Monday, April 18, 2011

Guatemala Trip

In addition to Big Break in Florida, we also sent Cornell students to Guatemala over Spring Break.

A few short years ago the Campus Crusade Lifelines ministry in Vermont pioneered a trip with an organization working in Guatemala. Students get the chance to serve in the barrios, dumps, orphanages and prisons of Guatemala City

This year, Mike Sugihara and Sarah Furnish along with Cru Lifelines Staff Wes and Meghan Wright led a team of 13 people.
This trip is truly one of a kind and that is due primarily to the full time missionary named Ashley. Ashley is a young woman who moved out to Guatemala city to work full-time with orphans, gang members, the poor and the hurting. I've never met her personally, but she seems like a young Mother Teresa with a sassy spirit and fashion sense. She loves Jesus and his love pours thru her all over the ghetto. She's an inspiration to everyone who's ever worked with her.
Basically on the Guatemala trip, you spend most of your time walking around with Ashley, seeing God work mightily. You get to hear the most incredible stories of faith while working amongst the poorest of the poor in a ridiculously corrupt country.
This year, the group got to work on a community center being built right next to the dump.

Olivia Lee is a sophomore here at Cornell. She went to Florida with us last year, and this year she got to go to Guatemala. She wrote a short post about one of her experiences at the women's prison. Read Below.

When Ashley asked,“Who wants to do crafts with a guilty inmate, a real criminal?” my hand shot up. I love crafts! And perhaps, I thought, “I will LOVE this inmate too.” I knew her story as I headed into the prison, and I was a little nervous that I would accidentally let it slip that I knew who she was and why she was in prison. However, in a room full of many women, and not exactly sure which one she was, I got down to business with our intricate sewing craft and began chatting with the ladies.

When it finally dawned on me who she was, I couldn’t believe it! I had been sitting next to her talking about where she was from, her guitar lessons in the prison, and her family. I couldn’t believe that this stylish, sweet, inquisitive young lady could have such a dark past. But, for some reason, all the things she had done did not matter to me. Instead, all I felt was compassion and love for this young woman who I so desperately hoped and prayed would know the love of Jesus and that He could be her “compadre” (home boy). Saying goodbye to her at the prison was one of the hardest moments for me on the trip. All I wanted to do was cling to her, hug her, and spend more time with her.

I left the prison feeling very upset that she and another prisoner couldn’t leave the jail with us. The other prisoner, a mother who missed her children dearly, hadn’t done anything wrong to deserve jail. The injustice seemed huge. As I continued thinking, I realized that the real criminal was not an innocent prisoner. The more I thought about it, the more I began to wonder, “How could I so easily just wish her to be free? Why was it so easy for me to love her? Would I have loved her all the same if she were a bitter and angry lady that wasn’t interested in talking to me? Would I even have been willing to go to the prison to see her if she had hurt someone in my family?” These questions weighed heavily on my heart and I felt like I was no longer sure I knew how to love as we are called to love.

1 Peter 4:8 says, “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” Reading this and thinking about all my hypothetical situations and real life examples of hurt and forgiveness, I felt I had failed this calling too many times. How often had I been angry with someone that hurt me and let myself willingly hold the bitterness? How much more difficult would it be for me to forgive someone who hurt my family in a dire way, the way this guilty inmate had impacted families?

The Lord encouraged me in two ways. First, a wiser teammate shared that perhaps when we are in those situations, it’s really God’s grace and mercy that shines through. It’s true that as sinners we are broken people that are incapable of loving and forgiving as we should. In moments of difficulty, where forgiving someone seems like the most inappropriate thing to do, the ability to do so gives all glory to God who is at work within us.

The second way the Lord encouraged me was on the day we hiked a volcano with a family from La Limonada, and Ashley shared their story with us. The daughter’s husband had been killed when some people took his bike. Instead of putting everyone in jail, the father went to those who killed his son-in-law and told them that he forgave them, and that he hoped they knew the love of Christ.

I am so thankful for my short but powerful week in Guatemala. I have been reminded that this example of the family in the ghetto, the love that we shared with the people of Guatemala, and the love we share back at home in the states is not of our own. This love is because of Christ’s example and death on the cross. I know that I will continue to struggle and falter when trying to love and forgive, but this trip has challenged, encouraged, and reminded me that we love because He first loved us (1 John 4:19).

(check out this post at

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