Today’s guest blogger is Ryley Rush, a recent World Help trip participant, and a member of the Austin Guatemala Project. AGP is a movement amongst twenty churches in Austin, Texas, to ignite a passion for missions through transforming the village of Pueblo Modelo in the Guatemalan highlands. Their ultimate goal? A self-sustaining, God-glorifying Pueblo Modelo and a unified, impactful church of Austin. This post originally appeared on their group’s blog.
Two weeks ago today, I was bumping along on a bus from Guatemala City to Hope of Life mission in Llano Verde, barely able to contain my excitement about seeing all the friends I’d missed so much in the six months since I’d last visited!
When people ask how many trips I’ve taken, my answer is “not nearly enough.” And truly, my five visits to the highlands of Guatemala always seem far too short and insufficient for how deeply I’ve fallen in love with the people and the work God is doing there! This trip was no different, of course, and rather than try and give you the whole story in this post (way too long) or choose a single moment to describe (impossible to pick), I just decided to share with you several highlights and snapshots from the week.
This is me with Frances, a little boy from the orphanage who I met last November. The first thing our group did after arriving two weeks ago was head up to the orphanage to say hi, and he immediately shrieked, ran up, and threw his arms around me in the best bear hug ever. After a few moments, he took my face in his little hands and, very seriously, asked me,”What’s my name?”
The question brought tears to my eyes – this little boy so longed to be remembered not just faintly, but by name. I was so thankful that I did indeed remember not only his name, but his nickname – something that immensely pleased him! He ran off to play with his friends, but every day that we were there he made sure to ask me what his name was and every time was just as happy that I knew it. I couldn’t help thinking of Psalm 139 – how beautiful to serve a God that knows Frances, and me, and every single person on earth by name!
One of my very favorite things about this trip that set it apart from all the others was the attitude shift I saw in our village. Chris and the Austin-Guatemala groups have returned time and time again, so the people have learned they can trust us; but as we move further towards self-sufficiency projects – teaching the single moms to knit and crochet, planting greenhouses, exploring projects such as raising tilapia in 50-gallon barrels – as opposed to pure relief work, the village has begun to believe in its dignity again. This was the first trip that I was confident/brave enough in my developing Spanish skills to engage the women (very few adult men present, anyway) in conversation, and that is where this transformation most blew me away.
Mothers that once watched me with eyes empty of every emotion but wariness became friends, welcoming me into their homes and lives with grace. I was surprised and delighted by the wealth of personality that began creeping out of the woodworks; from gorgeous pregnant Miriam who solemnly informed everyone who asked that her baby was due that very day (and then laughed so hard at the frantic reactions I worried she really would go into labor) to Sra. Casasoja who explained her longing to make her home welcoming even in the midst of squalor to the newly widowed woman who was mourning the loss of her husband. To be even a small part of their everyday lives, in joy or in pain, was an overwhelming blessing.
We also had the privilege of pouring into a local pastor, Daniel (in the green shirt), and dedicating a multi-purpose building that we used for both the feeding program and our first-ever worship service in Modelo. Daniel and representatives from two other village churches briefly spoke, as did the pastors in our own group, and we sang praises to the Lord in a building so crowded with people I could hardly believe my eyes. Children perched along the wall and the largest crowd I’ve ever seen in Modelo pressed along every side. Chris will be posting with more details (and photos) later on, but basically it was flat-out amazing. Pray along with us that a great impact was made that day!
While in the rescue center, I met this sweet baby boy; and I’m pretty sure that he’s a front-runner for the most ticklish human being on planet earth. I would poke his stomach and he’d squeal so loud that I started laughing and I’d tickle him more and he’d laugh even louder and I’d get going so hard I couldn’t stop and on and on and on. I have nothing particularly spiritual to say about the experience. We just had a really fabulous time together.
So there you have the highlights from my trip. Each face, each moment has a special place in my heart and I can’t wait to get back!
To see more photos from her trip with World Help, visit her photo album on facebook.