Guatemala Missions (Part One)

indigenous Mayan family from village near lake Atitlan.
indigenous Mayan family from village near lake Atitlan.

Introduction

In 2009 our church announced that there would be a team planning on going to Guatemala on a missions trip. I casually mentioned to my husband that I wondered if God would want me to do something like that. If you remember from my Tennessee hub I am not exactly a world traveler. I have a hard enough time getting out of my own state let alone visit a foreign country. A few Sundays later a gal came up to me and said "Hey, I hear your going to Guatemala" I said "I am?"

I have never in my life desired to go on a missions trip nor travel to a third world country for that matter but I also desperately wanted to get over myself and really wanted to submit to God not based on what I wanted or didn't want.

“Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. ~ Mark 3:34-35

I wrestled and prayed during the weeks that led up to the decision. I asked and looked for signs everywhere. I did happen to notice some clothing tags with "made in Guatemala" on them which I had never noticed before. Also for some odd reason I was eating yogurt for breakfast every morning which was not typical for me. I later discovered that everyone who was going on the trip was instructed to eat yogurt to keep their digestive systems healthy beings they would be exposed to microbes they were unaccustomed to. I was not settled about it all until the morning we were leaving. I had the T.V. on the local PBS station and they were showing a man in Guatemala painting a portrait of an indigenous Mayan woman. He was so gracious to give me a sign.

Show me a sign for good, That those who hate me may see it and be ashamed, Because You, LORD, have helped me and comforted me. ~ Psalm 86:17

Laura Montano (part of our team) and Jason Patton (missionary pilot)  preparing for our up and coming missionary journey
Laura Montano (part of our team) and Jason Patton (missionary pilot) preparing for our up and coming missionary journey

Flying is something I really wasn't used to nor cared much for either. After committing to the trip it was announced that we would be taking 3 flights to get there and during the trip at some point we would be taking a 4 seater bush plane and landing on a grass landing strip to access a town which was a 40 minute flight west of Guatemala city.

The flights to Guatemala city were gratefully uneventful and I really didn't get too nervous until we got to the TACA international flight in Florida and the stewardesses supposedly spoke English but I couldn't understand a word of it. The reality of being somewhere where I could not be understood frightened me.

It also wasn't discovered until after the commitment that Guatemala is one of the most violent Latin American Countries this side of the planet. According to the"Economist" (1)

"No region on earth is more routinely murderous than Guatemala with 46 murders per 100,000 people."

This fact being in stark contrast to it also being the most polite Latin American country. Commands are unusual and language is formal.

On average 17 murders occur everyday in this little country. Violence generally revolves around drugs, gangs, or interfering tourists.

view from the 4th floor of Patton's residence.
view from the 4th floor of Patton's residence.

Dangers

The neighborhood of Guatemala City that we stayed in was in zone 13 in the neighborhood of Santa Fe (meaning holy faith) just south of the airport. It wasn't exactly one of the safer parts of the city yet probably not the most dangerous either.

We were instructed prior to our visit never to be out at after dark and never be by ourselves outside the mission base. It was recommended that we did not wear jewelry and to be careful using our cameras out on the street because of the risks of being robbed. Guatemala is infamous as well for tourist robberies.

There were bars on every ground level window and shards of glass on any reachable ledge. Local businesses did their transactions behind bars. Armed guards strapped with semi-automatic weapons were common where deliveries were being made and certain types of businesses such as the newspaper head quarters and certain gated neighborhoods.

The Patton's (host missionary family) vehicles had heavily tinted windows for safety reasons. Tressa was once car jacked when her air conditioner didn't work she rolled down her window and a man with a gun took her car. also Just last year the Pattons were robbed by 5 armed men with their children present.

There have been about 15 gangs within the neighborhood that the Pattons live and 3 of them have dispersed since Jason and Tressa have moved to the neighborhood.

Jason Tressa and their three young children.  Michelle from our team is in the middle.
Jason Tressa and their three young children. Michelle from our team is in the middle.

I certainly admire the Pattons for laying down their lives to reach the Guatemalan people by leaving the safety of their own country and choosing to raise three young children in the face of such dangers to serve Him as Christ did for us.

everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life. ~ Matthew 19:29

We stayed at the Pattons home/mission base in Guatemala City. Tressa was a most gracious host and fed us well. They are currently in the process of making the top two floors of their home a missionary base. The building was once very similar to those common to the neighborhood but have successfully constructed a compound that I felt safe in.

view of Pacaya and Agua the two largest active volcanoes in Guatemala from the 4th floor window
view of Pacaya and Agua the two largest active volcanoes in Guatemala from the 4th floor window

A Room With a View

The view from the 4th floor which we stayed in was spectacular. There was no glass, no screens, no bars just open air all day all night. Guatemala city has an elevation of 5256 ft and therefore remains at a pretty constant average of 75 degrees year round. I think everyone in the densely populated region owned a rooster. They crowed all night long in concert with the barking dogs. I am glad that I brought ear plugs.

There was a stark contrast of the beauty of God's creation from the upper view and the squalor that lies just beneath it.

