This spring break I had the opportunity to go on my senior mission trip to Guatemala. Before I go any farther, I want to say that this was, by far, my favorite mission trip yet. This group consisted of six seniors—Ethan Williams, Brayden Ratcliff, Molly Sheridan, Allison McNeill, Jordan Allen, and myself (Brett Byer)—alongside five adults—Chris Schoolcraft, Carla Hilburn, Drew Tucker, Julie Sheridan, and Kelly Allen. We worked with Mission Guatemala, a Methodist-based nonprofit, to help serve the community of San Andrés.
Our first full day there, we went to the market in Chichicastenango. We were able to shop and buy souvenirs, but more importantly, we were able to see first-hand the culture that we were about to be serving. While at the market, we got to tour the city. We went to the Church of Santo Tomas, where we saw both a catholic priest and a Mayan priest worshiping next to each other at the same time. It was a beautiful moment. They both showed respect for the other and they both loved each other.
On our first workday, before any work was done, we attended the ground-breaking ceremony for the new teachers’ office facility we were going to be working on all week. They had us as their guests of honor, and to be honest, it was a little strange. All we were going to do was come and sweat a little and then leave for another team to take over. But they didn’t see it that way. We were the first group that was going to work on this new facility. This was something that they had been wanting for a long time, and for it to finally be happening, they were so happy. After the ceremony, we began working. It was at that point when we realized just how hard the week was going to be. This was far from our normal “light construction and painting” that we are used to. This was busting up rocks and digging trenches. But over the course of the week, we began to bond with the workers that we worked with. They invited us to join them in their mid-day tradition of drinking Coke and eating bread. I’m not a big coke drinker, but that bread was so good. With the little Spanish that we knew, we tried to communicate with them. And it worked pretty well. I had a 10-minute conversation one day with one of the workers, in Spanish, about…sports. I don’t think my Spanish was great, but I was able to get my point across and have a meaningful conversation. Another day, just after lunch and just before we went back to work, we were playing a card game. I asked one of the workers if he wanted to play. He said yes. So I sat out that round and taught him the game and helped him, but I’m going to be honest, he didn’t need the help. He ended up winning the game. It was the moments like these that I’m going to remember for the rest of my life. Even though I don’t speak a lot of Spanish, I was able to communicate, and for those times when I couldn’t, we had fun and played games.
Back at the Mission Guatemala hotel, another team was staying there. They were from Columbus, Ohio. We ate breakfast and dinner at the hotel with them, but we segregated to our own tables. After about 2 days of doing that, I had the idea of mixing with them to get to know them and bond with them. So one morning at breakfast, we just sat all over the place, and when they walked in, they did not hesitate to go and fill in the gaps. They were excited to get to know us. This continued throughout the rest of the week. We were able to bond and form great relationships with them just by changing how we ate. Julie and Molly went on morning runs throughout the week, and they even got Molly—from the Columbus group—to go run with them. It was really amazing to see how God was growing our relationship with them.
Every night, we would have worship and devo. This was definitely my favorite part of the day. We sat in the living room of the girls apartment and just worshiped. Everyone, singing at the top of their lungs and just truly worshiping God. Every night. We felt the Holy Spirit at work in that space, filing us with so many emotions. We had great devotions. There wasn’t a night that we didn’t have to break out the toilet paper to be used as tissues. That space was full of so much love, not just for God, but for each other. That’s what I’m going to miss the most.
One night, we got to witness a Mayan ritual and see how they worship. We got to join in and worship our own God while also performing the Mayan ritual of burning candles. This was followed by dance. I’m not big on dancing, but it was really fun to just skip around in a circle.
This was an amazing mission trip. We got to be apart, a small part, but an important part of something so great. We formed bonds that we never could have imagined would have been formed. We saw God move in great and mighty ways. We got to see a different culture and see how they worship. We got to drink some amazing coffee. And we got to be the hands and feet of God in San Andrés, Guatemala.