Gabby's Entry #4

"Seeing Hope When You're Not Looking"

You guys know how much I love to travel and organize and plan and read, so you'd think this first trip would be a breeze, right?  Wrong.  More like a stiff wind pushing me forward when I still wanted to be standing still or better yet, be in bed at 5:30 in the morning.  BUT, I'm proud to say that not only did I survive my first official delegation trip but I also helped three people travel through Guatemala and back safely (with my boss, Selena, of course). 

So let me quickly introduce my first group.  Since they were my first (blush), I thought it only appropriate that they get billing here.  Rix made it all happen and got the group coordinated and here.  He is the Youth and Mission Pastor for Wilmington FPC.  He was the happy-go-lucky guy who missed his wife and his camera but always wore a smile and a great attitude.  Jonathan is a lawyer turned realtor who was determined to learn Spanish in one week.  He was affectionately referred to as "gigante" (being 6'7", you can imagine why). Elisita grew up in Guatemala and spent the week taking us on a journey of her own, describing her childhood here and sharing her stories with everyone she met.                                    

Rix displaying tropical fruit 
at the finca  

Jonathan proudly wearing his new purchase 

Elisita (far right) in a traditional Guatemalan apron

Now that we've got the pleasantries out of the way, we can move on.  One of the things I have learned here is that there is always time to say hello and to give hugs whenever you meet someone new or run into an old friend.  There is no shortage of hugs and kisses here and, for that, I am ever grateful.  While this was a work trip it was also designed to introduce the group from Wilmington, NC, to Guatemala.  It was a whirlwind tour.  I slept in 5 different beds during our 7-day trip.  

Roberto's house in the Colonia of Santa Fe

A composting toilet

Shortly after their arrival, we were off to Santa Fe for a 2-day crash course in poverty, faith, and hope.  The only bad part about this is that it took place in a sumo wrestler's armpit.  As people love to say here, "¡AYE, Hace CALOR!"  Which basically translates into, "you've got to be crazy going to a place that HOT!" (but not literally Jonathan, literally it's "Aye, It's hot!")

While we were there, we visited homes of families in the colonia of Santa Fe.  With the help of Mercedes, a wonderful strong Christian woman and Diaconia, the service arm of the Presbyterian Church of Guatemala, Roberto and his family were able to build their home.  Now they no longer have to live in a wooden shack that didn't provide proper shelter.  During the rainy season, Roberto told us water was often up to their ankles in the house and the kids were always getting sick.  Now, he proudly showed us his new one-room, cinder block home with the composting toilet out back and a water filter.

I think all would agree it was a great learning experience.  We helped to construct two water filters, made new friends, learned about composting toilets, read books to kiddos and helped make homeopathic salves the community can use and sell.  Oh yeah, and we also began the work for their tree planting project by filling bag bags with compost and dirt.  This small community garden will provide food and income for the families in a couple of years.  

Diaconia consultants were with us to train everyone using the old adage, "don't give a man a fish, teach him to fish."  Walter and Salome were great examples of Christian brotherhood.  Through their patience, understanding, and ability to make people feel as though they were in charge of their future, I saw hope shining in the eyes of men and women.  

An example of true community

Oh, did I mention that on Sunday, the first full day of our trip, I was responsible for translating the 2.5 hour sermon for Jonathan?  Yeah, he got like, 2/3's of it and by the time it was done, I felt like two pimply-faced boys from grade school had been pulling me by my ears in different directions. Talk about challenging!  And, to answer your next question, NO, I don't know that much Spanish already.  I just fake it real good (I haven't forgotten my Texan yet, either). 

After Santa Fe we had the privilege of staying at the Santa Elena Finca for a night.  A finca is a farm or plantation.  This one was specifically for coffee. We toured the grounds and Mark, the owner, told us tales of the declining coffee market (did you know that after oil, coffee is the next largest commodity traded globally?), and the changes they have made because of it. It's a fascinating process.  For more pictures, check out Wilmington photos.

Then from the finca, we went to the Instituto de Bíblio where Scott is currently working so I got to see my cute hubby for a day!  We painted with our Guatemalan friends and I weakly translated for Jonathan and Rix.  Jonathan's mom, who I decided must be a really sweet lady, sent along reams of wallpaper to spice up the bathrooms.  We're hoping it'll stick to the rather rough cement walls.  The guys really seemed to like it and next time I'm there I'll have to check out the facilities and report back.

Juan, Marcos, Jonathan, Domingo & me

Well, I wish I had more to say or that this was more exciting, but alas, it's not.  Tomorrow I leave on my next trip and wanted to get this one on the books before I forgot everything we did.  I know I left out a ton of details but it gives you an idea of what life will be like for me these next ten months as well as the great work the groups do when they give up a week of vacation to spend time with us here in Guatemala.

This trip reminded me of a new favorite quote of mine, that I want to share RIGHT NOW!  Ready?  "I pray as all depends on God.  I work as if all depends on me."  - Saint Teresa of Avila

The work crew at the Institute

Thanks guys for a great trip!  Scott and I will be by for a visit after we get back to the States!  :)

Bible Verse
This is one of the bible verses we read on the first day of the trip.  It reminded me why I'm here and how I hope to be forever changed by this experience.  Isn't God funny like that?
Matthew 19: 16-28
16"Now a man came up to Jesus and asked, "Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?"... 23Then Jesus said to his disciples, "I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.  Again, I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle then for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."...  28Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.  And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.  But many who are first will be last and many who are last will be first.