The morning light in Guatemala City is beautiful as it bounces of the steeple on top of the Lutheran Center. The clouds lifted and I was able to spend about 45 minutes painting this quick gouache sketch.

One of the members of our Maya Itza team became ill over night and decided it would be best if he stayed in the City with the other team. We were sad to lose him on our team, but it was the right decision for his health and safety. The entire group gathered around him, laid hands on him, and prayed for healing and peace.

The remaining six of us on the Maya Itza team left in the bus with Pastora Karen, David, and Estuardo, our driver, at 9:00am. We arrived at Chisec at 7:00pm. Yes, that is ten hours of travel through the narrow, winding mountain roads! We made one stop for lunch, then another in Coban to stretch our legs and enjoy the mall there for an hour. We spent eight hours marveling at the beautiful mountainous countryside and wondering how farmers can plant and harvest corn and a nearly 60 degree slope.

We are staying in Chisec at a beautiful hotel called Bombil Pek. This will be our last night on beds with mattresses and hot water before we enter the village of Maya Itza tomorrow.

We shared a dinner of Bass (full body, eyes staring at you), salad and fries. It was delicioso. Each member of the team had an opportunity to share what they noticed during the day. Jeremy, our 23-year old Spanish-speaking member of the team was put to the test as he translated each person’s comments, sometimes from English to Spanish, and sometimes from Spanish to English. He did very well.

The conversation after our devotional turned to the topic of Immigration and the ELCA’s recent public statement about being a “Sanctuary Denomination.” Pastora Karen helped us to see a new perspective on this statement and how it is being perceived by the people in the villages of Guatemala. Many of them see it as an open invitation to come to the United States where they will get guaranteed protection and services from ELCA congregations. This is a destructive message to the villages for two reasons: First, it tempts men to leave their families and go to the USA, leaving the women with debt and children for whom they must provide. Second, it is not true that congregations in the USA can actually support all the immigrants, it creates a false hope.

The current immigration situation is complex and nuanced and I do not pretend to understand it. I am grateful, however, to be able to spend time with Pastora Karen and hear how our well-intentioned statements can often cause more harm than good for the very people we are trying to help. Words are powerful and we must be careful how we use them. Even as I type these words I am aware how anyone could read them, hear them through their own lens, and interpret them in a way that never intended.

My prayer is that we, on our team, will learn to listen better and more intentionally as we interact with our brothers and sisters in Maya Itza over the next three days. Pray for us as we will get to worship together, dedicate their new church building, and pour the concrete floor.

Hasta mañana.

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