We are just over one week back from a great trip to Guatemala. For me, and I think everyone in our group, the trip was a powerful experience. It was a great opportunity to see a new culture and people, to serve there in some small way, and develop relationships within our group.
Now that we have been back to our normal lives for a week, I wanted to note a few thoughts I had,
1)We had a really nice trip
2)Going back to normal life happens quickly
3)The relationships last
By all measures, the trip was a great success. It was well planned and organized, travel was safe and seamless in both directions and while in Guatemala, the work was meaningful and helpful, the weather was beautiful and we all returned home safely. While not without challenge or frustration, the group stuck together and we were able to have lots of fun and spend meaningful time together and make many new friends.
Back to normal life
I had intended to write this on Saturday since we returned to the church very late on Saturday night. I never found the time to sit down and get it done so I figured Sunday should work. I am glad I waited because walking through church on Sunday was very different from the week before. Last week, immediately after our return, my mind was full of excitement from our trip. We each were give two minutes and a topic to share with the congregation at the 9:30 and 10:45 services. It seemed impossible to pick where to start. Collin had challenged us to Journal for two weeks before the trip started and during the week in Guatemala. I do not journal regularly but was excited about the idea. I had only made two entries leading up to the trip but had logged some decent information for the days we were there. The Sunday we presented at church my mind was so full of excitement I was looking forward to some quiet time/ journaling that afternoon to sort out everything running through my head. After one week at home, I had been swept up in the busyness of work and home but never did take the time to reflect on the trip in any substantive way. Such a powerful experience was quickly overtaken by the busyness of life and its many distractions. What I find particularly ironic is that while we were there many of the people we met had so much less in terms of material things and conveniences and yet they seemed to operate at a much slower pace with a focus on relationships and were very happy. This had me questioning some of the tradeoffs of our lifestyles and wondering what I could change in my life to live in a more contented way.
For me, after one week at home life was competing with the experience in Guatemala for attention and it was a little surprising how quickly I came down from that mountain top experience. This was also apparent to me at church this morning. I did not go upstairs to the youth room so I missed the picture of the completed wall we had started. I understand this was completed during the week and it was shared with Collin. As I walked through the hallway between services, I saw a few fellow work campers but this week we were not wearing the matching shirts and not everyone was even present. It is all too easy to return to our normal lives and the power of the experiences sometimes fades more quickly than you would think, but one thing that has some staying power is the relationship with the people in our group. When I walk down the hallway and I see someone from that trip, they stand out to me because we have shared a special experience that is not found in many places. As a youth, I went to many work camps with our church and as I walk through the church on any given Sunday I know those people differently. Last Sunday as we were sharing our stories from this trip as I looked into the congregation I was counting people who I had been with on work camps in the past. These relationships are truly special and hard to come by without an immersive experience like a work camp. It was amazing to travel to Guatemala, meet, and help those people. I would like to thank everyone from our church who supported our group in various ways to make this trip possible. I would encourage anyone who is able to sign-up for the next trip whether with youth or adults, domestic or international, to serve the Lord and others and be blessed to be a blessing.
-- Chad Patterson
Well today is our travel day home. Some of us are tired and ready to come home while others wanted to stay a couple more days. This week was such a blessing and I'm grateful that God was in the midst of everything. And I believe that God is still doing His work and even though our time in Guatemala is over I don't believe that we are done doing stuff in Guatemala, and that God has something else in store.
This week wasn't always easy, with hard work of building and other projects, and sometimes there were minor disagreements, but friendships were made with the people of Guatemala as well as deeper friendships with those in our group, and I hope they only grow stronger and they don't stop just because our trip is over.
We are so grateful for all the prayers from everyone in the states. And I know that we all can't wait to share more about our trip with everyone! God bless everyone and thanks again for all the prayers.
Today was our transitional day, meaning the day we began the emotional, spiritual, and physical transition from serving among some truly remarkable missionaries and families in Guatemala, to serving in the more familiar roles of spouses, parents, employees, students, and members of Christ's body back in Pennsylvania.
Early this morning we traveled to the beautiful and historic town of Antigua, a place of Mayan and Spanish history, restaurants, breathtaking views, and chocolate. After visiting the large cross overlooking the town and volcanoes, we enjoyed an amazing breakfast buffet including omelettes, pancakes, fried plantains, fruits, and my personal favorite, a tortilla bar. After that we visited the historic remains of the Capuchin Convent, followed by a visit to the market, where our youth excelled at bartering (no doubt, from those late night games of Pit), and a final dinner at an authentic American BBQ. If you ever wanted to eat well, let Kasey choose your restaurant!
My favorite moment of the day, and perhaps even of the week, came at the Capuchin Convent. After visiting the tiny cells in which the nuns devoted their lives to a mission of prayer, poverty, and service, we came upon the basement, a large circular cellar, and unequalled acoustics. Kasey then had us line the outside circle of the room, and sing the Doxology. And, if you know anything about the musical gifts on this team, time stood still. Our voices blended in harmonies that drew others to listen. Christ was present. Doxology happened.
