Finishing Up

I can’t believe how quickly things are wrapping up here for me! My leave date of May 18th is rapidly approaching and I think it is starting to finally hit me! It is hard to put my thoughts into words; I think I am still trying to sort them out myself.


I’ve grown accustomed to moving around a lot over the past couple of years across extremely diverse cultures. Even in the short trips, my heart’s always been completely open and I’ve fully invested myself into that place at that time, and I’ve suffered a sense of loss when the time came to leave. It’s amazing how a place so foreign can so quickly become home. I am convinced that this is because of the relationships I’ve built and the vulnerability that I’ve shared with many people, engaging in their reality, hearing their stories, feeling their pain, sharing their joy… It truly is incredible how quickly someone can become like family to you when your heart is open. I am so blessed and thankful to have so many amazing friendships in many different countries. And though I haven’t seen some of them in a long time, and may not have any hopes of seeing them again, that doesn’t lessen in any way the intensity with which I love them. They are very special people to me, no matter what amount of time I had shared with them.


I know it’s the same for all of the friends I will soon leave here in Guatemala. I have shared very intimately with many people here and they have easily gained territory in my heart that will always be theirs. I am so thankful for all that they have shared with me and all that they have taught me. They will always be a part of me because of the ways that they have changed who I am.


I have started a new blog for this new phase in life. I will continue to send you the link for my blog unless you request to be removed from my list. Just let me know! No hard feelings, I know not everyone wants to be spammed by my thoughts. The address to my new blog is:



Living the Life

The past three weeks have been extremely busy! We’ve had students in ministry sites with us: JMU for a week and then our Bethel semester students returned to work in ministry sites for two weeks. Here’s a quick rundown of some of the highlights:

–          We visited a small children’s home in Santo Tomas for the first time. These kids are waiting to be adopted, which can take a while as international adoptions in Guatemala are extremely limited due to corruption issues. One little boy, Daniel, was going to be moving in with his new family that very same week we visited.

544209_10151483352098421_1087189869_n 563445_10151483351878421_357819902_n

–          We tended to a group of special needs kids in the clinic one day. This group of kids with developmental disabilities from Magdalena really stretched me out of my comfort zone. We got the opportunity to love the least of these and bring a little joy to kids who often are hidden away.

–          Our women’s group celebrated its one year anniversary! It was so fun to reflect with these ladies on all that we’ve accomplished in a year and to see how far they’ve come in confidence, vulnerability, humility, trust, and self-worth. What a great time to praise God for all that He’s done in our lives in the past year.


–          Alba had her baby! Thank you for your prayers throughout this high risk pregnancy. She is still in the hospital as far as I know, due to high blood pressure. She had her fifth daughter.


–          Our clinic students have made great progress on their project compiling and entering data into the computer. We are very excited and thankful for all of the hard work they’ve done to standardize a coding system for our diagnoses and transcribe all of this information into the computer. This will be very helpful for statistical analysis down the road! I’m thankful for their willingness to embrace even the mundane aspects of missions.


–          We had another “jornada” in San Miguel to check up on the malnourished kids in our nutrition program. One family really caught my heart towards the end of the day (sisters Juanita and Marina and their dad Marcos). The girls’ mom had passed away a while ago and I was so touched by their dad’s sacrifice to take care of the girls and could really feel his love for them as he told us about his struggles to carry his family forward. God bless them!

3528_10151427293018421_1286573484_n 11411_10151427293528421_1834797646_n

–          I went to the hospital for the first time since October with our Bethel students. What an excellent day where we were able to see many different procedures! Two of our students went to labor and delivery with Dra Sara and two stayed with me in surgeries. I am so blessed to have these relationships with the surgeons in the hospital and I am grateful for their partnership! The hardest part of the day was when one of the trauma patients passed away due to too much internal bleeding from a car accident.


–          I have been loving the level of engagement in our semester students this year! It is so exciting for me to have the opportunity to discuss these tricky topics with them: paternalism in our community, popular practice of witchcraft, Hugo Chavez’ death, debt of developing countries due to the IMF, my experiences in Cuba, missionary interactions in a foreign context… I am so grateful for students’ curiosity and their willingness to let this experience penetrate into who they are and be changed by what they see and learn here. I love study abroad because it is such an incredible opportunity to be stretched out of your everyday, familiar comfort level and wrestle with challenging issues and see from a new perspective that you had never experienced before. Here is an excellent quote from one of my readings in my master’s program: “Research on study abroad must include efforts that move beyond the evaluation or “what works” paradigm to interrogate the fundamental assumptions that shape our pedagogical approach to the study abroad experience and the ways in which study abroad produces identities.” (Nadine Dolby, 2007)




