Guatemala Day Six – June 1, 2017
I do not think I have ever had a more eye opening experience than this past week during our trip to Guatemala. We have done mission work at the orphanage and local cities. Delivering food to the local cities was definitely the project that struck me most. Just by seeing their lifestyles and living arrangements made me very appreciative of what I have. However, I know that these families were very grateful that we visited them. Spending time with the children was a challenge at first, due to the language. However, after a week or so, I felt that it has come more naturally. We are communicating better with each other, even if it is something as simple as playing soccer, basketball, or baseball with them.
This trip has been one of the best experiences of my life, and I will definitely never forget it. I hope to return to Valley of the Angels in the future.
Sister Barbara Vano
Today we spent the day in the city of Antigua, exploring a bit more of the culture and history of this remarkable land. Since I had been here last year, I wanted to do some exploring and see some sights that I hadn’t seen before. Several of us decided to explore the ruins of a Poor Clare Monastery in Antigua. Established almost 300 years ago, this foundation of Sisters has since moved to another area, but the shell of the structure they called ‘home’ remains. It was fascinating to see what remained of their simple chapel, choir, burial crypt, refectory and courtyard – with the essential fountain that provided them with their water source. And climbing to the second level rewarded us with a breathtaking view of the area.
After a long day of exploring and shopping for local goods, we returned to Valley for one of our final evening reflections. As our week winds down and the time in Guatemala draws to a close, we found ourselves discussing the unexpected moments and lessons of the week. The biggest challenge for many was arriving with the expectation that we would be ‘doing’ and discovering that the greatest lesson of the week has been the importance of ‘being.’ Being with the children – helping them with homework, praying together at processions and liturgies, or connecting on the playground. Being with the kitchen staff as we worked together to prepare lunch for 300 – and laughed as we pantomimed our questions with broken Spanish. Being on the side of the road with a flat tire and experiencing the day to day reality of life. Being with the families served by Mano Amiga – visiting a family of 4 or 5 or 9 in small one and two room houses and watching the parents light up as they talked about their children.
As Franciscans, we speak so often of the importance of community and relationships. As this week draws to a close, my prayer is that we continue to allow ourselves to be touched by the lives of those we have met and that we take this renewed sense of the importance of ‘being’ back with us to our everyday lives.
Amanda, one of the FMS (Franciscan Mission Services) missioners here at Valley, shared this observation by the writer Max Warren. May we keep its message in our hearts:
“Our first task in approaching another people, another culture, another religion is to take off our shoes, for the place we are standing on is holy. Else we may find ourselves treading on people’s dreams. More serious still, we may forget that God was here before our arrival.”