Six Weeks in Asia

 In fulfillment of the International Community Development  Internship, I spent May 14 through June 28 in central Asia.  The seven-member team of which I was a part, was active in various forms of assistance and evangelism in the nations of Nepal, Bhutan, and India.

Overview

Our itinerary sent us all across the area of northern India and Nepal and briefly into Bhutan.  The entire internship can be separated into three segments:  Conferences, Trekking/Medical assistance, and Discipleship.

Conferences

Our conference itinerary sent us to the Nepal-India border town of Karkavitta, Nepal, for our first conference.  Then we took an overnight bus to Kathmandu, Nepal, where we painted at a youth center and lead another conference.  After nine days in Kathmandu, we rode in a bus and jeeps to the Bhutanese border of India where we attended a secret pastor’s conference in Bhutan, an extremely anti-Gospel nation.  During that week we also led a youth conference in Jaigon, India. During the conferences, I spoke (through a translator) on the topics of: “Growing in the Lord”, “Destiny”, and “The Armor of God”.

+Spiritual needs

The Karkavitta conference there was attended by people who had traveled more than three days specifically for the conference.  Beginning on a Sunday night, the conference sessions continued until noon on Wednesday, May 20.  It was a joy to see a visiting Hindu teacher accept Christ while others rededicated their lives to the Lord.

The Kathmandu conference was aimed more for youth of Kathmandu so we spent time of fellowship in small groups and playing sports with them.  This time of fellowship was a good time to get to know the people and showed them that we are real people who enjoy life just like they do.

The final conference we preached was in Jaigon located on the border of Bhutan and India.  Bhutan is one of the most closed nations to the Gospel.  Persecution of believers is continual in this tiny nation nestled in the tropical foothills between India and Tibet. Continue reading

Helpful codes for Tigo in Guatemala

Tigo logo

Here are some of the cellphone codes that I use regularly with my Tigo phone:

Check Voice Mail

Dial *77  to check messages (Press 3 to delete messages, 7 to listen again, and 5 to save the message for later)

Check Your Balance

Dial *256 to check your balance (You’ll hear three balances: 1) Your total balance. 2) Your principal balance (actual money you have on your account, and 3) Your promotional balance.  Then you’ll hear the date that your promotional balance will expire unless you add money to your account.) Continue reading

H.E.A.R.T. Institute Community Development

In the early 1980’s, a vision was born to establish a practical training center for Christian workers going to serve in developing regions of the world. In the late 1990’s I considered attending the HEART Institute in preparations for my missions and community development plans, but ended up taking a different route.  While I’m glad I followed a different path to the mission field, I think H.E.A.R.T. can be a huge benefit for anyone planning on living in rural areas as part of community development and missions.

via HEART » Missionary training – cultural adaptation, problem solving, and community development

Tip for Selling Your Car in Guatemala

If you have ever sold a car in Guatemala, it’s important to make sure it is no longer legally in your name!
A fellow missionary, Marty, found out that a car he sold was still in his name. Read his story…

Last week I came face to face with this in an unexpected way. I purchased a used vehicle and in the process of the transfer (traspaso) of the title, I was told that one of my 3 vehicles was overdue for the calcomania payments for 2011 and 2012. But I only had 2 vehicles; or so I thought. I sold my 1992 Chevrolet Suburban. It turns out this buyer never completed the title transfer. When I found out he had not completed the transfer of the title, I de-activated the license plates. I could do this, since in the eyes of Guatemala law, I was still the owner. It cost me about Q1,000 for the 2 calcomanias for 2011 and 2012, a tramitador and several misc. expenses and almost two days of my time.  ~ Marty

Marty said I could share his tips on how to make sure you really sell your car in the eyes of the government:

Here’s how to do it:
Go to any SAT office and simply ask for a “reposicion de tarjeta de NIT”. While there with the clerk, ask for a list of all vehicles in your name. If there is one still listed that you sold at any time in the past, and you have no idea where it is you should start the the process for “Inactivacion de placas”. You will want to apply for “Retiro definitive”, not “Retiro temporal” unless you know where the car is located and can convince the “owner” to complete the title transfer and pay back taxes and/or other unpaid expenses, if any. If you don’t deactivate the plates, you are legally responsible for any and all costs due to accidents, crimes, unpaid traffic violations, past due taxes (yearly calcomanias) and late tax payment fees related to a vehicle with a title still in your name.

