Today was our final full day here in Guatemala. I haven't been able to post the last 2 days simply because I've been emotionally & physically drained - trying to pour my heart out into what the Lord is doing here with these children, bonding with our team, and simply missing my family in painful ways. I know many of you know the feeling. That said, today was our day off. I know some people who haven't been on these trips wonder, "Why the heck do you need a 'day off'?" It's pretty simple. First, you need to decompress and allow the Lord to put things in perspective for you. And second, you need to do it together, with the people you've experienced it with. It may sound crazy, but it's emotionally, physically, and spiritually healthy!
I want to share with you a few things I saw & experienced today that made impressions on me. We traveled to Lake Atitlan, the second largest lake in Guatemala. It wasn't Lake Tahoe, but it was huge! And it was breathtaking (as you can hopefully somewhat tell from my amateur photo with Hipstamatic on my iPhone). I've left the "real" photography to Savannah this week, so if you want to see some great pics, check it out. This body of water is surrounded by wealth and poverty, almost coexisting side-by-side. If you've traveled to any number of cities or countries you've probably witnessed this. It's something I just can't seem to get used to or simply be OK with. The problem remains for us that we're somehow blind to it in our own cities. Yes, BLIND! We pretend it's not even there.
I'm not even sure I have the strength or time to talk about this next one right now, but I'll give it a shot. Esdras (Ezra) our guide & driver for the week took us to see one of the Mayan gods up in the hills of San Jose. No exaggeration: we wandered down a dirty, wet alley and into what looked like a second-rate chicken house to find this smoky, incensed-filled room. Just inside sat this thing to the left - the Mayan god Maximoom (Mosh-ee-moon), whom the Mayans believe they can ask to help them get revenge on those who wrong them, provide for them monetarily and vocationally, and a few other choice things. Here are some things that stood out to me on my visit to this "shrine". First, I wasn't really impressed that it was guarded and tended to by a group of old dudes wearing what looked like reject costume ideas from Gilligan's Island, sitting around drinking Coca-Cola together. Second, if this thing is a "god", why does it need to be guarded in the first place? If 'it' can provide and intervene for me, why does it need the cast from Cocoon guarding the palace? And interestingly enough, how do you suppose you get this fellow to act on your behalf? You PAY him! That's right. You place your offering somewhere under his tie. (Seriously. Do you think I could make this up?) And as Savannah pointed out, how convenient that they placed this beacon of false hope right smack dab in the middle of abject poverty, where people are desperate for anything or anyone to make things better. And yes, they move it's location every 2 weeks, making it convenient for everyone to pay a visit. (So if I'm not mistaken, Yahweh is ahead in Omnipresence, Omnipotence, and All-Powerful at this point. But hey, who's counting?)
[Deep breath. The last observation is the most disturbing.]
Just to the right of Maximoom (which I couldn't sneak into my picture) was a glass casket. When I first saw it, and noticed that there was something (or someone) in it, I thought, "You have got to be kidding me!?" But then I asked Ezra who or what was in the casket. He explained to us that it was a glorified version of a paper mache Jesus. Yes, Jesus - who died on a cross for our sins, bore the weight of our shame, and ROSE FROM THE DEAD and KICKED DEATH IN THE TEETH - was lying there, lifeless, made of old grocery sacks, staring at this pipe-smoking, tie-wearing, piece of wood who apparently can multiply your corn crops and wreak havoc on your worst enemy. This was scripture being lived out right in front of me. This was absolute, blatant mockery of God. The presence of darkness permeated out of this room like death. It made me sick in so many ways I don't have a name for it. And it wasn't taking place in a temple or a mosque or a sanctuary - this was out behind someone's shanty in the middle of nowhere. Proving the fact that Satan knows full well where he can most readily and easily worm his way into peoples lives. He is the great deceiver. And he is alive and on-the-clock in Guatemala!
I shared with our team tonight at dinner that one of the disturbing things about this for me is that here in America this deceit exists as well. The problem is that it's usually dressed in a suit, or sugar-coated, so it looks just enough like the real deal that people don't see through the facade and the bull crap to know that's it's a lousy imitation. The only way this is defeated is through the power of the Word of God coming alive in our lives and penetrating the darkness. And that only happens when God's Word and His Spirit equip us and move us to take a step INTO the darkness. We have to open our eyes! We have to MOVE!
Time for packing and sleeping. More to come tomorrow....