I wanted to update you on my process of figuring out what I will do when my two years in Guatemala ends in May. It has been a long process of soul searching and considering my goals and values and then looking into different options and stepping out in faith to pursue those possibilities. To make a LONG story short, it has been really difficult to trust in God and move when I am unsure of where my steps are taking me, but God has been faithful. I am happy to tell you that I will be returning to work with the study abroad program where I studied in Costa Rica, the Latin American Studies Program. This is a program offered through the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities that was incredibly life-changing for me and I am thrilled to get the opportunity to be trained in their academic pedagogy and study abroad philosophy. Study abroad has so much potential to slap us awake when we are trapped in our own little worlds and do not care about the realities of others in another context, to help us to see life through someone else’s eyes, and to pursue our responsibility to respond to injustices on a global scale. I’m excited to see just what my role in LASP will become and how God will use my passions and experience to make a difference in students’ lives. Please continue to keep me in your prayers as it is going to be extremely difficult to leave Guatemala. I love what I do here and I have found family in so many wonderful people. I don’t know how I’m going to muster up the strength to say goodbye! But Guatemala has always found a way to pull me back even when I never expected to return, and I don’t doubt that I will come back again someday.

24275_10151483354203421_69438893_n 67052_10200532723624282_1585605271_n 150457_10151483353998421_1311036520_n 254231_10151513559918421_1731388405_n

This is going to be more difficult than I think! Lord help me!394749_10151483351508421_631435310_n 483682_10200858774015338_307388530_n 541648_10200858769815233_1820889241_n 556596_10151208632166954_1127130543_n

100_1721It’s Semana Santa!


100_1999 100_2069 100_2143 100_2007 100_2052 100_2172

100_1828 100_1878

More Reflection and Pura Vida

I have continued to do some major reflection lately. I don’t know if it is the season in my life, and where I’m at, and discovering who I am (etc.), or if it is just intrinsically a part of who I am as a person: to critically reflect. I do not go through life light-heartedly. Everything has a purpose and every situation is an opportunity to learn more about myself and more about the world around me. Both through my masters courses and through experiences I’ve had, I thrive on the chance to debate justice issues, economic principles, historical atrocities, human rights…  and I never grow tired of engaging in these challenging issues that I live first hand. I’ve felt like I’ve discovered so much about the values that I hold most high and my priorities in life and I have just sensed God leading me simply by showing me (or reminding me) who he’s created me to be and who he is forming me to become. I cannot change who I am or compromise values that I feel are of principle importance. Rather, I am emboldened to follow what I know to be true, and humbled to trust when I don’t know the answers.

1 Corinthians 13:8-13 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

My faith is increased as I take steps forward, trusting that God will guide my steps and that His good and perfect plan cannot be corrupted, even though I do not yet see the full picture. I hope for God’s blessing and the fulfillment of my heart’s desires. But above all, I seek that my actions and decisions would be motivated by love and that in all I do, wherever I go, with the people I interact, my life would radiate love.

*aside* God is so faithful in confirming these truths in my life! Literally just an hour after I wrote the preceding sentence, one of my Guatemalan friends, who I don’t know that well but have interacted with many times, said to me “Tell me your secret. How are you always happy and smiling and so friendly all the time?” What a blessing to be able to share with him this love that has filled my life and that overflows in all that I do. I have reason to be happy (even through challenging times) because God has blessed me greatly and I am so thankful. My only possible response is joy. He thanked me for sharing this contagious joy with him each time I see him. Again, God is so faithful and I am so blessed!

I was also blessed to have the opportunity to hop over to Costa Rica this past weekend and revisit a time in my life that was so formative and so impacting for me. My study abroad experience in Costa Rica not only opened my eyes to realities that I had never experienced before, but also taught me how to critically engage in these realities and learn and grow by considering perspectives that were foreign to me. I was so happy to visit with people who have invested so much in my life and have exemplified for me the kind of investment I want to make in others. I had the opportunity to travel to the Kéköldi reserve and visit with a family that is very dear to me and immerse myself once again in a learning environment that I LOVE! I had this organic, liberating experience of getting back to my roots, leaving all the stress and clutter of life behind and escaping into the jungle to intimately interact with God’s creation. I don’t know how to appropriately describe how refreshing this is for my soul. I left Costa Rica feeling so renewed and inspired and affirmed. Praise the Lord for his good works in my life.


Gaudy Leaf Frog (Agalychnis callidryas)


Helmeted basilisk (Corytophanes cristatus)


Juanita feeding the cats- 13 total!


Like I said, renews my soul!