Thanks for the tip Marty! Click here for tips on buying a car in Guatemala.

FYI:
Marty wanted to pass this along too…If anyone tries to sell this car to you or anyone you know, there may be problems in getting it licensed now that the license plates have been invalidated.
1992 Chevrolet Suburban 1500 S silver and dark blue
Placas: P-813BFH
Serie (Serial number): 1GNFK16KXNJ325539
Motor: KNJ325539S
Chassis: KNJ325539
Poliza: 3292 ( Aduana in Santo Tomas de Castilla)

Speciality baby supplies in Guatemala

I found a place to get speciality baby supplies (including breast pumps) in Guatemala! They continually have a variety of products and can ship items across the country very quickly!

Check it out at Babby Place (sic) on Facebook and get the baby items you need! You can email them at babyplacegt@hotmail.com to request something if you don’t see it on their Facebook site.

After my baby was born at a natural childbirth clinic in Guatemala City, I found that I needed a breast pump and they’re not easy to find in Guatemala. Thanks to La Leche League leaders in Xela, I found out about Babby Place and was able to have a shipped to me in just a few days! I paid through a money transfer at a local BanRural Bank. Just be aware that the shipping is sent as a pay-on-delivery so it cost about Q40 to receive the package.

If you’re looking for a good connection to specialty baby products and you’re in Guatemala, give Babby Place a try.

Here’s another source of baby/kid supplies and accessories that I found in Guatemala City.

Navigating the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala

We needed a validated copy of our passports from the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala for some our residency paperwork so we can stay in Guatemala longer term.  So we showed up at the U.S Embassy with our passports in hand at about noon on a Monday. Here’s some basic info on the Embassy and lessons we learned there.

HOW TO GET THERE:

The U.S. Embassy in Guatemala is located:

Embajada de los Estados Unidos de América
Avenida Reforma 7-01, Zona 10
Guatemala Ciudad, Guatemala

View Larger Map

 

LESSONS WE LEARNED:

Lesson #1 The office is closed from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m.

In a modified ally that has a nice cover to shade the crowd that gathers while waiting to get in, we stood in the disheveled line for about an hour and then were kindly ushered in through the security check. (They’ll take any cellphones, cameras, cords, even headphones, flashlights, ipods, etc. that you have with you. You’ll get them back but they don’t let you take them in with you.)\

Embassy Office hours are:

Monday through Friday 8:00 a.m. –  5:00 p.m. (but there are exceptions so keep reading)Click for Embassy Contactinfo for the embassy.
Lesson #2 Ask questions.

We didn’t really know how things worked so we asked questions to find out. At security they have the airport style x-ray machine and metal detector. Then you pass through a secure rotating gate. Then we went up the stairs in to the main waiting room. There was a small sign with an arrow pointing to the left indicating that Citizen Services are around the corner (Windows 1-3). We missed this at first and had to ask directions. People at the embassy were helpful though things were slow at times.

Lesson #3 Get there in the morning.

We got there in the afternoon and had to wait 24 hours before we could pick up our validated copies. Had we come in the morning, we could have gotten them the same day.

