Spanish classes have continued, with homework (or tarea) each night to finish for the next day. Sometimes it feels like we are back in kindergarten with learning the simple things like how to tell time, but each day our Spanish is improving!
Last Thursday in our PMGs (Peer Mentor Groups) we set off to the city of Antigua to do some shopping at the supermarket for our weekend in Guatemala City. Each group was given money with a list of items to buy that we would be personally giving away to a family in Guatemala City that works in the city dump. It was an experience itself in the grocery store, finding each item, then converting the grams to pounds. For my group we learned that when you can’t find cauliflower it’s probably because you’re supposed to get corn flour. It was a good bonding time, with us working together, and afterwards settling down in the central park (parque central) for some ice cream. I know many of us are already discovering how important it is to be intentional with each other, as our community is spread out more than we were first semester. Our Tigo cell phones are coming in quite handy for that purpose.
Bright and early Friday morning, at just after six, we loaded the bus, ready to be on our way to Guatemala City. We started our day off there at a seminary where we slept and ate over the course of the weekend. We had two speakers there, with the first talking about the history of Guatemala and the second speaking on the effect that Catholicism and other religious expressions have had on the country. Although many of us were tired from the early morning, we found the speakers very intriguing as thy were quite passionate about what they were telling us.
The big eye-opening experience was when we went out to a community that lives near the city dump, which is the size of 20 football fields. As we drove in, through the bus windows we could see the streets filled with garbage, dogs limping and people carrying huge bags of garbage. The life of those who live here is to scavenge through the garbage to find things to sell or to keep. They are called scavengers by some, but they are truly treasures. They are God’s treasures of Guatemala City. We were led through this learning experience by Potter’s House, a ministry organization that is there for the treasures. Before we visited the treasures, the people at Potter’s House talked to us about how you can take the people of the dump, but that doesn’t take the dump out of the people. Meaning that poverty isn’t simple, there are eight different types that we see. To name a few, they are spiritual poverty, economic poverty, poverty of affection, civic involvement and poverty of the will. It is a complex situation that we got to witness again from the North end of Winnipeg and East Hastings, Vancouver, now to Guatemala City.
While on this sort of mini urban plunge we split up into groups of about 6, with 2 bags full of groceries that we had bought beforehand. Each group visited two houses in the surrounding community around the dump. Walking into the house with my group it felt very small, with us taking up most of the space in the small, one-room house. Asking the woman who lived there some questions about what her dreams were, she responded that they were to not have to work in the dump and to be able to see her kids graduate. For me, graduating from high school did not feel like a big deal, everyone who I was friends with would all graduate with me. So when it happened for me the accomplishment didn’t feel that big. But hearing this woman’s dreams, along with what we heard in the next house about one of the kids going to school with the intent of becoming a flight attendant or a tourist guide, it really put everything into perspective. Are these dreams possible? In this world it seems very unlikely, sad to say. But I believe that if these dreams are chased after with God it is possible; God is able. There is beauty in that fact.
After we finished talking, giving and praying with the families, we returned to Potter’s House to hear the story of a couple who made it out of the garbage dump. Their story was very uplifting to hear, seeing firsthand how much Potter’s House is benefiting its community, as the wife was taught how to make jewelry. She in turn taught her husband and they now run a business doing just that and trusting in God together. At the end they sold us some jewelry that they had made, many of us who bought gave much more than the asking price. Personally I did so as I just felt the need to give, that I didn’t need that money more than they did. I ask that you would pray for them and their family as they got about their new business. Also pray for those who live and work in the dump of Guatemala City. The power of prayer is great.
We are now back in San Juan del Obispo, learning Spanish again. It is good to be back. Back to a familiar place, to our host family, our house…this place is beginning to feel like home already in just over two weeks!
Check back next for the latest on our experiences in Coban, where we will be for a week!