So remember when I was throwing a tantrum about not being able to go anywhere exciting and serve (How to be a missionary at home)? God quickly opened a door: to Guatemala. I won’t recap the whole trip. My husband did a great job at that already in his blog post, written much more eloquently than I ever could! So, head on over to sharedappetite.com after this! But first, I will reminisce about a couple things that have stuck with me over the past year.
With our work schedules and social calendars, we literally had this one random week in the middle of August that we could do this. Seriously, we had a BBQ at our house the weekend before, I was scheduled to work the day before we left, and I had my first triathlon the Saturday after we got back on the same day we had planned a big family BBQ at our house. These were honestly the only days available! I found an organization Christ for the City International that we were able to set up a personalized trip. Booked the flight and we were off!
When you first think about being a missionary, you think you are going to travel to this country and the place will be better off than when you arrived. Thankfully, my missionary friend talked some sense into me. Those people are still going to be poor after you leave. There is still going to be crime and drugs in that village after you leave. Those children will still be orphans after you leave. Your mission there is to be present with the people and love them like Jesus while you are with them.
She had also given me the heads up that missionaries were expected to speak at churches: have my testimony ready. No problem I thought. I’d given my testimony plenty of times to friends, to strangers at church who were told to come ask me about it, I’ll pretty much tell it to any listening ear. But, this was in a different country, in a language I didn’t know. Would it translate well? Would the people understand it? How could my life experience help someone in a totally different way of life?
Sunday was here. We were scheduled to speak at 3 different churches that day. I can remember walking up to each church: some people were decked out in their Sunday best, suits, ties, nice shiney shoes. While others came walking up with hill without shoes and in clothes that that obviously save just for Sunday. Everyone welcomed each other equally with a hug and kiss while walking into service. I couldn’t help but think that this does not happen on Long Island. No one here seems to care that one has money for a car to come to church in while the others are walking in barefoot. And it was true of every church we went to. The “rich” and the “poor” came together. The children of the pastor ran around and played with the young boy whose mother was known to be a prostitute in the village. I was so moved by it. Everyone loving on each other and coming together for God. They made it look so easy. And this really wasn’t just a Sunday thing. These people knew each other, knew their families, and their struggles.Why can’t this happen at home? Was I doing anything in my church to make it look more like this? Do I just interact with my friends or can I start looking for those hurting in my church that need help?
(And, yes… my words did translate. My heart would jump for joy when our translator would finish my thought and “hallelujah” and “amen” would be yelled out from the congregation!) Read my testimony here!
We also visited a school that could best be described as an after school program. These children had families and could afford to send the kids to the place to work on homework and hang out until their parents could come get them. We were there mid day so it was mostly elementary aged kids there. Luckily we had a translator with us for this part of the trip (we didn’t always have one!) He told us that a lot of these kids were from families that were torn apart by drugs and violence. Many of the children aren’t really fed and don’t receive love at home. He shared that he was in a school like this growing up and had the same sort of childhood. The only time he was hugged as a kid was by missionaries. Needless to say, I hugged every little boy and girl there and told them that Jesus loves them.
Unfortunately this is also a reality in NY. Divorce, gangs, drugs, violence, poverty, homelessness. All real life situations here on Long Island and NYC.Am I hugging the hurting here and telling them about Jesus? Do I acknowledge the homeless on the street or walk right by without making eye contact?
Fact: June 2013 NYC there was an all time record for homelessness with nearly 54,000 people (including 22,000 children) sleeping in NYC shelters. That does not count the approximately 3,200 people sleeping on the street, in the subway, and in the parks.
Even on Long Island, this fancy island including the Gold Coast and the Hamptons, last reported 7,800 homeless people. Again, I think that number is low because I personally have met people while at work, that they and their friends would rather sleep in the woods or at a train station than in a shelter where these numbers are from.Am I doing enough to show Christ’s love to them?
My husband and I make it a point to go give thanks to the poor in the city. Even if its just saying hi and God bless. Maybe buying them lunch or or a coffee. It doesn’t have to be a lot. Just to let them know that they aren’t invisible and not forgotten: these people are a part of God’s Kingdom too.What can you do to make others feel like they aren’t forgotten?
Nothing blew me away more than the hospitality of the people we met in Guatemala. These people lived in homes smaller than our shed, welcomed us in and offered to shared whatever little they had with us.Am I being hospitable to others as I could be?
Luke 14: 13-14 “But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”
We spent time in an orphanage. I left in tears. So many children just left and mistreated by their family. We decided to sponsor 2 children when we got home.Can I pour into kids lives here? Maybe their parents work 2 jobs to support them and aren’t around that much? Or the single mom trying to feed her baby?
I came home with culture shock. We had so much stuff. A refrigerator full of food. And running water in multiple rooms of the house. Our toilet worked daily. And I could take a hot shower without a bucket. So thankful for the little things and even more thankful for the bigger things.
The family we stayed with just showed us what real love looks like. Loving on each other and loving on others. Their faith was so beautiful.
I’m not sure if I made any impression on anyone there but I will never forget what Guatemala has taught me.
Pictured above is from out day at the orphanage Casa Shalom.
Chris’ post has more pictures! We didn’t bring a camera so the handful from his phone was all that we have to remember our time there.