We met Pedro completely randomly.
I had a stomach ache, so sitting around the church was just a reminder of the discomfort I was experiencing. Rob and Ross, my compatriots and Praying Pelican staffers, were stir crazy. We decide to go for a little walk around the lake just to see what we could see.
Factually, in a village of 200 families there isn’t a lot to see. A couple small shops. An empty parking lot. And a small road that leads up the hill on either side of the lake to the next village. Three gringos walking around can’t exactly blend in. So our walk was predicated by stares and cautious waves hello.
We walked about 1/4 mile past where we’d been when we saw an abandoned tourist attraction, a zip line that came off the hill and through the forest, sweeping over the lake. There was also a small pavilion where we guessed they served food. But it was all abandoned, it’d clearly been a couple years since anyone had paid to use it.
On our way back towards the church we came to a grassy area, an area once developed by the zip line company but also abandoned. A horse grazed on the uncut grass while some boys played a summers long game of soccer. Near the waters edge a man sat on the edge of an abandoned pool, staring out over the lake.
Rob and I marveled at what we saw. “It’s like a Monet” one of us said searching for words to describe what we were seeing. The windless lake cast a glassy reflection in the quiet late afternoon breeze, a million shades of green from right to left from waters edge to edge in the stillness.
While we awed at the scenery Ross made small talk with an elderly man standing at the entrance to this park, he leaned on a barbed wire fence, griping firmly as if he were holding onto a secret.
How long have you lived here?
I’m 74, I’ve lived here about 50 years.
It’s beautiful here.
Yes, it is beautiful. It’s very quiet, too. It’s always been a small village, but some people moved away after the eruption.
Is this a park? Who does it belong to?
It belongs to the man that owns the horse that is eating grass. He also owns the coffee fields on the hill. Before the eruption people came here but since he hasn’t repaired the pool or the zip line, he has more important things to do I suppose. No one comes here anymore.
Can you tell us about that day? Where were you?
I was at home. There was an earthquake and then rocks started falling from the sky, then the ash.
Was it expected?
No. We had no warning. Before the eruption, previously, there had been a warning to expect a major eruption and everyone was prepared, but it didn’t happen then. This came suddenly.
What’s different in Calderas since the eruption?
There is a lot of fear. We are all afraid that it will happen again. That never existed before the eruption, but now everyone in the village lives in fear. We are all afraid it will happen again at any moment.
We met Kendra Monday at the airport. Like the rest of her team, she was excited to be in Guatemala with her friends and eager to somehow serve.
She fronted me. She kept me away with her humor and confidence. She’s bubbly and fun. Outgoing and quick without being brash. But I knew she was fronting me, and I was OK with it. Certainly, the team could say I was fronting them, too. I have a tendency to use my role, a camera or a question or looking busy to keep from lifting a shovel or playing with kids on the street. We all front.
On Thursday night Kendra shared her testimony at church and I cried. A room full of strangers, some who spoke her language while most didn’t, we bonded together by her story in a way only the Spirit can. Realistically, we all cried.
Bravely, she stood up and shared her story.
She shared about growing up around the church, making an early commitment to Christ, and making more serious commitment early in her teen years.
She walked in faith in mostly good times with some trials, common trials many teenagers face.
But the story turned. This spring she experienced hardships. A friend passed away. Some tough times in her family. And a dream put on hold, somewhat related to these hardships.
“I was mad at God. I did everything right, why me?”
She explained that she searched for answers but couldn’t find a purpose for the things that had happened in her life, that she couldn’t just wash it away with Sunday School answers. She wondered the things we all wonder when bits of our life splatter against the proverbial fan, “Does God care about me? Why does all of this stuff have to happen one on top of another?”
Kendra shared that she came on this trip still angry. Her anger was a front. And it was a wall that she was tearing down in front of her friends and the congregation.
She shared how God was using her time in Guatemala to help her heal from these feelings. She saw God’s love in the little church in Calderas, the love she felt from the kids, the joy.
She thanked everyone for listening to her story. But everyone in the room was blown away with thankfulness that she had shared.
Yesterday we met Pedro and we met the Kendra.
Fear is their bond.
Fear is our bond.
Fear knows no cultural boundaries or languages.
Fear transcends right to our humanity, bonding us in our need for a Comforter.
But don’t forget that bravery is their bond, too. Pedro griped the barbed wire, choking his story of fear. Kendra, too, overcame the fear of sharing her story… her real story… And in both cases just verbalizing released the grip fear had just a little.
This week I’m in Guatemala with our missions partner, Praying Pelican Missions. If you want to learn more about PPM or their work in Guatemala, fill out the form below and I’ll follow-up with you next week.