We had been wanting to visit the families we know who live near Tecpan, and since both Dick and I felt like we needed a break we decided today would be the day. Laura sure didn’t mind, either, getting to see a totally different part of Guatemala from where she had been.
Though Tecpan is only about an hour and a half from Antigua, it is like walking into another world. Most of the families here live in adobe houses, and the climate is rather cool. The area we visited is nestled in a valley in the mountains, everything is green and lush and the ground extremely fertile. Some of the best fruits and vegetables in Guatemala come from this area. And just when you think this place cannot be more idyllic, in the late afternoon praise songs float across the valley from the local church. It almost seems to be too good to be true! Just the kind of place I might like to live when I retire. . .
But life is not easy for the families who live in this little community just outside the town. Today we visited four young widows who are struggling just to keep food in the mouths of their children. Even the families with daddies struggle to survive. It is definitely one of the poorest communities we have visited. Yet it is one of the most joyful.
Our first stop today was at the home of Samuel. Samuel is an 11 year old, who, up until about a year ago, was the sole support for his family of five. He worked in the fields each day, earning about $10 a week. Thanks to the generosity of his sponsors, he now attends school and is quite a good student. This was the first time I met his mom, Maria, and grandma, who welcomed us into their home. What a neat family. Here we met a young man who seemed to take quite a shine to Laura, and even brought her a bag of strawberries to take home with her! (Dick teased her that accepting strawberries from a young man in Guatemala holds the same significance as accepting a ring in the States. Don’t tell her he’s fibbing!)
We next stopped at Maria’s (it seems everyone in this community is named Maria!) Only recently has her family begun receiving help from Bethel. Again, she is a widow with young children who is struggling just to survive.
Our next Maria was a neighbor of the first two Maria’s. She too is a widow, but manages without assistance at this point. Visiting her I was able to watch her daughter as she wove a huipil (Mayan blouse) on a backstrap loom. It was absolutely gorgeous. She will work daily for about two months to complete one garment, which she will sell for about $100.
Finally, we arrived at the home of Maria Son. Maria’s husband was killed about four years ago, crossing the highway while going to work, and leaving her with four children. Dick says that the first time they came into this family’s yard, the children hid crying in fear of the gringos. Now the children in this whole community flock to us when we come. Many times teams come here bringing shoes, clothes, school supplies and other items. Today we came bringing only ourselves and our love, and were just as warmly received.
As we drove home, we talked about how today could be seen as a vacation day. But it was also very much a day of ministry. Maybe we ministered to the families we visited, bringing a reminder of Jesus’ love to them. I know for sure, though, that they ministered to our hearts and blessed us beyond measure with their welcome and their love. It was a good day!