And we were up again at 6:10 AM (by choice) to see the sunrise over the mountains. The sun did not disappoint. And we were left with only a thanks to the Creator for such a beautiful sight. Our view from the dock in Santiago is pictured here. After which we went for a walk around Santiago with Dr. Commins taking the lead (mostly because those of us who went were scared to be left in her dust) and quite frankly the “tuktuks” seemed bent on running someone over. After dodging the “tuktuks” for thirty minutes, we held our white flags up and settled for a shower. Then breakfast before going to San Pedro for meet the family of a migrant in Jupiter, Florida. He left his family ten years before and isn’t expected to come back until all three of his kids have graduated college. He sends back his wages so that his children may have a better future. We left them with heavy hearts because Josephina missed part of her exam for us, but thankfully she was about to at least go late. We had lunch in the middle of Don Pedro. Don Pedro proved to be much more of a tourist attraction than we imagined. We were the only “gringos” dressed conservatively. So we quietly cursed in our minds these tourists who clearly didn’t do their research before boarding their plane. We went back to our hotel and explored the city. We stopped at the Catholic Church where we learned about Father Stanley Francis Rother who was a priest from Oklahoma. He fell in love with Guatemala and heard God’s call for him there. Because of the work he was doing for his community, the army did not like him, not when he provided a safe space for the people and encouraged them to keep their heads high. The army began looking for him and he was forced to flee for his life. After three months of depression, he came back to serve his people. And he was martyred in the church housing quarters. He truly lived out Esther’s, “and if I perish, I perish.” After that venture we were granted free time to explore the city on our own and do some shopping. After we had devotion and dinner before retiring with heavy hearts after another amazing day in Guatemala because the next day would be our last.
For some of us, the morning started with mass at the Catholic Church in Quetzaltenango at 6:30 AM with Dr. Commins. Then the group parted ways for some to finish packing and others to continue exploring the city. Then we met for breakfast before going to Cafe R.E.D.(a mural from the café is pictured here) where we learned from a guy named Willy about the school. Students from surrounding communities are chosen by their leaders to learn how to cook and then get experience in the kitchen. Willy said, “It can’t be about the American dream for us anymore, but the Guatemalan dream.” We also heard Willy and two of the others founders testimonies about their time in the U.S. and how they recovered after being deported. We then had a scrumptious lunch at the cafe and bid our goodbyes to our new friends, but not before someone (Taylor) could buy something from their store. We drove through two prosperous Mayan communities where we learned about how they managed to do so well. Zunil and Almolonga have incredible farm land that produces the best fruit in Guatemala. Rumor has it that once the Mayans stopped worshipping their Mayan gods and turned to the Christian god, the soil produced great fruit. Their carrots are the size of my forearm. I haven’t seen a carrot like that anywhere in America, except maybe the occasional single carrot at a state fair. After we drove a few more hours, we arrived at our destination (oh lord at the scenery) only to find out our hotel had been overbooked and there was no room for us in the inn (except unlike the baby Jesus, we ended up in a better hotel). So we took our drowsy butts (because our two hour bus ride consisted of a nap for everyone, maybe even two naps if you had a window seat!) to the dock where we took a boat across the lake to an even nicer hotel. The water of the lake was beautiful until we learned we’d be crossing it by boat, then the water seemed menacing and the mountains looked cosier than originally imagined, but as per usual our group made an adventure out of it. Only Dayanna and Taylor seemed to resent the ride in the end. The rest of us plucked our plastered hair from our faces and laughed at our luck. Once we settled into our hotel, we had dinner and called it a night after devotion. We had enough adventuring for the day.
