By Marleny R
This is the only way I can truly describe each of these trips… it’s been a time of truly basking in His presence – I never know what to expect every time I go, but always know that the Lord is going to do great things. I have been going to Guatemala for the past three years to the same village of Rio Hondo with a team of 60 people to help put together a week-long vacation Bible study for about 500 kids, teenagers, and adults. This is the one week of the year that these kids look forward to. It’s like Christmas to them. For the first two years I have been a leader for the smaller children, led them in different activities and enjoyed their smiling faces, their hugs and sweet affection. Pictures are taken and serve as reminders of their smiling faces until I return.
Since I am one of the few that speaks Spanish in the group, I really wanted to work with the teenagers this year and be able to speak to the girls who are at such a crucial age in their lives. As I talked to them I could see there was so much more there than just a smiling face. Most had experienced things that many adults will never see or experience.
Even though most of them are constantly making jokes, laughing and making fun of each other, I could still see the wall and the mask that they each wear. Easily retracting if there was even a hint of talking about anything personal or serious. I felt at times that they were not listening to me, they were easily distracted. I could see so much of myself within them.
What I discovered this year was the pain behind each of those beautiful smiles. There is major poverty in Guatemala that can easily be seen as you walk through the village. However, beyond the poverty, this year the Lord showed me more of the bondage of sin that exists here. My heart truly broke as I stared at the ugly face of sin and the bondage that these children, teenagers, adults are under. However, I know that this does not only exist here but all over the world – in our daily lives.
This verse kept coming to mind more and more throughout the week:
“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” Ephesians 6:12
I have been building these relationships that have grown over the last three years. Each year, I’ve learned more and more of their individual stories – proving to be more shocking and eye-opening than the last. This year, I also gave my testimony in front of the entire village and it was an amazing experience. With the sharing of my testimony I had several teenagers come to me afterward and in separate occasions share their life stories with me.
These next things that I am going to share are what broke my heart the most during my time in Rio Hondo. They are hard to write and to read but I’m including because it is the reality of what these kids face – what people all over the world face. We often times forget these things in our comforts, our busy lives, our distractions. There are so many people suffering, and we (I) so easily forget…
I received a beautiful hand written note from one of the teenage girls. In it she wrote how much she appreciated that I taught them about forgiveness and Christ’s love. She said she carried a lot of anger and resentment in her heart from the murder of her brother.
There was a teenage boy that came up to me shortly after I spoke on Friday night. He told me that he had experienced some pretty terrible things in his life and that he has so much hate and depression as a result and that he often times thought about killing himself. He proceeded to tell me that he had been sexually abused by not just one person but a group of older guys. Guys that were currently in the crowd and whom I had just spoken to. He had his head in his hands and said he was so ashamed.
I received a call from another teenager a few days later who told me that he often times thought about killing himself and was planning on doing so the Friday before we got there. He told me that he used to break bottles and cut himself.
Lord, what do I do with all of this? How can I hear these things and just leave now? The face of Sin is so ugly and the brokenness is so rampant. When it is exposed we see the true death that it causes. You see, we often times measure sin by how big or small we think it is, without realizing that it all goes to the same pot… adding more and more to the world’s sin that continues through generations.
A lot to process in such a short amount of time. I’m left feeling like I just woke up from a dream that is unfortunately reality. I know that I must continue to arm myself with His word because times are only getting worse. There is an urgency to save those who are lost, to share hope in this fallen world. We live in a blessed nation and with this we have the responsibility to share His love and bind up the brokenhearted one village at a time.
"The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; He hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn; To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that He might be glorified."