Stories from Guatemala 2018

The way we, as a church, have loved our neighbors in Guatemala continues to fill my heart with peace. We’ve shared money for food, shared for houses, shared for care and love. We’ve been sharing Jesus together, you and me—those of us who could go to Guatemala and those who stayed in the States. We’re in this together. I am so happy we are in this together. —Pastor Ben Vineyard
July 15-22, 2018

A Trip of a Lifetime

Here’s what I noticed as we observed where God sent us, where we represented Jesus and you, our friends at Trinity. The way we as a church have loved our neighbors in Guatemala continues to fill my heart with peace. We’ve shared money for food, shared for houses, shared for care and love. We’ve been sharing Jesus together, you and me—those of us who could go to Guatemala and those who stayed in the States. We’re in this together. I am so happy we are in this together. We, as a congregation, along with the Trinity Foundation, are currently involved in food programs for women and children of Santa Catarina and Chuchipaca, Guatemala. We provide food and nourishment for many women and their children in these places (I’ve lost count, and it recently was increased). These women are often left by their husbands as the men chase down bottles. Many men die from addiction also. In Panajachel we continue to work as a congregation to build a house for those who need it. Every year we build a house for another family. These are small homes, but are filled to the brim with gratitude when families move in. This work connects to the Gospel proclamation for these women, children, and men: God loves you, forgives you, and cherishes you in Jesus. You are beautiful. You are eternally loved. Yet somehow, year after year, it’s our team who returns the most filled by this message, this reality. Here are the stories.
 

Panajachel, Guatemala

Dear Patricia, what a gift to see you smile and to work side by side with you and your children. Your homemade juice from cantaloupe was new for me, new for my favorite fruit. I liked that. We dug and found so many rocks where your new home will be. We found marbles and even a small, blue toy soldier. It felt good to move the garbage out and to start digging those footers. Walls will be up soon and we all look forward to seeing your smile then. I bet it will be even wider, if that’s possible.
 

July 17, 2018 – Panajachel, Guatemala

Cultural Night

After a day of focused work, we sat down for a cultural meal. I most enjoyed the storytelling about Mayan history and traditions.

Patricia lead this like she does year after year and we took turns making tortillas with quick, flip-flopping motion on our palms. Mine ended up jumping wildly from my long-fingered hands onto the floor. Every year that’s my traditional tortilla.

The new members of our group tried the traditional back-strap weaving, a work reserved for women in the culture. We would sometimes see women weaving like this when we looked into shaded parts of yards and homes as we traveled.

Members of our group dressed in the traditional Mayan dress tonight. The colors have meanings of deeper hue than their English description told. “Red is for the blood of our Mayan ancestors,” she said. There’s more to it, I’m sure.

 
July 18, 2018 – 6:36pm – Santa Catarina

Trinity Guatemala Mission

We sat beside one another and shared Tampico juice. You said thank you for the food sponsorship in Spanish (“gracias”) and Caqchiquel Mayan (“Matiox” – pronounced, “mah-tee-osh”). You thanked God. I walked to you and we met eye to eye. I poured water on my hand and made the sign of the cross on each of your foreheads. You widows Jesus knew so well!

Then you prayed. Some of you stood; others sat. I kneeled, wanting to be flooded by your words, your blessing. You prayed all at once, some of you in Spanish, some in Caqchiquel. Your prayer wove together into a rhythm, almost singing, almost gentle chanting. I knew in that moment that the Lord knew your voice, your voice that comes together into that song, very well. That is why we came.

