Catholic Mass, Landslides and Worship

This morning began bright and early for some of our SSTTers as some wanted to go on a run and take photos around Antigua at the break of dawn. Once everyone else had woken up, we walked a few blocks from our hotel to eat breakfast at La Estancia restaurant. The meal consisted of over-easy eggs, sausage, watermelon, plantains, and chimichurri sauce. From there we trekked through the center of town to Iglesia de la Merced for Sunday mass. For those who haven’t attended a mass in Guatemala, its entirety is in Spanish. Those of us who speak Spanish were able to understand the majority of the sermon. But the remainder of us who don’t carefully listened with intrigue.

We remained for a good chunk of mass before heading back to our hotel to depart for SEMILLA. The bus ride back was pretty normal until we hit a large amount of traffic. It turned out that further down the major road we were on, a landslide had covered the path, making the primary road into Guatemala City impassible. Although we were unable to see the landslide, due to how far away it was, one of our SEMILLA guides had an aerial photo of the roadblock. The entirety of the road was covered in debris with no way around it. The trip to and from Antigua takes around forty to fifty minutes, but because of the landslide, our journey back took around four hours. Our detour took us on a much more unorthodox route through the countryside of Guatemala. We passed farms and mountains alike through the incredibly windy back roads. This unplanned route of traveling back to Guatemala City was refreshing to see as we passed a landscape unlike what we had observed inside the city. We had learned of the people who worked on rural farms in class, but it was an enlightening experience being able to observe where some of these people worked.

We arrived back on campus around 3:00, four hours after we had left Antigua. It’s safe to say that although we had been sitting for four hours, the amount of traveling left the group exhausted. Some went upstairs to take a quick nap, while others went off to finish journaling about their time in Antigua.

Worship tonight was led by Leah, Josiah, Magaly, and Kat as we shared what we found comfort and discomfort with during our time here in Guatemala. There were similar answers in finding comfort in the people we’ve met, and the culture we’ve been able to experience. The discomfort that some of us have experienced included some emotional and psychic discomfort we’ve felt in observing the economic and income disparities we’ve observed in academic and practical experiences.

Sarah W. wrote in her journal about yesterday’s Antigua visit (cited with permission) that in Antigua she felt more like a tourist than a pilgrim. “But I still tried to learn as much as I could about their culture,” she said. “And I am so excited to do more traveling, too, because I definitely feel that God is calling me to do that. As I said previously, I think that I might want a gap year and as we dive more and more into Guatemalan culture, I think that calling is getting stronger and stronger. But I definitely want to learn a lot when I travel to different places because I think that is very important and just respectful to the place where I might want to travel. But today was definitely one of, if not, my favorite day so far.”

-Alexander Koscher