It's hard to believe that our trip to Guatemala is already over, it was certainly well worth every minute!
While in Guatemala I had the chance to work in media ministry, which involved going around to all of the ministry sites that Students International (SI) has in Guatemala.
It was exciting to see how God was at work through the organization and all the projects that they were involved in.
One of my favorite ministry teams that I go to work with was the micro-finance team. The micro-finance team gives out small business loans to individuals in the community. While I was with the team, we had the chance to visit with a couple different individuals who were in the process of trying to get loans. In order for someone to receive a loan, the applicants must be a part of a Bible study with Students International for three months. Both applicants that we visited had been a part of a study for two months and we got to go to their businesses to see what they did and what they would use the money for.
The first man was a farmer who had a greenhouse and sold his plants on the road to Antigua, he wanted to use his loan to build two more greenhouses.
The second man we had a chance to visit with was a skilled carpenter.
One of the things that the micro-finance team found was that a lot of the money that they were loaning was going to pay to feed chickens and pigs that those who were receiving the loans owned and there was no one in the community producing feed for these animals, so the money was leaving the community and going to big businesses like Purina. To keep the money local and to help the community have access to a cheaper source of animal feed, the micro-finance team has started their own animal feed business. Eventually SI would like to hand this business off to locals, but for now, they are running the business with the help of local labor and local stores selling it.
One thing that stuck out to me the most was how the people that we came in contact with had so much faith even in their suffering.
One of the communities that we spent quite a bit of time in, El Gorrion, is a community of about 350 refugees that was formed after Hurricane Mitch killed many Guatemalans and left many more homeless in August of 1998.
These refugees were relocated to a small piece of land just outside of Magdalena Milpas Altas (Magdalena), which is where we stayed with host families while in the country.
From the SIGuatemala website:
The community El Gorrion (The Sparrow), officially known as La Colonia 11 de Agosto, was founded on the 11th of August, 1998. Officially, the mayor of Magdalena founded it as a place for families displaced by Hurricane Mitch to resettle. Locally, it is believed that the mayor did it only to move about 300 guaranteed votes to within his jurisdiction...
The feel of the neighborhood is definitely one of a built-up refugee camp. The families were each given a small lot on which to settle. Then began a long list of donations by various agencies and NGOs. One organization donated block, so that they could build houses, or at least parts of houses. The Red Cross donated a water well and a corn mill, both of which are non-functioning. Another organization came to build cook stoves with chimneys in each house, most of which no longer work as they should. A group of American businessmen, led by Rotarians, built a community clothes-washing station, which sits dry most of the time. Finally, in 2008, the local government began a sewer project which has sat idle for at least the last twelve months. The neighborhood, 11 years after its founding, still sits with no water, no sewer, and no paved streets.
As it says, there is no running water so the people of El Gorrion have three options for getting their water. They must carry it up the steep hill from the river, go up to Magdalena for water (which the people of Magdalena look down upon,) or wait for the water truck, which comes about once a week, to buy water from.
So much more happened and I have a lot more on my mind, but I've got to wrap this up for tonight or I'll never get anything posted because my post will just get longer and longer... so that's it for now!