There’s nothing like waking up still dirty, not that we didn’t shower, because oh, we did (warm ones too! Yay for firsts!), but when the paint from the day before hasn’t washed away, it make it a bit easier getting back to work. We had French toast, fruit, and of course, coffee for breakfast and loaded back up to finish the job at the clinic. And boy did we paint. (Ashlyn and Rachel are showing how it is done in the pictures below). We painted the inside, the outsides, the borders inside and outside, the metal window bars, and unfortunately ourselves. Paint seemed to take up residency on our bodies, not because we intended it to. The color of paint did not discriminate. Some of us had red, others yellow, occasionally black, or if you’re Ashlyn, all of the above. We tried to keep the paint on the building but it always found its way to us whether it was spray from a neighboring roller, dripping from a friend on the roof, or just a careless mistake of sticking ones foot into a pan of paint (my chacos once just brown, orange, red and grey are now brown, orange, red, and yellow… Sorry mom.). However after many an hour of labor we finished our job with only a few encounters with the local animals such as the dog we named Boots that wandered around us, Boots’ fellow dog friends, or the cow that seemed not be enjoying therapy as much as we were.
And the local community fed us snack of buttered brad and papaya juice, and lunch of soup, chicken, squash, carrots and a new form of tortilla (no, this one is not flat but wrapped in corn leaves… Who knew?). Once we sang Sanctuary and You Are My Sunshine we headed back to the hotel to shower (yay for hot showers again!) and then we had some free time to wander about the city before dinner back at the hotel. After dinner, we had devotion where we shared some laughs over guardian angels (it’s starting to look like a James Bond mission with all the tactics people are pulling to confuse one another who their guardian angel is) and then some thoughts about service and what it can look like for us. We looked over Mark 10:45 which is the model for Queens’ motto, “not to be served but to serve” and decided how our service can look like more than just painting a clinic, but hearing stories and being there for someone. We went to bed that night with hope in our hearts and dreams in our heads of a future in which we could use our gifts to serve.
And up we were at the crack of dawn, but of course we didn’t leave then. Our group had grown accustomed to Guatemalan time which is easily adjustable and much more relaxed than that of our American lifestyle. We bid our goodbyes only an hour later than expected because Dr Commins and Gabby just couldn’t leave without taking a stab at weaving. But soon each of them had their fill and we loaded the bus to pick everyone up from their home stays.
We drove three hours away to Quetzaltenango where we checked into our beautiful hotel and then drove to Pachaj where we learned about the clinic there. Soon after we began painting the building, inside and out. Unfortunately the fumes from the oil paint were wandering into our brains and the paint rollers gave us reverse freckles. After a few hours of work, we headed back to the hotel where we showered with high hopes of the paint washing off. Those hopes were crushed. Ally and Ashlyn seemed to have gotten the brunt of that because they didn’t just have yellow spots on their bodies like the rest of us, but on their faces as well.
So we went to dinner at a cafe a block from our hotel with paint on our bodies and smiles on our faces. The food was thoroughly enjoyed by all, especially Ally, Ashley and I, since we finally got our chocolate cravings satisfied with a chocolate milkshake made from the hands of God himself (actually it was the guy in the kitchen but it might as well have been). We finished our night as we always do with devotion, laughs and guardian angel wishes. It was another good day in Guatemala.
Our morning started out like it had the last few days in Don Pedro Hostel where we had a breakfast of pancakes instead of eggs. Dr Commins and I seemed to be particularly happy about that, not because the eggs weren’t good (no one ever had any left on their plate), but because pancakes are a gift from God. That wasn’t the only gift we would be receiving today. We drove to CEDEPCA to have devotion with the staff, led by our good friend Betty. Betty read John 13:1-17 to us in Spanish and then Natalia read the Word in English. We next heard from Dr. Commins on Obama’s Immigration Reform. Then we heard about who supports CEDEPCA and how they do it. After that, we visited SIMN (or the Scalabrini International Migration Network), a migrant house. We saw the living quarters and learned about the migrants who lived there. They typically receive people in transit, deportees, or returning migrants. They provide help by assisting in legal counsel, clothes, health, hygiene, and training. After we finished at SIMN we headed an hour and a half to Chimaltenango to meet with the community, Heart of the Women. They are an organization that makes and sells products in Guatemala. They promote self sufficiency in their Mayan community and they were gracious enough to speak to us about their lives and the hardships they have faced since the civil war broke out. Queens has a very close and long term relationship with this community. We did a home stay with each of the nine women, and each student could probably tell you a thirty minute story about their stay. We were well fed and much loved. And we went to bed with peace in our hearts.
