Note: This week’s CliffNotes is a guest post by Christ Church-er James Schultz, who will be entering Baylor University as a freshman this fall.
My Guatemala Experience
From the moment we got off the plane in Guatemala City, to the moment we returned to the airport a week later, I experienced a full spectrum of emotions. Going into the trip, I had no idea I would be affected the way I was. This was my second time going on the trip, so I thought I would be prepared for the sensory and emotional overload I was about to experience; however as I quickly found out, that was not the case. I was not, nor do I think I will ever be, prepared to witness the extreme levels of poverty experienced by so many people in Guatemala.
There were countless images of the poverty that seem unspeakable to us here in the United States, but one of the images that sticks with me the most is that of men lying on the side of the road, unconscious, with flies buzzing around their faces. This sight of the fathers and leaders of the community, lying there in that state was such a strong visual of the physical, spiritual, and emotional poverty that is ever present in the communities surrounding the dump. Witnessing examples like this and others deeply affected me. More than once, I found myself asking questions like “Can we really make a difference?” or “What about these thousands of other people?”. I wrestled with God: where is He for all of these people who are suffering so much? I was really grateful for a safe place to ask these questions in the team.
One area that I was able to experience hope and share in joy was in the work we did with Potter’s House. They are on the ground bringing hope and joy to such a dark place every day, and we got to support them in ways that the staff tell us they couldn’t accomplish without our help. Sharing God’s love, even with just a few families, does make a world of difference. One of my favorite memories from the trip was throwing a quinceañera for fifteen girls from around the dump community. Their stories were so painful and difficult, but for that one night they were blessed and loved and celebrated. That night I witnessed and got to participate in the ceremony for these girls and their families and share in their joy. As I have continued to think about and deal with hard questions, it was moments like this, or giving a family the keys to their new house, or even smaller moments like when one of the little girls bought me a water bottle, where I saw God was at work, despite the immense hardship and suffering. There is light dotted all over the place when we have eyes to see. Since the mission trip I have used examples of people from the dump who still trust God completely, despite having it way worse off than I do and used that both for keeping perspective as well as just seeing God at work around me.