Are you looking for adventure through a hands-on cross-cultural experience? Are you seeking God’s will regarding an internship or long-term missionary service? Are you a Christian entrepreneur or business person considering tent-making opportunities in Latin America?
CAMPO will provide you with the skills you need to succeed in a cross-cultural environment!
What is Cross-Cultural Training?
CAMPO (Centro de Adiestramiento Misionero en Pokomchilandia) helps participants acquire adaptation and language learning skills necessary to effectively carry out their work or ministry call in a cross-cultural environment. While CAMPO has a distinctly Latin America flavor, the skills learned can be applied universally. Classroom time is interspersed with engaging local people and completing assignments in the local market. Participants live with local families in town as well as spending time living in a village setting. Each member of our staff is bicultural and bilingual.
Theoretical teaching (first segment)
1. Linguistics and language-learning skills–this introduction to the Spanish and Pokomchi languages will help the student understand not just how to pronounce and speak a little of these languages, but also to realize the importance of language in culture, and to grasp the diversity of cultures in modern-day Guatemala.
2. Cultural adaptation skills–through carefully chosen readings and targeted discussion, the student will consider many questions associated with a wide range of social and anthropological topics relevant to cross-cultural ministry, including:
- participant observation
- etic and emic models
- culture shock
- semiotics applied to cross-cultural interaction
3. During this first segment, special activities like local field trips and special movie nights will alleviate the strain of so much focused study. Guest speakers will also add zest to class sessions. These are chosen for their expertise and experience, providing different viewpoints, knowledge, and real life perspectives with which to challenge students.
40 hours of teaching, plus 20 hours of practical learning, over the course of ten days=60 hours
Practical teaching (second segment)
1. The student now moves in for a brief time with a Mayan or Spanish-speaking family. During this time, he or she is able to apply the principles taught in class, reflect on how his experiences relate to his spiritual life, and participate with local families and ministries in various social and religious activities, all the while using the linguistic and cross- cultural skills learned during the prior week. (Students will be paired up, not alone, during this time of cultural immersion).
7 or more hours per day for 4 days=30 hours
2. Following these intense few days , students have time to debrief together under the direction of Boris and Beth. This gives students a chance to articulate their experiences, and talk about what they have learned. This feedback and interaction will also contribute to a detailed evaluation from the directors of the student’s responses during the CAMPO course (the equivalent of a “grade”). More importantly, each student will have the chance to receive one-on- one mentoring opportunities from close personal contact with CAMPO staff.
3. Finally, the student is exposed briefly to life in other parts of Guatemala, including visits to places in Guatemala City (located four hours south of San Cristobal, where CAMPO is carried out) and Antigua (located one hour from Guatemala City).
6 or more hours per day of hands-on experience and debriefing for 4-5 days=30 hours
Total hours of instruction: approx. 120 over the course of 20 days of CAMPO
Letter to another camper:
My name is Tom and I hope this report finds you well. If you are like I was, at the beginning of CAMPO, you may be a tad confused about what exactly this is about and what is the point. Excited nonetheless but still, confused. I have gone through the CAMPO experience and wanted to reach out to make sure you know what CAMPO is and how it can help you in your mission work.
I will try to keep this to the point. CAMPO is an experience. It is not a class. Although, there is “coursework” time, it is more about getting involved in your environment and not just learning about it. The month spent in CAMPO will start out comfortable and typically be spending the mornings doing coursework and readings, then going into town or the immediate village to practice communication and figuring out where you are. The point of the coursework time is to help you understand that there are many ways to do things, view time, cook, clean, do work, build relationships and many other culture-based activities. Having a worldview like Jesus is important because we need to understand how to communicate to our audience in an effective manner and be able to adapt it regularly.
You are likely coming from a lifestyle that you are comfortable in and know well. You also probably have many comforts available to you back home. As time goes on in this month, comforts will come and go and eventually be removed. For example, the first two weeks the house is nice, but the electricity and water occasionally are shut off without warning. Your first time to move to another family will come around halfway in the month. You will spend time living with a family in town. This family will be considered middle class and will be happy to have you as their guest. They will likely have some comforts but definitely not as many as the first house. Also, as income is reduced, the diet will become simpler and you will have to be more creative with how you cope and adjust to the changes. This period will likely shake you a bit because you are by yourself and may have some issues communicating. Do not worry, you will survive. The last major part of your experience will also likely be the hardest. You will be alone again, living with a family the is out in one of the nearby, older villages. This family will mainly speak Pokom and likely some basic Spanish. This family will probably be considered upper-lower class for the area. Comforts will pretty much be completely removed, and you will get a dose of the reality of life for people in this socio-economic status. It will be trying, but once again, you will survive. The point of CAMPO is exposure through experience not to harm you. You will likely at some point reach a breaking point where serious time with the Lord will be necessary. Help is available if that becomes necessary. You are among brothers and sisters in Christ.
