!

Farley, Eulolia, Alfredo: Pray for wisdom for the judges, that if it be the Lord’s Will all three would be able to study in the states. Also pray for continued diligence for the three regardless of the outcome, and that if they don’t receive the scholarships that they would still have a way to attend college in Guatemala.

Potter’s House: Potter’s House is about to celebrate its 19th year of service. It is an amazing organization that has accomplished an unbelievable amount thanks to God and the help of volunteers. Yet we all need the continued help of our Lord. As the organization continues to grow larger and larger, pray for the leadership as they learn to delegate responsibility. Pray for wisdom in how to delegate and that they would grant the authority to carry out responsibilities given. Also pray for me, that He would give me patience in times of frustration. That I would be understanding of differences in culture. Don’t get me wrong, I love it here, but we can all use prayer.

Thanks for taking the time to read this.

God Bless,

-Enoch Hill

The Other Stan

Today seems to just be one of those days. After writing the email about Hurricane Stan this morning I spoke with my brother and learned some more bad news.

My grandfather, Stan Hill, was diagnosed with terminal congestive heart failure. According to the diagnosis, he has between a few days and a few years to live. My grandfather is one of greatest men I know. His entire life has been devoted to other people, to youth, to education, to those less fortunate, to his friends, to his family, and to his wife. He has had a long and full life. He is a wonderful grandfather and I both love and respect him very much.

Once again I am asking for your prayer,

Pray for relief from pain,

for health,

For comfort and encouragement for Doris (my grandmother), and for his kids,

Also, while I realize that some of you do not agree with me in my beliefs of God and Jesus as the son of God, I include the following requests out of my love for my grandpa. If I truly believe in heaven and hell, and I also believe that the only way to heaven is through the son of God, Jesus Christ, that eternity literally does lie in the balance. Then respect for your beliefs must take a second place to my love for my grandfather and hope for his future. Therefore I ask ALL of you to pray for his salvation. If anyone could save themselves by works alone, it would be my grandpa. But the Bible says in Ephesians 2:8-9 that: 8For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9not by works, so that no one can boast. So Pray: that he would realize that while he is one of the closest to perfect people I have ever met, he still has sinned and needs a savior. That he would accept Jesus’ perfect life and sacrifice on the cross as payment for his sins. And Jesus’ resurrection as well as the apostles writings as proof of his forgiveness.

Thank you all once again for your time, support, and prayers

God Bless,

-Enoch Hill

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Hurricane Stan

Dear friends and Family,

I realize that writing this so soon after my last email violates my no more than once every two week rule but I figured this was important.

Guatemalan Government has just declared our status as red. After Dennis, Katrina, and Rita many of us are hurricaned out, tired of seeing the suffering on our televisions. Yet the suffering continues whether we hear about it or not.

Let me introduce you to Stan, Katrina’s little brother. This past week, Stan has claimed lives in over half of the countries of Central America including El Salvador, Mexico, Nicaragua, Honduras, and yes even Guatemala. At least 6 deaths occurred this morning. On top of that, thousands are losing their homes.

Remember the charming little hamlet of San Marcos that I visited just under a week ago? In this short time they have gone from picturesque village to disaster zone. They are currently one of the regions “incomunicado,” they don’t have electricity, they don’t have their phone lines, and while they have too much water, they don’t have clean water. Even worse, the mountainous terrain that is Guatemala is extremely prone to landslides. Blocked roads have made traveling in and out of the region a virtual impossibility.

But what is impossible for man is possible for God and that is my primary purpose for writing. Please Pray!

Pray for the families that have lost loved ones

For those who have lost their homes and possessions

That roads would be cleared and relief would begin

For the sickness and disease that comes from stagnant water and not being able to be dry

In and around the dump people have also been affected by the hurricane. While we have not received the brunt of the storm, the uncharacteristically high amounts of rain have made living conditions miserable, for houses that already couldn’t hold out the rain the increased load have soaked and even threatened to collapse the homes of many. Increased rain has also made the terrain within the dump extremely unstable and dangerous, preventing many people from their only source of income. The government is thinking of closing down the dump during this time. While that would keep these people safe from immediate harm, it raises the question of what these 10,500 people will do for daily income and food until the dump is reopened. Finally, unusually low temperatures have added to the inability to dry out and sickness is running rampant. The leadership of Potter’s House is meeting right now to decide how they should respond in the midst of this situation.

Please Pray!

Pray for those who have lost their homes.

Pray for those unable to work and buy food during this time.

Pray for those who are sick and cold

Pray for wisdom for Potter’s House leadership of how to respond during this time.

