a week in Guatemala

July and August have been a blur. Deric and I went to Guatemala in the middle of July on a missions trip, and here it is the end of August and I'm just now writing about it. Well actually, I wrote this post a week after our trip but then we went to Port Hope for almost three weeks, so here it is. Rereading this post a month later was good for me; time and family vacation pushed my Guatemalan experience from my mind rather quickly, and I do not want to forget this trip. Too many good things happened and my perspective on a lot of things was changed, and only by keeping the trip fresh in my mind will I be able to make life-long changes happen rather than settling back into my old routines.


I spent last week in Guatemala, in a tiny village on the outskirts of Guatemala City. It was exactly what you would expect when you hear "third world": dirt and dust, shacks instead of houses, sewage running through the street, chickens and dogs wandering around, little kids in dirty mismatched clothing. A group of twenty people from our church spent the week giving out food and dresses to families, digging a drainage system at the school to get it up and running for the next school year, and hosting a VBS every afternoon. (Our group had mixed feelings about it all after reading a book entitled When Helping Hurts, but decided to trust the missionaries and their knowledge of the community, and to keep our focus on building relationships, not just getting things done.)

 worship at VBS

Coming home, I experienced all the typical emotions I knew would come after facing poverty: guilt over how much stuff I have, guilt that I still want more and better stuff, relief that I don't have to live like in poverty, determination to be more content and more resourceful, determination to never waste a single drop of water ever again. (I didn't expect to cry as I walked into Kroger on Monday morning, though. Kroger is bigger than their entire village.)

a path leading to the lower streets of the village

I didn't expect to wake up each morning feeling sad that we were no longer in Guatemala. Last week, I woke up with such a defined purpose. I knew what we would accomplish each day and how many people we would meet and get to know. I knew I'd get sweaty and filthy (which I hate) but with that sweat and filth and exhaustion came a sense of satisfaction, knowing that I had spent myself on behalf of others, and that made it worth it. At home, I don't go to bed at night with that sense of accomplishment. My purpose here as a mother is different, less manual labor and more...mental? emotional?. I take my role as a mother (and wife, but let's focus on the mothering since that's the 8-5 job) very seriously and I love being a mom, but for a few months now I've felt a desire to be involved in a ministry outside of our home and outside of our student ministry at church. So off and on for a few months, I've asked God to give me some direction to a specific ministry or opportunity. When I didn't sense any direction, I thought maybe God was saying to focus on our family for right now, seeing as Jake was so little. But this desire for a ministry outlet has only increased after our trip last week, and so I've been asking God a little more fervently to provide some direction. With every endeavor of mine so far in life, I've jumped in too excitedly and had it fizzle out soon after, and I don't want to do that in ministry, where that fizzling out could hurt someone. A few days ago, I wrote down some ministry ideas that could potentially benefit "our" village in Guatemala while we're in Tennessee, and asked God again to provide an opportunity. Then just a few hours ago, I read this blog post, titled "thinking something is not the same as doing something". Her post was obviously addressing a situation almost identical to mine, but it was the first comment on the post that got me: someone said they think God wants them to jump into something, anything, just to get moving, and he would take care of the rest.

after VBS each afternoon, we played the older boys in some cutthroat soccer games

So now I can't help but think, is that it? Just do something (and pray along the way, of course) because waiting idly by is wasting time. After seeing first-hand the injustice of contaminated water (made worse by a nearby clothing factory for, you guessed it, American brand-name clothes), and limited resources, and unsafe living conditions, and insufficient education...I have to do something. I would be doing God, the missionaries, the Guatemalans, and the funds raised for our trip a disservice if I didn't allow God to change me through last week's experiences. I am more aware of the habits our family has right now, and I am trying not to get lulled back into first-world apathy by these habits, where I am far too concerned about the decor of our house, or whether we'll eat out for dinner tonight. As brought to my attention by CS Lewis in The Screwtape Letters, Satan doesn't need to divert us away from God, he only needs to distract us and thereby render us useless.

overlooking the city of Antigua, where the market is located, on our first day

I continue to pray that the Lord would not let me forget Guatemala. I remind myself that God is in Guatemala, and He is in Tennessee, and it is a privilege that He would allow me to be used in His kingdom's work.

the view from the mountains near Clubhouse Guatemala's camp

On a different note, this trip was the best mission trip I've experienced. Our group had so much fun together and I was amazed at the work ethic and good attitudes shown by everyone. The highlight of every day, for me, was our time spent together at the mission house each evening. We ate dinner together, shared our high points and low points of each day, walked through the neighborhood to a tienda to buy glass bottle Cokes. It was interesting to hear everyone's perspectives on the day and to hear about unique experiences or conversations they had.

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