Hello friends and family! Apologies for not blogging in a week, but be assured that we have had good reason–we’ve been busy. Week three was a change of pace from the first half of the trip and brought many new experiences.
First of all, we spent several days at America Latina’s campus in Chimaltengango, a smaller town about 35 miles outside of Guatemala City. Though the faculty try to make everything as similar as possible in the two locations, we discovered many things that were different about working there as opposed to in the city. In this country, there are many, many people who still live much like they did in the past because they are in more remote locations. Inside the city, civilization has developed to be quite a lot like it is in the United States–for example, most people dress similarly to what we’re used to, in jeans and t-shirts. However, the farther away you get from big cities, the more likely people will still be wearing their traditional indigenous clothing and living simple farming lives. Chimaltengango is an example of one of these smaller communities– America Latina’s schedule at this campus is even catered to the fact that the people need time to spend working in the fields. The population is largely indigenous (as opposed to being a mix of Spanish and Mayan descent) and many are relatively poor. According to the adults we’ve spoken with from school, a large portion of the students are also not Christians–an interesting challenge for an overtly Christian school. As a result of these differences, we interacted slightly differently with the students but still enjoyed them just as much! Since we were with an entirely new group, many of us enjoyed switching around which age groups and classes we were working with. Becca and Kaylyn enjoyed trying their hand at English class and with older students (they had previously done mostly Bible with elementary in the city), and they had tons of fun! Brielle and Kalany also made a switch, working with both young and old and helping out with the Bible classes instead of English. It was a nice change for them because in English class they hadn’t been allowed to speak Spanish at all and loved having the opportunity to do that instead.
Besides working in classes and doing our Paul skit for the elementary school’s chapel service, we also helped apply flouride to tons of elementary school students since it is a luxury most cannot afford there. It was a challenge trying to wrangle a bunch of crazy kids into three lines and get them open their mouths (a lot were pretty nervous) but it was enriching and so worth it. Their teeth were pretty bad and we hope our day as dentists was helpful!
Finally, the two days during the week that we were not at the school were spent in Antigua and at the public school in Guatemala. Antigua was a fun team trip–we were disappointed that we left late and only could spend a short amount of time there, but had a good time anyway! Public school was extremely enriching for all of us, without a doubt. I, and I believe some of the other team members as well, was actually a little terrified to visit because of the background information we’d received about it (for example, 1: public education here is terrible, 2: teachers don’t care about students they just do it for the money, 3: both the schools and the kids are very dirty, etc.). However, the short few hours we spent with those students ended up being some of my favorite of the trip so far. Mama Uri (our main faculty caretaker in Chimal) had said that these kids were very poor and badly in need of love. She explained that just our single visit could show these kids that they were special and make a big difference in their lives. Though we were a bit intimidated to walk in, everything changed when we saw the students. They were darling and honestly no different from the other kids we’d befriended who were slightly better off! During recess it took no time before we were surrounded by children wanting to know our names, our favorite color, where we were from, if we spoke English (gasp!) and more. Leaving, I was overwhelmed with hugs and after I walked out that door I wanted nothing more than to walk right back in and tell them again how Jesus loves them and how I’m delighted to spend time with them.
Those experiences were definite highlights because I think that for all of us this has been probably the most challenging week so far. Even though the students in Chimal were just as amazing and sweet, many of us missed our other students in the city because we’d gotten to know them so well. It was also tough for several team members in terms of feeling 100% because Chimal was an hour long, windy trip in a giant van up a mountain and at any one time someone was always feeling nauseous– even in the middle of the day. Additionally, we ended up questioning whether we were actually all that useful at that campus because we were only there 3 days and felt like it was too short to get to know kids well enough. However, we heard over and over again from Mama Uri that our visit meant A LOT to them. She told us many times every day that though we may not be able to see the results of our visit directly, there will be long-term effects that will be wonderful for the students there. Just the fact that we’d put in the effort to visit meant a lot. We are learning again that we need to trust that God will work through us, even when our goal-oriented minds are a little confused and cannot grasp His bigger plan. So though it was an interesting and different week, life is still awesome here in Guatemala! We love the people here and we are loving the support we are continually receiving from home (shoutout to everyone’s prayer partners–we opened our letters and treats this week and were very much encouraged!).
As much as I wish I could equally explain the deeper thoughts of everyone on the team, I can only really legimately offer mine since I’m the one writing this (Brielle). But I just wanted to say that Chimaltengango was an incredible experience for me in particular because of teaching Bible classes. I (and other team members) was extremely blessed to be able to speak into these students lives in a special way. To them, I was someone who had important things to say and it was such a priviledge. I’d previously been in English classes in Guatemala City which was awesome because I know English (haha), but I loved the opportunity to do something directly related to Jesus and telling others how much I love Him! I was so amazed to be with these two teachers in particular who truly believed my advice was worth their students hearing, and so I spent nearly all my time speaking to classes about what I believed. I got to give 9th graders advice on dating and tell them they are special even without a significant other telling them so. I got to explain to them what being a Christian in the United States is like, what our churches are like, and about being a missionary. America Latina is very missions-oriented and focuses on teaching their students they can change the world. So I was asked to explain about another trip I took to Africa and that story was used by the teacher to tell the students about other places of the world in need. I was just so taken aback by how genuinely the students asked me questions and listened to my answers, and could feel that God was working through this. Even though I had to stand up there for the whole class and try to pour out my heart in Spanish–a definite challenge for me–it all seemed to happen flawlessly. It was an incredible feeling and experience. So though it was a different and challenging week for everyone, I am absolutely confident that it was a useful one and God is doing and will do amazing things!
Anyways, thank you for listening to what is happening here in Guatemala. This next week is jam-packed for us: we are back in the city and have classes, big group activities, four days of English club, and other places outside of school to visit. We are excited about the rest of our trip and sad to leave next Sunday, but also looking forward to seeing everyone at home again.
Thanks for your prayers as always!
Brielle, Kaylyn, Tempie, Kalany, Bria, y Becca