Gabby's Entry #15

"My Goodbye Thoughts on Guatemala"

In San Juan Ixcoy on our 1st anniversary visiting Charity's new home

Never in my life have I had such a concentration of time when I did more things that I didn’t want to do, out of love for others. 

I am not saying this to impress anyone or to seek praise but more to try to express in one sentence this year and what it was for me and probably for all of the volunteers here in Guatemala.  And yet I loved it.  The bad all-cauliflower dinner..sneeze-in-a-bowl soup… the 4-hour long church services...  the 7-hour bus rides up windy roads that made other people vomit… peeing in latrines and finding it normal… showering twice a week and feeling lucky if I was able to bathe more often than that… wearing the same 2 weeks-worth of clothes all year…  Not because I am sadistic or mentally unstable but because as the old saying goes, “what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger.”  And I can feel this strength in my faith and my love for ALL God’s people.  To be more clear, as not to impress a narrower opinion – ALL the people of the world.

I also think about how I have been accepted and appreciated this year.  I don’t think I have ever been more loved for who I am by people I just met, than here in Guatemala.  I think only five Guatemalans actually know what I used to do in the States.  This has been wonderful and difficult.  It’s wonderful to be loved simply for being.  Difficult because of how we identify ourselves in the US.  Here no one asked what I did before I got here and therefore, the worth I feel being “that”, whatever “that” is, doesn’t exist.  It’s been a lesson in humility but also a lesson in perspective and how important it is for me to love who I am and not what it is that I do. 

As Scott and I prepare to leave our new home and family, we are seeking ways to keep this enthusiasm and newfound knowledge alive.  We decided one way to do it is to write a family mission statement.  We have begun our brainstorming session and have come up with some words and phrases. 

Integrity, service, community, accompaniment, friends of the world, compassion, maintaining a common goal, following God’s will and not our own, recycling, focus on WANT vs NEED, generosity, love, growth together in faith, relationships, positive attitude, “things” don’t matter…

Maybe our list would’ve been the same if we didn’t come to Guatemala but somehow I doubt it.  We have been blessed with an opportunity to step outside of our reality and into another.  Before this year, this reality didn’t exist in my world.  I actually believed that maybe, we were living in a better time.  That somehow we were the generation that was benefiting from the labor of our ancestors.  The facts show, however, that only a very small percentage of us are living this life.  I am reminded of one of my favorite verses that says, “…What does the Lord require of you?  To seek justice, to love kindess and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8) 

Miranda, Gab, Kara, Carla at our 
Going-Away Party

Graciela, Selena, Jen, Gab, Charity at
Surprise Bday Party for SCABBY

So I hear that verse in my head a lot these days.  And sometimes it’s really overwhelming.  How can I, one person, help the whole world?   I guess part of the reason for this is that my definition of “us” has grown significantly over this year.  Instead of only thinking of friends, family, and myself, I have been forced to see the world around me.  Statistics show that, eighty percent of the world’s wealth is owned by twenty percent of the world’s population.  So our year of service among the poor in Guatemala and the life we have tried to live isn’t the exception, it’s more the rule.

Do I have a new sense of guilt for where I was born and for what I have?  Sure.  But what I really gained is a sense of responsibility and knowledge of the privileges I have.  Now the real challenge begins as I return home because that’s where I have the opportunity to take this gift or return it to the store that I bought it from.  I can change my life or I can continue on the path I started the day I graduated from college.  I can view success as my society views it or I can take a different stance and view success the way God views it.  The first one would be a whole helluva lot easier but I still think I’ll choose the latter.  After all, who better to impress than the Creator of the universe?

So, what does all this rambling amount to?  Good question.  Here are some things that I have been thinking a lot about and have decided are worthy of noting as a daily reminder to myself.

Remember to distinguish the difference between WANT and NEED.
This applies to the house we will buy in the future, the clothes we choose and beauty products we buy.  Does this mean I won’t buy of these things?  No, but I hope I can think of what Graciela would say if I walked in her door and told her how much I spent on X, Y, or Z.

I was doing this before this year but not as well as I could have.  This is one that is really under my skin these days.  “Right in your own backyard” has a whole new meaning, especially regarding trash because it is “litterally” (pun intended) strewn all over this country.  In the US, it’s easier to ignore because we ship it off to someone else’s backyard.  Not here.  So, we are going to try cloth diapers when the day comes.  I am going to quit buying chewing gum because what good is it after all?  Everything about it is trash.  I will find consignment stores to look for clothes.  Use rechargeable batteries.  And the lists go on.

Remember what it means to be in COMMUNITY. 
Meaning that I will try to support all my friends and their goals.  How can I help?  How can we hold each other accountable?  Loving each other no matter where we live.

Remember NOT to take LUXURIES for granted. 
To list a few… drinkable running water inside your home, cable tv, electricity, microwaves, a car for each adult in the family, an indoor bathroom, free education for 13 years, access to reliable healthcare, meat at every meal, and clean, free-from-the-smoke-of-burning-garbage air.

When I don’t know what to do.  When I am happy.  When I am sad.  When I need guidance.  When I need hope.  I think this one will be the most challenging.  Finding time for God seems so obvious as a next step and yet sometimes for me, if I am honest with myself, it’s the most difficult.

This is just the beginning of my list.  I share it with you so you can help keep me accountable.  I want to add other things I know I have in my head but some I just haven’t realized exist yet.  Things that are important to me here but that are invisible in this place will probably be blaringly obvious when we return to the US. 

I sincerely hope and pray that those who already know me and love me will be willing to travel on this journey with me.  Not to become who I am, but to understand the importance of these things in my life and to help me to stay on track.  I, in return, hope to be the best friend I can to all those I encounter.

As I finish this journal entry, I remember three things.  One is the first few lines in Charity’s final newsletter that says living a year in Guatemala, it humbles you.  So true.  And the second is a favorite saying by Maya Angelou, “People will forget what you said but they will never forget the way you made them feel.”  And finally, a bible verses I discovered and then heard again during the best sermon I heard all year by Carlos Colop in San Juan Ixcoy this year.  “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind…” Romans 12:2 NIV


To tirelessly seek God’s will each day by living lives of integrity, owning what we have, growing together in faith, and serving all people to build a world without need.


As I sign-off from Guatemala, here are some things I will definitely miss:
  • Our family and the never-ending hospitality for all of our guests and for us.
  • The laughs, voices and smiles of Graciela, Martin, Franciso, Edwin, Yadi, Marlon, Eduardo, Josesito, Victor, and Johana.
  • Bathing by pouring warm water over my head that was heated on a fire outside.
  • Our little adobe casita with it's Michael Jordan and Mickey Mouse posters.
  • Guatemala time - la hora chapina.
  • Having women adjust my traje so it's just right in church, in the office, at a market.
  • The joy a polariod camera can create.
  • Seeing a woman milk a goat on a busy city street directly into a glass.
  • Our walk through the field of boulders in front of our house.
  • Receiving care packages from friends and family
  • The pila.
  • All the patience and kindness of others that was required for understanding and speaking a new language.
  • Our chuchos (pronounced: choo-chOs, dogs) El Droopy, La Boby, La Tarcy, Bailey and Dexter.
  • Having people call me hermana (sister) all the time.
  • Running outside with the family in a panic as somehow yells "LA LLUVIA" to get all the clothes off the line as it starts to rain.
  • Our special birthday dinners we cooked for the family.
  • Singing the doxology in Spanish.
  • The enthusiastic goodbyes and hellos from our family with everyone yelling at once.

We'll see everyone soon.  We love you!