San Juan del Obispo has been a blessing first and a challenge second. Site 1 is so blessed to have tasted what it’s like to be a part of a smaller community in Guatemala through the experience of staying with host families for 6 weeks. This past week contained a multitude of goodbyes as it was our final week in several places.
Our first goodbye was to our Tuesday service placements. We soaked in our last chance to serve alongside and for the people we had been placed with. I had the awesome opportunity to teach 10-12 year olds English every Tuesday afternoon, and it turned into a bittersweet, surreal goodbye. It felt like just the day before that we had been walking into those classrooms for the first time not knowing what to expect.
Our second goodbye was to Mundo Spanish School. For some of us school was definitely a huge challenge, it’s tiring for your brain to be constantly translating every conversation you have. I enjoyed Spanish school so much. It opened up the chance to connect with locals. Our teachers were also extremely kind and patient. Spanish school graduation night was emotional for both students and teachers. Each class group had to do a little talent show performance in Spanish which lightened the mood along with the dance we got to have with our host families and teachers. Guatemalans definitely know how to celebrate!
I had a really special moment with my host sisters on graduation night. Because of many different circumstances, I didn’t have much of a personal connection with my host family. But at graduation my sisters made a point of pulling me on the dance floor and dancing with me for at least an hour. Realizing how big of a moment that was for me, and how little effort it took for my sisters to make my night, made me want to look out for those small chances of service in my own life. I do hope I left enough of an impression on them that they know how much it meant to me. Goodbyes can be final, but they can also make you hope for the future and happily reflect on the past.
Everyone had a desire to express gratitude to the families that we were staying with. I especially had so much that I wanted to say but didn’t have enough vocabulary to get most of it across. The solution for many of us was to find gifts or activities we could share with our host family as a final goodbye. Many of us went into Antigua’s market and bought colourful flowers, bought cakes, or offered to cook meals. I think each family understood the love we were trying to get communicate to them. It seems like many relationships can be built on small conversations. For instance, I remembered my host mom’s favourite colour and proceeded to buy her flowers of that color. She seemed to appreciate the gesture. Many of us were given gifts in return, which felt pretty unnecessary as they had been serving us for over a month, but it just goes to show how loving and caring these people are.
Thinking back on my weeks in San Juan del Obispo, I did find them quite challenging. There was always the chance for loneliness when you’re unsure of the role you play in a family you are temporarily a part of. I found the balance between getting rest and trying to make connection past language barriers really difficult. But it also made me realize how real God’s presence is everywhere, we give him all that we have in effort which is so little and he creates mountains out of it. I think most of us are finishing our time in San Juan with the feeling that we have another home in the world to visit and keep in mind as we continue on in our lives. None of us will be able to forget the experiences we had nor the relationships we formed.
Overall, our community has been so blessed to be welcomed into a variety of families’ homes. Remembering how caring my host mom was whenever I felt sick or was tired, and the family’s consistent actions of kindness, are things that I am going remember forever. There’s nothing quite as humbling as being welcomed as a stranger into a house in another country. Now we are on to our next adventure and serving independently in separate groups for a week. We continue to ask for prayers of strength and being able to stay present while future plans seem so close in our future. ¡Adios!