As I reflect on completing our time here, Doxology is the song of my heart. I am grateful to God for the radical hospitality of our resident missionaries, Kasey and Esther, and the many Guatemalan people with whom we broke bread as well as piñatas, shared stories and labor. I am grateful for Lisa and Collin who worked so hard to make the trip possible and for each and every member of the team who said yes to God and came ready to serve. I am grateful to First UMC and families who supported us and laid hands on us to send us as well as the church here that embraced us. I am grateful to God, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, for the grace to have been at the center of His will this week, and to share that adventure with others.
I can't say for certain if it was the prayers if those devoted nuns so long ago that led us here, or those prayers that watched over us on our journey, but for s moment in time their Doxology was our Doxology, and our song joined theirs.
And for that I praise God.
-- Cathy Boileau
Tonight was the night I looked forward to the most as it was the children's party at the mission center. About 20 children and youth came to share in an evening of fun, worship, and food. We started with outdoor games, relay races, a "Biggest fan" competition, and a lively rendition of "Going Bananas" led by our Servants mission leader Lisa. The Guatemalan children are very eager to learn English and so Pastor Cathy, Elizabeth, Brooke, Elijah, and myself taught them some English words and played pictionary in English. We shared about Pennsylvania and gave the kids Hershey bars to experience a little bit from our world. They loved the word dog, cat, and chicken the most! Next we came in for devotions and the youth led some amazing worship and Jonathan and Emily offered testimonies. Next came dinner with frijoles (beans), tostadas, guacamole, cheese, and Coke (a big hit). The big finale was to take group photos.
As I look back on the week, one of the greatest blessings for me was the connection with people who live here year round, as well as with members of our own team. I am accustomed to having a lot of quiet time and reflection but this week was a continuous flow of people. What I found was that I enjoyed getting to know the members of our team as well as those we served, and had many significant conversations. Most of them were working side to side, washing dishes, carrying buckets, waiting on cement to dry, painting, drilling, and actually helping a Guatemalan mother wash clothes. Something remarkable happens when we work side by side in God's mission. I grew to know and love each member of our team, as well as many of the people here in Guatemala, including Kasey and Esther (our missionaries), Myrna, whose wall we were building, Lisa, our team leader, as well as countless others we met along the way. What I treasure most about this trip will be the answer to a prayer that we were able to form bonds both in and outside the team, and experience the love of God through the words, actions, and face of our team from FUMC as well as here in Guatemala. What makes it so memorable is that one of the families said much of the same thing, and thanked us for sharing our lives and hearts with them.
Dios te bendiga, Villa Nueva. We will always remember you and hold you in our hearts.
-- Mike Boileau
Today was mainly a continuation of yesterday and the day before's work (one group painting and the other group mixing cement). So instead of talking about those things, I will discuss the great games we've played during our down time in the mission center.
We have played Liar, a card game involving placing cards 2 to Ace in order; Liar's dice, a similar game where you must try to guess the amount of a number or numerous dice; and Pit, where you have to collect nine of a resource to win, whilst avoiding cards that will lose you points. All of those games have brought our group more closely together, while also creating a competitive, fun atmosphere.
-- Elijah Hill
Today's start was earlier than usual, not as a result of the rooster everyone has written about, but an upset stomach woke me at 4:30am. After rolling to a more comfortable position, I was able to fall back asleep and wake up with the others at 6:15. Unfortunately, my upset stomach woke up with me too. Long story short, and with less details to spare you, I ended up having to see the doctor and have lab tests done. Diagnosis: bacterial infection in the stomach. Needless to say I was feeling bad in more ways than one. I was frustrated, upset, and embarrassed. Our missionary had to drive me to the lab, the doctor, and the pharmacy. Thankfully I had my prayer partner, Brooke, with me to provide support and comfort. After a morning of driving all over to get medicine and do some shopping for team projects, we went back to the mission center to join the rest of the team who had been hard at work. We ate lunch shortly after returning and then went to visit a family. That's where I met Melanie. Melanie is a 10 year old girl who lives in a very small home with her mother and sister. She is a beautiful, smiling girl who has multiple disabilities and is bed ridden. If Melanie lived in the USA, she would receive many more supports than she does here. However, Melanie and her family do not let his disability keep them from experiencing joy. One thing that I have learned this week is that the people of Guatemala, who many have do little material, give so much love! They have been so welcoming and served us in such great ways! Melanie provided that for me today! Melanie can't talk, but her smile spoke volumes. I had been feeling so down about getting sick, but Melanie reminded me of how blessed I am, in so many ways! My prayer for the remainder of this trip is that God continues to show up in sweet ways like this! We have developed such amazing relationships with the people of Guatemala. Our team has grown together and I am so proud of how much love our youth are showing and sharing! Although we are about to enter the second half of our week, I know God has a ton in store!
-- Emily Moyer
So today when I woke up I was feeling a little tired. There is a rooster outside of the girls' room that every morning crows and it sounds like it is screaming WAKE UP!! But I was excited, since today we were traveling to help the family of a girl I had become friends with. We were to build a wall to stop the rain from flowing through their house.