So, here’s what we discovered: Go to the U.S. Embassy early, get an appointment if you need one:

(Note: You will need an appointment if you’re going for:

  • Reporting the birth abroad of a child of a U.S. citizen
  • First-time passport issuance
  • Renewal of passports for minor children under the age of 16
  • Renewal of passports for applicants who are over 18 years old and whose previous passport was issued before the applicant turned 16 years old
  • Replacement of passports issued more than 15 years ago)

Lesson #4 Friday schedules are different

I arrived shortly after 11 a.m. on a Friday to pick up my son’s passport and report of a birth abroad. Turns out that on Fridays they close the American Citizen Services office at 11 and do not open in the afternoon. I had to wait two weeks until I was back in the capital to take the 5 minutes it took to pick up the paperwork.

Lesson learned: Get there early.

—————————

Comment below and share your experience and how you navigated the U.S. Embassy!

International Health Insurance for Expatriates

We live abroad and we want international health insurance for our family. While companies that provide international health insurance are many, we wanted something that provided some key options:

  • Reasonably good coverage (of course!)
  • Maternity coverage
  • A track record of good service to customers (see reviews)
  • A high deductible option,
  • Coverage inside and outside the U.S.,
  • Inexpensive, money-saving rates

We searched around, talked to fellow expatriates and discovered some options. Below is a break down on what we found.

(UPDATE!) After reviewing a number of options, we chose to go with IMG  but after a good year and a half of using them they increased their costs for the maternity rider by some 60%. So we dropped them and switched to a Guatemalan insurance that includes coverage in the States for when we visit. Now we use Seguros GyT.

International insurance options we checked out:

 

 

Global Medical Insurance from IMG (International Medical Group) Continue reading

Spanish Language Schools in Guatemala

 

Michael with teacher Luis.

All language schools are not equal, nor is finding the best place for you as simple as reviewing a few schools online and then picking one. I’ve been there and there’s a lot of info out there, but making a decision of where my wife and I were to spend our next six months or so as we studied Spanish was kind of like diving into a river after talking to others who swam there before. We hoped to hit the right spot and not drown or hit any rocks in the process.

When you’re looking for a place to learn Spanish there are many elements to take in to account: Location, Cost, Perks, Experience and more.

First of all there is the consideration of countries. There are lots of Spanish Language schools in Spain, Chile, Costa Rica, Guatemala, and probably every Latin American country on the map. Here’s a list of 90 schools in 14 countries. We wanted to learn Latin America’s version of Spanish and we have plans to be in Guatemala for a while so we chose to study in the beautiful highlands of Guatemala. Once the country was settled, it became a matter of what city: the main choices are: Antigua, Xela / Quetzaltenango, or Panajchel but about 10 cities offer language studies in Guatemala. Private tutors can be found in other places, but you’ll need some sort of contact to connect with them since there’s no central way to find them.

Getting the right teacher is very important. One thing we learned is that in one-on-one teaching sessions, the individual teacher really makes a difference. Don’t be afraid to change teachers if one doesn’t work for you. Usually within one week you can know whether or not you and your “maestro/a” are a good match. If you’re not, change so you can get a better fit and learn all that you can. Continue reading

APROFAM Medical Clinic in Quetzaltenango

Are you an expatriate looking for a women’s health clinic in (Xela) Quetzaltenango, Guatemala? Maybe you’re a Spanish school student, missionary, or traveler needing some extra medical attention.

We moved to Xela for Spanish school and we also happened to be pregnant so we checked out the APROFAM (Asociacion Pro Bienestar de la Familia) Clinic. Since we were looking for a place to have our baby in Guatemala. Here’s what we thought…

Especially for women,  APROFAM provides a full-service clinic and mini-hospital complete with multiple in-house surgeons, doctors, overnight rooms and birthing facilities.

This clinic is part of a nation-wide clinic service and offers an all around good choice for locals and expatriates as well. Located on 3 Calle 7-02 Zona 1 in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala, APROFAM is just a few blocks from Parque Central (Central Park) just off of octava avenida (8th Ave.) Phone: 7765-3886 Continue reading

Online donation options for non-profits

Several online payment services offer many useful tools for businesses and for non-profit organizations too!

