What an amazing trip we have had so far! I can hardly believe we only have a few days left before we head back to the US. We have been so busy, this morning is the first opportunity that I have had to sit down and write about our experiences. I have not tallied up the numbers yet, but when we leave on Sunday we will probably have interviewed over 40 people – maybe even more. Each of these people have amazing stories which connect to one another through various themes: struggle, survival, transformation, faith, hope love, and life.
Many of the needs and conditions in Guatemala (gang violence, orphaned children, displaced people, extreme poverty, fear) are a result of the civil war which ravaged the country for over thirty years (1960 – 1996). Fathers were killed, mothers were raped, young men were drafted into the army and children fled alone. Many of these children traveled to the US seeking a better life. They lived on the streets and ended up joining gangs out of necessity for survival. Survival … I have never had to survive like some of the men, women and children that we have met over the past two weeks. Struggle is not bound to a gender or place. It exists in urban ghettos, hospital beds, wheel chairs, and rural mountain villages … in ways that I would never have even dreamed about in my worst nightmares. Yet, in the middle of all this struggle, we have witnessed amazing beauty.
We have witnessed: a woman risk her life to care for the forgotten people in the most dangerous ghetto in Guatemala City … a former gang member become a pastor and open a rehab center for drug addicts … a woman feed children in her community and start a school to give them a better opportunity … a man care for the physically disabled who are hidden away their entire lives in a hospital … the list could go on. In the midst of struggle, we have witnessed men and women serving and giving their lives away for the sake of others. If I did not know their stories, I would ask why? Why do these people care? Why do these people give? I would ask those questions if I did not know their stories. However, I do know their stories … struggle, survival, transformation, faith, hope, love and life. Each of these people have reached the end of themselves and come face to face with a compassionate God who has cradled them in his arms, stripped away their burden and transformed them. These people care and give because they are responding to their own transformation; they respond with love because they have life. They aren’t thumping Bibles, they are living out the truth of transformation … caring for and loving others as Christ loved them. It is a beautiful picture of scandalous grace which flows downhill and pools up in the lowest places.