Today, the Guatemala Team accomplished our best work day yet! We all worked on the same project to clean a dried out pond and plant onions, tomatoes, and other vegetables. Before we planted the garden, we had to first clear out TONS of pond vegetation. It was nothing that we had ever seen before, and we pulled thousands of sponge-like plants from the bottom of the pond floor. We did encounter a few undesirable critters, but we all stayed safe and pressed on for six hours. We were on the lookout in particular for a snake we named Herman after finding his rather large snakeskin, but thankfully we were unsuccessful! We were all super proud of ourselves afterward, and we took a picture of a cleaned out pond now full of rows of garden vegetables. It was amazing to see the students working so hard to finish our goal before our scheduled home visits this afternoon.
By 2:00 pm, we all trekked up the steep hill back to the main house covered in mud, dirt, dust, and other unrecognizable things so we could visit some of the homes of the kids at City of Hope. We loaded the bus and headed into the heart of Zone 18, one of the most dangerous and poverty-stricken areas of Guatemala City. Three families opened up their homes for all 25 of us to come in and see their humble homes. For we Americans, the conditions were terrible without electricity and indoor plumbing. Most of the homes were just two small rooms. One family slept in a tiny 2 bedroom home with 12 children! It was unfathomable for us. We prayed for each of the families as Jose translated our prayers. Our prayers were difficult as we prayed for fathers and mothers to find jobs, rent to be paid by the end of the week, and God to provide just the bare necessities. However, what we took away wasn’t the terrible conditions or the lack of food- we witnessed pure joy from these families in the midst of total adversity. They truly embodied the joy of Christ stripped of all the material blessings that we so often take for granted.
At sunset, we came back to City of Hope for a traditional Guatemalan meal, Peppian. I don’t believe there was a single drop left in any bowl on the table! It was also the kitchen staff’s idea to serve traditional cafe con leche to us at 7 pm. Well, you could say that our kids got their second wind just when they should have been winding down. The teachers made the most of it…we played pranks on the kids! Alice got the worst of it when she sat in a chair with no bottom. She can thank Coach Ryle and Señor McDonald for that one! Since they were so wide awake, we built a bonfire on the property and opened our letters from Mrs. Land’s 4th grade class. It was a blessing to us to know that our NCCS prayer partners were praying for us and our work here in Guatemala.
Finally, Zach Brown closed out the evening around the bonfire with a devotion about the parable of the widow in Mark 12:44. While the rich gave a small portion of their possession, the widow gave even less but still all she had. He encouraged us to be sure to give all we have for the remainder of the trip whether it be all of our hugs, all of our time, or all of our energy to the kids of City of Hope. Afterward, each of us shared what has impacted us the most about this trip, and each had something remarkable to share. Shelby Hughes was amazed at the pure joy of these kids when they load the bus for school. She said it best when she remarked, “We have to go to school, but these kids GET to go to school.” We ended the evening with a circle of prayer around the fire, and each of us prayed and thanked God for his provision, mercy, and love to not only these kids at Hope for Guatemala, but also for us as well. It has definitely been the best evening so far. Pray for our day tomorrow- we will be having a fiesta with the kids to kick off their summer. Water balloons, swimming pools, games, volleyball, and soccer will fill our afternoon, but most of all pray that our last day with these kids will leave an impact on the Guatemalan kids AND our NCCS kids.