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Antigua’s beautiful ancient cathedrals

The old Antigua, Guatemala cathedral

The old Antigua, Guatemala cathedral

Recently I traveled to Antigua, Guatemala, for the first time. Although I want to travel all around the world, Guatemala was never on my radar. But it was a “God thing.” I’m writing a Guatemala blog series to show you the beautiful pictures and to share about the amazing things God did there. This is Blog #3, Antigua’s beautiful ancient cathedrals. You can read my other blogs about Guatemala at the links below:

My trip to Antigua, Guatemala http://www.bethjones.net/my-trip-to-antigua-guatemala/

Travel requirements, the Guatemala grocery stores, and the street markets http://www.bethjones.net/travel-requirements-travel-requirements-grocery-stores-street-markets/

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Traveling is both exciting and can be scary. But this was not my first rodeo traveling abroad. I’ve been to other nations, such as Switzerland, France, Israel, the Bahamas, Canada, Kenya, and Ireland. Before traveling to Guatemala, I watched a lot of videos on YouTube about Antigua and Guatemala to prepare for it and plan to make the best use of my short (one week!) time there.

Me drinking cappucino at Parque Central

Me drinking cappucino at Parque Central

So I typed a tentative itinerary of what I planned to do and where to go while there, and emailed it to my Spanish instructor, Elvia Reyes, who was showing me around the first couple of days, and to my friend Kim Rogers, who lives there. Both are very knowledgeable about Antigua and gave me great tips and advice before I arrived.

Beautiful ladies. My friend Kim Rogers & my Spanish instructor, Elvia Reyes

Beautiful ladies. My friend Kim Rogers & my Spanish instructor, Elvia Reyes

But when I got there, all my plans went out the window! Almost NOTHING happened according to my itinerary. Kim laughed about this and said, “Welcome to life in Guatemala!” I hired Elvia’s driver Allan to take me around Antigua (instead of using a Tuk Tuk, a chicken bus, or an Uber). He and Elvia were so good to me, BUT…what about my itinerary?!!!

Because I was depending on someone else to drive me around, I needed to go by someone else’s schedule, not mine! I knew that the schedule would change when I got there, but didn’t know it would change that much!

This included when I would wake up every day. After Kim arrived there (the day after me), she would text me on What’s App at 6:30 a.m. Are you kidding me? I am SO not a morning person! But because this was KIM, I went with it! I was just excited to actually meet her in person (and her boyfriend Stan, their friends, and Elvia, and Allan) and get to know them.

Kim and me by La Merced church a couple of days later - the place where God told her to move there.

Kim and me by La Merced church a couple of days later – the place where God told her to move there.

I prayed before the trip, asking God to order my steps each day, and boy, He did. This trip was all about FLEXIBLITY!

Spanish lesson on time

Spanish lesson on time

Kim was so amused and laughed when I told her about Elvia messaging me on What’s App, saying that we were going to visit the churches on the 2nd day of my visit, and I thought, “But that’s on Thursday, NOT today!” (Tuesday) My sister Maria thought this was hilarious. In Guatemala, I learned all about NOT being so rigid. (Can we say, “Recovering control freak?”). Yet another lesson in, “Letting go and letting God!”

On Tuesday morning after our driver Allan drove us to the grocery store (La Torre) and to the street market in Elvia’s town,Jocotenango (which you can see pics of on this blog here), we visited the beautiful, ancient cathedrals and the church ruins in Antigua.

There are so many of them. I’m glad that I got to see the ones that we did, and Kim took me to see more when I stayed two extra days. I’d like to visit more when I return to Antigua. Elvia took that Tuesday morning off work from teaching Spanish to go with me and to tour the cathedrals.

In Guatemala due to the Coronavirus, you have to wear a mask everywhere you go, including restaurants, grocery stores, the street market, and outside. 

Elvia in mask, ordering my tacos the night I arrived

Elvia in mask, ordering my tacos the night I arrived

The cathedrals and the ruins were breathtakingly beautiful and are massive. Their architecture astonishes me, just like the ones in Europe do.  I wish that I’d had longer to spend time in them and to learn more about them. I hope that I’m getting the names of these churches right; if not, Elvia or Kim can let me know!