On the way there we saw cows and horses roaming about the streets, which was really fun to see. When we got there we went right to work, digging a sort of trench where the concrete would eventually go. That's what we did all day long, and though it was A LOT of dirt, it was rewarding at the end of the day whenever we had the whole thing ready to have concrete poured into the next day.
One of the highlights of the day for me was whenever we all sat down and ate lunch together, with us all talking to each other, no matter that we spoke a different language. Some exciting events that happened throughout the day were whenever Chad sliced his hand and got a little cut, whenever Chad stepped in a hole after the mason helping us warned him not to step in the hole (all was well), and at the end of the day we all tried pure sugar cane juice at the same time, which was pretty good (and sweet).
Tomorrow our groups will change jobs and we will be visiting families and painting, which I am looking forward to. But for today, the main thing I noticed was how hard everyone worked, no matter how hot or tired we all were. Nobody complained of how tired they were, and that was just really neat to see.
-- Elizabeth Hill
Today, our group went to a church in Villa Nueva. The church was kind of outside (under a huge tent) and small but it definitely was filled up with people. Something that happened today that I want to remember is the church theme. The church was set up as the world cup, and the preacher preached off of that theme, talking about the discipline athletes have and how we as Christians must also be disciplined and follow our trainer.
I am thankful for this day to be able to go to the church and see the differences, and after church we went out to lunch and that was fun I got to have some nice conversations.
Something that sort of surprised me in the church was that they sang a few of the same songs as we do in the U.S. just in a different language.
Today I had good interactions with everyone in the youth group and mission leaders, and also some Guatemalan people at the church. They were all so friendly and welcoming. Tomorrow I am looking forward to start our first work day and see how God is working with us throughout the day.
-- Brooke Marshall
Day 1: planes
We left Chambersburg this morning excited to go to Guatemala but also anxious. After driving to the airport, we boarded a plane to San Salvador, which was a new experience for some people. On the plane all announcements were first made in Spanish which was our first sign we weren't in familiar territory. We landed safely and soon after boarded our flight to Guatemala. It was a very short flight and we landed safely.
We all have different expectations going into the week but are also going into it with open minds. Our main goal is to show God's love and experience it ourselves throughout the week.
-- Jackson Stahl
day 2: pools and piñatas
Our first full day in Guatemala started out early for some. In the girls room through our large window some of us were awoken by a rooster at 3:15 in the morning. We all slowly got out of bed later and ready for the day. For breakfast we tried licha -- it's a pinkish fruit with little spikes. It tasted like a cross between a pear and a grapefruit. Definitely new. It made me think about how just because things look rough on the outside doesn't mean they're all bad. After breakfast we all got on the yellow bus to go to the pool.
We were going to the pool for a birthday celebration for the at-risk families Servants are helping. Some of these kids have never been to the pool and don't even own a swimsuit.
My only concerns or worries would have been the language barrier which wasn't too much of a problem thanks to my new friend Carmen. Carmen was very patient with Emily, Elizabeth and I's limited Spanish. She would speak slower for us, use her hands, try and show what she meant, and most of the time in the end we would have a pretty good understanding of what she meant.
I'm very thankful for all the patience, kindness, and how welcoming everyone was. While at the pool a group of us, Emily, Carmen, Elizabeth, and I ran between the very cold pools with slides and the nice warm pools. We joked that going down the big slide was a right of passage which meant almost everyone went down.
After sandwiches for lunch, we had cake and some piñatas. We got back on the bus to make our long hilly way home. We said goodbye to everyone on the bus as we dropped them off at their stops. Saying goodbye to Carmen was sad but later this week we'll be able to see her again when we go and help out at her house. That's definitely what I'm looking forward to.
-- Emily Stroble
So with it being the day before we depart to Guatemala all I can think is “What are we going to be doing?” This is probably due to the fact I’ve missed a few meetings and don’t pay attention to the ones I’m at.
But in all seriousness, anytime I go on a mission trip I always wonder what exactly are we going to do there. Of course I’m talking about the physical work, but I also mean in other ways like with people, with God, and with ourselves. What will we do to impact the people we will be working with and for? What will we do to learn about God and teach about Him? And what will we do to learn about ourselves and to discover who we are and what our limits are?
So in the day before we head out I’m full of questions, however by the end of our service I will have answers to all of them.
-- Ben Patterson
Many prayers appreciated as we wrap up our preparations and head out tomorrow! We fly out of Dulles at 4:15pm to El Salvador. We have an hour layover there and another quick flight to Guatemala City and plan to arrive in Guatemala at 8:55pm (their time -- 10:55 Pennsylvania time). We have a 45 minute drive from the airport to the mission center where we are staying.
We hope you continue to follow us through our adventures :) We will have a member of our team write and post each day during our trip. We hope to post close to the same time every evening.
Thank you for all of your support! Follow us on Facebook and Instagram for trip updates as well!
Our next post will be from Jackson Stahl tomorrow!