Thank you for your time and continued support of the people of Guatemala

God Bless,


On the Secular Side

Dear Friends and Family,

While I spend roughly 9 hours a day in the office, a lot of time remains to experience Guatemala outside of Potter’s House. So, this letter is dedicated to those moments. As always, let us begin with a few statistics/facts. The median income of Guatemala is roughly $1400 annually. Almost the entire upper/middle class has a maid, and you might too if it only cost you 110$ a month for 25 hours a week of maid service. Apparently political correctness hasn’t struck yet as anyone even the least bit overweight picks up the nickname “Gordito/a” (Fatty), which apparently is a nice thing to say. The far and away majority of Guatemala is Catholic and birth control is avoided like the plague.

Case and point, I play soccer on Saturday’s at 4:30 with a family…1 family. This extended family can create an entire team out of their male family members. They pretty much fit the stereotypical Guatemalan family to a t. A few years back they moved from one of the villages in the country to the city. Not because they wanted to, but to follow the money. The father of the family has 11 brothers and sisters including himself. Five have gone to the United States in search of better jobs (often just the husband will go to the states, in the hopes of working a few years, and sending whatever they can back to their family). Only two or three remain in their hometown hamlet.

Last week this family invited me to their village because there was a festival and a “cuadrangular” which means a four team soccer tournament. San Marcos is high in the mountains (even higher than Denver) and adjacent to the Mexico border near the west side. Believe it or not, the altitude is high enough to make the temperature downright chilly, and also makes walking a draining workout due to lack of oxygen. While located in the mountains, that doesn’t prevent the primary occupation from being farming. No, the land isn’t flat, but you should see these people’s calf muscles. I guess working a farm at a 45 degree angle will do that for you. Of course all the really flat pieces of land are reserved for soccer pitches, the one we will be playing on rests on the top of a mountain. Really beautiful but you’d better not kick the ball far off the field or you have to run down a mountain to retrieve it. Also, I have to imagine that the view was spectacular, unfortunately a cloud decided to perch on top of the peak and I couldn’t see the other side of the field, much less the surrounding view.

Well after a 5 ½ hour drive in a car where the most English anyone knew other than myself was how to count to three, we arrived. We donned our jerseys and the father gave a prep talk. Even though I only understood the half of it, I was pretty pumped to play. It was a full 90 minute game and we won 3 to zero, luckily I scored 2 goals and so they let me stay.

Back at Eleodoro’s (the father) brother’s house, we dined on this absolutely bland tasting bread, potatoes with nothing to go on them, a vegetable called ava’s which seem to be related to peas, and coffee, this meal was repeated for dinner and breakfast the next day. I actually like coffee now and have started electing it when offered. There was a bit more verity including chicken (which was excellent) and some corn (not sweet corn and not good corn) as well as some pineapple (AMAZING) for dinner. The next morning Eleodoro took me for a tour through his family’s land, we went to Eleodoro’s house (which he still owns), and went inside, it was almost straight out of a movie, I felt like a little boy following the futbol guru around. Anyways, inside the house with virtually no belongings was a dresser COVERED in trophies and medals. The bed had a man sized trophy sleeping on it. Not wanting to disturb the trophy’s slumber, we quickly exited. Outside was a honeybee farm ran wild, a few pigs, a dozen cats, a pair of dogs, a chicken tied to a board and a picturesque soccer pitch lying in the valley surrounded by the houses of Eleodoro’s brothers. The pitch only had one entrance from the south, every other side was walled by cliffs that went straight up from the pitch and one cliff on the west side that went down into these gorgeous green pastures spotted by cows, horses, and empty Gatorade bottles (yeah, even the Guatemalan country side could learn a thing or two about garbage cans and littering). Needless to say, the weekend was a magical one. We ended up winning the championship 2 to 1. The game ended in a mini-fight and everyone started running onto the field which I guess meant the game was over. On the economic side, for lunch we stopped at a little stand, my lunch of a chuchito, two tostadas and a glass of rice milk cost me about 67 cents. We splurged on dinner, fried chicken, beans rice and of course, coffee. Total cost: $1.50. I returned from my adventure, arriving back at the Riveras Thursday night with an additional trophy for Eleodoro’s room, a sack of potatoes, (those that didn’t roll all the way down the hill and off the cliff while we were harvesting them), A bruise on my right side from 5 hours in a car packed way too full of people, and a lifetime memory of San Marcos.

Life is good.

