Thursday, July 23, 2015

Adventures in Guatemala

In the beginning of July, I had the privilege of traveling with my pastor, Phillip, and his family as a part of the ongoing outreach of our church - River Valley Community Church.  I was truly blessed by my time with the McClure family.  Seeing their working and ministering together as a team was encouraging, and got me excited about including our own children in our ministry, especially as they get older.  

We had a wonderful trip full of meaningful moments connecting with the LAMP team - our ministry partners in Guatemala.  We also lived through one of the most harrowing experiences in my 12 years of traveling overseas.  I'll tell the story through these pictures and captions.      

The adventure to Guatemala started when our flight from Houston to Guatemala City was cancelled, and we had to wait in line for hours to get rescheduled for the next day.  The line was moving so slowly, we parked it right there and played cards.  Because of all the United cancelations, I had to split up from the McClures and they gave us a new roundabout itinerary through half of Central America.  
The following day, I took off for Costa Rica and then Guatemala, arriving late in the evening.  The McClures, on the other hand, weren't so fortunate.  Their rescheduled flight from Houston got off without a hitch but after 45 minutes in the air, the pilot announced that they would be turning around and going back to Houston due to "mechanical problems".  

They were told to hurry to another gate only to find that plane to be several hours delayed as well.  By the time they reached El Salvador, they had missed their connecting flight and had to spend the night in a country not even on their original itinerary.  They finally reached Guatemala the following morning, but only to find that their luggage had not followed them there.  They filed a missing baggage report.  

So where were their bags? In Houston!  Still! 

I've got to hand it to the McClures.  They were in good spirits despite having worn the same clothes for three days in a row.  I'm happy to report that they are all a naturally good smelling family : )  

We were greeted warmly by our host family - LEI missionaries Yovany and Esmeralda Hernandez.  We jumped right into ministry and met with a group of university students, and shared songs and testimonies.  We also celebrated Esmeralda's birthday, which was a treat.  

Enjoying a great meal with the Hernandez family before heading to Comitancillo, where the rest of the LAMP team lives and works (about 7 hours north of the capital).
The McClures led a leadership/team building workshop with the LAMP team - Byron, his wife Miriam, Maria, Eliceo, and Carolina.  It was a fun and stretching experience for them and got rave reviews.    

learning about team unity - i.e. trying to balance (AND TRANSPORT) a basketball on a tiny metal ring suspended on 6 ropes

Pastor Phillip and his wife Theresa traveling Latin/Arkansas style (back of a pickup)

Byron and Miriam's precious daughter.

On our way to Eliceo's house.  These gals absolutely loved riding in the back of a truck. 

Enjoying some Mam worship songs as well as Eliceo's hospitality.

Singing Richard Smallwood's "Total Praise" . . . something I never imagined I'd be doing in the Central Highlands of Guatemala!

McClure family and Perez family

In Comitancillo, we stayed with Maria and her husband Pastor Samuel.   Here Maria is crossing the river by their house with her beautiful daughter Abigail. 

Learning how to fish without a rod! 

Andrew in the market in Comitancillo

We had the honor of worshipping God in Byron's church in Tuixacaja.  

Phillip preached the message on Spanish!

After the afternoon church service our driver, Jesús, from the capital came to take us from Comitancillo to a Latino missionary training base in La Mesilla. This is where the fun started.  

Jesús knew way to get to La Mesilla, but it was indirect and mostly all highway travel. One of the locals told him of another route that was faster and much more direct, but included some dirt roads through the mountains.  Jesús opted for this "shortcut."  

The only caveat was he didn't know the way, but was inspired by the saying, "preguntando, se llega a Roma" By asking, one gets to Rome.  So we went along stopping to ask for directions and confirmation every 20 min or so.  This worked well until it got later and everyone went to sleep, leaving the roads desolate.  

We kept coming to forks in the road and guessing/praying.  We got more and more lost and ended up on the equivalent of a small 4-wheeler trail through the mountains.  I knew it was bad when Jesús looked over and said, "can you get google maps on your phone there!"

