Dirt. Diesel. Vans. Mountains. Rain.
Somethings about this country never change. And some change in an instant. I’m here in Guatemala again. It’s a place that feels strangely like home to me, though I still struggle with the language and have no confidence I could safely drive myself anywhere. The sights are so familiar along the roads – the brightly colored, open-air stores filled with pastries and chips and sodas, the seafood restaurant as the road bends to the left over the patchwork mountainside, the strange looking bazaar that rests below the hills which have been sliced by machinery and storms. It’s at that very spot I met the first smiling faces selling roasted corn and old cassette tapes to frustrated drivers stuck in road construction. There’s the beautiful ivory cathedral on the left side of the road and the ever-faithful Katok restaurant that signals the halfway point between Guatemala City and Xela. The delicate cala lillies in buckets, the gazebos shading local produce. Yes, this place has my heart.
Today’s road is different, however. Traveling with my church to a place called Eagle’s Nest in Solola has “new adventure” written into every word. Eagle’s Nest was at one time a baby home, specializing in caring for infants who would be adopted. When international adoption was closed in early 2008, the owners shifted their attention to education and caring for the poor. They have helped launch several churches in the area, and continue to find ways to remain relevant servants to their community. Being so close to my sweet little friends at Cerecaif and the precious girls at Manchen pulls at my heart, but I know the Lord has me in this place for His glory and for my joy.
The joy has already shown its bright face. Yesterday, it appeared in a smile. Emma was to minister with me in Honduras last year, but our plans were thwarted due to political upheaval in the country. Now, one year later, I am blessed to serve with her. She is sixteen, with a wisdom far beyond her years and a love for orphans that inspires me to love more.
Today, joy wove its way through circumstances that were anything less than joyful. Every suitcase and duffel made its way to GuatemalaCity and into our vans – that is, every suitcase but mine. With bag tags from past mission trips adorning it, my suitcase – filled to the brim with thecomforts of home – jumped on another van with an organization I’ve served with before. We turned left, they turned right. We headed to the mountains, and they stayed in the city. I went from a very self-sufficient, very experienced traveler to a highly-dependent little girl. Knowing my bag was not lost, but in the same area as I was, made the longing to get it even stronger. And placing that longing at the feet of Christ, trusting Him to find the perfect moment for the reunion, was an intentional sacrifice of self-reliance. Though I shed a few tears, I found myself laughing more. There was freedom in utter dependence.
That same freedom – and joy – danced in the streets. Tropical storm Agatha has wreaked havoc on this country, with roads and bridges washed out because of its fury. And the rainy season continues to taunt the already wounded mountainside. At sunset, our van ride was halted by a wall of earth. The mudslide was fast and powerful, and had every intention of making the roads impassable. Our team of 16 made a decisive move – we played Ninja and Bunny Bunny in the rain. If you’re not familiar with the games, I’m not sure any explanation I could offer would begin to paint the right picture if your mind. One involves Ninja moves and hand-slapping, and the other includes rear-wiggling and yelling “cootchy-cootchy-coo.” The large circle of wiggling, slapping, yelling people in the street in the rain made the moment excellent. Then the team made another decisive move. We prayed the mountain would be moved. And it was. Minutes after we said, “amen,” we got word an earth-mover had begun its job. We thanked the men who worked tirelessly in the dark to make a way for us to continue our journey.
I listen to the distant sound of a nightclub in the village below as I slowly drift away, thankful for a friend’s pajamas and toothpaste. As I snuggle into bed, I can’t help but wiggle my hips and smile. His glory. My joy.