Every time my phone rings I hear the sound of crickets chirping. This ringtone has special meaning to me. When those crickets start to sing their sweet melody, memories of Guatemala come to my mind. During June of 2011, I journeyed many miles by train, bus, and foot on a mission trip with my church from, Louisville, Kentucky, to Pacux,Guatemala, the village we called home for the following week. Compared to Louisville, Pacux is a speck of dust. In fact, most maps of Guatemala do not include this tiny piece of land.
Descendents of Mayans call Pacux home. Most of the older inhabitants still speak a Mayan dialect, and do not understand Spanish; some of the younger generations could not even comprehend our attempts to communicate with them. Thankfully we were blessed with translators who successfully communicated our messages, in spite of a challenging process which included multiple languages in each verbal exchange. English was spoken first, which was translated into Spanish; the Spanish was then translated into Achi, the area’s common Mayan dialect.
The men in our group hiked through the mountains to work in outlying villages, while the women taught basic hygiene classes at the local school. Numerous cultural differences stood out to me which highlighted how much I take for granted. I never think twice about the toothbrush, in my bathroom yet so many Guatemalan students had no idea what to do with the one we gave them.
The team interacted with local residents in many memorable ways without ever uttering a word. Simple activities like playing a game of soccer, blowing bubbles, or painting faces drew two vastly different people groups together in a way no amount of technology, money or material possessions ever could. I was reminded that we all need to be intentional in taking the time to care for others, and not just ourselves.
I recall with stunning clarity the last night we were in country. Our church rented a local park and invited all of the school children, along with their families, to spend the evening with us.I enjoyed pushing the children on the swings and giving the younger kids piggyback rides.We played games with the children, and shared a meal of chicken and rice soup with our new friends. By an American standard, this meal was meager at best. These children, however, were filled with joy upon seeing the amount of food they were allowed to have. Most of them would never dream of eating this much at once.
In spite of a language barrier, I connected with the people of Pacux in ways that profoundly affected me. Their homes were nothing more than five – by – five concrete blocks stacked on top of one another. Rice, beans, and tortillas constituted the people’s daily diet, yet they were content. Life was hard all the time, but no one gave up. As I observed their interactions, their tenacity, their hospitality, my heart grew because I realized many people in Pacux understood the message of hope our team came to deliver.
While in America, it is easy for me to become distracted from this hope. I too easily place value in things which will not last. My travels to Guatemala remind me to remain focused on the aspects of life which truly matter. I cannot wait to hear those crickets chirp.
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