Ministry has changed for me these past couple of months. My time has been pretty much dedicated to working with our current study abroad students who have gone through intensive classes, 2 weeks of language school, 2 weeks of ministry sites, and have just finished up 2 more weeks of language school before they move back to Magdalena for 2 more weeks of ministry sites. Of course, while the students were in sites, I was working in the clinic everyday with my two students. But other than that, I have not had much time to minister to Guatemalans in our community one on one. In fact, I do not know how a lot of the people I have been ministering to are doing. But Dra Sara is still in the clinic, and meeting with the people on a regular basis and I trust that she is doing a great job. I know I am not the essential link between God and these people and it makes me so excited when Dra Sara tells me how some of these new believers are flourishing in their faith independently of this outsider “gringa.” Although she also tells me that they ask for me and miss me, it makes me happy to know that they are taking on their faith as their own. Sometimes people see us as just a dollar sign, or an opportunity to get a hand out if they go along with the churchy stuff. But when someone comes to take ownership of their faith and is seeking God on their own and growing so much, it encourages me so much!
Clara and Estela sharing in the women’s service in El Gorrion! These women are so sweet, and I love seeing their genuine faith.
But even though I have not been up in Magdalena, that does not mean I have not been ministering. I know I’ve talked a lot about how I have been ministering to the students and discipling them in their time here in Guatemala: Helping them struggle with the hard stuff and notice God in the little things. These students are going to rise up to do some incredible things to impact the world for the gospel. But I don’t limit my ministry to just that….
I believe every opportunity, every interaction, is a chance to share the gospel or impact someone’s life for Christ. I don’t want to pass up any opportunity I can get to love someone and in that, share God with them. Got a second with someone you’ve never met before? Ask them some questions; get to know them; pray for them. Let me give you some examples:
Hugo is one of the drivers for the shuttle company we use to transport our students a lot. He lives in Ciudad Vieja (just outside of Antigua) but grew up in zone 7 of Guatemala City (the same area where Dra Sara lives). I have ridden with him multiple times, and it is always a pleasure to see him. He has two elementary-school aged kids. He has been trying to pick up English on the job, since he totes around tourists a lot, but he also recently said he started an intermediate level class, even though he has never taken English lessons before. Of course, he said it was very hard for him! The phrases I’ve been practicing with him are “Do you like” vs “Did you like” and “Is this your first time in Guatemala?” Hugo also likes to teach me slang phrases specific to Guatemala. And he LOVES my turkey joke, for those of you who know what that is.
Héctor is the other driver who we have worked with a lot. He is also from Ciudad Vieja and has two young kids. (I only remember his daughter’s name is Joselyn.) He was telling me about how his son was graduating from elementary school and how proud he is of him. We have talked a little about all the different missionaries in Guatemala and the different strategies that they utilize to help the people. It is interesting to hear his perspective, as a Guatemalan.
Moises was the night time security guard at El Faro. (I was there in September.) He lives in one of the communities nearby and he shared with me how much the ministries at El Faro have been helping the kids in his community. He taught me how to say “I’m hungry” in k’ekchi, the native language of the area, but I don’t remember what it was. I’ll have to ask him when I see him again in November.
(Rambutan farm outside of El Faro… never float through life, always engage and ask the hard questions)
Nelson is another worker at El Faro. He is a younger guy, 20 years old. We were just chatting when he was feeding the animals there. Then he took me to see the tucans! We didn’t talk long, but he told me about his desires to study more. He especially wants to learn English.
Andrés was the Spanish tour guide at Tikal. I had such a good time walking up front with him and asking him personal questions. In fact, I was annoyed when other people on the tour recaptured his attention to ask him a question about the ruins. I was just enjoying getting to know Andrés! But they kept us focused and on track. Andrés is such an interesting man. He has been working as a tour guide in Tikal since he was 14! (He is now in his late 40s) He was telling me about how nervous he was the first time he gave a tour, as a kid. He said his favorite part about working at Tikal is the archeology, although he also enjoys working with biologist when they come. He learned English just by picking up phrases on the job, and now is able to do complete tours (with all the history and everything) in English. When I asked him if all of these crowds of sometimes inconsiderate tourists were obnoxious, he said the people in the community like the tourists who come because that is their major source of income. He was also sharing a little bit with me about the politics of the community as well.
