I’ve been back from Guatemala for two weeks now and so many of you have been asking me about the trip. Most conversations go something like this – “Welcome back!!! How was the trip?” My response, “Absolutely amazing! Words can’t really describe the experience…all I can say is you’ve got to go for yourself.”
A couple of nuggets I’ve gleaned from these conversations: 1) A retired minister told me that I was absolutely right (I don’t hear that too often!) when I responded to his questions that words can’t describe the experience. He shared with me that through his experiences on similar mission trips, that he too was incapable of describing the emotions that accompany such an experience of Kingdom Building work. 2) In speaking with one of my dearest friends who is a youth minister, I said the day after returning from Guatemala, “It was definitely a mountaintop experience, I just dread the valleys to come.” He shared with me that mountaintop experiences in faith are no different than climbing actual mountains. When climbing serious mountains like Everest, K2, etc., coming down off the mountain is quite possibly more dangerous than going up. Think about it, as you come down the mountain you are absolutely exhausted, you’ve spent everything you had to get to the top of the mountain. This only magnifies the fact that it is much more difficult to climb up than back down the mountain.
And so as I come down off the mountaintop, I feel that one of the most healthy things I can do is to recount part of the experience for you:
The first thing I noticed on Good Friday as we came into Guatemala City from my view out the window of the plane was the staunch industrialism of the place. After taxing to the terminal and coming down the terminal, it was clear that we weren’t in the U.S. anymore as we were greeted by the hot Guatemalan air swirling through the airport which only seemed to be cooled by fans. From the airport, we climbed onto a Chicken Bus (a souped up, pimped out school bus) which is one of the main means of public transportation in Guatemala. We rode to a local seminary where we spent the night. The next morning (Saturday), we climbed aboard the Chicken Bus for our 5 hour ride to Xeabaj. Traveling out of the city and into the highlands, we would exceed an elevation of 8,000 feet. When we reached Xeabaj, we were happily surprised to be greeted by several members of the Methodist Church from the village. From Saturday evening through Thursday morning we would work from 6:30am to around 5:00pm, excluding breaks for meals. Our work on the job site revolved around the cement mixer as we were laying block. Over the course of six days, we were able to lay 7 courses of block and pour 2 cement bond beams.
As powerful as it was to be in Guatemala and be building a church, there were a few other elements of the trip which will forever change my life. On Tuesday, we were invited to worship with the local congregation. As is the custom in that part of the world, worship is extremely loud…so loud in fact that as the sounds waves bounce off the valley walls, I would estimate that you can hear any given church from at least a couple of miles away. I have had the opportunity to preach in front of various congregations, but never before have I had the opportunity for my voice to be heard throughout the countryside. It was quite an honor and extremely humbling to be invited to share God’s word with these people. By far though, the most amazing experience of the trip came on Wednesday afternoon. Throughout the week, one of the greatest treats was to go to the local store for an ice cold soda. On Wednesday afternoon though, the soda came to us as the pastor’s wife and children delivered ice cold drinks to us. It was in that moment that I witnessed something amazing. We went from giving to these people, to now we were receiving. You see, it was in that moment that we became partners, serving in ministry together.
Words will never do this trip justice, but I can say that we went to be the hands, feet, and heart of Jesus Christ. Somewhere along the way, we became pilgrims on a journey where we met Jesus face to face.