Food and shelter are two of our basic human needs.
Children should not have to worry about a roof over their heads
Will I be warm tonight
Will my father or mama come home tonight.
Or, If I will have food to eat today.
These were some of the stories I heard in Guatemala. These problems of basic needs, are not exclusive to Guatemala, but exist all over the world. I have heard them in Mexico and Jamaica also.
I had no expectations. I wanted my Lord to lead me. I wanted to walk with Him. I had prayed on it.
I wanted to share my love for the Lord and Hope, that overflows for these children. I hope they felt it.
Let me share a little of me with you. I Love our Lord, and I know what it means to have a personal relationship with Him.
Although, I was baptized a Catholic as a baby. And attended church, catechism, made my First Communion and Confirmation, I never recall studying the bible as a child, we read from it occasionally. I am embarrassed to admit I do not know my bible. I am a pre-schooler in the bible.
Since arriving here in Texas, I have taken two bible study courses and met some amazing women in my class. My husband and I were recently baptized in a river near our church. All of my three biological sisters are Christians. My sister who follows me became a Christian woman at a very young age. My baby sister became a Christian as a teenager, she graduated from Bethany Bible School in Scott’s Valley, California. My Mama was a woman of God, also. All gently and sometimes not so gently invited and prayed for all our family to know Jesus since the early 1980’s. My husband is a Godly man. I feel so Blessed to be surrounded by some amazing people, who were/are constantly sharing and talking to me about our Lord and never gave up on me.
As one of the scriptures we were sharing states we all have our gifts;
1 Corinthians 12-New International Version-Concerning Spiritual Gifts. I realize my gifts and am the first to admit my weaknesses. I do not do well in public speaking to large groups. When I taught, I had no problem in the comfort of my classroom. One of my gifts is my ability to connect with [most] people one on one or in small groups.
We arrive about 3:00 a.m. in Tecpan, by the time we arrived at our hotel, unpacked and settled in it was after 4:00 a.m. We woke up at 7:00 a.m.to have breakfast by 8:00. We then headed to church services at La Vida Nueva st 9:00. Very beautiful service. We met Don Paco and his Pastor son, Francisco. If I understand correctly, it was Don Paco who had the vision of starting this church, La Vida Nueva and Colegio Israel to address a need.
We found out that there was a strike occurring the next day, and we would not be allowed to travel nor leave our hotel. We felt that although we would not be meeting our kids the next day, we should take advantage of the day by studying and reviewing our presentations.
We had a big lunch at a restaurant named Bonanza, they serve big platters of different meat, the likes of chicken, ribs and beef, with sides of black beans, guacamole, picantes, black corn tortillas and several aguas in family style. Rosita, the Director of Colegio Israel joined us. She is also Don Paco’s daughter. After lunch we loaded up the bus and we were informed we would be going to the Zona Roja and disseminating tracks. Upon arriving, I assessed the area and situation, it was quite depressed with mainly men, children and barking dogs hanging out and running all over the streets. The locals are scoping us out as well.
Victoriano mentioned we would be seeing many men who were alcoholics. We proceeded to walk and pass out tracks as the dogs barked. We came upon a group of small children whose Mama had died and father had deserted them to the “bottle.” The young lady taking care of this household was a 14 years old. The siblings she cared for were approximately 10, 8, and 4. They did not attend school. The only adult was grandpa. Rosita, spoke with the little girl and asked her if scholarships were available to her and her siblings would she be interested in attending school, she nodded, yes. Rosita agreed to look into their situation.
I wanted to sob in bucketfuls. I imagined and felt these children’s pain.
I couldn’t help but wonder, how many other children were in a similar situations.
We arrived at a dead end street and decided to divide the group in two and go in different directions. We walked and continued passing out tracks being lead by our Lord. Barking dogs all around us and reluctant souls peering out their doors.
As I walked alongside Rosita, she stated ” I don’t think there are any people on this street, it appeared deserted.”
Just then a small man peers out his curtain, wondering what all the ruckus was about with all the neighborhood dogs barking. Rosita walked up to him. We met Higinio. Who proceeded to paint a story of despair; he had lost his job, his wife had left him, their little girl had been taken away by a relative. He had attempted suicide a few days earlier, because he didn’t feel he mattered or had anything to live for.
Once again, I wanted to sob in bucketfuls. Meeting the children and Higinio on Sunday was a very powerful experience. I prayed for strength to handle all this pain, I was feeling for them.
I wasn’t quite sure why Higinio lost his job, then his family. But, in retrospect none of the reasons really matter.
The only thing that mattered and came in loud and clear were the words of my Pastor, Jason; what our church represents. Luke 19:10
For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” I knew it was the Lord interceding.
We drove to some ancient ruins were animal sacrifices are still held today. It was lit with candles and you could feel and smell the darkness. More emotions arose. We prayed over the area and left. As it closes at 4:00. In all its architectural beauty there was no reason to linger.
Monday we stayed at our hotel, San Ricardo, since a manifestation (strike) was taking place. We inquired as to the reason for the strike and we were told it dealt with the people being unhappy about high taxes, therefore the strike. This gave us an opportunity to review our presentation of skits, arts and crafts etc. We had lunch at our hotel and went for a walk after lunch. To explore the picturesque lush, fertile area and walk off some of our lunch. We encountered gardens, children and families walking and animals such as cows, horses and chickens.
