i've been putting this blog off for a couple weeks because i've been trying to figure out its meaning in my life as well as our benefit to those in san juan la laguna and elsewhere in guatemala. i was a little bit frustrated because i didnt think that it has worked substantially in MY life. it was fun. and i think our group did an incredible job showing Christ to the both the kids at the school we taught at, the homes we visited and to the community as a whole.
my direction in this post is unfocused and i'm anxious to see what becomes of this. hopefully i can move in enough of an organized manner so that you all will follow me. ready break.
so i went to guatemala. our group worked almost exclusively at an elementary/middle school teaching english classes, bible classes and physical education 'classes'; we also hauled cinder blocks and tied rebar at said school. our students were great - all went well - 200 kids showed up each day - most were cute.
the cuteness was unmistakable. you just wanted to ask every single one of the kids if you could throw them in your luggage and take them back to kc with you. however, due to the language barrier this was not possible. otherwise i'd still be hanging out with my buddy reyes. the sad thing - if i may be borderline ethnocentric and potentially the worst human on the planet - was at one point on the trip i turned to one of the 5 male hillcrest students and said the following:
"man. these kids are so adorable. too bad they grow up to be so ugly."
i wanted to slap myself in the face, and feel free to do so too. i felt an overwhelming amount of guilt and i couldn't help but dwell on that statement. guatemalans in san juan la laguna have rough lives. i met or observed or heard about individuals who did the following:
1. carried bundles of logs the size of their body up the aptly named "buns of steel hill" (left) over and over and over every day.
2. worked on the side of the volcano in the coffee fields for days at a time without returning home - 72 hour work 'shifts'.
3. preached in a city on the other side of the mountain and would hike 4 hours over the mountain to preach and then hike 4 hours back in the middle of the night.
these individuals look OLD. their bodies are dirty, their hands and feet are callused, their faces are wrinkled and oily. and you look at their offspring and it just rips your heart out to think that these adorable kids have this future awaiting them.
however, it didn't take more than about a day to realize what a beautiful thing this was. here i was in guatemala freaking out about the fact that i needed to make sure i had my bracket filled out and spending substantial time debating whether i should pick george mason to win a game (mistake). these individuals have next to nothing. they work day and night to provide for their families.
a small group of us visited a home together on tuesday night. we brought about a weeks worth of food for the family. we were led by a pair of 8 year-old twins - juan benito and noami - to their tiny little home about a mile away from our hotel on the lake. when we got there only their older sister (12) and older brother (17) were home. their mom had gone into town to buy candles because they were on their last one. the 17 year-old (whose name i can't remember) had just returned from 3 days in up on the mountain in the fields. their father had recently died.
that was enough to get individuals tearing up - you could see God working in their hearts and the cogs turning in their heads. no one could've showed up at that house and not have reconsidered their own life. however, this family went on and on about faith and Jesus and hope and love and i'm sitting there on the bed with juan benito in my lap thinking about how lucky these people were that they didnt have to care about the final four. they had reached such a level of total depravity that they had no choice but to set their sights on Christ alone. and while part of me thought how unfortunate they were another part envied them. no question that their father was in heaven loving life more than i every would on earth - even if portland state had beat ku first round - there is no happiness that could compare to the joy little juan benito's pop was feeling at that moment.
our group barely spoke all the way back to the hotel and when we got back it was clear that none of us really wanted to talk to anyone. God was speaking to the group and that was what we wanted to listen to.
and as we left, i thought about the amount of "good" we had done for that family. and i kinda had to shrug. we brought them food. cool. we'd talked to them about Jesus. sure. but WE were the blessed ones. WE were the ones that had been changed because WE were the ones who needed it more. americans are always the ones who end up crying and thinking and blogging about their experiences in poorer countries.
i realized that Guatemala has it figured out - we don't. sure they don't really have it figured out by choice, but it became evident that they were in a position in their lives where it was significantly simpler to connect with God. places like south america and africa are just exploding in Christ, and its not surprising why. they've got nothing in the way. they're stuck at the end of their rope and the only place they have left to put their trust is in Christ. they need nothing else to make them smile, and it was incredible to feel it myself and witness some of the students at hillcrest discover it too.when we left, all the kids helped us carry our luggage down the "buns of steel hill" to the boats that would take us across the lake to panajachel. they weren't asked and i tried to tell reyes that i didnt need his help. but he insisted and refused to let me carry it. that is love. God is love. the whole community was just exploding in God and that was so exciting to see. they may be poor and needy, but WE'RE the poor and needy ones when it comes to Christ.
anyway. i hope i have more thoughts to come. if not, adios.
(props to laura roxberg and ian mcgregor for the pics.)