Picture a steep hill of around 40° in the middle of a city covered in trash from years of neglect: a place where the local residents toss their garbage over a run-down fence. Animal decay and human feces perfume the area in one of the hottest places near the Equator. Enter in Los Olivos- a church in this city that desires to turn the city dump into their dream facility. Sounds impossible, yes? Well, don’t tell them that. Over the last few years, hundreds of churches around the world volunteered to help this task along its way. On July 9th, 2007, I went on one of those missions.
With 27 other members from the Bible Evangelical Free Church Youth Group, I embarked on a mission trip, and had no clue as to what I was getting myself into. Our team met at our church and left for Minneapolis, Minnesota. The next morning we boarded the airplane en-route to Houston, Texas, and eventually arrived in Guatemala City. I looked out of the window of the plane and I was in shock. The culture difference stunned me and made me question why I went on the trip in the first place, despite the head knowledge that I would be safe and would be getting the chance of a lifetime during this trip.
Our first taste of Guatemalan Culture happened when one of the church leaders came to the airport and showed us to our bus that was painted in colors I didn’t think a bus COULD be painted in. We drove to Sumpango in utter fear due to the pandemonium that consumed the streets. Not only did automobiles drive on the road, but pack animals and people shared the road too! We made it to Hotel Sumpango and Oscar, our representative from Los Olivos, introduced us to his church and city, and that evening we met with other leaders from the church. Even though the leaders could only speak Spanish, and most of us could only speak English, we found common interests despite the barriers and had a great time.
Our purpose for the trip was to help clean up the hill for three days. Other churches had come before us, but the hill looked as if no one had ever set foot there. We used machetes to cut the grass, then picked up the rotting trash, only to find several layers buried underneath. Some of the most interesting items discovered were a dead chicken, bones, decaying animals, and rotting diapers. Eventually, we were desensitized to the point where we could pick up anything without flinching. Every day, we stopped around noon for the day and broke up into smaller groups to walk around the city and meet people from the church of Los Olivos. Not only did we get an amazing tour of Sumpango, but we got to meet several people native to Guatemala and see how they live.
During the trip, we also experienced a market day in Sumpango, held a soccer and basketball tournament, toured the historic Mayan city of La Antigua and attended two church services. We came back changed, not only because we had the opportunity to help someone and do our small part in a bigger project, but our prospective of the world was changed. Coming back to the United States, we realized how rushed our lifestyle is, and that many times, we take for granted the beautiful things in life. Slowing down for one week completely changed my life, and I encourage everyone to do it, wherever you might live.
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