I hope that this has answered some of your questions and given you a realistic idea of why you are here and what you will be doing. Please remember that you will only get out of this what you put into it. You spent a lot of money to be here. Don’t waste it. If it gets hard, that means you are learning. Enjoy your time here and I am sincerely happy to know that you take your faith and ministry serious enough to do this course. My last piece of advice to you at this time is to use this time to unplug, unwind, forget issues back home that you cannot control and be fully present here. Use this time to get to know your Father better, let Him open your eyes to things you have not seen before. You have people praying for you and I hope that you are blessed with new eyes by the end of this time.
By the time your village stay is over you should now understand why it is about an experience and not a class. I bet you have been tried during this time and have laughed and cried. I did. I am sure by now if you are not here with your family that you are desperately missing them and longing for that moment when you meet them at the airport. It may seem like it is still far away but, it is only a few more days. Don’t let your excitement that you survived and will see your family soon distract you from the few more things the God may show you.
At this time when I was here at CAMPO, I had become quite ill. I was running a constant fever, had stomach and headaches, issues with bowels and was exhausted. Several campers have had similar experiences. It is just part of living in a new area where you are not from and your body adjusting to the new environment. You will likely have similar things happen when you launch your new international ministry if you have not already done so. Once I made it back to Boris and Beth’s house, I was able to eat good food, get proper rest, take the right medicine and clean up. It was certainly a blessing to be able to recover back at their home before I headed to my home.
The most valuable lesson that I took from my experience was that I still have so much to learn about the world. There is still a lot of oppression, persecution, and poverty that is beyond my control. It is not my job to fix it, but it is my job to go out and give people hope of salvation by grace through faith. I have learned that the only way to understand a culture is to become part of it. The only way to become part of it is to reject your own culture and become vulnerable enough to learn how they do it.
You have just had an experience that will stay with you for a very long time. I hope that you understand culture shock. How to deal with it and recognize signs and symptoms. It is so important that you are able to deal with change in a healthy way. I believe there are two main points to having a program like CAMPO. One, exposure through experience. Second, to be able to recognize and properly deal with culture shock.
In this time God showed me how to trust Him, how to ask Him questions, how to love another culture, how to pray, who I can trust, who I can’t, and how even when we don’t understand a situation that we are uncomfortable in, if I ask Christ for help, He will show up.
Congrats again on making it through the month in a very foreign area. I am sure you have written down much of your experiences here. Take that item home with you and use it to reference your experience here. I am sure you will have similar experiences in the future and be able to use what you learned to teach others and your family if you have one. More important than the material you learned is what you learned about yourself. I learned a lot about myself during this time. I found my physical breaking point, my mental breaking point, and my new understanding of what poverty actually is. I encourage you to write similar letter to this to future campers. Maybe it will help them or at the very least it will reassure them when they hit a hard time. Struggling is real and ok. It is how you deal with it that matters. There is help around you. You just have to be humble enough to ask for and receive it. God is great. God is good. God is with you. Enjoy your new perspective on culture and share what you have learned with others.
CAMPO is held in the home of directors Boris and Beth Ramirez in the small Mayan village of Nisnic on the outskirts of the midsize town of San Cristobal Verapaz (population about 50,000) in the Guatemalan state of Alta Verapaz.
Guatemala’s climate is temperate, with a rainy season running from May to November and a drier season running from December to April. The country enjoys an ideal average temperature of about 70 degrees Fahrenheit year-round, however, with a cold snap lasting a few weeks happening in December and January, and a heat wave lasting a few weeks in March or April. During those temperature spikes, the cold can go as low as 40 degrees, and the high upwards of 90 degrees Fahrenheit. But in the mountains around San Cristobal, these are extremes. The torrential rains of the rainy season cool down high temps, but moisture, mud, and mold must be taken into account.
During the day, light cotton clothing feels good, but have a sweater or hoodie available to put on once the sun is down. Pants and jeans are appropriate for both males and females. Shorts are not common, except when bumming around the house, playing soccer, or (for the ladies) looking to attract attention. The indigenous Mayan people of the area are called Pokomchi (pronounced poh-kom-CHEE). Pokomchi women wear their own indigenous clothing which consists of the full gathered skirt (called corte in Spanish or uhk in the Pokom language) and a full overblouse (called huipil in Spanish or po’t in Pokom). Pokomchi men wear pants and shirts we westerners are accustomed to, but they also often wear a cap or hat, and carry a woven bag over their shoulder (called morral in Spanish or chim in Pokom).
