God, Gringos, and Guatemala

SavannahMission Trips, New Experiences 3 Comments

A little over two months ago, I went on my first international mission trip to Patzun, Guatemala. This trip posed a lot of firsts for me. First time on an airplane, first time out of the country, first time leading a devotion for adults, and oh, did I mention that I did all this without my parents there with me. Yeah, talk about a lot of firsts all at once! This missions trip was amazing, mind blowing, and shook me to my core (literally and figuratively). Today, I would like to share about my trip in the only way I know how, through writing.

This story started a year ago. I remember the day that the Guatemala mission trip was first announced so well. I had been hearing rumors about a Central American mission trip for a few weeks and I was overly excited to see if those rumors were correct. I was sitting in the pew teeming with curiosity, when the news that we had been waiting for finally arrived; there would, in fact, be a missions trip to Guatemala that June; the week right after my sweet sixteen. I was devastated and quite surprised at my devastation. Why on earth was I so upset about an international mission trip that I couldn’t go on due to timing, funding, and other engagements? Why did I suddenly care so much about something that I had never before even considered doing? I started discussing this trip and my odd feelings about it with my parents, friends, and youth leaders. They all came to the same conclusion: God wanted me to go to Guatemala. I had no clue why and honestly wasn’t interested at all until, I saw the pictures of the trip. I saw kids in shambles of clothing, homes, and schools. I saw people in need of not only the gospel of Christ, but also in need of clean water, good food to eat, and new roofs for their homes. The husbands, fathers, and sons were working in fields from sun up to sundown making money for food so that their families could eat. The wives, mothers, and daughters were at home taking care of the house and family without the opportunity of being anything but just that. My heart was broken and I knew I needed to go where God was calling me, to this country called Guatemala.

The 2017 mission trip to Patzun, Guatemala had been announced. I hadn’t slept in weeks. Food had lost all of its glorious appeal. I cried for days and days on end about the trip. Should I say “yes” to following God and His plan or should I say “no” because of, fear and trepidation? I went back and forth, went over my pros and cons list, and read my power verses and inspirational quotes until I thought my head would explode. I couldn’t do it anymore. The waiting, wondering, and worrying was driving me insane. I blamed my stress on work or school to my friends because I didn’t want them to know that I still hadn’t made a decision yet. Finally, the day came when I decided to get over myself and just go. I was going to stretch my myself and try to grow through the struggle that I thought making this decision would be. But the strangest thing happened, I had peace. Much more peace than I had had in around a year. The ability to sleep through the night returned (and sleep is one of the most beautiful things about life I have decided). Food was just as wonderful as it had been before. The tears were all dried up and I went back to my sarcastic, happy self.

June ninth arrived. The final day in the states buzz was there for the whole family. My day was spent packing, hanging out with my family, and getting a new camera for the trip. I was excited. In fact, I was so excited that I was past excited and closer to exhilarated. I got at least 20-30 phone calls, text messages, and social media messages that day sending me well wishes and prayers. Nothing could ever describe the love, support, and prayers that I felt the whole trip. Major thank you’s to everyone who sent encouragement! It was so needed and so felt.

As I stepped off the plane in Guatemala City, my eyes got wide with wonder. Just the airport itself was so full of color and vibrancy that I was genuinely concerned that my eyes might explode. Color and the glorious smells of coffee were there everywhere you turned. Looking outside the window was the strangest sight as there was lush, green foliage climbing hills, mountains, and trees with two or three airplanes just sitting there in the middle. So much of the airport left me in awe and wonder, yet so much was and still is just a blur. I got a super cool passport stamp and my luggage without a hitch. I was feeling great about the trip. People were everywhere as we exited the airport. And when I say everywhere, I mean everywhere. We had to wear our backpacks on our fronts and keep our luggage in our sight. It was pouring rain outside. People’s belongings got soaking wet, and ruined. I can’t imagine a better start to the trip.

I will never forget that ride into Patzun. Sitting in the back seat of that jeep (I’m pretty sure they weren’t jeeps but that’s what I’m calling them because it makes me feel really cool) crammed in with luggage and people, watching the city go from modern to our definition of impoverished will forever be ingrained into my memory. I saw people go from wearing nice clothes to wearing clothing full of dirt and holes. My heart instantly started to bleed for these people and it hasn’t stopped since. The sad eyes still penetrate my soul. 

Hug. My brain was still on that car ride up the mountain. I didn’t even realize that we had actually made it to the hotel until we were we up on the top floor where we would eat all our meals and hang out with each other and I started getting hugs from people I didn’t know. Another hug. Who are these people? Why is there so much yellow in here? Holá! Holá! I was so confused. I had been awake since 3:15 North Carolina time and my brain couldn’t process what all was going on as it was happening. Thankfully someone who spoke English took the time to tell me that these ladies who had been hugging us were our cooks for the week. They would be making all the fantastic meals we would eat over those next few days. My brain was starting to catch up. We were at the hotel. I was sharing a room with Jamie. We had a lot of beds in our room and a surprisingly nice bathroom. I had texted my parents and told them we made it and now we were having our first group meeting. I was all there for the first time that day.

