A Guatemalan Thank-you / Farewell Party (October 2012)

21 10 2012

One of the things that Guatemalan’s do well is a celebration!  And we decided to immerse ourselves in the culture and celebrate our first 2-years in Guatemala by inviting various people that have been important and influential to us in these early years.  We had a great time at the party held at our house in San Lucas.  About 35 people came.

We got one of our neighbours, who is from El Salvador to come with her huge cooking hot-plate to cook “Pupusas” (an El Salvadorian speciality – small corn tortillas with various fillings).  They all seemed to disappear.  Benjamin cooked a couple of puddings for afters and they were also a hit.

The Pupusas are ready

The Pupusas are ready

One of the characteristics of any Guatemalan celebration is a time for ‘speeches’.  Initially we spoke and thanked everyone for their kindness in welcoming us, for their support in tangible ways over the 2-years, for their friendship and of course how beautiful Guatemala is.  In turn, many of the guests spoke of us and what they saw and appreciated about our family.  In our culture, it is not always easy for us to receive compliments, but the Guatemalans are so genuine, warm and effusive in their words, and the language is so lyrical and beautiful in its expression of deep sentiment – it is heart-warming, tear-jerking and spirit-filled.  It is an amazing part of their culture that acknowledges and builds people up.  We are all up for that.

A time to share

A time to share


A Workshop in Chiquimula

13 10 2012

Last Saturday Benjamin went to a town in the eastern part of Guatemala with Israel and Lily (the Directors of Centro Esdras) as well as Trish who also works on a voluntary basis for CE.  Israel, Benjamin and Lily were teaching a group of about 45 church leaders from the town and surrounding area.

Lily in Action

Lily in Action

Benjamin was teaching on developing and maturing in our Christian faith, focussing on the three areas of relationship with God, relationships with Christians and relationships with those not-yet-Christian.

Chiquimula Workshop

Chiquimula Workshop

The first-ever Centro Esdras workshop we attended was also in Chiquimula, 18 months previous.  This second visit was in stark contrast in terms of how much we had progressed in our cultural acclimatisation, and the Spanish comprehension and conversation.  In fact Benjamin felt hugely empowered by the Spirit as he stepped up another level to teach theology to this group of leaders.

Leaders in Chiquimula

Leaders in Chiquimula

God has been incredible in assisting him to learn and now to teach in Spanish.  We are amazed at the changes as we look back over these first 2-years.  He is faithful.

Diplomado Graduation

4 10 2012

The first Centro Esdras diploma based in the capital finished at the end of September. The course ran over 7-months and we covered a range of materials in 8 modules. Subjects included Personal Spirituality, The mission of the church, and Designing Community Projects. We had about 23 attendees for the whole course, Israel and Lily were pleasantly surprised that there wasn’t the normal “drop-off” in numbers during the 7-months. The attendees were a mixture of Pastors and leaders. We divided some of the modules into two large groups, and at other times kept them all together in one large group. It was good to have a change in the group dynamics.

Graduation - The Pastors

Graduation – The Pastors

Part of the culture here in Guatemala is that of celebration. Often a good reason can be found to have a gathering of friends and family for a rites of passage or moment of transition (endings or beginnings). And the end of the Diploma course was another reason to celebrate. Some of the people who attended the course have not completed school, so it was a great opportunity to acknowledge all those who attended and how well they had done. It was an amazing achievement for many of them to be part of this group.

Graduation – The Leaders

For me, it was a privileged from start to finish to have the opportunity to teach on this diploma. I received such a warm welcome and openness to what was being taught. They were very gracious as I walked slowly through my sessions. This kindness continue throughout, and even at the graduation ceremony the classes made a ‘plaque’ for me to commemorate the way I had taught in a “open and honest way, willing to share my experiences and life with them”. This really touched me deeply, and it made me reflect on how could I be better at the “art of celebration” as well as acknowledging the impact of others on my life.

Receiving the love (and the plaque!)

It is great to see that through the process of teaching it is possible to be changed, and at its best, grown by the experience.

New video

30 09 2012

Latin Link Video

We are in this new video made by Latin Link. It shows the various interconnected relationships of Latin Link, as well as emphasising how important all our supporters are. Thank you!!

Give it a look when you get the chance, click on this link: http://vimeo.com/49383897

3 weeks with Latin Link team

3 09 2012

We have just said farewell to a summer Latin Link team that were in Guatemala to help in a children’s home. The five ladies (of a team of 9) stayed in our house, sharing bed and floor space of our master bedroom for the 3 weeks.  Benjamin was chauffeur for the team during the week.


Latin Link Ladies – setting off for project


Meal times

It was great to have them with us, and we felt privileged to be able to help them, but also to hear their stories and journeys.  The boys loved having them, and snuck into the girls’ room to have the odd ‘chitty-chat’, and sometimes to play the ukulele that one of them brought.  The boys were gifted the ‘guitar’ as they call it, on the departure of the team, and now we are the happy audience to the melodious sea shanties of the little ‘uns, accompanied by the lilting sounds of Hawaiian strings.


Jonah and the Uke

Nearly 3 months after baby

20 08 2012

Elijah is now 11 weeks old. Things have settled down and we nearly no longer have a newborn (a bit sad, as they are so tiny and amazing when they are new but also exciting as he grows). We have been so blessed with our third son – he no longer has his intense tummy pains (which probably was a non-vomiting form of reflux), but thankfully, those days are behind us. He is just about sleeping through the night, doing 9 and 10 hour long stints every so often, so it gives us hope (Jonah took 2 and a half years to make it through the night, so this really is a nice change). Elijah appears to be very calm, patient, tolerant, smiley and desiring to ‘chat’ and to be around people.