During the 25-plus years that Boris and Beth lived in Nisnic village and translated the New Testament into the Pokom language, they dressed like the Pokomchi people. Beth wore the uhk and po’t daily, and Boris always had his hat and chim when he went out. When non-indigenous people wear indigenous clothing, it’s considered a mark of respect and is well-accepted by the Pokom people.
The rule of thumb in clothing decisions is light not tight, and modest not skimpy. For women, skirts and dresses are always appropriate, but not required, since pants and jeans have become acceptable wear for non-indigenous women in Guatemala.
With so much rain and mud to traverse on village paths, suitable shoes are sneakers or leather ankle boots or workboots for men, and sandals, flip-flops, or light shoes for women. Wear what you like, keeping in mind that you may have to nancy through puddles and mud in places. Light cheap shoes are easily purchased in the market in San Cristobal, so if you feel you need boots or waterproof plastic shoes to accommodate the rain, you can always purchase them on site, instead of taking up valuable space in your suitcase. Ladies who enjoy heels or girly shoes are free to wear them. Guatemalan Latin culture still revels in clear gender distinctions, so your sexy stilettos would be much appreciated here!
Phone and internet access
If you have an unlocked phone, you can easily purchase a local chip for a couple of dollars and enjoy remarkably cheap, good quality telecommunications from San Cristobal and most of its environs. Guatemalan companies with most market share are Tigo, Claro, and Movistar. If you don’t have an unlocked phone, you have a couple of options. If personal internet access and the ability to call anyone anytime is important to you, you may purchase a cell phone and chip locally for about $30 and fill the phone with a pre-paid package worth anywhere from 75 cents to $12 or more. The packages have a data-limit, and sometimes a time limit too (they expire by a certain date). If continual internet access isn’t important to you but you want a phone for the occasional call or text, you may purchase a much simpler phone than the $30 model, buy a chip and a package, and you’re good to go. These phones are known as “frijolitos” (beanies, because they look like little black beans, Guatemala’s food staple )
Wifi hotspots are becoming more common even in the mountainous heart of Guatemala where San Cristobal lies. You can always hold onto your unlocked phone and use it only when you can connect to wifi somewhere. In San Cristobal, CeCEP (the Pokomchi Learning Center) has wifi, and so do a couple of other local businesses and restaurants. To use the wifi, you must go in, use their services, and ask for the password, but it’s otherwise free. In the nearby provincial capital of Coban, located about half an hour east of San Cristobal by car, free wifi services are everywhere, since businesses realize that customers like to have it.
Getting cash is relatively easy wherever there is an ATM in Guatemala, and nowadays, ATMs have proliferated. Your US debit card will work fine in most ATMs, assuming your card is backed up by VISA or some other international company, though VISA is more of a sure thing than any other company. A local ATM will charge you anywhere from $3-$6 to withdraw any amount of quetzales (ket-SAHL-ace) up to Q2000 per day. With an exchange rate of about Q7 per $1, Guatemalan currency is quite stable. During CAMPO training, your need for cash should be minimal, since CAMPO covers your primary expenses. But if you wish to buy phone stuff (personal phones, chips, and personal minutes are not covered by CAMPO) or gifts to bring home, you may need cash. Keep in mind that withdrawing cash using some debit cards also incurs a usage fee back home and using your credit card will cost you not just usage fees, but also fees for obtaining cash internationally. (Using credit cards to get cash is NOT recommended.) On the other hand, using your cards (either debit or credit) to purchase goods and services through Guatemalan businesses set up to take cards is an ideal way to pay. There are no extra fees involved (sometimes there is a purchase minimum), and the hassle of handling coins and bills and figuring out exchange rates and money denominations is eliminated. Highly recommended!
Getting around Guatemala without a personal car is remarkably easy, cheap, and enjoyable. Since most Guatemalans don’t yet own cars (although the horrendous traffic in Guatemala City belies that fact), public transportation is plentiful and accessible. The Monja Blanca busline travels many times a day between the city and Coban, the provincial capital of Alta Verapaz, and is a reliable way to get from the city to San Cristobal. If you ever need to do that by yourself, here’s how:
- Take a taxi (Uber and Lyft drivers may already be circulating in Guatemala) from where you are in the city to the CentraNorte bus station in the north of the city. This ride typically will cost you around Q100.
