Is Monday over yet? Or wait, does it just feel like a Monday? Yep, it does. And to that person that decided it made sense to back into my car without so much as a note of, “oops, sorry about that.” … well, you’re just lucky I have a sweet little boy to hug and photos of Guatemala to fill my mind with wonderful thoughts. Moving on …
In the last two photo installments, I shared of our journey to Guatemala and our free time adventures. This time, it gets serious. We’re about to get all ‘ministry’ up in here.
Most often, you can anticipate the ministry opportunities that a group will be presented with on a mission trip. There will be bible school and maybe a couple service projects and likely, prayer walks. The kids had been a little nervous just before we left because we’d heard that there would be a bible school (which I was so proud of our group for preparing for and subsequently, ROCKING) and likely, a visit to an orphanage but no mention of service projects.
When we got there, I was reminded of a quote I’d heard in a mission trip training several years prior, ‘blessed are the flexible, for they shall not be broken.’ I think it’s like the fourteenth commandment or something like that. Apparently, the folks there found out that I’d left room in my suitcase for some small children to come home with me and they said an orphanage was out of the question. Foiled.
Instead, we would be engaging in a lot of what’s called ‘Ask The Lord,’ or ATL ministry. It’s pretty self-explanatory. You go to a place and you collectively ask, “Okay, God, what do you want us to do here?” Easy to understand. Not always easy to do. Our adventures would take us to Antigua’s city square and market, a cerebral palsy hospital, a retirement home that was frequently referred to as the ‘Grandpa home’, a work site in a city about twenty miles further than Antigua, a remote village two hours away from where we were staying, and the communities surrounding the Guatemala City dump.
We were split into six smaller teams throughout the week and I was fortunate enough to have the best group ever. I heard other leaders say the same, but I won’t tell them they were wrong. So, I’m sad that the photos you’ll see here are skewed towards members of my group because everyone had amazing ministry experiences, but I hope it at least gives you a small taste of what we were exposed to throughout the week.
Saturday, Monday and Tuesday we split into our respective teams where each then participated in ATL ministry, visited the hospital/home or traveled a bit further to work in tomato patches.
The opportunity to bond as a group was amazing. One of my favorite visits was to the market in Antigua Guatemala. Our small group of girls took in the sights, sounds and smells of the market and then wandered out to de-brief. We collectively ATL’d through prayer and conversation and agreed that we felt themes of unity, beauty and family. We agreed to go back and buy flowers to hand out to the beautiful women we saw there. But, they weren’t women we would see gracing covers on magazine stands in the U.S. They were very real, very hard-working women who, when presented with a simple daisy or two, lit up with beauty that can only be found within. It was such a beautiful reminder of pure, uninhibited love. Their sweet smiles of gratitude spoke volumes.
Each of my girls kept one of the daisies as well as we agreed that we needed to remember our own beauty that comes from having accepted the love of Christ. After all, He says we are his beloved.
Our group also visited the cerebral palsy hospital. It’s odd to refer to a hospital by that name and I know there were other services offered there, but we were literally visiting a wing of ‘children’ between the ages of about ten and twenty-three who live with CP. It was both heartbreaking and beautiful at the same time. I bottle-fed two young men (11 and 18) and learned a valuable lesson in patience. I also got to watch a young man in my group form a bond with a one of the patients there. Caleb lost a brother to CP, and I couldn’t have been more proud to watch him engage with and form a bond with this other young man. Of course, there are no photos of our visit there. The experience and time were memories photos simply couldn’t describe.
We also had the opportunity for a work project in which we helped pull out bamboo chutes and iron arches from a tomato field that was in the process of being deconstructed. We tore that thing up in about two and a half hours. Again, proud.
In a crazy twist, my group was also able to visit a boys’ home just about 1/8 mile down the road from the tomato field. They kept me mostly at bay, but those little guys were just about the cutest (besides my own) I’d ever seen. But, the couple who manage the home and basically adopt these young men until they’re old enough to be independent were simply amazing. You should check them out if you want to connect with a real organization in a real place doing real kingdom work.
Wednesday and Thursday our team embarked as a whole to two new locations. Wednesday, we found ourselves about two hours away (in some direction I wish I had any idea of) in one of the most beautiful places. On this Earth. Seriously. We held our bible school that day and I opted for the work project because 1.) I like work projects and 2.) I found being too close to children for any length of time made me miss my own just a bit more than I could handle. The people we met here were just incredible; so kind and gentle. The village was so ridiculously quiet and serene. It was down the side of a mountain on a one-lane dirt ‘road’. To get to our church painting project, we had to walk along a single-file dirt path. The ladder for our roof painters broke at one paint so our friends we met there rigged her right back into shape to get our team safely back down off the roof. (Don’t think we weren’t praying over that one). There was one moment as I was walking back that day that I could hear the bible school to my left and the sound of those joyful children sounded like Heaven. Like, literally. There were absolutely no worries. Only indescribable joy. It was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever heard.
The last day we spent as a group was another that photos couldn’t do justice to and because it’s late, I’m going to save the explanation for another day. You’re … welcome?
Sorry it’s long. I needed a pick-me-up. Thanks, Jesus.