Preparing for our Vision Trip to Guatemala was an eye-opener itself. Normally, I would expect to study and pray for our team prior to a mission trip, hoping to prepare my heart in the process. Instead, I found myself overwhelmed and exhausted from work. I was working extremely long hours—even working up until our 4 a.m. departure for Guatemala—and it left me wondering: what was I doing leading a team of College Park students abroad?
Looking back, I realize this trial was a significant part of this adventure and certainly God’s plan for what was to unfold in a piece of my personal growth around this trip.
Arriving in Guatemala, we were greeted by our driver, Edwin, who was a native and a brother in Christ. We quickly saw the economic challenges around us. Guatemala is one of the richest countries in Central America, but it has one of the highest poverty rates as well. This was evident when we went to a mall to exchange our money (1 USD to 7.6 Quetzal). I was shocked to see that despite how nice the mall was, there’s severe poverty not far away. There are simply not enough jobs to support the large and growing population.
Our host, Amie Bockstahler, is a College Park missionary serving the poor of Guatemala as a nurse. Amie helped coordinate our living accommodations and hosted our group for dinner almost every night. We were privileged to walk alongside her serving in three mission areas during our time in Guatemala City.
Medical Clinic in the trash dump community
The Guatemala City garbage dump, situated in a ravine, occupies forty acres of land. Guatemala is the most populated nation in Central America, with more than thirteen million residents. This landfill, one of the largest and most toxic in Central America, houses over a third of the country’s waste.
Many people live in the dump, repurposing trash or selling it for income. The living conditions are bad—there’s no running water and drainage water often floods the homes. Yet, the medical clinic in the community is amazing. It has running water, electricity, and basic equipment to serve people who desperately need medical attention.
While there, we did a variety of jobs—taking and recording vitals, helping fill prescriptions, praying for patients, and sharing the gospel. In the evenings, after closing the clinic, we would make house calls and deliver food kits to a few families. As we walked through the streets and homes, it was clear that the clinical staff was accepted, respected, appreciated, and loved in this community (Col. 3:12). It was amazing to see how the medical mission team and our students had broken through barriers of language, economics, and race to love this group of people.
At the orphanage, we were able to paint, install new LED light fixtures, and create fun murals on the walls for the kids to enjoy. As we tackled these mechanical projects, we established strong bonds with the children and staff. God even placed three adopted students on our team, which was incredible in itself to see God’s plan of redemption through adoption (Eph 1:5).
Basketball & Rural Farming Community
One evening, a member of Amie’s church met us for dinner and educated us on his mission serving the poor, rural farming communities. Stuardo told us that, oddly, the government had built basketball gymnasiums in these areas weren’t being utilized other than for an occasional indoor soccer game. This piqued the interest of four young men on our team who love basketball.
So, we drove over an hour with big bags of basketballs to play and bond with children in the poor, rural area. through this vessel. Afterward, we walked a mile back up the mountain, escorting a few of the children home with gifts of food that we had brought. Their homes had dirt floors, no running water, and the same drainage problems we’d seen in the dump. It was humbling to walk through this struggling community and see that many people were happy and thankful for what they had. Similar to what we witnessed with the medical team and orphanage staff, I saw Christ in Stuardo as he smiled, waved, hugged, and talked to everyone we passed on the road. In accord with Philippians 2:7, he was emptying himself and selflessly serving others.
As I reflect on this trip. I think about the anxiety and worldly things consuming my life before leaving. I was curious in my mind about how God was going to use me in this story. God certainly had a purpose to use my gifts, open my eyes, and change my heart on this trip. He showed me a beautiful group of people in Guatemala. He provided examples through our missionaries that reflect Christ in their work and interaction loving the Guatemalan people. He showed me a church in Guatemala that is truly making an impact in the community where they live. He introduced me to students and leaders that I now call friends. He impacted my heart with priorities & gratitude for blessings in my own life. Thank you, Jesus!