Let’s keep the cold of negativity and pride out of our relationships by starting the day with this good advice. “All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another…”1 Peter 5:5
Tuesday, we were at school bright and early, it was the first time I laid eyes on the students. They were precious, full of life. Although, I could detect some sadness in some also. We followed through with our prepared scripture readings, skits, arts and crafts and games.
We had a large group of approximately 120 middle and high school students.
Sharing our personal relationship with our Lord is a very personal issue. Especially when you just met someone. I truly identified with the middle and high school students.
We returned to our hotel, had dinner and our de-brief meeting. Our dinners were filled with abundance of food, joy and laughter.
Tuesday evening was a very difficult experience for me. I was alone; I prayed. I got on my I-pad to write to my husband, who I knew would be asleep. My husband had sent me a beautiful inspirational scripture reading. I also felt my three biological sister’s prayers. My bible study sisters I have grown to love. And, the many many people who were praying for me; I felt their prayers of strength. It’s just what my heart needed.
Wednesday, we started painting some walls outside of some classrooms. We were informed some parents would be coming in to pick up their children’s report cards, and that our team would be introduced.
I walked outside and saw about 150 parents sitting outside.
A short woman speaker addressed the parents. She talked about how important it was for them to take interest in their children’s education and to introduce them to our Lord. She went on to elaborate how important it was to educate the children and the parents. That God was the most important guide and studying the Bible was the best parenting tool. She went on to say, we must educate people so that we can improve our country. This woman was an eloquent speaker who addressed many issues all dealing with being better parents to their children.
Rosita introduced Anne and Wade (our leaders) they reinforced the same topic of having our Lord as the head of the family. And Wade addressed the role of fathers and helping participate with child rearing and home. Rosita mentioned that the next monthly meeting the parents would be teaching their skills and gifts. I thought this was an excellent idea.
Thursday the students made chiharronnes and corn tortillas for us.
I noticed a little boy sitting on the bleachers, alone outside. I walked up and sat next to him. He was gently wringing his tiny hands. I asked him why he wasn’t playing and he responded, “tengo hambre,” I am hungry.
My heart crumbled! As I had flashes of our own lunches and dinners filled with abundance, joy and laughter. We had been instructed not to feed them. I asked him, “did you have breakfast at home,” he answered, “no.” Many of these children look forward to attending Colegio Israel, since during recess they get a snack. For some students this may be their only meal for the day. A teammate approached us, I shared his story, she had a tiny amount of peanut butter stuffed pretzels in a plastic bag. Which she shared with the hungry little boy. It was a joy to watch him eat, perhaps not the most nutrious, but I know he enjoyed his little snack.
Also on Thursday afternoon, I was able to sit with Don Paco and share. He shared his personal story and vision. I felt honored.
In the afternoon, we divided the group in two and made three home visits. To be invited into these humble homes was almost sacred to me.
Friday, we visited Antigua, the little I saw of Antique appeared very prosperous and vibrant.
The group went zip-lining at El Tenedor del Cerro, a beautiful picturesque location designed by an artist. It is filled with metal and wood sculptures, a tiny chocolate shop, smoothie bar, gorgeous gardens, playground, and a small market with local wares.
I chose to skip this fun filled event, I just prefer being on land! It was also a beautiful time to bond with Carolina and Wall-e, we were able to stroll, shop and sit and talk.
The group all re-gathered upon their arrival for lunch at the restaurant overlooking these beautiful picturesque views of our Lord’s masterpiece.
We returned to our hotel, had a late dinner. After dinner, we shared communion and gifts to our Secret Prayer Partner and prayed. We solemnly walked back to our rooms knowing we were saying good-bye or at least until we meet again Guatemala. I packed till close to midnight to wake-up at 2:00, to be on the bus by 3:00, en route to Antigue to return home.
Saturday we flew out approximately at 7:00 a.m. to Houston. Pretty uneventful zombie walking flight back home. Only other thing of interest to me were the many mission soldiers, many from Texas, which can be identified by their t-shirts. I spoke to a few, we exchanged stories.
“Ven aqui, te ofresco Mi Corazon.” Personally, I am into people, relationships, and nature, I offer you my heart. I was able to connect with several very beautiful people I will never forget like Wall-e, our host, who kept me laughing. Irma Leti who is a teacher at Colegio Israel with a very kind heart, she took the time to bring her baby son so I could meet him. She also introduced me to her husband who is also a teacher there, teaching computers. I also became friends with Sylvia the janitor lady at the school. My connections with Don Paco, Rosita, Andrea, Nestor, Mynor and Carolina were very rewarding. And the countless children I met and fell in love with. May you continue to shine and hold on to our Lord.
The beauty of family gardens, flowers and all the natural fauna and flora of Guatemala was breathtaking. I saw giant cabbages, corn, strawberries and beans being grown; they sell and eat all of their landscape. I saw children and adults taking pride in working their lands, washing their clothes, children playing, of humble, hardworking people, a country full of life. These are a few of the memories implanted in my head forever of Guatemala.
In closing I can tell you I have prayed and cried about it. I ask myself, “would I return? It pains me to say, probably not. My Lord and I know why. Thank you Father for giving me this opportunity. Although, I would recommend mission trips for all, if given the opportunity.
One of my bible study friends and I recently visited and she said, I told my husband, “you were really brave not knowing any of these people you were going with on your mission trip.” I really didn’t know them, I had seen them at church. And we had had meetings in preparations for our trip. I felt strongly that I only needed my Father to guide me.
The success of loving is in how we change because we kept on loving – regardless of any thing else changing. Anne Voscamp
Thank you Father