Bird watching with Keysuar


Black and Green Poison Dart Frog (Dendrobates auratus)



The iguana project: raising and releasing iguanas as conservation efforts to protect the wild iguana population.

100_1603 100_1608

Gloria showing me how to make arepas


Great Kiskadee (Pitangus sulphuratus)


Some Major Reflection

This year I had the opportunity to take an extended visit home where I was able to travel and visit with people who know me very well and have already played such formative roles in my life. Sitting down to discuss this path that I have been on the past five years, and especially decompressing and reflecting on these last two years in particular, helped to bring me some clarity. Sometimes when you are so enveloped in your current situation it is hard to view things from an objective perspective, where thoughts and interpretations are not affected by emotions of the setting. You can easily make yourself believe something that is completely untrue, or a warped, tainted perspective on the true situation due to rose-colored lenses, or sometimes darkness of doubt. That is why it was so helpful for me while I was at home to sit down with many people who know me very well and are familiar with the life experiences I’ve been through, and they could speak truth into my life without bias of context.

Once allowed to take a step back and analyze these past two years in the context of my life as a whole (both the past and my dreams for the future), I can see how they play an invaluable role in determining the person I’ve become and the person I want to be. This is an experience that has undoubtedly marked the path that I want to follow and has given me direction.

Upon graduating college, I had no idea what type of profession I wanted to enter into, but I just knew that I wanted to love people in a radical way and do something important with my life, be a world-changer. Being the type of person who always wanted to be in control and know every exact detail of what the future holds, it was a huge struggle for me to humble myself in accepting a role that I had never anticipated and for which I felt very unqualified: I became a missionary. The lessons I’ve learned while working with Students International in Guatemala have profoundly affected who I am as a person and how I view the world. I’ve discovered a love for working with students and accompanying them through challenging situations and battling against an apathetic outlook when things get tough. I’ve loved seeing students discover a passion in them that they had never considered and that spark gets lit in them and you just know that they are going to do big, important things in their life. I passionately expose students to new perspectives that they’ve never considered and challenge their assumptions so that they adopt a more global perspective and are inspired to seek justice. Having the opportunity to visit with very important mentors in my life while I was in the US encouraged me and reminded me of the goal that I now have my eyes set on, that which my experiences in Guatemala have instilled in me as my purpose and passion. I take these people that have been so influential in my life as great examples of the person that I want to be, the kind of impact that I want to have on this world, the investment that I want to make in others to exponentially draw this world to Christ.

As I said, more than anything, my trip home provided me with clarity. I get easily inspired by many exciting things that are going on that I am so supportive of and completely believe in, but in order to streamline my efforts and focus my ambition, I needed to be reminded of the clear path that I have discovered and the passion that is so definitive of who I want to be. I feel encouraged and inspired to pursue these dreams full force, and to once again take steps in faith, forward towards the goal, even when the details of the journey are not 100% clear to me yet. After all, that is how I ended up in Guatemala in the first place. It’s been a journey of faith this whole time. And just when I start to get comfortable and feel that I am in control again, I am reminded who is truly in charge and I am humbled to make bold moves in strength that is not my own. These nearly two years in Guatemala have shown me the potential inside me and have expanded my perception of my abilities so that I feel empowered and confident to attempt things in my life that I had never dreamed of. I feel confident of this potential and fearless enough to just maybe go for it! Again, I don’t necessarily have all the details panned out, but I feel excited to keep moving forward and attempt even bigger, scarier things that I’d never dreamed I would do. I am excited to continue the process of learning and becoming equipped for this task that God has before me. The bigger picture is continually becoming clearer to me and I like the way it looks! I just pray that God would continue to be my guide and that any decisions I make would not be influenced by doubt, fear, or selfish desires.

Thank you to all of you who continually pour into me and fill me with courage and confidence, helping me to believe in myself, so that I am empowered to live fearlessly, love radically, and be a world-changer. It meant so much for me to be able to visit with you and to hear that I make you proud because you mean so much to me. I pray that the investment you’ve made in me would be multiplied unto others as I learn to make impactful investments through discipleship and mentoring. And above all, I pray that in all I do, the people with whom I interact would see Christ in me and be drawn to His mercy. As my commitment with SI is soon to be completed, I ask that you would pray for my next steps, that God would clearly guide me, and that I would transition smoothly in a way that honors the great amount of love I have in my heart for the people I have grown so close to in the past 5 years.

