Gabby's Entry #8

"Dios esta aquí"

God is here.

I see it everyday here.  Guatemala is a place of poverty and suffering but at the same time it is a place of great wealth -- of spirit.  There is a grace for receiving and a joy and love for the Lord.  Everywhere you look you can see and HEAR signs of His presence – from the inscriptions on back of microbuses to the hundreds of churches with giant speakers blasting the word of God across the countryside. 

This group of 12 from Madison, Wisconsin felt His presence here, with us.  Many things happened on this trip, not all of which I will be able to tell in one sitting, or maybe ever.  Not because I don’t want to but because it would be really difficult to express all that I felt and experienced on this trip. 
The biggest difference with this trip than others, I think, was the level of challenge the group faced almost immediately upon arrival. 
We shuttled them up to 12,000 feet where the altitude made it was difficult for them to breathe.  They were then ushered into a hotel, the finest San Juan Ixcoy had to offer, that was less then they expected.  There were shared double beds for the women and one hot shower per floor in the shared bath at the end of the hall complete with urinal in the open.  And no heat with nights in the 30s and 40s.  The next day, we went to breakfast, had a bible study and headed down to our worksite.  A 30-minute walk, we were told by our Guatemalan brothers.  For them, sure!  For us gringos, not so much.  Two hours later, we arrived, after an exhausting HIKE through mountain terrain.  There were boulders to cross, holes to avoid, logs to step over or around, steep grades and thin paths all along this beautiful countryside.   I think for many it was hard to see the grandeur during this laborious walk.

The 30 minute walk that took us 2 hours

The mountainside worksite

And, as if this weren’t enough, God decided we needed some more challenges!  One of the people in the group (let’s call him Bob) has been through three kidney transplants.  He became dehydrated and unable to drink more fluids because he was nauseous, probably due to altitude sickness and exertion.  The group worried and prayed.  Another person was sick as well, unable to eat and feeling puny.  But as a family, Guatemalans and North Americans alike, we persevered and hiked back from the mountain worksite on a trail possibly more treacherous than the original.  All intact, all tired but all relieved, we survived this day.

Because we couldn’t be sure of his electrolyte levels and the nature of his health, the decision was made to take Bob to the hospital.  Simple enough, right?  Wrong.  It was nighttime, in the mountains, in a remote town.  The clinic was closed.  There is no doctor available.  So Charity and I went to seek advice while Selena did the same. We asked the local Peace Corps. worker, Jordan, if he knew of a doctor in town.  He took us directly to the Mayor who recommended two clinics in Soloma, a town 20 minutes away.  The mayor didn’t have the numbers so he suggested we go to the police station.  We arrived to find Selena already there, getting help and information.  We called the clinic.  The doctor agreed to return with Martin, our driver, to San Juan Ixcoy.  An hour later they had returned with the doctor and a nurse.  After administering an IV and assessing his health the doctor recommended we take Bob to the hospital.  A police escort was arranged due to the late hour but they had no lights on their truck.  So Selena bought some.  The nurse agreed to accompany Bob to the hospital in Huehuetenango, two hours away.  God traveled with them too, but it was God that stayed behind with the rest of us as well. 

The stories you don't hear in the US papers are the ones like these.  When someone dies, it makes the papers.  When all things fall into place and someone LIVES, through the grace of God in the hands of others, you can't read about it in the morning paper or on the web.  Where do you read about a doctor who left his home at 7pm at night from a town 20 minutes away, who was so touched by what the group was doing to help his people in Guatemala, that he refused to accept payment for his services, his time, or his 20-minute cab ride back to his home?  And the nurse who traveled for two hours to the hospital, stayed the night and didn't return home until the following day?  These acts are newsworthy but they often only remain in the hearts of those that experienced it.  

At the same time, those of us that stayed behind were bonded by this experience -- the whole experience.  We felt the love and support of our Guatemalan brothers and sisters who assisted us in our mountain hikes to our water project worksite. And we felt a special love for each other.  Without the Guatemaltecos we would not have been able to make it.  Literally.  The second day only two from the group went back to the worksite and the third day, one.  But God had other plans for those that stayed remained in the aldea (tiny village) of Yulguitz.  His plan, while different from ours, led to greater understanding of culture, stronger friendships, shared moments and appreciation for the work the women do daily.

Because God guides our path and leads the way, a Vietnam vet and a draft dodger roomed together because they both snore.  Conversations happened that otherwise would not have.  A favorite food in a tube became sustenance for the tired and the sick on that first long hike.  Two women that didn’t know each other from Adam before this trip spent many nights up late talking in their shared bed and tiny room.  A Guatemalan baby was named after a pastor and a sick man.  A Guatemalan student became a leader, friend, brother and guardian angel.  A mother watched her daughter communicate in ways she had never seen before.  A man depended on others as he had never done before.  Guatemalans realized that sometimes, they are stronger than those from the North.  A pastor was given a day “to be” in the presence of God and his fellow man.  People were changed.

We sang this song, led by Guatemalans.  Charity and I liked it so much, we translated it, in the mountains at the worksite where our Guatemalan friends were mixing concrete and creating a water source for their village some five miles away.  I think it’s a great way to end this journey.  A tale of a family created in the love of God.

Dios esta aquí

Tan cierto como el aire que respiro,

Tan cierto como en la mañana, se levanta el sol,

Tan cierto que cuando le hablo, El me puede oír.

I know God is here

As sure as the air I breathe,

As sure as the morning, when the sun comes up,

As sure he hears the words I speak.

John 1: 1-5

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He wsa with God in the beginning.  Through him all things were made; without himnothing ws made that has been made.  In him ws life, and that life was the light of men.  The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.