Tuesday, April 21, 2009

We Love Canadians

Rockway Mennonite Collegiate is located in Ontario, Canada and decided for the first time this year to send a group of students to Guatemala to work with MCC. The "test group" :) was here from March 14-28 and spent time visiting communities in Santiago Atitlan, San Marcos, and in Nebaj. We were excited about the opportunity to take a group to Nebaj since we had not done so in a number of years. Rockway worked with the MCC partner organization Q'anil, which works with youth on a variety of issues such as health education focused on HIV/AIDS prevention, cultural preservation, care for the environment, etc. The experience was very positive and we feel good about having made this new connection with Rockway. It is always encouraging to hear feedback from groups once they have returned home and even more so from a group that comes down here for the first time. The following are excerpts taken from a debriefing the group had with Rockway's principal upon their return.

"this is one of the most significant and life changing 15 days we have ever experienced"
"relationships, community, poverty, faith, joy, violence, welcome, beauty, care, questions"
"being surprised by joy in the midst of poverty"
"understanding the benefit and downside of global connections"
"the reality of violence in peoples' lives"
"we were pushed and stretched to do things we could not have imagined beforehand"
"relationships with families, peers, and kids"

Amanda Snyder was one of the participants in the group (pictured above on left). She is to thank for a few of these photos as well as the following thoughtful reflection that she shared with her church upon her return to Canada.

I want to keep remembering every moment in Guatemala. I want to remember the cold showers and the candlelight and the outhouses and even the beans and tortillas. I want to remember the children’s smiling faces and the hugs from my host family and the words of welcome from so many people. To do this I keep telling stories and showing pictures because I don’t want to forget this, I can’t forget this. But I can never seem to explain it right to anyone who has never been there. I can’t explain the laughter as we tickled the kids and how it didn’t matter that the only words we could say to them was hello and to ask their name. All that mattered to them was that we were there and that we cared enough to come and play soccer with them or sing songs for them or do crafts with them. I want to explain how it felt to be hugged and kissed by almost every member of a church community during the “passing the peace of Christ” section in the service. I want to explain the looks on the faces of the families as they told us of the deaths they had witnesses and the losses they will always carry with them. I want to explain how it felt to climb a mountain for three hours and then stand at the top looking over a village and then to be suddenly immersed in a cloud where you could hardly see anything around you. I want to explain how it felt to hike an active volcano and then roast marshmallows on the hot lava. I want to explain how it felt to work together with Guatemalan youth on various service projects. I want to explain how it felt hearing stories of youth our own age who had witnessed so much violence and feel unsafe in their own neighborhood. I want to explain the looks on their faces as they told us this. Yet somehow it never comes out right and it will never put the proper picture in their head because it is something you have to experience on your own. Something you need to see with your own eyes and feel with your own heart to understand or at least to begin to understand because I know that I still only understand a tiny bit of how they live. So my advice is go and do and see in order to experience lives so unlike our own. It is easy to sit on our couches at home and watch it on the news or in movies but sometimes the easy way isn’t the best way. I think that this is something everyone should do, in order to begin to realize how lucky we are here and to appreciate what we have. I’m going to leave you with a quick story and quote from our trip. We had just hiked the volcano and were in the process of hiking back to where our vehicle was parked. We were on the top of a mountain overlooking the volcano we had just been on top of. And we were sitting on the grass looking out at the most beautiful site. A man we had met while on the trip who had come along on the hike told us all to sit down and breathe and experience the peacefulness fully. He said, “let God open your eyes and see the beauty in the ugliness”. So I challenge you to see the beauty in the ugliness but don’t try to do this alone. Let God and let your family and friends help you on this journey called life.


Thanks Rockway! It's true, we do love Canadians :)

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