Service Trip 2007

Langdon Morris, a North Carolina State University student volunteer, reflects on his experience serving in Guatemala

Langdon 2008There are some events that you can never forget. They shape the way you view the world and your place in it. My experience in Guatemala City was just that.

We arrived with the intention of doing some service, but ironically, from the time we arrived until the time we departed, I was constantly being served by others. We arrived and ate a lunch at the church provided by Betzy, the type of woman who immediately makes everyone feel like they are one of her children. Meeting Guatemalans was quite interesting as the language barrier made any deep conversation nearly impossible. I know some Spanish, but couldn’t avoid the humorous mix ups, misunderstandings, and sometimes all out stalemates.

That night my brother and I stayed with Angel, a brother in the church, and his family life in Guatemala proved one of the more inspiring memories of the trip. The Guatemalan family, whether out of poverty or love, never leaves each other. In one house Angel lived with his mother, uncle, two sisters (both married) and at least two nephews. The genuine love for family and concept of caring for one another was incredible. The funniest thing about Angel, which really embodied the Guatemalans I met, was when I would say something like “I like your hat,” he would immediately try to give it to me. I couldn’t understand how people who had so little (our shower involved pouring cold buckets of water from a barrel) were so willing to give what little they had (though I got the impression Angel was considered relatively well off compared to other Guatemalans). That was very far from my American mindset of making and taking as much as possible.

Our service in Guatemala consisted of two projects: building and stocking a pantry in the church and renovating the school. Working at the school was phenomenal. The kids loved us. So as we painted murals and put up roofing, the real fin was playing with them. They put on an elaborate show for us, bombarded us with cards and pictures, and were incredibly entertained with riding on our backs. The school was near the railroad tracks with shacks on either side and the street was cluttered with dust, dish water run off, starving dogs, and the occasional chicken. This was the poorest place I had ever seen. Yet again, they loved life, they loved each other and they loved us to the point that it was hard to drive away from the school on our last day in Guatemala City as the children would chase our van as long as they could, just as they had done when we arrived.

We left Guatemala City for Antigua to enjoy the touristy part of Guatemala. This also was incredible as we went in a volcano, a coffee farm and enjoyed the nature of this beautiful country (Guatemala City is not very pretty). As I have since returned to life in America I can’t help but think of my Guatemalan friends, wonder what they are doing and how they are holding up. I can’t help but think that my life here lacks the purpose it had when I was “helping” others in Guatemala. Really, I was the one being helped.