Love and Blessings

-Enoch Hill

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Chicken Soup for the Soul - Guatemalan Style

“Are you sure you want to keep this?”
As we clean the refrigerator I find a half eaten hot dog. Brenda, the second oldest daughter of the Rivera family assures me that her father will eat it later.
-This country could really use a Martha Stewards, or at least a Martha Stewards without stock options- I think to myself,
Honestly, no one in this country knows how to use a refrigerator.
After we “cleaned” the fridge (more of a rearranging than anything). I didn’t think much of the experience.
Work lately has been quite transitional. I’ve finished my stint at association Vida Nueva, and while I absolutely loved it there, I’m glad I’ve got a chance to see a few other parts of what Potter’s House does.
A week out of Vida Nueva, I find myself somewhat in charge of a youth group that has ratio’s taken right out of the loan department. 11 girls and 2 guys with two couples in charge. Monday morning we arrive at Aguilar colony, one of the 16 colonies that Potter’s House is currently doing construction projects in. A steep ravine frames the small hamlet, houses jutting out of the side of the steep edges. The other side looks like it might be a magic eye. But if you stare at it long enough, you won’t see a secret image, you’ll just see a pile of garbage built up over the years. As we walk down stairs built by another group from Potter’s House earlier this year, we are met by the sounds of gun shots, oh wait no, those are just fire crackers. The typical form of celebration and greeting in this country never ceases to make me jump just a little. Aguilar community is happy to meet us, we are introduced to Alejandra, the community leader and begin to play a game to get to know each other.
We also are introduced to our week’s work project, our estrogen endowed construction crew will be hand mixing cement, building a number of sidewalks, stairways, and retaining walls.
By the end of the first day everyone is tired, and this was only a half day. Alejandra informs us that Pedro, an 18 year old we’d met that morning, is quite sick. So the 18 of us literally jam into the one room house and make a crinkly circle around the bed to pray. His aunt is extremely thankful that we’d be willing to do it.
By the third day there is a general consensus that money should be raised for a cement mixer, but already the community looks a bit different, a stairway, a retaining wall and a new walkway have all been finished. As I lug yet another bag of cement, hardly able to hold it up, Lluvia, one of the strongest women I have ever met, walks by with a bag of arena (sand) on her shoulders that weighs nearly double mine. She informs us of how much better it has been since they have the stairs now. She describes carrying all her things up and down the side of a muddy ravine in the middle of rainy season. It sounds miserable. And now, they even occasionally have people come and visit them, something that never happened when their community was so hard to reach. The annual rainy season also takes it’s toll on the houses, every year a number will collapse, hopefully the retaining walls will give the houses a chance.
The second day I find myself working with Carlos, one of the men from the community. I soon learn he’s had the fortune to be a truck driver. Earlier in my stay in Guatemala, Julio, (my boss at Vida Nueva) informed me that if you want to pick up girls in Zone three, the best job to have is garbage truck driver, that’s practically the highest rung on their corporate ladder.
Carlos works incredibly hard, helping mix and throw cement, I learn about his family, all his children. Later I learn he’s younger than me and I want to throw up. But instead I smile and we decide to play futball (soccer) that Friday.
Everyone who has a chance comes to help us with the cement project, the children, the old, even a woman who’s 7 months pregnant picks up a shovel and starts mixing.
The girls from the youth group I’m with do a great job and somehow we manage to finish all the retaining walls by the end of the last day. They’ve also brought a number of suitcases of clothes to donate so that on the last day of work, there is a time for all the kids in the community to line up and get a new shirt or pair of pants.
The goodbye ceremony is surprisingly difficult. After a very cute rendition of David and Goliath put on by the kids of the community for our group translated by Samuel one of our two translators, everyone begins to realize that this is really it. By the end, everyone, even the guys are crying, God pitches in with a bit of rain to finish off the scene. Gifts, hugs and photos are exchanged and no one really wants to leave but the time has come.
For the last time Gethsemane Lutheran Church climbs the stairs, part of it mixed and laid by their own hands. The now familiar sound of firecracker sends us off letting us know that our time here was appreciated. The younger children accompany us up the stair way and as far down the street as they’re allowed. Another round of hugs and good byes to the kids and it’s over. Gethsemane heads back to Potter’s House but their hearts are still in the ravine of 1 room houses, of barefooted boys and wandering chickens. I however have a soccer game to get to. Quickly changing my clothes, Pedro, Lluvia, Carlos and a few more of Aguilar community accompany me to the local futball pitch. While the field is pure dirt it’s also pure soccer. They make fun of each other and me in the way of old friends and I try to defend myself in my broken Spanish. Shortly thereafter another crew from a different community arrives and we play community vs community. Our team wins 3-2 and as we head back Carlos invites me to share a coke with him. While I feel bad about him spending what little money he doesn’t have on me I’m also honored beyond belief. Pedro (who’s still a bit sick) and Carlos insist on escorting me back to Potter’s House and I return after one of the most tiring but best week’s of my life.
Back at Potter’s House, I haven’t been needing to eat my sandwiches that I receive daily from the Rivera’s because I’ve been eating with the volunteer group, but that’s no problem. There are now a host of boys who are willing to help me out with my sandwich hanging around the doors of Potter’s House when I return. The next week when I am working inside, anything the other volunteers or myself don’t eat at lunch, the lunch ladies are happy to take off our hands. And what do you know? I checked the other day and the half eaten hot dog was no longer in our fridge.