I believe this is the cathedral, Nuestra Senora de la Merced Convent-Church, built in 1535. If this is la Merced, it is the church where God spoke to Kim’s heart one day to move to Guatemala. That day the church was closed to tourists, but a few days later it was open and Kim and I went inside. You can google the history of these churches. They are so beautiful, inside and out. I love the yellow color. 

Nuestra Señora de la Merced Convent-Church?

Nuestra Señora de la Merced Convent-Church?

cross at La Merced church

cross at La Merced church

Next we visited Iglesia de San Francisco, built in 1702 . Franciscan monks from Spain arrived to Guatemala and constructed a chapel which was later damaged and collections were made to build a new sanctuary. Parts of this construction can be appreciated at one side of the current sanctuary. 

It is one of the most one of the most frequented sanctuaries by the locals because of the shrine of Peter of Saint Joseph Betancur (Santo Hermano Pedro). His tomb is visited by pilgrims each year who beg for favors and miracles. 

Iglesia de San Francisco

Iglesia de San Francisco

twisted salmonic columns, typical of Spanish-American baroque

twisted salmonic columns, typical of Spanish-American baroque

Virgin and child

Virgin and child

The Pop

The Pope

altar

altar

Earthquakes in 1702 and 1751 damaged the structure severely, and the site was partially destroyed in 1773, with parts being reconstructed but some still in ruin.

Elvia and I were able to go inside and look around, although people were in there to pray and worship so we had to be quiet. I was not entirely sure if I was supposed to take pictures or not inside the church. If not, I might get in trouble for this blog!

Jesus in gold robe with the cross

Jesus in gold robe with the cross

Painting with the dove

Painting with the dove

delores

delores

The altar is decorated with paintings and sculptures of famous contemporary artists, each one unique. We found the shrine and the casket of Santo Hermano Pedro (with his clothes and even his underwear!) and the various sculptures of Jesus in a different room. I laughed at the underwear part. 

But it is always a sobering reminder of your own mortality when looking at a casket. Are you and I living a life totally devoted to God and helping others as much as we can?

Painting and clothing of Santo Hermano Pedro

Painting and clothing of Santo Hermano Pedro

crutches of people he allegedly healed

crutches of people he allegedly healed

casket of Santo Hermano Pedro

casket of Santo Hermano Pedro

Sculpture of Jesus in blue gown with the cross

Sculpture of Jesus in blue gown with the cross

Sculpture of Jesus being whipped

Sculpture of Jesus being whipped

Another sculpture of Jesus with the cross

Another sculpture of Jesus with the cross

Elvia and I next visited a beautiful outside garden. I’m not sure if this was part of Iglesia de San Francisco or not, but it was part of a monastery. Before we entered, we saw a cross near an arch, and it arrested me. 

Cross by an arch

Cross by an arch

Because of the spring-like weather almost year-round and due to so much rain in Guatemala, the trees and grass are always green and flowers bloom perpetually. They are so beautiful and unique. This garden where Elvia and I walked was so serene.

garden by church

garden by church

me by fountain and roses

me by fountain and roses

pretty rose in the garden

pretty rose in the garden

Beautiful Elvia by the roses

Beautiful Elvia by the roses

salmon flowers

salmon flowers

salmon-colored flowers

salmon-colored flowers

white flowers

white flowers

The grounds still have a huge kitchen, partly intact. The monks used firewood to cook the meals. Large windows allow venting for the fire’s smoke.

firewood in kitchen

firewood in kitchen

large windows for venting smoke

large windows for venting smoke

window in roof

window in roof

There was one place near the kitchen, which seemed somewhat cave-like, where Elvia told me that the men were sent to stay awhile for “discipline.” Maybe they had to pray or read more, or were kept in isolation awhile. 

room for discipline

room for discipline

The grounds were so peaceful and pretty. I love the palm trees and flowers.

Palm trees on the path

Palm trees on the garden path

Such green trees

Such green trees in Guatemala

It was here where Elvia and I stopped and rested at a bench with seats, by trees with gorgeous orange flowers, that Elvia told me (in Spanish) she thinks I’m going to write another book — about Guatemala. I smiled. Maybe so! But I think I’ll need to come back to Antigua, Guatemala, for more inspiration and research to write it!

trees with orange flowers

trees with orange flowers

hills in the background

hills in the background

purple flowers by wall

purple flowers by wall

In my next blog, I’ll share pictures with you of my favorite (so far!) cathedral in Antigua —the old Antigua, Guatemala cathedral, with its exposed arches that lets the sunshine stream through. It is gorgeous, and as Kim, her boyfriend Stan, and I entered, we saw a gorgeous and prophetic surprise.

