Our team was made up of youth and leaders from Kortright Presbyterian Church in Guelph, Ontario. As we prepared to leave, our instructors told us to be open to new experiences. They encouraged us to approach the trip with humility and a willingness to learn. Our time in Guatemala was not about bestowing wisdom or money on the local people--rather it was about learning from and walking with community members as brothers and sisters in Christ.
We spent most of our time working in rural areas in Guatemala. Our home base was a hotel in Sayachxe. After a few days of walking around Guatemala City, our team had to cram on the bus in order to make a 16-hour bus ride to the country’s middle rural region.
During this long journey I was pleasantly surprised by the resilience of the youth. They were happy to be there -- even joyful. They never complained and they took on the many bumps and hurdles on the way up with enthusiasm.
“Those who listen to instruction will prosper; those who trust the Lord will be joyful,” reads Proverbs 16:20 -- a verse I found especially helpful to contemplate during our travels.
Throughout the trip, several of our Kortright Church youth were thrown into new scenarios and put outside their box or ‘comfort zone.’ Many of them had not had an international experience like this before, so just being in the country was a challenge – one they handled willingly and joyfully.
When we visited the communities with World Renew’s local partner, APIDEC, a lot of our time was spent praying together and interacting with people in the community. We enjoyed times of fun and fellowship with the kids, adults, and community leaders. We played soccer, made music, and ran around.
We also shared in-depth discussions on the issues facing the community, such as water supply and in some areas, lack of school supplies for the teachers. The solutions we heard from APIDEC were comprehensive in some cases, and showed improvement over time.
There was one village that initially never had a road or pathway out of it but World Renew’s local partner, APIDEC, was able to fix it with a few days of hard work.
Although the focus of this trip wasn’t a construction project, we did have the opportunity to do physical work once we got to our fourth and final community. I was excited about this opportunity to work with my hands and offer immediate and tangible assistance, and several of the youth said they were also looking forward to this project.
We arrived as per normal, carrying out a flag ceremony and eating a meal with the community. The community members told us about two construction needs: building a fence and digging a well. So we made a change in our planned activities and set to work.
With great heart and no hesitation, even the youngest members of our group jumped right into the work. After hours of work, there were no clean clothes, but the youth were humble about it and happy to give of their time and skills to help this community with these two important projects. As they worked they also engaged with kids of the community, sending peek-a-boos to the small ones hiding behind fence posts and playing tag.
I learned two lessons from the youth: be joyous in all things and take heart in hard work, staying humble. They showed me that even when you are in a tiring or challenging situation, you can still exhibit the joy God calls us have.
For me, this trip was a powerful glimpse of how people can join World Renew in helping men, women, and children in places of poverty transform their lives.
World Renew’s work in Guatemala impacts the people at a local level, truly changing the story on the ground by helping connect people to resources like clean water or education. I saw joy, humility, and resilience in the people of Guatemala that had a ripple effect, since it was passed on to me and the youth on my team. I also learned more from the youth on my team than I ever expected.
All of this learning made this more than just a trip for me, but an opportunity to take part in God’s ongoing a story of transforming our world.
If your church or youth group is interested in an international opportunity to partner with World Renew, please contact Iona Buisman at email@example.com.
We are currently recruiting volunteers for an Educators Tour in Guatemala. If you are interested in shaping your students to become global citizens - please apply! Participate in a trip that will help you learn about global poverty firsthand. You will be able to bring to life stories of hope which will help to develop and strengthen lesson plans. Areas of learning will include food security, small-scale agriculture, techniques for teaching global issues, preventative health programs, different models of development, Village Savings and Loans (VSL) sustainable development goals and global citizenship. Click here to learn more!