The 2018 Guatemala Mission Trip
The 2018 Mission Trip - Sunday, July 8 - Tuesday, July 17, 2018
A journal of updates from the "Red Knights on a Mission" in Guatemala for the 2018 Mission Trip, serving with The God’s Child Project (GCP) to build homes for poverty-stricken families in Guatemala.
Monday, July 16
Today the sun shone brightly, as we climbed the Hill of the Cross. We enjoyed the panoramic views of scenic Antigua, with the vibrant green dormant Volcán de Agua in the background. After taking some beautiful pictures, we walked to the Dreamer Center to help with the various ministries of the God’s Child Project. Some students helped prepare lunch for the school children, while other students helped the maintenance team with cleaning the grounds of the campus. Another group of students helped to sort the donations that we brought in our suitcases, and some students helped to clean Casa Jackson and care for the babies.
We returned to our host families for our final meal, and then ventured out one more time in Antigua to make some final souvenir purchases. Having used their negotiating skills to secure their ponchos, soccer shirts and blankets, we walked one last time to the Dreamer Center for our closing ceremony. Our hosts lead the students through a final reflection and then celebrated everyone’s hard work by presenting shirts, hats and silver crosses to the group. An original design by one of the first graduates of the God’s Child Project, the crosses are exclusively made for the construction teams. We thanked the work site leaders who generously gave of their time to take care of us during our entire stay, working long hours and sacrificing time with their families. And we thanked the chaperones, who also generously gave of their time this summer to accompany us on our journey.
At the end of the ceremony, we thanked the students for so magnanimously sharing of their time, talents and treasures. We reminded the students of the following prayer from Archbishop Romero, challenging them to think of the seeds that they have planted in others, as well as the seeds that have been planted in them. Just as BSM graduate Sean Cox shared that a seed was planted in him when he participated on a BSM trip to Costa Rica, we hope that this experience has planted a seed in the students.
Our challenge to the students is to nurture these seeds by answering the call to serve again in the future, in whatever form that may be. I shared a little of my own journey, and how answering that call guided me on paths that I never could have imagined. We praised the students for all of the ways in which they have already answered the call of the Catholic Social Teaching Principle of the Option for the Poor and Vulnerable. Starting with answering the call to serve on this mission team, the students have amazed us time and time again with their generosity. After the devastating volcanic eruption, students answered the call to pay for additional luggage so that we could bring much needed supplies to the affected people. We received a receipt today from the God’s Child Project stating that we brought an incredible $15,553.96 worth of donations! When we learned of the death of the father of our host family, the students answered the call to freely give to help cover the unexpected funeral expenses. Time and time again, the students have said "yes" to the opportunity to share their treasures with our Guatemalan hosts.
Finally, we want to thank you, the parents, for making this possible. Your generous support of the mission trip program has provided six new homes for some extremely grateful families. You have improved their lives for years to come, and as one student observed tonight, you have improved the lives of generations to come – children who are not yet even born. Thank you for answering the call and empowering us to walk in solidarity with the people of Guatemala. Without your contributions, none of what we accomplished this week would have happened. On behalf of all of our Guatemalan hosts, thank you, thank you, thank you.
We are scheduled to depart Guatemala City on Delta Airlines 906 at 1:15 PM, arriving in Atlanta at 6:54 PM. We will clear immigration and customs, and then take Delta 356 at 9:06 PM. Please meet us at the Delta baggage claim in Terminal 1 at 10:53 PM. This has been a great week and we are simply in awe of everything that our amazing Red Knights have achieved, but we are ready to give your kids back to you! J
May everyone continue to plant seeds, water seeds already planted and continue to answer the call to serve in whatever way the Holy Spirit may call them to do so.
Friday, July 13
Today was a great day to be a Red Knight! Our BSM students presented six new homes, six new outdoor kitchens and six sets of bunk beds to some amazing families! After countless hours of sawing wood, mixing cement and pounding nails, the students accomplished their mission today.
On the way to the work site, each team stopped at the grocery store to purchase food and supplies as a house warming gift for their family. We gave the students a set amount of money and a list of suggested items, and then the chaperones stepped back to watch the students problem solve the way to get the most possible for their family with the money that the had. The students compared prices of the various brands of items ranging from rice to cleaning supplies. They debated whether they should buy additional beans or pasta. They discussed the value of buying expensive one-time special treats versus economic basic necessities that would last a longer time.
After the students finished construction, each work site foreman lead a blessing ceremony with the students and the family. Both the families and the students then had the opportunity to share some parting words, and many tears were shed. It was hard to say goodbye, but the students left the work sites knowing that they had positively impacted these families' lives for generations to come.
Thank you to all of the parents for making this possible!
Wednesday, July 11
Construction continued at the work sites, and the houses and kitchens are quickly taking shape. By this point, the students have collectively mixed thousands of pounds of sand, rocks and cement to make the concrete for the floors and foundation. They have pounded hundred of nails and cut dozens of pieces of lumber. They have worked hard, but they can see the fruits of their labors.
Tonight we were extremely fortunate to be joined by 2004 BSM graduate Sean Cox, a member of the foreign service who is currently stationed at the US Embassy in Guatemala City. Sean shared that he also traveled with a BSM group and that it was that trip to Costa Rica that planted a seed in him. After graduating from college, he was a Fulbright Scholar in Guatemala and served in the Peace Corps in El Salvador. His work in the agricultural department at the Embassy provides him the opportunity to continue his interest in development work. He and his family have been living in Guatemala for two years and will be here for two more.
