Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Whalens Wanderings from Guatemala

NOTE: This column was submitted from a hotel room in Antigua, on day five of our wait to catch a plane after the erruption of the Pacaya Volcano in Guatemala.  More on this trip will be available on my trip journal blog http://www.wwguatemalamission.blogspot.com/ in upcoming days.
If you read my last column you´ll know that I was travelling to Guatemala on a Mission trip.  Believe it or not I am still here and sending this from a computer in Antigua, Guatemala at the "Casa de Los Bucaros."  Our trip has been prolonged due to the eruption of Mount Pacaya, a volcano near Guatemala City, as well as a small earth quake, and by tropical storm Agatha which caused severe flooding and mud and rock slides.  Our team was fortunate enough to be able to make it from a small community, Villa Hortencia II, to Nebaj before any of these disasters hit.  The usual five hour drive however, from Nebaj to Antigua the following day, took us almost 13 hours.   The rains from the front end of Agatha caused mudslides and rock slides, which blocked our way numerous times or simply slowed travel.  The van we were shuttled in narrowly missed a few of these.   As night fell and we thought we were almost there, a bridge to the hostel we were to stay at had been washed away and a mud slide blocked our access less than 200meters from our destination.  We therefore ended up where I sit today after a lengthy search for a modest hotel, and these people have been extremely hospitable.

Most of the damage has been done, although a sink hole occurred in Guatemala City yesterday, and now Gautemala is left to clean up after these natural disasters.  Our team has worked with "Common Hope" the hostel we were to stay at and prepared food rations for those communities heaviest hit and it was very rewarding to be able to continue to serve in this dire time of need.  We have also struggled with our own situation as we continue to wait for the airport to open so that we can return home.  I could write for hours about my first mission experience but I could never do it justice, and the mission part of my trip now seems to pale somewhat compared to our effort to get home and the countries effort to get back on its feet.    

We drove out of Antigua two days ago so that we could visit a beach on the Pacific Coast and as we did we got to view some of the devastation up close.  Rivers that had now receded, showed severe erosion and completely changed channels that were lined with garbage.  A large number of bridges were heavily damaged or roads were eroded or mud now replaced pavement.  Small homes teetered on the banks of the rivers and some had likely been washed away.   As we got nearer the coast homes were completed flooded and the families were encamped on a piece of higher ground as they waited for the river to subside enough so they could clean their homes and reclaim their meager belongings.    

For me this has been an incredibly humbling experience and it has made me appreciate what I have and where I live much more.  The efforts that many non profit groups are putting in down here is incredible and if you have ever thought about taking a Mission trip I would suggest full heartedly that you take it.  I not only was able to help a poor community but this country in a time of need.  I too also recieved a huge reward from this Mission as I now have a completely different perspective on what Third World country means and I hope that even upon returning home that I will be able to keep serving this people in one capacity or another.  That being said, I miss my family and hope to see them real soon, but until I board the plane I hope I can continue to serve a purpose here in Guatemala.

Ben Whalen
http://www.whalenswanderings.blogspot.com/
"See you in the woods or on the water."



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