Hello from Guatemala! Our mission team – 10 youth and 5 adults – met very early yesterday morning at SeaTac for a long day of travel. We met at SeaTac at 6am and arrived at our hotel in Antigua, Guatemala around 11:00pm local time (10:00pm Seattle time). An already-planned long day was made just a bit longer when there was a thunderstorm in Houston and the pilots for the second leg of our travels got tied up coming from Guadalajara, Mexico. After boarding, the flight attendants came on the intercom and let us know we were all ready to leave…except we didn’t have pilots. The delay was only 45 minutes and, other than that, our travel was uneventful. Thank the Lord!
For those of you in Seattle, this is what the fire smoke looks like from the air. We're glad to be somewhere with cleaner air!
After a good night’s sleep, we went to worship at Iglesia de San Francisco; a Catholic church built in 1579. The church is home to the tomb of (Hermano Pedro de San José Betancurt), Peter of Saint Joseph Betancurt – a Spanish missionary to Guatemala born in 1626 and canonized a saint in 2002. Thousands of pilgrims visit his tomb and attribute healings to his intercession. While there was a language barrier for many of our team members during the mass, much of the liturgy was very familiar and we were able to follow along and pray with the Guatemalans we worshiped with.
Outside of Iglesia de San Francisco
Plaques of thanks for healings attributed to Hermano Pedro in Iglesia de San Francisco
After lunch we visited a restaurant that was a favorite of our mission team in 2015: Rincon Tipico. They roast rotisserie chickens over open flames and make what many of us call the best chicken we’ve ever had. The meal is complete with handmade blue corn tortillas. On our way back to our hotel, we browsed the Sunday artisan market in Antigua’s central park.
Enjoying lunch at Rincon Tipico
Sunday market in Antigua
This afternoon, we took some time to rest. Our work with Safe Passage begins tomorrow morning and the rest of the week will be very full. We will see and experience a lot this week – things that fill us with joy, as well as things that will be emotionally and spiritually exhausting. Guatemala and her people are beautiful, and there is immense hardship. This can lead to what Saint Ignatius called desolation and consolation – a practice of examining our hearts, attitudes, and emotions in relationship to the things we experience. In consolation, our experiences, thoughts, and feelings compel us to praise, love, and serve God and others. Spiritual consolation encourages and facilitates a deep sense of gratitude for God’s faithfulness, mercy, and compassion. In consolation, we feel more alive and connected to God, others, and ourselves.
In desolation, we may experience darkness or turmoil in our soul. We might be assaulted by doubts, temptations, or self-preoccupation. Such feelings often move us towards a lack of faith and leave us without hope and without love. Moments of desolation can be experiences where we wonder where God is in a situation. We might doubt that God truly is in control or that God cares for those in need.
We will very likely experience both consolation and desolation during our time in Guatemala – maybe even at the same time. Our time on a mission trip is not simply spent doing. To help us sort through our experiences and discern how God is at work and who God is calling us to be, we take time each evening in small groups to reflect. Our small groups met this evening for the first time and shared our hopes, expectations, and fears for the week ahead. For many, the time spent in small groups is one of the most important parts of a mission trip. And to ground our work, our experiences, and our emotions in prayer, we end each day with Compline – the last service of prayer in the Daily Office…bedtime prayers, as we like to tell our youth.
Tomorrow will be a very day different than today. While today was quite “touristy,” tomorrow will be very hard. As we begin our time with Safe Passage we will be visiting the Guatemala City dump. We welcome your prayers for eyes to see the ways God is at work around us and in the community we will be visiting, as well as for the ability to discern the ways God is calling us to be a part of God’s work here.