Just a few photos from my trip home…


A Distance Runner’s Perspective on Missions

Recently I was doing some reflecting while I was running around and around and around an indoor track. (Yes, an indoor track! I am still in freezing Illinois and living in Guatemala has turned me into a wimp!!) Running in circles like that reminded me of my days of competitive running back in college. I was a distance girl: slow and steady, endurance-not speed. My favorite track race was the 10K. Now I have been quite nostalgic lately as I am at home visiting college friends, professors, coaches, and of course my family. Through conversations I have had with many people, I can see how formative my participation in college track and cross country was for me. I never expected to be a collegiate athlete because I was never a very impressive runner. I did it “for fun.” But I am so thankful that my coach made the investment in me and recruited me to the team and therefore took on a very important role in mentoring me throughout college. The whole experience has turned out to now be such a big part of who I am today and I am so thankful for all of my coaches throughout the years.

But as I was circling the track now in 2013, I thought about the experience of being a 10K runner. When you tell people that your event is the 10K, the normal reaction is “Oh my goodness,” “You’re crazy,” or “I could never do that!” A 10 K is 25 laps, and for me in college it was 45 minutes and 36 seconds of running.  It takes a really good friend and devoted teammate and coach who is incredibly supportive of you to stand through the whole thing (despite the sometimes awful weather) pouring out encouraging words on you and making sure you are making your 1:50 split. Most spectators come to a track meet to see super-human demonstrations of strength and cut throat, nail-biting, photo-finish speed races, not some mediocre girl chugg’in around the track for 45 minutes. It is easier to commit to cheering someone on when it is quick and exciting. Most spectators use the 10K as a bathroom break, or they swing by the concession stand. It’s even more of an injustice for the impressive 10 K runners who really are demonstrating super human sustained speed and endurance. It is just not as flashy as the shorter races. But the faithful supporters and teammates that are down on the side of the track, yelling at the top of their lungs for you as you trot by are sincerely invaluable for their loyal support and faith in you.


I see missions in a similar light. The short term trips that are packed full of action, like a sprint, usually attract a lot more interest. Supporters and friends are able to keep their attention fixed on the sprint and see it through to the end. And these short term mission “sprints” can accomplish very impressive feats! But of course, someone running at that pace cannot make it too far. Myself, I have always been a distance girl. People who cheer me on have to have equal endurance to see it through to the end of my race. Those who cheer me on at a cross country race are even more committed because they have to end up running quite a bit themselves because the race cannot be seen from a stationary viewing point. And now that I have been living and working in Guatemala for a year and 8 months I can see how blessed I am to have a very faithful cheer squad. Having the opportunity to visit with many of you while I have been in the US this past month has been an indescribable blessing. I can see how many of you have the endurance to stick it out with me and some of you (like in a cross country race) getting up to run yourselves! You, my devoted supporters and teammates, are indispensable to a sustainable, 10K-style ministry. I’ve had wonderful conversations with a lot of you that have just spoken life-giving words to me and I am so grateful for your continued investment in my life!


Continuing the track analogy, I am in the last 1600 meters of my race. And while that’s still a mile left to run, I have passed the easy going beginning phase where the biggest battle is controlling your speed so you don’t start out too fast and end up walking. I’ve past the point where the pain starts to set in and you think “wait, why did I do this again?” I’ve past the point where you hit the wall and your pace suffers a little. I am now at the point where you find strength again, dig in, and kick it up into high gear again: Leaving it all on the track.



I have many more reflections to report from my trip home. It’s been a great time of discernment and rejuvenation for me. I am so excited to continue to reflect on the wisdom that has been shared with me and discover where God is leading me next. But let me reflect on these things a little longer before I report back to you. 🙂 I just wanted to share a little bit about the profound thoughts I have while running around and around and around and around….

12 K race in Magdalena! (2010)

Save My Baby

Buena Vista Jornada- held in the public school (When school was on vacation)

544848_10151252250188421_2000892610_n 393988_10151252225573421_503542249_n 417046_10151252250278421_490080216_n 430724_10151252225078421_960839993_n 479777_10151252250608421_2044688681_n 522220_10151252250473421_692556755_n 542654_10151252250373421_1887234171_n

I have wanted to put this experience down in writing for some time now. But I have been so busy up until this week and haven’t had a chance to do it… Now that I have sat down to work on it, it is so hard for me to put into words, for a number of reasons. Let me just say it how it is, and then go back and put a disclaimer on it.

During our last two weeks with the SPU students in Magdalena (and thus our two students in the clinic) we held a “jornada medica” in Buena Vista. That means we went to this town about a mile and a half outside of Magdalena and set up shop in the public school to see a large number of patients at rapid-fire speed. This was our second jornada in Buena Vista, and we did not get nearly as many patients as we did last time. Our two students (Amanda and Sarah) plus a visiting nursing professor from SPU helped us out so much and made it go so much smoother than our first jornada. But something happened with our last patient that really left our jaws dropped and a burden on our hearts.

