September 27, 2017

Kidnapped!

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This blog was written by Walking Together Learning Leader Roy van Eerden who is working with co-leader Diane Stronks and key Guatemalan educators as part of the Vision for Christ-Centred Education - Guatemala Walking Together project.

About an hour drive outside of Guatemala City this morning, we arrived at Bethel school in Patzicia. As usual, we were welcomed warmly into the school by the administrators, but also by the children as they were having their break. We exchanged many handshakes, high fives and fist bumps. The bell rang and after a few more greetings I asked, “Es tiempo por clase?” Several said “Si,” but I guess they didn’t want to leave me as I found myself surrounded by about 15 second graders who pushed and pulled me into their classroom. The teacher, Gabrielle, seemed okay with this intrusion. I practiced my Spanish a bit but, honestly, I don’t remember much of what was said, just taking it all in. I told Moses, the principal, at the end of the day that my heart is in elementary school, and that was such a wonderful way to start the day.

Moses has been at Bethel school for 17 years, Principal for one, and has lived his whole life in the village. He was so excited to show us around the school and have us meet the children. Back in his office he shared how the school has changed physically, such as covering the play area and adding a computer lab, and in terms of a change in the mindset of teachers as they are more committed. They see teaching as a calling and this inspires them to put in more effort. The effects of this were obvious as we visited the classrooms. He was also excited to show us the trophys that the school band has won. It is one of the best bands in the district.

Aura is the administrator who coordinates all the AMG programs such as the lunch program and oversees the facilities. She began at the school as a secretary and moved into her position two years ago. This is a school that obviously works at raising up leaders from within.

Next we were off to Camp Canaan. Every student in grades 4-12 has the opportunity to spend one week at this AMG-run camp. Husband and wife team Joel Luis and Orfa Meza have been running the camp since they started clearing the land and built the meeting hall/gymnasium and first two cabins in 1984. The passion with which they speak of guiding and nurturing the children into a life of discipleship was exhilerating. Joel Luis shared several stories of children who have been impacted by the camp, and in every case his main focus was on how they made an impact on him. Tears came to his eyes with every story, such as the young girl who thanked him because she could sleep on a mattress for the first time in her life. For Joel Luiz this was another testimony about how we need to look to God as provider, to trust in him, and how blessed he truly is. “That is why we stay here!” he said.

Joel Luiz also took great delight in telling me that the chapel was built entirely by women. The joke is that the men are just the mules as they had to bring all the materials up the hill to the site. In fact, one of the women was nicknamed "Dynomite" as she flick a pretend whip and yelled, "Come on Luiz, get those materials up here! Hurry!"

Another beautiful day filled with beautiful people reflecting the deep, deep love of God.

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