Saturday, November 30, 2013

You Never Give Up On Family

I’m all alone in my small and chilly Guatemalan apartment. I can’t sleep because there is a Spanish, heavy metal concert a few blocks away. The last thing I did before I snuggled under my stack of blankets was check on Facebook updates. I was laying here praying, tearing up, as I usually do when I’m talking to God for some reason. This week I have been overwhelmed by the uncountable blessings in my life. But it also feels like I’ve also gotten a huge dose of news of tragedy and hardship—deaths, miscarriages, debt, Black Friday tramplings. How can there be a God when so many bad things happen? All you have to do is walk the streets, scroll through any social media, turn on the news for 2 minutes. How in the world can there be a God? And if there is one—this is one heck of a way to show his love for us.

I’ve seen numerous statuses lately that have said, “I’ve lost all faith in humanity,” or “my faith in humanity has been restored.” Humanity cannot and will not be restored by good or kind deeds. We shouldn’t ever have any faith in humanity, because we are inherently evil and selfish and greedy. Have you ever seen a toddler hit his sibling? Did you wonder where he learned that? He didn’t need to. Slavery and racism is not a thing we learn about in history class, it happens daily, all over the world. People are homeless and starving and sleep on the sidewalk in this country. A student thinks it’s funny her maid has to use the outhouse. Children spend time in ATM booths begging for food or money. Elderly women whose legs and feet are shriveled beyond recognition sit on a busy sidewalk hoping for even a cent.

I do not need to strive for selfishness or pride, it comes 100% naturally. Positive thoughts just don’t happen on their own for me. Even as a teacher, patience and kindness is not my first nature. I have the title of a missionary. I know so many people that do wonderful things in third world countries. So many people feed the poor around the holidays. These are all great things and things I believe we are called to do. However, there is no point to any of these things if there is not a huge, saving, all powerful God.

As I grow up and am further released from my comfort zone, I see a world that is so clearly damaged. A world that will trample a man to death to go get that TV on sale. A world where people die of drug overdoses. Where a man will murder dozens of children. I am a citizen of a country that is swimming in debt. How can we possibly blame those things on anyone but ourselves? WE are the ones that have created the wars, the drugs, the technology, the want for more.

If you’ve ever read the Old Testament or know vaguely what it’s about, it’s a solid reflection of human nature. I believe it is not and will never be outdated. The behaviors of the Israelites over and over reflect exactly who we are. We are blessed and we still worship idols and insist on doing life our own way. God isn’t King enough in our life so we appoint our own.

Despite all of these misfortunes, there IS a real God. And despite what you might think, He DOES love us. He loves us so much in fact that He DESIRES a relationship with us even though we constantly choose things and others over him. These tragedies don’t reflect a small, weak God. They reflect our great, deep need of a true and mighty God. There is a line from the great show Breaking Bad, where the father of a drug-addict says, you never give up on family. God created us and He will never give up on us.

I am thankful for a job that I love. I am thankful for incredible friends and family near and far away. I am thankful for a warm home on these cold nights. I’m thankful for a fiancĂ© that loves and serves God. I am thankful for seven wonderful ladies who have agreed to be bridesmaids in my wedding. I am thankful for the dozens of people that love Sean and I that want to come to our wedding. But more than all these things, I am thankful for a God that not only tolerates me, but loves me. Desires me. Pursues me. A Savior that died so that I could be with Him in heaven. I am thankful for the reminders that He is all that matters in spite of a crazy job, living in a third world country, struggling to pay for plane tickets, students that don’t always listen, earthquakes, endless street noises, and sickness. He is bigger. He is stronger. He hasn’t and he won’t give up on us. Nunca una vez.

Sunday, November 17, 2013


Well, this has been a very big week. If you would've asked me a year and a half ago if I thought I'd meet the man I was going to marry when I moved to Guatemala, I would have said no. But, God had slightly different plans than I intended and I not only came down here to teach, but to meet and fall in love with this guy named Sean.

A week ago, he asked me to marry him. I'm sure everyone will want to know how he did it, so here it is. 

