It was good to see Heydi again. We as a church helped her out a few years ago. It was good to see her precious girls who came running to us for hugs and holding hands. She cried when we talked, sharing benedictions with one another. I wished then and there my boys could meet her girls, to smile back and forth, to speak words full of heart but as of now would have little meaning—not yet, because of the language barrier. But maybe someday we’ll speak benedictions to one another without a translator, my family to hers, hers to mine, speaking to one another in her beautiful Spanish, adding one Mayan Kaqchiquel word at the end: Matiox (mah-tee-osh). “Thank you.”

 

We spent a good amount of time at Anjelica and Eduardo’s place last year. They were happy to see us again, and us them. We talked for a little while and, per what seems to be the tradition, spoke benedictions to one another. It’s a profound gift to have someone here look you in the eyes and speak a word of God’s peace, God’s presence, and God’s grace to you. My breathing slows and eyes flutter shut after this. It’s a sacred thing to receive.

The same thing happened when we visited Irma again. She promptly invited us in and onto the roof of her home, which is where the most space was for company. There we talked and enjoyed the fruit she gave us as a gift. Hanna brought along some bracelets to give to children and she gave so many away! She gave one to Irma’s daughter. Irma wanted me to tie it to her little wrist. I did, smiling. Her big, brown eyes looked at me. She smiled shyly as I tightened the knot. The bracelet was still so loose, but Irma gave me a hug and said, “Gracias.”

Matiox. Thank you. What a privilege it was for our team of eight to represent you as a congregation. To represent Jesus and his compassion. Matiox.

The team members were Jane Musgrove, Wayne Meyer, Doug Lewallen, John Peimann, John Hoestje, Erin Hoestje, Hanna Hurt, and myself, Ben Vineyard. We worked hard and enjoyed a good, pleasant rhythm with the people of Guatemala and with our wonderful missionary hosts, Joe and Cindy Betsill and Carlos and Patricia Locon. Work consisted of moving materials and such for Elvira’s (El-vee-rah) home. We dug some deep holes for footers and tied a lot of rebar. We visited the work being done on a kitchen for Selvin and Guadalupe’s home also, but didn’t spend much time working there. During the days we paused for visits with families we helped in past years with home projects.

The same thing happened when we visited Irma again. She promptly invited us in and onto the roof of her home, which is where the most space was for company. There we talked and enjoyed the fruit she gave us as a gift. Hanna brought along some bracelets to give to children and she gave so many away! She gave one to Irma’s daughter. Irma wanted me to tie it to her little wrist. I did, smiling. Her big, brown eyes looked at me. She smiled shyly as I tightened the knot. The bracelet was still so loose, but Irma gave me a hug and said, “Gracias.”

 

Later in the week we drive to Chuchipaca, which is where efforts are made through Trinity mission work to provide food and better housing conditions for the people there. Chuchipaca is remote and they welcome us with pine needles spread on the ground. It’s how they decorate for special occasions. They prepared a meal for our time together, a meal for which Trinity purchased materials. They eagerly wait for the shoes and sweatshirts we brought there from you. The children’s faces were eager like our children’s faces at Christmas.

Matiox…

This year I saw how much the work of empowering women mattered. It’s essential to the mission here in Panajachel and Chuchipaca. We talked with Mercedes and Gloria who are missionaries of sorts; their ministry received mini-grant support and other aid from Trinity. They have a ministry of helping women navigate and step into a new future, new self, by God’s grace and God’s presence. They care for women suffering in abusive relationships and who come so near to death and severe malnutrition. They find these women and graft them into a community of grace, support, and companionship. It’s beautiful to hear about. It’s beautiful to see their faces glow yet also drop tears as they share the stories of liberation, stories that are their own past as well.

This is why I think a very special gift given to Jane Musgrove was wonderful to witness. The women of Chuchipaca looked Jane in the eyes and said, “Thank you for your leadership and your work.” Jane would tell you all she doesn’t see herself as a leader per se, but a companion among the others in the team. But when those women looked at Jane, I wonder what they saw. A woman who had traveled so far to help others, who worked to get a group of fellow missionaries (of sorts) to Guatemala. It was neat to see her celebrated in this way.

There are many other stories to tell and our team will gladly do so at both campuses. We’ll let you know when that happens.

Until then, remember the goodness of God, the grace of God that’s yours in Jesus. Remember to look those around you in the eye and know them as the blessing that they are. And receive the blessings they might speak to you, maybe with words you do not understand. Benedictions come that way, I’ve learned. And the peace of God continues to surpass all understanding. Let’s keep the beautiful people of Guatemala in our prayers and in our compassionate action. Let’s keep going to Guatemala to do what we can so that the love of God continues to ripple from one smiling face to another, from one benediction to another.

Grace and peace to you,

Pastor Ben

 

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