Guatemala is home to 33 volcanoes spread throughout its highlands. We had a view of Guatemala's two largest volcanoes Pacaya and Agua. Some of These volcanoes are continuously active with lava rivers, volcanic ash, and noxious gases, and are among some of the most active in the world.

Guatemala is also plagued with earthquakes and hurricanes, and mudslides due to heavy rains none of which occurred while we were there except a small eruption from Pacaya.

Driving in Guatemala city was ridiculous. Speed limits are optional and stop signs are merely suggestions. I didn't see a single person stop at stop sign. It was rare if they even slowed down. The only time anyone stopped was if a collision looked imminent. The main idea was to drive as fast as one could through very tight spaces. you can pass anyone at anytime in any place. You can park however and where ever you want. You can also back up and make everyone else back up too. Pedestrians and animals were on their own and narrowly missed on several occasions yet everyone seemed unaffected or concerned by it all. Of all the violence in Guatemala road rage didn't appear to be an issue with them. Just honk your horn a lot and drive however you want. I would have provided a photo but the tinted windows didn't allow.

Me painting can you tell I'm afraid of heights
Me painting can you tell I'm afraid of heights
Carlos/Charlie (native from the city drug rehabilitated with the help of the ministry) Laura, and Donna hauling bamboo dirt and rocks.
Carlos/Charlie (native from the city drug rehabilitated with the help of the ministry) Laura, and Donna hauling bamboo dirt and rocks.

First Day

The first day of our journey included going to the airport hangar which housed the missionary plane used for the ministry. In 2005 there was a hurricane, volcanic eruption, and earthquake which resulted in devastating mud slides that killed approximately 2000 people. Jason the missionary pilot was first on the scene to one of the affected areas with 1500 pounds of food and water. The hangar is also eventually going to be a distribution center as well.

Our task was to begin painting the inside of the building white. Electricity in Guatemala is many times unreliable and the white paint made seeing inside the building much easier.

Another part of our team was to work on the backside of the hangar removing some hillside and bamboo that was beginning to destroy the roof and backside of the hangar. I initially wanted to be with the outside team. The weather was spectacular. But no one wanted to paint inside and my friend Michelle had spent weeks painting before she got there to raise money for the trip. It ended up being the least exhausting choice. I went out on one occasion to see what I was missing out on and everyone looked rather hot miserable and tired. I volunteered to help after the lunch break to take a break from the painting and I only lasted an hour. They also encountered spiders and snakes back there of which I am not very fond of not to mention the smelly bamboo slime.

Joselyne and Candy
Joselyne and Candy

Three Contrasting Cultures

We then returned to the base which was only 5 minutes away to practice a dance we would be performing for ministry later in the week. We were taught by two Guatemalan girls Joselyne and Candy who were from a more affluent part of the city. As you can see they are very modern and westernized as is much of the more upscale parts of the city.

Guatemala is about as big as the state of Tennessee in square miles but is home to 3 very contrasting cultures. 10% of the people are wealthy with the cultures, custom, and materialism reflective of western culture. Most of the rest of Guatemala city is impoverished. Education is extremely valuable in that people will spend up to 30% of their income to get their kids to school and survive on diets mostly consisting of corn tortillas. On special occasions a chicken is cooked to serve about 10 people.

According to Jason Most of the land in Guatemala is owned and controlled by about 8 or 9 people which makes personal prosperity unlikely.

Part two of this trip will look at the third culture in Guatemala being the indigenous people of Mayan descent who live in the outer lying villages. It will include a visit to one of these villages that I would liken to a National Geographic experience.

(1) www.economist.com

A song we sang with the kids.

© 2011 Tamarajo

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Comments 24 comments

creativeone59 profile image

creativeone59 5 years ago from Gold Canyon, Arizona

Thank you Tamarajo, for a very educational and inspiring mission and sharing it with us through your informative hub. Godspeed. cfreativeone59


Tamarajo profile image

Tamarajo 5 years ago from Southern Minnesota Author

Thank you creativeone. I am always super happy to share the experience.

I appreciate you stopping by and commenting.


lifegate profile image

lifegate 5 years ago from Pleasant Gap, PA

TJ,

A trip like that has to change your perspective on people, Christ, and no doubt yourself. Glad you were able to get out of Minnesota and go!


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

I had a friend who went to South America with the peace Corps. I understand that he is a retired teacher now and takes students there. He loves the country and people. I hope the same works for you.


Tamarajo profile image

Tamarajo 5 years ago from Southern Minnesota Author

Lifegate indeed it was a life changing experience. One I will certainly never forget. I learned to appreciate so many things I once took for granted like readily available drinking water enough food to eat to be able to not live behind bars and walk freely. I also learned how amazing people are in being able to live in such abject poverty and violence. What we have here in the US is a privilege at best for which we all should be eternally grateful

Thank you Lifegate for reading and commenting


Tamarajo profile image

Tamarajo 5 years ago from Southern Minnesota Author

Dahoglund yes absolutely. Being there is a whole lot different than reading or hearing about it. When you are among them you can much better comprehend their plight. They really are a beautiful people who live in a beautiful place. I wouldn't mind a return visit.