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Blog, Faith, prayer, Spiritual Gifts, Travel

Travel requirements, the guatemala grocery stores, & the street markets

red flower

red flower in Guatemala

I just returned from traveling to Antigua, Guatemala. It was a “God thing” and I’m so thankful to Jesus for this great opportunity. I can’t post all the pics I took there, but wanted to blog with some of the beautiful pictures I took and share what happened while I was there. So I’m writing a Guatemala blog series here for you at BethJones.net.

God did amazing things there. You can read my first blog, My trip to Antigua, Guatemala, here.

This is Blog #2, The Guatemala grocery store and the street market. I share about the traveling requirements to enter Guatemala, how I got around there when I wasn’t walking, and how even shopping in a foreign country can be such an interesting, rich experience. Be sure to check back here for more blogs and pics of this incredible trip.

PCR test

PCR test

The Coronavirus pandemic has tragically impacted our entire world, and has been frustrating for “world nomads.” For months this year, the USA’s and Guatemala’s borders were closed and began cautiously re-opening in fall 2020, but with restrictions for airlines, restaurants, stores, street markets, and more. 

To travel to Guatemala, you don’t have to quarantine when you get there, but you must present a negative COVID-19 PCR or antigen test to show the airline employee (s).  These requirements may change when you book your flight (or drive there or go by ship). I didn’t want to do the test, but that is what I had to do in order to travel there.

Presently, this test must have been done within the last 72 hours. I drove an hour to a medical clinic in Lamar, Missouri, to get a rapid results test done. They have the results within 15-20 minutes, giving you the piece of paper with your results to take with you. I didn’t want to chance taking the test and then not having the results in enough time, and not be able to go! (The regular lab test can take several days or longer.)

For my flight to Guatemala, as I showed my ticket and my test result, the airline’s employee at first told me, “This isn’t the right kind of paper.” After he consulted with several other staff, and I calmly waited (for once!) for God to move on my behalf, they finally decided it was fine, and stamped the red “okay” on my ticket!

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Blog, Business, Faith, prayer, Spiritual Gifts, Travel

My trip to Antigua, Guatemala (“the place of many trees”)

Me by Santa Catalina arch, Antigua, Guatemala

Me by Santa Catalina arch, Antigua, Guatemala

My big dream is to travel all around the world to many nations. But Antigua, Guatemala was never on my radar, and yet I just returned from traveling there! It is what I call a “God thing.”

My friends Ron and Rhonda Hedrick, who are missionaries in Guatemala, had both invited me there to visit and to speak to women, but I sensed it was not  the right time yet. They are doing a great work for God there, feeding hundreds of hungry people.

Kim Rogers, Heart for Guatemala

Kim Rogers
Founder, Heart for Guatemala

Then last year, I became Facebook friends with Kim Rogers, who heads the not-for-profit organization, Heart for Guatemala.

She inspired me with her posts and her beautiful pics of Antigua, Guatemala. I felt God stirring my heart to go there and began to pray.

First view of Guatemala from my plane

First view of Guatemala from my plane

The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 13:1, “By the mouth of two or three witnesses every word shall be established.”

I am not the type of person who needs 100 confirmations to make sure what I heard is really God! Jesus says His sheep hear His voice, and I am His lamb (a Christian believer). But since Guatemala is dangerous, I felt that I needed God to confirm that I had heard accurately and this was HIS idea, not just my own bright one. 🙂

As my sister Maria pointed out when I told her about the trip and one of my daughters had expressed concerns about me traveling there alone, I have been to other dangerous nations, including Haiti, the Bahamas, and Kenya, Africa!

View of volcano in the clouds from my plane

View of volcano in the clouds from my plane

After getting to know Kim a little more on Facebook, she invited me to Antigua to visit her – and she even offered for me to stay in her home! When I shared with my friend Ron that I was thinking about going there, he too invited me there (again), offering for me to stay in his and Rhonda’s house for a week.

Stan, Kim, & me eating chocolate-covered bananas with nuts - so good!

