Friday, November 11, 2005

Traces of Dirt

You could say Jesus never really left the earth--
He just took up residence in each of us.
(author unknown)
Our church decided two years ago to "adopt" a rural church in northern Guatemala. This church is a new Lutheran Church, formed by the Mayan villagers of the community of Aurora Ocho de Octubre. The congregation still maintains many of its Catholic roots--in fact, the name of the church is Virgen del Rosario, or Virgin of the Rosary Lutheran Church. Not a common Lutheran church name. :) These people work hard. They struggle. Hurricane Stan coupled with a bad year has destroyed many of their crops. They rely on their crops for income and, of course, food. And through the struggles, they worship together in their new church, eager to grow in members and honor God in all they do. Our purpose for being there was not to do anything necessarily, as in a project or some physical task. Instead, we simply spent time with our brothers and sisters, living the life they live (if only for a week), hiking through the rainforest with them to see their farmland, worshipping with them, and just loving them. Of course, we do help them financilly, but mostly in the form of loans that they are expected to pay back when they can. Five days of our trip were spent with these people. . .half of the trip, but the majority of our reason for going, as well as the majority of meaningful moments and memories.
It's hard to re-adjust. I'm constantly thinking of how to keep this experience with me. I still find traces of dirt under my fingernails--a subtle yet still powerful reminder of my life one week ago. I hope the dirt stays there for while. I need the reminder when I'm in line at Starbucks. I need the reminder when I'm in the grocery store choosing among the numerous brands of soda pop and snacks. I need the reminder when I pull out the credit card for a $40 outfit that I just "gotta have." I need the reminder even while I'm sitting here looking at the computer screen, blogging and instantly able to communicate with friends from all over the U.S. (and elsewhere). I long to constantly be reminded because I'm deeply afraid of forgetting.
I'm afraid of forgetting what it felt like to sleep on a wooden platform every night, and how I surprisingly grew comfortable with it by the end (when you're tired, you can sleep on anything!). I'm afraid of forgetting the smells of the rainforest. I'm afraid of forgetting the sound of the children chanting "Lorena!" over and over as I trudged up a slippery, muddy hill to greet them. I'm afraid of forgetting Ana's ringing laughter, Sylvia's toothy grin, Angel's gentle demeanor, Anastacio's enthusiasm. I'm afraid to forget. And I know these experiences will surely fade in my memory--it's impossible for them to remain so fresh as time goes by. But I believe writing this down may help when I miss them most. . .
I want to remember:
The pain--in the eyes of the people of Ocho de Octubre over division in their church; in their voices as they sang and spoke of their hardships--loss of crops, hunger, back-breaking work to bring home food for their families; in their faces as they expressed fear that the difficulties in the church may keep us, their friends, from returning to visit them again.
The laughter--from children as they played and tried to teach me Guatemalan games and corrected my Spanish; from adults as they spoke in Qe'chi (the Mayan language of the community) to each other, sharing small joys and admiring their children at play; from our own mission group, with one another, as we slipped and fell on slick clay mud, guarded the place where we shohwered from the curious little ones, and made our best attempts to communicate (one of the highlights was, of course, my own mess-up: After dinner one night, I said to my new friend Anastacio, "No tengo hombre," thinking I was telling him that I wasn't hungry. A slight change of the word to "hambre" and I would have been correct. Alas, I began to laugh immediately because I realized I said, "I don't have a man." Which, I pointed out to our group, is as true as the intended statement. :)).
The beauty--of the Guatemalan forest; of winding roads through the mountains; of bright-colored fabrics at the market; of the Guatemalan people.
The novelty--of living with and observing traditional Mayan dress and culture; of new smells and colorful flowers; of new tastes, like coconut milk and nibbling on azucar (sugar cane) in the rainforest.
The whisper of a call--from God, to my heart, still nebulous and faint, yet stirring me to wonder just what He's got in mind for me. . .
Pictures follow. Thanks for reading! I still don't feel that I captured all of it, but how can you when there's so much to bind up in words?
*****
In other news, I'm headed to Chrysalis in a few hours with my kiddos. My birthday is tomorrow and, while there are several things that are currently attempting to put a damper on my celebration, I just won't have it! So there! :) I seem to have brought home a not-so-fun souvenir in my intestines (sorry if that grosses you out--I'm a blunt one), but it's getting better thanks to medicine that kicks lil' bacteria butt. I got my hair cut this week and looooove it. And Em's coming for 2 days to chill and celebrate my b-day. Good things, good things. I hope there are good things with all of you, as well.
Dios bendiga.

3 Comments:

Blogger sarah said...

Awesome, awesome. Thanks for reminding me that no matter what trivial annoyances I've got in my life, there are many people who can find joy in much, much simpler things.

I'm so lucky to know you, Lauren, because you serve as a lamp to some of us who fumble around for light. Thank!!

12:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

happppppy birthdayyyyy sissy

2:11 PM  
Blogger Me Over Here said...

Wow, Lauren, this was great! I'm sure that, in a few years time, the memories of every little detail might fade, but by writing it down, you can always revisit your trip and recall the fond memories you made. It was really encouraging to read this post, and the pictures were wonderful! Hope you feel better soon, and I'm glad you're back safely and had a very rewarding and eye-opening trip!

8:17 AM  

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