Guatemala is an incredibly beautiful country, with mountains (volcanoes really) all around and hard-working people with a ready smile. We saw both extremes, from the wealth of the capital city, where residents and even the seminary shut themselves behind tall walls and secure gates at night, to extreme poverty with people living in the most squalid huts made of whatever materials could be found to supplement the mud bricks. What struck me about the places where the living quarters looked so rickety and the dogs so hungry was that there was usually a woman out front sweeping the yard or a valiant rose growing in the corner. In other words, the people have pride and try to beautify and maintain what they have.
At the Church of San Juan Apostal in the city of Chichicastenango, we worked for several days under the direction of local foreman and his crew to pour concrete sloping away from the church and toward the newly installed drains that Grace Church helped purchase. This is so that when the water during rainy season (May – October) floods the churchyard, it will be directed away from the church and won’t make the yard a muddy mess for weeks at a time. Maybe they can even hold services instead of having to move everything out of the sanctuary for several months. The Bishop of Western Guatemala works tirelessly on behalf of the indigenous people who elected him. He has an inspiring vision of many things to come, including educational services, but while we were there, he looked out over his yard of concrete and said, “this is my dream.” It’s humbling to be a small part of someone’s dream. I hope that Grace Church has a long relationship with Iglesia San Juan Apostal and that we get to continue being a part of the Bishop’s dreams for his people.
Guatemala was a wonderful opportunity to help serve the parishioners of St. Juan Church, in Chichicastengo, as well as the parishioners in the surrounding villages. The team mainly consisted of members of St. Peters church out of Conway, Ark. as well as the Grace Church group of four. My role on the team was to primarily aid a Guatemalan construction team in pouring a cement slab over a triangular courtyard on the side of the church (see attached photo). It was hard work, but needed in order to complete the project in the required three and a half days. The concrete slab was needed in order to prevent flooding on the property during the rainy season.
I think one of the more poignant moments of the trip was the experience of handing out material goods to some of the less fortunate families in the diocese. The hard part was simply seeing how much need there was and yet we had very little to supply those who were the worst off. I was reminded that Christ taught us to clothe the naked and feed the hungry. I was touched by the chance we had to be Christ's tools to accomplish what is needed in the country. We should remember to keep the Guatemalan diocese in our prayers. I would encourage anyone who may have a leading to serve on a future mission trips to not hesitate, but go for it. It is a great experience that will likely change you for the better.
Guatemala was an amazing and unique adventure and experience for me. I am thankful for the opportunity to be there and to serve Our people, both Guatemalan and our group from Grace and St Peters with my Spanish skills. My body ached after the physical work done there, but most importantly my Heart was aching when I saw all the children and women and the way the live. They are poor, don’t have much, but still they offered me a smile and a hug. They were so thankful to have us there. I will ask for your prayers for our people in Guatemala. I will love to go back one day