So this is it. I have now
completed two trips with delegations and I have since found out that
I have yet to send everyone home in one piece. Apparently, one
of the guys on the last trip ended up with bacterial dysentery and
Becky from this trip went through the gates to the plane in a
wheelchair because she felt so sick. Let me tell you, if you
haven't already guessed it, Guatemala is no place for wimps.
And for this reason, I question my ability to be here for nine more
months. Thankfully for me, I have God and Scott on my side to
help me through the tough times.
Tough Times. A
good place to start. Here in Guatemala there are new surprises
around every corner. From foods you are expected to eat to
people you meet and their amazing stories. This trip was
definitely a labor of love for everyone. Don't get me wrong,
we all had a great time, but with all great times, there are moments
when you are saying to yourself, "I decided to come here to do
what exactly? And how do I propose to get it done?"
folks with the
The group as we trek up the mountain
We started out by attending the
Presbytery meeting in Santo Tomás. We were greeted with a
welcome sign in three languages and a couple of guys with conjunctivitis.
There is quite an epidemic here because people don't get themselves
treated quickly (due to lack of money and/or education), they love
to shake hands with everyone (it's a friendly culture, whatcha gonna
do, not shake someone's hand?) and don't always wash their hands
regularly (there isn't always water available in the fields where
they work). So, by the end of the week, I fell victim to pink
eye and I am still squirting drops in my eyes.
It was worth it though. I got
to see the joy and excitement on everyone's face when the covenant
was signed. It's a three year agreement between First Presbyterian
Church of Howard County and the Boca Costa Presbytery. For
those of you that don't know, a presbytery is a group of churches
within the national church that typically reside in one
region. This particular presbytery is indigenous and
therefore, many people only speak Quiché. So we translated
from Spanish to English after someone else translated from Quiché
to Spanish. Talk about making already long meetings longer..
Cristobal and Pat
shake on the deal
During all of the
meetings Joe, Cathy (a trainer from Howard) and I translated for the
others. Obviously those sitting with Cathy and Joe got more
content, but hey, at least I'm cute, right? And I do lack body odor,
which in this church was a good thing. Boy did it get stuffy
and downright hot. Again I found myself feeling as though a
sumo wrestler had a hold of Guatemala in a choke hold and we were
being smothered by some part of him. I think one of the most
valuable things I learned on this trip though, and don't ask me why
this didn't occur to me before, is that the Americans have no idea
if I'm translating correctly. While you'd think I might just
have some fun with this, I generally just get all nervous trying to
translate everything word for word with interjections of
"Yeah... I don't know what he just said". Such is
the life of an honest translator. A labor of love that I have
yet to master but I am determined.
Since this was a short trip, after two
days of meetings we all got our hiking gear on for my first hike up a
mountain. For everyone else, it was old hat as on their last
trip, they went up everyday to help build composting latrines, host a
medical clinic and work on an organic garden. Everyone warns me to
bring lots of water, which I agree with 100% but then leave my water
bottle on the table at the hotel. Thankfully Pat had two and
gave me one. Whew. So up we go. UP and up and
up. I didn't think we'd every reach the top and was continually
reminded of my out-of-shapeness when I'd see an 85-year-old
practically running up the mountain or when we were passed by guys
carrying loads with their heads and neck.
Manuel, pastor and 85-yr old
Typical way for men to carry heavy loads
We labored all the way to the top and
what a hike! It was definitely worth the view and the welcome
we received when we arrived. People were clapping for the
gringos as we made the last turn and got to the top of the mountain
and into the town of Panquiney (pronounced Pan-kee-nay). The
church service was lovely and the women presented a beautiful banner
to Howard County.
Photo of the path
we took up the mountain
Another startling, yet
exciting thing was the flub turned sacred. Last time Howard
County was here, they presented the Monte Sión Iglesia with a
cross. It was replica of the cross that was made for their
church in Maryland. Filled with excitement, they were shocked
to find out that here, Presbyterian churches rarely have crosses in
their churches. They consider it sacrilegious. Imagine
their surprise! BUT their pastor gave a great sermon about the
significance of the empty cross and that it's a symbol of
salvation. We were all elated to see it hanging in the front
of the church when we arrived. We're all just hoping it wasn't
just a "they're coming, hurry, put the cross up!" kind of
thing. Either way, it was a symbol of love and brotherhood in
Christ and it was moving.
Pakaya cooked and uncooked
For more pics, click
After the service had ended, we
stepped outside for my final labor of love. The pakaya.
When I first saw it, in my head I'm saying, animal? vegetable?
mineral? Feeling slightly panicky because it resembles a squid
but we're no where near the ocean, I ask "¿Comó se llama este?"
(What is this called? my polite way of finding out what things
are). Just as Isabel was explaining it to me, Martin comes
over with the pre-cooked version. It's a plant (sigh of
relief) that only grows on this mountain and is a staple for the
people of Panquiney. They cook it with eggs and serve it with
salsa. And I eat it. All of it.
I am certain God was present in me
that day. And if you were wondering, no, it didn't taste like
This verse was read on the day the covenant was
signed. I think it says it all.
Ephesians 4: 3
Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the
bond of peace.