I’m back in a comfortable place – at home with the dog and my husband. But like Russia, I’m experiencing the “just one more day” blues. I’ve returned from a trip with Buckner to Guatemala and Honduras, and the experience was both heart-breaking and awe-inspiring. The link below takes you to blogs that were posted by me and others on the trip. The blogsite is Buckner’s, and Blogger picked it as a “Blog of Note” last week – the blogs were viewed more than 500 times and folks from around the world left comments about the work being done.
I thought I’d share some other personal thoughts about the journey, the people, and those amazing kids we met, based on my journal entries. The trip was such a bittersweet experience for me, as Mexico was the first country I ever did mission work in (back in the early ’80s). Being back in Latin America felt like “home” in a way – a home I would like to visit again and again, if the Lord gives grace. At this point in my life, that grace is cherished. I know I’m not promised tomorrow. Either with Buckner or on this earth.
With that said, here are excerpts from the Christ Stumbler’s journey:
There’s a volcano in the distance, tropical flowers outside my hotel window (a 5-star hotel, since in Guatemala the owners of the Vista Real love what Buckner does and support our cause by providing good rates for all who come with us to care for the kids there), and a haunting smell of diesel and dust that hangs in the air. I’m in Guatemala City, and though it’s a mere 3-1/2 hour flight from Dallas, Texas, I feel as distant from “normal” as I did in St. Petersburg, Russia, in November. That is, except for the food. OK, so it may feel a little less than holy to focus on food so early in my writings, but I must admit I wish the spirit of adventure was a bit higher here. Thus far, I’ve indulged in such local delicacies as Schlotzky’s, Dominos, and McDonalds. Tonight we were treated to a true Guatemalan meal, consisting of bean soup, some tasty bread, chicken, and – well – something for dessert. Picture balls of dough, fried, and floating in a syrupy substance. It wasn’t as bad as borscht. But it isn’t something I’ll attempt to make at home.
Fortunately, the food is the only experience that hasn’t felt rich and authentic. We’ve spent the past three days at San Gabriel boys home. A former juvenile prison, the facility now houses around 50 boys ranging in age from 10-16. The atmosphere is heavy over San Gabriel – most of the boys come from troubled situations and are the product of neglect, abuse, or abandonment. Gaining their trust is challenging. But slowly, carefully, they begin to reach out to us.
I personally fell in love with a guy named Tito – he’s in his 20s and has some significant developmental challenges. Most of the boys will be pushed to the streets by the time they are 18, but Tito and a few others remain at the home because there is truly no hope for their survival in the harsh world outside the metal gates. Tito is kind and helpful, and though he struggles to follow along with the songs and some of the activities, his heart shines. I believe Jesus has such a special place for those who are afflicted, and He smiles when Tito smiles.
One thing I’m not quite prepared for is the ubiquitous presence of armed guards and soldiers – on street corners, at stores and restaurants, at the airport. Some have on military-type camoflauge, some are in uniforms closely resembling security guard attire, and some have on street clothes. The guns vary in size and shape, but all are multi-round automatics (my Buckner pal Russ knows a lot about guns, and has even noticed a few that are hybrids). On our first visit to San Gabriel, soldiers in a pickup truck joined our convoy. Guatemalan police then joined in behind them. Both soon disappeared.
Our time in Guatemala is being spent with folks from Park Cities Baptist Church. Since my last journey was a Shoes for Orphan Souls trip, taken with a motley crew of individuals from across the United States, I don’t believe I was quite prepared for this experience. One Sunday school group, made up of extremely wealthy and affluential couples in the Dallas area – I have to admit I was concerned. But their love for the kids and desire to use their wealth for the Kingdom was a beautiful thing. I was particularly taken by a woman named Karen Perry – she says the Lord uses Guatemala to empty her, to strip her of the pretense and polish. She comes to the country now monthly, and pours her life into the orphans. And they love her – I believe they see her as a mom, a sister. She treats them likely royalty, and the country returns the favor.
Though on this trip, I don’t have my sweet husband beside me, I do have my own special team. Tasasha works with me in marketing for Buckner – she’s spunky, determined, passionate, and has one of the most amazing smiles I’ve seen. She can lift my spirits so quickly, and is a true “mom” at heart. Russ is my partner at Buckner – as Director of Communications, he can tell the Buckner story like no other. Watching him operate, I can see a teacher at heart. Every story is full of word pictures, every experience is laid out in step-by-step detail.
Geoff Moore, an amazing songwriter and singer, is with us, along with Dana Weaver, a guitarist who was with SonicFlood when they were awesome (an editorial comment). Both Geoff and Dana have worked with Compassion for years, and their heart for orphans is linking them now to Buckner. I am so honored to work alongside them – they are tender, kind, and have a great dry wit which is like medicine to my soul!
Susan Gray is also here, a singer-songwriter who has a touching testimony about being tossed about the foster care system. She inspires folks to dream big. Susan and her guitarist Beau Bedford (a studio musician from Dallas, Texas) bring fire and passion to the team.
And finally, there’s Danny Brown. When I look at this student from Oachita Baptist University, I am reminded of why I got into the media industry – he’s our videographer, and he is full of dreams and vision. I pray all will come true for him.
We will depart Guatemala City soon and head to Antigua, where we will spend some time with the orphans at Manchen girls home. Then we join an exploratory trip to Honduras as Buckner works with the government there to define opportunities working with orphanages in that country. We’ve been told conditions there may be rough.