Wow… the past few months have been incredible, and it’s really hard to figure out where to begin. First of all, I am just incredibly grateful for God and all of his blessings and provision. It is amazing to see how much God continues to teach me here, and I feel extremely blessed and grateful for everything that has happened. Here are some of the highlights from the past few months:
In the middle of February, one of my very best dear friends Jillian Abendroth came to visit me in Xela. She is spending this year working in Guatemala City in the International Justice Mission office, and so we’ve both been able to visit one another a bit since we’ve been here. It’s always a blessing to spend time with her and get to share with one another about our experiences, thoughts, and feelings (and also share a lot of laughs and goofiness too!). Her faith, joy, and love of the Lord inspire me, and it is a blessing to count her as a friend and sister in Christ. While she was here, she also got to meet some of my InnerCHANGE friends in Xela which was amazing as well. The InnerCHANGE team has been a part of my life since I first met them in January of 2010, and their lives, faith and love are also inspirations to me. I value their friendship and guidance so much, and it was wonderful for everyone to meet and make connections 🙂 Since Jill was visiting during Lent, there were also special weekend celebrations throughout Xela to celebrate the coming of Easter. Different parts of the city were set up like carnivals, with rows and rows of food stands, flowers, and games for the little ones. We got to walk through the streets and take everything in, and it was amazing to be reminded of the joy of Easter in such a tangible way. Afterwards we entered a cathedral which was bedecked in purple cloth and had an image of the suffering Christ at the very front. While we were inside, people were constantly streaming in to pray, light candles and leave flowers. It was beautiful to see both sides of people’s devotion, faith and love in these two contrasting but deeply connected environments, and in the church I was just struck by the amazing love, faithfulness and grace of our Lord.
Even after a few days in Belize I was eager to get back to Guatemala, where I feel that my heart is more and more at home. As soon as we arrived in Guatemala again, March Madness began! (sorry basketball fans, I’m not talking about that… 🙂 ) March was one of the busiest months that I’ve had here, but also one of the greatest. I spent a few days at Jill’s house this time, and it was great to see her again so soon after she had left Pachaj. One of the days that I was there I also got to visit the IJM office, which was a huge blessing. I was really impressed with how Christ-centered their work is, and how much all of their interns and employees seem to love the Lord. Each and every morning they start the day with a half hour of silence, to read the Bible, pray, journal… whatever people need. After that time they come together to reflect on a few verses and share prayer requests, struggles and joys in a corporate time of prayer. It was a blessing to get to be a part of that, and the day just continued to get better! As it turned out, the day that I visited was a special Hero Pin day. The main work of the IJM office in Guatemala is to help victims of sexual violence and abuse, and most of these victims are children or young teenage mothers. IJM helps to provide their clients with counseling, legal support, and a variety of other services, all through the love of Christ. Every few months, once clients have successfully passed through all of their legal processes, there are these special Hero Pin days when clients and their families come to the office for a celebration. At the office, all of the children and young women who testified in court recieve a pin that says “I’m a Hero,” and all of the staff and interns celebrate their success and their process of healing with a party just for them. We had pie and punch, and many of the kids came dressed up in their very best clothes to celebrate the occasion. Lots of pictures were taken, and lots of hugs, smiles and congratulations were exchanged. It was such a blessing for me to see, as an outsider, how much of a difference IJM is making in the lives of people here and how God’s love is being so tangibly shared through their work.
After spending a few days in Antigua, we made our way to Lake Atitlan for a day and then continued on to Xela, where my two families finally got to meet! The days that we spent in Pachaj were by far my favorites of the trip. The family welcomed us with open arms, lots of smiles and lots of delicious food. It was so wonderful to have these two worlds of mine come together, and it was an incredible blessing to see how my two moms especially connected right away. Despite the language barrier, it was a wonderful time together that just continued to get better over the course of those 4 days! We shared stories, laughter, and tears, and had times of worship together at the church as well as a blow-out birthday party for my mom, complete with a delicious traditional meal called estofado (beef stew with vegetables, served over rice), birthday cake, candles, prayers and songs. My sister and I both wore traje típico, and my mom wore one too for the sunrise service on Easter Sunday 🙂 Another HUGE highlight of the time in Pachaj was when my family could meet the family of our sponsored child, Danilo. Danilo and his family also live in Pachaj and he goes to the Compassion International Student Center that is run out of the church that I attend here. We got to spend a beautiful morning and afternoon with Danilo and his sister, brother, mom and dad. Their family is so wonderful, and it was amazing to hear them talk so freely of God’s blessings and how now God has blessed them with an even bigger family- us. They ended up giving us an amazing gift as well; a traditional weaving from Cantel, that had my mom and dad’s names embroidered into it, as well as Danilo’s. When we saw their incredible generosity all of us started to cry. It was truly a blessed time, and it was so wonderful to be together as one family of brothers and sisters in Christ. Lesly, Danilo’s sister, clung onto Gracie and I, all smiles, and said that she had never had sisters before but now she does. We all got to play and run around outside with a soccer ball, and we enjoyed a delicious lunch together as a family. We departed in prayer, feeling incredibly blessed for Danilo and his family and so grateful that they are truly a part of our own.
I am constantly reminded by all of the blessings that I’ve truly experienced here so far, and all of the ways in which the people here have opened their hearts and homes to me and let me into their lives. I feel as though I really do have family here in Pachaj- with Juana Herlinda (my host mom) and all of the family there, Danilo and his family, and my friends, brothers and sisters in the church and the community. I cannot even put into words how full my heart was during these few days, when my families could meet one another and share time together just being in one another’s presence. I’ve never quite experienced anything like it, but it was a rich blessing and I am so grateful that God gave us all that opportunity. He has continued to pour out his blessings throughout the time here- both very difficult circumstances and incredibly joyful ones- and I continue to stand amazed at everything that God is doing. Life is blessed, and I am so grateful for everyone here and all up North as well!