It was a cloudy, lazy Sunday afternoon and we decided to take a walk just to get outside. To me we were walking aimlessly and we even ran into our friend Sarah and chatted with her for a bit. About a year ago, when we were both living in host families, the houses were very close. He frequently walked me home and we would stand outside talking for a while. This was really how we got to know each other. This was also the area where we officially started dating and where we kissed for the first time. Also, this is the spot that he first told me he loved me. We were standing in this spot when he got down on one knee and asked me to marry him. I can't remember his exact words, but I think I said yes before he even asked. 

This special corner will forever be etched in our memories. To any passerby, this corner embodies a filthy, third-world country. It's a partly paved, partly eaten away sidewalk against a crumbling concrete wall with graffiti on it. One will frequently find dog feces on this corner and who knows, maybe even human feces as well. It's gross and I'm very proud of Sean for kneeling in it.

We are so very happy and very excited to get married. We don't have specific details on location or date just yet, but we will soon. We also have no solid plans yet for next year regarding staying in Guatemala or not. Thank you for the many prayers and we would very much appreciate continued prayer as we embark on this journey together.

The corner where he proposed.

A close up of the graffiti, "Give peace a chance!"

My beauuuuutiful ring.

The sunset on November 10, 2013, the night of our engagement.

This is how I told my class the next morning.

This was how far they guessed until they were able to solve it. They were jumping out of their seats to answer.

This is how we told the staff. Our co-workers are so supportive. But really, they are.

Sunday, November 3, 2013


Fall is going so fast. Less than six weeks until I'm home for Brooke's graduation from Texas A&M. School is going very well but keeping busy.

On October 1, Guatemala celebrated Children's Day. This consisted of a lunch party where our room moms brought in pizza and lots of sweets. The kids loved it of course.
Third graders and me.

Enjoying their pizza.

This weekend we celebrated All Saint's Day. Tradition is that everyone gets off school and work and visits deceased loved ones in the cemetery. They decorate their graves with flowers and wreaths and spend time honoring them. Families often eat Fiambre--which is a cold, traditional salad. It is a Guatemalan favorite. Fiambre means "cold meat," also meaning a corpse. It's cold so that they can eat it throughout the day in the cemetery. Because we were in El Salvador last year, I didn't really get to see this holiday celebrated. We visited the cemetery in Xela for the first time (first time for me) and it was huge and decked out. We spent some time flying kites and just hanging out. To my own surprise, it was a joyful celebration in and around the cemetery. People were not somber, but celebrating the lives of those passed.

My neighbors flying a kite.
We have been doing an earth science unit the last month or so in Science. It has been a blast to teach it and my kids have been loving it. I can't imagine having this much fun teaching earthquakes and volcanoes to students. My kids have been eager to learn how earthquakes happen, because they feel them so much. We talked about the Ring of Fire, and a student excitedly called out, "that's why we have so many earthquakes we're RIGHT BY the Ring of Fire!" I loved it. It was great actually using specific earthquakes and aftershocks they've felt as examples in their learning.

Checking out some rocks.

"Miss Ellsworth, it's precipitating!"

This is a simulation of how rain clouds form. They were surprised they needed about 100 drops of food coloring before it actually rained in the cup!

Building model homes out of toothpicks and mini-marshmallows. Then they were tested out on the earthquake to see who wins (a pan of JELL-O)

This last week a handful of teachers and me missed school and traveled to Guatemala City to apply for our missionary visas at the Office of Migration. Everything went safely and very smoothly. We should be getting them in about 3 months.

Thank you for your prayers. Life is good. I love this class and love being a part of this school. Please be praying for wisdom and guidance for Sean's and my positions here next year. The time is coming to start seriously thinking about that. God bless!!

The small things....
Third grade 2013-2014

Giant huge moths like our apartments.

Not sure if you can see this, but a man is painting with an impossibly long stick from the roof. And it's about to start raining.

