Guatemala 2016 | Finding God in Guatemala

Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 1.49.01 PMUpon arriving in Guatemala, our cohort has been asked to follow four guiding principles:

1.  It’s complicated.
2.  It depends.
3.  Hold things loosely.
4.  Ask beautiful questions.

What do these mean?  There is so much history and depth to Guatemala that there are no easy answers and more importantly, no easy solutions to all the poverty, inequity and violence that exist here.

Screen Shot 2016-07-26 at 10.39.46 AMOur first morning, we learned about the civil war that lasted from 1960-1996.  A quarter of a million people were killed and 440 villages destroyed. The reasons are complicated, it depends from which side you look at the conflict as to what were the contributing factors, and so we are asked to hold our thoughts and opinions loosely and not be quick to judge.  The beautiful questions came when we saw the lists of names of those that were lost that filled numerous pillars at the National Cathedral.  These are God’s people whom he loved. He did not see them as Mayans or Guatemalans. They were all his children.

That same afternoon, we had a visitor named Shorty.  Shorty was a previous gang member who has found God and today, works with youth in the streets and helps them leave the gang life behind.  When he came to speak with us he had just lost a young man to gun violence that he had helped get off the streets.  He was in pain, and raw with emotion, but was still able to talk from his heart.  His personal story is complicated.  Is he solving the issues of poverty?  It depends.  We held loosely his criminal past against all the life changing work he is doing. The beautiful questions came as we prayed over him and asked God to continue to shine his light on Shorty and help get him through this sad time. We also asked God to continue blessing Shorty with courage as he continues his mission.

Today, we had the experience of visiting two churches in Guatemala City.  The first was a Catholic Cathedral with beautiful old architecture and many icons, pictures and shrines.  The second was a Mega church that seated 12,000, had huge screens and very modern architecture. We sat two rows behind the president!  It’s complicated to compare the two churches. It would depend on what you were looking for in a church to say which is better.  We held loosely the idea that both these churches were serving the people, but in different ways.  When we started to ask beautiful questions we realized that God was present at both.  It was very evident at each church that the people were passionate about their religion and the way they were experiencing God.

This evening we watched the movie Romero about the Catholic priest executed in El Salvador.  The history of El Salvador is very similar to Guatemala.  The senseless violence and brutal killings were difficult to watch.  So much useless bloodshed. Tonight I am sitting with the uncomfortableness and listening to what God is stirring in me.  I feel empty, broken, and humbled.  I am letting myself feel the pain so I can better understand others’ pain. As I immerse myself in Guatemalan culture, I need to make their story my story, and be sympathetic to their plights.  God is here, I need to pay attention.

Janet is a Spiritual Director that studied Ignatian Spirituality and uses it to help others find God in all things.  She facilitates a contemplative prayer group at her church and is constantly amazed how God continually invites all of us to a deeper union with Him.   She has been married for 32 years, is the mother of four grown children who are all amazing, and grandmother to a grandson who brings her never ending joy.