Our short visit to Guatemala City gave us only a small glimpse of the life that was being lead there. One bumpy bus ride brought us straight to the city’s dump community and within it we met the organization, Potter’s House. During our orientation with them, we learned at Potter’s House that many of the people living in the surrounding neighbourhoods made a living by scavenging through the dump, searching for materials that they can potentially resell or recycle. However, rather than labeling these people based on their lifestyle, Potter’s House chooses to call them “Treasures”.
(At first I thought I understood what they meant by that term and took the definition generally. We are all God’s treasures and to Him we are all the apple of his eye.)
Splitting into groups, with a translator for each team, we dispersed into the neighbourhood with 3 grocery bags of food in hand. With the bags of food, each group visited 3 families and got a chance to get to know them and their stories. There my group was able to meet families, some more broken than others, but all sharing various blessings and a beautiful hope and love for their children. Due to our experiences in the Urban Plunges in Canada from our last semester, I was expecting to see a poverty similar to what we saw then as well as what we have seen so far in Guatemala. Though the shock and awe was no longer there, I was expecting to leave the experience with a sense of discouragement and unsettlement. But spending the short time that we had with the families, we saw how much the parents of each family only wanted what was best for their children as they recounted the blessings and misfortunes that they have and have had in their lives. As we listened and asked more questions, they showed us kindness and hospitality towards us.
We left each family with a prayer and a bag of food as a way of showing our love and God’s love to them. The discouragement and feeling of unsettlement were still there, but smaller than I thought and I left feeling encouraged, hopeful and in some ways, wondering where the strength of these families come from.
Back at Potter’s House, we also had the opportunity to spend a meal with the children that the organization serves lunch to. Later at a different location, we were able to run a VBS program for the children in the community where we sang songs, performed a skit, and taught crafts.
The people living in the dump community are truly treasures in the midst of a lot of darkness and where I thought I would find mostly brokenness (and frankly, garbage), I found something much more beautiful, shining and loved very much by God.
The rest of our time in Guatemala City was an educative one in a school called Semilla. There we listened to lectures from two very knowledgeable men, Hector and Fabian. Both talked to us about the history, culture and religion of the country, explaining to us how the combination of different cultures in Guatemala has created new identities within the country over time. Our last visit was to a museum titled “Porque estamos como estamos” (“Why we are the we are”). There we learned more of the different races, cultures and identities in Guatemala and how they have changed or stayed the same.
Though it was a short weekend, it was a fulfilling experience with much to learn and it is exciting to see what else we will experience and learn from the rest of our time here in Guatemala.
– E. Joan Lee