Thank you Dahoglund for visiting and commenting


FriendofTruth profile image

FriendofTruth 5 years ago from Michigan

What a blessing to have your trip confirmed the way Yah did. I so enjoy hearing these testimonies of how involved He is in our lives.

Looking forward to reading the continuation. bless you:-)


The Minstrel profile image

The Minstrel 5 years ago from Hawaii

Thank you for sharing a wonderful story!!!!!


tinamarie9884 5 years ago

Tamarajo, you took the time to again share. Great hub, great pictures, This will be with you for a long time!!


VOICE CIW 5 years ago

God bless you Tamarajo, this hub was beautiful, and very inforomative. I love the pictures, and I thank you for sharing, it is a reminder what we christians should be about. Sharing the Gospel with the world. And you are right we (all christians) need to pick up our Cross. God bless you, I love you in the Lord.


no body profile image

no body 5 years ago from Rochester, New York

Thanx sis because it felt like you took me along. I started looking for spiders and snakes. My wife is just beginning to grow after holding herself back a long time. I can see her wanting to do something like this. I never did but you know I am just not smart enough to argue with God if He tells me to do such a thing. Who knows He might.


Tamarajo profile image

Tamarajo 5 years ago from Southern Minnesota Author

FriendofTruth yes I too was grateful for Yah to lovingly set confirmations in my path. How merciful He is.

It seems like a little desparation does'nt hurt when listening for His voice.

Thank you for visiting and commenting I am glad you enjoyed it.


Tamarajo profile image

Tamarajo 5 years ago from Southern Minnesota Author

Thank you Minstrel for reading and commenting.


Tamarajo profile image

Tamarajo 5 years ago from Southern Minnesota Author

Hi Tinamarie. Yes it was an experience that will be with me for a long time.

Thanks for your visit and complimentary comment.


Tamarajo profile image

Tamarajo 5 years ago from Southern Minnesota Author

Hi Voice, I'm glad you enjoyed the article. I do think living as we do that we are sheltered from the pain of the hurting world around us I know I was. When you see the little faces it all becomes very real and when you sense the dangers that they live with on a daily basis it gives life in our part of the world a whole different perspective.

Blessed as always by your visit voice and your encouraging comments.


Tamarajo profile image

Tamarajo 5 years ago from Southern Minnesota Author

Hi nobody, I hope your wife seeks the Lord for that mission it was life and perspective changing. My husband had been on a mission trip to Bogota Columbia 10 years prior and was always encouraging me to go on one. I had no desire to do so but God in is most intelligent ways knew how to work me : ) think I might be one of His more challenging cases.

Anyways be led by the Lord Blessed as always by your encouraging visit and comment.


Betty Johansen profile image

Betty Johansen 5 years ago

A fascinating, informative hub, Tamarajo. I really identified with you in your reluctance before the mission, as well as your joy in it. Thank you for sharing this beautiful experience with us and for making us aware of the great needs in Guatemala.


RevLady profile image

RevLady 5 years ago from Lantana, Florida

Tamarajo. An excellent part 1 overview of life in Guatemala which brings the reality of human suffering into our hearts. We are our brothers keepers and it is inspiring to know that many are reaching out to assist their brothers and sisters wherever the need exist. God bless you!

Forever His


Tamarajo profile image

Tamarajo 5 years ago from Southern Minnesota Author

Thank you Betty you are correct that it certainly was an experience of reluctance and joy. Glad I decided to go despite my reluctance.

Blessed to have you stop by and comment.


Tamarajo profile image

Tamarajo 5 years ago from Southern Minnesota Author

Thank you Rev Lady. Compassion does take on a whole new meaning when you see it for yourself and experience what they experience even for the short time we did. We can watch it on t.v. but nothing like seeing a real human face.

Thank you for your encouraging comment and visit.


Timlove profile image

Timlove 5 years ago from upstate New York

I work whith three people from Guatemmala God has given me a heart for these people . my wife and I are opening our home to them this week for thanksgiving day. this article has helped me to know even more about their home life thanks Tamarajo.


Tamarajo profile image

Tamarajo 5 years ago from Southern Minnesota Author

Hello Tim Love glad the article may help give some background info for where your friends come from. And I hope they have a pleasant thanksgiving at your home. For such a small country it is so diverse. I'm curious what part they come from. One of the guatemalan girls came to the states to visit in the middle of a cold Minnesota winter. She really missed all the greenery from her home. I found Guatemala to be a stunningly beautiful place.

Happy Thanksgiving and have a great time with your friends from work : )


Timlove profile image

Timlove 5 years ago from upstate New York

Thank you Tamarajo and hope you have a great thanksgiving also. My freinds are from Guatemala city. They dont like the cold either but they have to endure it to provide for their family. one is very open to the gospel the other two God is working on. I take it cathlocism is promenant over there.


Tamarajo profile image

Tamarajo 5 years ago from Southern Minnesota Author

Yes catholicism mixed with the worship of Maximon. Part 2 of this tells a little bit about that. Maximon was very prominent in the indigenous villages not sure if the city dwellers include it as well.

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