It’s sad to say, but the end to host families has come and gone. I’ve heard that for many there were lots of tears and goodbye hugs. Packed up with my bags ready by the door, I hugged my host mom goodbye in thankfulness as I walked down the streets of San Juan del Obispo for one last time with my little brother Marco, as he carried my bag down to our bus stop at the pilas. It was a strange feeling leaving my hometown that I have come to love, off into the unknown of Independent Service Week with four others of my friends.
Independent Service Week for me and my group was in Santa Lucia, a town not too far away from Antigua, and the week has become one of my favorite weeks in Guatemala. What an incredible experience to be welcomed into the family of Hilmar, with his wife and three little boys. Each one of us felt so at home right away; being able to feel valued. We worked mostly that week in the village of La Pinyada a small village where part of Hilmar’s ministry is to help build the community through God’s love. He does this in numerous ways that we got to witness, by running a center where he provides food for the children every Tuesday and Thursday, sweeping the street, visiting families, playing futbol, running a church, English classes and more. Through all of this his strong faith is so present that he goes about this all right alongside the community; when they are tired, he is tired, and when he has fun, they have fun.
This was such a moving week for me and others in my group. Hilmar has still been in contact with us after the week, wondering how we are doing and what we are up to now. From what was revealed when we all met up as a site again in San Pedro to do a little presentation of our week (for some a song or a skit) my group wasn’t the only one to have an amazing week building God’s kingdom.
COMMENCE TRAVEL WEEK
After this it was back to our familiar yellow school bus to hit the Guatemalan roads on our trek up to Tikal, which turned out to be a very hot and sweaty ride. To break up what would have been a long eighteen hour drive we stopped at the “tourist farm” Finca Ixobel. I was curious to find out what a tourist farm really meant. Basically this meant that there was familiar Western food, slow Wi-Fi, a manmade pond for swimming, hammocks and treehouses for some to sleep in. It was nice to be back together as a full site sharing in our experiences and enjoying some familiar things from first semester, like playing the infamous game Dutch Blitz.
We’re getting so used to this packing up thing by this point that staying at a place for only two nights then setting off on the road again wasn’t that big of a deal, and soon we were headed to Flores. The island was about an hour away from Tikal where we got to spend a day exploring the temples and pyramids made by the Mayans. One of the coolest things was when our tour guide showed us how smart the Mayans were with their technology to somehow create a system where, when you stand in front of a pyramid and clap, it replicates the sound of a quetzal, the national bird of Guatemala. Seeing the history that we have seen all over on t-shirts in Guatemala first hand was unbelievable, way better then textbook learning.
Denny’s Beach was our last destination to hit up on travel week. It was quite the experience, as their boats began breaking down and eventually only a little boat was working. We tried to escape the heat by jumping into the lake from the dock, although I have to say the water was quite warm and the only way to really escape the heat was by having a cold shower, though the coolness instantly left you once you stepped out. Besides this we finally got down to business on our biggest journal assignment yet, as many of us sat around the beach either on the sand or on the dock. Ten to twelve pages didn’t seem that hard to quickly fill when, in the past with journal assignments, even filling six pages could sometimes be a challenge.
What a beautiful couple of days we had there as we got to engage in God’s beautiful creation all around us. On Outtatown each day is an adventure as we continue to follow God within this community that has developed to be very strong, supportive and encouraging.