Light and Life in Guatemala
By Russell DeFriend | November 25, 2019
High on a mountaintop, a brightly-clad farmer finds static repose in rows of tomatoes and squash. Rich rainbows of handmade textiles hang on lines, outside cinder-block shelters sealed with earth-tone plasters. Towering over monastery towers, elder trees bloom huge red flowers. Green plants find creative ways to grow through clay roofs. Life sprouts from beneath our boots and covers the landscape in truth.
2,000 miles away, surrounded by 30 volcanos and 17 million people, 11 team members set out on an 8-day mission trip to provide shelter and warmth. So begins a little exchange of light and life in Guatemala.
Canvas of Life
Our team connects with a watchful family of believers known as Catalyst Resources International (CRI), who serve as our hosts for the trip. They provide peace, hospitality and a history of finding those most in need of God’s mercy. About an hour southwest in the village of Santa María de Jesús, they found two families without a decent home. Our team came to build one for both.
On our way to the host’s property, we see lots of broken rock, children playing on dirt soccer fields, traffic flowing in wrong directions and people packed like sardines. We call it “peace” to see Guatemalans move about with calculated ease, but after some reflection, it seems to be a hunger strategy. We see orchards erupting through rock, fruit filling volcanic stone streets, yet people have too little to eat. They carry heavy burdens on their backs with cheerful smiles on their faces. Amidst the hunger and suffering, Creator and creation paint a canvas of life.
The night before being sent out, a friend and father-figure feeds his family his last supper, and then departs. We pray and prepare for Jesus to come.
When we arrive at our first worksite, we notice the father has gone. A widow and her daughters need a suitable place to weave dresses they can sell at the market. The youngest boys grab a hammer, ready to help. Soon a neighbor greets us with two tiny green pieces of freshly picked fruit – a sparse harvest from a tree growing up the mountain. He considers it gain to share these last golden morsels. He knows that more shall grow. We share a hunger and a thirst to sit together at our Father’s banqueting table.
Joy of Jesus
The morning before our second work day we visit Mimi’s Orphanage. This location, run by CRI, houses a dozen children, mostly between 1-3 years old. In the cases we hear about, the little ones stay until the state finds a suitable home for adoption or a family member steps up to care for them.
The director of the orphanage knows every child’s story – stories that would break your heart. We hear stories of abandonment and abuse, but we see sparkles of light coming from brave beings. We rock babies and roll toys on the floor. We share the genuine joy of Jesus.
That Joy comes back with us to the worksite. We have clarity in our mission and serve with whole hearts. We crank on construction for 3+ days, take time to break bread with each family and watch them gradually open their hearts to hope, one wall at a time.
Before we place the finishing touches on the home for dedication, we visit a local school with several classrooms and about 50 students. The state provides the building and education but no food. CRI partners with 40 other charitable organizations in Guatemala to bring in thousands of meals which might be some children’s only nutrition for the day. CRI has soul and works with purpose. What an honor to serve alongside them.
On our final day, we move in furnishings and bedding, outfit the family’s kitchen with cookware, water filtration and install an outdoor stove. The dedication ushers in a gush of emotion. Tears of joy fill tired eyes. Smiles beam across faces. Hugs embrace us on the deepest level. This home brings more than shelter and warmth, but also hope of a better future rooted in God’s goodness.
When we left, I felt a warm glow of God’s love on the bus ride. I felt my heart glow for our neighbors in Santa María de Jesús, all the souls at Mimi’s, our team, church and the whole CRI family. I felt that warm glow of God’s love across the entire countryside that day and for all God’s children that night.
Transmission of Grace
A timeless image of agrarian life in Santa María de Jesús still lingers. Only God and his children have tended to those lands. Together they form a complete picture of dependence on the Divine. Suffering continues in this impoverished paradise, but because of you, our St. Philip’s family, we felt burdens lighten in their lives and in ours. Peace comes to ease the pain, here and there, everywhere and forever.
We witnessed it first-hand. The Holy Spirit never leaves. He proceeds eternally in an endless transmission of grace for all God’s children to receive. Receive.
But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. John 15:26