This time two weeks ago, we were making our way back to the United States Physically it involves suitcases, boarding passes, layovers, security checks and passports, all relatively easy to contend with. It is the emotional process of coming home which is more difficult. When someone asks how my trip was, I find I don't have a good answer. Ideally, a response should include the great projects our team completed or how about hundreds of children heard about Jesus at Vacation Bible School. I wish I could answer but mostly I can't. For me, my husband, and some team members, the experience in Santa Maria is so personal. We are afraid we are unable to adequately express what it is like. Ideally, I want each of you to walk with us through Santa Maria, to say "buenas dias" to nearly everyone we pass, to smell tortillas cooking and the wood fires, to admire the brilliant colors all around, to watch the clouds part revealing Volcan de Aqua. Most of all, I want you to meet our family there.
My time is Santa Maria is defined by the little moments which touch me to the core and are not easily, if ever, forgotten. I will try to share a few, and I pray I am able to do them the justice they deserve.
Every year, the mission team is welcomed to Santa Maria by a large group of mostly women and children. Donations are unloaded and we are seated for the formal greeting. Many thank-yous are given, and prayers are raised. Typically, the traditional dancing then begins. Our Guatemalan family then seek out Americans to join in the dance. This has been happening every year since 2009. What happened next, however, is one of the memorable moments. The traditional music ended, and a playlist began with their current hits. Within minutes, a full blown dance party ensued. Guatemalans and Americans spent the next 45 minutes or so dancing, laughing, and genuinely enjoying the fact we shared this time together. To understand the significance, you need a little back story.
A few years ago, our Guatemalan friends were told that Americans couldn't love them. They were told they would get us dirty and give us diseases. For a few years they believed it. Until we showed them. We hugged them unabashedly, we spent time with them, and we loved them until they knew for sure. The dance party demonstrated how comfortable they are with us. We actually had to gently tell them we had to stop the dancing to proceed with the rest of the scheduled events.
On the last day, after food bags were delivered to need families, our entire team is at the project to begin the process of saying goodbye. Some teams finished early, allowing some time, to yes, dance again. At some point the music paused and the Star Spangled Banner was sounding from the speakers. I think we
Americans all were taken aback just a bit, but quickly stood and sang along. Immediately after, the Guatemalan national anthem filled the space. Their hands were raised to their chests and they too sang.
For me it was a defining moment. We were a team, united by working together towards common goals,
all orchestrated by our heavenly father.
A little later that afternoon, we presented a surprise for our Guatemalan family. Our team member, Courtney Furman, a talented vocalist accompanied by Amanda Doolittle on the guitar, sang What a Beautiful Name. Part of the surprise was we did our best to join in the chorus, in Spanish. Words cannot describe the look
on the faces of our friends. Tears streamed freely down their faces. It was truly a powerful moment I will not forget.
A photo captured by a team member during our surprise
So when I fail to explain how my/our trip was it is mostly because I will mostly likely begin to cry. Give me some time. I would be happy to try to explain what Guatemala is to me, my family, and my dear friends.
It is so much more than a mission trip.
This is the song we sang.