A Lutheran Mission group that was kind enough to let me to join their trip to Guatemala in the summer of 2013. Their Mission was to assist a small elementary/ middle school called Esquela Teresita, which is located in the humble town of Sololá. We arrived on a Monday afternoon in Guatemala city and took a 3 hour bus ride from the airport to a picturesque mountainside overlooking Lago Atitlán. The terrain near Sololá is incredibly lush and is one of the greenest landscapes I’ve ever seen.
Our mission group had organized daily visits to Esquela Teresita to meet with the children and to give them the items that the church had collected as donations. We made an entrance into the school as if we were important foreign dignitaries or international rock stars. As we entered the courtyard the sound of a thousand students cheered our presence with a military like cadence. The discipline and organization of the students was unexpected and overwhelming. Our first morning in Guatemala was welcomed with the students dancing, singing and performing traditional Guatemalan ceremonies.
Our mission trip brought clothes and hygienic items for some of the poorest children. This little girl was given a jacket and some shoes. It brought me to tears when I saw how incredibly grateful she was to have these two small things. She walked across the courtyard and said “Quiero cantar una canción para Jesus”. My Spanish is weak but I understood enough to know that she said that she wanted to sing a song for “Jesus”, whom she presumably thought that I was. I was deeply moved and humbled to be a part of this exchange. I thought to myself that I didn’t bring these items, I didnt organize this trip and I honestly wasn’t sure what I was doing here, other shooting some photography. At this point I realized that my presence alone here was having a positive effect on these children. I felt that the non verbal interaction I was having with these kids were actually giving me something more than I was giving them. They were changing and shaping me in a way that I had not expected. Its one thing to see poverty on television or read about statistics in the news. Its an entirely different thing when you stare at the face of an innocent child, and you can see how absolutely beautiful humanity can be. This was the face of god staring back at me. In this entire moment I knew that I had somehow won the life lottery and I didn’t even know it.
The next few days were spent doing planned activities and playing games with the kids. I really enjoyed pretending to be Jesus, and the kids seemed to enjoy it as well.