Tiny explosion. Sunset.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Dia de Independencia

We are full swing into the school year. Mid-quarter progress reports have been sent out and we're about to start our sixth week of school. It's unbelievable how fast the time goes. I am really enjoying my new third grade class. I feel comfortable teaching at this point and know the school well. But, each class and student is so different that it's almost like starting my job over. It has been great spending the majority of my time, not on lesson plans, but finding engaging and fresh ways to teach. I love that this class is so different, and requires me to really reflect on the habits and methods I was using last year.

Some third graders.
We have some stuffed friends in our reading corner. The kids are cute that they like holding them while they read or write.
With a little more time on my hands, I decided to start a choir for elementary students. They really enjoy singing and worshiping and I wanted to give these kids a chance to do this outside of chapels. I am teaching them songs, then taking the voices off the tracks, and they are learning to step up and sing loud and confidently. I hope these students will get to teach songs to the rest of the elementary students in a chapel about once a month. I was expecting only a handful of kids, but about 25 kids have been coming the last couple weeks. There are students from PreK to fifth grade. Managing them at this point is the greatest challenge, but I am loving it. 

Elementary Choir 2013
We had another exciting earthquake a little more than a week ago, rating at a 6.5. It happened on a Friday night as I was walking to go get dinner. I noticed the ground shaking, heard glass breaking in the building next to me, a car shaking violently in front of me, the telephone poles going crazy. I didn't realize how big it was until I saw power going out, cars stopped, and people crying on the street. A candle broke in my apartment and a few dishes were teetering on the edge of falling off the shelf. There were several after shocks the weekend after and sleeping was difficult with the city dogs barking for a while after the tremors. We haven't heard of any deaths or serious injuries.

As you can see, the epicenter wasn't very far from Quetzaltenango.
Yesterday was Guatemala's Independence Day so we are celebrating with no school today. It has been a crazy and loud weekend--lots of parades, marching bands, crowds, and fireworks. We decided to stay in Xela and have been enjoying some relax time.

Please be praying for energy and patience, as always, in the classroom. Please be praying that students at our school would have a desire to know about God and that He would give teachers the words. Also, that He would give us His love to pour on the students. Thanks for reading and for your prayers. 

Happy Guatemalan Independence Day!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Another School Year

Back in Guatemala for year 2! I have been back for about two and a half weeks and so much has happened. From getting my wisdom teeth pulled (yes, here) to school starting. It has been an eventful and tiring couple of weeks.

Summer was not entirely restful, but it was a wonderful time with lots of family. I was blessed enough to get to see a lot of my family from California to Pennsylvania, and my cousin even came to Texas for a couple weeks. It was so great seeing everyone and spending time with them.
Almost all of the Ellsworth cousins in Texas!
Best friend!
The end of the summer went by very quickly. I returned from visiting my boyfriend's family in New York and my grandparents' in Pennsylvania on July 23rd, my parents and sister returned from Africa on July 24th, my boyfriend then SURPRISED me in Texas on July 30, celebrated my birthday on July 31, then flew back to Guatemala on August 1. I had a day to get settled into my new apartment, which is in the same building as last year just a different apartment, and then woke up early Saturday morning to get my four wisdom teeth pulled. You may be wondering why I chose to get the surgery done here. Well, it was $450. The surgery went very well and healing was very quick. I got the teeth pulled on Saturday and was able to attend the first day of returning teacher orientation on Tuesday. I am already eating and talking completely normal. It really was a huge blessing to have such a talented, low-costing oral surgeon here. He did a great job and I'm very grateful to have them out!

Living room of our new apartment.


My room. Not many closets in Guatemala, but I get a desk!

Not much has changed around here since we left in May. It still rains every afternoon, it's still noisy, there are still marching bands practicing allllllll the time, buses still have way to many people crammed into them. There are so many things that are inconvenient and even annoying, but I am so blessed to get to be here doing what God has for me for another year. We started school last Tuesday. I am still teaching third grade and I have a new class that just moved up. I have been so excited all summer to begin my second year, having a year of lesson plans saved, and looking forward to it being a lot less stressful and not having to do quite as much. However, that's the thing with teaching, there's always ways to make lessons better and decorate the classroom more effectively, etc. I have been almost just as overwhelmed with all the improvements and changes I wanted to implement this year.