Stan, Kim, & me eating chocolate-covered bananas with nut- so good!

Ron also gave me a directional, prophetic word of knowledge to choose one place to go (Antigua or near Lake Atitlan, where he is), and choose that place. Then take another trip to the other place. That way I wasn’t trying to pack too much into one trip. Words of wisdom. I chose Antigua, and he said he thought that was a good choice for my first time in Guatemala, since Antigua is tourist-friendly.

I knew these were the two confirmations I needed to make the trip.

After that I asked God to give me a dream about going there to confirm it even more. He gave me three dreams that I believed were from Him, confirming for me to go. I had peace in my heart that this was God’s will for me, and I began to pray fervently and ask my small group of intercessors to pray, too, for God’s protection over me and my family, for His provision, and for His leading.

Antigua, Guatemala's cobblestone streets

Antigua, Guatemala’s cobblestone streets

Two big needs were for my plane fares and my accommodations there. Initially, I was going to stay with Kim at her beautiful condo home (more on this later!), but Guatemala’s border had shut due to Coronavirus while she was traveling around the USA with her boyfriend Stan and she didn’t know exactly when she would be going back to Antigua. She suggested the Air BnB, owned by Diego, who is the boyfriend of Kim’s hairdresser Stacy in Antigua.

I contacted Diego on Air BnB, and when the border to Guatemala began opening and God provided financially (through my hard-working husband Ray and a few of my generous friends), I quickly booked the one-bedroom, one-bath, beautiful cabin after seeing the pictures and reading great reviews. Diego reassured me that if the border to Guatemala closed again, I would not be charged for the cabin. They have a flexible cancellation policy.

It was the right choice. I stayed at this beautiful, very clean, safe Air BnB in Antigua, that is just a few blocks (walking distance) from Parque Central (the Center Park in Antigua, where there are coffee shops, restaurants, stores, and the street and Artisan markets). I LOVED Antigua and I want to return there again, staying at this same Air BnB, for a longer time!

Air BnB

Air BnB

The bed was so comfortable with its great mattress, soft white comforters and sheets, and supportive pillows. I often struggle with insomnia, but slept like a baby all week long at this place!

I loved the real, pretty plants in this place. Outside was a little patio with a table and two chairs in a pretty garden, where I had my coffee in the morning and read my Bible and prayed. Here is the pretty, compact Bible I purchased on Amazon (King James Version) and took with me. 

Bible

Bible

 

coffee on patio table

my coffee on patio table

The flowers in Guatemala are so beautiful and unique. Due to how much rain Guatemala has (an average of 40 to 80 inches in the southern and eastern part, and double near the Caribbean shoreline) and the spring-like weather all year round, the trees and grass stay green and flowers blossom. Guatemala is called “The Land of Eternal Spring” because of this. 

patio

patio

 

garden and lime tree

garden and lime tree

 

lime

lime

 

unique beautiful flowers in garden

unique beautiful flowers in garden

 

beautiful roses

beautiful roses

 

rubber plant inside

rubber plant inside

I loved the terra cotta stone tile on the floor of the Air BnB and want to do my sunroom at home with this kind of tile.

This Air BnB has a little kitchen and sink, with beautiful wall tile. It has all the amenities you need, such as a French press coffee maker (with the coffee provided!), plates, bowls, cups, glasses, pots and pans, eating utensils, a little stove, and an Eco Filter to filter the tap water (don’t drink the tap water in foreign countries, as it can cause bacteria/parasites and make you very sick. Only order bottled water at restaurants and wash fruits and veggies with bottled water before eating them!).

At first I was dubious about drinking this water, but Kim told me it was fine and I did drink it. It tasted fine and I did not get sick from drinking it. Kim said it was specifically created for Guatemala water.

coffee and pretty wall tile

coffee and pretty wall tile

 

Pot to boil coffee water & French press

Pot to boil coffee water & French press

 

Pretty dishes & glasses

Pretty dishes & glasses

 

Little stove

Little stove

 

Eco filter

Eco filter

The Air BnB has a comfortable black couch and pillows, with a cute little blue table. I loved it and used it to study my Spanish lessons and write in my journal, as well as to eat.

