Senior Project: Guatemala
"Lord, help us to remember the lessons we have learned in Guatemala. Help us to hold these kids with us in our hearts, so that we may be inspired to love like them."
- Sutherlan Litke '20, Noah Scott '20, Lucas Rackers '20, Joseph Callahan '20, Ben Garcia '20 and Adam Mittendorf '20
For Senior Project, Jr. Bills work with students at Boys Hope Girls Hope affiliate Esperanza Juvenil in Guatemala City and immerse themselves in the culture of Central America. It is an experience that is challenging, rewarding and transformational.
The first day centered around the valley of the shadow of death. There was a dichotomy between the community seen at the houses and restaurant and the complete lack of dignity at the dump. Some of us had feelings of guilt, but those feelings were soon replaced with a desire to change these peoples’ situations. Despite the extreme poverty we experienced, we noticed the friendliness of strangers and value of hospitality. Our insight was that even in the valley of the shadow of death, our Lord works through people to combat evil. Today, we all talked about how inspired we were by Phillip Wilson’s operation. After wondering how we fit into the injustices we witnessed yesterday, he presented us an incredible example of what people like us, who have things, must do if we want to change those injustices. Much of our reflection today had to do with simplicity. We all thought that the meals we ate today, as well as our time in the marketplace, brought us closer to people. These relationships show us the face of God. Simplicity, we concluded, is good insofar as it brings us closer to God. Lord, help us to be inspired to use our gifts to change the injustices in our world. Help us to see where in our lives we need to simplify, in order to best do your will.
Summary of the day
We began teaching at the school today with the middle schoolers. It was slow at first but the kids warmed up extremely quickly. We taught them different types of fist bumps and thumb wars which they found really entertaining and we had a flock of kids following us by lunch. We tried to help out in the classes as much as possible until 4:00 pm and played many games of soccer with the kids. After school, we went to the houses for supper and we were met with great hospitality and more soccer games.
Much of the reflection was dedicated to the extreme kindness and incorporation of the kids. We found that they were genuinely interested in our lives and wanted us to be part of their games even though we were el terrible. We reflected on our roles of teachers being not so much in the form of school but as role models and representatives of what it means to love. We also talked about the different forms of poverty which came from remarks made by Benito about the spiritual strength of many of the poor in Guatemala. We talked that there is poverty of the spirit and poverty of the body and that poverty of the body does not necessarily mean that they do not live a fruitful life. We see a large difference between the families of the people that send their kids to Esperanza Juvenil and the poor at the dump. We agreed that we need to acknowledge the physical poverty that people live in but also recognize that they might have a spiritual depth that we can only dream of.
Lord, place hope in the hearts of the poor. Allow opportunities to be given so that the good people of Guatemala might be able to grasp the physical means that match their spiritual strength. No matter the situation, let all people be able to recognize the glimpses of God and form community.
Today, we began working in the high school. The high school is very new, but is already providing a very good education to the students. It includes 7th-12th grade. The day lasts from 7:00 AM-4:00 PM so we had an early morning because we had to get up at 5:00 AM to make it to the school on time. After the school day ended, we returned to the primary school where where we are staying and soon, 3 of us left to go to a house for dinner. The 3 others left for a house later.
Many of us had a hard time with working in the high school today. It was very different than working in the primary school because we didn’t interact with the students as much and spent a lot of time sitting in class trying to figure out what the teachers were saying in Spanish. Even though many of us didn’t have as much time interacting with the students, we found that the conversations that we did have were much deeper and insightful than the conversation that we had with the students at the primary school. This was aided by some of the students’ ability to speak English well, while at the primary school nearly none of the students spoke English. We also reflected upon our experiences at the houses during dinner. Many of us found this to be an especially insightful time because many of the students were more willing to open up to us in an environment where they maybe felt more comfortable talking to us.
Lord, Please give us the grace to recognize the situations in which we are most needed even if they are not apparent to us and please give us the patience to seek out those situations and make the most of them.
Today was a more relaxed day at the program. We started the day by hand washing our clothes and hanging them up on the roof to dry. We then went in pairs to two of the houses where we helped them clean the street in front of the house. After that, we ate lunch with the houses. After lunch we returned to esperanza juvenil for a short time before we left in pairs to various parks around the city to play with the kids until dinner time, which again was at different houses.
Today we all started to feel more comfortable with the kids. Because the day was more relaxed,(we got to sleep a little later, there was a little less structure and more freedom) we were able to find different ways to interact with the kids at the houses. We felt that the kids were starting to open up to us more than past days. In many of the soccer games, we were included as much as everyone else, getting passed to like we were part of the group. A lot of the reflection centered around how the conversations we had and games we played were really cool and just About having fun and hanging out together, being present for the kids. Not only that, but we were able to bond with each other more, washing and hanging our clothes together and getting some good soccer practice in on the roof. Even though we each had different experiences and hung out with different groups of kids, overall, we all found ways to bond and relax with the kids like they would do on a normal Saturday.
Lord, Help us to find joy in those around us and in the every day lives of those that we encounter. As we proceed in our journey here, allow us to grow closer with the kids in the program and give us the strength to both be there for them and learn from them.
Today has just been a travel day. We are currently waiting for our 7:40 flight at the Houston airport. Yesterday, we went to classes, but they were stopped at 9:30 for a sending-off ceremony. The choir gathered to sing for us, and we performed our songs with our grades. Each grade then gave us a note expressing their thanks to us. We continued with classes the rest of the day before heading off to the houses for dinner.
Everybody mentioned how the kids’ expressions of love toward us gave us perspective on how meaningful our work actually was. There were many hugs, and some of the kids even cried. We felt similar emotions, and our connection to the kids was solidified. Some of us expressed that they felt more strongly than ever the desire to return to these kids and be a part of their lives. As we return to our lives in St. Louis, we hope that their memory will inspire us to love and serve better.
Lord, help us to remember the lessons we have learned in Guatemala. Help us to hold these kids with us in our hearts, so that we may be inspired to love like them.