thanks for all your lovely comments about part one of my guatemala missions trip blog post. there are already a few things i’m remembering i want to go back and add to the first post: stories, quotes, thoughts. that’ll always be the case though. so i’m going to leave it and keep writing.
a story that comes to mind is what happened to our group after our first real work-day on monday. we arrived on a thursday night, i think, and had spent friday, saturday, sunday doing pretty fun things. sleeping in hostels, touring in three full buses, a drive into the countryside to monjas, tossing some basketballs around with the kids at the orphanage, a saturday night church service, sunday morning church + hanging out with the sunday school kids, playing soccer “football” in the afternoon on the streets of the city with whoever came by, an evening trip to antigua. monday, the work started. there were three groups, as mentioned before, two missions teams, one band team. the first group of the missions teams was to work all week building a house for a lady in the community. the second group was to help in children’s ministry at the church, teaching vacation bible school each morning from monday to friday. i was in the second group.
i don’t remember having a bad attitude. i don’t remember my team complaining or anyone voicing negativity. but i can’t say we were excited. it’s not that we weren’t excited to be there, it’s that we were in a little bit of culture shock. guatemala VBS isn’t like canada VBS. things are unorganized. once again, only one of us spoke spanish on the VBS team. we couldn’t communicate. things started late. after VBS ended, our team waited around, eating our lunches, solving sudoku puzzles on the concrete church floor for over two hours. it was disorganized. and for our north american, go go go brains, this was a little hard to figure out.
i battled a lot of feelings of uselessness too. i see such purpose in God placing me on the VBS team and not the construction team. i would have loved the construction team. sure, i would have been hot and sweaty and sore and tired, but i would have DONE something. at the end of each work day, i could have looked at a new wall, clapped my hands and patted myself on the back: look at that! we did that! — in VBS, this wasn’t the case. what was i doing? what did i have to show for it? the weekend before, my journal after the shadow of his wings orphanage, echoed the same thoughts. here’s an excerpt:
i really didn’t know what to expect on this trip. no idea. i am not feeling any crazy sort of calling or excitement here. i mean, i love the church, i love youth ministry. i like communicating, sharing, having relationship. with the language barrier, it feels really impossible. all i did today was hold some kids’ hands and hug them for a few hours. and i KNOW there is purpose in that, without a doubt.. but i just feel like we are touring, y’know? does it make more sense to pour money into missionaries who know the language?
after our first day of VBS on monday, this was more of my heart on the page:
this morning, my team taught/helped at VBS. it’s difficult. i know about three spanish words. none. five year olds are hard enough to entertain, let alone when you have no way of communicating. i really feel like we are just babysitting. but not even fun babysitters, because we can’t talk… i am loving it though. i love being at the church, i love being in fellowship with our team members. i feel super encouraged and supported… i guess i’m still struggling with the effectiveness of what we are doing here.
apparently i wasn’t alone in these thoughts and that was the general feeling of our VBS team. on the construction team, they were exhausted, sun-burned, tired, hungry. they were hammering nails all day long in stinkin’ hot weather. in the evening, both teams drove over two hours in ridiculous city traffic out to a church service somewhere where our band had already started their worship set. we arrived tired, bored, still processing feelings from our first day of VBS. they arrived bright-red from the sun, skin shining with sweat, looking like they had been run over by semi-trucks. after the church service, a long-drive back to the city hostel.
it was almost midnight: we were exhausted. through and through. as we were entering the hostel our leader and youth pastor stopped us all and said, i need everyone in the great room. now. we sat down, perhaps, too tired and sleepy to bother speaking, perhaps, too afraid of what was coming next. he opened his mouth and started to express his love for us: this amazing team he’s brought to guatemala. the biggest youth missions trip [number of people] the church has ever organized. he was proud of our team, excited to bring us to central america. and that day, we had failed him. embarrassed him. our faces were like stone as we struggled to process the words he spoke. one team was frustrated: wanting to do more, bored, tired of waiting around for the bus. the other team was frustrated, too: hot, tired, mad at the VBS team for working in the shade under a roof all day.
our pastor was moved to tears. [i love my pastor.] he went on to say, who were we to complain about the work God would have us do for His kingdom? who were we to demand that He put us in a different place? who were we to tell the Lord that this work wasn’t meaningful enough, this work wasn’t accomplishing enough? Psalm 84:10 says “better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked.” — we are to be DELIGHTED to simply hold the door in His house. if all we did in our lives, every single day, was stand at the church door and open it up when somebody approached, that would be enough. because THAT would be the work He would have us do.
ton of bricks hittin’ my head that evening. and every single other young adult sitting in that dusty hostel gathering room. i spent all day telling the Lord how my gifts could be more effectively and efficiently used. ahhh i felt like crying. i’m so thankful that God is a God of GRACE. i went to bed that night humbled, thinking, woah it’s hard to be a Christian. this humble love and grace and servant-heartedness is so counter to our nature as humans.
the rest of the week was easier, having been put in our place and ready to serve wholeheartedly however God would have us do that. the kids in guatemala are beautiful. we lead a bible lesson everyday with the help of a translator to a group of kids: my friend steven and i lead together. at the beginning and end of the morning, we’d have a group singing/dancing/action-doing times. haha!
every afternoon after VBS we were off doing something else– usually a trip to an orphanage. and every evening we were joining the band for one of their concerts. it was such a crazy experience. we’d pull up to this random ghetto [in the literal sense of the word] to meet the band who had been there a few hours already to set up. we’d listen to them play a selection of spanish and english songs. there’d be random dogs wandering throughout, teenagers around, half-listening, half-ignoring us. then our pastor would preach a simple message about Jesus’ salvation, through a translator, once again. we saw a lot of people come to know Christ which was very encouraging.
…i’m hoping to wrap up everything else i want to say in part three. let’s see if i can do it. thanks for reading all this.
then sam turned the camera on me. and then josh walked in front on purpose.
i’ve never eaten more at mcdonald’s in my life than that week.
the boys found ponchos. they were excited.
i loved having my brother on this trip. sam took this for us. like i mentioned, a little bit of the familiar in an unfamiliar place.
most gorgeous girl of life:
don’t they look like they could be father and son? unbelievable.
inner city orphanage known as “precious moments.” i have more to say about them later.
this girl followed me around and would look up at me and say “blahbablahBAblahhhhba” to copy what my english sounded like to her. haha!
the children’s pastor at the church we worked at.
this is susi. her arm was burned when she was left at home alone one day at two or three years old. her mother had to go to work.
oh that’s nice, josh. pretty.
here’s my friend lucas licking paint.
my beautiful friend abby who i got to know on the trip. she’s wonderful & such a solid woman. i like that she speaks spanish fluently. helpful.