Planting Seeds of Hope in Guatemala
by Jayne Mittan, Missions Team Leader
Team Trinity left Tallahassee on November 5, 2022. Many of our members were new to this specific mission, as well as being new to foreign missions. Some were a little hesitant, concerned about safety and travel to a third-world country. However, everyone pulled together to offer reassurance and answer questions to allay their fears.
On our arrival in Guatemala, we were met by staff from Porch de Salomon, loaded onto a bus, and driven five and a half hours from Guatemala City to Panajachel. Panajachel would serve as our home base for the week.
Panajachel is a beautiful town on the banks of Lake Atitlan, in the western highlands. It is surrounded by mostly dormant volcanoes and offers spectacular views of the countryside. October is normally the end of the rainy season, but this year it has continued into November. The rain did not stop us from doing anything during the week, but it made it a little bit messier. There were flowers in full bloom along the roads and in the fields, and everything was lush and green.
On Sunday morning we had an orientation with Greg and Rachel McGaha, the new executive directors of Porch de Salomon. After orientation, we were treated to a lovely boat ride across the lake to a hillside resort called Casa Del Mundo, or House of the World. We enjoyed a delicious and bountiful brunch of traditional Central American food and had time to relax and enjoy our surroundings after our very long travel day on Saturday. Those of us who had been before knew that this was the last time we would have this much free time and relaxation for the week, and we really took advantage. Later that afternoon, we attended a worship gathering led by Greg McGaha, back at Hotel California in Panajachel. For dinner, we walked down to a restaurant called José Pingüinos, where we enjoyed a marimba and cultural show. Part of the show included a few contests, and I’m happy to say our very own Abigail Boyd won two out of three. We learned about some of the culture and history of the indigenous Mayan people, and why it is so important for us to continue our mission in this area.
Bright and early Monday morning we enjoyed a hearty breakfast at Café Hotel California. Retired Rev. Anne Godbold led us in a devotion about making everyone a “Whobody,” not a “Nobody,” and Holy Communion. Sharing in this most holy of holy sacraments helped us focus on our mission for the week and drew us closer as a team. We then split up into our construction team and our medical team and headed to two different villages for our respective jobs.
“We enjoyed a delicious and bountiful brunch of traditional Central American food and had time to relax and enjoy our surroundings after our very long travel day on Saturday. Those of us who had been before knew that this was the last time we would have this much free time and relaxation for the week.”
The construction team had the arduous task of beginning construction on a house for Santa Floridalma Chomajay Ixcaya and her family. Santa’s husband was tragically electrocuted during a construction accident and did not survive. This family lives in abject poverty in a simple structure of wood and aluminum corrugated panels. The floor is dirt. When it rains, the water runs into the house and across the dirt/mud floor. Santa (22), her mother, Maria (52), and two children, Brayan Eduardo (4) and Lester Agustin (2), all sleep on the dirt floor. There are no beds. They have running water (cold) but no electricity. The sink and bathroom are outside. The entire site is surrounded by a corn field.
Imagine yourself living in their situation, where every day is the same. Then, out of nowhere, a group of gringos shows up. Introductions are made, pleasantries are exchanged, and timid smiles begin to appear. The seeds of hope for a new and better life are planted. Throughout the week as work continues, the work turns into fun as the family participates in the construction. There are contests to see who can carry the most concrete blocks and tie steel the best. All under the watchful eyes and guidance of the Porch construction supervisors. Relationships are built along with the house, and the smiles continue to grow. Those smiles turn into laughter as Santa and her family exude joy at being able to share time with strangers who are showing them love through their actions. For the first time in her young life, Santa is able to let go of some of her worries and responsibilities and just have fun.
On the last day of construction, both the medical and construction teams gathered with the family. Santa and her mother were presented with prayer shawls and a prayer quilt that held the love and prayers of our entire church. The quilts will be used on the beds that will be built, and for the first time, each one will have a bed of their own. No more sleeping on the dirt. The house will be connected to electricity and consist of three bedrooms, a kitchen with a sink, an indoor bathroom, tile floor, and sheet metal roof. Simple wood furniture will be constructed to complete the furnishings. More prayers were uplifted and tears shed as we said our good-byes.
“Relationships are built along with the house, and the smiles continue to grow. Those smiles turn into laughter as Santa and her family exude joy at being able to share time with strangers who are showing them love through their actions.”
The medical team completed three days of portable clinics in different settings. In the first village, we encountered a 31-year-old woman, with three small children at home and an alcoholic, abusive husband. We saw several women having heart problems, and many with other serious ailments.
In the second village, we saw mostly women, many of whom had never had the opportunity to receive medical care. As you might imagine, they had long lists of ailments to address. They were grateful for the time we took to listen, examine, diagnose, and treat their problems. Imagine living with something as painful as migraine headaches without any medicine or help. These are very hard-working and tough people. And seeing our all-girl team goes a very long way in bolstering their self-esteem and self-worth.
The last clinic day was a boat-ride away to see men and women participating in alcohol and drug rehabilitation through Casa Tat Loy and Casa Ixoqi. In addition to their daily battle with addiction, they have the same health problems that we do, but without any source of relief. Many self-medicate with drugs and/or alcohol. Addiction adds to those problems with things like injuries from fights, liver damage and disease, social isolation, malnutrition, exposure to the elements, and loss of relationships, among others. Our presence with these men and women shows that no matter how bad it gets, God still loves them and that they deserve our love and respect.
All in all, we saw over 300 patients during the week. Everyone received the medicines they needed in addition to the knowledge that we love and care for them through God’s love and grace, so freely given to us all. We planted seeds of hope.
The whole team was rather quiet on the bus ride back to the airport as we remembered the people we had served during the week. Even though we sometimes couldn’t help with a specific problem, no one left without knowing how much they were loved.
As we reflect on this year’s trip, we look forward to planning our trip for 2023. Our dates for next year are October 7-14. Please search your heart and consider joining us. There is a job for everyone, no skills required. Remember, God doesn’t call those who are equipped; He equips those whom He calls. Is He calling you? Contact Jayne Mittan at [email protected].