It was another early morning, as we drug our suitcases back over the muddy trails to the waiting buses and trucks. Breakfast was at McDonalds (and though I’m not a big partaker of the restaurant in the states, it was GOOD to have the same great hotcakes and sausage in Guatemala). We then boarded the vans for another first – a visit to a school in a remote mountain village near the Honduran border. One of Buckner’s in-country staff has befriended a
pastor who visits the school each week to minister to the kids and teach. We are the first North American visitors to the school.
The climb up the mountain was unlike anything I had experienced on a trip – it was rugged and treacherous and steep, and at one point our van began sliding back down the water-covered rocks and dirt.
We finally reached the remote village of Petante, Camotan, where the two-room school was nestled in trees and brush. The village is extremely poor and primitive, and the curiosity of both the children and adults was clear. I can’t imagine what the children must have thought when we emerged from the vans – all pale and tall and odd-looking. They were shy, but it didn’t take long for the smiles to emerge. They warmed up when the guys pulled out their guitars and began to sing. They listened intently as Lolly and Jean told the story of creation. And when we began distributing new shoes to them, the joy was evident.
Many mothers with small children and babies came to the school when they heard of our visit – and the blue bag of baby shoes Carmen had been carrying with her all week was put to good use. The bag was opened, and there were enough shoes for each baby – all in the right sizes!
While we were at the school, rain began to fall. “No Lord, not yet,” I said out loud. “Just a bit longer, OK?” Jenny walked up, and after hearing my concern about rain-soaked mountain roads, said “absolutely – pray!” God was so kind – the rain stopped and the sun broke through the clouds. What a delightful gift!
We trekked back down the steep mountain, and started our journey west to Guatemala City. Our final stop was to be the Buckner Baby Home. But as we drove toward the darkening skies, we received a call that mudslides were making many of the roads impassable – our trip was likely to be difficult and long. And our visit to the home would be cancelled. Fortunately, the road we were on was not impacted by the slides (though we could see on the mountains the red-brown streaks that looked like someone had gouged the land away). Our trip took more than 5 hours. But as in all things, we were blessed with a special surprise at the end of the journey – the decision was made to visit the home after all. Seeing the children who live at the home again was good medicine. Cristal (a little girl with a severe digestive disorder who did not want to be touched or held when she was first found) laughed and talked and hugged each of us. Juan Pablo (a boy who was burned severely when a relative poured hot grease on him) greeted us with smiles. Milagro
(a baby with a heart condition who was found in a dumpster) snuggled with Stacey and fell asleep in her arms. Jose (a sweet deaf boy who is new to the home) held my hand and grinned when I signed “I love you” to him. Steven, Dana, and Giles became human jungle gyms for the rowdy boys. The children at the Buckner home are thriving, growing healthy, and are happy. If only little Jose and Edmund from Zacapa could be there…
We said our goodbyes and drove to the Vista Real, where we ate dinner together and told of sweet moments we had encountered throughout the week. The rain poured down outside. We talked about the faces of the children, talked about the bus rides and the street vendors and the towns and the new friends we had met and the need for even more ministry to widows and orphans. We talked about both hopelessness and hope. And the tally was shared – 5 cities in 5 days, 703 miles, 739 pairs of shoes, 45 hours in buses and vans to visit 5 orphanages, 1 school, 1 babies home, and 1 widows home. There were four firsts – the first visit by Buckner to Ascension SOS in Xela and to the widows home in Antigua, and the first visit ever by North Americans to the school in Petante, Comotan. The final first was especially meaningful to me – it was the first trip to be hosted by a musical artist, Geoff Moore. His love and passion for the poor and needy is evident. His challenge to those of us called to serve is powerful. I’m thankful and humbled to call him my friend.
Tomorrow we depart – Mark, Giles, Kelly, Laura, Edie, Sheila, Lolly, Stacey, Courtney, Terry, Charles, Jonathan, Georgia, Jean, Dana, Carmen, Bonnie, Courtney, Katie, John, Steven, Ben, Jenny, and me. It’s been an exhausting, exhilerating, heart-wrenching journey. This is good. Very good.
I’ll close with more lyrics from my Guatemalan soundtrack. These are courtesy of Nichole Nordeman:
oh, great god, be small enough to hear me now
there were times when i was crying from the dark of daniel’s den
and i have asked you once or twice if you would part the sea again
but tonight i do not need a fiery pillar in the sky
just wanna know you’re gonna hold me if i start to cry
oh, great god, be small enough to hear me now
oh, great god, be close enough to feel you now
there have been moments when i could not face goliath on my own
and how could i forget we’ve marched around our share of jerichos
but i will not be setting out a fleece for you tonight
just wanna know that everything will be alright
oh great god, be close enough to feel you now
all praise and all honor be
to the god of ancient mysteries
whose every sign and wonder
turn the pages of our history
but tonight my heart is heavy and i cannot keep from whispering this prayer
“are you there?”
and i know you could leave writing on the wall thats just for me
or send wisdom while i’m sleeping, like in solomon’s sweet dreams
but i don’t need the strength of samson or a chariot in the end
just want to know that you still know how many hairs are on my head
oh great god, be small enough to hear me now