Guatemala Day 2

Guatemala Day 2

?? Guatemala ??
Day 2:
Jan 27

I was startled awake by the sound of rapid explosions … My eyes shot wide open, darting from wall to wall in the strange room. Gunshots? Machine gun? Sunshine streamed through the gaps in the Ikat curtains, making me squint and recoil as I tried to pull the drapes together.
“The sun comes up entirely too early here…” my roommate mumbled with a raspy voice muffled by the pillow her face was shoved into.

I checked my watch… 6:30 … “Yeah, so do the explosions”

“Fireworks… remember,” her grumbly voice made its way out of the pillow.

Now I remembered. The mission director had told us the evening before that we would hear fireworks most of the night because it was a Friday and people were partying. At the time, it didn’t seem that different from living at the lake. But fireworks at 6:30 am were definitely not the norm for me.

We made our way down the path to the main dining hall for breakfast and were met with the smell of eggs, black beans, and coffee with watermelon, pineapple, and papaya. I couldn’t recall any other time I had eaten beans for breakfast, but these creamy black beans had a unique flavor that would hands down take the cake for the best breakfast beans ever!
With our bellies full, we made our way to the courtyard with our yoga mats. We watched Rocky, the missionary dog, run laps around the courtyard as we made our way down to our mats. Megan guided us through a gentle stretch series as the sun warmed our bodies. I wanted to stay on that mat in the courtyard soaking up the warm sunshine for the rest of the day, but there were tortillas to make. The sweet cooks at the mission had offered to teach us how to make Guatemalan tortillas, which are a bit puffier and smaller than the Tex-Mex tortillas we’re used to. I had some work deadlines that had to be tended to, so I passed on the process but watched as the rest of the group learned the art. A chorus of giggles and chatter accompanied the rhythmic pat-pat patting as the group slapped the dough from one hand to the next. The scent of the fresh tortillas wafted from the griddle as the cheese toppings sizzled. We savored the tortillas and returned to the courtyard to prepare for our guests to arrive.

A group of Guatemalan women from local churches was coming for a “women’s conference.” We would fellowship with them, share stories, and have craft time, and we needed to prepare. This was the intro to our mission work in Guatemala, and none of us had a clue what to expect. We had prepared for 30-40 women but were happy when the smaller group arrived. What we had not prepared for was the large amount of children the women brought with them. Somewhere along the way, we overlooked that it was Saturday and the kids were out of school.

I quickly volunteered to help with the kids, which is out of my nature. I will choose teens, women, and adults all day over kids. But, my spirit was a bit unsettled, and I felt the village children would be the best place for me to serve. The missions director and I hastily made our way to a storage room to scour through bins looking for toys, coloring books, and any activity we could find! In the dimly lit room, there was a stack of twin-sized mattresses to my right towering from the floor to the ceiling. I wondered if they were a result of a well-intentioned donation when in fact, crayons would have been a more practical gift at this moment. We rummaged through suitcases and bins, landing on multiple jump ropes and multi-colored parachute material for our “children’s activities”…. This would keep them entertained for hours I thought…

Heidi and I dumped our loot on a table and called the kids to our courtyard corner. It was far enough from the ladies to not distract and had plenty of sunshine to keep us warm. We chose the parachute as our first activity while we taught the kids how to grab pieces of the fabric and collectively throw it up and down, letting the wind catch between its sails while it billowed in the air and cascaded towards the ground. Various small children gathered on the ground beneath the parachute in a tent like manner to see the firsthand experience of the fabric wafting back to the ground. The bigger boys stood steadfast, determined to keep the fabric pumping up and down. Shrills of laughter and shrieks of joy emitted from both above and below the material. Child-like faith erupted in bouts of Spanish, beckoning one another to take a seat below the parachute.

“Abajo, Arriba,” I called out as I pumped the fabric up and down until my arms couldn’t take any more. I released my fabric piece and stepped aside to take a break. The kids filed away one by one and quickly found the stack of jump ropes. We unwrapped the packages handing out the ropes; we decided to have a game of tug of war. Heidi and I became team captains and began sorting the kids into each of our teams. I noticed each child assigned to my team had a grimace on their face or a sense of reluctance… The fourth little boy finally looked up to Heidi and said
“Pero no puedo hablar inglés”
*but, I can’t speak English…”
There it was. At least I knew that it wasn’t a personal offense with me.

The tug-of-war battle quickly dissipated, and we moved on to jump rope. I didn’t realize this was something they had not done before, and I would be teaching them how to
jump rope. Throwing one loop after another over my head, I began skipping the rope. I promptly removed my hat and began skipping faster. The village children gathered round as I jumped faster and faster. A few were eager to try their hand at this new activity. I quickly tied two ropes together and appointed a friend to swing the other end. We methodically swung overhead and counted out in Spanish as each child jumped…. Uno, dos, tres, quatro, cinco…. They jumped and jumped and jumped… Every time we neared the point of exhaustion with our shoulders aching, a kid would come up smiling ear to ear and beckoning in Spanish requests repeatedly for us to swing the rope one more time.

As the day came to a close, we bid the women and children goodbye.
Energized by the group and not yet ready to call it a day, we asked if we could take a walk through the village. We were quickly informed that you don’t leave the concrete walls of the mission. As a group that was not accustomed to sitting still and looking pretty, we found that perplexing. Thankfully, one of the groundskeepers had a property not far from the mission, and was willing to take us for a walk to see his property. With a bit of pleading and persuading, we were eventually granted permission to take an evening stroll, but not without the guided assistance of the Rottweiler guard dog. We strolled past a high stucco wall and solid iron gate as we questioned who might live behind those walls. We weaved our way up the hill and through a footpath running between two tiers of houses. From a roof on the uphill side of the path, a dog relentlessly barked at our group. Fearing he might pounce on us from overhead, we were grateful to see him leashed on the roof. We stepped down a few steps to see the parcel of land that we had come to visit. It couldn’t have been much larger than 20×20’ but it had every corner of the property filled. From the chicken coop to the rabbit cage, this was a working piece of property. Building materials lay in a pile waiting for the supply to be enough to build the house’s first floor. We wandered down the lane and followed our leader on a path through a large vegetable garden. The sun was setting, and kids were running about, sneaking a peak at the group of “gringas.” Music from a nearby fiesta drifted through the air, and we heard the familiar rat-tat-tat of fireworks.

We wrapped up our evening walk and were soon back inside the mission walls, where we learned that there had never been a group as adventurous as us in the mission. I thought of 1 Timothy 2:7
for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.
Just look at this group of emboldened women that God had assembled for such a time as this. I couldn’t wait to see how he used this group to impact the kingdom.

Picture of women walking through a garden in the village of Santo Tomas, Guatemala.
Walking through a garden in the village of Santo Tomas.

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