Well, in all honesty I meant to write this post about a month ago, but time slipped away from me (as it seems to be doing more and more, recently!). Many more things have happened since, but I wanted to devote a post just to the month of January since it was pretty amazing. So, another post should (hopefully!) be coming soon, but here’s a little glimpse back into the first month of 2013 🙂
“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18.
“Estén siempre alegres, oren sin cesar, den gracias a Dios en toda situación, porque esta es su voluntad para ustedes en Cristo Jesús.” 1 Tesalonicences 5:16-18
That was the verse on my calendar for the month of January, and it is certainly something that I witnessed throughout the month and am striving to work on more and more in my own life. This verse captures beautifully the way that I’ve seen people live here; obviously we are all humans and all have shortcomings, but I am amazed again and again by the faith, hope and joy of my family (and so many other people I’ve met!), even in the midst of really difficult circumstances. The month of January has been one of my favorites in Guatemala so far. It was filled with many wonderful things, but some pretty hard ones too. Even through the midst of the difficulties, God has been helping me to learn to rely more and more on his strength and to give thanks in all situations. As my host mom Juana Herlinda tells me, “you never know how the things that you’re experiencing now will help you in the future. Maybe it’s happening so that you can have more compassion for other people, or maybe it’s happening to draw you closer to God and help you to grow in faith. No matter what God can work through the good and the bad times, and we can always trust him. He is good!” That’s what I’m seeing and living here each and every day, and I am so grateful for these experiences that are helping me to learn and grow!
One of the things that made January an extremely special month was the fact that we had prayer services with the brothers and sisters of the congregation every single night of the week. This has been a long-standing tradition in my church here, as a way of remembering to start out the new year by dedicating it to God and spending more time in intentional prayer and community. Each night the service would be in a different house, and the hosts would willingly open their doors to everyone who came. It was such a gift to enter into so many different homes for these times of prayer and worship and to feel more and more a part of the church family. The services would also be directed by a different person each night, which was wonderful as well since everyone had an active part in making them happen. Every night we would share in times of worship and corporate and individual prayer, including prayers of thanksgiving, confession, illumination, and blessings. There were also scripture readings and a message, as well as a time for sharing our prayer requests and taking an offering. Each night would end with a snack provided by the host family, and time to just sit and enjoy the food and one another’s company. Seeing this example of faith and community, and getting the opportunity to participate in it, was a huge blessing and helped me grow both closer to my church family here and to God. This month of prayer was especially timely in terms of things happening with my family both in Guatemala and back in the US, and throughout it all I was reminded to give all of my burdens to God and rejoice in my circumstances, knowing that God is faithful and good. I really felt him carrying me throughout this month and reminding me of his faithfulness, and looking back I can see how the good times and the harder times were all full of blessings.
Some other special moments that happened in January included reunions with friends from Whitworth (a group of students coming to study in Xela, as well as some friends visiting in Sololá) and also some more consistent interactions and encounters with my friends from InnerCHANGE. All of these times reminded me of the wonderful communities that I have around me, and I’m so grateful for the opportunity to invest in their lives and be filled with their love and friendship as well. Another highlight was our YAV retreat to Monterrico on the Pacific coast. On the retreat we had the opportunity to go on a boat trip through a mangrove forest at sunrise, where we got to see an amazing habitat with an abundance of beautiful and foreign plants and animals. We also were able to release baby sea turtles into the ocean at sunset, which was another unforgettable experience. All of these moments were testaments to me of God’s faithfulness and love, and it was incredible to be able to rejoice in the beauty of creation.
Along with the many moments of beauty and joy, there were also moments of great difficulty. My family here has been struggling economically, among other things, but throughout all of the uncertainty they maintain such a strong faith in God and give thanks for everything they have. They rely so much on his faithfulness that even their struggles are an amazing testament to me of how faith can look in our lives. Towards the middle and end of the month, I also started to struggle with health problems- a muscle injury in my arm from all of the paperwork I’d been doing at the health center, and then later a stomach infection that resulted from some parasites and bacteria left in my stomach from the month before. Fortunately with a few days of rest my arm injury went away relatively quickly, and the stomach infection was also resolved within about a week and a half after taking medicine, antibiotics and probiotics. Getting sick was a humbling experience, because it put a lot of things in perspective; just getting a receipt from the health center to buy some of my medicine made me think about all of the people who come in every day and don’t even have the resources to buy the medicine they need. I realized that it’s a blessing that I can buy medicine when necessary, and that I’m surrounded by people near and far who love and care for me. It’s a huge blessing to live in that reality, when daily life is so drastically different for so many people around the world. Realizing this was heartbreaking, but also gave me no reason for self-pity; even through sickness God was showing me his goodness and provision, and gave me every reason to praise. This whole month I felt like was a lesson about how to live in the way that 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 directs us to live: “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Living this way, despite surrounding circumstances, is choosing a lifestyle full of richness and blessings. While I still so often fail to do this, the people here – and most especially God – are teaching me how to live more faithfully to this call of Christ, and I am incredibly grateful for it all.