On the third day of Guatemala my true love gave to me, another few things to think about. But really. Our group started our day, just as we had before with another wonderful breakfast in the hostel. We then headed over to see our friends at CEDEPCA where we would spend the morning hearing stories and learning more about life in Guatemala.
Our first speaker was a woman named Ms. Betty. Ms. Betty was a small woman, but nothing about her ideas and perspectives were small. She spoke to us about feminism in Guatemala and how the machismo culture makes life very difficult for women. She said, ” women’s ministry is a space that offers a liberating alternative and accompaniment to women in Central America and Mexico.” Betty has a lot to be proud of when it comes to the work she is doing with many other women in Central America. She says empowerment is the most important aspect of the program because if one gives women power over themselves then their life can change. Betty has a team of teachers going out into communities, teaching women how to think for themselves and think critically. We took a break for coffee and sweet buns before we sat down again.
Our next speaker was named Ms. Esmerelda. She gave us a country prospective based on Edelberto Torres Rivas’ five level building model for Guatemala. She gave us a context for which Guatemalans have close to no social mobility. This provides for a very poverty stricken country.
Ms. Anna was next speaker and she spoke about disaster relief. Her ministry works with people who have had a natural disaster destroy their homes, maybe even has taken a family member. She told us about how they provide families with resources to combat these disasters for the future, and how they help people rebuild physically and mentally.
Our group then had lunch with the staff of CEDEPCA. We shared a beautiful meal together and also shared stories. Mostly we shared laughs. Our group has a knack for keeping each other rolling. Whether it be singing High School Musical at the top of our lungs as we rode off into the streets of Guatemala or dancing to the Bring It On soundtrack in the parking lot of the ice cream store.
After our latest shenanigans singing Uptown Funk to our friend Brayan in the bus (yes, we still sounded like dying cats… Probably), we met with INCEDES. They are an organization that works for “promoting the right to not migrate or right to keep.” They have worked helping migrants who have been sent back due to lack of documentation and also migrants that are considering migrating. They are particularly interested in helping people know the numerous risks of migration. They were kind enough to serve us more sweet bread and coffee in which our caffeine addicts like Ashlyn and I were very thankful for.
We then got to meet Shorty, who was the star of the movie, Reparando, that we watched the night before. He and his friends Oscar, Jerry, and Jose gave us their testimonies on how they found God in what seemed like a hopeless place. Each of them had once been part of a gang, mafia, or cartel, but found themselves yearning for something more. They shared their story of how Shorty developed the house in which other recovering gang members may stay to rehabilitate. We were very happy to hear from Shorty and his friends first hand. Each of them seemed to want to find God every day. It was inspiring and helpful to our understanding of Guatemala.
