Our driver, Dario, pulled the van to the side of the steep hill and brought it to a stop mere feet from a steep drop-off. He told us, Pienso que es buen lugar para sacar una foto (“I think this is a good place to take a photo”). To our right, on the other end of an expansive and lush valley, loomed two volcanoes: Acatenango and Fuego. The previous night’s rain showers had resulted in a morning of clear blue skies and a magnificent view of the two natural wonders. Just above Fuego, a little puff of smoke clung to the peak, betraying the mountain’s hidden power and capacity for chaos. Dario knew of what he spoke; this was, indeed, a good spot for a photo, something we would want to remember forever.
But, it would be hard to identify many places we visited during our time in Guatemala that wouldn’t have been suitable for a photograph. Besides the picturesque Central American landscape, each day brought us into the company of people worthy of a place in our memories, if not our very hearts. From newly empowered Mayan women running a baking co-op with joy and wonder, to clean-water technicians who are bringing hope to desperate places, from tireless construction workers who labor to the point of exhaustion for the sake of blessing others, to dedicated teachers who set a Christian example and broaden students’s horizons, our team of 35 worked along saints with great faith, strength, courage, and vision that humbled, challenged and inspired us.
We were humbled by the graciousness with which our rather overwhelming and regularly inconvenient group was welcomed, accommodated, and cared for. We were challenged by the example of those who have accepted the Gospel’s call to be difference-makers—spiritually, socially, emotionally, and physically—in their own communities and left to consider our own response to the very same call. We were inspired to live lives worthy of the One who adopted us and called us his own.
As we prepared to embark on this experience, we looked at Philippians 2, considered Christ’s example of condescension in order to serve, and thought long about our need to do the same. Yet, in our time in Guatemala, what became abundantly unclear is exactly who was being most served by whom. I am thankful for the reminder that God is not another flimsy North American export in a world so overcrowded with them. No, the sovereign, all-powerful Lord of the nations is deeply at work worldwide in and through flawed people, cultures, and nations in order that his name might receive the praise due it and that people as broken by poverty as we are might see and know his character a little better.
Thank you for your participation in what God is doing in Guatemala. Thank you for making it possible for us to represent Christ and SBCC. Guatemala touched and shaped each of us and left us with a thousand photographs in our hearts. When we think of our time there, we will all think back on people, conversations, moments, places, and, above all, a glimpse of the magnitude and wonder of the God whose glory burns hotter than lava, that we will undoubtedly remember forever.