February 13 – A Word of Personal Privilege

guat diary

This is the last in a series of Guatemala Diary E-mail posts
Thursday Night

The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be still. Exodus 14:14

These words from Exodus were the basis of our team devotional for the day.  They were directed at the tendency of some of us, especially North Americans, to try to solve every problem, untie every knot, ease every tension – real or imagined.

As the day unfolded for me, these words helped define one of the most important experiences of the week.  When we arrived at the clinic site in Quixaya – the same location as yesterday, there were no problems for me to solve, no projects to complete. We had decided not to run the children’s program in the morning; all the village children are in school in the morning.  The doctors didn’t need my advice and the pharmacy was well-staffed and running-well.  There would be a late morning meeting with Roberto, Ita, and Roberto Santizo and Chet Marshall, Cathy Reese, and Brian Jennings from our Mission Committee.  For a while, though, there was nothing to do but be still. Figuratively speaking. That’s when Gabriella, the Guatemalan on our Children’s Ministry team, decided we should be still in motion.

Gabriella told me she and I would walk through the village with Carlos, a deacon from our host church, and invite people to the clinic and listen to things they might tell us.  Since my Spanish is marginal in the best of circumstances, I would, indeed, be still as we walked and listened – Gabriella and Carlos talking when talking was needed.

I wish I knew more about Quixaya.  I know that sometime around twenty years ago or so, a mudslide from the volcanic mountain at whose base the village sits sliced through the village leaving a scar in the form of a deep ravine that divides the village one side from the other.  The government helped rebuild the village with paved streets and perhaps some help in building new houses by providing cement block and corrugated steel for roofs.  We also know that Quixaya was a rebel stronghold during the long civil war that did not end until 1996.

The men of Quixaya mostly work in the fields when they can – cutting cane or picking coffee. Some skilled workers travel to Guatemala City to find jobs during the week and one home only for the weekend.

You don’t need to know much to know that Quixaya is a place of much poverty and little opportunity,

So, Carlos, Gabriella, and I set off to walk through Quixaya – my job mostly to be still.  We walked down the south side of the ravine until we came to a low point where we could cross to the north side.  I thought about people, loved by God, who live out their lives in this village.  Three rooms in a house is a luxury, and ten people in those three rooms is not unusual. This time of year a small stream runs through the ravine and it is choked with litter and whatever drains off the streets and out of the houses into it.  In this scenic place care for the earth should matter, but it does not.

Some houses look as if they have barely been cared for since they were build, while others show the owner’s love of beauty in flowers planted near a fence or curtains blowing through an open window.

Once on the north side we stopped at houses along the way, Gabriella and Carlos telling whoever was home about the clinic.  Some conversations were short, but always friendly. Some were long. Louisa is a woman who is probably not as old as she looks, and both her young adult children suffer from chronic conditions or illnesses. They have been to clinics before and have been told that their is little that can be done for them, which is probably true.  I don’t know if they bothered to come to our clinic or not. I do know that we prayed with and for them, Carlos promising not a healing, but God’s presence with them.

We climbed the steep street past another school teeming with you children in the schoolyard and in the street, the joy of the children not quite able to mask the hopelessness of their situation save for the hope that is beyond our situations. Dogs and ducks and chickens joined children and mothers about their business; tiendas, small shops selling bags of corn chips and cold soft drinks.  Bent backs carried loads of firewood gathered further up the mountain. People smiled and said “buenas dias.”

There is a battle to be fought in Quixaya.  It is against hopelessness in its many forms: unemployment, spousal abuse, addiction, lack of opportunity.  There is much that might be done to improve houses, health, and education.

But at least for today the Scripture told me to be still, that the Lord was there to fight the battle. I don’t know exactly what that means.  But knowing that I was to be still as we walked through Quixaya was a gift – a personal privilege that those busy building houses and running a clinic did not have.

I don’t know how the problem of hopelessness in Quixaya will be solved.  But I know that God loves the people there very much.  I am thankful that in the stillness he told me so.

Your Away Team comes down from the lake tomorrow and begins the trip home that will end late on Saturday night.  It has been a wonderful week.  We will want to tell you more about it. For now we thank God for the week and you for your. Love and support.