Diving Deep … and Surfacing

After breakfast and centering prayer led by Gwen, we started off the first structured day of our Guatemalan SSTT with an intense and moving 2017 film, “Finding Oscar” (see trailer here), which chronicled the Guatemalan civil war through a particular 1982 massacre by the Guatemalan Army. Only a few people survived the massacre in Dos Erres, including Oscar, a young boy who was adopted into the family of one of the men who murdered his mother and siblings. It was a somewhat brutal beginning to our Guatemalan pilgrimage — a bit of a punch in the gut — but the film prompted much reflection from the group about Guatemala’s history, the role of faith in overcoming trauma, the U.S. government’s involvement in Latin America and the pain experienced by many in Guatemala. About half of Guatemala’s population is under 19 years old, but most of the remaining Guatemalans would remember the tragic civil war, which lasted from about 1960 to 1996 and resulted in the deaths of perhaps 200,000 Guatemalans.

Our afternoon sessions with Israel Ortiz were similarly moving as students examined what the Beatitudes tell us about the nature of our world. Ortiz also spoke about the reality of the world being human suffering, that lament is essential for having hope, and that we need to properly grasp the meaning of “the kingdom of God.” Students remained fully engaged throughout the two afternoon sessions, which also dovetailed seamlessly with the morning film and allowed some time for lament. Israel’s sessions on “Youth and the Fullness of Humanity” clearly will move us between the biblical text and our contemporary context(s), and that has real value for the group as we explore God’s work in the world and our own callings/vocations in light of our gifts and passions.

Israel also spoke about the tragedy of the lives lost around Volcan de Fuego. For the most part, those who live on the sides of the volcano live in poverty; they are not among the 10 percent of Guatemalans who own 80 percent of the land. They were most profoundly affected by last Sunday’s eruption, with possibly several hundred killed in the aftermath of the eruption. Those with resources, including better communication systems, received word about the likely eruption and evacuated prior to the tragedy.

Because the day was heavy, this evening we planned our first time for processing what we are experiencing. Most students reflected on what moved them most in today’s various forms of input, and then four students — Ayin, Regan, Felix and Carolina — led us in worship, which included singing, prayers and readings, and a candle-lighting ritual that spoke to many of us, offering some light in the darkness.

As is becoming our late-evening custom, students are now playing ping pong, writing in journals, getting in some quiet time, or dancing. We are learning and experiencing, and we are grateful.

(Tonight’s photos are by Keith, Isaiah and Ayin.)