One patient who came through the jornada went back to get a lady she knew who had a very sick daughter, just weeks old. When the mom came in with her girl, wrapped up and slung over her back, you could see in her face that she was distraught. Like any other patient, we wanted to first do in take for her baby (I don’t think she had named her yet, which is actually pretty common) which includes weighing her, measuring her head, and temperature. But mom was trembling in fear when I went to help her un-swaddle her baby so I could weigh her. She was terrified to unwrap her! This is a very common misconception here for the moms that has been passed down for generations and is thus very hard to correct. When a baby or toddler is sick, moms will throw on many layers of clothes and wrap them up so tight to keep them warm. They think that if they are exposed to the air for even the shortest moment that they will, literally as they say it: get to much “aire” and die. We have seen countless babies sweating and very agitated because moms are covering them up so much when they have a fever and we are always in a state of educating moms on how to take care of a sick baby and clearing up these long-held myths. Well, our sweet, kind nurse Paqui was able to talk her down a little bit and convince her that we know what we’re doing and we also just want what is best for her baby. And with trembling hands, mom sweating even more now and looking very pale because of how worried she was, she let us unwrap her baby and weigh her.

Then when she passed with Dra Sara to have her baby examined, it was the same battle to get her to unwrap her so Dra Sara could listen to her lungs. Dra Sara immediately diagnosed her with severe bronchial pneumonia, which is one of the leading causes of infant death, and told her that she needed to take her daughter immediately to the hospital. Obviously, mom was very stressed and worried. You could tell it in the way she was touching her baby like she was so fragile and delicate. This was her first baby. There was another lady with the mom, who I think was her sister maybe. The whole thing happened so fast from the time mom came into the jornada that I did not get really any of their names or anything! This other lady sort of erupted at Dra Sara’s order to take the baby to the hospital and she stormed out pretty fast, saying something along the lines of Dra Sara not knowing what she was talking about, let’s take her to another doctor. You could tell the mom was afflicted and Dra Sara started explaining very plainly to her what was happening inside of her baby’s body and why it was important to take her to the hospital. She told her that her baby’s life depended on it. But mom dejectedly wrapped her baby back up, slung her on her back and followed this other lady out of the jornada, not going to the hospital.

It was a tough experience to accept because more than likely, that poor little girl died within a couple of days. Why did mom refuse to take her to the hospital? It is completely free at the public hospital, and not very far away. Well, Buena Vista is a very poorly educated community where traditional customs and practices are maintained. Undoubtedly, mom had heard from many other women (supposedly older, wiser, and more experienced moms) about how babies were brought to the hospital just to die. Unfortunately it is true that a lot of babies brought into the hospital when they are very sick die in the hospital, but it is not because of poor care in the hospital. It is because the baby is so sick by the time they are brought in that it is really too late. Just like with this baby girl: if mom had taken her to the hospital right when Dra Sara told her to, she probably would have been ok. However, it is very common for moms to seek any other option to get their babies healthy, including mythic home remedies and witchcraft, before taking their baby to the hospital as a last resort. We saw the same thing back when I had first arrived to Guatemala and we found that burn victim in the street, 8 year old Katherine, and her mom Nancy was too scared to take her to the hospital. Some moms will try anything before taking their child to the hospital and these things that they try will often be the thing that ends up killing them. Like when I was in the hospital for a night shift with Dra Sara one time and a lady brought her 6 month old baby into the emergency room because she had given him 10 times the dosage of aspirin for his body weight. This mom at the jornada in Buena Vista just did what she thought was best, but unfortunately, her daughter most likely died. Infant mortality in Buena Vista is very high. We are always hearing about how another baby has died. It breaks my heart.

I was afflicted in putting this experience into story form and sharing it with all of cyberspace due to my fears of it being blown up and generalized over all Guatemalan women. Since I do not have names for any of these anonymous characters, mom, baby, and sister, I don’t want to let these characterizations get projected on any of our other poorly educated patients. Yes, there is a big need in this community for health education. The SPU nursing professor who was helping us during the jornada will most likely be bringing down a group of over 10 fourth-year nursing students to do community assessments and health education projects in Buena Vista, San Miguel and El Gorrion. This is a huge need and we just pray that God would have mercy on these people. I don’t know how exactly to ask you to pray for this community. But I know that if you will faithfully pray, even when words don’t come together right, God will be faithful and respond correctly. Please lift up this Guatemalan mom and many like her.

Who Are You Loving?

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.

Previous Older Entries