The view of Xela from our balcony.
We were surprised that there wasn't much rain when we first arrived, but it has been pouring for hours the last few days. I love it :)
I'm so grateful to be doing something I love and feel called to do. It's so much fun working with kids and teaching them about God. Most of them are so  hungry and excited to learn. The third grade Bible curriculum is the life of Jesus. It's incredible getting to tell stories of Jesus' life in school and even more getting to share the gospel in my curriculum every single day.

My classroom!
IAS has selected the theme of the year, "Jesus is a Verb Not a Noun." This idea originates from a song and it is our theme in our chapels and school mindset for the year. The idea is that our students and staff would realize and focus on the fact that being a Christian means we are to be like Christ in how we treat people and serve others. Please pray that this theme would be studied deeply by the teachers and maintain a focus on Jesus Christ and the gospel. Pray that our presentation to the students would be the way God intends and that it would cause movement and life change in the lives of our students. Also, I am in charge of the first elementary chapel this year within this theme. Please pray for guidance for me as I present this to very young ears--that I'd present it in a way that makes sense to them and in a way that focuses on Jesus.

It's amazing how quickly life goes by. I like to think about what I was doing exactly a year ago...two years ago...and it's just so incredible to look back on the journey that God takes us through. There are so many things that He has allowed me to go through and experience in the last 23 years that have brought me to this point. Even though I didn't always have vision or a sense of purpose, He had one for me. He always knew I would be in Guatemala teaching for a time, and He knows what I will be doing in a year from now. I'm so grateful to be able to rest in that and just focus on teaching and serving Him now. Thank you for the many prayers and the blessings I received from being in the States this summer. I am blessed and grateful.

Missing you Liz!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Being Carried Through

I survived my first year teaching. If you're a teacher you know the excitement and sigh of relief that comes with that. The last day of school we had a small third grade ceremony and party with my students and their parents. I made a short slide show of the pictures I had taken of the students that year and we had a great time reminiscing and noticing how much the kids have grown physically and academically. This class will always hold a special place in my heart especially as my first class. They are all moving on to 4th grade, but being that they're two doors down I will still get to see them often.

Third graders the last week of school!

Some teachers at the IAS high school graduation.

We visited the hot springs again. This is us in August and in May. How fast the year went!

I am currently enjoying my summer in the States while also preparing to return to Guatemala in August. I am returning for another year and will be teaching third grade again. My next years' class will be a very different group academically and socially, but I am extremely excited about being their teacher. I am still loving what I am doing and can't wait to return and get a second year to improve teaching methods, lesson plans, and be overall more confident and organized!

This summer is a busy one. I am spending the bulk of it in Texas with the family, but just recently got back from California visiting lots of friends and family that I haven't seen in years. It was beautiful weather and as always the beach and relaxation was very enjoyable. I am working a little bit to make some money, about to visit New York for a couple weeks, then returning to Guatemala a few days early to get my wisdom teeth pulled, then recovering quickly to return to work August 6.

Karis' 8th grade graduation ceremony.

Brooke and I on the beach in Oceanside.

The transition back to the States has been fairly easy. Somehow life seems to move a little more quickly here and I find myself wanting to do everything and eat everywhere and see everyone. I miss my job and friends in Guatemala and will be ready to return.

Returning to the States, I've been reminded of some of the small things I miss. These are the small things I'm enjoying while I'm home :)

1. walking on sidewalks and being able to walk next to someone, not in a single file line or worrying about stepping in dog poop, or twisting your ankle on the uneven sidewalks
2. pedestrians having the right of way
3. brewed Sweet tea
4. everyone speaking a language I know
5. Mexican food
6. being able to see stars
7. having a washer and dryer IN THE HOUSE
8. taking a shower without having to light the hot water heater
9. being able to sleep in relative silence (no dogs barking/fighting, blaring radios, or buses that would never pass inspection)
10. every small tremor you feel isn't an earthquake

God is so good. This has been a huge year in my life with crazy transitions and experiences. God has been so faithful in carrying me through it. I am so blessed to get the opportunity to be in Guatemala working in an incredible ministry and an incredible God, but also getting to take a break. Thank you for prayers and support!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Finishing up the year

Howdy everyone! The quick arrival of May is making me realize all that is very soon coming to an end--my first year of teaching, my first year after college graduation, and my first year living and teaching in Guatemala is coming to a close. I am about to say good-bye to my first class and it has been making me think about the many ways the Lord has blessed me and my ministry here. I am so grateful and so excited to have the opportunity to continue it for another year.

