what you can do

Dear Readers,

Lots of you have been asking about care packages. Can you send them and how long will it take and what happens when they come through customs. Your concern and care, just in the asking, is hugely encouraging and supportive of us. Thank you!

Here’s the deal: right now we are going through culture shock. Everything is new and different and it all (or a lot of it, anyway) rubs the wrong way. This is normal. It is not something to run away from but something to work through. In order to do this, we have to slow way down, be flexible, and focus on the heart of what matters, i.e. being together, bed time read alouds, eating healthy, getting good sleep.

Perhaps this is one of the drawbacks of blogging. You get to see the hard stuff much more quickly and closer up than you would if I were corresponding via snail mail. (And if I was doing snail mail, I’d be sharing these details with only a handful of close friends and family.) So there’s that.

Also, maybe I am being too honest? I want to tell it like it is, but I don’t want to come across as a complainer. Transitions are hard for me, and they are super hard for at least one of our children (the one who just woke up and is informing me that she’s not going anywhere today).

What we are going through affects you—I need to be aware of that. No one likes to watch someone else flounder about like a fish, and for those of you who know us well, listening and watching without being able to do is a yucky place to be.

Which brings me to the point of this post: what you can do.

By far, the most important thing you can do is just listen and offer encouragement. Your emails and Facebook/blog/twitter comments are HUGELY encouraging. Knowing that you’re following along on our journey gives us strength, more so than I thought possible.

practicing new skills while reading emails

But some of you want to do more than that, something concrete, like care packages. I adore care packages, but in the name of honesty, let me be perfectly clear: we don’t need anything. Almost everything can be found in this country (if you’re willing to pay). I mean, Walmart is here (not that we intend the shop there). People live here all their lives and manage just fine. There are Twix bars and excellent coffee and rolling pins and whole wheat flour. There are drills and shoes and clocks and detergent.

True, at first glance many things are hard to find, things like baking soda, cocoa powder, forks (I found some and I bought a whole pack of 36 [they didn’t have smaller quantities]—let’s have a party!), long ignitors, easy-to-light matches, sturdy clothespins, floor mats, good DVDs, lactaid pills, etc. But that doesn’t mean those things aren’t here!

Still, if you want to send care packages (and I have no idea how long they will take or what will happen in customs or how much they cost), we will jump all over them.

Our mailing address is:

c/o Comite Central Menonita
19 Avenida 5-94 Zona 11
Colonia Miraflores
Ciudad de Guatemala

in mind that all our mail goes to the capital, and once it arrives, it
might sit there for a couple more weeks until we get into the capital.)

Another option is that MCC has opened a personal drawing account (PDA)for us. This account is for our personal expenses like vacation, ice cream, clothing—all things we need to pay for ourselves. You can write checks to MCC and put our names in the memo line and the money will go into our PDA. Contact MCC to confirm the procedure. Also, money gifts (in this format) are not tax deductible.

Yet another option is that you can just give money to our church (Community Mennonite Church in Harrisonburg, Virginia) with “Guatemala Project” in the memo line. This money will help cover unanticipated expenses, give us some funds to work with at Bezaleel school, help pay for child care and Spanish studies for the children, cover our medical costs, etc. This money is tax deductible.

And yet another option is to donate directly to MCC. This will not help us outright, but it will help the agency we work for. And it might be a healthy outlet for your care and concern for the people here and in many other countries where MCC does relief and development work.

Much love to you all. You guys rock.



  • Rachelle

    I really appreciate your candour in these writings. It's eye-opening to see how people live in other places. It's so easy to forget that our standard of living is not all the common.

  • Anonymous

    Part of what makes you YOU is your willingness to talk about the Real stuff – and real stuff is hard sometimes. What you are doing is hard sometimes. Sending you love and warmth from the Valley of the SHD.

  • teekaroo

    Some of the best experiences come from enduring hard things. I appreciate your honesty in describing your adventure. It will make it all the more meaningful to your family in years to come.

    • Jennifer Jo

      No! It belongs to the neighbor and she's quite fond of them, I think. She keeps her eye on them all the time. If one is out of sight, she goes looking. I simply shooed it out and away it went. (Thankfully, it didn't poop.)

  • current typist

    I like the baskets on the kiddos' heads–that's just what I tried out the other day (see my blog…yes, I posted for the first time in five months). Who models this skill for them?-ME

    • Jennifer Jo

      I saw your post and the baskets on heads! The kids see women walking around all the time with enormous baskets (tortillas, avocados, etc) on their heads. They learned how to do it in orientation and Luvia gave them a refresher course when we got here.

  • Laura J.

    I am a lurker (and fellow Harrisonburgian) who has been following your blog for about a year now. I just wanted to let you know that I'm so excited for your family and following along anxiously! I hope you all will be safe, stay sane, and be kind to one another. It's an awesome and amazing thing you're doing!

  • Suburban Correspondent

    You definitely don't come across as sounding negative. You just sound realistic, and that is a very good thing for anyone else who is thinking of doing some sort of family adventure to read. And we all know how receiving a little gift can just sort of brighten up a blah day, so that's why we offer to send something! Also, as partial payment for all the entertainment/education you provide by writing these posts….

  • Mama Pea

    We, who are sitting here in our relative laps of luxury, are out of touch with what the conditions are and how people live in so many parts of the world. So it may be hard for us to understand why you are doing what you are doing. And all that you are going through.

    Please don't edit your posts because of any of our reactions to them. I keep saying these posts of your thoughts and feelings from these first days/weeks of adjustment will be priceless to look back on because I know your journey is going to end with all of you having had the experience of a lifetime that you wouldn't trade for anything.

    I know you believe in what you are doing and admire your strength and willingness to work through difficulties with so much honesty.

    Hope you can feel the love and support.

  • Anonymous

    I've been waiting for this post–
    knowing I have been resisting asking "what can I do?" and sure others have been more expressive in their desire to help your transition.

    I have trusted that you are focusing on settling in and your safety, but also eager to know how to help, so thanks for the resources.

    Please let us know if you think of some internet based form of potential delight and entertainment for your whole family . . .
    some form of relay storytelling? your kids asking your readers silly questions? Surprise stalker photos of your parents? LOL

    I'm gonna trust that the essentials are covered and offer the potential for entertainment. At least it will give you something to muse on as you go to sleep at night. 😉


  • Anonymous

    Well said, Jennifer! You may need to change your blog from Mama's Minutia to Mama's Magnum Opus or something with alliteration that is greater than Minutia because you speak of large things! But maybe that has been your point all along-that the little things matter 🙂 Love to you all! Greta

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