February 3 – A Treasure Hunt at Lake Atitlan

Yes, another trip to Guatemala. For the sixteen of us on the “Away Team” these next few hours are full of last minute details, a little anxiety and looking forward to tomorrow morning around nine when the 737 lifts off from Newark on its way to Guatemala City. Sure, there’s still customs to clear and all the details of the mission for which we have been preparing, but there’s a kind of relief; no more preparation, just the work we’re set to do.

For those on the “Home Team” it may be just another Saturday morning and another week full of the things you always do.  But that, too, is the work God has set for you to do.  Many of you will use the Prayer Guide we’ve distributed to guide your prayers for the Away Team. Please know that your week will be covered by the prayers of those of us in Guatemala.  We set aside specific prayer time everyday and are committed to praying for God’s work for you this week just as you are committed to praying for God’s work for us in Guatemala.  Thank you.

Most of the members of this year’s Away Team are returning veterans. We sometimes kid ourselves into thinking we know what to expect. We don’t. But San Luca Toliman is a familiar place and we know the tasks necessary to set up a clinic and a make-shift pharmacy, what games the kids like and how to adapt to what is available and “how they do things” as we help repair rain-damaged homes.

But this year we have been challenged as a team to do something else. We’re going to be on a treasure hunt. Paul’s words to the Corinthians in 2 Corinthians 8:1-9, have instructed us to break out of any notion that we rich North Americans are being sent to help those poor Guatemalans. Rather, we are looking for ways that we who have been so richly blessed by God may share some of those blessings and to look for the riches with which our brothers and sisters in Guatemala have been blessed.

In the 2 Corinthians passage, Paul reminds his rich readers in Corinth of the ways the poor Macedonians have shown “abundance of joy in their extreme poverty that has overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part.” Each of us on the Away Team has an assignment: look for wealth in the midst of extreme poverty.

This is no exercise in rose-colored vision. The gospel demands nothing less than our sharing from our wealth. It calls us to consider our bondage to things and our obsession with having. It requires that our hearts be broken by the injustice and greed that leads to too much poverty in our world. It forces us to face into the reality of just how hard life is for many who have so little.

But the Gospel also demands our acknowledgement that its riches are beyond circumstance, that our impoverished brothers and sisters may have an overflowing wealth that eludes so many of us in the midst of our material abundance.

So we’ll be on a treasure hunt, each of us looking for the riches of the Gospel in unexpected places. When we return next week, we hope to be able to tell stories of the treasures we found.

Of course, this treasure hunt, this looking for Gospel wealth, is not limited to the shores of Lago de Atitlan. There are riches of Good News to be found in the days filled with the things we always do.

Jorge, our Guatemalan partner, has sent us a photo of the house some of our team members will help repair and improve. He tells us that we will be setting up a clinic right next door and that the kids from the neighborhood are already eager for the games and crafts we might bring. It is not a great photo, but I keep looking at it. I’m wondering where Gospel treasure might be hid. I’m going to keep looking. We’ll tell you where we found it when we return.