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.
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.