Trinity Lutheran Church has been sponsoring this food program that helps provide these widows with food and nutrition. We also looked at rehabbing some of their homes. I am proud of the people who asked me to be their pastor. Blessed to be among them!
July 19, 2018

Chuchupaca, Guatemala

Here we are, new friends making new friendships, sent far beyond our understanding to Guatemala, together. Eyes continue to widen to absorb all the beauty we see. We work with laughter and pray with quiet words.
July 19, 2018 – Chuchipaca, Guatemala

Sweet Mothers

Sweet mothers, you bathed us in your prayers, fed us with your traditions, and looked deep into our eyes, knowing something of us that we cannot yet grasp. We shared this meal, this celebration with pine needles on the earthen ground–per tradition. We celebrated with gifts. For me, the stoles you made by your own weaving. For you, the sweaters and shoes our friends at home collected for you. We laughed together beneath the flap of origami birds. Peace from God filled our hearts that day. Today.
July 19, 2018 – Panajachel, Guatemala

Dear Children

I tried to think of my boys through your eyes, but my eyes welled too soon. I could not go all the way down that path, so I looked at your faces again and saw such happiness within your world, within the celebration we were part of together. Jesus spoke of you, you little ones. He held you and cherished you. He still does. Oh, he does, and so do we!
July 20, 2019

San Antonio, Guatemala

We walked steep pathways to visit, to say hi. We heard your pottery stand is the most famous in Guatemala so we had to see you. We saw you painting pottery and felt a new impression in our hearts, remembering that God continues to shape us, paint us, and send us.

We stepped into your church at the top of the path, ascending into the heavens above Lake Atitlan. When we descended toward the lake, our boat ride was bumpy. I loved the feel of that wind, and hoped and remembered that Jesus stood above such waters, step by step.

Chuchipaca, Guatemala

Remembering

There we were, together for a celebration day. It’s just one day past, and I miss your smiles, our laughter. Like Christmas, our celebration will return. Like a child, I’ve begun counting the days. I promise: my friends and I will keep you in our hearts. We will keep looking for gifts for you. We pray the food program through Trinity nourishes you well. I will try to find a Spanish origami book and hundreds of squares of the brightest colored paper to match your trajes tipicas.
July 20, 2019

Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

The land rolls with the deepest green and then launches into the sky as dormant volcanoes. City-villages nestle into the green and rest above Lake Atitlan. This lake is where life began, some ancient Mayan traditions say. I pause facing the lake and feel I could watch those silent volcanoes as day flowed into day. Surely God is in this place. We have seen where he has been. We see where he promises to be.
July 21, 2018

Iximche, Guatemala

We were quiet in the van, hearts too full to speak, dwelling on all we saw and heard of you. We heard that an ancient Mayan ruin site wasn’t far off the road, so we decided to detour. We were blessed to touch those rocks and steps and imagine, as best we could, your ancient ways.

The guide, Alex, said when the Spaniards came and destroyed everything, the surviving Mayans of this area, Iximche (pronounced: “eesh-eem-chay”) fled toward Lake Atitlan and the high regions by the lake. That’s you and those were your ancestors.

I’m sorry you had to go through that—to carry that chapter in your people’s story, your story. I’m sorry… I don’t want to see those chapters for anyone again…

I am sorry that even now some of you flee to find a refuge, a home, a safe place. I know there’s talk of fear of you, but you and I have made many chapters together now and I don’t believe those who say otherwise. You are beautiful and kind. You are able to see time in a way I cannot yet grasp, but want to learn. You know an art to life that would benefit so many of my friends at home who feel harangued by things of little value.

Let’s continue to write better stories together, you and me, you and us. Peace fills the heart!

Panajachel, Guatemala

Finished Projects

We rarely finish a home when we’re in Pana. We either start the process or finish it. This year we started. Our new friend Danny took some photos of completed homes. What a joy to see these! They are filled with Light, both from the sun and from Jesus. We know it. We sensed His presence in these places.
 

Antigua, Guatemala

We Return Home

Now we return home, hearts full of so many stories. We paused for prayer and reflection on a hill overlooking Antigua yesterday. We sat quietly, wanting our souls to catch up with our bodies so we could make sense of everything.

Tonight we will embrace loved ones we left behind. We’ll see them with eyes still glowing, still pondering the beauty we saw.

What will come of this? What will come of me?

We’re coming home to you, Kansas City. We love you and miss you. There are so many stories. There are so many decisions. Peace overflows the heart.

I have run out of words. Here, in Houston’s airport, I try to write, but there are no more words. Just this photo till I’m home. This is everything, really. There are a thousand words here somewhere. Maybe you can see them written.

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