The first night my Spanish teacher Elvia Reyes (she is amazing– I hired her to teach me the basics of Spanish before I went there) and her friend and my driver Allan (who picked me up at the airport and took me back) stopped by the restaurant Tacool’s on the way, as I had asked to buy tacos to take to the Air BnB to eat for my first night. They were delicious—especially with the guacamole. Kim laughed and said that was Mexican food, not Guatemalan–but it was on my list to do and great! I hired Allan to drive me around Antigua. He and Elvia were such a blessing to me!

Couch and table

Couch and table

 

chicken tacos with guacomole

chicken tacos with guacomole

The Air BnB also has a little closet with shelves to put your clothes and other belongings. I hung up my dresses and clothes. This was very convenient. It also has sliding windows made of thick board, for more privacy and to block the light. This really helped me sleep better at night. In the morning, you can open them and the sunlight streams in, with the view of the pretty garden.

Sunlight streamed through a tall bathroom window, gently waking me in the mornings. (Also a rooster who crowed a little, lol!) I hardly needed an alarm all week long, and got on a great schedule of rising early and going to bed early.

It was so peaceful here. I truly loved it and hope to go back soon, for a longer time!

window, closet and shelves

window, closet and shelves

The Air BnB has two rooms, and the bathroom is the other one. It has two nice wooden shelves where I put my makeup and other toiletries, and a shower. The bathroom also has this pretty terra cotta tile. The owner Diego provided a hair dryer. I did buy dollar store, flamingo flip flops to wear in the shower to protect my feet from any type of athletes’ foot, etc.

flip flops

flamingo flip flops

You don’t need a special adapter or anything to plug in your phone and other devices. There were several plugs in the cabin. I did forget to bring a surge protector to plug in my iPhone, something I recommend (although my phone seems fine). Shampoo and conditioner were provided in the shower in the dispenser. The only things I had to ask for all week were extra trash bags and a couple of extra towels.

Oh, one important thing! In MOST places in Guatemala (including restaurants), you do NOT flush toilet paper! I had a very hard time remembering this for some reason (habits die hard), and prayed the toilet wouldn’t stop up at this Air BnB. Fortunately, it didn’t. Just something you have to get used to there. The pipes that carry sewage under the streets are small. This is common in Latin/Central America. Weird, huh? You throw away toilet paper in the TRASH CAN!

bathroom shelvers

bathroom with shelves

 

shower

shower

The advantage of an Air BnB is that they are often a lot cheaper than hotels. This is the BEST one that I’ve ever stayed at!  It was PERFECTO – perfect for me for this week! Kim and Stan just traveled around the USA this year, staying at Air BnB’s, averaging $25 to $40 a night. She is now writing a book called Cheapskate Travel, and I can’t wait to read it when it’s published!

In January 2020, I began slowly buying the things I needed for the trip, a few at a time, so I wouldn’t have to buy everything all at once. I already had a black backpack and a small rollerboard suitcase to take on the plane, from my trip to Ireland with our daughter Leah.

I bought a few new dresses (many of the local Guatemalan women and girls wear dresses), and I also packed these, rolling my clothes tightly to fit into my rollerboard:

  • several blouses;
  • two pairs of jeans and some yoga pants;
  • a couple pairs of socks, undies, and a blue jean jacket to wear to the airport;
  • good walking sandals, the boots I wore to the airport (it was cold here in Kansas City), and the flip flops (should have brought my Nikes, but no room! I do recommend good supportive walking/running shoes, due to Antigua’s cobblestone streets and uneven sidewalks!);
  • my journal, Sharpie and other pens;
  • my Spanish lessons in a notebook;
  • my iPhone and charger, a battery pack and charger;
  • and makeup and toiletries. I learned from being a flight attendant for a short season, “Pack light and tight.” I did not check ANY bags, as I didn’t want to risk them getting lost. I took the backpack and the rollerboard on the plane. When I left, I gave away some clothes to make room for the small souvenirs that I bought my family and my intercessors. You do NOT need as much as you think! Obviously, if you’re traveling for longer than a week, you will need more than I brought, and will need to check your luggage. On some airlines, you have to pay more for checked bags and/or certain amounts of weight for luggage. 
backpack

backpack

In my next blog, I will be sharing what I did on my 2nd day of traveling to Antigua, Guatemala. Please be sure to check back here to learn more about the amazing things God did on this trip! 

Me at Air BnB in Antigua, Guatemala

Me at Air BnB in Antigua, Guatemala

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