We have had a very blessed and busy spring. Two of our fellow teachers got married in the last month, so we've gotten the privilege to travel to Pana and Antigua to be attend their weddings.

In Antigua, at Amy and Allan's wedding.
Instead of Spring Break, Guatemalans take a week off in the spring to celebrate Easter. So, we had a week off the last week of March and got to travel all the way to Rio Dulce for a few days' vacation. Rio Dulce is the river in eastern Guatemala that flows into the Caribbean Sea. We stayed in a nice hotel right on the river, that could only be accessed by boat. Our room was what we can only describe as a treehouse. We got to swim in the river, read, relax, eat a lot, and sleep to the sound of rain on the river. One of the days we paid to take a two hour boat ride out to Livingston, the town that is on the mouth of the river into the Caribbean. We even got to go a little bit further to a private beach and relax and swim there. On our way back to the town of Rio Dulce we saw about 6-7 dolphins swimming in the Caribbean around our boat! It was an extremely exciting experience. AND got to scratch swimming in the Caribbean off the bucket list :)

This is our treehouse in Rio Dulce, that blue thing up there is literally my bed!

On a hill overlooking Antigua during Semana Santa.

Liz and I on Playa Blanca, a private island in the Caribbean.

Our stop in Livingston.
On our way back from Rio Dulce we spent a day and a night in Antigua, which is a popular area during the Easter week. There are several processions and alfombras in the roads. Alfombras are huge designs that people make in the streets on the paths of the processions. They dye sawdust, woodchips, or just use pine needles and flowers and make huge, beautiful, colorful designs right in the streets. They were really pretty and it was really neat seeing the people celebrate the Resurrection of Christ here.

Some people working on an alfombra.
I was extremely blessed to have my parents visit me here in Guatemala a couple weeks ago. They got to experience some typical life in Xela from shopping in the market, traveling, and walking in the crazy streets here. They came to school with me one day and spent some time in my classroom with my students. My Dad spoke at chapel for the middle school and high school students, and Mom showed my third graders some of their pictures from their travels to Africa and some childhood pictures of Miss Ellsworth, which my kids thoroughly enjoyed.

Mom in Guatemala!
 Thank you for your continued prayers and support as we finish up our last month of school. We finish at the end of May and I will return to the States for the summer in early June. Things have been really crazy the last few months and I don't foresee things slowing down this last month. Here are some things I could use prayer in...
--sanity and peace as we wrap up units and grades and make sure to get the rest of the material covered
--peace for my students and me as they finish up third grade and prepare for fourth
--focus since the school year is not yet over!
--that everything will miraculously get done
--most importantly that I wouldn't forget why I am here and Who I am here for

Just thought I should share some quotes I have been collecting from my students. Bear in mind that English is not their first language :)

"Are there a lot of juvies (juvenile centers) in the States?"

"Miss Ellsworth, I like the way you got dressed today."

Miss E: "In English, it is polite to say 'Yes ma'am."
Student: "Can I just say 'Yes Woman?'

(disfrutar is "to enjoy" in Spanish)
Miss E: "Please hurry up."
Student:  "I'm just disfruting the water."

Miss E: "Fold your paper hamburger style."
Student: "Could I fold it gangnam style?"

(loco is "crazy" in Spanish)
Miss E: "Who can remind me what local government means?"
Student: "Crazy government?"

Miss E: "Please contain yourself."
Student: "But, Miss Ellsworth, I don't have a container that big!"