A Labor of Love: A Guatemala Recap

Several weeks ago I posted on Alexandria Stylebook about packing up and heading to Guatemala. I know a style blog isn’t really a place to talk about going to dig ditches for a sanitation system but since some of you have asked, I thought I would post a few photos from the trip here.

I went with a group from my church to work with an organization out of Richmond called the Highland Support Project (www.highlandsupportproject.org.) This trip might not fit the mold of what you think of when you hear the term “mission trip” because of its approach. This organization was different to me which is why I decided to pack my bags once again. Highland Support works with the indigenous people of Guatemala, the Mayans, to break the poverty cycle through collaborative work with the community. They don’t raise money and go in with a bulldozer and build a sanitation system, although there were many moments I was so exhausted I wish we did. Instead, the work is manual labor, done equally by volunteers and people of the community, working side by side. They are part of the process both in decision-making and implementation. It reminds me of the old saying that giving a hand is better than giving a hand out.

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I flew into Guatemala City and from the moment I landed I was amazed at the physical beauty of the place. It’s one of the most beautiful countries I’ve ever seen but as we traveled up to 12,000 feet in the mountains we were confronted with poverty everywhere we turned. There is no place to escape it entirely. The third, and most relevant, thing confronting a visitor is that even though the Mayans have literally nothing in material terms, they are some of the happiest, warmest people I have ever met.

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I could not help but to sit and ask myself ‘why in the heck am I so grumpy all the time?’ I have everything and then some. I didn’t need to go to Central America to break the connection between material things and the character traits that endure, but a reminder to re-calibrate perspective was worth the trip alone.

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Look, I am not going to sit here and say I am going to stop shopping or highlighting my hair. But taking myself out of my very blessed existence is something I am thankful I have done. It’s not a stretch to say that I didn’t take a mission to Chuicutama as much as Chuicutama brought a mission to me.

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