E-pistle February 4

Guatemala: Why We Go

The Away Team sets off for Guatemala tomorrow morning at 4:00. The trip begins with a bus ride to Newark International Airport, and if all goes well eleven or so hours later we will be greeting friends old and new at the airport in Guatemala City – Jorge, Adriana, Roberto, Ita, Israel; perhaps Pastor Tomas and his daughter Paola. As we make our way up the mountain to San Luca Toliman and Lake Atitlan, we will anticipate other reunions – staff and workers at the Spring of Hope Mission.

Our Guatemala Mission, whether you are a member of the Home Team or the Away Team – is all about people.  But we will know the names of very few of them and probably will never see the majority of them ever again.  So, why do we go?

The direct costs of putting our team on the ground for a week of medical and children’s ministry can exceed $50,000 when you consider transportation, food, lodging and the incredible amount of donated medicines used in the clinics. $50,000 and you never learn their names?  Why go? Because their names will be known – certainly by the God who loves them, but also by his people who live in San Lucas Toliman or the villages around Lake Atitlan for more than one week a year.

Members of our Away Team may have direct contact – eye-to-eye, “¿Cómo está?”, “Dios te ama” contact – with 1,500 or more Guatemalans who live on the shore of Lago de Atitlan. If the clinics are full, as they usually are, our amazing doctors and pharmacy team members may see as many as 800 patients. Our children’s workers might lead activities for 200 kids. We will worship on Wednesday night with a congregation of perhaps 150. The school at Spring of Hope Mission provides excellent education and loving care for 200 students, many of whom are able to afford the modest tuition thanks to the generous support of LPC and its people (thank you!).

We are going to see a lot of people and we pray that our smiles, care and concern convey God’s love in ways that our broken and limited Spanish (with the exception of the remarkable Brian Jennings) simply cannot.

But a week from tomorrow we will board that 737 in Guatemala City and head back to Langhorne, leaving those 70 degree temperatures and 1,500 lives we touched for just a moment or two behind.  Was it worth it? Why go?

Among the patients our doctors see will be some whose conditions will improve immediately and permanently because of the care given in the makeshift clinics.  Others will receive some temporary relief from chronic conditions that cannot be adequately treated in the highlands of Guatemala. It is likely that the team may be able to send one or two to Guatemala City for more advance care. Others, frankly, will find little relief or hope; their situations untreatable with what is available.

Among the little ones our children’s workers will lead in crafts and games will be some who treasure the little key chain or bead necklace they have made as they exercise creative talent that often goes wasted. Others will manipulate, lie and steal to get more than their share or an extra turn they do not deserve.

We know that the education at Spring of Hope is going to open doors otherwise closed and locked tight for some of the students.  Others will leave the school and opportunity behind as they are lured into the false hope of quick money and easy pleasure promised by the drug traffickers and gangs now pouring into Guatemala from neighboring Mexico.

A week from tomorrow, our $50,000 spent and our 1,500 lives briefly touched, we will board that 737 and head home.  Why go at all?

We go, and our partnership with Promised Land Ministries works, because of what and who we leave behind when we head north to the land of snow and slush.

Of course, we will leave Roberto and Ita, Jorge, Adriana, Israel, Tomas and Paolo behind. We will leave the good work of Spring of Hope mission and the San Lucas Toliman clinic behind. But most importantly, we will leave behind unnamed, barely met, pastors and church leaders whose little congregations hosted a clinic for a couple of days. And they will continue the work of the gospel for the other 51 weeks a year.  They will help their people get across the lake to visit the clinic in San Lucas, they will work with PLM to help a promising young student get a quality education. They will stand shoulder to shoulder with their people when the summer rains and mudslides come and houses are destroyed or the coffee crop fails and the year’s meager is income lost.  They will preach the good news of a God who loves them in season and out.

And because we came for a week, humbly we pray, doing what little we could to help them in their work, their job may be just a little easier, the way of Christ seen a little more clearly, the Kingdom spreading to one more heart, into one more family, the evils of poverty, injustice, violence and addiction stopped at the door to one more home.

Guatemala: why do we go? Because God has called us and because, amazingly, he uses the little we do one week a year to encourage, support and empower the incredible work of our partners in the remaining 51 weeks.

Please pray for your Away Team as we will pray for you.  But pray also for our partners, especially those unnamed, barely met, pastors and church leaders whose little congregations were gracious in allowing us to work with them for a week – they are the mighty men and women of God building the Kingdom day by day in the villages and towns around Lago de Atitlan.