Our volunteer team from Faith Lutheran Church, Grand Blanc, Mich. concluded its service in Guatemala over the past weekend by dedicating newly-covered classroom space and bidding goodbye to the friends they made in the Santiago Zamora area. Team member Karter Huber offers some final thoughts.
As the week came to an end, we were called together to give glory to God through celebrations at both VBS and JOEL. When we arrived on the first day at the church, we had been anxious and nervous—both the newcomers like me and those who were returning. Inside the gates of the church we were the “out-group”; but after greetings and introductions, unity started to form.
On the day we embarked on our journey to JOEL, I felt uneasy as we approached the small town the school was located in. Looking around the bus, I realized that everyone else was sitting in silence with their windows closed. The school was surrounded by walls that had barbed wire and a big door with a small swing gate to see who was knocking before giving permission to enter. Being the only male in our group, I felt responsible for the women and their safety; I paid careful attention to everyone around us. I noticed a few men who stopped what they were doing to engage in conversation; some small children stopped playing in the outside yard to give us blank stares; but nothing indicated possible danger. We gathered as a small group for prayer to be able to express to these young adults the love of our God that has no end. Inside, there were glares and small comments by the students, who sat at their tables, some with their backs to us.
It was so different today—Friday. We said goodbye with tears in our eyes. In the morning session with the VBS, the children were generously giving hugs throughout the duration of our stay. They welcomed us by performing Mayan celebration ceremonies on the stage and distributing to each of us a certificate and hand-made gifts! They cheered when Dar and Tim were elected to do the grand opening to the classrooms, which were now complete with the addition of the new roof. The kind Mayan women who prepared our meals for us during the week were filled with joy when we presented our thanksgivings to them; the gifts of gratitude from the pastor and staff members of the school were elaborate and expressive. It was difficult to leave!
Heading to JOEL one last time, we shared words of affirmation and praise. On arrival, we did our customary “Lord prepare me to be a sanctuary” song, followed by a prayer for the day. The students had been given permission to wear the t-shirts that they made earlier in the week. All the kids were shouting “Hello, Karter!” in English and asking for pictures that seemed to never end.
After gifts and ceremonies were shared, the kids refused to leave, because they did not want to say goodbye! We were filled with mixed emotions: a long week of work was now over—but we were sad to say goodbye to these kids that we had formed personal relationships with. We all waved to the people, and they smiled and waved back. Not only were we transformed as a group, but the students were, as well as the community as a whole. For that I will eternally be grateful for God’s work that happened from our community to theirs.