- Ask for the Monja Blanca (pronounced MOHN-ha BLAHN-ka) terminal at the station. Tell the person behind the counter that you want a ticket to San Cristobal Verapaz. This will cost you around Q60. This bus service is prompt, so keep your eyes open for the vehicle loading passengers for your time slot. The bus will leave without you if you’re wandering around the mall or have to go to the bathroom before boarding. If you aren’t travelling light, the ayudante (helper) of the driver will help you load your bag or suitcase into the underbelly of the bus. The ride into Alta Verapaz takes about 4 hours. It’s a scenic, meandering road up into the high mountains of central Guatemala. There is one stop along the way at “Villas del Sol” restaurant, where you can buy food, take a potty break, or enjoy an helado (eh-LAH-though)—icecream! But the driver only stops for about 15-20 minutes, so be aware of when he reboards.
- Let the ayudante know that you want to get off at Santa Cruz. This is a junction just outside of the small town of Santa Cruz, located about three miles east of San Cristobal. Once you have gotten yourself and your bags off the bus here, you’ll find yourself standing beside a wide road, with the bus disappearing in the distance as it heads to its destination of Coban. Likely there will be other passengers beside yourself also getting off. All of them are headed to either Santa Cruz or San Cristobal, since anyone going to Coban just stayed on the bus. You will cross the road (be careful!) and stand on the far side, about 50 yards distant, near a small shelter which serves as a bus stop. Vans, taxis, trucks, and buses heading to Santa Cruz and San Cristobal pass by here continually. You will want to keep your eye out for a van or even a bus which may have the name “San Cristobal” on it. If it doesn’t, don’t worry. Listen to what the ayudante hanging out of the approaching van or bus is shouting. He will yell the destination, and you want to hear “San Cristobal, San Cristobal!!” He may shorten that to a succinct “San Cris! San Cris!!” If you make it onto a micro van, you will pay Q3 to be taken to the central plaza of San Cristobal.
- If you are travelling with bags, it’s better to flag down a taxi to take you to San Cris, since vans and buses can be crowded, depending on the time of day you arrive at the junction. If no taxi seems forthcoming, it’s often helpful to ask a nearby shopkeeper, or one of the multitude of people selling snacks and drinks to weary travelers at the junction. Often they know someone reliable and will hail him for you. You can expect to pay from Q30-Q40 for a taxi ride from Santa Cruz to San Cristobal.
Whether you end up in a taxi, a van, a bus, or in the back of a pickup with others hitching a ride, the trip to San Cristobal is short, but circuitous. The public transport vehicle will deposit you in or near the central park of San Cristobal, where you can meet your contact. If you are coming all the way to the Ramirez home in Nisnic, read on.
- Once you are in San Cristobal, you can hop in a taxi or get on a “micro” bus headed for “El Petencito.” Almost all of the taxi drivers, and many shopkeepers and passersby in town will know the name “Boris Ramirez” if you need directions. The ride out to Nisnic village will cost you Q10-Q20 in a taxi, but only Q2 in a microbus, since you share the bus with several others. It’s only about two miles out of town, around the town’s soccer stadium, and across a low causeway onto a small treed island known as the “Petencito” for the tall trees there. Get out of the taxi or micro just after you cross the little cement bridge which spans an arm of the Lake Chichoj. The Ramirez home is at the top of the hill in front of you, at the end of the stone driveway beyond the rickety iron gate which blocks the road your taxi stopped on.
Do’s and Don’t’s
Do travel light. Anything you may have left behind at home can be gotten in Guatemala. Believe it or not, there is a large store owned by Walmart in Coban, only half an hour by car from Nisnic village!
Don’t drink water from any tap. Water which emanates from a tap is not necessarily potable in Guatemala, though it is suitable for most other purposes (washing, tooth-brushing, cooking). Only drink water, or fill your own water bottle, with pure water coming in labelled plastic containers. Water served in upscale restaurants may be trusted. Your hosts in any home you may visit will tell you where to find the “agua pura” for drinking. Learn to say “agua pura, por favor.” (Ah-gwah POO-rah, poor fa-VOOR) “Pure water, please.”
Do keep your phone, wallet, and other valuables in a safe place on your person when you are travelling. Be alert and guarded when in a crowd or other public place.
Don’t photograph children unless you ask their parents or are part of a group.
Do enjoy this lovely jewel of God’s creation called Guatemala!
does it cost?
All pricing for CAMPO includes the following:
- Ground transportation
- Course materials
- Fund-raising tools and training by trained coaches
*Airfare is additional and varies based on time of travel.
$1750 individual | $2900 Couple + $500 per child
- COVENANT COLLEGE SESSION
May 7-27, 2022
- SUMMER SESSION
- WINTER SESSION