I am very ready to be back with my family, but what an eye-opening trip to Guatemala! On Wednesday we started off the morning by meeting a pastor in a poor part of Guatemala city, the pastor of Iglesia Bautista Jerusalen. It's a neat church and building. The city reminds me a lot of some of the places I've been in Argentina. Across the street the church helps support a small junior high school, where indigenous kids ride buses for 2 hours and then walk for 20 minutes to come in the afternoons. The building is falling apart, but they have school every day. It would be great to figure out how to help build them a new building. We had lunch at a hotel with the president of the Baptist Convention here. Then we drove to Antigua, a beautiful old town. It's become a tourist hotspot for Europeans and Americans. We checked into the hotel and changed clothes, then drove up to Ajotenanga. It was about 30 minutes up the mountain, past a dormant volcano. There is a live volcano not far from here that hopefully I can see the next time I come to the country. In Ajotenanga we met at a church--really just an open air structure with sheets of tin for the roof. It was raining softly when we arrived, and about 60 kids and adults were already waiting there for us. We had a bag full of cookies and crackers and candy, which we distributed first, then we have away a bunch of rice, beans and sugar, plus toothbrushes and toothpaste--appropriate I guess after the candy and cookies. We sang and played and everyone hugged. It was now pouring rain, but probably more than 100 kids were there. It was very inspiring. We had to run about a block in the driving rain to get back to the vans, and everyone was soaked, but laughing and having fun.
I should probably tell you who "everyone" is--Chiqui is the in-country director, and a neat lady. Her husband is a doctor in Guatemala City. Amed is also on staff with Buckner. Tina is Chiqui's daughter and was a translator, Aida is another Buckner staffer. Then in addition to me, Josh and Albert Reyes there were 3 women from Texas. Karen Perry is a member at Park Cities in Dallas, and this was her 28th trip to Guatemala in the last 4 years. She's a great lady. In fact, you should go to Albert's blog at http://www.pandulce.typepad.com/ and read about Karen as the model for 21st century mission specialists. This time she brought two of her friends, Joyce and Patty. The three of them were fun to watch, especially Karen. As Patty said at dinner tonight, the kids in the orphanages and churches here treat her like a rock star. And 2 of Joyce's daughters are here, Monroe and Quincy.
On Thursday we visited Manchen, the girls orphanage run by the government but where Buckner does some humanitarian aid. We met several members of Christ Church in Tyler, who were building a new pergola in the yard of the orphanage. There are about 100 girls here, many with special needs. A bunch of them asked me to play futbol americano with them--I need to bring them a ball when I come back. Virtually all of these girls were there either because they were orphans or because their family abused them. Tragic stories.
In the afternoon we did a little shopping, then drove back to Guatemala City. We had an impromptu staff training session with the in-country staff and interns, with Albert and I sharing various aspects of leadership, teamwork, and the vision of Buckner. That was both fun and challenging, as the group was split into thirds--1/3 speaking only Spanish, 1/3 only English, and 1/3 bilingual. But we laughed and talked and strategized about what might could be in Guatemala.
All in all it was a great trip. I can't wait to go back.