Guatemala, Day One: Exposed

by Jessica Shyba on September 11, 2013

in Travel,World Vision

Last month I went into the government office in Santa Cruz and applied for my very first passport. In the seat next to me sat a gentleman applying with his intended for a marriage license, the same spot I sat in to do the very same thing 7 years ago. She mentioned that she was originally from Guatemala, and immediately my ears perked up; My first trip out of the country was also to Guatemala.

I read somewhere that there are no real coincidences; these moments are simply reminders that you are on the path you were intended to walk. I often come back to those words in search of even a little bit of guidance when the world seems too large to lasso.

Last night I landed in Guatemala City with a group of incredible people that were brought together via their dedicated spaces on the Internet. We’ve joined to see and experience World Vision and the vast contributions they have made throughout this region and many others.

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We traveled in a van through the uneven streets of rural Guatemala and I was particularly struck by two things: That every single person was working incredibly hard, and how the love that the people showed each other was in such stark contrast to the beaten walls they live amongst. Lovers with arms wrapped around each other’s necks, babies bundled closely to their mother’s backs, brothers clutching their siblings hands as they walked together. And then, as though we were being filmed for the silver screen, I noticed men on every corner gripping shotguns, clad in bulletproof vests.

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We arrived at the World Vision offices and learned about their services and their goals. How there are 80,000 children in Guatemala alone who are registered with World Vision, four out of five of them malnourished. It wasn’t long before we were standing under a tin roof listening to a dozen of them play the violin for us while their mothers looked on, beaming. The Suzuki music lessons are just one of the programs that World Vision brings to these communities, a beacon of joy and hope amongst the squalor.

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Our next visit was to Madre Marta’s, who had opened her home not only to us but also to other mothers in her community to share her knowledge about cooking and feeding their children better. There are few things in this world more devastating to me than hungry children and babies, and to be standing in their home amongst the flies and heat was a tremendously emotional experience. I cursed my indulgent tears but smiled at their beautiful faces while they said grace over their meal of rice and vegetables.

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“Proof that God exists”

We were told that the children view their World Vision sponsors like comic book heroes stepping out of the pages and into their lives. The knowledge that someone that they don’t know and who lives thousands of miles away but is pledging in their honor is, to them, “proof that God exists”.

Yet, watching one mother weep as she is given three packs of vegetable seeds for her garden was, to me, the very same thing. These mothers are my sisters in a way. It was incredibly difficult not to don an apron and start helping in any way I could, as I would in my own mother’s home.

I feel in my heart that all of this is so much more than coincidence, and we’ve only just begun.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Amanda September 11, 2013 at 1:23 pm

My grandparents took me to Puerto Rico when I was in 8th grade. The trip was intended to support my continued studies of spanish and to show me first-hand the kind of poverty that most of us are oblivious to. I remember, still so young, connecting the dots of humanity, that while our clothes and homes are different, beneath those trappings we are the same—afraid, alive, loving, funny, questing.

Any time we can witness that and really live it, share it with others, whether through an organization like World Vision, or holding the hands of passionate missionary relatives, we begin to create connections and empathy that can lead us to a better world.

Thank you for sharing your experience.

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Loukia September 11, 2013 at 1:32 pm

Shit, I’m fully crying in Starbucks.

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Amy Volk September 11, 2013 at 2:18 pm

Tears in my kitchen reading this. It’s beautiful. We sponsor Juma, from Kenya, with World Vision and also Achelda in Haiti with Compassion. My dream is for our family to visit both places and meet them. I am reminded everyday what a privileged life we lead and I want my kids to experience how most of the world lives, especially kids their own age. Can’t wait to hear more stories from you.

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Sally September 11, 2013 at 2:58 pm

I too was drawn to tears.
I feel the same way about coincidences; especially
about my finding your website through http://www.injennieskitchen.com/
I have enjoyed your journey to your new home, and now into your heart.

Thanks for sharing.

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Sara Floyd September 11, 2013 at 8:00 pm

Exactly what Loukia said! Full on crying. So timely as I sit on hold with the local Mac store huffing and puffing about some computer issue. Ahhhh, perspective.

These are the most beautiful words you’ve written. And they’ve all been beautiful. Please tell us more! Those children are stunning in a very real sort of way.

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Louise September 11, 2013 at 8:22 pm

You have such a beautiful way of telling a story. It’s morning here in Australia and your blog has given me a wonderful reminder of what is precious in life. Thank you for sharing and being my inspiration for the day.
Love to you and your family.

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Raluca | WhatWouldGwynethDo September 12, 2013 at 5:17 am

Absolutely beautiful. The image of the kids saying grace is especially touching — your photos are such a lovely accompaniment to your words. Have a great trip!

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