Azaria Spencer

Rex 1

Guard dog

As Laura and I walked back to the centre after picking up lunch, the earlier downpour had turned to drizzle, and the sky was beginning to brighten. We turned up the street to the centre and there he sat. Rex is a dog I know well, he is a gentle soul and belongs to one of our families. He follows the grandma (abuela), and girls everywhere and today was no different. He was sat by the door patiently waiting, guarding, protecting.
My heart grew heavy as I knew that earlier there had been an accident involving the grandma. We went inside and up to the office. Inside we found Frank sat with Lucia and Elena, two beautiful young girls who adore their grandmother dearly. Their eyes were red and damp, I placed my things down and approached Elena. I bent down, gently embracing her in my arms and she burst into tears, heart wrenching sobs left her body and I looked at Frank, desperate to know. Had their dear abuela died?!!!
Finally Frank’s phone call ended, and he spoke, their abuelita was stable and well. A deep sigh of relief and wave of hope passed over me.
This family have suffered much in their lives and their abuelita is the glue that holds them together. She cares for her grandchildren on her own and welcomes others into their home when they are in need too. She has a generous and compassionate heart and is loved by many.
I continued to sooth Elena as Laura sat with Lucia, they called a friend to pass on a message to their brother, Jonathan, to come to the centre.
Elena's sobs increased as Frank spoke gently, expressing that we were there for them and that they are not alone. Through the cries I heard her saying that all she wanted was to see her abuela.
Tears pricked my eyes as I fought the urge to join her as she wept. I knew that without their abuela these children would be without any family to care to them, with both parents in prison. 
Jonathan arrived and as he embraced his sister his eyes searched the room. I could see the worry, the fear. He asked what had happened and Frank explained calmly. Jonathan sat and explained how he had felt a pain in his chest earlier in the day and knew that something was wrong. He was hurt and worried, and angry too. He kept on asking about the car, the car that had hit his beloved abuela. 
I know Jonathan well, he is a happy, sweet, gentle and kind young man, who happens to also be on the edge of a dangerous life within the gangs. His anger was apparent, and I prayed in that moment that he would not act recklessly in response to this accident that had hurt his family. 
Our attention turned to the TV screen where we could see our security cameras and there sat outside the front door was Rex, still waiting and watching. His devotion apparent. Jonathan commented on this and Frank said that Rex knew something was wrong, he could sense it. Loyalty runs deep. While his beloved owner is in hospital Rex will guard his girls. It is a comforting thought to know that these children will be well looked after by us, and of course Rex, while their abuelita recovers. Here at SKD Guatemala we are a family, dysfunctional like any other, but a loving family non the less.

rex 2


volcano eruption

When a volcano erupts!

Sat overlooking the old capital city, La Antigua, are several volcanoes, they stand like sentinels proud and intimidating. Among them is Fuego, who likes to regularly let off steam with small rumblings and eruptions. Generally, these volcanoes pose no real threat and are a point of beauty and fascination. However, yesterday was different.
Yesterday Fuego erupted with a fury that has left at least 25 people dead and many missing and without homes. I first heard the news from friends who were in Antigua at the time of the first ash rain. We felt some small particles in the rain here in the city too.
We didn’t think much more about it, until we saw the videos and heard the news. This eruption was big, powerful and deadly. The smoke toxic and the ash and lava destructive.
I have never seen anything quite like it and knowing that it was happening only a few miles away in a place I know was unnerving. I have never lived in a place where natural disasters pose any real threat, but here in this beautiful part of the world natural disasters are a regular occurrence.
An event like this reminds you of your humanity, mortality and the fragility of life for so many.
We were advised to remain inside with windows closed and so I returned home and got ready to sleep. As I lay in bed I messaged my family and told them I was safe, never before have I had to send a message like that. Knowing I couldn’t go to sleep without messaging home because they would wake up to the news of the eruption. I was receiving messages and calls throughout the night and woke to numerous emails. People checking that I was safe, offering their kind words and prayers.
It’s hard to describe how it feels to be in such close proximity to such a real threat, life changing for many. It is at times like this where you see true community, you see people come together and offer aid and relief. Here at Street Kids Direct Guatemala we have come into work and are planning our day around visits to all our families, to make sure everyone is well and taking precautions.
Here in the city we are little affected, but we know many have suffered great loss. Churches are collecting clothes, food and water and will distribute it to those most in need.
A true expression of beauty from the ashes.
Perhaps the disaster is still too near to think like this, to see the good and the hope. For many I imagine it is too soon to see anything out of the darkness. However, if I have learnt anything while I have been living here in Guatemala for the past 10 months it is that the people of Guatemala have big hearts and will stand together in times of difficulty and need.
This devastating event has brought me to tears and I know that just as I and many others have wept so does God’s heart. It is hard to understand why and to make sense of something like this. Even so, I find comfort in knowing that God is in control even in difficult times. My prayer is for God’s comfort, peace and love at this sad time.

(Photos by Edgar Alejandro Mendez from Go Guatemala).






Tears for the sky

It was an ordinary evening, just like any other. Well, no actually, it wasn’t. None of my evenings were ‘ordinary’ anymore. How could they be when I lived in La Antigua, Guatemala and every time I stepped outside I saw volcanoes!? My evenings were far from ordinary and yet after a few weeks they had a similarity to them and a pattern and so in a way became normal and yes, a little ordinary.

I had been feeling a little frustrated and challenged by my life here, the life I knew full well that God had called me too.

But some days were just tough, and I would question all of it, why? What for? Is it worth it?

I went up onto the rooftop to think and pray, it was always a special place for me. To just be outside and look out over La Antigua and at the volcanoes, like sentinels standing watch over their quaint little city. Black silhouettes against the backdrop of a setting sun and almost night sky.
However, this time was different. God presented me with a gift that brought tears to my eyes.

I hope I am not alone in being so moved by the beauty God paints in the sky that for a few moments I am lost to everything and all I can do is stand in His wonderful presence and weep. Please tell me that there are others out there who find the sky utterly breath-taking, completely fascinating and full of God’s glory!?

As the sun set in the icy blue sky it highlighted the edges of the dark grey clouds with an array of intense yellows, deep oranges and soft pinks. It was almost an impossible combination of colours and movement (any description falls short as do any photos).

All I could do is watch, frozen where I stood, gazing out in awe as God painted with shades and colours almost outside the realms of nature with a motion that was captivating.

This alone was beauty enough to move me to tears, this alone was a gift only God can give. Yet He had more. With God there is not just enough, there is always more!

Standing in deep contemplation, tears rolling down my cheeks, I saw an eruption of volcanic lava and a cloud of intense black ash and smoke. Fuego reminded me of his presence, and my humanity. It was not the first time, nor the last, that I had seen Fuego show off his power and strength. It was a display of his life and activity in this world. A subtle yet firm reminder that I am awfully small and weak in comparison. A volcano is a symbol of how nature is wild, unpredictable and at times deadly. But above all a display of a God whose creativity is unrivalled, who designed a world with complexity and beauty that we can only marvel at.

This gift was fleeting, it lasted only a matter of minutes, yet it was beyond priceless and will forever be unforgettable. 

All of my doubts and fears were quieted in this moment and God reminded me of His presence and His deep love. His calling on my life and His desire to bless His children.

My ‘why?’ Became, ‘because I called you.’ My ‘what for?’ became ‘all for my glory.’ And my, ‘will it be worth it?’ became ‘Yes, I am worth it and so are you my child. I love you.’

volcano 2