Our 12-passenger Asian-style van was no match for the steep rocky uphills and downhills.  We were stalling out on the inclines and switchbacks so 6 of us got out of the van and started walking behind it.  On one of the curves, the road was so narrow that the rocks under the front right tire started to give way and the whole van started sliding toward the ditch.  

We yelled, "STOP!" and slapped the back window.  Phillip and I instinctively got down in the ditch and started pushing against the van while we yelled for everybody to get out and throw rocks into the ditch to build it up to the level of the road to keep the van from rolling into the ditch and from there down a steep 20ft. slope.  

We worked for over an hour to fill in the ditch with rocks before attempting to move again.  When we did, we realized that the van was totally stuck.  It took another hour to build up and also dig out parts of the road. 

Finally, with everybody pushing and Jesus at the wheel, we caught enough traction to break free and creep along the edge of the road with our hearts beating out of our chests.  The road ahead seemed equally treacherous as that one spot and most of us were terrified of getting back into the we walked behind the van for the next 90 minutes of steep downhills until we came to a river crossing....but there was only a footbridge!  By this point it was 2:30 am.  

We waded out into the river and it was over our knees which, in turn, meant over the tires of our low-to-the-ground van.  We knew that the van wouldn't be able to make it back up the steep hills we had just come down, and we didn't think it could cross the river without flooding the engine.  

So, without the option of going forwards or backwards, we did the only thing a sensible person would do and decided to sleep - the ladies in the van and the guys on the river bank.  I was exhausted and fell asleep almost instantly after hitting the ground.  

Phillip was about to lie down to sleep when he heard 3 shotgun shots and then the sound of pellets falling around him.  He came to wake me up and tell me that people were shooting at him, but I was in such a stuporous state that I told him it was probably just fireworks for somebody's birthday (in Guatemala, to celebrate someone's birthday, you wake him up in the middle of the night with the loudest fireworks you can find).  

Not satisfied with my unconcerned response, Phillip went to ask Jesús, "Did you hear those shots?!?" "Yes," he replied, "Are you afraid?." "Yes," Phillip answered.  "Then confess your fear to God and he'll give you peace to be able to rest,"  Jesús said.   

Poor Phillip hardly slept at all that night, and there were two more shots about an hour later.  Then, he saw 8 armed men walking across the foot bridge and heading toward us.  Armed with his flashlight and 2" pocket knife, he stood at the van waiting to confront them while the rest of us are still sleeping blissfully.  

They all shone their flashlights at each other. Phillip instantly realized they were police officers that were drawn on him, and he put his hands in the air.  Apparently, the locals there (the ones shooting presumably) called the police and told them that we were kidnappers and up to no good!  Phillip managed to convince them that we were from a church and on a mission, and had simply gotten lost in the middle of no where.  

Satisfied but not totally convinced, they holstered their weapons and proceeded to frisk us for guns and drugs and search all our belongings.  After finding nothing, they became quite pleasant actually and started to brainstorm how to get us out of there.  In the end, they loaded up our suitcases into their 4-wheel drive trucks and crossed the river with them while we crossed on the foot bridge.  

We were going to get a ride in their trucks to a bus station and leave Jesús to figure out a way to make the van walk on water.  But then a local man showed up and said that he used to cross that river with a small van and knew the exact place to cross. 

Jesús said, "I have faith that this man can get the van across to the other side of the river so let's pray."   As we crossed the foot bridge, we watched this guy turn the white van into a Japanese submarine and come out on the other side.  So after we got out of the steep hills and back on paved road, we all got back into the van and thanked the police for helping to rescue us.     

We finally made it to CECAM in La Mesilla to see our friend Emily and spend time with the missionary candidates there.   The McClures taught a course on "Making Disciples of your Children," and we also did a conversational English class.  It was an incredible time of fellowship and mutual encouragement.  

Well, all is well that ends well.  Here we are with our dear driver at the airport about to get on the plane from Guate to the US.  In the spirit of the rest of the trip, that flight was delayed by nearly 2 hours and we had to run through the Houston airport...we made it 2 minutes before they closed the gate.  A fitting end to our great Guatemalan journey. 


  1. Wow what an amazing trip!0

  2. What an adventure! Glad you arrived home safely!



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