His brothers love him to bits – Jonah runs to him when he hears him ‘Oh my lovely, don’t worry, Jonah’s coming’. He cuddles him, strokes him and has to be restrained from picking him up. ‘Mummy, you go shopping, I’ll look after him’, he says. Daniel sings Elijah songs, tells him about himself, recounts stories, teaches him Spanish and is generally communicative, gentle and loving.


We do feel very blessed as a family.

Benjamin continues to teach on the diploma course. Recent topics have been on Teamwork, and currently a 7-week course on Community Projects.  We have also had a lot of battles over our visa applications for residency.  They have been frustrating times and have called for a lot of patience, grace and endurance.  We hope to have an answer from Immigration within the next few weeks.

These have been rich times and God has been teaching us many lessons through these experiences.

The arrival of Elijah Lucas

14 06 2012

On Tuesday June 5th at 11:50am, Elijah Lucas Downing was born at the Hermano Pedro Hospital in Antigua Guatemala, weighing 8lbs 4oz.  He arrived one week early and four hours before his grandparents landed into Guatemala City airport from the UK.

We are so thrilled to finally meet our third little one, another boy and brother to Daniel and Jonah who are loving having him with us.

Elijah Lucas

In the lead-up to the birth, I (Charmari) had had some mild pains on both Sunday and Monday night. At 3am early Tuesday, the contractions were not painful, yet were regular so I got up and arranged the room for my in-laws, prepared the meals for the day and made sure everything was ready in case we had to get to hospital.

At 8:30am we went in to see my gynaecologist so he could assess me; I was 7cm dilated!  I couldn’t believe that the baby was going to come that day as it was probably the one day we had no back-up plan for; we had hoped that Benjamin’s parents would be here before the birth (our last two boys had come right on their due dates), and Suzanne who usually helps out with the children was running an important workshop that day.  But we were able to call on a local friend who took the boys, and Suzanne with Israel, was able to get to the airport late in the afternoon to bring Keir and Shelagh back to our house.

Meanwhile, we headed over to the hospital and stayed in our private room until I was 9cm and actually started to feel a bit of pain.

Second stage of labour

We were then asked to head upstairs to the delivery room – I chose to walk instead of being wheeled up – the nurses were aghast.  They were also not used to me dealing with the contractions in an upright position and encouraged me onto a bed which I turned down.  It was so good to have Benjamin there supporting me through it, as the environment was so different to my previous experiences.  Two nurses stood casually in the room chatting and laughing while I was trying to concentrate through the contractions.  I finally asked Benjamin to get them to leave the room as they were ruining the ambience!!

Soon, the pushing started, we were moved quickly to another room, Benjamin was ordered into scrubs with mask (we thought this was supposed to be all natural), and I was ordered onto the shortest, narrowest bed ever.  I didn’t want to, but by now both our gynaecologist, Dr Ruiz and the paediatrician, Dr Rivas were heaving me up.  The last part felt so medicalised and took us by surprise.  The baby came relatively quickly; thankfully, as the last bit was quite traumatic delivering on a bed that I couldn’t get comfortable on, with bright lights and doctors in scrubs – at least I could see Benjamin’s face, he’d ripped his mask off.

So after just one and a half hours of painful contractions, our little Elijah Lucas was born and placed on me so we could greet him.  We were grateful to both doctors, as for the most part, they had gone along with our wishes – things like labouring in the private room downstairs, handing the baby over to me post-birth, doing some of the checks close by, and not taking him away for hours to the nursery.  There were a few compromises at the end (the delivery), but it was more important to us that our little one came safely.

Welcome Elijah

Paediatrician, Dr Rivas, checking Elijah

For the first time, I had a natural third stage delivery of the placenta, but probably lost a bit more blood as a result.  As I was wheeled back to our room (Benjamin stayed with Elijah and the paediatrician who was finishing off the final post-natal checks), I cried for the emotion of it all.  I was in awe of God’s gift of new life.  I couldn’t but help feel deeply thankful for a healthy baby, a quick labour, good doctors, that I didn’t need stitches (also a first) and for a wonderfully supportive husband who helped me right through it all.

With Dr Ruiz, our gynaecologist

That evening, Benjamin went home and brought back Suzanne with Daniel, Jonah and their grandparents who, after a very long journey, had had just enough time to drop their bags in the house and jump in the car to head for a hospital visit.  The look on the boys face as they met their new brother was one of wonder, delight and puzzlement all in one.

Family hospital visit

Cuddles from Jonah

I stayed one night in the hospital and headed home the next day.  This is unusual in Guatemala; most women stay 3-4 days as the rate of caesarean sections is so high (80%) and it can be rare to come across women who have had a natural birth.

Elijah (Elias in Spanish) has been a real blessing to us.  He has fed well and settles easily.  He still sleeps a lot through the day, so I can put him down between feeds to attend to the other children.  And even when he is awake, he is often happy to lie somewhere and gaze into space.  The nights are still disturbed as he has griping pain after feeds, but this is part of what we expect in the early days.

Eyes open

Three exhausted boys

Having Keir and Shelagh here has really helped us; they have looked after the older boys, held Elijah, done loads around the house and handled the meals too.  We have loved having their company.

We are so thankful for God’s grace and provision in everything.  He is GOOD.

Family of five