Following a great question and answer session with Sean, two of the mothers from the God's Child Project taught us how to make corn tortillas by hand. They first explained the process of how the corn is grown and milled into flour, and then the students had the opportunity to make their own tortillas. The students also made a typical salsa of tomatoes, onions and cilantro. After they cooked their tortillas on a large clay skillet, the students add beans that the mothers had prepared for us and the salsa for a tasty treat. As two of our students were celebrating birthdays yesterday, we took advantage of the bonfires to make birthday Smores.
Before departing for the evening, we talked with the students about the importance of keeping everything in perspective. During orientation, our God's Child Project service team coordinator asked the students to focus on the flame of a candle. As the students focused on the flame, they were challenged to block out everything else. Being constantly bombarded with so many stimuli, it can be hard to block out everything and focus exclusively on the flickering flame.
The exercise represents what many of the Guatemalan people do each day. The students at the GCP school and the children at the work sites are always happy and laughing. With huge smiles on their faces, they run around playing. They are able to block out the hunger most of them are experiencing from not having eaten dinner, thankful that the GCP provides them their only two meals of the day when they eat breakfast and lunch at school. They are able to block out the pain from the parasites and intestinal infections that afflict many of them, thankful that they have the opportunity to go to school when their parents may be illiterate because they did not finish primary school. The daughter of one of the work site leaders is in the hospital with pneumonia, but the foreman shows up to work each day with our BSM team, thankful that he has a job to pay for her medical treatments. The day of our arrival, one of the host family mothers awoke to find her father on the floor of his bedroom. They rushed him to the hospital and learned that he had a blood clot in his brain. Despite this very difficult time, the host mother returned home to prepare the house for our group and has cheerfully prepared our meals each day with a great deal of love, thankful that she has the opportunity to host us in order to earn the money to pay for her father's medical care.
We challenged the students to focus on the positive during our short time here, too. At this point in the trip, many students are tired from the construction process. Some of them may be starting to have queasy stomachs. Our challenge is to find something to be happy and thankful about, just like our hosts and to focus on why we are here - to learn from our Guatemalan hosts about their beautiful country and culture, to learn more about the poor as we work with our work site families to build six new homes, to learn more about themselves as they are challenged in new and unexpected ways, and to learn more about our faith as we grow closer in our relationship with God.
Tuesday, July 10
Our six teams began construction on their homes. Each group followed the style and preference of the foreman, but everyone dug the trenches for the cinderblock foundation for at least one structure today and mixed cement by hand. Some work sites dug the second foundation, while other sites poured the cement floor for the first structure.
It was a long work day, with some groups not returning to the host families until after 6:00 PM. You would all be so proud of our Red Knights! The students worked so hard, and we were so impressed with how well they worked together to accomplish our common goals. Everyone was exhausted at the end of the day, but we left the work sites feeling very satisfied with the progress that we had made.
As the first construction day is typically the most physically demanding, we do not have an evening gathering so that everyone can rest for the next work day. I will try to get some of the students to share some reflections on Wednesday.
Monday, July 9
We woke up this morning to a delicious breakfast with our host families and met our leader Saúl at 7:45 in the basketball court that is centrally located in our neighborhood. We walked to the Dreamer's Center, the headquarters of the God's Child Project in Guatemala. We visited the primary school and Casa Jackson, the center for malnourished infants that the BSM community has sponsored over the past few years through the junior high dances and the Common Basket program.
We then went to the Scheel Center, the junior and senior high. We played our own annual version of Guatemala vs USA in the World Cup, and this year USA won 5-2! Everyone participated, and George Wolfe was especially impressive as our goalie, fully throwing himself into the game.
This year the GCP modified our schedule by taking us to our work on our orientation day so that we could see where we will be constructing. We then had a self-guided tour of Antigua - another first.
After dinner with the host families, we went to a restaurant to celebrate our soccer victory with crepes and ice cream for dessert.
Everyone is very excited to start construction in the morning!
Have a great night,
Red Knights on a Mission '18
Sunday, July 8
This is Maggie Emmer checking in. It is our first day here in Guatemala and we have already been exposed to so much culture and the daily lives of Guatemalans. Our first stop was at a chicken restaurant, which was on about every other corner of the streets. We experienced the slow relaxed rhythm of life waiting patiently from 4-5 for our food. Then, we trekked along our 2-hour bus ride into the beautiful city of Antigua. Covered with cobble stone roads, and surrounded by colorful houses decorated with window flowers. We witnessed the behavior of the children and their welcoming nature. We later got assigned to our houses. In my home contains around 12 people; I’m still trying to keep track of who is who. Our Spanish is already being challenged and our experience has already made an impact on each one of us!
This is Michael Schmidt here. It has been a very long day but also very fun. Arriving in Guatemala is very different from anywhere in the US because the long process with customs. Right now we are all sitting at the dinner table having good conversations!
This is Logan McCloskey now. This has been a very eventful day and everyone is extremely tired. This has been one of the longest days that anyone has ever had. Overall a good first day in the lives of the BSM Mission team."