It’s almost the end of October. I took my second missions trip to Guatemala back in May. I am just now finding the time to share my experience! Suffering from Monteczuma’s Revenge for the entire month of June did not help, at all. Then Big Guy’s 1st birthday party happened the week before Matt turned 30. Then two weeks later we took our annual camping trip. The end result? Me trying to condense almost 1000 photos and stories into something manageable for you, 5 months later, so I can finally move on with my life! I was just going to write one long post, but decided in the end to break it up a bit.
I led a team of 12 missionaries, including myself, my husband, my son, and my mother, to San Miguel del Lago in Guatemala. It is an Orthodox monastic orphanage, formerly known as Hogar Rafael Ayau. The name changed last year when the nuns were finally able to move the orphanage to the monastery grounds about an hour outside the city, in the mountains of Lake Amatitlan. The former property in Zone 1, the worst part of Guatemala City, is still in use as a church for the community, as well as a free medical facility for the poor.
Our main purpose as missionaries during this trip was to bring down basic necessities for them and spend quality time with the children. It is common to think it would be more beneficial to “just send money” or “mail necessities to them”, but it unfortunately is not that easy. While money is graciously accepted and put to wonderful use, it only goes so far in Guatemala. Many common items are much less expensive in the US. Also, their postal system, along with many other facets of their government, is rather “unreliable” and cannot be trusted. Therefore, we each traveled with our one free checked bag, one carry-on, and one personal bag, full to the very brim. We were definitely those people sorting and organizing bags at the airport! Here we are unpacking all the donations for Madre Ivonne to organize and put away.
My son was such a trooper. There was a 2 hour time difference, so he was forced to stay up a bit later than usual, but we still tried to keep him on schedule as much as possible. No one wants an extra cranky baby while traveling in a developing country. Or anywhere. Anytime. 😉 We also got attacked by mosquitoes in our “sleep” the one night, and he unfortunately got the majority of the bites all over his face, arms, and legs. We joked that they may not let me back in the country because he almost looked like he had a disease like small pox! He was definitely the “hit” of the week with everyone. I will never forget the sound of his name in their sweet, endearing accents. I still catch myself (and his Grandma) occasionally saying it so. I am so grateful we were able to travel together as a family unit.
Every weekday morning at 645am we met in the chapel for a Matins service, and at 4pm for Vespers. Saturday evening was a 2-hour Vigil in the church, and Sunday morning Divine Liturgy was celebrated at 8am. It sounds like a lot of church, but when you’re there to serve and that is their daily routine, it doesn’t seem as “inconvenient” as it sometimes can back home, even just going once or twice a week (or less for some). When going to church becomes a part of our lives, such as eating and bathing, you look forward to it. This routine is vital for the health and well-being of the children. Most of them come from nightmarish backgrounds, whose only hope is knowing that God is leading them to a better future.
The one afternoon we joined the girls at their soccer training in a field across the street owned by the neighbors. And by we, I mean I watched everyone else work out while taking photos.
Almost every day after breakfast and lunch we did maintenance work. Father Daniel and Matt installed hardware in all of the girls bathrooms. We were blessed to have such handy team members to help the girls have a more comfortable living space. The rest of our team did some much needed yard work and helped organize the sewing room. It was hard for me at times not being able to help much because I had my baby with me. I had to keep reminding myself that I was not there in vain, but had done all of the prep work getting us there safely, as well as organize the benefit we put on the month before.
Want to read more? Check out Guatemala: La Segunda Parte.