I was wrecked on spring break this year.
No one was physically hurt.
There will be some emotional scars left behind.
The entire family was involved.
And, honestly, it’s something we would probably do all over again.
We spent spring break in Guatemala City on a family mission trip with our church, Fellowship Bible Church of Little Rock. We worked with Fellowship Guatemala and its pastor, Daniel Bran, who is working with children who are falling through the cracks in a country that sees some pretty large fissures in the landscape of its population.
Katie has been twice before with church groups, and it has made a profound impact on her. When the opportunity for a family trip over spring break materialized, she nudged us to consider going. It being her senior year, we wanted to see what it was that wrecked her every time she went.
It didn’t take long to see.
The first night there, we made the first of what became nightly trips to a tienda, a store that featured a variety of fruits covered in chocolate – they even offered a chocolate covered waffle! We passed a couple of young girls playing on a sidewalk, and on our return Katie thought she recognized one of them. In clear Spanish, Katie asked the girl’s name, and they recognized each other, even singing a song that Katie’s group had taught the girl on a previous trip.
Seeing her interact with the girls brought much pride to mom and dad, for sure.
Most of our days were spent around the opportunity center, which was about a half-mile walk through the streets of zone 17 in Guatemala City. It was an interesting mix of the smell of fresh bread, automotive exhaust and sewage. The infrastructure in the city was much different from what we were accustomed to in the states. The residents were not endowed with large homes or even yards, but rather lived in dwellings that seemed almost stacked on top of each other.
Many lived in one- or two-room homes with multiple family members, children and extending family living with them. The opportunity center we worked on was cramped and lacked some of the amenities we would deem necessary in the states, but the little smiling faces that greeted us in the afternoon didn’t seem to mind their surroundings one bit.
By the end of the week, we were encouraged to sponsor a child, which we had done at a previous church. $25 a month per child goes a long way toward helping these kids get educational and spiritual needs met, and by the end of the week we had walked away with four youngsters from the opportunity center receiving our support. The kids were very pleased, but having their parents thank us for the opportunities we were providing for their kids was especially moving.
One of the most moving moments for me during the week came at a time when I thought I was ready to leave.
I had spent two days with Candido, a handy man that worked for Daniel doing any sort of work that was needed. We were building a cinderblock wall along a hallway overlooking the opportunity center. It was being built to provide security from a resident of an apartment at the end of that hallway who was a alcoholic with a violent nature. He reportedly took it out on his family members enough that he was jailed, but would always return to continue the behavior.
Much of the time with Candido was spent trying to communicate with each other. It was fun teaching each other our native language, but I got to a point where conversation was just in the way of the work trying to be done. I would hand him blocks while he carefully set them into place along the wall.
About the time I was tiring of the work, I heard music inside the apartment. Since their door was normally open, I had a pretty good idea of the sparse living conditions in the home. Concrete floors (not stained, decorative ones, either) in the one room that also included a bed, perhaps a stove, and precious little else.
Yet, from behind the closed door, I heard not only music, but the voice of the women who lived in the apartment singing along. This went on for quite a while, until they left to walk their dog, smiling and saying “Hola” as they passed me.
It struck me that they seemed content with their lives. Or, at least, could find happiness within their lives without the material possessions or comforts that we all take for granted.
The faces of the children, the way adults looked you in the eye and greeted you on the streets, and the love that was poured out from my children onto the youngsters was enough to wreck me in a profound and wonderful way.
I would strongly urge you to take a trip outside of our borders to see how the majority of our world lives. If nothing else, consider sponsoring a child; you probably won’t miss the $25 a month, but it could make a huge difference for a youngster in Guatemala.
For more information, go to http://fellowshipmissions.com/events/