Summertime for believers in America often equates with raising money, gathering needed supplies, packing equipment, and strolling onto an airplane that will (hopefully) place us gently in a faraway land. Our well thought out mission projects include providing medical care, vacation bible schools, and/or construction assistance to those we see as less fortunate. The great commission tells us to 'go', right? So, eagerly, we pack our expensive luggage, hop on a plane, and feel as if we are bringing the good news WITH us. We are Christians, this is what we do. Right?
Our medical team fearlessly landed in Guatemala. We worked. We sweated. Some of us got really really stinky. Ultimately, we honored the people that God had set before us. But, somewhere along the way, we began to realize that we did not BRING Christ with us. Christ was patiently waiting for us in Guatemala. He had life lessons to teach us that could not be taught in America, the land of financial abundance.
Our team was dispatched to meet and care for people deeply loved by God. Our clinics were set up in the midst of unimaginable financial poverty. We entered Guatemala with our short-sighted American idea of destitution. While working in this country, our hearts and spirits quickly collided with the true meaning of poverty. Christ, in His mercy, began to show us that the most devastating form of poverty has nothing to do with money.
Our team provided care to countless financially impoverished families. Some statistics report that a typical family of four, living in Basurero Zona 3, survives on $2508 to $3024 per year. Resources are few. Medical care is scarce. Houses are crafted from garbage tins and collapse when storms descend upon the city. However, we met with Guatemalans that were simply radiant. They each had a countenance that is not often seen in our home country. The beautiful people of Guatemala possess something we did not fully grasp, or understand, at first. In the midst of living in situations that many pity, we saw people with an unwavering faith in Christ. We saw what scripture teaches as total dependence on Christ. It was as if we saw rare and beautiful gems that we read about but had never scene with our own eyes.
As our medical clinics continued, our team became even more humbled. We were honored to get to know the workers in Basurero Zona 3. They live to bring honor to the people of their communities. Christ tenderly began teaching us that the people we thought we came to serve were the ones that had much to give to us. Jesus gently showed our team that we were the ones that were impoverished. Our team possessed all the physical comforts of America, we were comprised of middle to upper middle class professionals, we all own cars, we own houses that are the size of churches or schools in this country, and we have food so plentiful we dispose of the excess in electric garbage disposals. We rely on ourselves and our jobs to meet our needs, not our God. Guatemala taught us that our dependence on God is merely, circumstantial. We found ourselves desperately, spiritually impoverished.
Jesus showed us that we did not depend on God as much as we depend on our own abilities. The people of Guatemala pray for food, rain, resources to care for their families, and wisdom in how to care for their communities. They depend on God for every tiny detail in their lives. We witnessed how God hears and answers His people. Yes, We saw how financial poverty has the potential to deplete a body and self-worth. However, Spiritual poverty will kill our souls. Jesus used the people of Guatemala to teach us the importance of spiritual riches. Matthew 6:21 'For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.'
As our weary bodies boarded the plane back to Atlanta, our souls had been nourished and transformed. We met Jesus in the faces and in the lives of the people we were privileged to care for. I doubt that any of us felt we were the missionaries. The mission was for Jesus to show us, through the hearts and lives of the people in Guatemala, the meaning of true riches. The Guatemalan people are the true missionaries. They fulfilled their mission honoring God- they taught us that true poverty is when we depend on ourselves more than we depend on God.
Knowing that Identify and Compassion International have a respected presence in Guatemala brings solace to our hearts. I know that thru our team and other people, God will provide the financial needs and answer the cries of His people in Guatemala. I write this post to encourage you to consider supporting these two amazing organizations that provide tangible goods, services, and Christian encouragement to our brothers and sisters in Christ. I would challenge you to consider visiting Guatemala and meeting spiritual leaders in the country. See first-hand how God is present and working to bring honor to those that honor him above all else. My heart was changed, my soul was challenged, and my perception of poverty has been forever changed. Dios te bendiga.