Nixon was the tour guide of the English tour that the majority of our SPU group went on (except for the 3 with me). I did not get to talk with him at all until he sat down next to me for the 30 minute ride from the park to our hotel. I’m sure he thought this would be any normal, small talk conversation that he always has with visitors when I asked him how he was and what his name is. But he chuckled at the end of our conversation as he said “we covered everything: economics, politics, education, culture, customs, biology…” I told him I waste no time. I loved Nixon’s vision of hope for his community and his belief in the potential of the kids to make more for themselves and their families. He said the children are where we need to focus our efforts because everyone else is “crooked.” I am so proud of Nixon as he works hard all day and then goes home to take university classes at night in archeology. He is in his third year of a five year program. He has one 2 year old daughter.
Antonio was our bus driver from Puerto Barrios to Guatemala City. Can you say “SWEETHEART?” We were chit-chatting about who we are and what we were doing in Guatemala, this group of gringos. He was so encouraging and told us to keep working at it, because we are doing a good thing. About 10 minutes into our ride, he made a quick pit stop to buy some pineapple. And he gave me a whole pineapple! Yes, it was street food, already chopped and prepared with salt and pepper, and I had no desire to eat it. But I had to accept it! How could I say no? And we had finished it off by the end of the drive. Antonio has been driving for over 30 years, 15 years with this specific bus company. He works 26 days straight (driving 9 hours) and then gets 4 days off. He said the hardest part about his job is being away from his family so much. His kids are now older and have families of their own. He was so cute, talking with his ayudante (the other guy working with him on the bus that day). He had Christian music on, and wouldn’t let the other guy change the station. When we arrived to the bus station, I had written him a note, thanking him for driving us safely back to the city and I gave it to him. He was so touched! After he had read it he came back to me and said “glory to God, it’s the Holy Spirit’s work.” And he gave me the bracelet that he was wearing with the Lord’s Prayer on it! WHAT!? Who is that sweet!? Antonio is.
Luis was only our driver once. I probably spent a total of 2 hours with him. He also lives in Ciudad Vieja and has two boys ages 12 and 13: Jason and Roberto. He said he is separated from his wife, so he really cherishes the time he has with his sons (he told me about his plans to hang out with them that afternoon as soon as he was done driving us, so sweet!) Once again, we hit many subjects in our conversation. But my favorite part was when we were talking about natural disasters (He had asked us where we were from, wondering if we were affected by the storm on the east coast.). He told me about how he found out about the destruction in Ciudad Vieja from the tropical storm Agatha (2010) while he was away with work, driving in a far away town. He said he was so worried for his sons because he had heard about how many houses were buried by mud slides. We talked about how fragile life is and how quickly you can lose it. We are at God’s mercy. But we also talked about how these times of trials bring people together in a miraculous way, where we all pitch in to help one another out. He said “it humanizes us again.” Love conquers these horrible situations.
So even though my job now consists of significantly more time in the office, on the computer, answering emails and communicating with the university, that does not mean I can not reach out to someone who needs the love of Christ. I only hope that I am as much of a blessing to these people as they are to me. Say a little prayer for all of these guys, because God loves them, and knows them by name.
My favorite question to ask people is whether or not they like their job. (It is such a blessing to love what you do!) Usually they say it is a lot of work, or long hours, but they enjoy meeting so many new people. The only time I got a resounding “no” was in the conversation I had with the maid at the Hotel Nacional in Havana back in April. She said “They treat me like an animal,” referring to both her boss and the guests who stay in her rooms. Her name is Margarita. She has a daughter who was about to turn 13 when I was there and she wanted an MP3 player for her birthday. I probably spent 20 minutes chatting with Margarita, helping her to make my bed along the way. I also found her waiting outside of my room on the Saturday before we left. She was there to tell me that she didn’t work on Sunday, and she wanted to make sure she got to say goodbye to me. As I hugged her goodbye, I thought about how this lady was receiving the love of Christ, being seen as a human, valued and loved in the eyes of God. NOT AN ANIMAL. I will NEVER forget Margarita, and I hope I will get a chance to see her again.
Who are the overlooked people with whom you come into contact on a daily basis? Jesus shows us many examples of what it means to see and love the forgotten or overlooked: The blind man, the bleeding woman, the beaten man, the children, the cripple, the leper… And Jesus calls us to do the same, to see the invisible. To love them as God does.