Wednesday, December 31, 2014

How to Cook Chicken "Camp" Kirkland

Caleb and Aleksandra of course ran for the back seats, claiming them with their friends. Kellie was somewhere safely in the very social middle of the pack, and I made my way in the solitary last of the line. The leather roll-up hat gave witness to the nature of our trip. Lunches were loaded and cameras of course were at the ready. The brakes hissed, released, and the engaged diesel engine pulled us forward. 

We made our way through the outskirts of San Cristobal, up the mountain to San Lucas, past Sumpango, and wound through the sharp and curvy passes to Chimaltenango. I have come to know this way so well... right at Mega Paca, a quick left, another right, and then wind back to the chicken farms, leave the blacktop behind and wind up the mountain to the place that holds our hearts: Labor de Falla and Cerro Alto.

The sky was like a blue crystal with painted clouds of cotton white. Volcanos Fuego, Pacaya, and Acatenango stood majestically with better than HD clarity. Fuego greeted our arrival with a solid column of smoke and fury, filling the sky above with a sea of billowy velvet. The rains of the summer have given way to the dry, cooler air of winter. The mud has turned to dust and the dust rises, carried like electrified filaments in the sunlight, announcing our arrival as it rushes out from our now motionless tires.

I remember Pastor Solomon's church when it was a raggedy empty lot on the side of a ditch line. Today it stands nearly complete. The front is bricked and painted. Doors and windows are pristine and tiles cover what was once a dirt floor. Simple bulbs hang from the ceiling, providing light, and the stage is decorated with local plants and flowers. 

Every brick, every yard of concrete, and every block has been laid by the men whose families worship under this roof. The women keep it clean, secure, and beautiful. I look up again to the rafters and remember the story...

There is a man who lives about 400 yards up the gravel and dust road. He is a metal-worker who survives by welding window-frames, doorways, and limitless repairs to trailers, automobiles, or anything steel. I look around the church and see evidence of his handiwork. His hands have shaped the windows and doors. His work gives strength to the paneled glass and allows this sacred place to be sealed and secured against the wind and rain. 

He did this out of love. Love for his God, love for this church, love for this community that is rising out of the dust. He never took any payment for his work. Rather than receive money, his reward was to see a temple rising to the maker of the universe by his own hand. I look at his work and I think of the builders of old: the great temples and cathedrals of time. This man is every bit as much of a builder as the hands that created those monuments. I stand inside a masterpiece.

This past June we had friends from our university days at Anderson come and spend a week with us. Brendon and Jennifer were our first married friends. It was incredible to reunite with them after 18 years. While they were here they financed and build a chicken business for the man who had provided the steel for the church. To the man who had given so much for his community, they were able to be an act of a loving God, providing blessings back to this family.

The chicken project is a large structure with a concrete floor and deeply anchored corner posts. It is roofed and enclosed with chicken wire. It is fitted with hanging feed troughs and roosting boxes. We completed the project with them in three days and installed about 20 hens. 

Along with Pastor Solomon, Kellie and I walked to the project to see how it was providing. To our great joy, it had more hens in it than when we last saw it. The family had been able to expand their chicken business. Dozens of eggs were produced daily. This allows the family to eat fresh eggs, give eggs to their neighbors, and also to provide eggs to the church for distribution within the village, and for sell in the nearby market.

I was standing inside the pen when suddenly Pastor Solomon began speaking with rapid excitement. "Ahorita, ahorita" or "now, right now!" My eyes followed his pointing finger as I turned to see a hen inside one of the boxes stand up, tremble... and produce a beautiful and perfect egg. I shouted, "oh wow!" causing the hen to startle and jump out of the box, running chicken past my feet. We all laughed and shared in the warm hilarity of this special moment.

The hens began to gather around my feet. The boldest of them turned her head sideways with one eye focusing on the brass loops on my boots. Suddenly she straightened her head and gave me one solid peck. The observing chickens now actively joined in and I was surrounded with pecking heads bouncing against my boot laces. It tickled! I was hen-pecked!

After handshakes, back-pats, exchanged words and hugs, we made our way back towards the church. We were filled with happiness to see this family thriving on the labor of our friends. God had provided their needs from a family in Indianapolis, Indiana. They had first given to the kingdom of God through their faithful work, expecting nothing in return. This is Kingdom living. I gave silent thanks to be a part of this great fellowship.

On our way to Pastor Solomon's church, we saw a large green tour bus backing across the ditch and into the gravel lot beside the building. My friend Edgar was directing them. I had known that we were scheduled for a concert at the church today. While not typical, it also was not entirely unusual. At times we will get some local groups or maybe a bunch of hillbillies from the U.S. that want to come down and play guitar and sing for the good people here. It is always an amazing experience seeing cultures meet and worship together. But... clearly this was something different.

The bus parked and musicians began to exit carrying trumpets, trombones, saxophones, percussion, music stands, and equipment. This was a 20 member jazz band. The members had three requirements to be a part of the band: (1) they were professional musicians in a major orchestra such as New York Philharmonic, D.C., etc., (2) they were followers of Jesus, (3) they all participated in a local church in the U.S. 

They were all here, volunteering their time. They had come together as a group for the first time 4 days ago. Their group was organized by their conductor, Camp Kirkland. Camp Kirkland! Are. You. Kidding. Me? CAMP KIRKLAND is in Labor de Falla!

I have sang Camp Kirkland music nearly all my life. I have seen him direct at Praise Gathering events, Gaither events, as part of major symphonic productions, and throughout my university study as a music minor. He is a premier orchestrator and arranger, recognized throughout the professional community. Previous to today I have only seen him in formal tails, or at least in a shirt and tie. 

And here he is... proclaiming the gospel of Jesus along with 20 music professionals from the U.S., in the middle of Pastor Solomon's church in Labor de Falla. The sounds of Jesus and Jazz blasted out through the mountains of Guatemala. People came from miles to here the sounds. There was a shortage of chairs and so I knelt in the middle of the church, in a posture of prayer and praise while the music fell over me like rain. I have nothing to give but thanks and praise.

Amazing Grace

The God who provides was very visible and present today. In the provision of a chicken farm from college friends from Indiana, and in the servant heart of a man who brought his friends to cross culture and political boundaries to share the love of God to brothers and sisters in a faraway place.

Silent Night

My soul was fed today. I felt blessings going down and coming up. In the midst of it all my family did our own little project, installing a stove for a family. I watched Caleb spread mortar and lay brick, Alexandra and Sterling spread the small stone and clean the surfaces. There is a family who made breakfast this morning using far less wood, with a stove vented outside of their home for the first time. 

Drying for next planting.

Traditional Kitchen, open flame inside of house.

Chickens, Ducks, Turkey: kept mostly to sell.

Inside of home: kitchen, common area.

Chino was our helper. He's the youngest son of Pastor Solomon and somehow that fact just made the entire day fit together like a perfect puzzle. Chino is 14, the same age as Caleb. It was such a meaningful moment to see him train us how to perfectly lay the block and level the cooking surface. 

Cinder block foundation, secured with mortar: daughter of family in background.

Ashes Box assembled in stove body
Tinder chamber opening/ash removal access
Fully assembled fire chamber
Side view: back shelf and steel top had not yet been installed
And so we all loaded back up into the big blue bus, covered in dust and covered in God, and made our way back to the house. It was the perfect end to an incredible year. God knows our needs before we ask. Once again we are amazed as pieces of our past converge into a single moment here in this anointed place. May we continue to walk in His favor. Thank you for sharing this year with us. -Sheps

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