Sunshine and Service

guat 9.0Hola friends and family! Since you last heard from us, we’ve been soaking up the warm Guatemalan sun and enjoying life in San Juan del Obispo! This past week has been a peaceful one as we’ve settled into our new homes, gotten to know our host families more, and have been improving our Spanish in school.

Living with a host family has been an amazing experience. These people who were complete strangers to me only a week ago have now become so familiar to me! I’ve shared many laughs with them (often over my ridiculous Spanish mistakes), and I look forward to coming home after school and at the end of the day to their warm smiles and delicious food.
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On Tuesday we had a service day! We were split into groups and sent to different ministries and organizations. Some of us went to serve at an orphanage in San Lucas, others were working with a program called Senderos de Luz, which provides food and education, and others taught English in a schoolhouse. Another group went and spent time helping in a seniors’ home and another had the opportunity to help in a cerebral palsy hospital. It was a day full of hard work for many of us, but it was very inspiring to see how God is moving and working in the communities of Guatemala through these local organizations. I was sent to the orphanage, and those of us who visited were amazed at the joy with which the volunteers served. Our afternoon was spent playing with the children living there, and their smiles, laughter, and excitement for the world around them was humbling and wonderful to witness.

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We also drove to Antigua to partake in a salsa dancing class this week! The result of this afternoon was tons of laughter, hilarious confusion, and only a few stepped-on toes. We twirled, sashayed, and laughed our heads off. It’s been awesome to spend time all together as a community again through events like this, after living in separate host families and having much more free time this week. This is an activity we will not forget, and will laugh about for a long time to come!

On Friday, we said goodbye to our host families and left for Panajachel for the next week! We’ve just arrived at this beautiful spot, and have been enjoying the colourful markets, bustling city, and beautiful Lake Atitlan. Thank you for your thoughts and prayers!

Until next time,

-Megan

Talking

Hola all people who are joining us yet again for the latest edition of The Adventures of Guat-Squad! Your beloved writer Ada Krahn is back again for my first post in country! Hope you enjoy!

Language is such an interesting thing. To be able to make certain sounds and have what’s happening in your mind be understood by someone else. It has already been a full week of living with our host families and taking Spanish classes, and so many of us are being faced with the brutal challenge of not being understood, and further not even knowing where to begin with trying to make ourselves understood. This can be a very scary situation for many people to be in and people react to it in different ways. Some wouldn’t care and would try to live as their own independently functioning identity, others would care a lot and feel like they’re doing something wrong, and still some might find peace knowing that their understanding will come in time. Of course, those aren’t every way to react, but I hope you understand what I’m getting at.

At the beginning of the first semester we were all plucked from our own very different lives and put together with such little understanding of each other. I feel like those first few weeks were very similar to our experiences with learning Spanish. We spoke in very simple terms about some fairly generic things. We all spoke different languages, and it took time and energy to be able to speak to each other. Further on in the year, as we experienced things together and saw each other at highs and lows, we were able to understand each other in ways that just weren’t possible before. Now I’m seeing extravagant conversations that twist and twirl and dance like I’ve never seen before.

I find it interesting to see how the fact that we all sleep in different houses has significantly affected our community. I’ve been watching how conversation changes when you’re in a group of 3 or 4 instead of 7 to 23. I think this dynamic is very rewarding so long as we all navigate it as a whole.  Our current independence has allowed for smaller groups spending time together, going for coffee and walks together. Spending time with who we choose has allowed for much more significant conversations, and us each putting more value in the time that we are together. It changes how we care for each other because we are all experiencing a lot of different things day to day.  It is easy to leave people behind even when you don’t mean to. I think that the way we’ll be living while we stay in San Juan del Obispo can do amazing things nurturing the connections we already have with each other, but I can also see how it could be easy to push some friends aside and have a great time with a few other friends while cheating some of us out of an incredible experience. I do believe though that our community is self-aware enough to be able to care for all its parts in the unique ways we need. I believe that the love we have for each other runs very deep. And I believe that each one of us will have an incredible experience here, uniquely together.

 

Snow to Shine: Our first week in eternal Spring

Kyla Willms

Warm, joyful, colourful, broken, and beautiful. These were a few of the words Site 1 used to describe Guatemala after a mere three days in the country.

Hola! It’s only been a week, but I can guarantee Site 1 has experienced enough for a whole year. We’ve been excited, heartbroken, and then hopeful. Entering into a new country with all of your closest friends is a unique experience. From screaming with joy at seeing everyone at the Atlanta airport to crying with each other after witnessing injustices happening in Guatemala, we are already experiencing this semester together.

The first day in Guatemala was beautiful, the sun shone and we all took advantage of it. Early in the morning many of us were outside journalling, praying, and taking pictures  of the view. There was a sense of holy presence among the new creation we were seeing. During our first designated quiet time that afternoon, we lay in the sun napping, resting in the promise of the journey to come. I felt God’s presence very strongly that day. As expected, I had a lot of fears and doubts circling in my head. To answer those fears, God lifted my head to look at the distant mountains while saying that he is the creator of everything and no fear will stand in his presence. Since then, fear hasn’t had much foothold in my mind or my experiences. After being welcomed and accommodated by our first Guatemalan host, Luis Carlos, for a couple of days, we headed to Semilla.

Semilla is an Anabaptist seminary located in Guatemala City. We had the privilege of being led through a contrast tour of Guatemala by Semilla employees, Mario and Karla, who are beautiful, kind-hearted, and sincere people. This tour started with teaching from the history professor at Semilla, Hector. He managed to break my heart by teaching the true history of what Guatemalans had to live through these past centuries. One of my hopes for this semester was that God would break my heart for what breaks his, and he didn’t take much time doing that. But this history wasn’t shared without hope. Later, learning from multiple religious leaders, based in Guatemala, opened our eyes to their hopes and dreams for their country.

Part of the contrast tour was learning about the landfill located in Guatemala City. If it interests you, I recommend watching the documentary called, Recycled Life, for the full story. In short, there are Guatemalans that are the country’s unofficial recycling system. To make a living, people are sorting through the country’s trash to find something of value to sell. We watched the documentary as a group and were shocked as a whole. I took some time to myself to try to wrap my head around the reality of the situation. It’s very easy to ignore another country’s problems when you’re hearing about it on your television in Canada. But this time, we were surrounded by this reality and given the opportunity to look out over the landfill, seeing people work there.

The documentary showed joyful people working in what seemed to be an awful place, and yet they were happy and thankful. I remember times when I complained about my part-time job at an ice cream store, it was hard to see that put into perspective. Many of us were weeping as we considered the lives of these people, and the injustice that had forced them into their situation. As words of comfort my friend, Prairie Gillis, another site 1 student, explained that Jesus wept for injustice and unfairness in this world. Jesus is weeping for the people that are working in that landfill. That thought is something I will remember every time injustice brings tears to my eyes. Jesus cried just as hard or even harder for his children.

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Currently, our site is processing all that we have experienced in the past week. From getting off an airplane, to waking up in a warm new country, and to hearing a true, heartbreaking history, we feel a little overwhelmed. A prayer request would be that our site could hold onto these lessons while also giving them to God to carry for us as we continue learning in the coming weeks. Today, I am sitting in sunshine and wondering how I will communicate with my host family tomorrow night, with the little Spanish that I know. For now, know that we are learning, we are growing, and we are loving it here.

Hasta Luego!