Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on who you talk to, it gets to about three o’clock everyday and my hand just aches from trying to keep up with what I feel should be a doable pace right now. Apparently, even that is a stretch. But, this is temporary and I have to keep reminding myself of that. Sorry. I’m whining. But anyway, this post has taken about 20 days to complete. I almost forgot what I was talking about. #stillwhining
With that, I last left you on Wednesday, an amazing day in Guatemala. On Thursday, I left my camera at the base. The area we visited in Guatemala City was a place my camera wouldn’t have (and shouldn’t have) been able to capture. We were in the most impoverished area I’ve ever visited and we met the most amazing, gracious people. We toured the area surrounding the city’s dump; the largest in Central America at somewhere around 40 acres. The families we met that day are served by ‘Potter’s House,’ an organization literally positioned on the very outskirts of the dump that exists to assist, develop and empower these ‘treasures’ to realize their worth. Through the organization’s staff, we were able to meet with and get to know several families in the surrounding communities. You know how some things are both beautiful and absolutely tragic at the same time? That’s how I felt about our visit that day. You can learn more about and support Potter’s House here.
What struck me about the people we met was not how grateful they were for the bags of goodies we were able to provide (both staple food items and hygiene items donated by amazing members of our community); no, what hit me was how happy they were to welcome us into their homes. Now, think about where you live. Take an area about the size of your living room. Squeeze all of your stuff into that and call it your home. Actually, take your stuff out and replace it with random stuff that likely came from salvage. Oh, you also have to take out any type of flooring and replace it with concrete. Swap out your ceiling and roof for tin.Maybe divide that into a couple rooms so you can have a separate kitchen and bedroom/bath area. That would be a bit more in line with the homes we visited. But those people? They were so precious! One of my absolutely favorite moments was shortly after I held a baby girl by the name of Genesis. She was just three months old and her mama came in to meet us. She is seventeen. As we were leaving, mama was feeding Genesis and I hugged her and told her how beautiful she was and she gave me just the sweetest kiss on the cheek. That physical connection in that moment warmed my heart so much and reminded me that love just doesn’t discriminate. I get weepy just thinking about her.
Thursday was just a really memorable day. I met three families that embodied the ‘treasures’ concept that Potter’s House emphasizes, cried because I had the great opportunity to eat fresh watermelon for lunch and I knew those people may not even have lunch and got the best hug and pep talk from my friend, Gus. What is it about big guy hugs?! We had our last full-on worship service that night as well. I shared. I cried
again. I love my Guatemala family.
Our week ended with a free day and it was f-u-n fuuuuun. For the first half of the day, we took a road trip to a small town about an hour away and split into three teams to participate in a soccer tournament alongside a couple of teams from that area and our hometown favorites, the Shoeshine Boys. Team ‘Old School’, that I somehow wound up on, drew the girls’ team first. Although I’m not sure how that all went down, when we scored our first goal, the girls’ team suddenly became co-ed. We hung in there and only lost 2-1. Our three teams bowed out as the tournament concluded and we were fortunate enough to watch the underdog Shoeshine boys win the championship game. It was the first ever type of tournament for the boys and I can’t even explain how cool it was to see them take the trophy. It was like watching the World Cup except that we weren’t in a huge stadium … but we were in a valley between mountains. And, the jerseys were different. And, I was playing in it at one point. But whatever.
After our morning workout sesh, we headed back towards Antigua Guatemala to get lunch at this amazing little place that apparently celebrates many of its firsts in Guatemala. You may have heard of it … McDonald’s? At least we were able to ride out a downpour under the roof there before our last trip to the market.
Ah, the market. I wish I was better at saying “no, gracias.” But now CJ has a slingshot, cool new slippers and a recorder-type instrument shaped like the well-known Quetzal bird. I had a great time wandering around and soaking in my last full day in the beautiful (touristy) Antigua Guatemala. I also ate my second coconut popsicle of the trip. By myself. I’m just a rebel like that.
Our last morning in Guatemala was a Saturday. I had really been looking forward to a trip to the cross which sits atop a hill that has the most breathtaking view of Antigua. In order to ensure we had enough time, we opted not to go which turned out to be the best thing because it gave us the opportunity to spend more time with our new family.
Which … brings me to the people. This is where there aren’t many words to describe how much I loved the folks God put in our path there. I was absolutely humbled earlier this week to get some major props from my sister, Robin. The first day I met her I liked her … she eats gluten free! Well, it’s about more than that (but that was AWE-some).
Robin is this amazingly beautiful woman who I feel is a kindred spirit of mine. We have some similar weaknesses that we just need to kick to the curb and she has a plethora (it’s big word Thursday) of talents that I hope she is able to use to her fullest ability. Girl is wise, but girl can also play and sing. I honestly wish I could be even half as talented as her. SHE is the gem. And God is using her in such a big way in Guatemala. I can’t wait to hear more about her adventures there.
And then there was Morgan. Morgan is also amazingly beautiful and so very wise. She has such a sweet spirit and is so obviously full of life. She was like our house mama; she took great care of us while we were there. She simply loves people. And fully. And she takes everything in. I watched her so many times just observing the room; getting a sense for where the Spirit was calling her to interject and as soon as she made a comment and it was like boom … mind blown. Can you imagine having someone hang on your every word like that? She had me. I hope that we can find a way for Morgan to come hang out in Michigan.
Finally, AIM (and the good Lord) gave us Ryan. I have never met a guy out of college with that much energy. Ryan’s joy was infectious and he very clearly loves working with youth. He is a sports junkie and would participate in absolutely everything at 150%. He makes me feel super lazy, actually. Ryan’s talents weren’t confined to athleticism, though. Ryan has God on speed dial. No joke. The dude shared so much with so many of our team members that it was almost nerve-wracking to see him coming. Like, ‘whoa boy, what’s he going to say? he knows too much!’
We were really blessed by so many people between our base and those that supported our mission (and even prayed for us back home!) that I was just overwhelmed by the time we had to leave. Would you believe I cried? Because I totally did (again).
And then I got more hugs. My friend Melanie was right. I left a piece of my heart there. I guess, at some point, I’ll just have to go back.