I cried my first morning home when I opened the pantry, my kids begging for food as I stared at the abundance in our cupboards. Re-entry is a real thing. Later that morning I watched as my two youngest kids got lost in a world of legos; tears filled my eyes. In one week my heart has been changed and broken, filled with hope and heartache, all at the same time. My time in Guatemala was nothing short of a gift and an experience I’ll treasure forever.
Our team of 16 flew from Tijuana, Mexico to Guatemala City on a red-eye. We then drove 4 hours to the town of Zacapa where Hope of Life is located. I was blown away by this ministry and property! Hope of Life is situated on 3000 acres of land and includes a conference center that hosts teams from the states. We spent our first day attending a local church and touring the Hope of Life campus. We saw the hospital that serves malnourished babies that have been rescued from the hillside villages and performs surgeries on children with cleft palates. The property also includes a preschool, elementary school, orphanage, center for children with disabilities, and home for the elderly. There are also several warehouses that store food and supplies that are distributed to the villages.
Monday and Tuesday we spent the day in Capacolito, a village our church adopted a few years back. The village was 3-4 hours from Hope of Life and is situated on top of a mountain with beautiful views. In order to get there we drove 2-3 hours by bus, then an hour on the back of a cattle truck trekking up the mountain through muddy terrain. If you’ve ever been on the Indian Jones ride at Disneyland, you can picture what this experience was like!
We spent the day laying concrete in the newly constructed classroom, doing arts and crafts with the village kids, and visiting families in their homes. An ER nurse on our trip attended to medical needs while the rest of us asked how we could pray for family members. I was amazed at the joy and contentment each family had. Something my first-world heart could use more of.
A few years ago our church installed a clean water system in the village so we had the opportunity to see this system running and providing fresh clean water to families. At first glance, the village looks poor, run-down, and lacking resources. But when I looked closely I saw community, needs being met, and beauty. There is so much evidence of God’s faithfulness to these people and it was an honor to play a part.
Wednesday we took a break from traveling to the village. We spent a few hours in one of the warehouses on campus packing food bags for the village. After that we traveled to the trash dump, which is 30 minutes outside of Hope of Life. Again, beauty was not found according to my standards, but it was there nonetheless. I had to look hard to see evidence of hope among trash, dirt, and broken glass. Most of the children who live near the dump are part of a sponsorship program now, which means they are able to attend school. Because of this, future generations will have better job opportunities than collecting trash for a living. For those who have been to this dump before, they noted how few children were there this time. For those of us who had never been, tears fell down our faces. It was overwhelming to see men, women, and children foraging for trash. Kids playing among broken glass, covered in dirt.
As our group gathered in a circle to pray, a young girl, no older than my daughter, came over with her little sister. I watched as she stood barefoot so her little sister could wear her shoes and not cut her feet. When we were done, she put the shoes back on her own feet, then picked up her sister and walked away. This moment will forever be etched into my mind. A young girl already learning how to serve and put others before her. Beauty in the midst of brokenness. Hope on the horizon and the promise of a better future for these precious children.
I love this mission statement from World Help, the organization we partnered with on our trip to Guatamala. Throughout the week we as a team constantly reminded our selves that we weren’t there to fix every problem. We were there to move the needle; to continue building a relationship with the village of Capacolito; to show them that they were seen and valued to us and to God.
On Thursday we went back to the village to dedicate their newly constructed classroom, share the gospel, and hand out food bags that would feed their families for 3-4 weeks. It was a wonderful day together and none of us were ready to leave.
We spent the final day of our trip in Antigua. Antigua is a beautiful city with cobblestone streets and gorgeous architecture. This was a great city in which to relax and debrief. Perhaps my favorite thing about Antigua is the rich culture and beautiful views. Fun fact: you can see two active volcanoes in the distance. In the morning we could see the “poof” coming off of the top of one of them. This was my 3rd time to Antigua. I spent two weeks in high school and two weeks in college here on a missions trip. I fall more and more in love with it each time I come!
While this wasn’t my first missions trip, it was my first one since having kids. Before we were even married my husband and I shared a passion for missions. We’ve spent the past 15 years allowing God to break our heart for what breaks His-vulnerable and marginalized people. Latin America has been a place and culture we have felt drawn to for awhile now and its our desire to bring our kids overseas to serve as missionaries in a few years from now. This trip served as sort of a vision trip for me and solidified God’s call on our family to displace ourselves for a few years and partner with an organization that is meeting the tangible, spiritual, and emotional needs of the oppressed. Over the next year we will be praying for clarity on where to go, who to partner with, and how to serve. Pray with us?!