Roosters crowing, dogs barking, chicken buses driving by, and shouts were the sounds I woke up to that first Sunday. I jumped out of bed and ran over to the window to see what all was going on. Of course, I couldn’t see anything since we were staying on the third floor and all the excitement was occurring and the road below. I quickly got ready and rushed out the door to our room. A flight of stairs plus a return back to the room later, I had finally made it to the roof with my camera in hand. The sights I saw before my eyes were like something out of a child’s storybook. Carrots that were as long as the length from the tips of my fingers to my elbow, pineapples bigger than my head, and all sorts of colorful items were beginning to crowd my view. Market day was officially underway for the town of Patzun. Breakfast was eaten in a hurry by everyone as we all couldn’t wait to experience this magical thing called “market day.” If you thought they were people everywhere in Guatemala City, it was that amount plus two-hundred more! People came from all different neighboring villages to pick up enough food to last them and their families for the next couple days. The sights, sounds, and smells (and trust me raw fish that has been without a refrigerator for more than an hour reaches a whole new level of rank) of the day left me with me excitement and wonder for what I would experience that week.

We worked at a school and in the village of El Milagro on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Tuesday and Thursday were spent in the village of Popobaj. I’m not going to go into too much detail about the niños and all the sweet things they did, but let me just say that when one of the little girls gave me a piece of her candy after I helped her with her craft, it was all I could do to not start bawling right then and there! Those niños are totally the most precious things ever and I will always remember the looks of sheer joy coming from the faces of the little ones. “Jesus Loves the Little Children” came to life right before my very eyes! Those mission days were a blur. I worked with Ms. Joyce on the crafts and we saw so many niños come and go that it was hard to keep up with where each other was half the time! I was trying to help by translating the instructions into Spanish as best as I could, but praise God for people who can actually translate because this chica does not have that talent. Can I get an amen?! I fell in love with each face, each craft, each heart. I even fell in love with the dirt floors, the rain, and the mud. I fell in love with every stray dog or puppy I saw and wanted to bring all of them home (lo siento, niños). But what I fell in love with the most, was the way that God worked among those kids that week. We had seven or eight salvations (exact numbers are hard with moving kiddos) and to see their desire to be a new creación in Jesu Christo was amazing.

There were so many awesome things that happened on the trip outside of the mission work. On Sunday, we ate dinner with the mayor of Chimaltenago (just a disclaimer: I have zero clue if that spelling is correct, and I mean no disrespect if it isn’t). Was one of the coolest moments of my life when I shook the mayor of a third world country’s hand? Sí. Yes it was. On Tuesday night, we survived a 6.5 magnitude earthquake. The saying “I’m shook” has a whole new meaning now. On Wednesday, I gave the daily devotion for adults. Being the Sunday School teacher’s kid isn’t always a blessing. But on the bright side, I know I can do it now. On Thursday, there was a surprise birthday party where my face was shoved in a cake and I loved every single second of it. Oh yeah, and I got to beat up a pig piñata. I say this every year, but I had truly had the best birthday ever this time. On Friday, I rode on the top of a car on muddy, dirt roads for around two hours. Unbelievable sights, indescribable feelings, and breaking all kinds of rules, just call me a rebel. Also on Friday, I went to some Mayan ruins and Maya mind was blown (my apologies to the Mayan people for that horrible joke that I have been dying to make). And on Saturday, I stood at the top of a city looking down on the people and sights below, completely and totally in awe of God and His amazing creation.

Going on this mission trip was single-handedly the best decision I’ve ever made. God taught this gringo so many lessons that I will never forget. To the people who made this amazing trip possible for myself and others to go on, y’all are so special and I am so thankful for the work that was put in leading up to this trip. To my youth leaders (specifically Joyce) who encouraged me to go and told me to into this adventure with excitement and joy, y’all have no clue how much that meant and still means to me everyday. To the fantastic people I got to experience this trip with, no amount of words will ever be able to describe just how much y’all mean to me. We are a family. A family that includes and protects each other. A family that encourages, loves, and supports when it’s needed most. I can’t thank y’all enough for letting this homeschooled sixteen year old be a part of a group like ours. And a special shoutout goes to all my mission trip mamas for the week! These were the ones who made sure I was eating properly, drinking enough water, applying sunscreen, getting involved, jumping onto every possible opportunity, asking me if I was ok and if I needed anything, and just plain lovin on me when I was scared or nervous. To Mrs. Beth, Mrs. Darci, Mrs. Whitney, Mrs. Wanda, Mrs. Candy, and Ms. Joyce, thank you from the bottom of my heart for making me your honorary daughter for the week. I love you all so much. To the other young people I went with, y’all are the bomb. We laughed, we cried (okay, I cried), and we got to experience this whole new adventure together. There’s nobody I else I would’ve wanted to experience it with. Special, special shoutout to my roomie, Jamie, because girl, you deserve a trophy for putting up with me for that long. I know how annoying I can be (my best friends remind me of it frequently), but you have made me be a more responsible and all around better person so thank you for that. Lastly, to my incredible family and friends who were there every step of the way, my love for y’all is intense, immense, and ever-growing. Y’all have no clue how it means to went this time with y’all by my side. Thank you for your love, encouragement, support, and prayers. God is good.

“I will say to the LORD, “My refuge and my fortress, My God, in whom I trust!””

‭‭“You will not be afraid of the terror by night, Or of the arrow that flies by day;”

‭‭“For He will give His angels charge concerning you, To guard you in all your ways.”

‭‭Psalms‬ ‭91:2, 5, 11‬ ‭NASB‬‬

Amén y Amén.

Comments 3

  1. Loved reading your blog! I’m sorry I wasn’t able to help financially with your trip, but I was praying for you! Love you sweet girl! Keep being YOU!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *