Today was my last day in Quiche and my first day in Antigua. During the last day in Quiche, we visited La Casa Hogar. There were many special moments during the time I was there. We did songs and danced with the elderly, all of the elderly were very excited to just be with us and celebrate the day with us. Everyone on the mission was attached to a special person while they were there.
My person was Daniel, which is ironic because my middle name is Daniel. I felt a deep connection with him, because of his name and how he acted towards me. When I first walked up to Daniel, he raised up his head, looked at me and smiled, then gave me a warm hug. During the visit we talked and sang songs throughout the visit.
After all of that we had a healing mass, and I took Daniel with me to the church. There were many times throughout the whole mass my arm never left Daniel’s shoulder, and when it did it was when it was time to pray. Even then he didn’t want me to leave my arm from him, so I put my hands around his and we prayed together. I’ll never forget how hard he struggled to keep his hands in prayer due to his ability.
When the mass was over and it was time for us to head out, I was saying goodbye to all the elderly and saving Daniel for last. When it was time to say bye to him I gave him a warm hug, as he did for me when I first saw him. I remember he kept his head down in sorrow because we had to leave, but when I lifted up his head I saw a heavy tear run down his face, as one on me. I will always remember Daniel close to me and close to my heart. This trip is one to remember. I will never forget the moments that I felt in La Casa Hogar.
El dia de martes tuve la dicha de compartir con la Aldea de Pacaja. Para mi fue una experiencia super extraordinaria, nunca habia logrado alcanzar un ideal cómo el que me toco vivir junto a estos niños. Seria muy dificil para mi poder describir con palabras todo lo que estoy viviendo . Estos niños son algo fuera de lo común. El amor que comparten con nosotros los misioneros es muy grande, es hermoso sin ninguna comparacion. Nunca en mi vida habia sentido algo tan hermoso , sin duda es Dios nuestro Señor presente en cada uno de ellos, dejandonos saber cuanto nos ama. Le doy gracias a Dios por esta oportunidad y por lo que estoy viviendo con mi Familia, aunque mi esposa y mis hijas estan lejos de mi, estan más cerca de lo que creo.
On Tuesday, I had the joy of sharing with the people of Pacaja. For me it was a super amazing experience. I never dreamed I would have the opportunity to play with these children. It would be very difficult for me to describe in words all that I’m experiencing. These children are extraordinary. The love they share with us missionaries is huge; it is beautiful and without comparison. Never in my life have I felt something so beautiful. Without a doubt, our Lord is present in each one of them, letting us know how much He loves us. I thank God for this opportunity I am living with my family, although my wife and daughters are away from me, they are closer to me than I think.
Otro maravilloso dia en Guatemala! El despertar con el sonido de los camiones, y el ladrido de los perros me recordo mucho al lugar donde creci. Despues de un delicisioso desayuno nos dirigimos hacia Pacaja una de las aldeas mas pobres pero a la vez una de las mas ricas ya que aqui el ingreso de algunos es como 30 quetzales que son menos de $5 US al mes, pero sin embargo su riqueza de Corazon no tiene limites. Llegando a la escuela de Pacaja fue una alegria inmensa al bajarnos de la camioneta y ver decenas de caritas sonrientes y entusiasmadas por nuestra llegada. Al empezar las actividades, los ninos gritaban con tanto entusiasmo y se nos avalanzaban con unos abrazos tan calidos y Fuertes como si nos concieran de mucho tiempo. Las limitaciones y la falta de alimento en sus pequeñas barriguitas no les impidio disfrutar cada momento con nosotros. Hoy tambien fui maestra por un dia y me fascino. Mis estudiantes super tiernos pregunatandome “asi seño lo estoy haciendo bien?” y a pesar de la pobreza que enfrentan estos niños la riqueza de valores que tienen es fascinante sus valores como la dedicacion, respeto, honestidad y amor a su familia a pesar de su corta edad es fascinante.
Despues de jugar al avion, a la cuerda, y resorte, como cuando tenia 8 años nos dirigimos a misa donde las “senos” nos dieron de comer frijolitos con huevo y tortillas hechas a mano y “Don Guille” nos dio manzanas que el mismo cultivo en su casa. Llegar a esa iglesia aun en construccion y con los pisos de tierra me hizo comprender como los misioneros han sido parte de el crecimiento en la fe en esta comunidad. Cada dia que transcurre, nosotros como “familia misionera” tambien crecemos espiritualmente y nos unimos mas. Disfruar el cafecito de la tarde con las platicas y risas interminables no tiene precio. A veces con el trabajo, y las demandas de la vida cotidiana nos hacen perder y olvidarnos de las cosas que realmente importan. Gracias Dios por darme la oportunidad de detenerme y poder admirar las maravillas que nos ofreces cada dia. Gracias por bendecirme con una familia que me ama, la maravilla de la lluvia, el sol, la naturaleza, la sonrisa de un niño y el valor de abrazo.
Another wonderful day in Guatemala! Waking up with the sound of the trucks and the barking of dogs very much reminded me of where I grew up. After a delicious breakfast we headed Pacaja, one of the poorest villages but also one of the richest. Here, the income of some is like 30 quetzales, which equates to under $5 USD per month. Yet the peoples’ richness in heart has no limits. Arriving at the school at Pacaja I, it was a great joy to get off the truck and see dozens of smiling faces and excited by our arrival. When we began the activities, the children screamed so enthusiastically and we were greeted with warm, strong hugs, as though we had known them for a long time. Their limitations and lack of food in their little bellies did not prevent them from enjoying every moment with us.
Today I was also a teacher for one day and I was fascinated. My students would tenderly ask me, “seño” am I doing this correctly?” and despite the poverty that these children face, they are wealthy with the values of dedication, respect, honesty and love for family despite their young ages. After playing the airplane, rope, and other games, as when I was eight years old, we went to the church where we got toeat beans with eggs and handmade tortillas, and “Don Guille” he gave us apples.
Because the church was under construction, seeing the dirt floors helped me understand how this group missionaries had been part of the growth in faith in this community. As each day passes, we as “missionary family” also grow spiritually and unite more. Enjoying the afternoon coffee with the talks and endless laughter is priceless. Sometimes work and the demands of everyday life make us lose and forget the things that really matter. I thank God for giving me the opportunity to stop and admire the wonders that He offers us every day. Thank you for blessing me with a family that loves me, the wonder of the rain, the sun, the nature, the smile of a child, and the value of a hug.
A year ago I recall having the jitters while packing and getting ready for my first ever mission trip. I went over the packing checklist at least twenty times making sure I had not missed anything. Every time I travel I get that sensation that I forget to pack something and won’t remember until I am halfway to my destination. The excitement and anxiousness I felt the night before traveling kept me awake for most of the night. I would fall asleep and wake up around every 30 minutes. I was afraid of sleeping through my alarm and missing the flight. Even though I attended all 5 formations, nothing could prepare me for what I was about to experience. I can sit here and share in detail the happenings during the week, but no words will do justice to explain the beauty and essence of the mission trip to Guatemala.
This year I decided not to return to Guatemala. Not because I do not have the desire to go back, but because I felt the calling to serve in a different manner this year. Also, I wanted others to live the same experience that I did. You go with the idea of serving and providing to the less fortunate, but once you arrive at Guatemala, it is more of a wakeup call. I ended up receiving more than what I could possibly give. The simplicity of life over there was not one to feel sorry for but one to envy. Although the village people do not have much materially, they do have a lot of love and joy to offer.
One of my favorite aspects of the mission was the practice of prayer, including wearing my prayer bracelet and the perpetual Adoration happening simultaneously back home. I strongly believe in the power of prayer. The idea of a community coming together to pray for the mission team the entire time while in Guatemala was and is inspiring. Prayer is our direct connection with God, and He is listening all the time. That’s why this year I made the choice to serve the mission by helping with this year’s perpetual Adoration sign-ups. It was humbling waiting after Mass to ask the parishioners to consider praying for this year’s team. I do need to give a huge shout out to Irma Pineda. She was the true super hero behind the Mass sign-ups. Thank you so much, Irma! I also enjoyed putting together the poster with everyone’s portraits. I was inspired by the idea behind the prayer bracelet and wanted to incorporate this on the poster. I really hope the team likes the finished product. I was at the Mary Chapel when Adoration officially begun as well as last night (Monday night) and it was beautiful to see others than those signed up visiting the Blessed Sacrament to pray. We may not be there with you at Guatemala, but we are present in spirit and in prayer. I look forward to listening to the team share their experience.
Juan Manuel Muñiz
In just the second day here in Guatemala, I have learned more about God’s love for his children than I have in many of my years in Houston. I am overwhelmed with joy, peace, and love by encountering God’s people throughout the schools, churches, and streets. My struggles and worries back home seem insignificant in comparison to the life of many here in Guatemala. Life here is unparalleled.
There have been several moments where God has touched my heart and given me comfort, but I want to share one in particular. On Sunday, we held a young adult retreat here in Quiche and I was a small group leader of about ten kids. After one of the missionaries’ testimonies we had a chance to reflect and share our own experience about the theme that was given. A young girl humbly opened her heart to the group and shared her life, the struggles of her family, and even gave details about personal battles she deals with. I was in awe of her passion. When she spoke I could sense her speaking from a place of sincerity and genuine love for God. I later found out she is a catechist in the local parish and helps share the faith with her community. How inspiring she is to me, that only at the age of 14, her faith and actions spoke to me and caused me to reflect if I share the same passion within my own community.
I know the Lord has given me this opportunity to be here at the mission for a reason, and I believe it could be to experience just how much He loves us all in our own way.
Honestly, I did not want to go to Guatemala. This is because as my extended family drove off, I realized I would not be able to attend our annual family gathering. It was extremely upsetting. I wasn’t going to see my cousins from California for another year, be able to dance for my grandparents, share inside jokes, and, most importantly, be part of unforgettable memories. Why was I leaving my family for a group of people I only knew on the surface?
Later, while talking to my parents about the exclusion I felt, the reasons why I wanted to go on the mission trip began to flood in. I was going to a different country! I would be doing God’s work! Maybe, if I’m lucky enough, I’ll even make an impact on someone’s life! My previous regrets had vanished. Thus, as the possibilities, grew, so did my excitement.
Now, at the end of our first day in Guatemala, I must say that God is good. From the moment my parents dropped me off at the airport, I encountered the welcoming smiles and open arms of my fellow missionaries. Additionally, throughout the journey to get to the hotel, I was blessed with the opportunity to get to know a few of the missionaries on a deeper level. Not only that, I ate my first hot, homemade Guatemalan dinner with everyone.
Therefore, through sharing the quiet moments of prayer and worship to the chaotic streets, I have come to realize I did not leave my family, but I made it bigger.