After we finally left from Shorty’s talk, we had dinner back at our hostel (that would be meal number five for us). And had devotion where we contemplated where we devoted all our time and how can we devote more time to God. We also revealed guardian angels again, in which the group noticed a trend in the lack of ease for a guardian angel in tracking down Dr Mowrey or Emerson. To say the least, they’re surely keeping us busy. Callie Malone
Seven thirty sounds much better in theory. That’s how the zombies of our group might describe this morning’s awakening. That’s what happens when you have a 22 hour yesterday looming over you. We had a wonderful breakfast of fruit, scrambled eggs, beans, plantains and coffee or café, which was the only word a few of us remembered this morning. However once we arrived at Iglesias Episcopal Espiritu Santo, our Spanish seemed to make its way back into our minds. It was a good thing too because most of the service was in Spanish. They did translate some of the sermon and the fourteen stages of Christ’s death. It was exactly the kind of immersion we were craving. After the service, we had coffee and sweet buns with the church goers and then a few of us played bingo with the adults and others played soccer with the kids. And we got our tails kicked (in futbol that is). The kids clearly humored our two left feet and we laughed enough that the language barrier wasn’t as much of a wall as it was a picket fence. I even found out my friend Roberto had a dog too! (That was an accomplishment for me.) After we said adios to our new friends we headed to lunch at an all vegetarian cafe. Then after our bellies sang grace to the heavens for a third time that day, we headed out onto the streets of Guatemala City. We were able to go into the Cathedral built by the Spaniards where we found people praying, celebrating and giving thanks for the day. Outside the cathedral was a processional that involved a large number of people in black attire. They were carrying a large scene that depicted Jesus Christ carrying the cross before he was crucified. The decoration was ornate and Sophia, our translator, told us it was from a church in the city. Most churches do some kind of processional during lent, which explained all the purple. We then made our way back to the hostel but right as we reached the street, people were arranging colored sawdust and flowers for the procession we saw earlier. Naturally, we asked if we could help, and they set us to work putting out flowers along the path they created. We were called inside soon after though to hear our new friend Hector speak about Guatemala history and its effects on culture today. Hector is a professor of theology for CEDEPCA. He helped us better understand issues Guatemalans face now. We then had our dinner in the hostel and watched Reparando before we revealed our guardian angels for the day. Jamille had us pick a name out of a bag at the beginning of our day and we were asked to get to know that person better. All were revealed and new names were drawn for the next day. We asked questions about the day and meditated on Colossians 3: 14-17 then prayed a prayer of thanks and our group played a little uno, sang a few new songs, and retired to bed after a day adventuring.
Three thirty AM was more kind to our group than we expected, and at three fifty the 2015 Guatemala Mission group was off on our adventure. Thankfully we didn’t give Dr Mowrey any grey hairs during our lovely duration at the airport (Or did we?). Once we arrived in Guatemala City around twelve thirty PM Guatemala time, we were greeted by our friend, Emerson, who would be our guide for our time spent here. We learned very quickly how wonderful a friend Emerson would be, not only to us but everyone he encountered. We ate a beautiful meal together at San Miguel in downtown GC and then continued to the hotel for orientation. After we went to Jesus de la Camina, a Pentecostal church where we met Edwin who gave us his story. He was born in Guatemala, his father died when he was ten, and in his sophomore year of high school, he with his mother made the trek across Central America to America. Eventually he was deported because he didn’t have legitimate papers, and was unfairly treated, as many immigrants are, in jail. He gave us a new perspective on life in America. After we finished our pizza and time with Edwin, we attended a service at Jesus de la Camina. We sang songs with members by singing both English and Spanish versions. Then we were asked to sing for them. Rachel conducted our first concert in the sanctuary, and although we sounded more like dying cats than a chorus, the generous people of Jesus de la Camina clapped for us. We then after conversing with the members and eating a delicious second meal of fried tortilla topped with beans or guacamole, and plantains, we loaded back up on the bus to go to the hotel. Our night ended for the most part after reflections, and you can bet we slept like rocks after a 22 hour day.
The group has arrived safely and has had a busy day, They started their exploration and discussions. Tonight they head worship service at Jesús es el Camino Church, the home church of Emerson Morales, their Cedepca guide. Saturday is youth night at Emerson’s church so it should be a great experience. All in all, a perfect first day!
It was dark, it was cold, it was way too early. But as you can see, this group is excited. By now they have landed and are exploring the beautiful country of Guatemala. Feel free to leave comments here and if you have any questions, also feel free to contact me. The group will update as they can as will I if I hear any news.
Bendiciones a todos