As e-commerce becomes more and more common and is embraced by many as the norm. It is not time to sit back and wait for people to send checks to your organization. When it comes to fundraising, it is time to take that same ease of payments that for-profit organizations use and bring it into the non-profit world. Put online giving within easy reach of donors. Here’s a breakdown on three options for online donations.

Thanks to PayPal,  Amazon.com, and other sources like Facebook’s FundRazr App non-profits have the ability to collect individual donations or even schedule ongoing gifts with tools that e-consumers are already familiar with.

PAYPAL

PayPal Donate Button

PayPal Donate Button

PayPal offers several options that give non-profit organizations the ability to accept donations in a simple way that consumers are already use to using PayPal accounts or credit cards. See a guide on how to setup online donations on PayPal.

FEATURES:

PayPal features include:

  • Configure buttons and copy HTML code for use on your website or HTML websites
  • Enable one-time donations at donor-determined amounts,
  • Schedule regular online giving at pre-determined amounts and cycles
  • Management of funds
  • Auto receipt
  • Optional info collection for followup

DONATION ACCEPTED:

PayPal accepts donations from people with or without PayPal accounts through:

  • PayPal Account transfers
  • Credit Card Processing

COST?

With PayPal’s fee structure  you receive a discount if you verify your 501(c) 3 status. The regular rate is 2.9% + $0.30 but while the non-profit rate is just a wee bit less:

YOUR MONTHLY
DONATIONS
YOUR FEE PER
TRANSACTION
EXAMPLES
$0 to $100,000 2.2% + $0.30 $2.50 fee on a $100 donation
$100,000+ 1.9% + $0.30 $2.20 fee on a $100 donation

AMAZON.COM

Amazon Payments Logo

Amazon.com offers a similar non-profit donation plan. Amazon’s no start-up cost option  includes the ability to configure your own donation buttons (to be posted on your site or in your html e-mails).  Amazon also provides flexibility to set fixed, minimum, or donor-determined donation amounts along with scheduling ongoing gifts.

Donors will have to either open an Amazon Payments account or have one already to use this service.

Amazon supports giving through:

  • Credit Cards (Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Discover, Diners Club, and JCB).
  • Bank Account debits (only supported by Amazon FPS)
  • Amazon Payments balance (only supported by Amazon Simple Pay and Amazon FPS)

Cost?

Amazon charges no start-up fees, but neither do the other options listed here so that’s no big deal. The key is to compare per-payment charges. At Amazon they’re pretty similar to PayPal:

  • For credit card transactions >= $10: 2.9% + $0.30 for credit card
  • For transactions < $10: 5.0% + $0.05 for credit card

I couldn’t find good info on their charges for non-credit card transactions, but they provide a pretty good FAQ page.

FundRazr

FundRazr provides a unique option of embedding your giving links into Facebook and providing goal-oriented giving with on the fly followup charts so donors can see how the donation project is progressing.

I like this idea, but have found it to take some work to setup (though recent reviews say it’s easy now!). Still with the popularity of Facebook this could reach a lot of people on the social network.

Payment sources?

  • Credit Card
  • Debit Card
  • Paypal Account

Cost?

Recipients pay a fee of 4.9% + $0.30 on every payment. The fee includes all PayPal transaction fees. This is higher than either Amazon Payments or PayPal’s regular service, but the ability to integrate with Facebook is really attractive even at nearly 5% in fees per payment.

Conclusion

I like PayPal but it doesn’t hurt to have several options as long as they’re displayed in a user-friendly way.  In unofficial numbers PayPal had more than 153 million accounts worldwide in 2008.  Amazon has about 615 million and Facebook has over 500 million users. That puts Amazon in the lead with users by evaluating your audience may be a good idea if you just want to use one service instead of all three.

Keep in mind the fees involved. You’ll need to account for these as you keep up on your records since this will be a reduction in the total donation you receive when transferring the donations to your organization.

Do you have a different source that you use for online donations? What’s working well for you?