From a dear friend who took his first trip out of the country…
I recently returned from a missions trip to Guatemala. I went with a group from my church to do a construction project for El Verbo church, a local church in Amatitlan that runs a school for Compassion International students.
It was my first “missions” trip and my first time out of the country so I wasn’t sure what to expect. As a typical American, I had specific goals and a specific agenda for what I thought needed to be accomplished while in Guatemala so our trip would be a “success”. It quickly became apparent, however, that the people there weren’t too concerned about what we got accomplished. They were blessed just by us showing up.
From the moment we arrived we found ourselves being served by the very people we came to help. They rolled out the red carpet for us, made us feasts every meal, and broke open their piggy banks (literally) to buy us gifts. They called us “angels” and “gifts from God.”
I found myself asking the questions: What did we do to deserve all this? What do we have to offer these people? We didn’t come to bring them the gospel. In fact, these people can teach us Americans a thing or two about faith, boldness, servanthood, mercy, and love. And it certainly wasn’t our expertise at construction. Quite the opposite actually….we broke half their tools.
But I felt a powerful sense that God was at work in ways far beyond my ability to comprehend. He wanted to bless them the way they needed to be blessed – not the way that would make us feel better about ourselves.
The problems in Guatemala far exceed anything we were going to make a dent in during our short stay. Poverty is rampant, children are malnourished, families are living in tin houses, corruption reins, and they have so polluted their environment that many of their natural resources are unusable.
I also realized how comfortable naiveté can be. You can read all you want about poverty in other countries, but it’s easy to ignore when you haven’t seen it for yourself. It changes you and it changes the way you see the world. Now that I’ve seen it with my own eyes I can’t pretend it doesn’t exist.
If there is one thing I want to take away from this trip, it is to exemplify in my own life the faith and boldness of the Guatemalan people. They showed their faith through their actions. They have so little compared to American standards and yet they possess such sincere faith and never hesitate to boldly proclaim what God is doing in their life.
At the end of the week we packed up our belongings and headed back to our comfortable home back in America. If we had any doubt about whether or not our trip would have a lasting impact that ended our last night with the church as a man stood up and told us he had just driven five hours to be there because he had a message for us. He needed to tell us that the seeds we planted were going to grow in that church. Talk about confirmation!
All God asks is that we love and obey him and he will do the rest. God called us to go and we went. God called us to serve and we served. It wasn’t about us. It was about allowing God to work through us. I do not fully understand (and probably never will) the impact we had during our short stay in Guatemala, but I’m just glad I was there to see God pour out his blessings upon these wonderful, gracious, and loving people.
How to help
So what needs to be done to help? That is exactly the questions I posed to Pastor Julio of El Verbo church. He had obviously given this a lot of thought because when asked he immediately responded with the following four things that he believes is necessary to turn their country around:
1) A sincere faith in God
2) Their government needs to make it easier for foreign companies to come in and create jobs
3) End the bureaucracy
4) Government investment in education and health care
While many activists see globalization as simply exploiting the poor, the so-called exploited often see it differently. They see it as a job, an income, and a chance to get ahead.
There are things that you as individuals can do to make a difference as well. First, sponsor a child through Compassion International. Do it today. I’ve worked in non-profits before and I’ll admit my skepticism about groups like this, but this organization is legit. For each child that is sponsored El Verbo church gets $17 a month to provide schooling and meals a couple days a week, the students get new clothes and shoes each year, and they get yearly immunizations and medical checkups.
Right now there is a waiting list of students in Amatitlan waiting to get into this school and El Verbo says they have the capacity to take in more students. They are just waiting on sponsors. For the price of dinner each month you can give a child access to an education, healthy meals, clothing, and medical care.