Today we began a new project in the mountains of Patizcia.   As we traveled to our destination, the landscape began to open. Often when traveling through the city streets, your view is obscured by the walls and gates of the city. As we drove further the hills and countryside revealed themselves. The beauty of Guatemala unfolded as we traveled deeper into farming country. In Guatemala they farm every available space, including very steep hillsides.

As we drove deeper to the community that we were to serve, the streets got narrower steeper and eventually became unpaved. The majority of our group was dropped off to go and greet the family we would be serving. A few of us went and gathered lumber and need to construction supplies for the chicken coops that we were to build.

Our mission for the day was to build two chicken coops. The first time we did, we had the privilege of helping a family that had been recently evicted from their home. A previous group had built them a home. It was now ourtask to give them a place for their new chickens. As we walked through the farm fields we realize there were no roads to their home. Only a simple dirt path. But the dirt path led to some of the most picturesque views we had yet had during our trip. You can see for miles with vultures (zopilote, in Spanish) soaring across the the distant skyline. Large billowing clouds surrounded the landscape with large verdant feilds full of vegetables stretched out as far as the eye could see.

After carrying all of the construction materials to the site, our team loosely followed the plans we’d been given. Our coop may have not met US standards, however we fortunately had enough screws on site to correct any structural needs. We worked side-by-side with both our facilitators who had found the family we were serving and the father of the family that would use the chicken coop to improve their lives. The smiles of the Guatemalan people are huge, bigger than the landscape they live in. They laugh and joke to bond with you. They will often tease you. The teasing is done in a very endearing kind way. The kind of way that lets you know they care, the kind of way that helps them show their love. Our team has learned from them, and we all truly enjoyed helping and being with each other today. Taking our lead of our Guatemalan hosts. Enjoying the work, the landscape and the relationships that have been created with the Guatemalan people and amongst ourselves. Rest assured that Coca-Cola was served. We enjoyed a very simple peanut butter and jelly lunch together in the home previously built to protect them from the environment they live in. We noted that they lived at an elevation above 7500 feet. The wind blew most of the day in a refreshing way. As the seasons change, we can envision the refuge their new home would provide from a cold evening storm. After finishing with prayer and exchanges of gratitude, our team moved on to the next coop.

As we arrived at the next site, we each carried the construction materials down and narrow corridor between homes barley large enough to fit a regular American male carrying construction supplies. As we arrived, we were struck with the abject poverty of this site.The site was small, large enough for approximately three chicken coops. Of course, we were only building one, but the workspace would be tight. We used what most of our team thought was a small space of to the side of the home. Later on as we finish the project, we found we had actually been using the neighboring yard.  The home of the family that would be using the chicken coop was simple one by one wood slats with mud stuffed in the cracks. We noticed that the mud had been mixed with charcoal from the fire bones from the meals, trash, and other random things to give the mud some body and strength. Though the conditions were poor, we were soon greeted by two small children wanting, “Dinero.” We encourage them to help us work. They hammered and language was learned by both. They started to laugh and play. They’re laughter was infectious, laughs of pure joy and excitement. The second chicken coop was an improvement over the first. We learned how to strengthen and improve our work. But the biggest improvement came from the joy we shared with those we were serving. The joy the children brought to us.

We finished the work for today, return to the school, that SMCC sponsors, and prepared ourselves for the journey back. As we drove home, I reflected on my experience today.

One of my favorite, for King and country songs, says, “I look up to the to the mountains, does my strength come from the mountains? NO, my strength comes from God, the maker of heaven, earth and the mountains.”

The beauty of character and genuine existence in the current moment of the Guatemalan people show us is truly grounding.

We returned to Casa Del Fuego, enjoying a wonderful meal. Enjoying even a better discussion on how we can better trust and show faith in God by loving others. All the time remembering the love returned to us in smiles, jokes, and the gift of Coca-Cola from those we’ve been blessed to serve.